ASJA's Annual Writing Awards

Annual Writing Awards

Each year ASJA recognizes distinguished achievements in articles and books with a series of awards, which are presented during the annual ASJA Writers Conference. With the exception of our extraordinary awards, which are explained at the end of this, members may nominate their own work, or a friend, editor or agent may do so.

A panel of at least three judges examines entries in each category. They declare the winner and sometimes (but not always) an "honorable mention." The more than 50 members who annually agree to serve as judges constitute ASJA's Awards Committee, which this year is chaired by Janine Latus and Salley Shannon. Many judges are past award-winners themselves, and the chairs always are.

Two awards are open to the public, The Arlene Awards: Books and Articles That Make a Difference, and the Donald Robinson Award for Investigative Reporting. All other awards are open only to ASJA members in good standing.

Information about each individual award follows.

2016 Annual Awards Submission Procedures »

Past Award Winners


The Arlenes: Books and Articles That Make a Difference

ASJA member Howard Eisenberg established the Arlene Eisenberg Memorial Fund to honor his late wife, the author of What to Expect When You're Expecting and other bestselling books that made a difference in the lives of mothers worldwide. Income generated by the fund allows ASJA to give monetary awards to winners of "Arlenes," which are given annually for articles and once every three years for books.

The winning book or freelance article must have "made a difference" by inspiring positive action within a locale or community, society, or the world. In the past, the award has been given for articles or books that inspired readers to do such things as lobby for legislation or to form an advocacy group. Past winners also have stirred officials to launch an investigation, correct an injustice, or remove a hazard.

The Arlene Article Award is presented annually for an article published within the prior two years. For 2016, eligible articles must have been published in 2014 or 2015.

The Arlene Book Award typically is awarded every three years. Assuming sufficient entries, it will be given in 2016, and not again until 2019. Books submitted for 2016 must have been published in 2013, 2014, or 2015.

To be considered for an Arlene, articles and books MUST be:

  • Published in the United States within the stated period

  • Freelance written

  • Accompanied by documentation supporting the positive impact of the book or article. This may include evidence of media coverage, testimonials, or other public recognition.

  • Submissions should be scanned and uploaded as a single PDF file (including supporting documentation). If necessary, supporting documentation may be emailed to or sent by postal mail to: ASJA Awards, 355 Lexington Ave., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10017.

The Donald Robinson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism

A bequest from Donald Robinson, the third president of ASJA, established the Donald Robinson Memorial Fund. Money it generates allows us to give an annual monetary award to a writer who has published a freelance article that represents exceptional skill in writing and most notably, in investigative reporting or expose.

The work of any writer may be nominated so long as it is freelance-written and published or released in the United States during the eligibility period. (Staff-written work does not qualify.)

If the work was supported by a grant or payment from a foundation or other organization, or the author was otherwise aided (such as in data collection or statistical analysis) we ask that this be noted at the time of submission, along with the time period for any such support. This is solely for the purpose of establishing that the work was freelance-written.


Outstanding Book Awards

These awards are conferred upon ASJA members whose nonfiction books are deemed significant, exceptionally well-researched and skillfully written.

All books must be full-length, and published in 2015. Entries may be written by an individual author or may be collaborative works. Self-published books, ebooks, and traditionally published books may be nominated.

The categories:

  • Children/Young Adult Nonfiction

  • General Nonfiction

  • Memoir/Autobiography

  • Self-Help (or "How to")

  • Biography/History (new this year)

Outstanding Article Awards

These awards honor ASJA members whose articles, produced on a freelance basis, have demonstrated excellence in writing, research and clarity of presentation. Categories:

  • Blog Post, Personal (New this year. Members may enter posts published on personal blogs. Articles appearing on third-party blogs should be entered in Opinion/OpEd.)

  • Business/Technology/Science (Any piece on a business, technology, or science topic is eligible.)

  • Excellence in Reporting (Formerly called "Reporting on a Significant Topic." Consideration will be given to the relevance and universality of the topic, as well as overall excellence.)

  • First-Person Experience/Essays (May include as-told-to pieces.)

  • Health and Fitness (New this year. Any piece on a health or fitness topic is eligible.)

  • How-To (Formerly "Service" articles. These may include advice, self-help, or how to do something.)

  • Lifestyle (Narrative nonfiction on a lifestyle-oriented subject such as travel, food & wine, culture, art, music, leisure pursuits.)

  • Opinion/Op-Ed (May include blog posts published by third parties. In addition to the writer’s opinion, entries must include reported evidence/research.)

  • Profiles (Personal profiles, no matter where published, are eligible.)

  • Trade (Pieces published in a specialized industry publication intended for an audience with a common trade or profession.)

June Roth Memorial Awards for Outstanding Medical Book and Article

The June Roth Memorial Fund was established by her late husband to honor our 31st president, a well-known medical writer. Income generated by the fund provides monetary awards to ASJA members whose articles or books represent exceptional achievement in health and medical writing.

The June Roth Article Award is offered every year. For 2016, eligible articles must have been published in 2015.

The June Roth Book Award typically is presented every three years. Assuming sufficient entries, it will be awarded in 2016 for a book published in 2013, 2014 or 2015.

2016 Annual Awards Submission Procedures »

Extraordinary Awards

ASJA members consider the following four awards to be very special indeed. None are necessarily given each year, although they may be. The Awards Committee chairs receive nominations for the first three awards listed. The First Amendment Committee, chaired by Sally Wendkos Olds, receives nominations for the Conscience in Media Award, and the committee may itself make nominations by majority vote. The final decision on all four awards is made by ASJA's Board of Directors.

Founders Award for Career Achievement

The Founders Award for Career Achievement may be presented to any ASJA member whose ability to tell a story and whose style, range and diversity of career achievements exemplifies the skills of an outstanding independent, nonfiction writer. Members may nominate a fellow member by writing an essay outlining the nominee's career. (No self-nominations.) The award comes with lifetime membership in ASJA.

ASJA Extraordinary Service Award

The Extraordinary Service Award may be presented to any ASJA member whose pattern of service to the Society has, for many years, personally exemplified ASJA's mission to be an outstanding, continual help to members. Members may nominate a fellow member by writing an essay explaining why the individual deserves the award. (No self-nominations.) The award comes with lifetime membership in ASJA.

Robert C. Anderson Memorial Award

This award, first presented in 1992, honors an individual magazine editor, book editor, other purchaser of writers' work, a teacher, or a mentor who shares the outstanding qualities of our late colleague. Bob Anderson was generous with his advice and his time. He went far beyond the norm to support and encourage writers, and to help them develop their skills. The individual nominated need not be a member of the Society, but only ASJA members may make nominations by telling us how the nominee qualifies. (No self-nominations.)

Conscience in Media Award

This award goes to individuals who exemplify and foster respect for the First Amendment to the Constitution by the testimony of their lives, their work, or both. Nominations should be made to the First Amendment Committee by email using, or by post. Recipients do not have to be members of the Society, but only members may nominate.

  • 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