If there is one good thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s online conferences. As a freelancer, conferences provide an opportunity to step out of the home office and be refreshed and encouraged by fellow scientists, writers, bioethicists, or creatives. Often when I am feeling the writing slump and wondering if I need to change career paths, going to a professional conference renews my love for writing. However being a freelancer also means limited resources for travel and lodging. Then COVID came along, and suddenly all these conferences I wanted to go to were available online with a reduced conference fee.

Here are two conferences and an online class that I found particularly helpful for improving my craft and managing my business.

ASJA Conference

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) is one of the largest organizations for non-fiction writers. Instead of one intense weekend, ASJA conducted weekly webinars over July, August, and September. I attended the July journalists’ track and the September book track. (August was PR and marketing.)

The July sessions had practical advice for pitching to non-traditional outlets and best practices for running a podcast. It turns out a cluttered room is a better sound dampener than a clean one! Closets are the best at sound damping. Who knew?

The September sessions had great advice for organizing your references and the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

Hutchmoot Conference

If ASJA was for the writer-as-businessperson, Hutchmoot was for the writer-as-creative. Hutchmoot is the annual conference for the Rabbit Room, a community of Christian artists. Typically the conference is capped at 300 attendees, but thanks to the limitless capacity of the virtual forum, over 1,000 people attended.

Every session challenged me as a creative to pursue truth, beauty, and goodness with excellence in whatever my creative calling is. This even applies on the technical level. The online platform that the Rabbit Room used was the best virtual conference platform I had ever experienced. Not only was it user-friendly, but it was also beautiful!

By the way, if you have never read Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien, I recommend this to anyone who has ever tried to create something only to find you can never get it quite right and even when you try, you are constantly interrupted by life.

Speaking of the Rabbit Room…

I took an online class taught by author and podcaster Jonathan Rogers. His class,”Writing with Hobbits,” looked at Tolkien’s use of point of view, setting, description, and dialog to build an immersive fantasy world that feels real. It helped both my fiction and non-fiction writing.

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What I’ve Been Consuming

Website: The Liberating Arts, a website about the value of the liberal arts

Book: Every Moment Holy, a collection of liturgies published by the Rabbit Room

Blog: I Sniff Before I Sleep, a blog by a perfume collector and fellow science writer

Podcast: Mind Matters, a podcast on AI and technology

From the Archives

Taking apart the news cycle merry-go-round MercatorNet, October 17, 2017.

There once was a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make…

Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle

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