A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Pam Houston may be the single best teacher of writing in the U.S. today, not only by way of her classroom techniques (which I know of firsthand) but by way of example, and Deep Creek proves my case. Houston’s main tenet, always, is to begin with the concrete details—whether fiction or nonfiction—and those details will lead you to your narrative.
“I have always believed that if I pay strict attention while I am out in the physical world—and for me that often meant the natural world—the physical world will give me everything I need to tell my stories” (78).
Having studied with Pam, I can tell you she calls one’s paying attention to these details “glimmers”: that conversation you overhear at the market, the accident you see on the way to your doctor’s appointment. Your doctor’s appointment. Everywhere you look throughout your day, if you’re alive, you should be paying attention to these glimmers. Of course, they can come from your past, as well, but something from the past can be a bit dusty, so, once again, your mind must return to the concrete details. Houston says,
“I believe—like religion—that the glimmer, the metaphor, if you will, knows a great deal more than I do. And if I stay out of its way, it will reveal itself to me. I will become not so much its keeper as its conduit, and I will pass its wisdom on to the reader, without actually getting in its way” (79).