ASJA is…

If I can make it here...

The real reason I was in New York City this weekend was not to eat fantastic food or check out the Met—though the fact that I also got to do both was a bonus.  No, the real reason for my visit was the American Society of Journalists and Authors Annual Convention, which took place at the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As I am not a member, I was only able to attend the sessions on Saturday and Sunday; as I was a bit apprehensive about going as a non-member, I only signed up for the Saturday sessions.  I found the entire experience to be at once inspirational and discouraging, energizing and overwhelming, exciting and stressful.

ASJA is exciting yet stressful…

While I do love to do new things and am fairly outgoing (ok, very outgoing), walking into an entire conference full of people who know each other can be quite stressful.  However, I found almost everyone at ASJA to be extremely welcoming.  I’ve had some bad luck with conferences in the past (ok, with one particular conference) and this gathering could not have been more different.  It was wonderful to walk into each session not only knowing that I’d come away with lots of great tips and ideas, but I’d likely meet some great new people at the same time.

Were people snobby, rude, or short with me because of my newbie, non-member status?  Absolutely not.  If anything, the opposite was true; many people went out of their way to welcome me.  If you are one of those people I would like to sincerely thank you.  You truly made my day.

ASJA is energizing but overwhelming…

While I attended primarily to figure out how to best get my book published, I left wanting to do so much more with my writing.  If there’s one thing I came away with it is this:  there are so many more ways to turn writing into a profession than I’d ever considered.  I’ve been looking at My Book Idea as just that—something needing capital letters.  But it’s not.  It’s just one idea, one option for my life.  I know that I love to write, I think I’m pretty good at it, and I have 14 months to try to make a living at it.  There are so many things I can do, and thanks to ASJA I now understand how to go about getting started.  However, the sheer amount of information was dizzying—this can be both a blessing and a curse, as my head is still spinning three days later.

ASJA is inspirational and discouraging…

I met so many people working on so many different projects; many of them have had great success.  One specific highlight was the keynote speaker, Jen Singer of Mommasaid dot net.  She told a story that particularly resonated with me—that of feeling like an outsider during her first ASJA conference.  In fact, I had just been telling my table mate how I had started to feel discouraged; how the writing I do ‘doesn’t fit in’, and at that point in the speech she turned to me and mouthed ‘like you!’  I don’t know if I will end up as big of a success as Jen Singer, but man that talk was reassuring!

All in all I found ASJA to be more than worth the amount of time, money, and energy it took to attend.  I will be back next year, hopefully as a member.  In fact, I have to say that if you’ve found this post by googling ‘should I go to the ASJA annual conference’, the answer is yes, yes you should.

Up next–a ‘What I Learned at ASJA’ list.


8 responses to “ASJA is…

  1. This is super inspirational, Tracy. Every time we talk (or I read your blog), I feel more and more like we met at the perfect time!!

    I, too, love to write. I actually get paid to write–as an employee in the PR department of a liberal arts college. As you can imagine, the vast majority of my job is administrative and/or project management work. It is challenging and interesting but NOT what I really want to be doing.

    Writing and editing, when it is assigned to me and when I am able to focus on it over the myriad other tasks I am assigned, is what I most enjoy. And I have considered trying to find a job where that would be my primary focus, but like you, I am not sure HOW to turn that into something that pays the bills. (And because my husband is an under-employed teacher, whatever I do HAS to pay the bills.)

    Maybe next year, I’ll join you at the conference …

    • Meeting up with you there would be awesome! I just realized that my Paris plans for next year would overlap with ASJA–good thing I didn’t book the apartment yet!

      I also love to edit–strange, I know. Track changes is one of my favorite things. Yet another reason why we are destined to be friends.

      I think the answer to the ‘how’ is ‘time’. Lots and lots of time. The problem is, it is so overwhelming to try to do when you are also working full time (as I’m doing now) that few people are successful. There’s also a huge luck factor…and, of course, talent plays a big role!

      My plan is to work as hard as I can, at least I’ll be able to say that I tried–even if I am not successful. Though of course I’d rather be successful!

  2. Well Tracy, I came to the conference looking for you and I never did find you:( It was too hard trying to study everyone’s names with my eyesight going downhill, haha! But next year, since it will be our second times, we will make plans to meet at a particular vat of water and cups on a table (say the Sutton room….)! Look forward to talking to you online this year as well! It was a good conference!

    • The Sutton room sounds perfect! I was actually in there for two or three sessions. I realized that I have a stupid twitter photo, as you can’t really see what I look like (though I guess you know now, as my photo is all over this blog!) I’m glad you enjoyed the conference as well, and that you are planning on returning. I’m currently working on a ‘what I learned’ post, and I’m floored by how much I got out of each session. I filled half of my tablet…but for some reason didn’t break out the netbook I’d been carrying around all day. Duh…

  3. Would love to see you as a member next year too! There’s always over abundance at the conference, but you don’t have to wait till then, there are lots of less-overwhelming programs and resources you can use all year.

    I was daunted the first time I was surrounded by ASJA members too, not that they were unfriendly, just very accomplished. Being a member has been great for my outlook and my career–and now I’m the vice president. Introduse yourself to me next time around!


    Minda Zetlin

    • Less overwhelming programs and resources–that sounds great! I meant to find a number of people I met on twitter at the conference, but the was in information overload mode for most of the day! And yes, I think that’s how I felt–amazed at the accomplishment. Which, to be fair, is a pretty great thing to be amazed by.

  4. Isn’t the Rosevelt Hotel great….we stayed there for three nights a couple years ago and loved it!!

    • I actually sort of whispered ‘wow!’ as I walked in! It is exactly what a NYC hotel should look like. Unfortuantely we didn’t stay there–we stayed at Club Quarters a few blocks away (for much less money via priceline–$115/night!)

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