This definitely-not-a-morning person is up at 5:30 on a Saturday because I am at my favorite writing conference, and after Friday's invigorating start, well—who can sleep? (And not just because I'm a little jumpy about my presentation later today and suddenly remembered that little change I need to make on slide number six.)
I'm propped up in bed, my hand whipping across notebook pages. So many new ideas are flying around in my brain, so much stimulation, all the fresh perspectives I absorbed yesterday, all insisting on equal time. I'm exhausted already (you know, in that good way.). And baby, I've got lists. Write this…research that…read her book…read his essay…think about that other angle…this other point of view…try a new essay form…add this to next semester's syllabus...share that with my clients.
HippoCamp, a conference exclusively for creative nonfiction writers (sponsored by Hippocampus Magazine), is in its second year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and if day one was any indication, it hasn't outgrown its well-earned inaugural appeal.
This dazzling little gem of a conference feels like that secluded, still-undiscovered-by-the-masses vacation spot you want to shout about to everyone but at the same time, want to keep secret to it doesn't get overrun next year. For me, it's also just the right size (smallish, around 150 or so attendees), the right distance from home (under a three hour drive), and embodies just the right vibe (welcoming inclusion for all writers, where everyone is in the club regardless of publishing resume).
Last year, I could only manage to be here all day Saturday and a bit of Sunday morning. This year, I decided to plunge all in, say yes to more, and signed up for the optional post-conference agent/editor pitch sessions (never did one of those!), as well as one of the pre-conference workshops (don't get much chance lately to be one of the writers at the table instead of the leader).
My workshop was on the collage essay with the lovely Sarah Einstein, whose intriguing pre-workshop emails and Facebook posts promised unique sensory prompts—and she delivered. Which meant I generated 12 notebook pages of rough writing for a future essay (essays?). What unique prompts, you ask? How about these: we lit sparklers, danced the hora, sniffed Tequila-soaked cotton balls, blew up balloons, passed around party favors, and listened to a sad/not sad funeral dirge. Phew.
I'll be back next week with more about the wonderful time I know I'm going to have later today and tomorrow. As for my presentation nerves, I keep telling myself (like I do when I go to the dentist) that in a few hours it will all be over, and (unlike post-dentist) before you know it, keynote speaker Mary Karr will be on stage in the main room and I can relax. Except for my pen flying across new notebook pages.
To get more out of the rare opportunity to connect for several days in real life with writers (many of whom I "know" only from social media), I've decided I'll mostly keep my phone in my pocket. I want to keep my eyes up and alert and have live conversations even if they are sometimes awkward.
But you can follow some of the action on Twitter with #HippoCamp16, where lots of people more talented than I (who can do two things at once), are already sharing the wisdom and the fun.