Interview: Leland Heathco & Brian Maddock

Leland Heathco, Joseph Bell (who could not be reached for an interview), and Brian Maddock co-authored a piece titled “Legacy in Red” which appeared in the 2014 edition of the Rain Shadow Review, an annual publication that consists of work by current or formerly incarcerated writers (you can read the story at the bottom of this post). I was struck by the powerfully executed reimagining of “Little Red Riding Hood,” in which the reader sees the concepts of power and gender reversed from the original. The red cape no longer represents a weak and startlingly naïve young girl, but instead a line of powerful women whose roles are complex and nuanced. In the same way that their characters consist of layers not previously attributed to them, interviewing these men helped me see past my preconceived notions and afforded me a richer, deeper view of a world that I had previously looked at with a certain shallowness. I encourage you to please look at the information provided after the interview about various prison writing programs and ways to become involved.

Brian Maddock is a 49 year-old kid-at-heart who graduated from AZ State University with a Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems. He has worked in large IT departments developing and fixing software to help businesses operate. He enjoys hiking in the woods, swimming, reading fantastical stories, and public speaking. He has published poetry, essays, and children’s stories while incarcerated and would like to explore the medium of flash fiction. Brian gets a kick out of teaching beginning Spanish, computer basics, and essay writing, but enjoys learning equally well. He is an Arizona native and would love to eventually reside near the Pacific coast.

Leland Heathco was born on May 5th, 1957. He was raised in southern Alabama on the east coast of Mobile Bay, in a small farming community called Barnwell. Because of his father’s work as a pipe-fitter, the family traveled, which provided a cultural awakening for him as a young boy and gave him an early opportunity to learn about cultural diversity. Leland learned about working hard side-by-side with migrant workers on the farms. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade, his first job was working on a copper smelter down in the Playas Valley, not far from Animas, New Mexico. In May of 1975, he joined the Army for four years. He has been married twice and has four sons. Leland suffers from chronic free-spiritedness, and been to 27 states, including Hawaii. He also traveled to the Philippines, Germany, and the Isle of Crete, and firmly believes that travel is good for storytelling.

I understand that the piece was put together collaboratively between the three authors with no agreed upon theme or prevalent story line. Why do you think the story ended up as a reimagining of “Little Red Riding Hood”?

BM: This story began as nothing more than a blank notepad passed among three aspiring writers, each producing one line and passing it to the next as an exercise. The first line spoke of a hunter’s moon in a forest; the next author chose to add an owl on a branch. Ultimately, the word “wolf” led to a line of thought centered on the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale. From there, the “red cape” developed into a symbol for a strong line of heroines, and soon the coalesced fantasy/fairy tale emerged from the amorphous lines we all contributed.

LH: The collaboration started the same way that most of my writing does. A word or a line comes to me that seems to stand out, begging for my attention, so I write it down. I’ve often thought that what I write already exists, and I’ve been fortunate that the words were given to me to write. I respect Brian and Joe as writers, and I don’t think this piece would have turned out the way it did without them. I was curious as to what might emerge if writers with different styles were to write together using a single sentence and no outline or story idea. The collaboration is the reason for the “Riding Hood” theme, which really materialized when the wolves were introduced. But, I did not want to write about Ms. Hood in the same way that she’s been depicted before. She brought herself into the story, but with a little help from me and my “Brothers of the Pen.” She is not a child, but a young woman coming of age, and coming to terms with a responsibility she does not want, however, there is honor and strength in her bloodline that will not allow her to back down from what’s before her. She is a thinker and a bad ass.

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Editor’s Note: When the Street Lamps Glow

There is a statue near the border of Nogales, Arizona of a small boy. Every time my mother, brother, and I would walk by she’d turn to us and say that if we misbehaved or did not follow her instructions we would become a statue just like that small boy. My mother was always aided by folk tales or myths to scare us into thinking that if we deliberately disobeyed her, consequences would arise.

My mother is from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Molded by a culture full of folk tales and old proverbs, she passed on generations of stories to my siblings and I.  My mother shared the legends of El Cucuy, the Mexican boogeymann and El Chupacabra, a goat-like creature the size of a small bear–its spines reaching from its neck to the base of its tail–that haunts the desert. She also told me about La Llorona.

La Llorona is told as a cautionary tale to children to make them behave properly. Different versions of the story are told depending on the region. Some say the story focuses on Maria, a woman so beautiful that all the men in her town attempted to woo her each time she walked by. Maria, with a sense of self absorption, believed she deserved the attention. She would flirt with the men but vowed only to marry the most handsome and wealthiest man she could find. The only problem interfering with her lifestyle? Her two sons. So she decided to drown them.

Other versions of the tale say Maria married a wealthy man and they were happy. She bore him two sons. After a time, the man would go away for long periods of time and when he returned, only focused on his sons. One day, he returned with another woman at his side and left again. Enraged, Maria drowned her two children in the river. Maria became deeply remorseful and wandered along the banks hoping her sons would return. It is said that when she finally died, her weeping spirit wandered the land, crying, “¡Ay, mis hijos!”

One day when I was five, my three siblings and I were playing a game of freeze tag on my grandma’s patio. Our dogs chased and barked at us. The daylight was quickly vanishing and the street lamps were turning on. As the sun set, my mother called out to us and yelled it was time to return inside. We didn’t listen. She yelled out, “¡Si no regresan ya, los va a agarrar La Llorona!” which roughly translates to, “If you don’t return now, La Llorona will come get you.” My brothers stopped playing and ran inside. I didn’t understand who my mom was speaking of because I was the youngest and had not heard the tale. I stayed outside for another five minutes and when I decided to go back, I found the door was locked. My mom on the other side said it was too late and La Llorona coming. Panicking, I begged to go inside. She hesitated. I said I was sorry for not coming back when she asked. The door unlocked and I ran inside.

I sat on a rusty old stool as I listened to my mother explain the importance of La Llorona. A weeping women all dressed in a white dress and her face covered by a white veil. She wouldn’t rest until she found her kids. That’s when my mom uttered the word: “Unless…” I stared at her, tightening my eyebrows. “Unless she finds other children, children who misbehave, and takes them instead.” I felt my skin lose its smoothness and small bumps started forming from my forearm to my shoulder. “La Llorona will come as soon as the lights on the street start turning on. Make sure you’re inside when the street lamps glow.


This editor’s note was written by Tiny Donkey editorial assistant Gabriel A. Jiménez. 

Ancillary to Memory

by Benjamin Winkler

I can still recite the entirety of Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat.” It unknots itself from my tongue with the same cadence as shma-yisrael-adonai-elohainu or the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It’s almost as if the words themselves are not important but the act of worrying them. I used to carry a turquoise stone and a Garden State Parkway token in my pocket for the same purpose.

All of these were central to growing up in south Jersey, between the Pine Barrens and the City, but the memories bound up with this cultural flotsam are much more pleasant: I’m four or five and sitting with my mother on the beige sofa, finger pressed firmly to page, sounding out words like “quince” and “runcible.” I used to carry books with me everywhere, in the car, to school, in the red wagon my parents would pull me up the hill in to the Garden State Discovery Museum.

Lear’s was the first poem I ever loved and the first I ever memorized, but it was only later I learned to understand the words without the Jan Brett illustrations I knew. And then I wondered what it was like to sail across the ocean, or pierce my nose, or fall in love across a species.

I later stored away lines by Berryman and Bishop, but those are subject to forgetting. I have to look for them, to coax them out like the piggy-wig in the woods. I think the mysteries of memory are a lot like dream-logic: We don’t know why something is there, only that it is and could not be otherwise. We can tease it apart pacing around a living room or on a pricey analyst’s couch, but ultimately that your mind found this important is all the reason you need.


Benjamin Winkler lives and writes in Philadelphia, PA. His work has previously appeared in RHINO, The Ilanot Review, and Lockjaw Magazine. Find him online at www.benjaminwinkler.com or on Twitter at @cmdrcallowhill.