ASJA 2017 Annual Writers Conference

As a writer, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is ask advice from successful and knowledgeable writers. We’ve organized the ASJA Experts Team to help. These are pros who have forged successful careers. They have written for publications and clients you know and admire. Most are authors. Many are coaches, professors, and teachers. A couple have won Pulitzer prizes. All have volunteered to mentor at this year’s ASJA conference. So if you have questions about how to boost your skills and career, sign up for the Lynne S. Dumas Personal Mentoring Program. We’ll match you up with a seasoned writer who can help you find answers.


ASJA Experts Team

Theresa Sullivan Barger

Theresa Sullivan Barger, who has been a full-time freelance writer for 10 years, specializes in heath, business and sustainability. She writes regularly for CURE Today, IEEE Spectrum, University Business, Hartford Magazine, and the National Society of Black Engineers. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, Yankee Magazine, AARP Bulletin, The Huffington Post, The Saturday Evening Post, Center for Public Integrity, The Conference Board, and AAA. A former staff writer and editor with The Hartford Courant, she teaches freelance writing for the Mark Twain House writing program and writes white papers and marketing materials for nonprofits.

Areas of expertise: transitioning from steady jobs to freelancing; transitioning from other fields into writing and journalism; breaking into national magazines and websites; the business of freelancing.

Patchen Barss

Award-winning journalist, author and communications consultant Patchen Barss works with one foot on university campuses, and the other on the newsroom. He specializes in telling memorable stories about complex ideas in a wide range for formats: books for adults and children, magazine articles, websites and blogs, TV segments, debates and lectures, social media channels, public outreach campaigns, contests and more. He also runs workshops for researchers and research journalists focused on communicating with specific audiences, such as the media, the general public, donors and policy makers.

Areas of expertise: magazine pitching; balancing a hybrid career of journalism and communications consulting; telling stories about science, technology and advanced research; and children's books.

Greg Breining

Greg Breining writes about travel, science, and nature for the New York Times, National Wildlife, Audubon, Discover, and for clients such as the Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota. His books include the travel memoir Wild Shore: Exploring Lake Superior by Kayak, Super Volcano: The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park, and Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico. He teaches magazine writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Areas of expertise: pitching to magazines and other editorial clients; structuring, reporting, and writing magazine features; telling stories about science, health, and research.

Damon Brown

Damon Brown is an entrepreneur and journalist focused on how technology helps us get closer to one another. Damon co-founded the popular platonic connection app Cuddlr and led it to acquisition within a year, all while being primary caretaker of his infant first son. The experience inspired his best-selling book, The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur: 21 Ways to Ignite Your Passion and Pursue Your Side Hustle. The follow-up, The Productive Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, arrived in early Fall 2016 and is the author’s 19th book. Damon now helps both new and established entrepreneurs reach their highest potential through his consulting, public speaking through platforms like TED and his weekly column Sane Success.

Areas of expertise: Business side of writing, shifting to a new skillset (starting as an author, beginning full-time freelancing, etc.), public speaking.

Mei Fong

Mei Fong is a Pulitzer-prize winning former Wall Street Journal reporter whose first book, the critically acclaimed One Child: Story of China's Most Radical Experiment, on China’s one-child policy, was published last year. She was also on faculty at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School and is a fellow at think-tank New America Foundation.

Topics:  book writing, book promotion, writing on global affairs, Asia

Twitter handle: @meifongwriter 

Jodi Helmer

Jodi Helmer is an avowed generalist, writing on topics ranging from farming and travel to health and business. In addition to writing for National Geographic Traveler,, WebMD, Modern Farmer, Energy Times, Woman’s Day, and others, Helmer teaches classes like 5 Days to $100k and Query Boot Camp.

Areas of expertise: pitches, business of freelancing, breaking into nationals, getting more work, women’s mags—basically anything  journalism/magazine related.

Debbie Abrams Kaplan

Debbie Abrams Kaplan has been an ASJA member for more than a dozen years. She specializes in medical/health and financial/business writing, for consumers, trade and brands. Her content marketing clients include the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Virginia Cancer Center, Celgene, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Nationwide, Dun & Bradstreet, Principal Financial, MasterCard and Walmart.

Areas of expertise: health writing, content marketing writing.

James McCommons

James McCommons is a veteran journalist, specializing in ecology, environmental and travel topics. He has written hundreds of general interest magazine articles and two narrative nonfiction books. He teaches journalism and nature writing at Northern Michigan University.

Areas of expertise: writing query letters, book proposals, magazine pieces, and freelancing.

Rochelle Sharpe

Rochelle Sharpe is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and former staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and USA Today, and most recently has freelanced several stories for The New York Times. She is also a writing coach. Find her work at 

Areas of expertise: using data in stories, writing techniques, developing story ideas, and pitching publications.

Steve Tally

Steve Tally is the author of two books on American history and, most recently, the editor of a collection of essays on the role of technology in society, Dawn or Doom: The Risks and Rewards of Emerging Technologies, published by Purdue University Press. Tally’s day job is as senior strategist for STEM for Purdue Public Affairs. He has taught science writing and feature writing at Purdue University.

Areas of expertise: book proposals, science writing, and content marketing.

Minda Zetlin

Minda Zetlin is a business and technology writer and columnist. Her most recent book is The Geek Gap, co-authored with her husband Bill Pfleging. She has written for a wide range of publications from Inc. to Computerworld to Cosmopolitan to New York Magazine. Her daily column on gets more than half a million page views every month. or Twitter: @MindaZetlin

Areas of expertise: business writing, tech writing, writing for the Web, books and book proposals.