Sheela Clary, a freelance reporter and writer based in Massachusetts, is a first-time HippoCamp speaker who will present “What a Grocery Store Clerk Taught Me About the Art of the Interview.” As a Moth StorySlam winner and GrandSlam competitor, Sheela is sure to bring her storytelling skills in a big way! 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: In the course of hundreds of hours of interviews, often with people who are not accustomed to being asked for their thoughts and feelings, I’ve gleaned some useful lessons about what to do — and what to avoid — in order to recognize the good stuff when you hear it, and draw out more of it.
Participants in my workshop can expect to walk away with practical tips for how to make interviews do both the grunt work and beautification of writing.
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 loved this timely, honest and vulnerable essay by Richard Russo in The Altantic. It’s about the difficulty of forgiveness, something I’m also struggling with in the COVID era.
Q: What made you decide to participate in HippoCamp this year as a speaker?
A: I’m keen to reconnect with people in real life, and to be part of an in-person learning community again. I work alone, it’s easy to default to alone, but real learning is done face to face.
Q: What’s going to keep you busy between now and HippoCamp?
A: I’m headed to Cortona, Italy, to fulfill a bucket list item, and throw a 50th birthday party. Then I’ll be chauffeuring my three teens and preteens to their jobs and camps for the rest of my life. I mean for the month of July.
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 looking forward to connecting with other writers, establishing some new relationships, perhaps reinvigorating others. I never can tell where the bits of wisdom will come from, so I’ll plan on attending a range of events.
Q: We love introducing Lancaster to attendees. If this will be your first time here, what are you looking forward to?
A: I’ve never been to the area, so I am looking forward to immersing myself in a new place and, as I always do, looking for commonalities and differences with my own beloved little hometown in Western Massachusetts.
Q: What is your primary writing goal for the next year?
A: Establishing the work/life supports that enable me to complete the book proposal — a book about how our perceptions of college are failing American teens — I’ve had on the back burner for three years.
We can’t wait for Sheela 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.)