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Good writing takes risks

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyColorado author Pam Houston will lead a writing workshop and host a reading afterwards on Saturday in Edwards. Houston was personally requested by Vail Symposium members, said Fraidy Aber, Vail Symposium's director.
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Let’s start with what author Pam Houston is not.

She is not “a get up at 7 o’clock in the morning every day, make the coffee, then write for three hours” writer.

She does not subscribe to a regimen.



She does not believe that’s where art, at least her art, comes from.

“I believe that art comes in big, puked up, bulimic rushes. It’s not a thing in me that can fit in a schedule, it just isn’t. When it comes, it comes. I might not sit down for two-and-a-half months, and then l might sit down and write 125 pages in a week,” she said.



And that’s how she likes it.

“Part of the fun of being a writer is you don’t have to do the same thing every day. And I don’t really want to impose that on myself because I’m living this very free life,” Houston said.

The best selling author (“Sight Hound” and “Cowboys Are My Weakness” are two of her four books) will be in town on Saturday for two events: a writing workshop, which is sold out, and a author meet and greet at The Bookworm in Edwards, which is still available. At the meet and greet Houston will read from “Flight,” which will likely be released in 2008.



“The quality of her writing is very good. She’s personable ” she’s like one of your friends,” said Nicole Magistro, owner of the Bookworm in Edwards.

We caught up with the very charming, articulate Houston via cell phone on her way to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PH: I never really know what things are about until I’m done. I can tell you that it’s kind of got to do with flight in every sense. It rose up out of how much I travel, how much I move and how much I’m in airports. The interest is in just trying to capture the idea of a life where you wake up one moment and you’re in the Bahamas, the next day you’re in Tibet and you wake up the next day in Indianapolis ” which is really my life.

I travel way more than a 100,000 miles a year by air and I also travel a lot by car because i’m always traveling between Colorado and California. So I’m in motion, everyone says, way to much. I’m not sure it’s way to much, but it’s a lot. I’ve been to more than 60 countries. It’s kind of an obsession and it’s kind of my antidepressent. Travel has a lot of functions in my life. It’s where my work comes from ” new landscapes really get me writing. The whole thing kind of feeds itself.

Other kinds of flight have come into the book, like flying as a human being ” I’m avoiding using the word spiritual ” a broader sense of flight and the possibility of flight within the boundaries of our lives.

PH: Yes, emotional, psychic, spiritual ” the different ways we might learn how to fly.

PH: In truth, it’s good if the one you’re writing is your favorite, and I think that’s usually true about me. And I’m really excited about this new one.

I guess looking back over my career, “Waltzing the Cat” is kind of my favorite in terms of it being the problem child because I had problems getting it published. It didn’t do as well as the others but some of my best writing is in there. I guess I love that one like you love the kid that’s always getting in trouble.

PH: For me it goes back to the physical world. When I get stuck, I look out the window. There is something out there that’s going to resonate. If you’re stuck, all you have to do is write one good sentence. Look out the window and you see what the Aspen trees are doing or you see the crazy woman at the grocery store, you see the way the clouds are building. This morning I was flying in, and I woke up suddenly and saw the clouds. It was so beautiful as we were coming down, it was like popcorn all over the sky and I thought man, if i could write that, if i could write that the way I’m seeing it right now …

You just go find that image, just the one, the one little image that has some sort of resonance and write it and hopefully you’ll distract yourself from what has you stuck. And then suddenly there’s another sentence. But sometimes it takes you three months to go look out the window …

PH: I haven’t yet, but I will before I go to bed tonight.

I always certainly mean to. If I don’t, it’s my loss. That’s especially the nature of this current book. This current book is a whole bunch of those moments crammed up against each other to see what they do together. I don’t believe it will look like a traditional novel in terms of its form. It will have a lot of short chapters that are not necessarily linked by chronology or place. But I’m hoping and I trust, and I always do, that there will be an arc, an overreaching arc.


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