Meet the Member: Board Service Brought Beverly Gray a 'Wider View' of Freelancing

Michelle Rafter

2000 was the year we survived Y2K, Eminem broke records for rap album sales, Tiger Woods became the youngest player to win golf’s Grand Slam – and Beverly Gray joined ASJA.

Beverly Gray

The timing coincided with the publication of Gray’s first book, Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking. Since then, the Southern California-based entertainment writer has published two more books and freelanced for such outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter, New York Times, Washington Post, and Smithsonian Air & Space magazine. She teaches an online screenwriting course through UCLA Extension, and blogs twice weekly at Beverly in Movieland. During the pandemic, Gray also stepped up to lead ASJA’s Southern California chapter.

Gray joined the ASJA board in 2012 and has served ever since. “Each incoming president encouraged me to stay on, particularly as a representative of the book authors in our organization,” she said in an email interview.

Gray wrapped up her board work at the end of 2023. She took the opportunity to discuss why she agreed to serve, what she learned, and what advice she’d give members considering joining the board. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Book cover showing title "Roger Corman" by Beverly Gray

What led you to serve on the ASJA board?

I had never thought about serving on the board until I was invited by (then) incoming president Minda Zetlin to consider joining. At the time, I was a fairly new ASJA member, with one book under my belt. But I was enthralled by the New York conferences and was well aware of how much I had to learn about being part of a writers’ organization. 

What are some highlights of your time as a board member?

I really miss the in-person board meetings that used to happen in various U.S. cities like San Diego, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York twice a year. Getting to know my fellow board members in person was a way for me to take a much wider view of freelance writing as a profession. And I’ve made the sort of close friendships that can last a lifetime.

Book cover "Rob Howard" by Beverly Gray

What challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

My long tenure on the board has been full of drama. We changed executive directors, dealt with financial crises, and accepted a relationship with a well-established management company that started out beautifully but ended with a string of broken promises. From this I learned that you should never be complacent, but also that through hard work and good leadership you can surmount even the toughest obstacles to success.

How has serving on the board helped you as a writer or your freelance business?

I can’t point to anything specific (being on) the board taught me about freelance writing as a profession. But it definitely has introduced me to a wide range of perspectives and career paths. Through my interactions with my fellow board members, I’ve become much savvier about the business world, the running of non-profit organizations, and the complexities of life in general. As a writer who specializes in film and the entertainment industry, I deeply appreciate the broadening of my horizons.

Book cover "Seduced by Mrs Robinson" by Beverly Gray

What advice would you give incoming board members?

Be open to a wide range of perspectives and leadership styles. You will spend a lot of time reading documents and attending meetings. But you will gain an enormous amount in terms of friendship and a broader understanding of the way the world works.

What would you tell ASJA members who might be thinking about serving on the board?

If you care about the smooth operation and the future growth of ASJA, you will enjoy the chance to mingle with other smart writers while helping to forge a better, smarter, more inclusive and instructive organization.

Learn more about Beverly Gray here.

Michelle Rafter is a ghostwriter and ASJA member based in Portland, Oregon. She is ASJA’s publications chair and ran the organization’s 2023 virtual annual conference.