Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her collection Be with Me Always was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2019 and her anthology of lyric essays, A Harp in the Stars, was published by Nebraska in 2021. She is the founding editor of the online literary magazine After the Art and teaches in West Virginia Wesleyan’s Low-Residency MFA Program and Goucher’s MFA in Nonfiction Program. Randon was kind enough to answer a few questions about her return trip HippoCamp!
Q: Tell us a little about your involvement this year at HippoCamp.
A: I’m giving a talk called “The Long and Winding Road,” which is about publishing an essay collection. I feel like there’s a lot of conflicting ideas about this process: It’s a golden age of essays! … but no one wants to publish a collection of them.
In this session we’ll talk about the whole process, from beginning (How long should it be? How many essays should be already published? Do I need an agent? A theme?), middle (Where should I send this thing? What do I do while I wait?), to end (Do I need to worry about marketing? How can I get reviews?).
I went through this process largely alone and am eager to share what I learned along the way — things I wish someone had told me as I embarked on this long and winding road. I hope you come with plans, goals, questions, and hopes — and leave encouraged!”
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: How to narrow it down? I loved Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing and the way it encourages us to resist the attention economy. And I loved the way food infuses Michelle Zauner’s memoir Crying in H Mart (which I strongly recommend reading while eating snacks). And the way Molly Wizenberg weaves her own story with cultural criticism in The Fixed Stars really knocked my socks off. And I recently taught the essay “Say You Want to Live and Be Beautiful” by Lori Jakiela (and published by Hippocampus!) as a wonderful example of the “meander” form.
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: It’s been such a hard few years in so many ways. I’m both very happy and very grateful to be in community with writers again.
Q: What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp?
A: I’ve had an intense July teaching in two low-residency MFA programs (West Virginia Wesleyan and Goucher) and feel stuffed with essays and ideas! So in the two weeks before HippoCamp I’m going to digest and sketch out some new work … before getting essay-saturated all over again!
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’m especially keen to attend Kate’s flash session on lyric essays, Lara’s session on the segmented essay, Jill and Amy’s session on mining the minutia of our days, and Carmen’s keynote!
We can’t wait for Randon Billings Noble, essayist extraordinaire, to join us again 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.