rae pagliarulo in sunglasses against colorful wall


We’re excited to welcome two-time attendee Rae Pagliarulo back to HippoCamp for a third year, this time as a breakout session speaker. She’ll share with attendees ways to to handle writing about addiction. We asked Rae about her upcoming session, literary citizenship, Lancaster, and more.

HM: Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your session?

RP: My session will delve into the complicated business of the addiction memoir. When writing about addiction, there are a lot of options a writer can take, and a lot of gray areas. In my own writing about my family’s history of addiction and my efforts to break the cycle, I’ve called upon many addiction memoirs to understand how to do something so complicated well, and I’ve learned that this specific genre can be further broken down by major narrative tropes, which can help readers further understand the motivation and effects of the work.

We’ll look at sympathy, empathy, melodrama, judgment, agency, and maybe even dip our toe into ethics, as they relate to this subgenre, and talk about how to use each tool effectively in telling our own stories with authentic intentions. I’m excited to share something I’m so fascinated by and passionate about with my fellow HippoCampers!


Literary citizenship is so important today, and by being part of our conference, you’re contributing to the CNF community — why is sharing with others important to you?

Writing, reading, conferences – to me, they are all opportunities to connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the world. When I reach for a book or attend an event like Hippocamp, I do so because I’m hungry for those connections. They help me feel more understood, and far less alone. If one person thinks to themselves, “Oh my god – me too,” after they read something I’ve written or get done talking to me, then I’m good. Huge, life-changing things can begin with that one simple statement.


Writing, reading, conferences – to me, they are all opportunities to connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the world.


Taking off your presenter hat, what are you hoping to learn as an attendee at HippoCamp?

Every year, I walk away from HippoCamp with something different, so I think my goal is to be open to everything it has to offer! I’ve met writers I admired, gained writing buddies from across the country who keep me focused, collected endless lists of books to read, and learned about new techniques and forms that excite me. For a single weekend, that’s kind of amazing. I want to learn how to take all the juju and energy I collect over these three days and use it to its fullest potential! (You know, after I sleep for 24 straight hours.)


Lancaster is an amazing city – since you’ve been here before, what suggestions do you have for those who haven’t been here yet?

I went to West Chester University, so over a decade ago, I used to head to Lancaster on weekends to see shows at the Chameleon Club. It was a very different city then. Over the years, through visits and stories from friends, I’ve seen the area grow and change, and it’s so exciting. Even though HippoCamp weekend is jam-packed with programming, I always try to eke out a little time to walk the cobblestone streets, have coffee at Prince Street Cafe, check out the new t-shirt prints at Foxduck, scope out random finds at Building Character, or drink a cocktail by the Pressroom’s courtyard waterfall.


What was a recent and memorable work of creative nonfiction you read – whether a book or shorter piece? (And what did you love about it?)

I recently took a flash creative nonfiction workshop with Penny Guisinger, and wrapped up the wonderful experience with a reading of her collection, Postcards from Here. For all the long and winding nonfiction I’ve read and written, I’m now deep in the throes of a torrid affair with flash, and I might never go back. It amazes me how much can be said with so little, and Penny’s funny, heartbreaking, and poignant pieces left me with all the delicious feelings I might get from a really good memoir – plus the added effect of longing. The pieces’ brevity and sparseness give me this achy, sort of melancholy, hungry feeling because I’m forced to fill in the details she doesn’t tell me. It has been such a satisfying reading experience.


Thank you, Rae, for sharing your knowledge and passion with us! (And, hey, The Chameleon Club is still kickin’ if you want to take in a show some time — but not while you’re at HippoCamp, of course!)


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