August 23, 2016 § 3 Comments
Gentle Readers, I come to you from Amsterdam Schipol, my second-favorite airport, where I can get a haircut and some tulip bulbs and eat hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) on toast.
It’s the little things.
At Hippocamp 2016, it was also the little moments that made the conference so worthwhile. The creative nonfiction conference is in its second year, and attendance was up to just over 200 writers. Large enough to meet a lot of new people, small enough to meet them more than once. Big enough to have memoir rock stars and small enough to personally interact with rising stars.
I always think I’ll write at a conference, and I mostly don’t. That’s not really the point. While there were a few generative sessions, and the opening day workshops involved creating or editing, conferences are mostly about information sharing–connecting with other writers, sharing tips and tricks and hopes and fears. Being around other people who, when I whine about having great ideas and not sitting down to write them, know exactly what I mean.
There were some amazing sessions–Joanne Lazar Glenn talked about setting up and running a writing retreat, and I promptly thought, “I’ve been meaning to take some women writers to India.” Agent Veronica Park used the “In a World” structure I love to use, in her talk about the difference between a great concept and a great plot, and how to make sure the first one leads to the second. Amy Fish and Christoph Paul talked about using humor in nonfiction, to a standing-room-only crowd. And Andrew M. Seaman traced the code of ethics of narrative journalism from their first conception to the most recent made-up-story scandals.
But it was also the little things. Worrying my editing workshop would be “mean” and running across to the farmers’ market to buy some flowers for the projector, somehow thinking this would “soften” the room. Getting swept up in a group of writers going to dinner and hauling along whoever I was in conversation with at the time. Long walks from my Airbnb to the convention center and back (it was hot; I packed wipes). Seeing the happiness on conference organizer and Hippocampus editor Donna Talarico-Beeman’s face as she unveiled their newest baby, an upcoming anthology of work featured in the magazine’s first five years. I sold some books–but more fun still was being asked to sign them.
After Mary Karr’s Saturday night keynote address, a writer prefaced their question with “this is going to be very personal…” and Mary responded, “I’m not gonna show you my titties.”
We all got personal. It was nowhere near as terrifying as showing our titties. We shared work in readings and in snippets in workshops. We commiserated. We wished each other luck on the way into agent pitches. We felt–or convincingly faked–true happiness when someone burst back out of the agent room, glowing with the pride of a requested full.
There’s an official conference recap page, with links to blog posts attendees wrote about the conference; the twitter feed for #hippocamp16 is also pretty great. Great quotes, great advice, and a great many little things.
Next year’s Hippocamp will be in September, and again held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s a gentle conference, perfect for first-time conference attendees and writers who want to be remembered by the agents and editors they meet. Big enough that you’ll find something that moves you; small enough not to get lost. I hope to find you there.