Speaker and Session Preview: Jenna McGuiggan, Literary Citizen Panel and Writing Life Session

jennifer-mcguigganJenna McGuiggan is a returning HippoCamp speaker, and this year attendees will get the pleasure of hearing from her twice. She’s giving a breakout session dedicated to how to live a more productive writer’s life, and she’s also part of our literary citizenship panel. We asked her a few questions about this upcoming creative nonfiction conference event.

HippoCamp: We don’t want to give too much away about your session or panel, but please share with us a golden nugget that you hope attendees will take away from your talk that isn’t found on the program description.

Jenna: The thing I hope people really get from “The Writing Life: Rituals, Rhythms and Practices” session is the same thing I have to remind myself of again and again: That to make a writing life work for you, you have to put in the work – not just the work on the page, but also the work of creating systems that work for you. I tend to think that if I really value something, it will happen without any struggle. But #TheStruggleIsReal! Even things we really want to do require effort and planning. Figuring out what works for you goes a long way toward making it all feel less like work and more like play.

I’m also speaking on the Literary Citizenship Project Spotlight panel about the online writing community that I run: The Word Cellar Writers Guild. I’ll be sharing a glimpse into what happens in The Writers Guild – as well as listening for what resources writers want in an online space.

Tell us who would benefit most from your session and why.  

Anyone who struggles to create a consistent writing schedule will benefit from The Writing Life. Actually, I don’t love that word schedule. For me, words such as schedule and discipline have the wrong tone: too militant and judgmental. I like to use alternate words, such as rhythm or practice instead of schedule, and enthusiasm or commitment instead of discipline. So one of things we’ll talk about is how to reframe simple things like this to make a big difference.

What is your best advice for those attending a writing conference, whether it’s for newbies or veterans?

Know what you need to stay grounded and energetic during the conference. Things to consider: sleep, fresh air, snacks, water, time to reflect. Also, know how you like to interact with people: Are you at your best chatting one-on-one or in a group? Honor your own way of being while also going a bit outside of your comfort zone.

Since you’re a returning speaker, please share some thoughts on why you’re excited to return for another year. 

I’m excited to return as a speaker because I had a great time at last year’s conference. The people I met were stellar, and the whole event was great. I’m happy I get to be part of that exchange of energy and ideas again.
What’s on your personal conference agenda? Perhaps share with us a session/event you don’t want to miss.

I’m looking forward to Joanne Lozar Glenn’s session about writing retreats, Lisa Romeo’s “Multiplication and Division” session, and hearing Mary Karr speak.


Jenna, we’re so happy to have you back at HippoCamp! We’ll see you in August.