Submit a Proposal: HippoCamp 2018

UPDATE FOR 12/30/2017 – Our call for proposals for HippoCamp 2018 is closed. We’re sorry you missed our window! We received a record-breaking amount of submissions , just over 100, and we can only accept about a third of those. We’re absolutely thrilled that so many writers and publishing professionals want to be involved.

We continue to get questions about how to speak at HippoCamp 2018, so we decided to update this page with some information about the programming process: If you’re interested in participating in future conferences (maybe you just heard about us for the first time?) be sure to sign up for our newsletter (bottom of site) and/or follow us on social media so that you don’t miss next year’s call. Like most professional development conferences, we plan the programming many months in advance. Typically, we open for break-out session submissions in late August and stay open through the fall, and then we announce the line-up when tickets go on sale in January/February.


HippoCamp’s programming is mostly for-attendees, by attendees! With the exception of keynotes and a few panels, our conference is built from the proposals YOU submit!

We’re enthusiastically inviting attendees who also are interested in being part of our speaker line-up to submit a session proposal for HippoCamp: A Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers (Aug. 24-26) in one of our three traditional tracks, our new addition of a special topics track, or our flash sessions:

  • Breakout Sessions in four tracks:
    We’re looking for dynamic speakers and engaging, informative, practical 60-minute sessions that will give our attendees actionable takeaways. Breakout session presenters will receive a special discounted attendee rate (about 60% off conference registration).

    • CREATE – craft topics related to CNF
    • SHARE – sessions related to publishing and promotion – getting your work out there
    • LIVE – sessions dedicated to living the writer’s life: how to balance writing with family and/or a job, how to make ends meet, etc.
    • SPECIAL TOPICS – sessions devoted to either a niche writing area, or bigger-picture topics related to writers today. (In 2017, these included writing across intersections, recovery memoirs, science of memory, and travel writing.)
  • Lightning-Round (Flash!) presentation: HippoCamp will hold a general session featuring five 7-minute presentations (PechaKucha Style) by select attendees. Flash session presenters will receive a special discounted attendee rate (about 50% off conference registration).

Note: We listed some topic ideas at the end of this page.


  • Submission period is between Sept. 30 and Dec. 15, 2017
  • Sessions are reviewed and selected by the conference programming committee.
  • We’ll announce the line-up in late December/early January before tickets go on sale in late January/early February.

To submit your proposal, at our Submittble form, you will need to have ready: title, abstract (100 words), short bio (50 words), and any applicable links or past conference highlights; you’ll also answer questions including why you’re a fit for HippoCamp (75 words), suggested skill-level and track (CREATE/SHARE/LIVE/TOPICS ), why your topic is relevant to CNF writers (50 words).

[Submit Here]


  • We’re not an academic conference, and we’re not a retreat or workshop.
  • We’re formatted in the style of a professional development conference – we’re more inspired by Austin than academia (a la SXSW).
  • Our vocabulary is a bit different than other writing conferences: rather than faculty and classes and students, we have presenters and sessions and attendees.


Now that we have three conferences’ worth of feedback, we’ve begun to really hone our “conference aesthetic.” Based on our highest-rated sessions and speakers from past events, here’s what we’re looking for in speakers and sessions:

...In Speakers


We want smart, dynamic, passionate, friendly speakers to fill our roster! Here are some details:

  • Speakers of all backgrounds and levels of experience are welcome – we love giving people a chance to make their professional conference debut!
  • Your passion for and knowledge of your topic is often more important to us than your years of experience or publication credits or professional affiliations.
  • We look for well-prepared speakers who can deliver an informative, inspiring presentation with energy, confidence and poise. We’re not looking for people who “just wing-it.”
  • We love speakers who aren’t afraid to step out from behind the podium and engage with the audience. Even better when that engagement continues throughout the conference.
  • We look for sincere speakers who care about the audience and are here to share knowledge and help writers – not just to add a bullet point on a resume or CV (but that IS a perk, too!)
  • We’re also looking for speakers from outside the literary world! Some of our highest-rated or most-Tweetable speakers in 2016 and 2017 were from other industries who were able to tie their expertise to the writing world.
  • We’re looking for professional, cordial speakers who are committed to their involvement in this conference – this means communicating with us before the conference and helping us plan by providing technical needs, reading/replying to speaker correspondence and providing requested information in a timely manner.

...In Sessions



We love TEDTalks. We prefer giving one rock star a chance to light up a room at a breakout session over offering only panels (although we have those, too!).

  • We love fresh ideas! Topics we haven’t seen before at conferences.
  • We love variety! While memoir is a big part of the CNF genre, our offerings should include more types of writing and other publication goals.
  • We love practical sessions: presentations that leave attendees with a list of notes and to-dos.
  • But not every session has to be a writing lesson per se – we also look for inspirational, this-is-my-story-type or this-is-how-I-did-it presentations. Sessions of the latter nature should still have key takeaways.
  • We love sessions that share lots of examples/case studies – seeing the theory in action makes a presentation more memorable.

What we’re not looking for in a session proposal:

  • We’re not typically looking for breakout sessions with lots of writing activities or group work; it’s not manageable given the allotted time and large group. Small prompts and some interaction are OK and, in fact, encouraged and well-received. But our breakout sessions are not intended to be a workshopping scenario. Keep in mind 75+ people could be in your room.
  • We’re not looking for ultra-specific topics, such as exploring the works of one particular writer.
  • We’re not looking for sessions led by more than two people.
  • We’re not looking for paper presentations. (However, use that paper and research to build an awesome presentation!)
  • Although this is clearly stated as a call for breakout sessions, we want to reiterate that we are not looking for panel or workshop proposals.


Why present at a professional development conference for writers?

  • It’s fun
  • A speaking credential to list on your resume, or if you are in academia, your CV
  • Be part of the Hippocampus Magazine mission
  • Gain recognition from your peers
  • Earn visibility in your field; continue to build your platform and authority on a topic
  • Receive a nice registration discount
  • Get other cool swag

HippoCamp speaker expectations:

We’re looking to produce a smooth conference and that goes beyond amazing presentations – there are nuts and bolts-type things too we expect of our team of brilliant presenters. Open the tab to read the speaker expectations. (This may seem like a lot, but these are questions we’re often asked, so we’re sharing these details ahead of time!)

View speaker expectations

  • Presenters must be registered attendees of the conference and must officially register before conference program goes to print; speakers are responsible for their own travel and lodging.
  • Submitting a proposal does not mean you are committing to attend or to present at HippoCamp; if we accept your session idea, we’ll confirm that you are definitely able to attend, and you can make your final decision then. So please submit even if you’re unsure today if you can make it. You have time to figure it all out!
  • Presenters must agree to read and respond in a timely manner to speaker communication emails/requests for information to help with day-of logistics/meet deadlines for technology requests, etc.
  • Presenters must agree to a group or individual phone call about a month before the conference for a brief speaker orientation, which includes covering the expectations outlined here, and will provide some tips on how to stick to a time limit, prepare technology, and how to think quickly on your feet if you hit a snag.
  • Presenters must agree to have their session photographed for future use and for marketing and archival purposes.
  • Presenters are encouraged to share slides and/or presentation materials (if applicable) for use for post-conference promotion; this is not required.
  • Presenters are encouraged to allow us to record (audio) presentation for archival purposes/attendee access.
  • Presenters are responsible for bringing their own handouts (if applicable).
  • Presenters must respect time limits (no doing so adversely affects their peer presenters); this means you’ll take your presentation preparation seriously and practice.
  • There is a maximum of two presenters for break-out sessions and one presenter for flash sessions.
  • On the administrative side, we trust that speakers will read/reply to speaker correspondence and provide requested information in a timely manner. We cannot emphasize this enough; if a speaker is unprepared, it reflects on the conference as well. If speakers change/submit tech needs at last minute, it causes strain on all.
  • Also on the administrative/logistical side – we are looking for speakers who will adhere to a time limit, who can think quick on their feet if they hit a snag (either a tech snafu or getting sidetracked by a question and needing to get back on track).
  • We encourage attendees to be completely comfortable with any technology they choose to use. For instance, if you are not familiar with PowerPoint or Prezi, please do not opt to “try it out” for the first time during a professional presentation. We LOVE multimedia presentations, but only use this option to enhance your presentation and IF you are experienced in the platform you choose. A few of the highest-rated workshops and sessions in 2017 were all analog!
  • Finally, on the day of the conference, we trust that speakers will show up to their rooms with ample time to discover and address any technical issues; and to make this work, previous speaker must also end and pack up on time.

Good luck! Again, call for proposals runs Sept. 30 – Dec. 15.


Based on survey and in-real-life feedback, we uncovered topics past attendees would love to hear about. If you have expertise in these in-demand areas, please consider a proposal related to one of these areas, in no particular order:

  • Quiet memoir (craft)
  • Magazine pitching (publishing/promotion)
  • Science writing (craft or publishing/promotion)
  • Food writing (craft or publishing/promotion)
  • Diversity in publishing (special topics)
  • Dialogue (craft)
  • Description (craft)
  • Outlines (craft or writing life)
  • Humor (craft)
  • Creating a marketing plan (publishing/promotion)
  • Publishing an essay collection (publishing/promotion)
  • Beginnings/Endings in CNF (craft) – note: this was a selected session in 2017, but speaker unable to attend; we’d love to see it again!
  • Breaking into writing at 40+ (writing life)
  • Transitions (craft)
  • Managing your work – juggling multiple projects, organizing a book-length work, etc. (writing life)
  • Where to start! – a session for brand new writers (craft, writing life)