For readers who haven’t heard of it, the ASJA is the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
I don’t belong to a lot of professional organizations but I belong to this one. You have to apply to get in to ASJA, to show that you are a serious and published writer. The application process is not meant to discourage new writers, but only to insure that there is a high caliber of members.
The conference, though, is open to the public and my impression is that the majority of conference goers aren’t ASJA members.
ASJA hosts an amazing annual writing conference
It’s an amazing conference. Though it’s expensive to get there from the West Coast, where I live, I always make back the money I spend on the conference tenfold, not necessarily in hard cold cash but in experience, connections, friendships, and insight into the writing life.
A lot of what I’ve brought away hasn’t been from the conference itself, but from time spent meeting friends and editors in New York City while attending ASJA.
Last year I met with an editor from family.com. We walked the streets of New York gabbing and gabbing and then had delicious Vietnamese food at a little dive in Union Square.
Not only did we become fast friends over Singha beer and Mi Quang noodles, but we swapped stories about the company we were both working for. I found out she was a freelancer too (like me), and we talked about our kids. Even if ASJA had been a bust (which it wasn’t, except for the Sunday “workshop” I attended, which was poorly run and a total waste of money and not at all a workshop), that dinner with Stephanie was worth the price of a plane ticket to NYC.
During the personal pitch sessions on Friday you meet for 10 minutes one-on-one with an editor. These sessions are only open to members. While doing speed pitching I made a connection with an editor that ended up netting me three assignments and more than $3,000.00.
This year money is particularly tight and I was wondering if I should go to ASJA.
“Of course you should,” my husband said.
But some of my friends who went last year told me over email that they weren’t going, that they hadn’t gotten enough out of it to make it worthwhile.
“What does that have to do with you?” James asked.
It’s good to be married to someone so logical. I’ve decided to go. Only, instead of staying in the conference hotel (I shared a room with two friends last year and a BED with one of them, which was riotous, especially when she showed us pictures of the sweaty porn star she and her husband like to watch and turned us on to the hilarious and educational Midwest Teen Sex Show, but it also cost me more than $100/night), this year I’ve reserved a dorm style bunk bed at my favorite hostel in New York, The Big Apple Hostel, for $43/night. It’s a five minute walk from the hotel venue.
I also used frequent flyer miles to buy my ticket. Total cost: $10.00.
I’m doing something else differently this year. I’m arriving on Wednesday night in order to have Thursday before the conference to get used to East Coast time and meet with editors in Manhattan and friends I haven’t seen in years.
I’m also staying an extra week day, Monday, for the same reason. Even if I don’t set up back-to-back appointments, I figure the extra time processing the conference, sending out follow-up emails, and organizing my notes will be well spent.
And Vietnamese food is definitely on the agenda.
ASJA conference details: The Writer’s GPS: On Track for Success!
Public dates: April 25 – April 26, 2009
Member dates: April 24 – April 26, 2009
Location: Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street @ Corner of Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
By the way, if you’re not an ASJA member, consider joining.
Non-members also have access to some of the panel sessions here.