Interview: A HippoCamp 2016 Mash-up – Speakers Speak Up About Upcoming Nonfiction Writing Conference

Curated by Donna Talarico

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


hippocamp graphic historic buildings with dates aug 12-14

HippoCamp, Hippocampus Magazine’s three-day creative nonfiction conference, is next month. Over on the conference website we’ve been posting Q&As with presenters. For this month’s magazine interview, we decided to share a mash-up of those “speaker and session preview” conversations. Here, learn from a few dozen HippoCamp speakers who shared their thoughts with us. Re-reading this interviews has us super excited for August 12-14!

To read the full interviews, browse the News section of the HippoCamp website, here. To learn more about the speakers, visit the Speakers page, here.

There’s still time to register for HippoCamp, too!

HippoCamp: Please share with us a golden nugget that you hope attendees will take away from your talk that isn’t found on the program description.


Athena Dixon: I’d like for those who attend my lightning round presentation to take a bit of time to consider how we can each make the work we publish reflect the entirety of those who write and submit.

Amy Fish: In our workshop you will get six practical tips for making your work funnier. We may show you some clips of funny stuff and we may read from our own (funny) work.

Garret Drew Ellis: During my talk, I hope that attendees walk away believing that they do not have to be the stereotypical “starving artist” in order to pursue their writing. Ghostwriting is a way of both feeding the need to write, as well as the need to pay the bills.

Lynn Hall: I found that above all else, becoming an author is about practicing persistence. Persistence in writing, persistence in re-writing, persistence in finding a publishing team (whether with a traditional agent/publisher or not), and persistence in marketing. If you can maintain focus and clarity over a multi-year effort, you are already well on your way.

Kelly Kautz: You don’t have to love marketing to succeed at it. In fact, you don’t even have to like it! I entered the marketing field as a dare to myself, because self-promotion made me feel so uncomfortable. Ten years later, I work as a content strategist for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve found that my initial apprehension about marketing and self-promotion is actually a strength, because it helps me avoid spammy tactics and connect with people on an authentic level.

Wendy Fontaine: I’m looking forward to a conversation about what truth in creative nonfiction really means. I’m a former journalist, and when I started writing creative nonfiction essays and memoir about six years ago, truth had a much more rigid definition than it has for me now.

Georgia Knapp: I am really hoping that people will be less afraid of dialogue and will learn to just write what they hear.

Andrew Seaman: One of the big themes I push is that investing in sound reporting – especially with long form projects – creates value and acts as insurance. Really, sound reporting and research is an investment in your future.

Laura Apperson: I believe that sometimes journalists feel that their only job description is to succinctly and accurately report the news—and on a day-to-day basis, it often is. But what I hope to communicate through this session is that journalists are also storytellers who have the unique advantage to reveal something about our society that academics can’t always do. This makes for some killer narrative nonfiction books.

Eric Smith: Whenever I come to event, whether it’s as an author or a literary agent, I always like to stress that the industry needs YOU. Agents need writers. Editors need writers. Publishers need writers. All too often, writers are a frazzled bundle of nervousness at pitching and Q&A sessions with industry folks, when, really, it should be the other way around. Always remember. We need you. We’re there to meet you. Don’t be nervous. Take a deep breath. You got this.

What is your best advice for those attending a writing conference, whether it’s for newbies or veterans?


hippocamp attendees mingling at reception

Jenna McGuiggan: Know what you need to stay grounded and energetic during the conference. Things to consider: sleep, fresh air, snacks, water, time to reflect. Also, know how you like to interact with people: Are you at your best chatting one-on-one or in a group? Honor your own way of being while also going a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Veronica Park: Be awesome. Ask questions and genuinely listen to the answers. Take good notes. Make friendships and fellow literary citizenships for life.

Jules Barrueco: Don’t hold back! Ask questions. Read at open mic night. Talk to the speakers. Meet everyone you can meet and learn everything you can learn. The HippoCamp staff will give you all the tools you need to create an amazing experience, but it’s up to you what you build with them.

Vanessa Robins: …don’t hang out with your friends the entire conference. As much as you want to catch up with the ones you know and love, breaking out of your shell is so important. Sit next to strangers, ask someone where they’re going for dinner, and definitely go to the open mic nights and hear new voices!

Amy Fish: My best advice is to keep a running reading list throughout the weekend. As people mention books, authors and articles, keep them all together. I had so much material to follow up on when I got home!

Sarah Einstein: Spend time getting to know the other folk. Writing community matters in so many ways, and this is a chance to expand yours.

Kelly Kautz: Put yourself out there! I’m shy, but I still came away from last year’s HippoCamp with countless new friends and industry contacts. If you don’t know anyone, chat up attendees on Twitter. Extend a lunch or dinner invitation to strangers. Exchange contact info with the people sitting next to you at workshops. Everyone is so warm and noncompetitive; it’s a great atmosphere for meeting other writers.

Angelica Reciedro: My best advice for writing conference attendees is to network and share writing with others! Take notes on good lines you hear and any programs and services you might want to check out! A lot is learned when heard from the grapevine.

Andrew Seaman: Don’t try to scribble down every word coming out of the presenters’ mouths. Otherwise, you’ll miss great nuggets and tips. Work on getting down the highlights. Then, you can get a copy of the slides to fill in the holes.

Laura Apperson: Be sure to walk into one or two sessions that might be a bit out of your comfort zone. Conferences are a great time to be unexpectedly enlightened!


Tell us who would benefit most from your session and why.  


breakout session room from hippocamp 2016 filled up

Jenna McGuiggan: Anyone who struggles to create a consistent writing schedule will benefit from The Writing Life. Actually, I don’t love that word schedule. For me, words such as schedule and discipline have the wrong tone: too militant and judgmental. I like to use alternate words, such as rhythm or practice instead of schedule, and enthusiasm or commitment instead of discipline. So one of things we’ll talk about is how to reframe simple things like this to make a big difference.

Terry Heyman: Anyone who has to hold an audience’s attention could benefit, whether at a book signing or giving a speech. We discuss how to take a moment from your life and craft it into a memorable story that can be used to sell your book, your message or yourself.

Jeanine Pfeiffer: Both “beginners” and “advanced” science writers will benefit from this fast-paced workshop, with insiders’ tips from a practicing Ph.D. scientist who loves writing across genres.

Georgia Knapp: Anyone who struggles to write scenes. Scenes really carry a lot of nonfiction writing and can present a lot of exposition in an engaging way. Dialogue is usually key in scenes (or key to keeping scenes engaging, at least) and I think anyone who wants to write better scenes will benefit from my session.

Lisa Romeo: It’s ideal for those who write essays and stand-alone pieces of memoir and narrative nonfiction, as well as those just beginning to develop a book-length manuscript who are worried they’ll have enough to say over 250 pages. Writers who are trying to figure out what to write next. Writers who suspect they’re not done writing about a particular topic but worry about repeating themselves. Writers who are interested in breaking big subjects down into shorter pieces. Also, bloggers or columnists who need to write about the same general topic, but always with a fresh approach.

Ilana Garon: People who are interested in writing sociology/memoirs, and people who are tired of trying to get agents and want to hear about different ways to get a book contract.

Aside from speaking, what you are most looking forward to about being part of the HippoCamp?

hippocamp registration table three people checking someone in

Jules Barrueco: HippoCamp provides a great opportunity to surround yourself with like-minded people and find your tribe. I met some of my most treasured writing friends at a lit fest in Denver last year, and I look forward to meeting more people who share my passion. Most of us are not in the presence of hundreds of writers on a regular basis. In fact, I spend most of my time surrounded by lawyers. As much as I love my legal brethren, who besides a writer understands how amazing it feels to receive a really great rejection letter??

Athena Dixon: I’m very much looking forward to experiencing my first writing conference outside of AWP. I think it will be interesting to see the dynamics of a conference focusing on one genre which also offers both a standard presentation and lightning round model.

Nicole Frail: I’m looking forward to the 1-on-1 sessions at the end of the conference. I love these types of meetings; writers are so enthusiastic about their work in this stage and so receptive to feedback. I enjoy being able to offer one little idea and see them process it in front of me and consider how to incorporate it into what they have done so far. It’s so great to be able to see that process in person instead of behind a computer or at a desk.

Hayli Cox: I’m quite excited to attend a conference full of people who are as passionate about creative nonfiction as I am. The speakers are a diverse group of intelligent people I can’t wait to hear and learn from. Of course, I’m also thrilled to peruse the book sale.

Since you’re a returning attendee, please share some thoughts on why you’re excited to come back for another year.

hippocamp workshop attendees at a table

Joanne M. Lozar Glenn: The energy of the conference is generous and warm…and the speakers and sessions are first-rate. I’m looking forward to soaking up as much learning as I can, to re-connecting with people returning from last year, and meeting new writer friends. I’m also looking forward to being in Lancaster again. I really liked getting to know the town. It feels friendly. Plus, there is a great art store on the main drag about a five- to ten-minute walk from the conference center. I’m not an artist, but as most writers probably do, I have a thing for pens. And they have some great ones!

Jim Breslin: I had a blast last year. The sessions were motivating and fun. I met so many interesting writers, and we’ve stayed connected throughout the year. Looking forward to see returnees and meeting more new folks.

Sarah Einstein: HippoCamp is exactly the right mix of early and mid-career authors (with a few stars thrown in) to be friendly rather than intimidating, and it’s the right size feel intimate rather than overwhelming.

Lisa Romeo: The atmosphere last year was wonderful; I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a welcoming attitude from organizers, other presenters, and attendees alike. I always had the feeling that every writer in the room mattered, no matter how many books they’d published—or if they’d even published a book at all. There was no sense that you’re either in club or you’re not. The club was everyone.

Shannon M. Hernandez: As a writer, I long for communication, interaction, and learning opportunities from other writers. It’s always nice to be in the company of like-minded people who “get” me and understand what it’s like to just want to sit in a quiet space and write the day away!

What’s on your personal conference agenda? Perhaps share with us a session/event you don’t want to miss.

hippocamp attendees talking

Jenna McGuiggan: I’m looking forward to Joanne Lozar Glenn’s session about writing retreats, Lisa Romeo’s “Multiplication and Division” session, and hearing Mary Karr speak.

Veronica Park: I can’t wait to see everything, but in particular the workshops my authors have put together (Amy Fish and Christoph Paul). Also Vanessa Robins is going to be a smash hit, as I mentioned before she’s way more awesome than me, and knows EVERYTHING about industry trends and bestseller best practices. And of course, the open mic night, which is guaranteed to be a good time.

Vanessa Robins: Being 100% honest right now, the food. Donna and the conference planners put so much thought into this conference, but especially the local food and Lancaster county specialties. The location of the conference right next to Lancaster Market is a gift to all conference goers. Plus, all the snack and coffee breaks put everyone in their happy places!

Jesse Waters: Lisa Jakub rocks. Don’t miss her events. And Sarah Einstein? Not too shabby either.

Garret Drew Ellis: I am really excited for two sessions in particular: Writing Personal Narrative with Andrew Reiner and Multiplication and Division with Lisa Romeo. Both are topics that I need to strengthen and develop further within my own writing practice and life.

Jamie Brickhouse: Must not miss: Multiplication and Division: Writing About One Experience Across Multiple Pieces. I’ve already been doing this, but want to learn how I can explore it to the fullest.

Shannon M. Hernandez: The next phase of my brand includes building out destination travel writing and non-fiction writing retreats. I’m really looking forward to attending Joanne M. Lozar Glenn’s session on Designing and Delivering a Writer’s Retreat for Fun (and a little bit of) Profit. I also can’t wait to learn about collage and essay writing at the pre-conference workshop on August 12! I am sure Sarah’s session is going to be interactive and fun!

Eric Smith: I definitely want to sit in on whatever Nicole Frail is doing. She’s an editor from Sky Horse that’s an absolute superstar. I know we’re on a panel together at some point, but she’ll be around doing other things, too. Make sure you listen to whatever she’s saying.


What are you most looking forward to about visiting Lancaster?

exterior of lancaster's central market

Veronica Park: Whoopie pies and craft beer, in that order. Also, if I can wake up in time for the Farmer’s Market this year, that would be beyond sweet. I’ve been thinking of investing in a butter churn….

Amy Fish: I’m definitely going back to the market – although probably not at the crack of dawn!! And the people watching in Lancaster is second to none – it’s a hipster, Amish, microbrewery paradise.

Jim Breslin: I’m in Lancaster at least once a month and feel I don’t have time to explore enough. I love Springhouse Brewpub, Tellus360, the Aussie and the Fox. I keep hearing I have to check out Himalayan Curry and Grill also.

Wendy Fontaine: First of all, I love Lancaster! It’s one of the coolest little cities I’ve ever visited. Last year, I shook off my jet lag at Prince Street Café. I explored vintage stores, craft shops and art galleries. And at Central Market, I bought fresh raspberries and homemade soap and tried shoofly pie for the first time.

Hayli Cox: I’ve never been to Lancaster. I’m eager to experience the rich culture and the unique aesthetic of the city as an early settlement.

Ilana Garon: I’d like to go for a run in Lancaster. Whenever I’m anywhere new, I try to go for a run to get a look at the scenery. Also, I hope to eat delicious food.


This is just a sampling of the wonderful insight, advice and previews that our speakers offered about our upcoming summer creative writing conference, HippoCamp. Read more at the conference blog. We hope to see you in August!

Share a Comment