Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pam Houston

Pam Houston divides her time between her ranch in Colorado and the University of California at Davis, where she is director of the Creative Writing Program. She has been a frequent contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine, and her writing appears regularly in More and other publications. She in the author of the best-selling Cowboys Are My Weakness.

Houston's new novel is Contents May Have Shifted.

From the author's Q & A with Jennifer Haupt:

Jennifer Haupt: How much of your latest book is autobiographical? Are you the narrator?

Pam Houston: When I was a young writer Tim O'Brien wrote a beautiful book called The Things They Carried in which the main character was named Tim O'Brien. It was filed under fiction, but nowhere on it did it say fiction. It was made of short stories that also hung together in a longer arc that suggested the form of novel. That book made deep artistic sense to me in my formative years.

My books always come from events, people and places I have experienced or at least witnessed, but I also want to be free to mold and shape those events into the most meaningful story, the emotionally truest (as opposed to the most factually accurate) story, which sometimes means merging and shifting and tweaking reality to fit whatever demands the story begins to make on the material.

My editor says, "We want them to think it is Pam, and it is not Pam," and that is exactly how it works in my head too. I couldn't write a character who was "me" even if I wanted to. Language is too limited—it won't sit still, and memory is too shadowy to trust; throw in an average sized dose of pride and shame, and it seems impossible not to fictionalize oneself to a certain extent, even when we are trying with all our might not to. On the other hand this is not a novel in the traditional sense. It is important to me that there was a witnessing presence here, seeing all of these many things, and that that presence is in some sense or another me.

When I wrote my first book, this was the first question everyone asked me. How...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Pam Houston's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Pam Houston and Fenton Johnson.

The Page 69 Test: Contents May Have Shifted.

My Book, The Movie: Contents May Have Shifted.

Writers Read: Pam Houston.

--Marshal Zeringue