Hippocampus Magazine’s debut print release: ‘Selected Memories’
As I thumb through Selected Memories, I remember why I read. I remember that stories make me feel more human, put my fingers on the pulse of another, make me forget myself and feel less alone. As collection editor, Donna Talarico compares this read to “a journey through the human condition,” and her arrangement of the selections guides us through gullies, sunny meadows, rocky fjords of emotional experience. Although the collection doesn’t have one unifying theme, it braids together diverse voices, styles, backgrounds in a resonating primal chant: We’re here. We need. We fear. We want.
The February 2017 publication of Selected Memories marks the historical first print release by Hippocampus Magazine and Books. The formation of this small, local press is the most recent milestone in the evolutionary arc of Hippocampus Magazine, which started in 2011 as an online creative nonfiction literary magazine and expanded in 2015 to host an annual creative nonfiction writing conference called HippoCamp.
During the August 2016 HippoCamp conference, Donna Talarico, founder of Hippocampus, announced the upcoming release of Selected Memories, a “Best Hits” collection of 33 essays or excerpts published in the online magazine. Talarico said of her vision for this first publication, “I wanted to mark our entry into the small press world a special way—I wanted this book to celebrate all we’ve done in our first five-plus years, and all of the talented writers we’ve published. But, also, I wanted it to be a symbol of where we’re going.” While the online magazine will remain the primary endeavor of Hippocampus, the conferences and print division only expands opportunities for Hippocampus to fulfill its mission “to entertain, educate, and engage readers and writers of creative nonfiction.” The press, and this collection specifically, makes space for voices that must be heard.
As represented in this collection, creative nonfiction is most effective when it traces the commonalities of the human experience, while retaining the shape and unique identity of the writer. The writer is indivisible from the reader in stories that address a fear of being alone, failure, disappointment, grief. The concept of legacy stood out to me as being a primary thrust of many stories: the good and the bad we inherit from our family, the responsibilities we assume when we reproduce, the existential quandary if we can’t. These shared experiences knit us, one to another, across continents and cultures, bridging socioeconomic class, religion, and politics.
At the same time, these 33 contributors sculpt the curvature of their unique experiences into these stories. Hailing from various corners of the US, from the Bronx to backwoods Arkansas, they do not hide behind their publication credits, academic degrees and other accomplishments. In these accounts, they’ve lost a child, battled infertility, suffered physical or sexual abuse. Addiction. Economic depression. Challenges unique to their racial identity or gender. These writers lower their guard and lend me a moment in their inner chamber. They pick at old scars, courageously, almost for spite, as if to say, “Look at what happened to me, and I’m still here.” These stories bear witness.
If you crave the companionship and vulnerability of well-crafted creative nonfiction, you will want to order your own copy of Selected Memories from the Hippocampus Books division of the Hippocampus website. You’ll also want to stay posted—Selected Memories is just the beginning for Hippocampus Books. In December 2017, we anticipate the release of the next anthology Air, a collection of radio-themed stories. Hippocampus Books also expects to release its first single-author title in spring 2018.
What can you expect next from Hippocampus? No one can envision a cap on the kind of energy Donna Talarico exudes. Unveiling the secret source of her creative accomplishments, Donna divulged to me what’s kept her going. As a freshman in high school, she latched onto a gold, wallet-sized card with a good word from Emerson: “Enthusiasm is the mother of all effort and, without it, nothing great was ever accomplished.” Given this encouragement and Donna’s dedication, I cannot doubt the future great ventures that this creative optimism will generate.