Posted on 01/29/2019 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

We’ve never been a fan of the saying “Those who can do, do; those who can’t, teach,” and in the case of Cary Holladay, we especially reject it.

Holladay is an English professor at the University of Memphis who has written eight volumes of fiction and who has seen her short stories published in a number of journals and anthologies.

Additionally, she has won an O. Henry Prize, the Glimmer Train Fiction Open, and fellowships from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts.

Upon a reader’s recommendation, we reached out to Holladay to learn more about what has inspired her throughout her life.

SADYE: Did you grow up expecting to be or dreaming of being a writer?

CARY: Well, I just dreamed the dreams of childhood. The things I loved as a ten-year-old, I still love: cats, birds, nature, stars, books, strawberry Twizzlers.

SADYE: What prompted you to seek publication?

CARY: When I was ten — somehow your questions are taking me back to being ten — I wrote a story for Golden Magazine, clumsily typed it, and mailed the messy result to the editor.

When they actually responded with a personal letter, I was amazed.

“I think they know a child wrote it,” my mother said.

They didn't take it, but I didn't expect them to. It was the writing of the story that was significant for me, and getting a letter from people who had read it.

SADYE: Have you always been fascinated by history? Do you remember what drew you in?

CARY: Arrowheads and shells.

As a child in Glen Allen, Va., I climbed trees and dug into the sandy soil.

The Chickahominy Indians had lived there and left thousands of quartz arrowheads. I used to minutely examine the little notches.

Deeper down, I’d hit clay, where there were thick, rugged clam shells and oyster shells from prehistoric times when the Tidewater section of the state was underwater.

I loved being able to touch things that were ancient. The sense of past lives, human and animal, has always been with me.

SADYE: What has been your most rewarding moment as an author?

CARY: It's those moments when an idea comes.

You realize what one of your characters is truly thinking and feeling; you're writing a scene and it takes a turn you didn't expect, especially if it's funny or awful or both.

There's a sudden sense of a character's emotional nakedness, a bursting-forth of honesty on their part.

SADYE: You’re married to a fellow writer; how do you feel your careers interplay with your relationship?

CARY: From the moment I met John Bensko, my Tall Handsome, we have encouraged each other.

It's the only way marriage can work, no matter what careers are involved.

SADYE: Do your two careers of writer and professor affect each other?

CARY: Like writing, teaching takes time. There aren’t any shortcuts.

You spend time with the students’ work and in conference with students outside of class.

You prepare for class and reread the stories you assign.

It’s luxurious, having a job that requires you to be with students and colleagues who are reading and writing and talking about books.

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Learn more about Cary Holladay on her website.

Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email us with a recommendation!

Categories: Author Interview

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