Hilary Hauck is a graduate of RULE, Penn State Extension’s leadership program, and current president of Pennwriters. Her leadership journey, fluency in Italian, and time spent in different countries inspire her fiction and poetry, where she explores the cultural and sensorial lenses through which people experience the world. She will lead two sessions at Pennwriters 2018: Who Are You and Why Your Readers Care, a 2-part workshop on identifying your brand and using your brand to build a platform, and Real-Life Perspective for Memorable Character.
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Hilary: I write poetry, non-fiction, and historical fiction. Each of these has a special magic for me. I love how poetry, in so few words, conveys anything from a fleeting moment to a world changing concept, and everything in between. I also find it the most challenging, it’s the genre I feel I understand the least.
In non-fiction I love to write about fascinating and worthy people. If I set out to write a story a day, I don’t think I’d ever stop finding stories about people who inspire me, and who help me experience the world in a new light.
Historical fiction reminds us that life hasn’t always been this way. It’s too easy to get caught up in the mundane, in what we perceive to be overwhelming difficulties. We lose sight of how tenuous life is, and how lucky many of us are to be alive in a developed country in modern day. And, even when a story is set in the past, we can still explore how others have overcome challenges similar to the ones we face today.
PW: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? Did you ever encounter a serious roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Hilary: I stumbled against my biggest roadblock with my first novel. I hear many writers end up discarding their first novel, treating it as an exercise in learning how to write, but I couldn’t let this story go. It needed to be told. Alas, after many writes and rewrites, all I had created was a patchwork of moments and intentions. At the same time, I’d been working on it so long I felt there had to be more on the page than what there actually was. It was a hard lesson to internalize. I’m too stubborn to give up, so instead I hired an editor, our very own Kathryn Craft. It wasn’t easy, we won’t mention whether tears were involved, but in short, Kathryn challenged me to step away from my patchwork, and rewrite the entire storyline, scene by scene. I ended up writing a 47-page synopsis, and just as importantly, a one-page synopsis. It took months, but in the end, I was able to connect with the story I knew, deep down, I needed to write. The rewrite was harsh, but it’s been so very worth it. I am eternally grateful.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?
Hilary: I like to keep gifts from other writers and mementoes from events on or around my desk. They remind me of my writing families, Pennwriters, Mindful Writers, The Inkwell, and that I’m surrounded by the kind of support that only comes from other writers. These include a string of stars from my predecessor at Pennwriters, Carol Silvis, an angel from the happiest guy I know, Larry “Rock’n’Roll” Schardt, a happiness jar from this year’s keynote, Wende Dikec, two little birds from Area 4 Rep, Denise Weaver, and a bottle of wine called Writer’s Block from writer and leadership mentor, JD Dunbar. I told JD I’d open the wine when I ran out of things to write. I expect it to be an excellent vintage by the time (if ever) it gets uncorked.
PW: What has been the most satisfying or significant project of your literary career?
Hilary: I think it has to be a feature article I wrote on gratitude for State College Magazine. I interviewed four community leaders who actively use gratitude in their daily lives. All four inspired me enormously, and from the hundreds of times the story got shared on social media by complete strangers, I can only presume it touched many others, too. I even got a phone call from a minister from New England who was quoting the article in his sermons!
PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?
Hilary: Learn. It sounds basic, it sounds like a given, but there is so very much to learn. Incorporate learning into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule. Never stop. Read, attend conferences and events where writers gather, connect online, and never forget that you don’t know what you don’t know, so keep eyes, ears and mind constantly open.
PW: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Hilary: A really fat notebook and pen to keep writing (I’m cheating and counting that as 1 item), my camera, which magically never loses its charge and that has a limitless memory card, and a phone, so when I’m over the adventure of being the only one of the island, I can call for help.
PW: If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?
Hilary: I’d go back to London in the Sixties where my next book starts, only instead of being with my fictional characters, I’d be with my Nan. She ignited my love of language, discovery and travel when I was very young.. She taught me to cook and use a computer (circa 1980!), talked to me in French, and read me poetry. She traveled extensively, and lived intensely, even though she lived through many challenges—she was the only survivor when a bomb hit her family’s home in World War Two, losing a leg and the use of one arm, and later found herself alone to bring up her three sons. She died when I was just thirteen, there’s so much I would love to ask her. Maybe we could take a trip together to 1964 Italy, and explore the town where the story continues.
To register for The Pennwriters Conference, visit:
Online registration ends May 15th, 2018 at midnight. Onsite registrations taken after that date.
All meal options end May 9th, 2018 at midnight.