After a couple of bonkers summers (thanks, pandemic), Ruth Nasrullah will finally make her trip to HippoCamp to present “A Sacred Trust: Getting it Right When Writing About Religion.” An independent journalist and poet, Ruth writes about religion, civil rights, and the environment, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her upcoming session and trip to Lancaster for our annual writing conference:
Q: Tell us a little about your involvement this year at HippoCamp.
A: I’m presenting on writing about religion, which is always an interesting subject because there’s so much nervousness around even talking about religion, but I firmly believe that understanding without judging not only produces good, solid, unbiased writing, but also contributes to lessening tensions among people of different faiths – just think, we could bring about world peace through creative nonfiction!
Seriously, though, we’ll be exploring key topics like finding good sources for information about a faith practice; suspending judgment/bias; learning or sharing the language of faith, whether yours or someone else’s; and trying to get a deep understanding of how spirituality *feels* – again, to yourself or someone else.
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 have to be honest: Over the past year or so I’ve been so busy researching and writing about very specific topics as well as running the website my husband and I created that I haven’t done a lot of literary reading. So I’ll share my all-time favorites: Pulphead by James Jeremiah Sullivan, Cities on a Hill by Frances Fitzgerald, and The Patron Saint of Dreams by Philip Gerard, who was my third semester mentor during my MFA at Goucher. In fact, if I could write my own version of Cities on a Hill my life would be complete.
Q: What made you decide to participate in HippoCamp this year as a speaker?
A: This is my third try! In 2020 it was cancelled, in 2021 COVID was surging in Houston, where I live, and all along the states I would have driven through, so I cancelled. This year I’m going to make it there even if I have to wear a space suit for protection!
Q: What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp?
A: I’ve decided to do my best to take the summer off after doing back to back assignments for a while, so I plan to explore the topic I’ve been researching a great deal – religion and the environment. I want to dedicate solid chunks of time to essays or longer journalism pieces instead of rushing to meet deadlines.
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 have my eye on some sessions that I really want to attend, but I don’t want to offend anyone by not including theirs 🙂
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: Last time I came alone and was my usual introvert self. This time my husband is accompanying me, although he’s not attending the conference (but we did get the meal plan for him). So hopefully he and I will have some fun times together while we’re here.
Q: Hey Ruth: Are you still the biggest scaredy cat when it comes to COVID?
A: Pretty much but I’m getting a teensy bit better. But it’s clear from the stats that we all need to mask up as much as possible.
We can’t wait for Ruth 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.)