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american society of journalists and authors

2014 American Society of Journalists & Authors Conference

After a long weekend in New York to attend the 2014 American Society of Journalists & Authors Conference, I am back home at my desk where a black and red hummingbird just hovered outside my window. Funny enough, the ASJA conference colors are black and red!asja conference

This was my second time attending the ASJA conference. (Check out my ASJA writer conference 2013 post.) Already I can’t wait until next year’s! They organize a full schedule of insightful panels and everyone attending is a pleasure to mingle with. Each panel is a new shiny thing and sometimes I am split between two sessions that I don’t want to miss and run back and forth.

The conference is held at The Roosevelt Hotel. (I stayed here this year, which is a super-convenient location. However, I’ve been treated with more courtesy at 2-star hotels. I arrived 1 hour before check-in and wanted to work in the lobby until the room was ready, but hotel staff told me that I was not yet a guest of the hotel so I was not permitted use of their Wi-Fi. Not the nicest welcome in this era at a landmark hotel. So I walked one flight of stairs up to the ASJA conference and got a flyer with the free Wi-Fi code for members. Note: Hotel guests pay daily for Wi-Fi PER DEVICE!)

Here are three important things about writing that I did not know before attending the conference:

  1. Don’t accept POP. Payable on publication is pretty standard when it comes to magazine writing and most writers (including myself) never question it. Turns out, Kim Kavin’s super-informative panel on contracts made it clear that editors don’t really know much about contracts and are simply a middleman (or woman) forwarding along documents superiors instruct them to send. Kim encouraged everyone to always negotiate on every assignment. Request payable on acceptance instead. This means once revisions are done, your check should be on its way (within the time noted in your contract) instead of waiting months and months for it to hit the market and then receive your check. Most writers would think to negotiate rate, but there are other details. I plan on doing a full post just on what I learned in this session.
  2. No need for expertise. A panel on book marketing made it clear that authors don’t really need to know what they’re doing to sell well. One agent spoke about an author who wrote a book about dating and finding the right partner…the book has sold 90,000 copies and the author is perpetually single.
  3. Not all writers are writers. On the short fiction panel, Epiphany editor-in-chief Willard Cook revealed he has not written in 10 years. (Inside scoop on Epiphany according to Cook – they have a shortage of “good non-fiction” – so polish your work and send in!) I was also surprised that when someone in the audience asked how the panelists made enough time to make their careers exclusively in the writing industry…three out of the four panelists admitted they have day jobs: Teacher, bartender, trader. (The fourth may have very well had a day job as well, but I don’t recall her responding and have nothing in my notes.) I know many writers lead double-lives just as I used to—and as poet Pamela Taylor documents on her Poet’s Double Life blog—but it seems myself along with other conference attendances simply assume panelists work every day only in the area at which they are discussing on the panel.


short fiction

One of the panels focused on short fiction, and featured Melissa Bank (I was in her 11-day workshop at the Southampton Writers Conference in 2009), Todd Robinson (creator of Thuglit), Willard Cook (editor-in-chief of Epiphany), and Joan Silber.

Saturday morning, before the conference started up, I read in Hope Clark’s newsletter for writers that she just got back from a writers conference in South Carolina and mentioned a company called Pubslush. (Crowdfunding for writers.) I noticed Pubslush had a booth at ASJA so before heading to the next session I stopped to chat. Turns out the person I spoke with, Amanda, was on the same panel with Hope!

That day I had a complimentary consultation with Smith Publicity regarding marketing of my current and future books, but I did not learn anything I did not already know.

bryant park reading room

Al fresco free ‘reading room’ in Bryant Park.

I also met up with the founder of Inked Voices and we had a beautiful stroll through Bryant Park. Check out the site to beta test virtual critique groups.

Of course, as with any writers conference, there is a brewing pot of conflicting information about platform, process, traditional and self-publishing. Overall, just write!

Outside of the conference….

Virgin visits, tastes, and fun:

Even though I grew up on Long Island, I realized I had never been to Grand Central, The Strand (famous for 18 miles of books), and New York Public Library. So I went! My sister and I had dinner at Otto (Mario Battali’s restaurant) and ordered their olive oil ice cream for dessert. Yuck. The salty peanut was much better! I also used Uber for the first time, which was simple and fast. Sadly, I did not make it to the Bowery Poetry Club nor the Poets House as planned, although I do have a membership.

central park

Sat under a tree in Central Park.

I also got to meet up with friends for a jazz brunch in the Village, family, and my boyfriend made it out for the last night to check out the New York Auto Show. Lots of shiny things.