A happy thing occurred because of the world wide interwebs. I know Pam Houston! Okay, I don’t really know Pam Houston, but I did take a class from her.
Last week, a friend mentioned that Houston’s “Cowboys are My Weakness” is her go to book when her own narrative voice just ain’t working. Now stay with me here….
In my last semester of undergrad at the University of Utah many, many years ago (I still had hair and a cassette player), I needed to add one more class. There was a class called “Great Books” that fit my schedule. I assumed it would be “Moby Dick,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and other books I’d already read, and I wouldn’t have to work very hard.
Instead, that class, taught by an earnest grad student, introduced me to a bunch of authors I’d never heard of, including Ruth Prawer Jhabwala and Barbara Kingsolver, and explored the heroic journey in seemingly unheroic circumstances. She taught me the words “liminal” and “anagnorisis.” The class had such an influence on me that many, many years later (long after hair and cassettes), I wrote a critical essay on Kingsolver’s works, and my grad school thesis was a book length exploration of the heroic journey of an ordinary man.
That thesis became my novel. Since it has been a day or two, have I mentioned my novel is being released in June?
Any way, a few years after that class, I read a wonderful collection called “Cowboys are My Weakness” by a U of U alumni named Pam Houston. The author’s picture reminded me of that grad student, and I spent twenty years occasionally wondering if I had taken a class taught by Pam Houston.
So, after my friend’s comment last week, I messaged Ms. Houston on the book of face. She replied, and yes I did take a class taught by Pam Houston! Some may be wondering what the big deal is and/or if I am a stalker. Craig Childs and Jessica Anthony will attest to yes on the latter, and I’ll quote another of my teachers on the former, “writers are not famous in America,” said the brilliant Katie Towler. The average American can name more Kardashians than writers.
However, writers are famous to writers. Pam (I’m assuming we’re on a first name basis now) has won the O. Henry award and the Pushcart prize. Remember how frickin’ excited I was when I was shortlisted for a Pushcart nomination? She won one.
This is the best part. In her response she sent me one of those emoji things that FB has. She mentioned it was an accident, had never sent one, and would probably never do so again. So, I possess Pam Houston’s one and only emoji! I will put it next to the pair of socks I stole from Craig and the napkin Matt Bondurant wiped his face with. I’m kidding! Craig’s restraining order is almost up for review.
Sadly, I missed out on twenty years of saying I studied with Pam Houston. “Studied with” sounds so much better than “took a class she adjuncted.” In all seriousness, in the long list of amazing classes and writing teachers I have had, it is pretty cool to learn Pam Houston was one of the most influential.
I’m going to go gaze at my emoji. Did I mention my book is coming out in June?