HippoCamp 2022 Speaker Q&A: Lillie Gardner

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Get your guitars in tune, HippoCampers! Lillie Gardner, a writer and piano instructor from St. Paul, Minnesota, will join us this year to talk about writing like a musician! Lillie 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’m so excited to lead the “Write Like a Musician” session! While I’ve been writing my whole life, I also have an extensive background as a pianist and a doctorate in classical music. I’ve learned so much about writing from my music studies. I’m fascinated by the similarities between interpreting a work of piano music and expressing my stories through creative nonfiction.

In the “Write Like a Musician” session, I’ll share what I’ve learned about how to write like a musician in my own life, including in the creative realm and the logistical realm. Creatively, as writers we interpret our memories and life events to express them to others, which is similar to the process of interpreting a composer’s work for musical performance. By “logistical,” I really mean the process or habit of sitting down and doing the work. (I might be biased, but I believe classical musicians know the meaning of discipline better than anyone.)

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. If it’s online, share a link!

A: I recently read Kathryn Savage’s new lyric essay GROUNDGLASS. It’s a beautifully written book about the intersection of environmental pollution with human health. Savage intertwines personal narrative with documented research in such an eloquent way. Her writing is mesmerizing. I couldn’t put it down.

Q: What made you decide to participate in HippoCamp this year as a speaker?

A: I joined the essays reading panel for Hippocampus Magazine about a year ago. I fell in love with the magazine’s uniquely supportive community and its curiosity about perspectives from outside the traditional literary world. I’d heard great things about HippoCamp and was already hoping to attend this year. Because I’ve been reflecting so much on the similarities between my musical and literary processes, I jumped at the chance to share my experiences with others. I’m a creative process geek—I love to know how everybody works.

Q: What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp?

A: I’m currently keeping busy with screenwriting projects. I’m polishing two TV series scripts to submit to festivals, and I’m creating an animated series for kids called ALLEGRA SPARKLE’S GUIDE TO THE GREAT COMPOSERS (YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE HEARD OF). (Check it out at allegrasparkle.com if you feel so inclined!) So, it’s very possible I’ll be watching a lot of kids TV between now and HippoCamp.

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 can’t wait to attend other sessions and to soak up as much wisdom and inspiration as I can. Having been so isolated due to the pandemic for the last two years, I’m also just really looking forward to being in the same spaces as other writers. There’s nothing else quite like that energy.

Q: 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?

A: I live in the Twin Cities and I’ve never been to Lancaster before. Excited to check out the farmer’s market!


We can’t wait for Lillie 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.)

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