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On Friendship, Fieldtrips, and Writing

Photography by Tammy Strobel

A few weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon, my friend Kory and I drove to Redding, CA to see Pam Houston speak at Shasta College. Kory is a huge fan of her work. Although I haven’t read Houston’s books, I enjoy hearing authors speak about their work. The event was also a great opportunity to spend time with Kory.

Kory and I arrived early, and while we were waiting for the reading to start, I saw my friend Melissa walking toward us. I had met Melissa through Enjoy Magazine (she wrote a piece about my photography series and the tiny house). It was so good to reconnect with Melissa at the event. I also had the chance to meet Melissa’s cousin Alyssa. As we waited for the reading to start, we caught up on life and talked about blogging and publishing books.

I can’t remember the name of the woman who introduced Houston, but her remarks were helpful because they put the event in context. Houston’s talk is part of The First Speaker Series which is a joint effort by The Shasta College Foundation and The McConnell Foundation. The series is “designed to inspire, excite and challenge the communities they serve with fresh ideas and perspectives on education, our community, and our environment.” It was inspiring to see so many people in the audience, and I’m hoping to attend the next event in September 2016 when Juan Felipe Herrera, the United States Poet Laureate, will be speaking.

The introduction was also helpful because it gave me a sense of Houston’s incredible body of work. It inspired me and made me want to write another book!

Houston read a piece called, “What has irony done for us, lately?” It hasn’t been widely read, and it’s from a memoir she’s been working on. The memoir is about Pam’s love affair with the ranch she’s lived on part-time for the last 25 years. Pam explained that the memoir is about a sense of place and home. The words she shared reflected the memoir’s theme, and I can’t wait to read it.

I learned so much from Pam’s talk. Below are a few takeaway points from the reading. All of these points were extracted from my crazy journal notes (pictured above).

  • I loved Houston’s suggestion of keeping a journal. I especially enjoyed her remark about documenting “glimmers of things.” Glimmers can be observations about nature and life. Get the glimmers down before your analytical mind takes over. The analytical mind is usually wrong.
  • Houston’s writing is based on lived experiences. You have to go out into the world and experience life, and then write about it. Hopefully, your stories (based on experience) will be interesting and inspire readers.
  • Houston’s words about “embracing death like we embrace life” were spot on. We live in a culture that seems terrified of talking about death and dying. If we talked about these topics more often, maybe we’d be less afraid and more likely to pursue a meaningful life.
  • In the question-and-answer session, Houston talked about her love of writing books with short chapters and the editing process. Specifically, she said trimming words is better for the reader, and it’s a fun challenge. I wholeheartedly agree!

I’m grateful I had the opportunity and time to attend this event. The trip inspired me and reminded me to embrace everyday adventures because spending time with friends and going on field trips greatly enriches my life.

With gratitude,

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Holly December 8, 2015, 8:44 pm

    Oh Tammy! You are so lucky! Pam Houston is one of my all-time favorite writers. I found her after her first book was published and have read most of her work. I even have bought her books twice, because sadly I loaned them all out the friends who never returned them. I need to buy round three now. I love these tips you’ve shared, and that you’ve reminded me about her work. I’ll be buying her first few books again. I can’t wait to hear what you think after you’ve read some. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tammy Strobel December 9, 2015, 6:32 am

      I can’t wait to read her books, Holly! They are on my reading list. I’m so excited for her memoir to come out! Sending you big hugs.

  • Kory Hayden December 8, 2015, 8:51 pm


    • Tammy Strobel December 9, 2015, 6:33 am

      Thanks Kory! I’m happy we were able to attend the event together. xo.

  • Sandra Pawula, Always Well Within December 8, 2015, 11:23 pm


    I love this point about glimmers > “I especially enjoyed her remark about documenting “glimmers of things.” Glimmers can be observations about nature and life. Get the glimmers down before your analytical mind takes over. The analytical mind is usually wrong.” it’s so true, it’s easy to lose them if we’re not quick.

    I don’t think we always have to go outside though. I think our internal space can also bring us some amazing glimmers.

  • Janet Jensen December 10, 2015, 7:58 am

    I have been reading Pam’s books for years. I got to hear her in public at a reading in Grass Valley, Ca a few years back. It was an honor to be in her glow. She has a zest for life that is addicting. Must reading ” Waltzing the Cat”. It is a heartbreaking story that has stuck in my brain for years. I feel blessed to have the childhood I was given.

    Thanks for the report on your trip.