|Lara Lillibridge giving an author talk on her new hybrid|
memoir, Mama, Mama, Only Mama last week.
My mind is still racing with inspiration since returning home from HippoCamp 2019. I began to write a second blog post about it a week and a half ago, before I realized midway through that I still hadn't finished downloading my pictures. My lecture notes and conference handouts are still laying in piles around my office, since I haven't finished digesting them all, or the multitude of ideas that are scrawled in the margins on most of the pages along with snippets of inspired dialogue or description. In the interim, though, I had a chance to experience a little bit of HippoCamp in my hometown.
|Lara with co-presenter Ruth Hanford Morhard.|
With my home-body husband in tow, we arrived and found our seats in the attractive basement auditorium. Lara presented first, and her engaging subtitle says it all: An irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent--From Divorce and Dating to Cooking and Crafting, All While Raising the Kids and Maintaining Your Own Sanity (Sort Of). Amusing stories written in diary and blog-style are highlighted with clever "recipes." These form the spine of her hybrid memoir, fleshing out in memorable ways the very real struggles that led her back to school and, ultimately to finishing her MFA and becoming a writer. This is her second memoir, and, like the best of the genre, it is a raw and real look at struggle and overcoming. Even as a grandmother long past the days of child-rearing, I found inspiration in Lara's story of the surprise route to connection with her baseball-fiend son, and how that bonded them together. The story was a great segue to the second speaker that night, Ruth Hanford Morhard.
Ruth's book, Mrs. Morhard and the Boys, tells the true story of the difficult life of Josephine Morhard and her struggle to not only survive as an abused divorcee, but to find a way to provide positive activities and role models in her growing son Junior's life. Through grit and determination, she founded the first boys' baseball league in America in the midst of the Great Depression, an amazing and previously untold story of yet another unsung woman that I hope will be made into a movie.
|Chris talking to Al "Junior" Morhard at the author talk.|
We are so lucky in our area to have organizations supporting and providing resources to writers, like our amazing public library's Writing Center and the nonprofit Literary Cleveland. In the car on our way home afterwards, however, I was also thinking how nice it had been to connect with Lara at HippoCamp, and how Ruth, as a non-fiction writer with an amazing book, could benefit from coming to the conference. There is nothing like that supportive national community.
I was thrilled to hear that Jacki Lyden would be the keynote speaker at HippoCamp 2019. As an avid NPR listener, her voice on the radio had been one of the steady daily beats in my life for decades. She gave a moving and inspiring keynote presentation. Looking out over the audience in closing, she told us that our stories are important, because they provide context to journalistic writing. She was mesmerizing. What a brave, full and amazing life she has led.
|To add to my excitement, I had recently|
added Lyden's memoir to my "want to
read" shelf on Goodreads. I bought a
copy at the book table, and can't wait
After Jacki's keynote the fun mashed potato martini bar buffet provided the perfect opportunity to talk with old friends and rub elbows with new ones. Everyone (speakers, presenters, agents, editors, publishers, podcasters; there is no pecking order here) mills around balancing plates of salad, hors d'oeuvres, glasses of water or wine and, in my case, a sweet potato concoction in a martini glass. Connecting and reconnecting. It's a big part of what the conference is about.
The debut author readings always follow the reception. A handful of writers give moving readings from their new books, and this year there was even a tear-provoking performance by Teresa Wong. I wish I could find a video of it.
These readings, and the Q&A that follows, are always a highlight for me. In fact, Lara Lillibridge first appeared on my radar at the HippoCamp 2017 conference when she gave a reading from her book girlish as one of that year's debut authors. Six new authors on the stage, each with engaging stories, and books that I eagerly devoured. Some have become among my favorites. I am so grateful for the circle of connection.
The first full day of the conference ends with the brave souls who entertain us at the annual Friday night story slam. Groans and laughter punctuate the rapt attention paid to true stories told well. After, we pile into the elevator, tired but giddy from all that has transpired. We sit up late in our beds, sipping wine and swapping descriptions of tomorrow's sessions in anticipation of new adventures to come.