2015-05-05: ASJA 2015 Conference Speaker Recording

Transgender Author Earns Standing Ovation at Writers Conference

Boylan Inspires with Speech on Power of Storytelling


May 5, 2015, New York, NY -- Just days after Bruce Jenner's landmark TV interview, best-selling transgender memoirist Jennifer Finney Boylan earned a standing ovation after urging hundreds of independent writers to remember that their work matters and makes a difference.

"What we do as tellers of stories can change the world and change lives," declared Boylan, the keynote speaker at the 44th annual national writers conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. "It may not seem that way when you're coming up with a listicle for BuzzFeed... Sometimes when you're in the weeds of this profession, we can lose track of that... But when people see or read a story, it becomes real."

Boylan is the author of the 2003 memoir "She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders," the first best-selling work by a transgender American, along with two other memoirs and 10 works of fiction. She is also a New York Times contributing opinion writer.

"Jenny's message is crucial for independent writers," said freelance journalist Randy Dotinga, president of ASJA. "As freelancers and authors, we often get distracted by the day-to-day grind and forget we hold tremendous power as storytellers. Our work can transform the world for the better."

Boylan's keynote speech featured readings from her work, a solo performance of lyrics from the Gordon Lightfoot song "Early Morning Rain" and a description of the moment in Nova Scotia where she nearly ended her life. She wants to tell her younger self: "It will get better. It will not always hurt the way it does that it hurts now. The thing you feel is your greatest curse will some day, against all odds, turn out to be your great gift... Instead of walking off that cliff, I began the long journey toward home."

Boylan's May 1 speech inspired Dotinga, the first openly gay president of ASJA in its 67-year history, to talk about his own coming-out experience at a newspaper newsroom two decades ago. The ASJA has welcomed him to its ranks, he said: "For anyone who doesn't fit in, I hope you fit in here."

The ASJA is making the recording of the keynote speech available to the public for free to to inspire writers. The recording is available here. Select Keynote Presentation from the 44th Annual ASJA Writers Conference.

Recordings of dozens of other sessions from the 2015 writers conference will soon be available for purchase for just $15 each here. Among the many highlights in the recordings: a remarkable roundtable discussion about the rewards and challenges of deeply personal memoirs featuring keynote speaker Boylan and fellow award-winning memoirists Darin Strauss ("Half a Life: A Memoir") and Lizzie Stark ("Pandora's DNA: Tracing the Breast Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree").

More than 500 independent writers, editors, agents and publishers attended last weekend's ASJA writers conference. The ASJA is the voice of 1,200 professional freelance writers and non-fiction book authors. For more about the ASJA, visit www.asja.org.

The audio recording of Boylan's speech includes opening comments by Conference Co-Chair Jodi Helmer and closing comments by ASJA President Randy Dotinga.

Right click here to Download the MP3 Audio File About 39megs; 43 minutes

To Listen by Phone: Dial 641 715 3800, enter 36233#, enter 20150501

  • 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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    – Somerset Maugham
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    – 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
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    – Flannery O'Connor
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    – 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
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    –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