2002-04-11: Despite Slashed Publishing Budgets and Plummeting Ad Pages, Writers Conference is Drawing Record Crowds

April 11, 2002

It’s been a bad year for publishing: ad pages are down sharply, book sales have slowed.

That means it’s also been a rotten year for freelance nonfiction writers-the folks whose ideas, reporting and writing skills annually produce countless articles for magazines, newspapers and Web publications, and thousands of books in every subject category.

What’s more, staff cuts and closings have boosted the freelance ranks with many formerly employed writers and editors.

Those factors and others have registrations booming for the 2002 ASJA Annual Writers Conference, to be held April 13 and 14, 2002, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

For 31 years, the ASJA conference has been the premier career-improving event for nonfiction writers, from longtime professionals to newly minted freelancers. They come seeking insider details from leading editors about who’s buying what, which specialties are in demand and how to branch out into a new writing area.

Editors participating on the 25 panels and workshops at this year’s event come from major magazine and book publishers, including: The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Men’s Journal, Fitness, Self, Food & Wine, Parents, New Age Journal, Modern Maturity, National Geographic Adventure, Saveur, Rolling Stone, W.W. Norton, Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s Press, Bantam/Spectra, Ballantine, Crown, Henry Holt, Time Warner, John Wiley, Broadway, iUniverse.com and many more. Other publishing experts-agents, publicists, technology specialists, authors, marketers, syndicators, producers and even a worklife psychiatrist-will also participate.

Panels cover a wide range of professional interests, such as "Switching From Staff to Freelance," "Telling and Selling the Narrative Nonfiction Story," "Getting the Skinny on Health, Fitness and Medical Writing," and "More Money, Less Work: Making the Most of Reprint and Spin-Off Sales."

At the opening session, keynote speaker Laurie Beth Jones, a bestselling author, will address how to "Become the Professional Writer You Were Born to Be."

The luncheon keynote speaker, Nina Bernstein, is a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle award, for The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care. Reviews call Bernstein’s book "insightful and riveting" as well as "compelling and essential reading." She reports on poverty and child welfare for The New York Times.

The conference stresses the importance of writers sharing information and is open to all, whether members of ASJA or not. Free contracts counseling, offered on Saturday, helps attendees understand the legalese of their written periodical agreements. There’s also a mentoring program, available for an additional fee, that teams those in need of career advice with ASJA members experienced in their field for 30 minutes of face-to-face guidance.

ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) is the national organization of independent nonfiction writers. Founded in 1948, the Society currently includes more than 1,000 freelance writers of magazine articles, books and other forms of nonfiction writing who have met the ASJA’s exacting standards of professional achievement.


ASJA Executive Director Brett Harvey is available at the organization’s offices at (212) 997-0947 or by email at execdir@asja.org.

  • 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
  • All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary – it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
    – Somerset Maugham
  • Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
    – Christopher Hampton
  • 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.
    –Wilson Mizner
  • Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.
    – Flannery O'Connor
  • I just wrote a book, but don't go out and buy it yet, because I don't think it's finished yet.
    – Lawrence Welk
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
    – Douglas Adams
  • I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.
    – Stephen Wright
  • It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
    – Robert Benchley
  • It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.
    – Andrew Jackson
  • Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.
    – Richard Curtis
  • No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self–deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.
    – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
    –Somerset Maugham
  • 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.
    –Samuel Johnson