Meet the ASJA 2024-2025 Conference Planning Team

Emily Dalamangas

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

The planning committee for the ASJA 2024 virtual conference and the 2025 in-person conference is following Henry Ford’s advice and working together to make the upcoming events a success. Led by ASJA President and conference chair Emily Paulsen, the committee is in the midst of orchestrating the conferences and Client Connections, ASJA’s signature “speed dating with editors” networking event. 

Let’s meet some of the committee members.

Jennifer Billock, Journalism Track Co-Chair

As the journalism track co-chair for the virtual and in-person conferences, Jennifer helps oversee programming, including reviewing proposals for sessions and lining up speakers.

“Sharing information with colleagues is so important to the media industry, and I’m looking forward to creating track sessions that answer all our big questions – looking at you, AI and anti-freelancer laws!” Jennifer says.

Jennifer is an award-winning writer who’s written for The New York Times, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, Shondaland, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic, Wired, and more. She’s also a bestselling author of eight books–two cookbooks, five histories, and one astrology book. She’s a certified tea specialist, and a practicing tyromancer who tells fortunes with cheese. She’s also on the ASJA board.

CJ Clouse, Books Track Co-Chair

CJ is co-chairing the books track for the 2024 and 2025 conferences. She’s a Brooklyn, NY, independent writer, editor, audio producer, and photographer focused on underreported environmental issues; solutions to the climate, biodiversity and waste crises; and mental health. 

Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, GreenBiz, Mongabay, Canary Media, HuffPost, Medium, Barron’s, Institutional Investor, National Geographic, and more. According to her website, she’s currently working on a book that’s part family history, part mental health reporting, and part memoir, which delves into the story of her maternal grandmother and the failures of the US mental health system in the mid-20th Century, particularly with regards to women and patients of color. 

Richard Eisenberg, Social Events Chair, Client Connections Co-Chair 

A longtime ASJA member, Richard is part of the Client Connections team for both conferences, volunteering to connect editors and agents with terrific freelancers. He’s also planning social events for the in-person conference so attendees can take advantage of after-hours fun in New York City. 

Richard is a self-described “unretired” journalist, freelance writer, and co-host of the “Friends Talk Money” podcast. He is the former managing editor of PBS’ Next Avenue and executive editor of Money

Kristine Hansen, Journalism Track Co-Chair

Kristine is co-chairing the journalism track with Jennifer Billock, helping develop a compelling agenda of topics and speakers. If you have a session idea for the journalism track or other tracks covering content marketing writing and books, submit a proposal.

“In planning ASJA’s conferences for several years, what has brought me the most joy is bringing editors and agents onto panels to talk about what their editorial needs are – and how we, as freelance writers and book authors, can help,” Kristine says.

Kristine covers travel, food, and design for such outlets as,,, and She’s written three nonfiction books, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin: How America’s Most Famous Architect Found Inspiration in His Home State, published by Globe Pequot Press. She’s also writing fiction. 

Michelle Rafter, Conference Publicity Chair

Michelle is running publicity for the 2024 and 2025 conferences after successfully chairing ASJA’s 2023 virtual annual conference. She’s also ASJA’s publications chair, overseeing volunteer members who run the organization’s weekly newsletter, website, blog, and social media presence.

“Freelancing can feel isolating, especially for someone like me who started out as a staff reporter,” Michelle says. “ASJA has provided me with a sense of community and support. We’re a team – we commiserate together and cheer each other on.”

Michelle is a Portland, Oregon, ghostwriter who collaborates with top executives and management consultants on thought leadership on all aspects of business, management, operations, and enterprise technology. She’s a former freelance business reporter with bylines in multiple national business and consumer publications.

Sandi Schwartz, Conference Planning Committee Member

Sandi Schwartz is helping plan the virtual and in-person conferences in addition to running the new ASJA book club

Sandi is an award-winning environmental author and freelance journalist with over 20 years of experience communicating to diverse audiences about sustainability, home and garden, nature, and wellness. 

Sandi’s bylines have appeared in Yahoo!, MSN, Dwell, Success, Verywell, mindbodygreen,, Family Handyman, TechTarget, Earth911, and many more publications. Her book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, focuses on the mental health benefits of nature. She’s received multiple awards, including ASJA’s Arlene Book Award: Books That Make a Difference.  

Cari Shane, Client Connections Co-Chair 

Cari co-chairs the Client Connections committee with Richard Eisenberg and KJ Bannan. The 2024 virtual conference will mark Cari’s third time running Client Connections and the 2025 live conference her fourth. Cari is also a member of ASJA’s board.

Cari is a freelance journalist, ski addict, hot yoga apologist, dog obsessed and an Airbnb Superhost. A Manhattan native, she lives carless (that’s carless not careless) in Washington DC, and writes for a variety of publications, including AARP, ESPN’s Andscape, Fast Company, Fodor’s, Insider, Leaps, Scientific American, and Smithsonian. She is a volunteer editor for Street Sense Media, a non-profit that elevates the voices of DC residents experiencing homelessness in DC. 

Susan Shapiro, Books Track Co-Chair

Award-winning journalist and writing professor and teacher Susan Shapiro is co-chairing the books track.

Susan, a long-time ASJA member, freelances for the NY Times, Washington Post, WSJ, LA Times, NY Magazine, Salon, Elle, Oprah, Wired & New Yorker online. She’s the bestselling author/coauthor of 18 books her family hates like Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Lighting Up, Unhooked, The Bosnia List, American Shield and her recent memoir The Forgiveness Tour. She lives with her scriptwriter husband in Manhattan and uses her writing/publishing guides The Book Bible and Byline Bible to teach her popular “instant gratification takes too long” courses at The New School, NYU, Columbia University and in private classes & seminars – now online.

Olga Lucia Torres, JD, MS

Olga Torres is the conference scholarship committee chair and an ASJA board member. She attended her first ASJA conference in 2022 as a scholarship recipient. “The people I met, the sessions I attended, and the keynote speakers made a lasting impression,” Torres says. “I left inspired and vowed to become an active AJSA member. I haven’t missed a conference since. Our September 2024 and February 2025 conferences will provide a platform for networking with industry professionals, insights into the latest trends and techniques in the various specialty tracks, and opportunities to meet with editors and agents.” 

Torres is a first-generation Latina and a cofounder of the Bronx Defenders, a holistic public defender’s office. She’s currently a faculty member of Columbia University’s Narrative Medicine program, which seeks to improve the doctor-patient relationship. She’s a patient advocate, Northeast Region Advocacy Chair for the Lupus Foundation of America, and member of the Patient Engagement Collaborative. Her freelance work on health care, disability rights, and diversity issues has been published in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Parents, Next Avenue, and other publications.

Kimberly Yavorski, Content Marketing Track Co-chair 

Kimberly oversees the virtual and in-person content marketing track and is looking for a co-chair to join her. In a ASJA Facebook post about her search for a co-chair, Kimberly says the benefits include influencing conference programming, advance knowledge of conference offerings, the pleasure of building relationships with the other ASJA members on the committee – and her eternal appreciation!

“I look forward to helping members improve their craft, whether they are seasoned content writers or journalists looking for new writing opportunities,” she says.

Kimberly is a freelance journalist, content marketing writer, and former computer trade journal assistant editor. She often writes about parenting and education, but says she’s never been content to only “write what she knows,” and is often happiest learning new things to share with the world. Kimberly particularly enjoys research, especially when it is about science or history. Her content writing includes blog posts, emails, and web copy for B2B and B2C clients. 

Volunteer to Help Plan the 2024 and 2025 Conferences

Want to work with this all-star team?

The conference planning and Client Connections teams need volunteers for a variety of roles. ASJA members in good standing who are interested can log into the members-only section of the website, go to the Volunteer Opportunities page, and fill out the “ASJA Call for Volunteers” form. An ASJA volunteer coordinator will follow up via email.

Stay up to speed with news about the 2024 and 2025 conferences and information on other ASJA educational programs, networking opportunities, and member benefits by subscribing to the ASJA Weekly newsletter and reading the ASJA Confidential blog.

Emily Dalamangas is a content marketing writer and ASJA member based in Rockland County, New York. She is the assistant chair for the 2024 virtual conference and the 2025 in-person conference.