Getting Started as a Writer: writing about parenting and some thoughts about the ASJA Conference

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Apr 172019

Becoming a parent is one of life’s biggest transitions. That jolt into a whole new world often sparks or shifts a writing career. As parents, were all trying to figure out what in the world we’re doing; writing can be a great way to sort things through — and if you get paid for it, even better!

Photo by Nayanika Mukherjee on Unsplash

I’m excited to be headed to the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference next month, May 5-6 in New York City, where my friends Rudri Bhatt Patel, Julie Vick, Jenn Morson and I will present Growing a Freelance Career Along With Your Kids. We’ll share tips on juggling career and family, discuss how to find writing inspiration in the joys and challenges of parenting, and address issues of ethics and privacy, because protecting your kids always comes first!

Not sure if you’re ready for a professional conference? ASJA is a membership organization, but this year’s conference is open to non-members, and there are workshops to meet you wherever you are. Our session will be offered on Monday as a “lunch and learn,” and should be a good fit for beginning writers as well as those with some writing credits/experience.

A little history:

I attended the ASJA Conference for the first time about 20 years ago. I’ll be honest, I felt beyond intimidated back then! I only signed up because my boyfriend, who later became my husband, was living in Connecticut at the time, so we were spending lots of time in New York, and it seemed like a good opportunity. I was living in New Hampshire then, writing catalogs and press releases for the university and editing business books for a small publisher. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t feel like one.

Despite my nervousness, I learned a lot at that first conference. I never dreamed I’d ever land the bylines to qualify for membership in ASJA, let alone speak at the conference one day! If you’re considering attending a writer’s conference this year, check out the details on ASJA here to see if it’s a fit. Can’t make it? ASJA sells recordings of all sessions, which is a great way to access the conference info you most need from home.

Inspiration and Joy at the Vortext Writers’ Conference

 Memoir, Writing  Comments Off on Inspiration and Joy at the Vortext Writers’ Conference
Jun 242016

I love writers’ conferences. My grandmother bought me a ticket to my very first writer’s conference back when I was in my mid-twenties —  her way of both supporting my career aspirations and encouraging me to get out of my apartment and maybe find a husband! Grandmother had no idea that men tend to be scarce at these gatherings, but thanks to her, I did discover that hanging out with folks of any gender and orientation who are as passionate about writing as I am feels pretty great.

Last month I attended the VORTEXT conference on Whidbey Island for the second year in a row. Organized by the nice people at Hedgebrook, VORTEXT offered a superstar faculty line up including Dani Shapiro, Hannah Tinti, Ruth Ozeki, Natalie Baszile, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Laurie Frankel, and Kate Gray. Every single one of these ladies delivered an inspiring keynote address that both made me cry and made me want to write  and write and never quit.

VORTEXT is only for women writers, which may account for the extra caring, super supportive energy crackling in the air. I spent a lot of time with a couple of friends I made at the 2015 conference: Rebecca Wallwork, author of Hangin’ Tough, a fun book about The New Kids on the Block, and the very witty Kira Jane Buxton, whose McSweeney’s pieces probably landed in your Facebook feed if you have the right friends. Here we are:


In addition to the faculty keynotes, there were writing workshops, panel discussions, and an open mike for attendees. Rebecca, Kira, and I forced/encouraged each other to read. Unbeknownst to me, Kira taped my reading and sent the video over after the fact with a note to put it on my website, but so far I’m technically challenged. We’ll have to save that video for another post.

For now, here’s a little something I wrote during my workshop on “Mystery and Necessity” with Kate Gray. She gave us a prompt — “If I could tell you…” and the room filled with the sound of  ink scratching on paper.

If I could tell you that it would be all right, I would.

But I can’t.

There are no guarantees. But I can tell you this: your life will be beautiful. Beneath the pain, beneath the struggle, beneath the words, beauty lives.

You are here, which means you get the fleeting joy, the moment of understanding, the flash of love. You are here, and you get to have it all if you open your eyes — the pain, the struggle, and the love.

Whatever you have right now, wait. Something else will arrive soon, neither too early nor too late, but perfectly on time.

You are here with the trees and the rocks and the ocean and the wind. You are here with the birds and the squirrels and the snakes and the dogs.

You are here. The trick is believing that’s enough.