On Location

Memoir: Taking Your Story to the Next Level

with Pam Houston

Course Description

The real artistry of prose writing is the translation of the emotional stakes of a story onto its physical landscape, and for novelist, essayist, and memoirist Pam Houston this process is second nature. Her in-person, manuscript-driven workshop focuses on demystifying the essential components of storytelling (image, metaphor, structure, dialogue, character, scene) and fashioning them into comprehensible tools we can use to shape our prose. 

As memoirists we dip our ladles into the bottomless pot of metaphor soup of our lived and witnessed experience to pull out what we need. We pick up hunks of the physical world and bring them back to the page, translated into words. We aim for sentences where language is always working in at least two ways at once, where metaphors dance between meanings like beads of water on a too-hot grill. 

During our time together, Pam creates—and holds—a safe space for participants to offer considered and compassionate critiques of each other’s work, while discussing how to make our manuscripts even stronger. It’s all too easy to be humbled by language’s infinite possibilities and limitations, but as we face the contents of our own personal narratives, we open ourselves up to the inexplicable flights of creativity that transform a good story into a great one.

Additional Information


This program is open to experienced writers who want to engage in a manuscript writing workshop.

What You Should Know:

Writers are required to turn in between 2000 and 5000 words of personal writing (memoir, essay, micro-memoir, etc) for the workshop by June 15 for review by Pam. It is the job of every class member to read and prepare feedback for discussion of each manuscript in advance of the workshop sessions.

One-of-a-Kind, Professional Development, Writers Lab
Pam Houston

Pam Houston is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won both the Colorado Book Award and the Reading The West Advocacy Award in 2019. She is also the author of two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton. Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Short Stories of the Century among other anthologies. She is also the winner of the Western States Book Award, the WILLA Award for contemporary fiction, the Evil Companions Literary Award, and several teaching awards. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and co-founder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. A book co-written with activist Amy Irvine: Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics and Place, is forthcoming from Torrey House Press in October of 2020.

A popular workshop instructor, Pam is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Website: pamhouston.net

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