It’s been a couple of weeks since HippoCamp22 took place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I am still basking in its glow. This was my first large, in-person event in the past few years, and even though I proceeded with some caution, I was also excited to present/teach again and to be in the company of other writers, especially those focused on nonfiction. HippoCamp22 did not disappoint!

One of the highlights was the keynote by Carmen Maria Machado, author of the short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, and of the astonishing memoir, In The Dream House. In the midst of my enthrallment (yes, I double-checked that this is, in fact, a word!), I jotted down a few quotes from her talk: “The past asserts itself against the present.” And: “Beauty and anger can exist in the same place.” Amen to all that.

HippoCamp22 keynote speaker, Carmen Maria Machado, at podium, in front of crowd in ballroom.

I led a breakout session called, Diving Into the Wreck: How to Write the Hard Parts, Come Up for Air and Self-Care, and Finish Your Memoir. I was so excited to share a somewhat close reading of the poem Diving Into The Wreck by Adrienne Rich to explore some parallels with the deep emotional dives required of memoir writers. If you are not familiar with this poem, CHECK IT OUT NOW! One of the main takeaways of my session was that writing about trauma requires a substantive self-care plan that you have in place before you start writing and that you are committed to implementing so that you can sustain yourself over the course of a longer project. Thank you so much to attendee and presenter Lillie Gardner, who wrote the above-linked recap about the session!

Introductory slide: Yellow text on blue background with title of presentation and image of corroded, sunken ship

I attended several other sessions, along with an outdoor, rooftop dinner at a local restaurant, and it was so invigorating to hear and see people to talk about our work without a technological interface between us. Unfortunately, I missed Sunday’s sessions because the conference happened to fall on the same weekend as a college reunion, so I was on the road fairly early to meet up with my dear friends at a beach house on Long Island.

Meeting new and old friends at local rooftop venue! Image of six white, female-presenting humans outdoors in semi-circle smiling at camera.

But, first, I stopped at Prince Street Cafe for an oat milk cappuccino and a surprise chat with Amy Fish and her husband, which was a lovely way to close out my all-too-brief visit to Lancaster. Huge thanks to the incomparable Donna Talarico-Beerman for founding and spearheading Hippocampus Magazine and HippoCamp, and nurturing such a supportive nonfiction community. Already looking forward to next year!

Oat milk capp from Prince Street Cafe.