Why Writers Should Go to the ASJA Conference

58251_7227I spent today at the first day of the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference, the second year in a row that I’ve attended. I never thought I’d go to a writing conference again, but a friend dragged me last year. I’d also just joined ASJA last year, so it seemed like the right time. I loved it so much, obviously, that I signed up again.

Any freelance writer will understand the gravity of me putting it this way: I voluntarily spent several hundred dollars and many hours to go to this thing. Money and time, people.

Last year, I walked away with loads of tips on pitching and social media, lots of inspiration to really “work” on my career instead of simply letting it idle where it was, and, most significantly, a major job — advising masters’ in journalism students at Columbia University. This is a serious resume-booster, an actual money-maker, and a lot of fun. I got it after attending a session last year about working in academia, where the woman who hires Columbia profs spoke on a panel. She mentioned that she values experience over advanced degrees when hiring, which was a huge revelation for me — I’ve always wanted to teach at the college level, but chose work experience in my 20s over getting a masters’. I promise you that working at a local newspaper for five years was at least the equivalent of a masters’ in journalism, and she got that. I emailed her afterwards, went in for an interview, and landed a gig.

This year, I don’t see any signs that I’m going to get something quite that concrete out of the sessions I attended today. But I came away with at least the following: a possible new structure for the book I’m writing, an exercise to use in my Gotham classes, and gobs of new stuff to try on social media. That’s worth getting out of my pajamas for.

And FYI, though ASJA has publication requirements to join the organization (which I do think is worth it if you’ve got them), and today’s sessions were for members only, the remaining two days are open to the general public. I’m not sure if you can still register, but if not, it’s worth checking out next year.

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