Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writing and Writers: Slim Randles

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com

Columnist, Humorist and All-round Interesting Guy

Slim Randles is an experienced writer with more than 50 years as a journalist, writer of fiction and non-fiction and a fellow who sees life as a learning experience. He’s been a cowboy and mule packer in eastern California, reporter, editor and columnist for newspapers in California, New Mexico and Alaska, a dog musher, homesteader and hunting guide, and five years ago he retired as a guide and outfitter in NM. He continues to write his syndicated newspaper column Home Country, currently in 257 papers in 43 states. He reaches more than 2.1 million readers a day.

He is currently working with New Mexico Highlands University to help create a "Cowboy Code" that represents what most people think of as the cowboy way embodying honesty, integrity and strength of character.

Slim is amiable, quick thinking and seems to have been born smiling. He sees the humor in life and helps his readers see it too.

He is an award winning writer with several books to his credit and countless articles. He continues a long standing friendship with Max Evans, a legendary writer and the subject of Slim’s 2004 biography, Ol’ Max Evans, the First Thousand Years. He speaks of writing and the art of being a word smith with pride and passion. His reviews are unfailingly positive and reveal the respect with which he is regarded by critics and fellow writers. He doesn’t waste time being an “aw shucks, m’am” stereotype of cowboys. His intelligence and humor are evident in his easy manner and a gentlemanly kindness. He said in our interview that he wants to write the kind of books he would be proud to have his grandkids read. His respect for his readers keeps him writing relevant material that will last a lifetime.

He graciously gave me a signed copy of Sweet Grass Mornings and I’m looking forward to reading it. He is a cowboy humorist who shows us life’s lighter side and takes seriously his responsibility to produce worthwhile work.

Q&A With Slim Randles

WB: You’ve just been notified you will be the recipient of the Rounder’s Award. Tell the audience what that is.
SR: Named for my buddy Max Evans most famous novel and movie, it is awarded by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to someone who “…promotes, exemplifies and articulates the Western way of life.”

WB: You’re among a pretty impressive crowd. Previous winners include Max Evans, Michael Martin Murphey, artist Pablita Velarde, illustrator Grem Lee, and Baxter Black. What was your immediate reaction?
SR: When Max called (he’s my mentor and I’m his biographer) to tell me I was going to be given the Rounder’s Award, I couldn’t believe it. I’d rather have this than the Pulitzer.

WB: Let’s talk about your writing. You are identified as a cowboy humorist. Was that a plan or did it evolve over time?
SR: I guess that evolved. I was a newspaper reporter who morphed into a feature writer, and then editor, and finally to columnist. I was also a cowboy, and being a cowboy is a ridiculous, funny thing to do, so I think it kinda sneaked up on me. I do quite a bit of public speaking, and that’s kinda how I’ve been billed. I’ve been called worse.

WB: Your background is in journalism, but you have also done things like participating in the Iditarod and were named Champion Mule Packer at the 1994 NM State Fair. In what ways do these kinds of activities contribute to your success as a writer?
SR: Everything in life contributes to a career as a writer. I’ve had a particularly colorful life, granted, but if you are going to write knowledgeably about freezing to death, you should probably go out and get cold.

WB: There are a lot of definitions of the “Cowboy Way.” In a sentence, what is your definition?
SR: Being honest with yourself and others.

WB: What do you most want people to know about you they don’t already know?
SR: I love music, and have played half a dozen instruments over the years. Wish I were better at it. Music is an elegant way of expressing oneself.

WB: Among the iconic characters of the west, who do you most admire?  
SR: First of all would be Max Evans, who is still with us. His voice as a chronicler of our lives here is unique. Then I guess there would be railroad magnate General Palmer, and Kit Carson.

WB: What keeps you writing?
SR: I have to. I’m not a good enough accordion player to express what I have to through music. And I love my readers. I always have. It’s always so much fun to share ideas and laughs and an occasional tear with them. It’s truly a love affair, and I try to do my best each day.

WB: For writers who are listening in, what are your thoughts about publishing in the age of anything goes?
SR: I just started putting out with e-books, and it’s fun. Basically, I think technology is going to make it easier for writers to earn a living. The computer certainly has. Without it, I sure wouldn’t have two million readers each week, for example. But on a personal note, I guess I’m old-fashioned enough to really enjoy the look and the feel of a real book, and the thrill of seeing one of those with my name on it.

WB: In a review of Sweetgrass Mornings, the writer notes that in this collection of stories the tone is more reflective than rollicking, with an exception or two. Tell us a little about Sweetgrass Mornings and why you wrote in a more reflective manner.
SR: Actually, Sweetgrass Mornings is as close as I’m ever likely to come to an autobiography. I included things from my past that were fun, potentially deadly, and sometimes reflective, true. I omitted including crud like divorce because for one thing, I didn’t think it would interest anyone else, but mainly because that’s a kind of personal issue that isn’t anyone else’s business. But I sure had fun with the horse and sled dog parts and the grizzly bear parts.

WB: Is the West more or less than it was, in terms of how it is perceived in literature and the movies?
SR: The West never was as it has been perceived in literature and the movies. I’m sure Louis L’Amour gunned down more bad guys on Main Street in his books than all the marshals of the Old West. The truth is, almost no one wore sidearms in those days unless it was a cowboy who might have to kill snakes. The gunfights, for the most part, took place in saloons between drunks. That’s still true today.

WB: What’s next for you?
SR: Oh, there are a couple of non-fiction books and a novel on the back burner, but the truth is, it’s just so much fun being alive and active, that you want to wake up each day and wonder what’s going to happen. And I’m thrilled to be asked to help Highlands with their new program to make being a Highlands Cowboy really mean something. A cowboy is, after all, the closest thing we have to a knight here in the West. And there’s a very serious side to it.


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