Friday, August 31, 2018

Writing Tip Takeaways from the 2018 HippoCamp CNF Conference

By Joanne Lozar Glenn

I returned from the HippoCamp Creative Nonfiction Conference late Sunday night. It was inspiring, at times overwhelming, and most of all a nurturing conference that offered thoughtful---and practical---perspectives on craft and on the writing life.

Here are some takeaways, organized as uncommon solutions to common writing problems. I hope you find at least one you can put into practice right away!

When you fear telling your truth is a betrayal: "I can tell you the morality of a book lies in its motivation. Compassion is a writer's greatest asset, our greatest guard against betrayal. May your truth be forgiving...that is the only way it will not betray." --Beth Kephart, "No Truth Like the Real Truth"

 When you're having trouble understanding an object / place / character: Try doodling/drawing it from every angle, up close and far away, and make notes. See both light and shadow. --Rebecca Fish Ewan, "Drawing for Wordies"

When you worry that your life/story is too "quiet" or conflict-free to be interesting: Think of conflict as a trajectory rather than a problem to be solved...what is it that calls for change and creates movement through the story? --Kate Meadows, "The Quiet Memoir"

When you're stuck: Think in terms of three sections. They don't have to make chronological sense. Strive for emotional sense. --Abigail Thomas, Keynote

When you're having trouble staying focused on a book-length project: Write yourself a long elaborate subtitle that includes all the key points you intend to cover, and keep it close as you revise. As the story takes shape, write really detailed chapter summaries so you can keep track of what's happening. --Lisa Romeo, "Reconstruction: Transforming Essays into a Narrative Memoir Manuscript"

When you're finding it hard to be productive: Try the Pomodoro technique. Tell yourself you only have to work on X for 25 minutes. Set a timer. Go! Take a break, rinse, and repeat. --Jodi Sh. Doff, "The Virtual Writers Room"

When you realize there's a gap between the kind of writing you like and what you want your work to look like: Realize you'll grow into this process---as long as you do the volumes of work required to get there. --Amma Marfo, "Cultivating Creativity in Your Craft"


Writer-editor-educator Joanne Lozar Glenn leads writing groups and destination writing retreats. She is a fellow of the Ohio Writing Project, a certified AWA facilitator, and a co-author of Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More (Skyhorse, 2016). Her work has been published in Beautiful Things (River Teeth), Peregrine, Hippocampus, Brevity, and other print and online journals.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.