Heyday Announces the James D. Houston Award for Western Literature

“If there is one California-grown, longtime California writer who seems to be changing things it is James D. Houston.”               

                                      Alan Cheuse

About the Fund 

Friends and family of Santa Cruz author James D. Houston are establishing a fund to honor his memory and further his legacy. Known as a masterful writer in both fiction and nonfiction genres, Jim Houston was also a dedicated teacher and passionate promoter of emerging authors. The James D. Houston Award for Western Literature will support publication of books by writers who reflect Jim’s humane values, his thoughtful engagement with life, and his literary exploration of California, Hawaii, and the West. Books sponsored by the Award, while of the highest literary quality, will be those unable to support themselves on earned income alone.

The James D. Houston Fund will be administered by Heyday, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit publisher much admired by Jim. Heyday published a collection of Jim’s writings, Where Light Takes its Color from the Sea, in 2008. In 2011 it will publish his unfinished novel and masterwork, A Queen’s Journey. Nominations and decisions as to which writers to support will be made collegially by Heyday’s publisher, Malcolm Margolin, by the Houston family represented by Jim’s wife Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and by friends of the late author. Heyday will publish, distribute, and promote the books selected and is committed to matching donations on a dollar-to-dollar basis from funds of its own.

Jim was a person of great integrity, a meticulous craftsman, a devoted teacher, and a generous friend (He was also a lot of fun to be around). We look forward to creating books through the James D. Houston Legacy Fund that will honor not just his literary skills but the fullness of his being.

About James D. Houston 

James D. Houston was born in San Francisco in 1933. Early on in his career, Jim established himself as a literary master of the West. He authored eight books, including Bird of Another Heaven, Snow Mountain PassageFarewell to Manzanar, and Where Light Takes its Color From the Sea: A California Notebook. He received his M.A. in American Literature at Stanford, where he studied under Wallace Stegner, Irving Howe, and Frank O’Connor. In 1962 he moved with wife Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston into an old Victorian house in Santa Cruz. There he produced many of his famous works and taught writing at University of California, Santa Cruz for over twenty years. His stories and essays were widely anthologized and earned honors from the PEN Center USA West, Center for the Pacific Rim, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and elsewhere. Jim graced the world with a warmth, intelligence and vision that has left a profound mark on the literary culture of the West.


What a joy it was to know James D. Houston. He was so skilled at the writing craft, and he got better and better with each book. I knew no one else who could be as thoughtful and probing and at the same time as playful as Jim. I admired especially his generosity toward other writers, indeed toward the world at large. I liked him of course for who he was, but I also liked him for who I was in his presence. To be around Jim was to feel mentally alive, emotionally open, curious about the world, pleased beyond reason with the gift of momentary laughter. Whatever the subject of our conversation and however brief, I walked away from it convinced that Jim and I were partners in a great and even noble adventure. I was deeply saddened when he died, determined to carry on and create a great and noble adventure in his memory.”       

—Malcolm Margolin


Contribute to the Fund

Donations (tax-deductible) to the James D. Houston Legacy Fund can be made by calling Anna, (510) 549-3564 extension 304 or by sending a check made out to Heyday to the following address:


c/o the James D. Houston Legacy Fund

P.O. Box 9145

Berkeley, California 94709


For more information contact Kristi at (510) 549-3564 (ex. 311) or Anna (ex. 304)

Your support will help give voice to emerging writers and writers of the West whose work we believe Jim would have loved. We envision a noble and vibrant enterprise and welcome your involvement!


  1. April Farnham says

    I’m a great fan/admirer of Mr. Houston’s work. Had the opportunity to meet with him during a signing of his Bird of Another Heaven novel at a Borders Books in Sacramento and was deeply moved by his talk. Saddened to hear of his passing, but I very much look forward to reading A Queen’s Journey when it comes out. I am an aspiring writer of California historical fiction and would like to know more about the legacy fund and how I might contribute (otehr than financially).

  2. Aleta George says

    I had the good fortune to have James Houston as my one-on-one advisor at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers in 2005. I had long admired his work and aspired to his ability to write about California so intimately. As my advisor, he read an early first chapter from a book that I had recently started about Ina Coolbrith. As we sat in our shorts on a warm summer day at the base of a granite mountain, he gave me several invaluable pointers: Show Ina’s faults, it makes her human; don’t attempt to defend her poetry, her story is important on its own; and don’t worry about my credentials. Then he talked about his book in progress, and told me about a sticky section that he had been working on. I walked away feeling more like a respected colleague than a student. When I returned to Squaw in 2010, I missed his ukulele and quiet presence. Thank you Heyday for honoring him and for starting this fund. Sincerely, Aleta George

  3. Natalie Mulford says

    Thanks, Aleta, for that touching story. We are so happy to be honoring Jim and, by doing so, honoring his students, colleagues, and admirers. We look forward to sharing his last work with you.