Though I’ve been a journalist for nearly half my life, this is my first year joining AAJA and my first convention. I wished I’d found my way to you sooner.
The incredible support, friendship, mentoring and fellowship I discovered here at my first AAJA convention felt like a homecoming of sorts. I’m new to AAJA but old timers and newbies alike made me feel welcomed, and being among you felt more like a rediscovery of a favorite memory than an initiation.
And I learned from all of you: storytellers of all different levels, ethnic backgrounds, media, and geographic locations.
Whether it was ap-by-ap tactics on speedwriting for multiple platforms or the soft skills of how some finesse awkward sitches of stereotyping into narrative gold, by talking and connecting with a body of peeps who embraced our differences through a common goal, I felt inspired and often humbled.
It reinforced my love of the craft, galvanized my sense of why I love to tell stories, but what’s more, it’s was a fruitful reminder of the smart, fun-loving and committed friends from all walks of life and gene pools that I have in my fellow journalists. I feel honored for the inclusion of this event.
The recession has hit most of us hard and I’m no exception. As a writer, I’d always considered myself as a lone wolf. Being a first generation Korean-Canadian immigrant to the US during the worst downturn in 80 years of US history only reinforced this sense.
But here, I understood the joy of connecting and contributing to a chorus of hardworking storytellers not just in the blues but in the refrain of hopes and things to come. This year, AAJA has been a lifeline in keeping me from becoming jaded or discouraged - or going into another field altogether. But that would be too easy of a story.
And great stories defy expectation, give us a sliver of redemption and always offer an ending of a memorable connection or disconnection. I chose to connect.
So thank you, AAJA, for allowing a verdant space in which to embrace and connect with all the differences and freakiness my Asian American background brings and leaving post-it notes for me on how to channel them into narrative gold.
So, thank you to the Ford Foundation for giving me the breathing space to fully dive into this week because without your support, I’d be squirreled away in my room at nights, barfing out copy and pitching stories, to be able to be here. Instead, I was listening. Questioning. Learning. And singing along to karoke.
Most of all, thank you, AAJA, the Ford Foundation, sponsors, my fellow delegates, and my chapter in beautiful Chicago for investing in the time and support in me — and really, all of us — as storytellers to be able to contribute to a richer, chunkier and funkier sense of the human experience through our chosen practice of writing.
I miss you all already.
— Susan Oh