SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Award Winning Author Visits Ketchikan


February 13, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - The Ketchikan Public Library recently hosted author Pam Houston who gave a short presentation and a reading from her first and most recent novel Sighthound which was published in January of 2005.

This well traveled 44 year old writer divides her time between her ranch in Creede, Colorado, which is situated 9000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River and the University of California in Davis, where she serves as the Director of Creative Writing.

jpg Pam Houston

Pam Houston at the Ketchikan Public Library last Thursday.
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak

Houston jumps from one writing genre to another with ease. In Cowboys Are My Weakness published in 1992, Houston authored a collection of linked short stories which received the 1993 Western States Book Award. In 1996 she wrote the text for a book of photographs titled Men Before Ten A.M.

In 1999 Houston authored her second collection of linked short stories in Waltzing The Cat for which she received the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction. Soon after, Houston published a collection of autobiographical essays in A Little More About Me.

Not a conventional author, Houston jumps from short stories and poetry to non-fiction, magazine articles and stage plays. In 2001 she completed the play Tracking the Pleiades which was produced by the Creede Repertory Theatre.

Houston read excerpts from her most recent novel Sighthound, published in January 2005, at the Public Library this past Thursday.

is about an Irish Wolfhound named Dante and the story is told in 12 first person narrative voices. "Nine of those are human, two are canine and one is feline," Houston informed those in attendance, "that was the challenge, the fun and the headache of writing this book."

Definitely more than a, "Girl meets dog, girl loves dog, girl loses dog, story," as Houston said, Sighthound has a reoccurring theme about hope that becomes more obvious with each passing chapter.

Even though Houston read only short excerpts from the book, it became obvious that Dante, the Irish Wolfhound, was everyone's hero. There were tears and much sniffling in the audience as Houston explained how Dante, on his fourth birthday was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg, survived several grueling experimental treatments that failed, had his leg amputated and managed to live another three years against all odds as a three legged, barbed-wire jumping dog that never lost his dignity.

Having read just enough to intrigue the audience and leave them wanting more, Houston's time was up. However, Parnassus Books was on hand with numerous copies of the book for sale since the audience was impatient to read more. Houston graciously remained to sign the books and answer questions from the public.

Much credit should be given to Charlotte Glover for bringing authors like Houston to Ketchikan. Glover has worked at the library for about 15 years and is not only the Children's Librarian but also the Library Program Director and responsible for bringing guest speakers to Ketchikan which she does from four to six times a year.

Glover went above and beyond the call of duty by housing Houston in her own home to keep from spending the library's budget. To further lower expenses, Glover made arrangements to split the cost of airfare with the Juneau Public Library where Houston was also appearing.

One little known fact about our Ketchikan Public Library is that it's the longest continuously operating library in the entire state of Alaska and 80 percent of our population are active library users.

Since services are free and the staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, it's no surprise that the community avails themselves to all the library has to offer. There are many programs offered by the library that can also be accessed on their website.

During Ketchikan's long, dark and wet winter, the library can open doors to new horizons and take you far, far away without ever leaving Ketchikan but, just as Thursday night's audience did, you would have to go there and find out for yourself.

On the Web:

Pam Houston

Ketchikan Public Library


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at


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