Tell us about you.
My name is Katharine Herndon, and I’m the Executive Director of James River Writers. This is my fourth year in this role. Before this, I was a middle school language arts teacher, and I volunteered with JRW a lot (which anyone who’s been around non-profits knows is a slippery slope!).
What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?
James River Writers connects, supports, and educates writers in the Central Virginia area and beyond. Writing can be a solitary art, at least the creation process, but it’s so much better when you have a community to support you. Through JRW, all kinds of writers in all stages of their journey can find so many resources: other people who understand how hard it is to get the words down; a wealth of information on technical, business, and craft issues; and a mutual celebration of the literary arts.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Two things. First, I love it when I meet someone who has found the impetus to tell the story inside them because of support they’ve received through James River Writers. And second, a little more selfishly, I get to hang out with amazingly creative people–our staff, our members, our volunteers–they all give me inspiration daily.
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
I think one of our major challenges is the same one many of our incredible, local non-profits experience: doing a lot with a little. Our staff members are all part time, so we rely on our rock star volunteers and board members. All of our major programs are headed by volunteers, and I would be crying under my desk without them.
What’s coming next for you and/or for your organization that really excites you?
I can’t wait for this year’s conference in October. Every year it has different speakers, different panels, and a different vibe, and every year it provides the joy, enthusiasm, and community connection that carries us through. Next year will be our 15th conference, and I’m particularly excited about what we’ll come up with to celebrate that milestone.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
When we need to hire staff, we don’t use any outside advertising other than ConnectVA. It always brings in a selection of high quality candidates that understand the non-profit world. It’s also a great place to advertise our upcoming events.
Anything else you would like to share?
At JRW, we see a lot of people who are writing but are reluctant to call themselves writers. They say, “Oh, it’s just a blog.” Or, “Well, I’m just writing down my grandmother’s story using some letters I found.” Or, “I dabble in poetry.” If you’re writing, you’re a writer. James River Writers says so.
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