Honorary Degree Recipient Pamela Lynne Houston '83
B.A. Denison University; M.A. University of Utah
by Fleur W. Metzger
Denison University Publications Editor
Pam Houston is a prolific, successful and critically acclaimed author who graduated summa cum laude from Denison in 1983 with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Her books include the best-selling Cowboys are My Weakness (W.W. Norton, 1992) that was the winner of the 1993 Western States Book Award and has been translated into nine languages; Waltzing the Cat (W.W. Norton, 1998) that won the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction, and her first novel, Sighthound, completed in 2003. She also has published a collection of autobiographical essays A Little More About Me (W.W. Norton, 1999) and a collaboratively written historical book Tomboy Bride: A Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps of the West (1997).
Houston edited a collection of essays, fiction and poetry called Women on Hunting (Ecco Press, 1994) and wrote the text for a book of photographs by Veronique Vial, Men Before Ten A.M. (Beyond Words, 1996). Her stories have been selected for the 1999 volumes of Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Awards, and the Pushcart Prize. Houston's The Best Girlfriend You Never Had was John Updike's only addition to Best American Short Stories of the Century when that volume went from hard cover to paperback in 1999.
Her stories have appeared in Mirabella, Mademoiselle and the Mississippi Review. Her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, Elle, Vogue, Travel and Leisure, Ski, Los Angeles Magazine, and Food and Wine.
After graduating from Denison, Houston rode across Canada on a bicycle, through Oregon to Colorado, where she worked in various jobs including being a bartender and flag woman on a highway crew. She eventually earned a master's degree from the University of Utah (1992) and then spent a year as an instructor in Denison's English department. She currently is director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Davis, where she is a professor of English. She also teaches at summer writers' conferences and festivals in the United States and abroad.
Houston occasionally appears on CBS-TV Sunday Morning doing literary essays on the wilderness. She is a licensed river guide and a horsewoman and when school is not in session, lives in southwestern Colorado at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River.
In the 1993 summer issue of Denison Magazine, Houston shared her thoughts about writing. She said, "I write for the sheer love of language, to watch the words crash into each other on the page, to watch the spark of electricity between them as they sit together, the rowdy unpredictable job of language play. I write because I know there's nothing better than a good story, well told, because I know that we rework, relive and re-create our lives through our stories, that in the end our lives are nothing more than the stories we've collected, the tales we remember about each other and ourselves."