Media Advisory: Mentors at ASJA Conference

Reasons Not to Miss This Year’s American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference

An exclusive mentoring program, awards banquet emceed by USA TODAY’s editor in chief, and outstanding speakers top the list of highlights

New York—On the fence about attending the 46th Annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) Conference, Pivot. Publish. Prosper., on May 5 and 6 in New York City? There are more reasons than ever to sign up. ASJA is excited to share the names of the 11 acclaimed mentors who will work with authors and freelance journalists at this year’s event. We’re also thrilled to announce a new event host and glamourous industry reception—plus more of the same quality programming professionals have come to expect from this annual gathering.

Journalists interested in covering this year’s conference for a print or online publication can apply for a media pass by emailing Sophia Bennett at

USA TODAY EIC to Lead ASJA Outstanding Writing Awards Ceremony

Joanne Lipman, the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY, will emcee the ASJA Outstanding Writing Awards gala on Friday, May 5 at 5:30 p.m. In addition to her duties as editor in chief for the daily paper, Ms. Lipman serves as senior vice president and chief content officer of the USA TODAY Network. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal and was the first woman to serve as the publication’s managing editor. In that role, she oversaw three stories that won Pulitzer prizes. She went on to found Conde Nast Portfolio magazine and She is the co-author of the acclaimed music memoir Strings Attached.

ASJA’s Outstanding Writing Awards are presented annually in categories such as investigative reporting, business/technology/science writing, first person experience/essay, lifestyle, opinion/op-ed, nonfiction book and memoir/autobiography. A full list of this year’s winners is available here.

Mentoring program

Writers trying to navigate the tricky waters of freelance success can connect with people who have already found safe harbors through the Lynne S. Dumas Personal Mentoring Program. The program matches volunteer mentors with people looking for advice and connections.

“These are pros who have forged successful careers,” said volunteer program coordinator Greg Breining. “They have written for publications and clients you know and admire. Most are authors. Many are coaches, professors and teachers. A couple have won Pulitzer prizes.”

"We envision the ASJA Experts Team, helmed by Greg Breining, to be a marquee way of showing the star power inherent in the organization,” said conference chair Estelle Erasmus.

“One of the biggest benefits to being an ASJA member is the resources and expertise of fellow members. The wide variety of talent and knowledge in the ASJA Experts Team showcases the resources available to ASJA members through networking and member programs,” said Jennifer Goforth Gregory, member growth chair and ASJA board member. 

Mentors include:

Debbie Abrams Kaplan, who specializes in medical/health and financial/business writing for consumers, trade magazines and brands. Her content marketing clients include the David Geffen School of Medicine, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nationwide, Dun & Bradstreet and MasterCard

Patchen Barss, an award-winning journalist, author and communications consultant. He specializes in telling memorable stories about complex ideas. He also runs workshops for researchers and research journalists focused on communicating with specific audiences.

Greg Breining, who writes about travel, science and nature for the New York Times, Audubon, Discover, and clients such as the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota. His books include Super Volcano: The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park.

Damon Brown is an entrepreneur and technology-focused journalist. Damon co-founded the popular platonic connection app Cuddlr and led it to acquisition within a year. The experience inspired his best-selling book, The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur: 21 Ways to Ignite Your Passion and Pursue Your Side Hustle and the follow up, The Productive Bite-Sized Entrepreneur.

Mei Fong, a Pulitzer-prize winning former Wall Street Journal reporter whose first book, the critically acclaimed One Child: Story of China's Most Radical Experiment, was published last year. She was also on the faculty at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School.

Jodi Helmer, who writes on topics ranging from farming and travel to health and business. In addition to writing for National Geographic Traveler, Modern Farmer, Energy Times, Womans Day and others, Helmer teaches classes like 5 Days to $100k and Query Boot Camp.

James McCommons is a veteran journalist who specializing in ecology, environmental and travel topics. He has written hundreds of general interest magazine articles and two narrative non-fiction books. He teaches journalism and nature writing at Northern Michigan University.

Rochelle Sharpe, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and USA TODAY. More recently she’s freelanced for The New York Times and worked as a writing coach.

Theresa Sullivan Barger, who specializes in writing about heath, business and sustainability. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, Yankee Magazine, AARP Bulletin, The Huffington Post and The Saturday Evening Post.

Steve Tally, the author of two books on American history and, most recently, the editor of a collection of essays on the role of technology in society, Dawn or Doom: The Risks and Rewards of Emerging Technologies. He has taught science and feature writing at Purdue University.

Minda Zetlin, a business and technology writer. Her most recent book is The Geek Gap, co-authored with husband Bill Pfleging. She has written for a range of publications including Inc., Cosmopolitan and New York Magazine.

Speakers, Editors, Agents and More

As always, the ASJA conference will give professional journalists access to a wide variety of programming designed to help them expand and improve their careers. These include:

**Over 40 workshops by successful writers, bloggers, writing coaches, consultants and other professionals (see a complete list here)

**Four presentations from acclaimed keynote speakers

**Client Connections, which allows writers to pitch ideas to magazines, newspapers and book agent panels

**Roundtable lunches where writers can connect with fellow subject area experts

Industry-Wide Event at the New York Times Hotel

The ASJA Conference will wrap up with a reception in the LeGrande Lounge at the Time New York Hotel. This event is open to conference attendees, ASJA members not registered for the conference, and industry professionals. The event will be a fun, causal way to finish the conference and an opportunity to meet even more people.

About the Event

ASJA’s 46th Annual Conference, Pivot. Publish. Prosper., will help professional freelance journalists and authors grow their careers, writing and pitching skills, and professional networks. The event is open to members only on Friday, May 5 and the general public on Saturday, May 6. All activities will take place at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. The conference fee is $299 per day or $549 for both days for members; $399 for non-members; and $125 for students. Register and get more information about ASJA (including details about becoming a member) at


  • A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
    – Sidney Sheldon
  • A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
    – Kenneth Tynan
  • A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self–addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
    – Ring Lardner
  • A young musician plays scales in his room and only bores his family. A beginning writer, on the other hand, sometimes has the misfortune of getting into print.
    – Marguerite Yourcenar
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  • Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
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  • Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.
    – Lawrence Kasdan
  • Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research.
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  • Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.
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  • Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.
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  • Writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It's a wonder that most of them don't.
    – Stephen King
  • Writing a novel is like spelunking. You kind of create the right path for yourself. But, boy, are there so many points at which you think, absolutely, I'm going down the wrong hole here.
    – Chang–rae Lee
  • Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
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