The Monday Media Diet with Rebekah Sanderlin
On Paddleboarding, Africa, and Ghosts
Rebekah Sanderlin (RS) is a writer (screen, books, copy, essays) and a marketing strategist. She’s been involved for years in veteran and military family advocacy as detailed below. If you missed it, check out her excellent Portfolio Patina edition from last week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
Most days I live about four lives.
I’m a mom to three kids and a dog and a cat. I’ve been married for almost 20 years to a longtime-but-recently-retired Special Forces Soldier (aka, Green Beret). Much of my professional life has been spent in journalism – investigative reporter, columnist and editor, and I still do some freelance journalism. My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, CNN.com, Military.com, NPR, and a bunch of other news outlets. And Chris Papasadero, K.S. Anthony and I write the OODA Soup substack, among other projects.
I’ve been extremely involved for years in veteran and military family advocacy, helped start two national military family non-profits (Blue Star Families and the Military Family Advisory Network), got to speak onstage at events with President and Mrs. Obama and last year I was appointed by President Biden to serve on the board of the USO.
But most of my time each day is spent working as a freelance strategist and copywriter for an experiential marketing agency, and I write books and screenplays during the lulls between meetings. I’m currently wrapping up a proposal for a memoir, just self-published a middle grade fantasy novel with my kids (BAD ELVES) and have a TV series and two screenplays currently in development and another being shopped around.
I was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn. and all of my huge family is there. But now I live in Virginia Beach, Va. after moving with the Army to Fayetteville, NC; Niceville, Fla.; and Colorado Springs, Colo., and before that, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Memphis, Tenn. I love where we live now, but at some point nearly every day I miss every other place I’ve called home.
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Describe your media diet.
Two words: controlled chaos.
I start each day with The Morning, a New York Times newsletter, and I do the Wordle, the Mini Crossword (my best time is 24 seconds), and the Spelling Bee (until I quit. I rarely find the panagram). Then I skim the 1440 Daily Digest—my favorite news digest. After that I check Twitter. I read WITI most days, and skim Perfectly Imperfect and Blackbird Spyplane so I can feel like I’m 32 and live in Brooklyn. Then I play NPR roulette while I get ready, meaning I say, “Alexa, play NPR’s Morning Edition” and listen to whichever local NPR station she chooses. Today it was Birmingham. Then I listen to The Daily podcast while I walk my kids to the bus stop.
Then I start work, which tends to include a lot of research every day. I work from home, so I don’t have a commute, but we live on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and I listen to podcasts while I paddleboard. My best friend hosts the excellent true crime podcast Suspect, which I just finished binging.
I flip through lifestyle glossy magazines while I eat lunch: Real Simple, Southern Living, maybe Rovers – because my husband and I are classic Land Rover enthusiasts (we have four!) and I write for Rovers occasionally. I subscribed to The New Yorker for a while but reading it felt like work so I kept the tote and let the subscription expire.
And then I watch a movie or a bit of scripted, never reality, television before bed. Lately it’s been The White Lotus and Echo 3.
What’s the last great book you read?
THREE WOMEN by Lisa Taddeo blew my mind. It’s gorgeously written and the concept—the true stories of three totally average women’s sex lives—is brilliant.
What are you reading now?
BROTHER ALIVE by Zain Khalid, which came to me through Alexander Chee’s subscription box service from Boxwalla. (Highly recommend the book and the subscription box.) And, non-fiction, I’m reading STORY by Robert McKee, because it’s well past time that I did. And it really is as good as everyone says.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
Books, I read front to back, but I will quit reading if I’m not into it. Magazines, I let fall open and start with whatever I see first.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
I check Tides Near Me daily to find out when the water behind my house will be at high tide so I can go paddleboarding. And What3Words saved me a few months ago when I found myself paddling against wind and current, managed to get to shore without drowning, and used it to tell my husband where I was.
Plane or train?
I’ve never lived in a city with decent train service, so it has to be planes. But I love the idea of trains.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. It’s a volcanic caldera – a giant, fertile, pit 3,200 square miles in size. I’ve never been anywhere so beautiful and teeming with life. It feels like the Garden of Eden.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
I got really interested in the supernatural and spiritual worlds after my dad died and his spirit began to visit me in dreams and in daily life. (I’ve got videos!)
Shortly after we moved to Virginia Beach, I discovered that this area has an unusually high number of spiritualists—psychics, mediums, tarot card readers, etc.— and is home to the Edgar Cayce ARE and a 100-year-old spiritualist church. About once a month the ARE and the church each host “psychic fairs” which are like a farmer’s market for psychics—you show up and the spiritualists have their own tables where you can sign up for a reading, reiki, whatever. It’s my favorite way to spend a Saturday. Now I’m taking baby steps towards becoming a medium myself because…because I might as well add a fifth life. (RS)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Rebekah (RS)
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