HippoCamp 2017 Speaker & Session Preview: A Mash-up Interview

Compiled by Donna Talarico

hippocamp postcard - collage with images from 2016 event


In anticipation of our upcoming gathering of creative nonfiction writers, over at our conference blog, we published a slew of session and speaker preview posts. These are Q&As with the presenters, panelists, and workshop leaders involved with HippoCamp 2017, our annual conference for creative nonfiction writers in Lancaster, Pa., scheduled for Sept. 8-10. (As of this posting date, seats are still available.)

As a special interview (of sorts) for our magazine, we’ve compiled a selection of these conversations to create a mash-up interview. This is just a small, small sampling of their words. Each speakers’ name is linked to their full interview, so if you like what they have to say, please click on through!


Who would benefit most from your breakout session?

Anyone who submits—or hopes to one day soon begin submitting—their short work for publication in print or online venues, including literary journals, websites, major blogs, newspapers, magazines, anthologies. It will be helpful for: those who are struggling to nail their first publication; writers who have been getting published but aren’t satisfied with the results of their random submission activities, and want to develop a submission strategy. – Lisa Romeo

I think writers from any skill level would benefit from this workshop, but especially travel writers who would like a new perspective on their genre and memoirists who would like to add a sense of place. – Margaret Montet

This is a great class for anyone interested in experimental writing, or anyone who simply hates following rules and/or being told what to do or how to write. – Lara Lillibridge

My hope is that those who wander into my session will walk away having looked at the possibilities research can offer–that they will think differently about what to look for, where to find it, and what to do with it. It’s remarkable what you can find if you know where to look, and what you unearth can turn a maybe into a yes, making your prose more confident, credible, and intriguing. – Wendy Bilen

We’ve all got sexy stories, the kind of story you reveal only after a few glasses of wine or one that remains hidden in the private pages of your journal. If you’re not sure what to make of these events – how to reflect on them and even if they are worth reflecting on – then this session is right for you. – Chris Girman


writers at a head table woman at podium


Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your role on the agents/editors panel?

I hope that writers will come with lots of questions about not only the editorial process, but also the nuts and bolts of how a book project actually gets bought by an editing house. I want to demystify the acquisitions process! – Blair Thornburgh


Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your role on the debut author panel?

My publishing journey demonstrates that you don’t have to have a background in writing to start the process and ultimately get published. If you’re passionate about telling a story, it’s never too late to start. – Lisa Smith

Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your role on the articles and essays panel?

In 2012, I began tracking my submissions to journals, newspapers, and magazines. By 2016, I had devised a formula that allowed me to predict how many times I’d hear the word no. I’ll share my strategy that takes the sting out of rejection and helps motivate writers to keep submitting. – Keysha Whitaker

Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your session?

Attendees can expect a gentle push outside of their normal boxes. I’m hoping to get people thinking about how they define themselves and how those definitions can help or hinder our writing, publishing and submitting. – Athena Dixon

A deceptively simple way to remember and how to use that tool as a foundation for writing anything from an essay to building a book, chapter-by-chapter. – Jamie Brickhouse

There’s such a focus on social-media-as-platform, I think most of us forget to use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc, as a means to actually write something meaningful and use the form itself as a creative prompt. We’ll be looking at different social media networks and how to use them in creative ways that also genuinely build connections with our friends and followers. Tweets are the new sonnets and Instagram is our muse! – Allison K Williams

Attendees will learn how to create and maintain a successful writing group or, if they already belong to a group, how to harness collective creative energy to propel their writing forward and achieve their writing goals. – Rae Theodore

As artists, when we create and release our work, we want it to be experienced and enjoyed – but we can’t do that if we can’t be found! Having a website is all about exercising control over how you and your work is found – and perceived – in a competitive landscape. – Mandy Pennington

Literary citizenship is so important today, and by being part of our conference, you’re contributing to the CNF community — why is sharing with others important to you?

Literary citizenship saved my life. Many times writers gave me advice, guidance, and books. Sometimes I paid for this. Sometimes it was given to me for free. Because of this, I am a better writer, teacher, and human being. – Marshall Warfield

As a writer and teacher, I understand that without sharing, there would be no writing, no learning. No Twitter. Writers of CNF have a responsibility to support their fellows and to share knowledge that will strengthen the community—of writers and of all humans—by revealing universal truths that help people bond and that light the way for other writers. – Elane Johnson

Writing, reading, conferences – to me, they are all opportunities to connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the world. When I reach for a book or attend an event like HippoCamp, I do so because I’m hungry for those connections. – Rae Pagliarulo

The networking aspect of events such as HippoCamp allows writers an opportunity to move beyond the confines of our own heads, our own workspaces, our own survival, and to venture into new ideas, new connections, and new potential. Alone we survive, but together we thrive. – Nancy Kotkin

I see this as a way to give back to the industry. Thirteen years ago, Sunbury Press was a tiny start-up. Now, 200 authors and 500 titles later, we are a thriving small press that is making a name for itself. We’ve had a lot of fun, and it has been quite a ride. Giving back is important. – Lawrence Knorr

Anything I can do to spare other writers some of the struggles, the loneliness, the mistakes I have been through is time well spent. I love seeing people break through and succeed. – Patty Kline-Capaldo


Taking off your presenter hat, what are you hoping to learn as an attendee at HippoCamp?

I am so excited to boost my creative nonfiction chops. For the past several years, I’ve been writing a lot of prescriptive nonfiction, but over the last few months, I’ve found some essays bubbling in the back of my brain. I’ll be treating HippoCamp as a creative nonfiction boot-camp of sorts, to see if I can jumpstart something new and totally different! – Gabriela Pereia

I’m looking forward to hearing Wendy Bilen talk about research, and Vicki Mayk talk about speculation, and Geeta Kothari talk about writers vs. narrators.  I love the many conversations that spring up at the breakfast topic tables.  As an introvert, I’m probably also going to enjoy “Dinner on Your Own.”  But most of all I look forward to the surprises a conference brings – seeing an old friend, meeting a new one, or having an unexpected door open into an idea or essay. – Randon Billings Noble

I’m really looking forward to “Memoirists Anonymous: Turning Trauma into Narrative,” and “Writing and Publishing the Risky Personal Essay.” I’m drawn to tough topics! – Kelly Kautz

I’m interested in the hybrid forms session taught by Lara Lillibridge on Saturday. I think what I learn there will resonate with what I do in building shows and writing poetry, which is already a sort of genre blending.  – Jenny Hill


downtown lancaster old brick buildings visitors center and market

Lancaster is an amazing city. What suggestions do you have for those who haven’t been here yet?

This will be my third visit as I’ve been to HippoCamp every year. Annie Bailey’s is a must for dinner–the food is amazing. I had the chicken pot pie last year and I’m coming back for more. – Lisa Cottrell

Lancaster has a surprising number of great restaurants at any price range. I also love the walkability, and especially how welcoming everyone is. – Joanne Glenn

This is probably the most popular answer, but Central Market is a must-see for all newcomers. There’s a great deal of history right here in town, and some great, very knowledgeable people at the Lancaster Visitor’s Center who can show it to you. – Sam Schindler


We loved hearing from our speakers about their upcoming participation in HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers. Learn more here.

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