For the second year in a row, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the Hippocamp Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference. And for the second year in a row, I’ve left the conference inspired and filled with ideas. It was wonderful to find myself surrounded by like-minded creative individuals – my tribe.
And it’s this “I’ve found my tribe” feeling that captivates me the most. The feeling of homecoming and belonging that pervades at Hippocamp allows even me, the semi-introverted anxiety ridden poet, to vacate my shell at least temporarily. I love the fact that I frequently found myself in breakout sessions with published authors, writing coaches, and literary agents all willing to learn from each other and open to discussing techniques and strategies they’ve found helpful in their writing and publishing careers. It is this willingness to learn and lack of isolating competitive attitude that makes this such a unique and positive experience. Everyone is your peer, and you quickly learn that you all have many of the same doubts and fears when it comes to your writing.
I particularly enjoyed Jenna McGuiggan’s session on The Writing Life: Rituals, Rhythms, & Practices. Instead of espousing the same old prescriptive things you hear so frequently, “you must write daily” “you should set aside a specific time of day to you write,” she gave practical advice that reaffirmed the attendees’ belief in themselves as writers. My favorite take away from her session was to create a ritual rather than a routine for writing. A writing ritual can help put you in the right frame of mind to be able to write whenever you have time whether that means you have specific objects (a special pen or journal) that you always use, or some other sensory stimulation (lighting candles, specific clothing, a cup of tea).
As someone who is easily set in motion by sensory stimuli, I also enjoyed Sarah Einstein’s pre-conference workshop on The Collage Essay. Using various sensory stimuli, Sarah guided us through a writing activity that allowed us to explore a specific theme. I walked away from this workshop with the beginnings of an essay and some constructive suggestions to help me along.
I also had the opportunity for a new first for me after the conference, pitching to an agent; this was an entirely spontaneous venture on my part. I did not go into the conference intending to do anything of the sort, but through the gentle encouragement of several members of my tribe and getting caught up in the moment, I decided to go for it. I went into the session with little in the way of expectation (or preparation for that matter). I merely wanted the experience of a live, in-person, pitch. It was terrifying; I won’t lie. And even though my pitch topic wasn’t well aligned with the agent I pitched to (my fault, not anyone else’s), she was able to offer some constructive feedback and was exceedingly kind to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed attending this year’s conference, and I look forward to Hippocamp 2017.