Session and Speaker Preview: Wendy Fontaine – When Memory Fails, Writing Prevails

wendy-fontaineWendy Fontaine is traveling from one coast to the other for HippoCamp (well, almost: Pennsylvania is a landlocked state, but we’re not far from the Atlantic!), and aside from California sunshine the writer-slash-journalism professor is bringing along knowledge about the fallacies of memory and how we can use what we forget in our memoirs. Our journal is named after a part of the brain, so we’re intrigued by her session!

Wendy took some time to share some details about her upcoming session at our creative nonfiction conference:


Hippocampus: We don’t want to give too much away about your session, but please share with us a golden nugget that you hope attendees will take away from your talk that isn’t found on the program description.

Wendy: I hope that attendees take away the notion that there is a lot of narrative significance in the things we misremember. The neuroscience of memory is fascinating! A little understanding of why we remember and how we remember can provide a lot of freedom for getting our prose down on paper.

Tell us who would benefit most from your session and why.  

When I first started writing memoir, I was upset by how much I couldn’t remember, partly because of traumatic experience. The person who would benefit most from my session is someone who is writing about a significant event but struggling with details that are murky due to trauma, illness, blocking and other so-called fallacies of memory.

What is your best advice for attending a writing conference, whether it’s for newbies or veterans?

I’ve been going to writing conferences since the fourth grade, but this is my first time as a featured speaker. The best times I’ve had were the ones where I decided to take fewer notes and meet more people. So I’m looking forward to meeting lots of writers and hearing about their work.

Aside from speaking, what you are most looking forward to about being part of the inaugural HippoCamp?

I’m looking forward to meeting other writers, meeting agents who might be interested in my work, sharing my research on memory and memoir, and, frankly, because I’m the mother of a very chatty eight-year-old, I’m looking forward to flying in a plane alone.

What’s on your personal conference agenda? Perhaps share with us a session/event you don’t want to miss.

I’m looking forward to Lying to the Tell the Truth, Releasing Fears that Block the Best Work of Your Life, and of course, Lee Gutkind’s keynote address.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Lancaster? (And if you’re from the central PA region, what are you most excited to share with attendees and other speakers?)

I’m coming all the way from southern California and I’ve never been to Lancaster, so I’m looking forward to exploring for coffee shops, yoga studios and independent bookstores in what I am told is a small, charming city.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wendy! You gave some great conference advice. We can’t wait to welcome you to Lancaster.