Newsletter 2023-10

For ASJA members in
Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
October 2023

In This Issue

From the Prez, The Pivot (Again), M. Carolyn Miller, ASJA PNW President
Happy Anniversary, Rosemary Keevil
Dictionary, a Story in a Word, Bruce Miller
Member News and Announcements

Join us for our October meeting!

M. Carolyn Miller is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.


Time: October 18, 2023 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 815 3315 9297
Passcode: 809320

This newsletter continues to publish the first day of each month and welcomes article submissions and photos. Please email the ASJA PNW Newsletter Editor, Maxine Cass, at

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

The Pivot (Again)

When Covid hit, I pivoted with a client and enrolled them in hiring me to develop their social media (their pivot), even though I had no idea how to do that. But I partnered with a social media expert who guided us. And given my skill as an instructional designer with a knack for developing self-directed tools, I did just that.

The social media process and “kit” I developed included a map that would guide users through some templates for collecting, tracking and managing their social media content. The process made the social media process almost self-guided; team members could go to the appropriate Google doc and use it. (Little did I know I was designing my way out of a job!)

One of my skills as an instructional designer is developing kits like these. I have a knack for them—it’s how my brain works—and coincidentally, I love developing them. So, I’ve decided to use the kit with my own social media needs but also to make it and other kits available for sale.

A bit part of that will involve getting active online and accepting that, like online dating, I need to do it regularly on social media platforms to train the algorithms so that they bring me better matches, i.e., clients and readers.

To aid in my efforts, I plan to migrate my newsletter to Substack. I’ve also registered for a webinar on October 4 on Substack, offered by Jane Friedman Media, for $25. (Friedman is the author of The Business of Being a Writer in which she shares the industry business models and shows readers how to create their own.)

Part of what I love—but also curse—about creative careers is the challenge to constantly recreate oneself to survive. We are, in fact, masters of the pivot.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she consults and writes about narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the critical role of self-awareness in transforming both.

by Rosemary Keevil

Happy Anniversary

Jola Café was, in 2018, a locally owned coffee shop with healthy eats located in the John’s Landing neighborhood of Southwest Portland near the Willamette River. This is where a handful of members of the Portland Chapter of ASJA first met in October of 2018.

The Chapter is the brainchild of Carolyn Miller, who moved to Portland from Boulder County, Colorado, in 2016. She had been a member of the Boulder Media Women and missed that connection with other writers: “I reached out to ASJA because I was a member and I said, ‘Can I start a local chapter?’ And they gave me the membership list…for Oregon and Washington. I just sent emails to all the members.”

Catherine Kolonko had moved to Portland from California and was poised to get to know people living in the area with the same professional interests that she had. Catherine attended that first meeting at the Jola Café: “I remember feeling very welcomed and comfortable…I viewed it as a great opportunity to learn from each other and share different perspectives on the life of a writer.”

Randy Stapilus from Carlton, Oregon, was keen to participate in a local chapter as well: “I remember getting coffee…finding the meeting at a table tucked toward the back. There may have been a small ASJA sign that someone, likely Carolyn, had put up for direction…There was some getting used to each other.”

James Carberry was interested in such a meeting because he, “wanted to meet fellow writers in Portland, actively participate in ASJA through the Portland chapter, and work on a project, which turned out to be the start-up of the ASJA Portland newsletter.”

Howard Baldwin was living in Lake Oswego, just south of Portland, in 2018, when he received Carolyn’s email: “I wanted to support ASJA’s regional efforts.” Howard had been on the ASJA board, was very active in ASJA and, according to the other members, Howard really added to the meetings.

Sharon Elaine Thompson says, “He had a huge breadth of knowledge…across content marketing, magazine writing, newspaper writing, editing…Howard always had something to say and to contribute to our questions…He was a very supportive force.”

Sharon lives in Salem, about an hour’s drive from Portland, and started attending meetings in 2019 when the location had moved to a coworking space at Urban Office. Sharon wanted to find non-fiction writing colleagues she could actually talk to: “I loved meeting everyone…people who had the same work issues I had regardless of how long they’d been writing, and regardless of the fact that many had far more prestigious careers than I had. It was a place I belonged.”

Michelle Rafter was among the early attendees as well. She had grown up in Portland, moved to California where she had participated in writers’ groups, and moved back to her hometown. She described why she had responded to Carolyn’s email: “to recreate that kind of camaraderie and kinship that I think it is so important, especially for people who work by themselves.”

Seattleite Bruce Miller “wanted to reconnect with fellow ASJA members, especially in the Northwest, and after a break from being the ASJA IT Manager for 14 years.” Bruce was so keen he made the three-to-four-hour trek from Seattle to Portland a number of times. “They thought I was crazy for driving that far… But they were welcoming.”

Minda Zetlin was on the ASJA board for 16 years and was the president for two. Immediately after her presidency she moved from New York to Snohomish, Washington. Minda did hold some in-person meetings in Seattle and then got wind of the hybrid meeting out of Urban Office, in Portland, so she “and some other Seattleites joined virtually. It was okay, but everyone on Zoom is better than some on Zoom.”  

There were technical issues with the hybrid meeting at the Urban Office coworking location and there was, according to Randy, limited success: “We had a little bit of difficulty getting everyone who was in person to participate effectively with everyone who was trying to call in. So, it was a little bit iffy. The way it’s set up now through Zoom is probably a good deal more effective.”

When these members were asked why the ASJA PNW Chapter is so successful the answer was a resounding, “Carolyn!”

Catherine: “It’s her leadership style that makes us want to continue with the group. And I know she offers, every now and then, for somebody else to take over, but I think she does such a great job that nobody ever volunteers.”

Randy: “I think Carolyn deserves a good deal of credit there for pushing forward and for steadily, persistently bringing people in and encouraging people to be involved. Something like this needs somebody who’s going to be the driver of it. And she’s done that very, very efficiently, very effectively.”

Other factors that contribute to the success of the Chapter are: the meeting structure; the newsletter; the website; members’ willingness to volunteer; and Zoom.

Meeting Structure:

Chapter meetings are held on Zoom on the third Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. There are generally eight to twelve attendees. The meetings follow the same format unless there is a speaker booked. There have been two so far: an IT expert and a tax attorney.

Carolyn starts each meeting by addressing Chapter business and then moves into members’ News and Needs, when participants share what they are doing and discuss any needs they may have. This could mean help with sources, advice on how to deal with a recalcitrant client or editor, how to get paid in a timely fashion, how to ask for more money, etc.

Carolyn explained how she came up with the idea for the News and Needs segment of the meeting: “It just popped into my head, probably in part because I thought about what I might want. I’m also a pretty seasoned facilitator and I love alliteration so, there you go!”

It was also Carolyn’s idea to have a newsletter and a website, both elements that have contributed to the success of the Chapter: “They just seemed like the next logical step, and we had the talent and willingness of members to take those tasks on.”


James was the first editor of the newsletter, followed by Howard. Maxine Cass took over in September of 2020. These were the stories in the November, 2018, issue:

– Welcome: Carolyn Miller
– From Blogging to Tweeting: Michelle Rafter
– Why I Hired an Editor: Howard Baldwin
– Will More Writers Use Crowdfunding?: Randy Stapilus

The newsletter was originally in a PDF format. For several years it was emailed via Mailchimp. It morphed into a WordPress publication under the guidance of Bruce Miller.

We would all echo Michelle’s sentiments on Maxine’s work on the newsletter: “We have an awesome newsletter and Maxine does such a wonderful job and is so thoughtful about it. It’s really a professional level newsletter and she really puts her heart into it.”


Randy put the first website together about a year after the meeting began: “The one that I put together was…within a standard template that WordPress had put together. And it was very simple. It was enough to put up kind of a basic reference to who we were, but its capabilities were very limited.”

Bruce set up the current website ( with its own URL, so it has more capability than the original one.

As an aside, on February 2, 1996 (the early days of the Internet), Bruce had the foresight to secure the domain for the Mothership, as Carolyn calls it.

Skin in the Game:

“I think part of what makes it successful is that the members have buy-in and part of the reason they have buy-in is because…I’m always surprised how willing they are to volunteer. And again, very selfishly, I don’t want to do all the work,” says Carolyn, who is not afraid to ask for help when needs arise. The current roster of volunteers is: 

– Carolyn Miller: President

– Sharon Elaine Thompson: Membership Chair

– Randy Stapilus: Webmaster

– Bruce Miller: Tech Advisor

– Maxine Cass: Newsletter Editor

– Catherine Kolonko: Newsletter Proofreader

– Darlene West: ASJA PNW monthly meeting coverage

– Michelle Rafter: Digital Liaison

Those who do not have official positions also often volunteer for various projects, such as Joanna Nesbit currently looking for an AI expert to be a guest speaker, and myself writing this fantastic article!


Trying to create a successful hybrid meeting before COVID turned out to be a blessing, according to Howard: “I really wanted to emphasize those efforts that we made pre-pandemic to bring people to Zoom…We learned a lot and we were knowledgeable as a result of it once the pandemic hit.”

Carolyn says that Zoom “was actually a blessing because we got more members involved and even the Portland members, who would drive across town to meet, liked meeting on Zoom too, because it saved them all the traffic time.”

According to Catherine, Zoom “actually helped us continue through the pandemic. If we didn’t have that, we might not have stayed together.”

Not only did the Chapter stay together, but it actually expanded its membership when COVID-19 hit in 2020. It was suddenly possible for members to actively participate from southern Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. This resulted in a name change from the ASJA Portland Chapter to the ASJA Pacific Northwest Chapter, which now has about 40 members.

Although that is a tidy way to wrap up this piece, I feel I need to give the final word to Minda. She says it’s the character of the people in the group that help make it the successful: “That is a pretty varied group in terms of what we do by way of writing, and it still really works. To have that connection with other local writers, even if it’s mostly by Zoom, is really wonderful for me. It is still really precious to me to be in this group.”

Rosemary Keevil is a journalist and author of “The Art of Losing It: A Memoir of Grief and Addiction.” She has been a TV news reporter, a current affairs radio show host, and managing editor of a professional women’s magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism and is currently a journalist covering grief and addiction. Rosemary lives in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, with her partner and her two sheep-a-doodles. 

by Bruce Miller

Dictionary, a Story in a Word

I sometimes duck into a used bookstore or attend old book fairs to see what’s available. My typical focus is dictionaries. Recently I was on Bainbridge Island across from Seattle and found and bought two interesting dictionaries:

The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk.

Dictionary of the American West, by Win Blevins

My small collection also includes this slightly rarer book I bought for $175:

Dictionary of the Underworld, by Eric Partridge

Looking through the various words and phrases in obscure or esoteric dictionaries can take you back into time and discover activities you may never have known existed.

From The Word Museum:

Who is a “tosher”? “One who, on the Thames, steals copper from ships’ bottoms.”

Aside from little word gems sparking the imagination or defining  a character, these specialized dictionaries (setting aside medical and legal dictionaries) can help writers and others understand a culture or lifestyle.

Indeed, in the introduction of Dictionary of the American West, the author says the book “. . . was conceived while listening to writers gripe. Some years ago, a group of writers at a convention of the Western Writers of America fell to talking about how our editors didn’t understand Western words.”

The author’s introduction in The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Ever Forgotten illustrates how human activity disappears when odd words disappear. “Take, for instance, the long-defunct activity called upknocking, the employment of the knocker up, who went house to house in the early morning hours of the nineteenth century to awaken his working-class clients before the advent of affordable alarm clocks. Until encountering this entry, I had never thought about how people of this time managed to awaken with any predictability.”

The author of Dictionary of the Underworld said it even earlier: “Cant, or the language of the underworld, seems to have appeared in Britain early in the 16th Century and in America in the 18th. It constitutes a fascinating philological and sociological sidelight upon our civilization.”

While some folks like to play card games on their phone, I’m happy to browse through these kinds of dictionaries. Each of these words and phrases is like a very short, short, short story in history.

Seattle resident Bruce Miller likes the old dictionaries but does not like the space they take up when several hundred could fit on a phone in digital form.

Member News and Announcements

Banned Books Week 2023 is October 1-7, an effort by a coalition of library and writers groups along with publishers and booksellers, to keep banning of books by some libraries, schools and bookstores in the public eye in support of “free and open access to information.” ASJA has belonged to the coalition for decades. A list of school year 2022-2023 banned books and why they were challenged is at .

Joanna Nesbit ( is seeking ideas and contacts for future ASJA PNW meeting speakers.

A month after the devastating Maui fire, L.M. Archer examined its impact upon the island’s only winery for Wine Enthusiast, entitled “A Month After the Maui Fire, the Island’s Only Winery Faces an Uncertain Future.” The Drinks Business published “Urban tasting rooms ‘the icing on the cake’ in Seattle” and “Jackson Family Wines funds vital research into smoke taint.”

Minda Zetlin recommends joining the local chapter of the National Speakers Association if you do professional public speaking. Northwest NSA chapter members share advice, discuss how to increase sales and getting more speaking gigs and listen to each other’s presentations.

Catherine Kolonko remembers ABC, Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity when writing articles and stories as “something that stuck with me from my very first journalism class in college and I still find it useful.”


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
ASJA PNW monthly meeting coverage: Darlene West
PROOFREADER: Catherine Kolonko

*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.