I know there’s nothing like being there, but when you can’t be there, at least there’s Twitter. For three days, April 29-May 1, the American Society of Journalists & Authors 2011 Writers Conference went on without me. That’s happened a few times these past months – excellent conferences I’ve sadly missed. Where are my sponsors? Seriously, I’m worth it.

But since the magic carpet didn’t appear to whisk me off to NYC, I reviewed the #asja2011 tweet transcript so you don’t have to.

I’m skipping all the good tweets aimed at book authors because I’m not one, nor do I have plans to be one, at least in the near future.

Association tweeps, be proud. There were definitely more tweets during #mmccon, #ideas11 and #diginow than for this conference. Is it because association professionals are earlier adopters of Twitter than journalists and writers? Or are we less competitive and more willing to share with our community? Or better at multi-tasking? Whatever the reason, I’m very glad I have one leg firmly in the association camp.

@JenSinger, one of the keynotes, would like our community. She spoke of “coopetition” – working with fellow bloggers in your specialty. I think we do that well. She advised authors to protect their assets and not give publishers the rights to your brand or website. Her most retweeted remark: Save journalism, don’t save the medium.

Here’s an interesting Twitter tidbit: the Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) says that their clicks increase when they insert a colon between the tweet and the URL they’re sharing, like this, blah blah blah: URL.

Another tip that needs to be shouted from every rooftop from Penny Sansevieri (@bookgal): Recycle what you create. She’s so right, recycle, repurpose and reuse.

ASJA Writers Conference #asja2011 writing blogging

photo by Steve Snodgrass

Other social media tips came from Sree Sreenivasan (@sree). He advised checking someone’s (an editor’s, for example) profile before contacting them, so you have a clue as to what might be going on in their life and don’t catch them at a bad time. He never cold calls, he always reaches out first online. He says one of the secrets of social media is that you will miss almost everything people are saying. Isn’t that the truth! I love these other takeaways:

  • Writers bring order to the information chaos of the world. (Hmm, I think I’m doing that right now!)
  • Facebook is for people you went to college with. Twitter is for people you wish you went to college with.
  • Social media is a permanent book tour.

There was a lot of talk about using the web and social media to promote books. @MichelleRafter shared some excellent tweets that she tagged with #bookpromotion. Susan Johnston (@urbanmusewriter) blogged a bit about the changing role of the writer in her ASJA wrap-up post.

Another great one-liner, this time from Jennifer Abernethy (@saleslounge): Facebook is the world’s largest trade show, and they’re offering you a free booth.

Samuel Freedman talked about interviewing:

  • He prefers using a notebook during interviews because it’s less obtrusive, but he rarely takes out his notebook right away.
  • Interviews should be a conversation, not an interrogation; truths, not sound bites.
  • A lot of the drama of humanity takes place between the ears.
  • Don’t fill up the air. Let the other person think they have to fill the air.
  • Be willing to give up parts of yourself in an interview. It’s highly unnatural to ask for your source’s deepest thoughts while being opaque to them.
ASJA conference writing blogging writers #asja2011

photo by John Althouse Cohen

Maria Perez (@ProfNet) blogged about the Beating Blogger Burnout session, and included the steps to start blogging. The first three deserve reemphasis:

  1. Identify your objectives and audience.
  2. Find your niche.
  3. Create an editorial mission.

Here’s one more piece of advice: “If you want to be serious about your blog, you have to have an editorial calendar.”

In a session on pitching ideas, Amy Klein gave the new 5 W’s of journalism: what, where, when, why and who gives a shit? Jack Hart of @Oregonian said, channeling Stephen Sondheim, if you can’t write your idea on the back of a match book, it’s no good. Most people think of topics, not ideas. A statement of causality (if/then) helps create a saleable idea. How do you know if you’ve done enough research to query? If you can distill your idea into a short statement, you might be ready.

Here’s something for my food blogger friends. Cookbook publishers are looking for books in these niches: soul food, Moroccan, Mexican, southern and natural bread starters. Don’t bother if you’ve got a pitch about gluten-free, farm to table, cupcakes, no knead bread or Top Chef contestants; they’re tough sells right now.

Update: Maria Perez also blogged about the Writing for Women’s Magazines session.

This conference is not a tough sell. Looking over the program, which includes speaker Twitter handles (kudos!), my eyes were bugging out. I’m adding this one to my wish list for 2012.

Did you go to #asja2011? What were your big take-aways?