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Personal Development
fall 2021

Story Teller

Ghostwriter Marala Scott Helps People Find and Share the Triumphs in Their Trials, to Give Others Hope
Written by: WayMaker Journal Team

Marala Scott came to terms with her abusive childhood by writing about it—a journey of honesty and reflection that saw her named one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Ambassadors of Hope” and earned her national and state recognition for her efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence.

But she didn’t stop with telling her story in the award-winning 2008 memoir, In Our House: Perception vs. Reality. Scott has since gone on to carve out a niche helping others find resolution and redemption in their own life stories and then share them to inspire others through Seraph Books Publishing.

Clients have included celebrities, business leaders [WayMaker founder Louis Carr’s Dirty Little Secrets] and everyday people with remarkable stories of overcoming adversity.

Scott has written more than 30 books, covering everything from one man’s courageous battle with leukemia to financial advice for those seeking a mortgage. Her ghostwriting business has become a family affair, including therapist-daughter Alyssa Curry—with whom Scott has written a novel inspired by true events—and son Aaron Curry.

WayMaker Journal spoke with Scott and her daughter about how helping people tell their stories cannot only make a difference in their lives but help others too.

WJ: When did you first become aware of the power of writing?

MS: I started reading a lot when I was a kid. Every chance I had, I was reading something. And then I became the little girl who always went to the library: big stack of books. I began reading children’s books and I went into Greek mythology and, of course, Langston Hughes—if you’re not reading him, you just don’t know. Some of the stories and even the poetry helped me understand just how different people were and the depth of their lives. Reading kind of inspired me to write poetry, and then I kept a journal about my life, and when situations arose for me that were difficult or challenging, I would sit down and just write about it.

I didn’t realize how much it was helping me at that time, because it was my release to get the things that were going on inside of me, and what I was experiencing that I didn’t want to harbor, out.

WJ: Tell us a little more about how writing about your past helped you.

“When you look at it in its totality, your life story has so much incredible power to it.”

MS: It was making sense, putting together the puzzle and the pieces and the people sometimes you think you hate or you’re angry with, or who hurt you. Those people helped you the most when you look at where you ended up. When you look at it in its totality, your life story has so much incredible power to it and lessons that you can’t possibly understand in the moment.

The therapeutic aspect of it really helped me and kept me from going down a victim kind of path (which I feel I had every right to do). It helped me say, “This was my life. This was what happened. I get it: now, what am I going to do with this power and these experiences?”

That’s what I try and help others do. And it works.

WJ: How did you become a professional writer?

MS: In college, my professor told me that I had a gift for writing and no one had ever said that before, but that fed my need for self-discovery, to see if there was more to it. Ultimately, over a period of years, I wrote the manuscript about my childhood.

I did it for therapy and to kind of help me understand my history, and to get it out of me, so I could better understand my childhood and people… more importantly, who I was and who I was not.

When I finished writing that manuscript, I was able to close that chapter on my life feeling free. I didn’t carry any of that weight in the way that I think most people do, and they end up seeing someone like my daughter, who’s a therapist. Writing helped me kind of put it in perspective so that I can understand it.

My book did well, and people would ask me to write theirs. Initially I was like, no, but my husband told me, “No, you’ve got something special here and it’s beneficial to helping others get their story out. This is your forte, this is your destiny.” And so I began writing.

WJ: Did you study writing?

MS: I was a psychology major because I was actually trying to figure out my life. I don’t think I had the patience to listen at that time because I had been through so much, and the sociology classes and psychology classes, they weren’t connecting to what I needed. But the writing actually helped me. It helped me be more expressive.

I didn’t become a psychologist because I couldn’t find the answers in psychology at that time, the way you can today. Everything was kind of like book-smart… it’s a lot different now than what it was back in my day.

WJ: What skills do you need to be able to help someone tell their story well?

MS: You have to believe your clients, whether or not you think it’s true. I don’t really care about that. People can only help you based on what you tell them. If anyone comes to me and they want to tell me their story, it’s not for me to judge them; that’s their truth. So I need to believe that and accept that. And you have to be a listener, not only to what people say, but you have to pay attention to the reactions and their slight movements when they speak. Often those reveal a sense that there’s something more beneath those layers of what they’re saying.

WJ: This has become a family enterprise; what’s your part in it, Alyssa?

AC: I have my hand in a lot of aspects, from the ghostwriting to the editing, cover and web design, marketing. To do that, I have to be integrated in other aspects in order to really truly understand the client, their interests, their styles, their story, so that I can really reflect [them]. I also add my influence as a therapist and understanding other perspectives. I analyze the manuscripts so that the thought process makes sense to the reader. My brother’s a ghostwriter too, so he has his hand in that as well.

WJ: Why do people use a ghostwriter; because they’re lazy?

MS: Most people use a ghostwriter because of time; it’s our most valuable asset and they just don’t have it. For some individuals, it’s just a therapeutic process… I’m not a therapist, (but) you get to really talk to someone in confidence and say whatever you want to. You hear yourself working with me, telling your story. Sometimes people talk much stream of consciousness and it doesn’t make sense if they start writing it themselves. It’s like a puzzle. My son tells me that I’m like a puzzle maker: I take their story and order it kind of logically.

AC: It really can be difficult for people to help others through telling their story if they haven’t been able to really help themselves yet. That’s what I personally love about what she does; she has a gift for being able to find and highlight those lessons and help other people find their process. It’s really cathartic for that reason, because of her insight.

WJ: What is the process like for clients?

MS: People say, “Wow, this is just what I needed, this process was healing to me.” I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone that has not cried. They laugh, they say, “Wow, I never thought about that” or “I forgot that even happened,” because we dig everything up and purge it out of them.

AC: It’s not just about writing and putting words to paper, it’s about helping others reflect on their lives and where they’ve gone, what they’ve done. And the growth comes out of that. We need self-reflection in just about everything, right? We cook a meal and then we reflect on that. What would we do different? And we do it again, or we change it. That’s how we learn.

MS: I just finished with a client that said, “This was like therapy.” I said, “No, no, no, no, I’m not a therapist. I’m not licensed to do that.” But journaling is one of the techniques that I know my daughter uses, and writing in itself… sometimes when it’s just you and that pen and paper and you and your computer, you can tell it the truth because no one else you think is going to see it, and you get to see what your life really was.

WJ: How do you help your clients deal with the emotions that may come up?

“If you’re talking about something and you start crying or you get angry, that means it’s weighing on your soul.”

MS: I tell people it’s OK to get emotional, because if you’re talking about something and you start crying or you get angry, that means it’s weighing on your soul. That means it’s still there. And this is perfect for you, because you either need a therapist or you need to write your book and get it out of you. And then, when it’s out, read it and say, “I get it,” and leave it alone. Quit going back into the past. If you go into the past, it should only be to understand it and learn from it.

“If you go into the past, it should only be to understand it and learn from it.”

WJ: You hear some weighty things in your work. How do you handle that?

MS: You absorb their negativity or their pain and it can attach itself to you. When I have finished writing, I leave it on the pages. I leave it there. A lot of times when I’ve finished projects I go walk the beach and spend time on the ocean, letting everything flush out of me, so I’m fresh for another client.

AC: Whether it’s ghostwriting or being a therapist, you always have to take care of yourself first in order to be there for others, to support others, to be a guide for others. When you’re taking in a lot of these stories, you still have to do something with them.

MS:I’ve heard things that are devastating… I keep thinking, This is why they’re sharing this story, to get it out, to help others. And when you understand that you can leave it on the pages.

You have to because your spirit can only hold so much. People forget that, even if you’re a police officer, if you’re in the military, the things you see and do and experience as a doctor… you have to be able to release that and move on. It’s a therapeutic process, but a big part of it is letting go. So when they let go, I let go too.

WJ: What makes a client easy or difficult?

AC: As a therapist, I don’t see clients as easy or difficult. It’s more about meeting them where they are and kind of walking from there, when you understand your client, which comes when you’re hearing those intimate details of their life. That’s the same in ghostwriting; you have to strengthen that rapport. When you do that, the process just flows very well.

WJ: In what ways is ghostwriting rewarding?

MS: I actually get on my knees and thank God for (the clients) he’s sending us because we’re able to share those stories and we learn from them. I learn something incredible from everyone, and I take that with me along my journey. It’s not like, “OK, I’m done, we closed the book and that chapter is over.” No, we talk about it over dinner. Like, “That was fascinating, I never thought of it that way.” So it’s a constant educational process for me and for my children.

WJ: It’s been said everyone has a book in them. Do you believe that?

AC: I think that, similar to clients in therapy, that everyone does have a story. It’s just that you have to be able to find the right angle from where other people can learn from those lessons as well. And some people have difficulty telling their story if they have difficulty even identifying the lessons they’ve learned from their journey

WJ: What is it like working together?

AC: It’s actually much easier than you would think because we’re like-minded, so who better to work with? I’ve learned about what passion and drive, curiosity and, really, a method of doing things looks like from her. So that process really just flows together so smoothly.

WJ: If there’s one person’s story you would like to get to help tell, who would that be?

MS: That’s a great question. Being Oprah’s ambassador of hope, I look at the story she’s told, I look at the things that she has said, and I think the funny thing about it, as I’ve learned and evolved in my craft, I would like to tell her story because I see bits and pieces that she shared, but in my opinion I don’t think she’s ever shared her whole truth. I think there’s so much more to that brilliant woman, that story.

WJ: Who have been your waymakers?

MS: I have just one, believe it or not. That’s God. I believe that God is my waymaker for everything I do, every decision I make. The people that he sends to me have taught me, have lifted me, have encouraged me in so many different aspects.

AC: I second that. God is everything, and through him all things are possible, absolutely. Another waymaker for me is definitely my mom because she really paved the way for my brother and me. She’s an amazing role model, showing us a direction that we can go in and the options… And here we are as a family and doing this as well.