Everything You Need to Know About the ASJA Book Club

Michelle Rafter

You can’t practice the craft of writing if you don’t read. I wrote that back in 2013, and I still swear by it.

Sandi Schwartz
Sandi Schwartz

Sandi Schwartz believes so strongly in the power of reading to create good writing that she launched the members-only ASJA book club.

Schwartz hosts the hour-long virtual meetings once a month to discuss a writing-related book that ASJA members interested in participating have the opportunity to vote on in advance.

Schwartz, an ASJA member, award-winning environmental author, and freelance journalist, sees the group as an opportunity for freelance journalists, content marketing writers, and nonfiction book authors to gain inspiration for their writing careers.

It’s also a free, low-stress way to bring the ASJA community together. “I started the book club after being a constant participant in the weekly coffee chats, and seeing the value in those conversations,” Schwartz said in an email. “I was also looking for a book club that focuses on books that I would enjoy reading.”

The 11 members who attended the inaugural meeting in February discussed Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert’s guide to creativity and “the mysterious nature of inspiration.”

Reaction to the first book club gathering was positive. “This week’s book club was wonderful and I’m looking forward to the next ones. Thanks Sandi!” said ASJA member Emily Dalamangas.

Upcoming Book Club Dates, Books, and Speakers

The next book club meeting dates and books are:

The hour-long meetups take place over Zoom at 10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern.

More Book Club Details

To choose a book, Schwartz posts a poll on the ASJA Facebook Group with options that members can vote on. “Options will have some link to writing non-fiction, creativity, freelancing, or running a solo or small business,” Schwartz said. “I have a running list of book ideas and always welcome recommendations.”

Schwartz announces the selected book at the beginning of the next month. The group meets the last weekday of that month, with the exception of holidays and Tuesdays, to avoid conflicts with Tuesday ASJA coffee chats.

If the normal book club meeting day conflicts with a writing-related event, Schwartz will move the date accordingly. Since the last day of the month isn’t always the same day of the week, it gives people with conflicts on certain days flexibility to join when they can, she said.

Participants must registration in advance for security reasons. Schwartz suggests that people register even if they’re not 100% sure they can make it to a meeting. The registration link changes every month and will be posted on Facebook and in weekly newsletters.

“It’s ok if (you) don’t read or finish the book,” she said. “Participants can talk if they want to. We are using the raise hand feature to ensure everyone has a chance.”

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.