SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT: A Q&A with Ruth Nasrullah, A Sacred Trust: Getting it Right When Writing About Religion

Ruth Nasrullah white hijab

Ruth Nasrullah

In 2019, Ruth Nasrullah attended her first HippoCamp. This year, she returns as a speaker. We’re excited for her session, “A Sacred Trust: Getting It Right When Writing About Religion.” (This presentation was originally slated for our 2020 conference — and you know how that went.) We’re delighted she’s able to join us in 2021!

Thanks to Ruth Nasrullah for participating in our Q&A!

Tell us a little about your involvement this year at HippoCamp.

I presented a workshop on writing about religion at a writers colony in March 2020 and I loved the discussion of religious beliefs combined with discussion of craft. Religion is considered such a taboo topic that it often doesn’t get the compassionate and respectful coverage it deserves. My endless curiosity about people is probably the main driver behind my interest in religion. The principles that make for good religion writing are also principles that make for good human interaction – such as suspension of judgment, honest curiosity, and seeking to understand what makes people, places and objects sacred. Learning to implement those principles helps you grow as a person overall, not just as a writer. Read “The Exorcist in Love” by Tom French and you’ll understand how a story of a completely off-beat faith can be presented in an even-handed, compassionate manner. It’s just magical to me.


What made you decide to participate in HippoCamp this year as a speaker? If you’re a returning speaker, how did your past experiences encourage you to want to come back?

Since I was originally scheduled to present in 2020, being able to attend this year feels like a gift. I’m just praying there will be no additional COVID outbreaks large enough to cause a cancellation or to make travel unsafe.


What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp? (Ex: what are you working on, any exciting trips or events, etc.)

Oh, not much: One feature due mid-July; a book review due as soon as I can get to it; participating in a Solutions Journalism mentorship program; applying for a fellowship in religion and the environment; managing the website my husband and I created, www.covid19wallofmemories.org. And prepping for participating in a super session at another writing conference, and running for a board position at a national journalism organization.


Since you’ll also be attending the conference, when you’re not wearing your “speaker hat,” what are you most looking forward to learning or doing? 

Attending other sessions, of course! And indulging in the networking that online conferences just can’t imitate properly.


We love introducing Lancaster to attendees. If you live here or have been here before, what would you recommend to other attendees? And, if this will be your first time here, what are you looking forward to? 

This will be my second visit to Lancaster/second HippoCamp. I love the region. In 2019 I drove to the conference and was able to stop at McGregor Cemetery in Cairnbrook, PA, and visit the graves of dozens of my maternal relatives.


Thank you, Ruth! To learn more about HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers and see our full list of speakers and sessions, visit the official conference website.

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