Even Non-Membership Has Its Privileges: Writers Emergency Assistance Fund (WEAF)

When I first joined ASJA in the 1990s, I remember hearing about the Llewellyn Miller Fund, which later became the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund (WEAF), now administered by the ASJA Charitable Trust. I figured Llewellyn Miller was some rich old white guy who made a bunch of money from his writing and donated it to ASJA after he passed on.

I was wrong, at least about the guy part. Like me, Llewellyn Miller was a woman, a self-employed freelance writer and the editor for a much earlier iteration of ASJA Confidential. Born in 1899, she was possibly the only woman ever named Llewellyn (roughly translated from the Welsh it means “lion,”), at least according to baby naming sites. (BabysNameHub, which tracks the popularity, history and trends of such things, asserts that since 1880, “a total of 1,517 boys have been given the name Llewellyn while we have no record of any girls being named Llewellyn.” As we all know, if it’s on the internet it has to be true.)

Regardless, this Llewellyn-ess had quite the distinguished career. She started out as a newspaper caricaturist in Los Angeles, then was later a drama and film editor for the Los Angeles Record, working as a drama critic and book reviewer for several other LA newspapers. In the 1930s, she did the flyover to the Big Apple and edited and wrote for fan magazines and others. She also authored books geared to the stereotypical 1950s housewife: The Reducing Cookbook and Diet Guide (Crowell, 1952), The Encyclopedia of Etiquette (Crown, 1957), and The Joy of Christmas (Bobbs-Merrill, 1960).  A founding member and a vice-president of the then-Society of Magazine Writers, she held leadership positions in what later became ASJA. Along with the namesake ASJA fund started after her 1971 death from cancer at age 72, a collection of her caricatures of 1920s and 30s film stars lives on in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

What does this have to do with today’s WEAF? Actually, a lot. An active participant in ASJA, Miller undoubtedly gave others a leg up when they needed it and may have accepted the same in return. And with WEAF, “our goal is to serve as a small safety net under our fellow writers who have an emergency need,” observes ASJA’s new vice-president Janine Latus, who also is WEAF’s new committee chair. “We can’t solve chronic problems, whether of health or career, but we can help each other out in a pinch.” Grants are available to both ASJA members and non-members, although non-members must have publishing credentials sufficient to qualify for any level of ASJA membership.

Donating, which is open to non-ASJA members as well, is always deeply appreciated. Latus recommends a “sustainer model” of say, a not-too-hard on the pocketbook $10 or so a month. She also is looking for three member volunteers for the WEAF committee. “It’s part of ASJA’s tradition to help all writers and not just its members,” she notes. The committee evaluates applications and is quite active; of the 24 made in FY 2017-18, 15 were approved, with a total of $32,445 provided.

Without going into specifics to protect confidentiality, “recent grants include emergency funds for individuals displaced by the hurricane in Texas and for a writer whose ability to work (and to live; she was in danger of being evicted) was compromised by an automobile accident,” states new ASJA president Milt Toby, outgoing chair of the WEAF committee.

Committee members may be facing some tough calls. “Some of the decisions for the WEAF committee are straightforward, but many others are not,” continues Toby. “Balancing need with limited resources is never easy, but Janine will be excellent at leading the committee moving forward.”

Since 1982, more than 160 grants totaling approximately $400,000 have been awarded to writers in financial need. WEAF is a 501(c)(3) public charity, which means that all donations are tax deductible!  Click here for more information and details.

Latus expresses gratitude for those who remembered “that the checks received from the class-action suit last month were a result in part of ASJA’s hard work, and made donations to WEAF.” Whether you received settlement money or even if you have a little extra on hand, by donating, “you will be paying it forward.” And although hopefully you’ll never need short-term help, if Llewellyn were here today she might tell that you like the internet, life isn’t always dependable.

We hope you will choose to donate to ASJA’s Writers Assistance Fund. Please click here for details!