Meet the Team: 6 Questions With Steph Auteri, Essays Editor

This is a recurring series to introduce, celebrate, and elevate our amazing crew of volunteers.

headshot: Steph Auteri

To kick off this series, our first Meet the Team installment profiles essays editor Steph Auteri, who also crafted the questions for this recurring feature! Steph is the author of A Dirty Word and founder of Guerilla Sex Ed. To learn even more about Steph, visit her website or follow along on Instagram.

What made you volunteer to read for Hippocampus?

After attending HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers for the first time and feeling as if I’d found my people, I knew it was a community I wanted to take a more active role in. When you find a community / organization whose values and passions align with your own, you can’t help but want to be a part of it, right?

Aside from Hippocampus (which is obviously the bee’s knees), what other literary mags and organizations rock your world?

My favorite mags include Poets & Writers, Oxford American, Southwest Review, Split Lip Magazine, and under the gum tree, though I also have my eye on new-to-me mags like no tokens and ROOM. I continue to build my Spreadsheet of Lit Mags by lurking on Chill Subs and stalking other brilliant writers.

What else? I love how Longreads collects the best of the web and delivers it to my inbox on the regular. Oh! And I recently started mentoring for Girls Write Now, which is an organization I’ve wanted to get involved with for about two decades. It’s a writing and mentoring organization for girls and gender-expansive youth, and getting to work with the most ambitious young person ever, hear about everyone else’s projects, and attend monthly workshops just fills me with all sorts of creative goodness and energy.

If you were a particular form of creative nonfiction (CNF) what would you be and why?

Lord almighty, I drafted this question and am now struggling to answer it. I suppose I’m like a braided essay. Because much like a braided essay contains many thematic strands or threads that weave together into a single essay, I also contain many weird multitudes that have made me the person I am today.

What have you written that you are most proud of, and why?

Oh, this one is also difficult. My lord, the me who wrote these questions is such an asshole. I find that I’m proud of different pieces for different reasons. For example, I once wrote a feature for The Atlantic on early childhood sex education (2016), and the fact that I broke into the Atlantic—for a topic I’m super passionate about, no less—still fills me with awe.

Then there’s a piece I once wrote for Refinery29 about boobs, bras, summertime, and the male gaze (2016), and it’s a piece I still enjoy because it seems to be a light, frivolous read and it makes people laugh but then it also manages to bring in heavier issues in a way that felt seamless as I was writing it. But when I consider my lit mag work, I think the piece I’m happiest with is “My Father’s Hands (In Three Parts),” a flash triptych about my father and aging and his worsening tremors that was published in the Summer 2022 issue of under the gum tree. Because I still connect so strongly to the emotion in that piece.

What are you writing now that excites you, and why?

I feel like I’m betraying my CNF roots here but, after spending the past 40+ years as a voracious reader of horror, I’ve finally started writing it. And I don’t know that I’m any good at it, but it’s fun. I had my first horror piece (hell, my first piece of fiction ever) published in Coffin Bell on January 1, 2024. I hope it’s not the last.

But just to reassure you that the personal essay will always feel like home, I’m also working on an essay collection about the two paths we face as we grow older: one of expansion and one of contraction. It would include essays about caregiving, marriage, anxiety, invisibility, ambition, etc. My intention is that it will explore this dichotomy, interrogating what it means to grow older and to engage with the ramifications of that growth within a culture that does not allow women to age, and that does not adequately support them.

What piece of creative nonfiction (whether book or short form) do you think everyone should read?

This is also an impossible question, so I’m just going to pick one- no… two of the memoirs I loved from 2023, BECAUSE IT’S A TIE.

There’s The In-Betweens by Davon Loeb. I picked up a free copy of this memoir at a Barrelhouse conference, having never heard of it before. When I finally got around to opening it up, it instantly became one of my favorite reads of the year. Loeb lays out his story in gorgeously lyrical vignettes, writing about what it was like to grow up biracial, unsure of his place in his white family and in larger society. Taking us from childhood all the way through adulthood, The In-Betweens gives us the portrait of a man trying to find himself in a culture that seems hellbent on erasing him.

And then, for a totally different vibe, there’s America the Beautiful? by Blythe Roberson. In this travel memoir, Roberson writes about her cross-country road trip to America’s national parks, purporting to discover why the genre seems monopolized by “white men who have no problems, who only decide to go to the desert to see what having problems feels like.” I know. It reads like Bill Bryson for women…but better. Not only is Roberson a master of humorous travel writing, but her travel narrative goes far beyond an accounting of her travels. In each chapter of this book, as she makes her way further along on her journey, she tackles a different topic: whether solo travel is too dangerous for women and BIPOC, the ethics of national parks on land that once belonged to Indigenous folks, the way social media has made it impossible to just be in a moment…Despite the light tone, Roberson digs deep, making for a particularly enjoyable and satisfying read.


Thanks, Steph, for all you do for Hippocampus Magazine. Readers, stay tuned for more Meet the Team features here and, in abbreviated form, on Instagram. In the meantime, learn more about our all-volunteer staff here.

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