Allison Williams is a returning HippoCamp speaker and workshop leader. Her break-out session on getting published in literary magazines was one of the highest-rated sessions last year, so this year she’s doing an encore presentation. She’s also leading a sold-out pre-conference workshop called “Self-Edit Like a Pro.” We asked her a few questions about her return to Lancaster.
HippoCamp: We don’t want to give too much away about your session or workshop, 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.
Allison: I believe all books are mysteries—even memoirs! With a memoir, instead of “whodunnit?” the mystery is usually either “what happened?” or “why am I like this?” Starting from one of those central questions, it can really help shape a nonfiction personal journey to look at the plot of one’s memoir as if planning a mystery, complete with clues, suspects, a big denouement, and the author as detective.
Tell us who would benefit most from your session and why.
Self-Edit Like a Pro will most benefit the writer who has a draft or a proposal (regardless of length) and wants to be able to analyze their own work technically and with an eye to structure. It’s a total relief to look at one’s beautiful-but-shapeless creativity on the page and think, “This won’t be easy, but I have the tools and I know how to use them.”
Get Published In Literary Magazines will benefit early-career writers by breaking down the submissions process specifically and step-by-step. Writers will come out knowing not only where to find magazines appropriate to their level—they’ll also understand how to judge what that level is.
What is your best advice for those attending a writing conference, whether it’s for newbies or veterans?
I have two go-to tactics whenever I attend a conference. 1) Be brave and volunteer. There won’t be time for everyone’s piece to be read, or everyone’s question to be addressed, so raise your hand and get up there instead of waiting. 2) Every time I have a question to ask, I try to phrase it in a way that helps the whole room and not just me. So for example, instead of “I wrote about my battle with cheesecake, are you taking any addiction memoirs right now?” I might ask, “What themes are you excited to get in your inbox?”
Aside from speaking, what you are most looking forward to about being part of the HippoCamp?
I love being in an environment where everyone cares about writing and no-one asks if this is my real job!
Please share some thoughts on why you’re excited to return for another year.
HippoCamp 2015 was such a collective experience. There was a real sense of connection and community, and I felt like I had multiple conversations with a lot of people, rather than ships passing in the night. I’m eager to meet more writers and hear what they’re working on.
What’s on your personal conference agenda? Perhaps share with us a session/event you don’t want to miss.
I’m excited about Andrew Seaman’s Landmines: Navigating the Ethical Traps of Long-form Nonfiction. I recently had an experience where a story subject attempted to retroactively withdraw permission post-publication(!), and I want to see how I can avoid tricky situations like that in the future.
What are you most looking forward to about visiting Lancaster again?
I love how walkable downtown Lancaster is, and I want to revisit the secret underground (literally!) coffee shop. And I’m even excited about my departure–I’ll be on Amtrak all the way to Shreveport Louisiana after the conference, as a mini writing retreat!