How an ASJA Award Can Boost Your Career

Fiona Young-Brown

Winning an award isn’t just an ego boost. It also can be a boost to your career as a freelance writer, as ASJA members who’ve won ASJA Awards for their writing can attest.

Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle won an ASJA Award in 2023 for outstanding trade publication article for a piece she wrote for Medscape, “Roe Reversal May Go Well Beyond Abortion.”

The rewards for winning have been both personal and professional, Haelle says. “I can feel confident knowing that at least my colleagues and editors know the quality work I did,” she says. “The award was an external validation that the work I do… is important. It’s confirmation that yes, the topic mattered.

“This is a HARD industry, professionally and personally, and the external recognition that my work matters goes a long way when I’m in the midst of a tough story where I feel like throwing in the towel.”

The deadline for submitting your best work for consideration in this year’s ASJA Awards has been extended to May 31. The annual awards showcase nonfiction writing of all types, including essays, books, and content marketing. Some categories are open to members only while others are open to members and non-members alike.

The Equivalent of Winning a SAG Award

Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski
Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski

Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski received the 2023 Arlene Article Award for her reported piece, “Physical Therapy for Native American Populations” in APTA Magazine. Wojciechowski decided to enter the article after learning that one of the physical therapists she interviewed used the article to successfully apply for a grant.

The ASJA Awards are the equivalent of winning a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award, Wojo says. They’re “especially important because you’re being judged by your peers. We know that regular readers enjoy our work, but when your fellow writers do–wow, it’s such a great feeling!” she says.

2023 isn’t the first time Wojo has picked up an Arlene Article Award. The first time was in 2006. “I won it the year after my Mom passed,” she says. “It was for my second piece in a national publication, the late, great Family Circle.”

Even though she had won before, Wojo was still a little unsure about submitting the piece that ultimately won in 2023. Ultimately, she did, saying that it was like entering the lottery, but with better odds of winning.

ASJA Awards Categories

Some of the categories for the 2024 ASJA Awards include:

  • The Arlene Article Award. Presented in memory of Arlene Eisenberg, the winning article must have “made a difference” by inspiring positive action within a locale or community, society, or the world.
  • The Donald Robinson Memorial Award for Investigative Journalism. Articles entered should demonstrate outstanding writing and organization, plus new or previously unrevealed research.
  • Outstanding Article Awards. These awards honor writers whose articles, produced on a freelance basis, have demonstrated excellence in writing, research, and clarity of presentation. Awards are given in a broad range of categories.
  • Outstanding Book Awards. These awards are for nonfiction books written by independent (not staff) writers that are deemed significant, exceptionally well-researched, and skillfully written. Categories include memoir, general nonfiction, history, service, and children’s nonfiction.
  • Outstanding Content Awards. These awards honor writers whose articles, produced on a freelance basis for an organization — a brand, business, nonprofit, hospital, university, or association — have demonstrated excellence in writing, research, and clarity of presentation.

Have you read all of this and still have a wee bit of impostor syndrome about submitting an entry? If so, ASJA Awards chair and previous winner Dara Chadwick has some words of advice. She says to remember this quote from hockey great Wayne Gretsky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

So take the shot. Pick your best work from last year and enter it now. ASJA uses the third-party Submittable platform to manage ASJA Awards entries. To submit one, you must have a free Submittable account. Awards entries can be paid for only by credit card; checks, electronic bank payments, or other payment types are not accepted.

For ASJA members, fees for articles are $25 for the first entry, $20 for the second, $15 for the third and fourth, and $10 for each additional entry. Entry fees for books are $50 each. For non-members, fees for articles are $50 for the first entry, $40 for the second, $35 for the third and fourth, and $25 for each additional entry. Entry fees for books are $75 each.

Read more about awards rules and guidelines here and use this page for directions how to enter.

Fiona Young-Brown is an author and ASJA member in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the editor of ASJA Confidential and is currently working on two new books, one non-fiction and her first novel.