Keynotes, Guest Speaker Bring Diverse Perspectives and Ideas to Journalism Conference

(February 2, 2017) Five women will cover topics such as generating more ideas (and selling more work), maintaining a strong career in an ever-changing climate, and identifying best practices for Facebook Live and other online promotional tools

For more information contact Sophia Bennett, (541) 505-6130,

New York—When the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) 46th Annual Conference convenes in New York on May 5 and 6, its 500+ attendees will have the opportunity to hear knowledge-filled and inspirational talks from four outstanding keynote speakers (plus one high-profile special guest). Each woman comes from a very different background – there are journalists and film producers, bloggers and editors – but each will share tips and tricks designed to help authors and journalists advance their careers.

ASJA conference chair Estelle Erasmus says, “I’m so excited to have these talented speakers sharing their wisdom, experience and talents with ASJA. Two of them – Vanessa Hua and Andrea King Collier – are ASJA members, which goes to show how varied in specialties the members are in the organization.”

“Their cumulative wealth of diverse experience demonstrates that there are many paths to success for today’s writers,” says ASJA Board President, Sherry Paprocki.

Below, please find a brief presentation description and biography of ASJA’s major conference speakers. Please note that most of these presenters will be available for one-on-one interviews before or during the conference. A schedule of their availability and instructions for making appointments will be released in April.

Vanessa Hua: Friday, May 5 (members only day)

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of Deceit and Other Possibilities (Willow Publishing), a collection of short stories. She will discuss how writing journalistic pieces improved her fiction, and in turn, how fiction writing helped her strengthen her nonfiction in terms of thinking about character, setting and voice.

For nearly two decades, Hua has been writing about Asia and the diaspora, examining the ways immigrants bring their traditions, histories and ambitions to America. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, and elsewhere. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists’ Association.

“Good storytelling, in the service of journalism, is more than important ever,” Hua said. “I’m excited to share what I know and to learn from editors, writers and authors that ASJA convenes.”

Lane Shefter Bishop: Friday, May 5 (members only day)

Lane Shefter Bishop, CEO of Vast Entertainment, is a multi-award winning producer/director. Her talk will focus on putting together a great pitch that will help authors easily communicate their ideas and sell more work.

Bishop was recently dubbed “The Book Whisperer” by CNN. Vast Entertainment is considered THE go-to book-to-screen company. Projects have included feature films such as The Last Apple (Joel Silver/Silver Pictures and Ineffable Pictures) and The Killer In Me (Mar Vista Entertainment); and TV series such as Confessions of a Sociopath (Mike Medavoy/Phoenix Pictures) and The Body Institute and The P Word (Storyline Ent/Zadan&Meron Prods). Her book Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence: Advice from the Front Lines of Hollywood (W.W. Norton & Company), was the No. 1 new release on Amazon five times before it was released. 

“I’m honored and excited to be speaking at the 2017 ASJA conference, sharing the tenets of my book,” Bishop said. “I hope to inspire the audience of authors and journalists to push themselves to take that next step, because you can be the most talented writer with the best material in the world, but none of that matters if you can’t sell it.”

Andrea King Collier: Saturday, May 6 (conference open to general public)

Andrea King Collier is a multimedia journalist and author who specializes in essays, health and wellness, and health policy. She will talk about her pivot from being a successful essayist and health journalist to a political commentator and opinion writer. She is also presenting a workshop to help freelance writers develop a single story idea into multiple marketable pieces.

Collier’s work for print, online and broadcast outlets has been included in Salon, National Geographic, Civil Eats, Ebony, The Washington Post and many other publications. She is the author of Still With Me… A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss (Simon & Schuster) and The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health (Warner Wellness). Collier has served as an ASJA board member and is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). She is a current AHCJ Great Lakes Fellow. She is also the creative director of the Symposium for Professional Food Writers.

“It’s been several years since I last spoke at the ASJA conference,” Collier said. “I am so excited to be back to share some of what I have learned about this changing and evolving business of journalism. ASJA has been and continues to be such a source of inspiration and networks for so many of us. I am proud to be a part of the conversation this year.”

Jenny Blake: Saturday, May 6 (conference open to general public)

Jenny Blake is an author, career and business strategist, and international speaker who helps people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. In her talk, she will discuss her path to publication and tips on pivoting your career to take advantage of new opportunities and changing markets.

Blake is the author of PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One (Portfolio/Penguin Random House) and Life After College (Running Press). With two years at a technology start-up, five years at Google on the Training and Career Development teams, and over five years of running her own business, Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients pivot their careers or businesses. She has been featured on, US News & World Report and Real Simple magazine.

“I’m honored to be speaking at this year’s ASJA conference on the theme of Pivot. Publish. Prosper.,” said Blake. “Together as journalists and writers we can spread the message that pivots – and career changes – don’t have to be a crisis. In fact, they are much more often a product of our success.” 

Lisa Sharkey: Friday, May 5 (members only day)

ASJA is excited to announce Lisa Sharkey as a special guest speaker. Sharkey is the senior vice president/director of creative programming at Harper Collins and a professor at Pace University. She will speak about a highly successful program she started at Harper Collins to use Facebook Live and other online platforms to promote the publisher’s authors.

Sharkey spent nearly 30 years in the television industry before moving from broadcast journalism to book publishing. She was a producer for several local television stations before serving as senior segment producer for Inside Edition. She went on to serve as senior producer for Good Morning America, where she established partnerships with publications such as Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and Bride’s. She was later promoted to president of Al Roker Entertainment.

“Making the switch [from television to publishing] was a bold and scary move for me, as I did not know much about the world of publishing,” Sharkey told ASJA in a recent interview. “I made sure to learn about the corporate culture, and to raise my hand constantly and never assume any knowledge. I had to learn to slow down because television news moves at a much faster pace.” These are among the insights Sharkey will share with event attendees looking to make bold career moves of their own.

About the event

ASJA’s 46th Annual Conference, Pivot. Publish. Prosper., will help professional freelance journalists and authors grow their careers, writing and pitching skills, and professional networks. The event is open to members only on Friday, May 5 and the general public on Saturday, May 6. All activities will take place at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. The early bird conference fee (available until March 31) is $269 per day or $499 for both days for members, and $349 for non-members. Register and get more information about ASJA (including details about becoming a member) at

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