2020 Year-End Review Part II: Reflection on Past Issues

banner that says year-end reflections from hippocmapus magazine and team


In our year-end Part I, we shared our Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominees; we’ve also elevated these stories back to our homepage so that you can find them more easily and enjoy them again, or for the first time. Now, onto Part II!

Hippo Highlights: 2020 Milestones

Staff Additions & Promotions

In August, we announced that Rae Pagliarulo, our flash editor, moved into a newly created associate editor role. Rae brings so much enthusiasm and passion to our magazine and has been instrumental in building our Friends program and other to-be-announced efforts!

Rae is still editing our flash section, and has enlisted two new assistant flash editors, Wendy Fontaine and Vonetta Young. These are the first of several new positions that will expand our leadership team. More to come in 2021!

Finally, we welcome many new reviewers and reading panel members, and have seen many new guest columnists grace our CRAFT and WRITING LIFE pages, and guest interviewers share conversations with writers and other publishing figures. Thank you to our section editors Carina Sitkus, Kristen Paulson-Nguyen, and Lara Lillibridge for their hard work and dedication!

Live Events: Joining Together Online

HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers was cancelled due to COVID-19, but we still found a way to bring our community together in August through two amazing, online events. First, we celebrated the work of debut CNF authors (who would have been part of a similar panel at our summer conference!) with a reading and Q&A. We heard from Athena Dixon, Berry Grass, Timothy J. Hillegonds, and Vicki Mayk.

The following afternoon, we went live with “HippoCamp Minis,” four brief presentations from past HippoCamp speakers: Lilly Dancyger talked about finding fresh angles for personal essays; Amy Fish and Lara Lillbridge teamed up to discuss the post-publication doldrums; Kelly Caldwell inspired us all to share our opinions in a session dedicated to writing and placing op/eds; and Angie Chatman shared with us how to write what we DON’T know.

New Book: A Craft Book for Writers of all Genres

Our books division celebrated the release of Rebecca Fish Ewan’s Doodling for Writers, a fun and practical snack-sized book designed to inspire you to write through the art of doodling!

Hippo Highlights: Our Staff Members Reflect on 2020

We asked our volunteer team to share memorable moments and stories from 2020. Here’s what they had to say:

Carina Sitkus, craft editor, shares her thoughts on a memorable column from 2020:

It’s hard to pick a favorite craft article as the craft articles editor, but Stephanie Hunt’s piece, Writing Up a Storm (How Severe Weather Alerts Improve My Prose) really stuck with me. When Stephanie first shared the idea of writing about craft lessons drawn from reading weather alerts, it was after hurricane season, so we waited a year until the topic was timely again. I’m so glad she saved the piece for Hippocampus! To me, it serves as a reminder that we can make connections, learn about our craft, and draw inspiration from unexpected places.


Lara Lillibridge, interviews editor and member of the reading panel, shares a few of her content highlights from 2020:

I have to say my two favorite interviews of the year were Athena Dixon by Laura Cathcart Robbins and my conversation with Kao Kalia Yang. For essays, I think The Tan Place was really powerful.


Denise Weaver, reading panel member and HippoCamp volunteer, was impacted by one of our flash pieces from this summer:

One story that stood out for me this year was Frenci Nguyen’s “To the Miami University Payroll Lady” in the July-August issue. Nguyen’s writing pulsates, every word contributes to the picture created in the reader’s mind of the setting and exchange, as well as the author’s experiences and those of family members, all in a concise form. The rhythm, word choice, and voice resonate to create a memorable scene and story. This is an example of what I love about Hippocampus Magazine, bringing voices forward to be read and heard, adding to the conversation, making us aware.


Angela Eckhart, reviewer, still can’t get the last book she read (for Hippocampus) off her mind: 

Even though my last book review was the most recent, it was still the book that had the most profound effect on me in 2020. Months after reading about Kim Wall, I still find myself thinking about her and journalists in general — what they go through to try to get a story without realizing the danger they can face in capturing the real story. I hope others will read about her and appreciate how journalists can bring to light many stories that would otherwise be untold.


Steph Auteri, a HippoCamp attendee and member of our essays reading panel, shares:

One thing that’s become clear this year is that this writing community of ours is stronger than any pandemic. Early on this year, Under the Gum Tree reached out, asking me to participate in their first round of Instagram Live readings. It was my first foray into all things video, something I’ve only become more comfortable with over the ensuing months as I’ve taught writing workshops and webinars and cluttered up my Instagram feed with ukulele videos. But more than that, my fellow HippoCampers have become a lifeline, even in the absence of an in-person conference. A pandemic book club with several HippoCampers has led to a writing group has led to a Nanowrimo-style accountability group and, my god, I’ve never been busier. Thank you to the Hippocampus community for keeping me connected.


Anthony J. Mohr, from our reading panel, shares how Hippocampus helped him stay connected during in isolating year:

During the isolation that we’ve had to endure this year, I find the community at Hippocampus more valuable than ever. Our staff meeting on Zoom was a treat, and I’ve always enjoyed serving as a reader. It keeps me in touch with the literary world and helps me improve my craft. May 2021 bring us back together in person at HippoCamp and elsewhere.


Tracy Line, who joined our reading panel this year, reflected on being a writer in 2020:

While some of my writer friends have found it hard to write during this odd time, I’ve found the pandemic has stretched me as a writer. Stepping off the hamster wheel of life has given me the opportunity to be still. These quiet moments give my mind the space it needs to wander. As I allow myself more time to think before I hit the keyboard, the quality and speed of my writing improves.

Miscellaneous Mentions, Honors & More


We’re so excited to see what 2021 brings!

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