Two exciting reasons why you should attend HippoCamp 2019

February 1, 2019

Two exciting reasons why you should attend HippoCamp 2019

It’s Friday morning, 5 o’clock. Been up for 90 minutes after our 7-year-old son opened the door to our bedroom, announced he had a sore throat, and like that, the flu is two-for-two this year when it comes to our kids.

Yet, I’m super thrilled. And it’s not the uber strong coffee I made.

The good folks who compile Hippocampus, an online creative nonfiction journal, announced the lineup for this year’s HippoCamp 2019 conference. It takes place Aug. 23-25 in Lancaster, Pa.

I get not one but two opportunities to speak.

So get yourselves ready for intrigue, secrets, mysteries, and kids vomiting all over you when all you want to do is write a chapter of your book.

What Is HippoCamp 2019?

Simply put — the annual HippoCamp conference in Lancaster, Pa., ranks among my top highlights every year.

HippoCamp is a congregation of creative nonfiction enthusiasts — readers, aspiring writers, published writers, and frankly, just some of the best people with whom to spend three days talking books and prepositional phrases. Go ahead. Call us nerds.

The conference is organized by Donna Talarico-Beerman, a wicked smart and industrious person, especially when it comes to writing conferences.

Author Mary Karr speaking at a conference
Celebrated memoirist Mary Karr speaks at HippoCamp.

HippoCamp stands apart from other writing powwows. Why? It has something to do beyond the quality of speakers and programs, which, at the risk of falsely elevating my own status, is as good as it gets.

But what sets this conference above all the others I’ve ever attended is the people. It’s like seeing extended family, the ones you want to see, a joyful reunion of likeminded folks.

What’s more, it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey as a writer. You may have struggled to lift your WIP (work in progress, for the uninitiated) or you might be Tobias freakin’ Wolff. Doesn’t matter.

Everyone is supportive. Everyone understands. Everyone has been through what you’ve been through.

That, more than anything, is why I love it and will be attending my fourth consecutive HippoCamp.

Enough About That Already, Dave. What Are You Speaking About?

First, I’m hosting an hour-long breakout session about finding truth in all those rumors and legends drifting through your family history. And then, once you’ve found some semblance of truth, how to delicately tell your loved ones about what you’ve discovered.

This can be perilous.

The first half of this session will be about strategies and techniques for finding facts and truth as they pertain to family rumors and myths of the past.

Where can you find these facts and truths? Sure, you can go to Ancestry, but do you really know what you’re looking for or how to search like a genealogy guru?

We’ve all discovered difficult truths in the past. Maybe that legendary grandfather wasn’t so legendary. Maybe there’s more to the family crime blotter than what anyone has told you. And what if your brother turns out to, um, not actually be your brother?

Stress face emoji.

That’s why the second part of my breakout session is about how to inform your family members about these harsh truths which might upend the past. They might also change the present, possibly set a course for a new future.

Hyperbole? Just wait until you hear everything.

Woman speaking at a microphone at a conference
The annual HippoCamp conference for creative nonfiction writers is a highlight of my every year.

I’m thrilled and honored to also be part of a panel that includes published memoirists — “Oh, you WRITE?! That’s Interesting!”: A Panel on Writing While Parenting.

Look at this lineup:

  • Krystal Sital — author of Secrets We Kept, a journey through Krystal’s family history back to Trinidad. The New York frickin’ Times said a “reader can only applaud the author who has so skillfully preserved (the family secrets) in such loving, precise detail. I’ve read it. I loved it.
  • Amy Eaton — teacher extraordinaire from Chicago. Amy’s taught for more than 20 years and coached writers as well as other artists. I’m not sure I’ve done anything consistently for 20 days, let alone 20 years.
  • Lisa Romeo — author Starting With Goodbye, published last year. Publishers Weekly, which knows a thing or two about, well, good books, said Lisa’s “honest, hopeful story will strike a meaningful chord with those who’ve been prompted to reconsider their relationships or themselves after a death.”
  • Susan Young — an award winning writer, a person who knows more about perseverance than many of us will understand, and an advocate for SafeHouse Center, which provides “immediate crisis intervention to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Then there’s me, who once wrote a magazine column about a car sick kid throwing up in the family SUV.

We’re going to talk about the balance — or more accurately, the imbalance — of being a parent and a writer. Might have a few things to share on that topic.

If you’re thinking about attending this conference, don’t hesitate. It’s a wonderful experience. If you do attend and are a reader of Causing Dad’mage, come up and say hello.

Registration’s now open. Go for it.

Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He writes about fathers of the past and his own journey into fatherhood here at and yes, the articles are about more than just his kids getting sick. You can reach him at

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