Newsletter 2023-11

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

In This Issue

From the Prez, Calling, M. Carolyn Miller, ASJA PNW President
White Water Rafting in Spain’s Pyrenees, James Carberry
AI to the Rescue, Maybe, Bruce Miller
AI is Not an Author, Fred Gebhart
Member News and Announcements

Join us for our November meeting!

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


Time: November 15, 2023 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 815 3315 9297
Passcode: 809320

At our November meeting, Jack El-Hai will talk about performance rights contracts. He will cover how to negotiate article/book contracts with publishers to permit performance-rights sales. He’ll also cover types of writing that are more likely to be optioned, what an option means, finding a performance-rights agent and attorney, and how to take the luck out of selling these licenses.

Jack El-Hai writes nonfiction books, longform narratives, podcasts, and the free monthly Damn History newsletter for writers and readers of popular history. He covers history, medicine, science, crime, and anything else that hooks him.

Jack has sold 15 options to producers interested in adapting his articles and books. Four of those options have led to actual productions in various media. One recent sale of a license on his book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist will go into production as a movie as soon the entertainment industry strikes are settled.

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


I have come to a realization: I dislike corporate work. I dislike it because too often, I have to bow to others’ needs and political agendas. I dislike it because invariably I get found out to be a fraud, unable to toe the company line, and get fired or reprimanded, or I quit. I dislike it because it eats up precious creative time.

But maybe I’ve just been working in the wrong playground. Either that, or I’ve grown beyond it. Yes, there’s a lot of money in corporate work. And yes, I’ve honed my design and writing skills with some stellar projects. Maybe it’s my age—I’ll be 73 in December—and maybe it’s the state of the world, but there comes a time when you have to let the work you came here to do take the lead, if you are lucky enough, like me, to know what that is.

Psychologist James Hillman would agree. In his “acorn theory,” introduced in The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, he posits that each of us has a unique calling and that, despite the dark stories therapy explores,  our childhoods also provided the perfect conditions for that calling to emerge. For me, it was designing plays and clothes and artwork, and reading books on religion and spirituality. It was also, believe it or not, writing book reports as a kid just because it was fun to do.

I’ve groomed my calling over the years, around the edges of, and thanks to, my corporate work. Now, it’s time to (gulp) step fully on my path, welcome clients who want to walk it with me, and trust that, as mythologist Joseph Campbell noted about following one’s bliss, “Doors will appear where you didn’t even know there were doors.” (Especially if I start knocking on them!)

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.

Story and photos

by James Carberry

White Water Rafting in Spain’s Pyrenees

My wife Gail, son Devin, and daughter-in-law Maura went white water rafting in Spain’s Pyrenees last weekend (October 7-8).

Our son drove us to Sort, a town about a three-hour drive north of Barcelona. I spent our time in the car trying out awful Sort puns. “We’ll sort things out when we get to Sort.”

From Sort, we drove up into the mountains to a pueblo, a tiny village built entirely of stone. We stayed at a beautiful old hotel Saturday night and enjoyed dinner at the hotel.

Sunday morning, we drove back to Sort to an outdoors company that outfitted us with wetsuits and life jackets and provided a guide, Rikki, for our rafting adventure. Then they drove us in vans to a spot on the Noguera Pallaresa River. Rikki gave us safety instructions; we boarded a boat and off we went.

After a long, hot summer the river was low, but deep enough to send us spinning, rocking, bouncing, twisting and shooting down the rapids, waves splashing over our boat and soaking everyone. Soooo glad our wetsuits didn’t leak. There were moments of calm and then more rapids.

Green mountains high above rafters on the Noguera Pallaresa River, Spain

The river wound down a steep canyon whose cliffs were covered by trees that should have been turning colors but were still green in a warm October.

Jim’s daughter-in-law Maura is in front on the left, holding her paddle horizontal; son Devin is on the right, paddle in the water; that’s me on the left, looking like I’m sinking into the boat; my wife Gail is on the right, behind our son; and rafting guide Rikki is steering the boat.

“Come back in May next year,” Rikki, our Spanish guide, said in perfect English. “After the spring floods and snow melt the river will be much higher.” I was thinking more along the lines of returning in October next year when the river will again be low. I need more practice with Beginning Rafting before I move up to Intermediate (Scary) Rafting and then to Advanced (Terrifying) Rafting.

After two hours on the river, we returned to Sort, checked in the wet suits, bid goodbye to Rikki, and drove home, with me trying to think of a pun about Barcelona. To the relief of my fellow passengers, I couldn’t come up with one. 

In his professional career, Jim Carberry was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, a Singapore-based newsletter correspondent, a corporate editor, a book author and the owner of a small business. He’s now retired and living in Barcelona, Spain, with his family. 

by Bruce Miller

AI to the Rescue, Maybe

What can AI do for a non-fiction writer?

Well, someone has answered that with this $0.99 e-book on Amazon: ChatGPT for Nonfiction Authors: How to Use ChatGPT to Write Better, Faster, and More Effectively

Get more from AI by knowing the lingo.

AI = Artificial Intelligence. AI is based on LLM. LLM = Large Language Model. There are different LLMs behind various AI products. ChatGPT is one of these products, but not the only one. LLMs collect data from articles, books, websites, and other text-based sources. ChatGPT stopped collecting data in September 2021, which means any data or information after that date will not be included in an answer based on ChatGPT.

For a comprehensive list of resources about LLM check out this web page:

Another way to see LLM is this: a massive collection of data (internet, books, scholarly journals, your own PDF documents) that is broken down and processed by a computer in various ways, and then reassembled in various ways in response to questions or statements known as “prompts”.

Prompts help an AI engine get the responses you want. Not surprisingly there are sources that focus on better prompts. A relatively new profession is “prompt engineering” – creating and crafting prompts to get a desired result from an LLM. Some prompt resources are:

On Twitter: @AIToolReport, which frequently posts example prompts

On Twitter: @Prompt_Prodigy, which is self-explanatory

On YouTube: Prompt Engineering 101 – Crash Course and Tips

On YouTube: Prompt Engineering Tutorial – Master ChatGPT and LLM Responses

If you have a set of PDF or other documents you want help with through prompts, there are now AI services that will help:

Chatsonic has many tools for content creation.

ChatDOC helps summarize documents you supply.


Perplexity is similar to ChatGPT, but with links to sources.

Eightify is a Chrome browser extension that summarizes YouTube videos; the free version is limited to 30 minutes.

For a broad view of AI tools, there are now directories of AI tools. One such directory is:

Seattle resident Bruce Miller has used AI tools to create images, write a Windows batch file to move lots of files into subdirectories and develop SQL queries. He does not use it for wholesale article writing.

by Fred Gebhart

AI is Not an Author

Artificial intelligence (AI) is many things. At least one major pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, is replacing medical writers with AI. AI can turn days of drudgery completing an application for a National Institutes of Health research grant into a few minutes at the keyboard.

But AI is not an author.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) writes the rules for who, and now what, can be an author for The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, BMJ (British Medical Journal), Journal of the American Medical Association, and other medical journals published around the world.

An author must meet four criteria: make substantial contributions to the work, draft or critically review it, give final approval of the published version, and accept accountability for the work and its content. As far as the ICMJE is concerned, only a human can agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. AI cannot be an author.

The American Medical Writers Association (full disclosure, I’m a long-time AMWA member) recently tackled the question of whether the best-known AI, ChatGPT, can be credited as an author in a scientific publication. The short answer: No. But that doesn’t mean AI isn’t being used by medical and scientific writers every day.

The British science journal Nature asked postdoctoral researchers worldwide about their use of AI. Nearly a third of respondents said they are using AI to help refine their own writing, to write or edit code, keep up with the literature in their field, and much more. Freelance writer Linda Nordling fleshed out the poll results.

I haven’t used AI myself because I won’t risk exposing unpublished research data or embargoed clinical trial results. But the next time I have a grant application I’ll likely give AI a try.

Fred Gebhart, in Southern Oregon, lets AI transcribe interviews and has learned not to trust the results without verifying every phrase

More on AI: Sharon Elaine Thompson recommends “Confessions of a Viral AI Writer” by Vauhini Vara in the October, 2023 issue of Wired.

Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus) eats Oregon White Oak/Garry Oak
(Quercus garryana) acorn, Gold Hill, Oregon Photo © Maxine Cass

Member News and Announcements

October ASJA PNW Chapter meeting via Zoom. Photo by Rosemary Keevil

Rosemary Keevil’s ASJA PNW fifth anniversary story, published in this newsletter in October, was published in the national ASJA’s October 23 blog and in the October 31 issue of The ASJA Weekly as “Setting up an ASJA Chapter the PNW Way.

In September, Minda Zetlin gave a webinar in interview form for getAbstract, which creates condensed versions of books, including Minda’s book Career Self-CareShe says, “The webinar was great fun with more than 8,800 people signed up for it and more than 3,000 attending live.” See the full webinar here.

Catherine Kolonko wrote about rheumatologists who returned to Ukraine on a medical mission to help people displaced by that country’s war with Russia. The  article Rheumatologists Provide Care to Ukrainian Cities Under Siege appeared in The Rheumatologist and included this sidebar that featured interviews with two Ukrainian doctors  Rheumatologists Treat Patients While Ukraine Is at War.

Sharon Elaine Thompson has started editing for TriStar Events, which produces content for a variety of medical conferences.

M. Carolyn Miller has just been accepted to teach a weeklong course, “Exploring Your Mythic Storyline,” at the Creative Arts Community Residential Workshops at Menucha, billed as an “arts camp for adults,” August 4-10, 2024.

Bill Lasher and Fred Gebhart recommend Google Scholar ( ) to search through scholarly literature, studies and reports, journals, and serious research.

James Carberry recommends a “fascinating article in the Daily Yonder newsletter. Do you know which state had the first scenic byway? And what was its name?  For the answer to these questions, scroll down to A Brief History of National Byways”.

L.M. Archer’s article, “The Rising Tide,” is in the Fall 2023 print edition of Washington Tasting Room Magazine. It features the influx of a growing number of prestigious California and Oregon wineries into Washington State. “Oregon wineries celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in The Drinks Business honors Hispanic contributions and their key industry programs in the US. Her most recent article in The Drinks Business, “One-time ‘peasant wine’ gains traction in Oregon,” describes the US advent of the Gouais Blanc varietal at a Willamette Valley winery.

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

ASJA National News

Gathering of the Ghosts Announces Panels and Speakers

The inaugural Gathering of the Ghosts convention will gather top publishing company executives, distinguished literary agents, and veteran writers to address key trends and issues facing the ghostwriting industry, including publishing options, setting fees, adopting advanced technology, and more.

ASJA and Gotham Ghostwriters are cosponsoring the one-day, live conference, which takes place January 22, 2024, at the New York Academy of Medicine in New York City. Early bird registration is $400 through Nov. 12.

The first-ever national convention of ghostwriters brings together professional collaborators for a day of conversation, education, and celebration of a profession that is expanding and evolving. The forum aims to bring the profession out of the shadows by educating the reading public about the service and value ghostwriters provide and elevate the field as a viable career path for publishing professionals and writers of all kinds.

Speakers include Naren Aryal, CEO and Publisher, Amplify Publishing Group, Regina Brooks, CEO and President, Serendipity Literary Agency, Kevin Anderson, CEO, Kevin Anderson & Associates, and many more.

Winners of the inaugural Andy Award for excellence in ghostwriting collaborations will be announced at the event.

The convention will conclude with a town hall session on the industry’s future needs and goals, including the urgent imperative to diversify.

Breakfast and lunch are included. Early bird registration for the one-day event is $400 through Nov. 12, after which tickets are $500.

For more information on panels, speakers, and registration information visit: Gathering of the Ghosts.


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.