‘Beauty worth seeing, worth singing, worth saving’: Author Pam Houston to speak twice Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

‘Beauty worth seeing, worth singing, worth saving’: Author Pam Houston to speak twice Grass Valley

Carolyn Crane
Special to Prospector

Pam Houston happened to cruise through Creede, Colorado, shortly after her first book, “Cowboys Are My Weakness,” captivated the American reader. She had only an inkling in that moment that the 120-acre ranch she couldn’t afford to buy would become the backdrop for her career, her growth, and her healing.

She ended up buying the ranch for 5% down and a signed copy of “Cowboys.” If the owner hadn’t been willing to finance it herself, it never would have happened. Houston jetted off to Europe then as the paperback of “Cowboys” brought the young writer international fame.

Twenty-six years later, Pam Houston will be the keynote speaker at the 2020 Sierra Writers Conference at Sierra College in Rocklin on Jan. 31. Her talk is titled “Turning the Physical Stuff of Your Life into Story.” She will discuss what she calls “glimmers,” those hunks of the physical world that arrest our attention, that we excavate and carry home and turn into language.

The following day, Feb. 1, Houston will keynote the Sierra Writers Conference at Sierra College in Grass Valley. This talk is titled “Writing Dialogue: Playing Tennis Without A Net, or a Ball, or a Racquet, or a Serena Williams Tennis Skirt.” Houston believes that good dialogue is always doing two things at once: elevating tension and revealing character, two things that every story can benefit from. It also pulls the reader right onto the page in real time and sits them down beside your characters.  

In addition to her Sierra Writers Conference addresses, Houston also give a multi-media talk, “How We Become Who We Are in the World,” at Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley on Feb. 1. The talk explores how buying her ranch “turned her into an adult” and shaped the writer, teacher and woman she is today. On Feb. 2, Houston will summit with 25 writers in a generative writing workshop, also at Foothills Event Center.

A passionate educator as well as an internationally-acclaimed author, Houston is a professor of English at UC Davis. She also works with the MFA Low Rez program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and with students through her nonprofit, Writing by Writers. Her Feb. 1 talk “How We Become Who We Are in the World” is a benefit for Writing by Writers.

“Deep Creek, Finding Hope in the High Country,” her sixth and newest book and a memoir, took Houston eight years to complete. It chronicles her twenty-six years on the ranch with her adorable and spirited menagerie: horses, Icelandic sheep, chickens, donkeys and Irish wolfhounds. She delves into her process of healing from a bizarre and dystopic childhood, and shares her attempt to reconcile her love and hope for the earth with the reality of its condition and the condition of humankind.

In “Deep Creek” Houston writes that she has seen “beauty worth seeing, worth singing, worth saving … There is beauty in a desert, even one that is expanding. There is beauty in the ocean, even one that is on the rise. And even if the jig is up, even if it is really game over, what better time to sing about the earth than when it is critically, even fatally wounded at our hands. Aren’t we more complex, more interesting, more multifaceted people if we do?”

Houston looks forward to returning to Nevada County, where she has given several readings and workshops. In fact, she fondly recalls living briefly in Nevada City. She’s excited to share her passion with students at Sierra College and writers and readers in our area.

Admission to her talk “How We Become Who We Are in the World” includes a signed paperback of “Deep Creek.”

For tickets to the Sierra Writers Conference: http://sierrawritersnevadacounty.blogspot.com

For tickets to Houston’s Feb. 1 Evening Talk at Foothills events, visit http://www.lightcapfarm.com for the ticket link.

For information about Houston’s Feb. 2 generative writer’s workshop, email Carolyn Crane at cc@lightcampfarm.com.

Carolyn Crane is an English professor at Sierra College. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach and independent producer.


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