Smoking With Gary Cadwallader

Read the Story March 15, 2004

Your stories often have a wonderful rhythm to them. Does music play a big part in your life and do you read your work aloud as you write?

Thank you for noticing. I always read my stories aloud, at least after they’re done. I hear the beat in my head, if I’m really into it. Sometimes I work with the radio on, but usually it needs to be classical. I don’t want the words of a song interfering with the words on paper.

I was in a band once. We sucked… big time!

I notice you have a long publication list. Do you have any favorite pieces, and if so, why?

I like this new one in SmokeLong because I’ve written the way I want to write. That story is about my wife. Our relationship puts me in a poetic mood. There’s rhythm and passion there… and I could write about her forever. I change the facts, I change her hair color, and sometimes her race, but it is always her, her, her. Except when it’s not.

I’m partial to “Blind Lemon,” published in Flashquake, because it got a Pushcart nomination. “The Greatest Vampire,” in InterText, was my first pub and got me my very first fan letter. There’s nothing like a letter from a complete stranger to make your day. There are some others I’m really proud of: “Magnolia’s Discontent,” “Mr. Cleanee Man,” and “South Africa” all came out well and were picked up by The Phone Book.

“We Walked In Strong Boots Up Round Treeless Hills” (Canter Magazine) had the best title, but was one of the shortest.

“Fictions of a Thief” (Samsara Quarterly) was the hippest. I’ve got a thing for underground magic realism. Eighteen year old kids read that one and say, “It rocks.” That’s because they’ve been brought up on video games, I think.

Everything I’ve written for Bev Lucey’s Woman of a Certain Age appeals to folks my own age.

Are there any subjects you find difficult or impossible to write about?

I have not written about rape or child molestation. I don’t think I could. That would be too difficult. I try an occasional horror piece, sometimes they work, sometimes not. Humor is very hard though I’ve had some luck with it.

Most writing is hard. I have to have someone else read my stuff to know if I’m on or off. My wife is usually the first reader. I find writing to be like making up a joke. You might think it’s funny, but you don’t really know until someone else laughs.

Does anyone ever call you Banana Boy?

Ah… so you’ve seen Bev Jackson’s Literary Potpourri, eh? Several of us in one of my writing groups (Zoetrope) came up with an assignment to use “Yo, banana boy!” in a story. My friend, Ellen Parker, still writes about that. You can list “Banana On a Subway” and “Mothra” among my favorites.

Nah. No one calls me Banana Boy. I really have no nicknames at all, except Gar. I’m not the kind of person that gets nicknames. Not colorful enough in real life… just on paper. In fact, at my old job (in a hospital) strangers would think I was the chaplain.

Come to think of it, when I was a kid I was so quiet, this friend of my parents called me the Rev. Cadwallader.

Tell us about your Saddlebred horses and how they’ve affected/changed your life.

Imagine skydiving for the first time, or cliff diving in Mexico. That’s the way we got into Saddlebreds. That story isn’t over yet, so I don’t know if we win or lose.

My folks used to take me to the American Royal. I was in my teens. I had no clue what was going on, but it just was so different from anything I’d ever seen. Here were all these up-headed horses prancing as fast as they could go. Saddlebreds are such show-offs. They have such ring presence. And the riders were all decked out in suits and ties. All I knew about horses was cowboys rode them on TV. This was different. This was like ballet.

Later, when I bought my first horse, I took it to Sug Utz, just up the street from my house in Raytown, MO. Turns out when Sug was in his prime and winning the 5-gaited stake back in the late ’60’s, I was in the crowd. Right there in the cheap seats next to the rail and getting dirt kicked in my face.

Now, in that circuitous fashion, I’m back being a teenager again.

About the Author:

Pushcart nominee Gary Cadwallader lives on a small farm in Warrensburg, Missouri where he likes to write about relationships between men and women.