Why is Texas so hard to “get” for people who don’t live here?
Asking the question that has puzzled many others in the Lone Star State, is William Jack Sibley, a fifth-generation Texas rancher and a versatile award-winning writer. Sibley’s work spans the likes of writing dialogue for television’s Guiding Light to serving as a contributing editor at Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, to seeing his plays produced off-Broadway and regionally.
Currently the Secretary of the Texas Institute of Letters, this writing rancher is also a member of The Dramatist Guild and the Writers Guild of America. He is the author of a dozen screenplays, nine stage plays, and three novels including his latest, Here We Go Loop De Loop, released earlier this month.
Sibley, who has lived in NYC and LA, and traveled all over the world, finds that, no matter where he goes, he still has to “explain” Texas.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I was born in Corpus Christi’s Spohn Hospital, also birthplace of Farrah Fawcett and Eva Longoria. (You may get asked this on Jeopardy! some day.) Then I left the next day for Robstown, TX, where my Dad was the town veterinarian. When I was about a year old, our family moved to Alice, TX, and I lived in Alice ‘til fifth grade. When my parents divorced, my mom remarried and we moved to upstate New York, and I graduated high school just outside New York City. I returned to Texas to attend and graduate from the University of Texas, Austin, and presently live in San Antonio.
From Dallas to Yellowstone: What’s life really like as a 21st century rancher?
I can’t speak for the Yellowstone actors – but life ranching in South Texas is hot, humid and frequently vexing. There’s a line in my first novel Any Kind of Luck that goes, “If it don’t sting, bite, tear, maim, kick or burn – it ain’t from South Texas.” It’s also a particularly gratifying endeavor when on a quiet, gray winter afternoon the smell of a mesquite smoke fire and the sight of cattle and horses grazing on green winter pasture becomes something wholly transcendent .
Having traveled extensively, what’s it like now living part-time on a ranch just outside a town with a population of 412 – in a less than embracing state for LGBTQ citizens?
My family is five generations in one county in Texas so I have deep roots in this state. This is my home and I care for it – warts and all. We’re a hell of a long way from that “shining city on the hill” allusion – whatever that still signifies. Texas always has been, and I can only assume always will be, a work in progress. Progress frequently comes on tiny wheels. The tires get flat, the road is rough – but in theory we’re all passengers in the same vehicle. Live and let live – never a better time than now to practice a little divine fellowship.
Why is Texas so hard to get?
We’re all over the map. We go from Ann Richards to George Bush. Van Cliburn to Selena. Anna Nicole Smith to Robert Wilson. We can’t even get the Alamo straight in our heads (I’ve been trying to figure out which room John Wayne died in for years!) It’s a huge, complex, ugly, thrilling, jumble of a state. We’re not Rhode Island. We’re not Finland. Texas is a big fat question in search of an easy answer. And it ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime.
As we approach the holidays, how do you suggest handling dysfunctional family affairs with grace and charm — and nobody getting shot?
Easy – no talk of politics, religion or the Kardashians. Ever!
If your latest novel were adapted into a movie, who would the dream cast be?
Pete Pennebaker – Tommy Lee Jones; Marty Pennebaker – Kate Winslet; Pettus Lyndecker – Matthew McConaughey; Chito Sosa – Gael Garcia Bernal. (The part of 9-year-old Jimmy will be played by the author.)
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Cover photo courtesy Matthew Busch, San Antonio Express-News