Allison K Williams allison-williamsis returning to HippoCamp, her third consecutive year as a speaker and workshop leader. We’re thrilled she’s once again giving her self-editing preconference workshop (which sold out last year) and also a craft session on how using social media can make you a better writer. Allison took some time to give us a preview about her upcoming writing conference appearance.

HM: Without sharing any spoilers, what can attendees expect from your session, “Writing Better with Social Media”?

AKW: There’s such a focus on social-media-as-platform, I think most of us forget to use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc, as a means to actually write something meaningful and use the form itself as a creative prompt. We’ll be looking at different social media networks and how to use them in creative ways that also genuinely build connections with our friends and followers. Tweets are the new sonnets and Instagram is our muse!

Who would benefit the most from your session or workshop?

Writers who are either unsure of how to approach social media, or sick to death of the “obligation” to build a following. This is suitable for all levels, and even Luddites who avoid social media will enjoy learning how to use each network as a unique medium for personal and professional expression.

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?

I love teaching. I love seeing the lightbulb go on. I am constantly astonished at how many writers grow hugely from one or two thoughtful and explicit comments about their work, and it’s very gratifying to see that in action. So it’s really very selfish on my part! But what I love about the HippoCamp conference is that it’s a flat social structure rather than a hierarchy. Sure, we all fangirl over the keynote speaker, but for the most part, workshop leaders and published authors are side by side with early-career authors and those just dipping their toes into publication. Nobody feels small.

…for the most part, workshop leaders and published authors are side by side with early-career authors and those just dipping their toes into publication. Nobody feels small.


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

I’m hoping to get a spark of inspiration about what to do with my memoir, which I think—think!—I’m going to recast as a memoir-in-essays. I’m looking forward to workshops focusing on whole-book structure, and talking to editors and agents about what’s new and exciting in the world of memoir.

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 stayed at an AirBnB off site last time, and I really enjoyed the morning walk to the convention center each day. Ringing the downtown cluster, there are so many adorable shops, restaurants with food from different parts of the world (try the Nepali place!), and artisan studios and galleries. It’s a real pleasure to absorb everyone else’s creative drive while walking and thinking.

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?)

In preparation for interviewing Andre Dubus III for the Brevity Podcast, I read his memoir, Townie. It was sooooo good. Like, sucked me in, glad I had to read it, should have read it sooner. I loved how honest he was about both his own shortcomings and his family’s, and how he navigated telling his own story while saving ownership of his mother and siblings’ stories for themselves. It was powerful to walk (mentally) through his rickety childhood home and watch his life play out and his adult self form, while knowing that behind every bedroom door there was another plotline happening, and just getting a glimpse when those plots intersected with Andre’s own story.

Anything else?

Ironically, I’ve taken a hiatus from social media this past four months—it was hard, with the election, to believe that anything I had to say mattered. I’m easing back in, and noticing what’s working for me and what isn’t. Being conscious of how I’m re-approaching my online presence is helping me sharpen the workshop lesson plan!

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