Donna Talarico, a Blakeslee native who now resides in Lancaster, took the long way to a master’s degree. She left Wilkes University at the end of her sophomore year in 1998 to take a job with local Entercom radio stations Froggy and KRZ as a promotions director—what she calls her “hiatus into the real world”—then returned to school four years later and finished her bachelor’s in communications in 2007. She immediately entered Wilkes’ graduate creative writing program, which asks students to choose two writing disciplines to focus on during their first semester before narrowing their focus down to one. Talarico surprised herself with the discipline she chose.
“I picked fiction and nonfiction really thinking I would be a novelist,” Talarico said. “Through the (semester) I found out my material really came to life from the nonfiction classes. I just had some really quirky characters in my life and the things that my family did weren’t necessarily normal, so I decided when I came back for the next residency that I was going to write a memoir.”
Talarico’s final residency at Wilkes included a group project in publishing. Tara Caimi, from State College, was a member of Talarico’s group and the two shared similar interests as writers.
“Both of our tracts were nonfiction and we kind of gravitated towards the same idea of doing a mock nonfiction literary journal,” Caimi said. “The thing that we created was a mock journal to present to the class. Donna took the spark of the idea from there and just went ahead and launched her own journal.”
Hippocampus Magazine, an online creative nonfiction publication, was launched in May of 2010. Talarico named the magazine after the part of the brain that handles functions related to memory and emotion. The mission of the monthly magazine—which publishes features, reviews and 10 or more new essays a month—is to engage, entertain and educate writers of creative nonfiction. To that end, Talarico is introducing the second phase of her three-phase plan this summer when she hosts the first HippoCamp Aug. 7 through 9 in Lancaster.
“I love going to conferences,” Talarico said. “I was pretty active on the speakers circuit, going around and sharing my passion with other people then sitting in a room and watching other people share their passion. (A conference means) having all these like-minded people together in a room learning from each other—I wanted to capture that, but with writing.”
HippoCamp 2015 will feature creative nonfiction workshops, readings and seminars—it’ll even feature a keynote from Lee Gutkind, founder of the literary magazine simply known as Creative Nonfiction. Gutkind, who is generally regarded as the ‘godfather’ of the discipline, will close Aug. 8’s session, while Jane Friedman will close on Aug. 9 with advice on how to be a successful author in the digital age. Caimi will also take part in HippoCamp 2015—she’ll be reading from her memoir, “Mush: From Sled Dogs to Celiac, The Scenic Detour of My Life,” which tells the story of a regrettable move turned personal revelation.
The memories Talarico stored in her hippocampus helped formulate the plan that brought the magazine and the conference into existence.