Meet the 2021 ASJA Award Winners (and Judges)‎

Janine Latus

Wow, our members can write! This year’s awards have once again brought attention to the outstanding writing of our peers. The entries combined eloquent writing with complex research and reporting, and they ran in a vast variety of publications. There was a story about sea level rise and a book about the strange creatures that live in those oceans. There was an article about the role of sports in women’s suffrage and one on the sustainability of body composting. There were stories about immigration, about the life of a death investigator, and about whether we’ll ever go back to working in offices after the pandemic. Our colleagues write about such an array of interesting topics and people!

You can find links to all of them here and see for yourself.

Winners are judged by the quality of their writing and the depth of their research, and this year’s winners did not disappoint. Furthermore, this was the first year that we opened most of the awards to the public, and still, of the 27 winners and eight honorable mentions, 18 were written by ASJA members. Member Tara Haelle won two!

We had more than 630 entries and 107 judges, making this our biggest Annual Awards ever, with winners in Costa Rica, Australia, Great Britain, Afghanistan, Mumbai, and Jamaica, as well as across the United States and Canada. One winner was entirely off the grid, according to his publicist, working on his next book. Not even she knew where he was!

ASJA thanks all of the judges, who put in weeks of time reading the works of top writers and then making hard decisions about which were best. Some categories were so big that volunteer “category coordinators” took over managing multiple teams of judges. (I privately referred to them as “cat herders,” given the challenge of managing so many volunteers with busy schedules.) Special thanks to category coordinators Michele Wojciechowski, Joanne Cleaver, Andrea Cooper, Sally Abrahms, Randi Minetor, Paul Vachon, Dava Stewart, Meryl Davids Landau, and Linda Marsa.

From me personally, as Awards Chair, I’d like to send a thank you to James Cafiero and James Brannigan in the ASJA offices for solving problems and finding work-arounds. This was our first year using Submittable, and they walked us all through the learning curve. Thank you to the ASJA Board of Directors and especially President Laura Laing, who made quick, clear decisions.

And thank you to these volunteer judges—without them, these awards would not be possible:

Sally Abrahms

Renee Bacher

Beryl Benderly

Stephanie Bernaba

Suzanne Boles

Elizabeth Boyd

Natalie Canavor

Sarika Chawla

Joanne Cleaver

Sara Clemence

Mary Ellen Collins

Andrea Cooper

Carolyn Crist

Grace Daly

Diane Daniel

Lisa Daniels

Randy Dotinga

Cynthia Drake

Leslie Eddy

John Egan

Richard Eisenberg

Jack El-Hai

Estelle Erasmus

Colleen Fliedner

Sarah Francis

Stacey Freed

Rona Gindin

Jenna Glatzer

Marian Goldberg

Mickey Goodman

Beverly Gray

Vince Guerrieri

Sandra Gurvis

John Hanc

Tam Harbert

Jennie Helderman

Robin Henig

Parul Hinzen

Martin Hirsch

Gloria Hoch

Ann Hoffner

Elizabeth Howard

Elaine Howley

Eustacia Huen

Heather Hughes

Dean Jobb

Jessica Levy Kania

Debbie Kaplan

Rosemary Keevil

Judy Kirkwood

Patricia Kutza

Cindy Kuzma

Meryl Davis Landau

Laura Laing

Brenda Lange

Tina Lassen

Nancy Leary

Ellen Lee

Christina Leimer

Antonia Malchik

Susan Mangiero

Linda Marsa

Katherine Martinelli

Randi Mazzella

James McCommons

Vanessa McGrady           

Bruce Miller

Kenneth Miller

Shannon Shelton Miller

Randi Minetor

John Moir

Rodney Moore

Judy Nauseef

Katie Navarra

Sharon Naylor

Jennifer Nelson

Joanna Nesbit

Maureen O’Hagan

Sherry Paprocki

Emily Paulsen

Michelle Rafter

Mark Ray

Jen Reeder

Dawn Reiss

Robert Rimm

Barbara Robertson

Christine Schweighofer

Susan Shafer

Debra Silber

Holly Leber Simmons

Jen Singer

Libby Slate

Jenny Splitter

Liane Starr

Dava Stewart

Zara Stone

Wendy Sunshine

Mia Taylor

Laura Town

Paul Vachon

Leah Vandeventer

David Volk

Andrea Warren

Robin Warshaw

Sharon Waters

Michele Wojciechowski

Kimberly Yavorski




Every year judges tell me that the things they liked best were reading excellent work, discovering new potential outlets, and discussing writing with fellow professionals. Sometimes those conversations turn into friendship or conduits for intel into other markets. Then at the end we get to make someone’s day by calling and sharing the good news. That last is my own favorite part—making someone’s day.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you, once again, to all of the people who made it happen!

Photo by Brands&People on Unsplash