ASJA Announces 2021 Exceptional Service Award Honorees

From time to time, ASJA members go above and beyond to serve members and other professional freelance writers. Since 2019, seven ASJA members have worked tirelessly in their opposition of several anti-freelance bills and laws sweeping the country. In honor of their tremendous work, ASJA is recognizing Randy Dotinga, Debbie Abrams Kaplan, Kim Kavin, JoBeth McDaniel, Jen Singer, Milt Toby, and Karon Warren with 2021 Exceptional Service Awards. This special honor is given out only periodically, when members have demonstrated sustained efforts that go beyond the ordinary.

It is because of these members that ASJA has been on the forefront of the fight against legislation that threatens the freelance business model. In California, Randy Dotinga and JoBeth McDaniel were among the first to recognize the dangers of California’s AB5 in 2019. They alerted the ASJA board and then went to work lobbying legislators in the state. After the bill passed, Randy and JoBeth doubled down, successfully convincing lawmakers to carve out exemptions for freelance print and online journalists.

As president of ASJA, Milt Toby, guided the organization through the process of joining a First Amendment lawsuit against California. American Society of Journalists and Authors v. Bonta was filed in December 2019, after AB5 was passed but before it went into effect. Led by pro bono attorneys at Pacific Legal Foundation, ASJA joined the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) to fight the state on the grounds that AB5 limits a free press. (The name of the case was changed from American Society of Journalists and Authors v. Becerra after a new states attorney was elected.) As an attorney, Milt was particularly well suited for leading this effort. Sharing his professional expertise, he helped the board and members understand the importance of such a step and our chances of winning. Regardless of the outcome of this case, ASJA has been able to take a stand against AB5 in the courts, in no small part thanks to the hard work of Milt Toby.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the state legislature introduced its own version of AB5. AJSA members Debbie Abrams Kaplan, Kim Kavin, and Jen Singer swung into action and stopped the New Jersey bill from advancing through a combination of grassroots organizing, lobbying and a media campaign. They branded Fight for Freelancers New Jersey and encouraged freelancers in other states to fight measures there, too, creating Fight for Freelancers groups in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere. When pressure emerged at the federal level to advance the PRO Act, with anti-freelancer language similar to the state bills, they created Fight for Freelancers USA. Karon Warren then stepped up and became an invaluable partner in helping to lead the federal effort from Georgia.

Everyone honored with this award did all of this while managing their own careers, families, and the effects of a worldwide pandemic.

Our case against California’s AB5 is still working its way through the courts, and AB5 is still causing problems for professional freelance writers in California. The New Jersey bill has been reintroduced, but so far lawmakers have not attempted to advance it again. Massachusetts and New York lawmakers are now discussing compromise legislation of various kinds. The PRO Act is stalled in the U.S. Senate, unable to get a filibuster-proof vote. It has not passed because of the tremendous work that our members and others have done to educate Senators about the deleterious effects of the measure on professional freelance writers. Our members are aware of these dangers—and have acted—because Randy Dotinga, Debbie Abrams Kaplan, Kim Kavin, JoBeth McDaniel, Jen Singer, Milt Toby, and Karon Warren sounded the alarm and taught us what to do.

Together, these ASJA members have inspired and fueled efforts of writers and other freelancers from coast to coast who have created hundreds of resources, articles, op-eds, social media posts, and letters to legislators on this topic. While the fight is far from over, ASJA would like to stop and recognize these members for their leadership and heroic efforts on behalf of freelance writers.

Randy Dotinga, Debbie Abrams Kaplan, Kim Kavin, JoBeth McDaniel, Jen Singer, Milt Toby, and Karon Clark Warren, we cannot thank you enough.

ASJA Board of Directors

  • 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