The Particular Beauty of Our Pared-Down Lives

with Pam Houston

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Course Description

Stories begin in the physical stuff of our lives. The nouns and impressions that surround us and fill our days — the way my dog sleeps with all four paws in the air or the rocky mountain bluebird that comes to perch on the small spruce tree outside my bedroom window each morning. The $20 essential oil diffuser I bought on a whim late last year that has, suddenly, become one of my favorite things.

These times are extraordinary and yet with all the uncertainty in our pared-down lives, we might learn that we need less than we thought we did. As we reacquaint ourselves with forgotten things around the house or around our block, and even objects of menace, all these impressions can be portals into stories. Every artist understands there is great value in being still and having time to look at our lives and its familiar objects in new ways.

Join renowned teacher Pam Houston in this online workshop to discover and record the particular beauty of our pared-down lives. We begin with glimmers, the objects around us — the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells. Things that make us stop, do a double take, that vibrate inside us with resonance. We collect these impressions and bring them into writing exercises that transform into vignettes, stories, and personal essays. As these prose pieces begin to take shape, we demystify some of the essential components of prose writing (image, metaphor, point of view, structure, dialogue, character, and scene) fashioning them into comprehensible tools.

Come with pen and paper or laptop, your memories and imagination, and your active and engaged senses.

Additional Information


This program is open to everyone, writers and photographers, at all levels.


View Withdrawal and Transfer Policies for online programs.

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 »


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