A couple of months ago one of my writing friends sent me a link to apply for a scholarship for something called “HippoCamp.” It’s sponsored by Hippocampus magazine. I’d heard of it before, one of those online magazines that I could possibly submit to.
“You should apply,” Vivian said.
So I looked at the link and it said the cut off date for applications was the next day. I told my wife Danusia that 24 hours was not enough time to write the 3 short essays they were asking for.
Danusia gave me that look that I’m very familiar with, that look of abject horror that I’m ignoring a wonderful opportunity. I drew a big sigh and clicked on the Word app on my toolbar.
There were two awards available for the category I chose, writers of color. A full scholarship and $200 towards travel. And one runner up would get half off the price of the conference.
I could have fit into another category, Late blooming memoirist, but that was only one award and I thought I had a better shot as a person of color than as an old person, though I am both.
As I started to fill out the application I noticed the deadline had been extended another four days! Whew, I could turn off Word and go back to binging Peaky Blinders. A dumb name for a violent street gang, by the way.
But I did finish the essays and application in time and a few weeks later I got an email that I’d been awarded the runner up scholarship, half off.
Now, we are not rich people, we are both retired and on fixed incomes. And the cost of renting a place to stay plus the gas put a knot in my stomach. But the ever-forceful Danusia convinced me that it was an important step for me if I am to be serious about being a writer.
I have to add that I’d never thought about being a writer, I mean I’ve always kept journals and at one time had dreams of being a movie director but I never thought I could cut it as a writer. But then again when I was in high school I thought all I had to do was buy and electric guitar and I’d be playing like Jimi Hendrix the moment I picked it up. I now know (it took a while) that it takes work, lots of work, and learning and practice to get to the place where Jimi Hendrix was. And attending this HippoCamp is part of that process.
I was a bit nervous, here I was attending a conference with REAL writers, I thought, and I was going to feel really out of place. These were people with a lot more knowledge and experience about writing, and probably more ambition. That’s always been my problem, it seems- a lack of ambition.
Now I’ve taken some workshops, that’s where I met Vivian, at a writer’s workshop; and some classes, and even had a few things published. But getting the big payoff, the coveted book deal, the contract seemed an impossibility. Something that only happens to other people. But I was going to take a deep breath and step out of my comfort zone. So I booked an AirBnb and we gassed up the car.
The experience I had at HippoCamp 2022 is one of the most gratifying and fulfilling I’ve ever had. It was well organized and the staff and volunteers were great. A special thanks the Rae Pagliarulo for finding my phone at Saturday’s lunch.
One of the things I heard from one of the presenters at the opening was “I know a lot of writers are introverts, but make an effort to talk to each other!”
One of the things I did to break the ice was to sign up to tell a story at the Story Slam Friday night. That’s one way to let people know who you are. I told a story about being arrested and sitting in the back of a police car. See, that’s part of my story, recovering from addiction. So for the rest of the conference I had people coming up to me telling me they liked my story, and I got to know some of them and hear their stories.
And attending the sessions taught me how to tell my story better, how to get an agent, how to navigate the writing world. And most importantly, it affirmed that yes, I am a writer.