Diane Gottlieb, the prose/CNF editor of Emerge Literary Journal, and accomplished writer, will talk to HippoCampers about the “I” in narrative nonfiction. Diane was kind enough to answer a few questions about her upcoming trip to Lancaster for our annual writing conference:
Q: Tell us a little about your involvement this year at HippoCamp.
A: I’ll be presenting a breakout session called “The ‘I’ in Narrative Nonfiction: How to Tell Others Stories without Taking Over or Getting in the Way.” Whether you’re writing an essay or book-length work of narrative nonfiction, the use of the pronoun “I” is always tricky. Does “I” belong in a piece that tells another’s story? If so, where? How can you most effectively utilize “I” and for what purpose?
We’ll examine authorial decisions in familiar groundbreaking books such as Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, as well as in recently released works, such as Erika Krouse’s Tell Me Everything, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer and Reuben Jonathan Miller’s Halfway Home.
I’ll share challenges and opportunities in my own work-in-progress, a narrative nonfiction/true crime/memoir hybrid. Attendees will leave with a framework for balancing the “I” in their work.
Q: Our motto is “memorable creative nonfiction.” Tell us about one of the more recent memoirs, essay collections, or individual essays you’ve read and why it was memorable.
A: I recently read and LOVED Laraine Herring’s Constellation of Ghosts and Deirdre Fagan’s Find a Place for Me, both published by Regal House. Both memoirs. Both courageous works about grief and loss.
Herring so skillfully and lyrically brings speculative elements to the work of memoir—her father appears to her as a raven and holds loving space for her as she learns to let him go. Fagan documents her journey with her husband, from his ALS diagnosis to his death. The book is an incredibly moving primer on relationship, on how to die—and how to live.
I’ve had the honor of interviewing both these amazing authors and have reviewed Herring’s memoir for Barrelhouse and Fagan’s for PRISM International. I am also swooning over Gayle Brandeis’s soon-to-be-released stunning essay collection Drawing Breath from Overcup Press. No one writes the body quite like Brandeis. The collection literally left me breathless!
Q: 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 to want to come back?
A: I walk the tightrope of using the “I” in narrative nonfiction in my own WIP, and the balance challenges always excite me! I haven’t found all that much, craft-wise, out there on the topic, so I wanted to offer HippoCamp attendees some of the insights I’ve gleaned from my research, reading, and experiences, and hopefully help participants come away with a framework for using the pronoun in their own work.
Q: What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp?
A: I’ll continue to work on my own book-length narrative nonfiction/true crime/memoir hybrid called More Than Their Crimes, about five men who served long prison sentences for murder convictions, a Catholic deacon whom the men all credit with changing their lives—and who was himself murdered four years ago—and me. I’d been awaiting a murder trial, but the suspect pled guilty earlier this month. Now I will be reaching out to interview him, as well as the police involved in the investigation, and the DA, none of whom were free to tell me much before the trial.
Q: 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?
A: I LOVE conferences and just about any place where writers come together to learn, share, and connect! I look forward to all of HippoCamp—believe me, I will take advantage of everything offered. And I hope to make some new and lasting friendships.
We can’t wait for Diane to join us this year! HippoCamp 2022, a creative nonfiction conference sponsored by Hippocampus Magazine and Books, is Aug. 12-14 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For more information or to register, visit our official conference website here.
(Learn more about the conference and see details of all previous years at our magazine website’s HippoCamp page.)