What’s Your Special Interest?

Hello, everyone! First, let me introduce myself. I’m Jennifer Billock, a long-time freelancer focusing on travel, food, history, and culture. And I’m happy to announce that I’m your new chair for ASJA’s Special Interest Groups, or SIGs. It’s going to be hard to fill the very esteemed shoes of past chair Kate Silver – but I’m going to do my very best for all of you!

SIGs are a valuable resource to ASJA members looking to learn from and network with other members. They’re run on the forums as small group discussions, each focusing on a specific topic. Up to 12 association members participate in each four-week session, and each session usually has three or four SIGs.

Some of the best loved SIGs from the past have included a session on SEO (which regularly has a waitlist and requests for more offerings), a session about pitching perfection, and a session about the lucrative business of content marketing. We’ve also had engaging sessions about cookbook writing, personal branding, social media, and more.

When I joined ASJA, I decided to dive head-first into the association, SIGs included. I didn’t just join one for my first experience – I led one. To me, there was no better way to assess the value of this membership perk than to see how it worked firsthand. And I have to say, I was impressed. My session was about travel and food writing, and had about eight participants. Every week we discussed something new, with members actively participating and bringing up their own topics to discuss as well. I can easily say that everyone learned something new during the session – and everyone also left it with new connections and enduring friendships. Many of us connected on social media and continued the discussion there, and we remain connected still.

That’s far from the only success story SIG participants can share, though. They’ve placed articles in goal publications thanks to contacts shared in their SIG, they’ve enabled search engine optimization practices on their websites that have helped lead to more views, and one participant even received the green light for a book project from a publisher after the SIG she led reignited her book idea.

Take advantage of this valuable membership benefit. If there’s a certain topic you want to learn more about, keep your eyes on the SIG page on ASJA’s website. New sessions are announced there, including discussion topics and descriptions; we will have two sessions in 2020, one in April and one in September. The more people that participate, the better – SIGs can have some pretty active and lively conversations, with everyone working together to learn something new.

And if you don’t see the topic you want popping up on the SIG page, suggest it, or even better, consider offering to lead one of the groups yourself. We’re always on the hunt for people willing to share their knowledge on a specific aspect of the writing world.

If you have more questions about SIGs, or want to volunteer to lead one, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can get to me at jenniferjoanbillock@gmail.com.