11 Questions with Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell

You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful and funny questions? That’s what 11 Questions is for. I’ll be featuring some friends I look up to as well as people within the community I’ve always wanted to get to know. Let’s get started!

This 11 Questions has been a long time coming. I shot it several months ago when we were back in Orlando to have our second son. Now we’re back in Ethiopia but I think this one’s worth the wait.

I’ve always been a fan of newspapers. I grew up wanting to be a newspaper shooter but shifted gears to editorial and advertising work when they started to take a dive while I was still in college. I grew up watching my parents sip coffee while reading the paper and Scotts name always came up while they were reading. “Hey, did you see this column by Maxwell?” Even to this day I get regular emails from my mom with links to his columns (gotta love moms). I like reading his column because I feel we could be friends (please-oh-please Scott, be my friend!). He’s concerned about the community, thinks people should be held accountable (particularly politicians), loves the arts & tells it like it is with humor and wit. I reached out to Scott about featuring him on the blog and he graciously agreed.

Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel by Brian Carlson

Who do you look up to?

Truly selfless people. People like Central Florida’s famous “Apopka nuns,” who have sacrificed money, personal lives, and many of basic life comforts – all so they can help the impoverished and downtrodden. I’m awestruck by people who truly live to serve – and who do so gladly. They humble you in the most profound sense of the word – and make you want to live better and do more.

Do you have a favorite book or album?

Carl Hiaassen’s first novel, “Tourist Season,” is a great primer for all the ridiculousness Floridians regularly encounter. Any book that starts with cops finding the head of a local chamber of commerce dismembered and stuffed in a suitcase, and other victims fed to a crocodile named “Pavlov” … well, that’s a special kind of twisted. Jimmy Buffett turned the book into a song.

Favorite place to eat in Orlando?

East End Market to gather with friends on Friday night. Santiago’s Bodega for work lunches and out-of-towners. Linda’s La Cantina if I’m craving red meat and old-school Orlando.

If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?

OK, first of all: WTH? This took an unexpected “Island of Dr. Moreau” turn. My favorite animals are owls, otters and whale sharks. So maybe that’s an owl shark. Or whale otter. Either one sounds pretty disturbing.

Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel by Brian Carlson

What gives you inspiration?

On a positive note: People who live to serve others. They make me want to do more. On a negative note: Hypocrisy, dishonestly and people who are indifferent to others. They inspire me to get pissed off. That often results in frenetic typing early in pre-dawn hours of the morning when (oddly) I’m often most fired up.

If you had a chance to live in a different decade, what decade would you choose?

Maybe the 70s. I was a child then. But that was the modern-day renaissance of newspapers – when Watergate came along and we learned that a couple of ink-stained wretches could topple a presidency. (I also really like the Rat Pack era of the 50s … though I’ve read enough about those guys to know their lives weren’t so glamorous when the spotlight dimmed.)

What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?

Honestly, I don’t know what started it. I’ve just always loved newspapers. From the time I was a young child, I would go to my Dad’s law office and use his mimeograph machine to print up copies of something called “The Maxwell House News” – a home-made newspaper with fascinating stories, like: “Scott’s Dad Mows Grass.” I was just always drawn to it. The urgency. The impact. The place on the front lines of history. For all those reasons, I’ve stayed with it – after most of my best friends have abandoned the career – largely because I still feel like I can make a difference.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

I try to put a limit on things. I used to say yes to every work invitation I got. Every party, lunch, fundraiser, coffee, etc. But then I realized that my column was suffering. And so was my family life. When you put things in perspective like that, decisions are easier.

Is there anything you haven't done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?

I really want to swim with whale sharks one day … though I fear that question you asked up above about mating unrelated animals has forever altered the way I look at those docile creatures.

The former printing press at the Orlando Sentinel.

The former printing press at the Orlando Sentinel.

What are your other interests?
I really like to travel and exercise. Both are escapes.

What rejuvenates you?

See above. And I guess both relate back to my work. Some of my best columns are written after a long (slow) run when I can really just think about issues. Sometimes I manage to think about a topic from so many angles, I change my own mind. Or I approach a topic in a new way. Similarly, I usually return from a vacation revved up to write. I think the brain is a battery that needs to be recharged.