By Jennifer Drummond

James River Writers’ mission states it builds community by connecting and inspiring writers and readers in Central Virginia. While this is certainly true, JRW has also quietly built a community of wonderful volunteers. These volunteers have given, and continue to give, many hours of their time and talents each week. Whether they are keeping the community informed, creating awesome events, or offering a valuable resource, the volunteers are making great things happen.

So it is at this time we say thank you to our volunteers for all they have given and for choosing to be part of JRW. We spoke with a few volunteers who took the time to share their thoughts with us as they move out of their current roles at JRW.

After seven years, Cathy Allen has passed on her role of editing the Lit Calendar for James River Writers.

Jennifer Drummond: How long have you volunteered at JRW and what volunteer role did you fulfill? How many hours per month did you volunteer?

Cathy Allen
Cathy Allen

Cathy Allen: Since 2007, I’ve have proudly served as JRW’s Lit Calendar Editor. For 7 years I devoted 20 hours a month “snipping and clipping” a diverse range of literary events in the metro Richmond area and beyond.

Denise Golinowski: I’ve volunteered at JRW in one way or another for over ten years (maybe longer, but I haven’t a clue when I started). Initially, I helped with registration at the Writing Show when we were meeting at the Science Museum back with Anne Westrick and crew. Then I stepped in to hostess Writers Wednesdays until this year.

Cathy Hill:  I didn’t make a mental note of the year I started volunteering, but it was probably four or five years ago.  The Writing Show was still meeting at the Science Museum.  I served as greeter/hostess, helping set up and clean up, folding and handing out programs, collecting entrance fees, etc.  It took about 4-5 hours a week.

Also, I twice served as a first round reader at the Best Unpublished Novel contest, which was extremely enlightening and enjoyable. 

What motivated you to volunteer for JRW, and what have you gained from your experience?

Cathy Allen: Initially the GYWO Editor was responsible for crafting the newsletter and updating the lit calendar. Former Editor and JRW Board member Caroline Kettlewell (Electric Dreams) decided it would be more effective and efficient to split her position in two. I was looking for a way to help JRW at the time, so I stepped in and filled the need.

Denise Golinowski: I wanted to help out the group because they helped me so very much. I gained some wonderful friends, crucial skills, and valuable experience. To be able to meet and spend time with fellow writers has been the greatest pleasure.

Cathy Hill: I was motivated by interest in helping the organization, and volunteering has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of very interesting people and to learn a lot about writing.  I support JRW’s goals wholeheartedly.  I think that participating in JRW events and programs has improved my own writing tremendously.

How would you best describe your service and experience with JRW?

Cathy Allen: Caroline gave me the ball and I ran with it. Historically we at JRW have supported both writers and writing organizations by listing their events in the lit calendar. This benefits our members, who can view opportunities inside and outside of JRW offerings. With that in mind I made it my mission to develop a comprehensive regional literary calendar highlighting the extraordinarily

Denise Golinowski
Denise Golinowski

talented folks in our writing community. Through JRW I’ve had the chance to meet and work with a lot of wonderful, down to earth writers.

Denise Golinowski: I volunteered to become hostess of Writers Wednesday because I wanted to keep this purely social event rolling. Offering an opportunity for JRW members and guest to mix and mingle over food and drink. Introducing new folks to like-minded members and hopefully helping new folks feel welcomed.

What other pursuits keep you busy and inspired?

Cathy Allen: I enjoy spending time with family, especially my husband, Arthur, and son, David. I also love to read, write, cook, go to church, and work out at the gym. My husband and I developed the website for the Tell Tale Heart Sisters in Crime Chapter, and I intend to remain active in the chapter as an officer.

Denise Golinowski: I continue to attend JRW events. Outside JRW, I am a member of two critique groups who have helped me hone my skills and I am a PRO member of the Virginia Romance Writers chapter of Romance Writers of America. The VRW & RWA provide a high level of instruction and assistance to writers of all genres of Romance. Finally, I read voraciously (as do most of the writers I know) which helps me stay inspired, stimulated, and motivated to get my own writing out there.

Cathy Hill:  Well, first are my grandchildren:  nine-year-old Jackson and five-year-old Cooper live here in the Richmond area, and one-year-old Eleanor is in San Francisco.  I’ve been spending a lot of time at the boys’ baseball games lately, and try hard not to miss a single one.  Since I only had one week to meet Eleanor a year ago, I delight in the pictures her parents post, and knit little sweaters and hats for her continuously.   I am an avid knitter and crocheter, and yarn collector. I lead a group of knitters and crocheters that meets regularly, and I enjoy teaching newcomers how.  I  garden whenever I get the time, both flowers and vegetables, with varying degrees of success.  Oh, and I’m a crazy cat lady, with six feline rescues decorating the furniture.

I have an MA in Biological Anthropology, and have taught both Biology and Anthropology at the college level.  I still enjoy teaching, but it’s mostly at the level of answering friends and co-workers’ questions and explaining evolution.  I work full-time as a contractor Analyst at Defense Supply Center for DLA-Aviation.

What books are on your nightstand?

Cathy Allen: I like both commercial and literary fiction, so my nightstand has seen a full smorgasbord of wordy “feasts”; (The Well and the Mine; The Dogs of Babel, etc.) Right now, I’m reading The BibleA is For AlibiCedar Cove, and Virginia is for Mysteries (the Tell Tale Heart/Mystery by the Sea SinC Anthology). A Flannery O’Connor short story collection sulks in the drawer. One day I’ll sip that, followed, I’m sure, by chasers of uplifting romances or other inspirational works!

Denise Golinowski: Good gracious! Too many to remember. Currently reading (or devouring) Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, with the newest Jim Butcher, Phillpa Ballantine, Vicki Patterson, and Darynda Jones books on order.

Cathy Hill
Cathy Hill

Cathy Hill: My nightstand is an overflowing bookcase.  At the top of the pile are Anne Westrick’s Brotherhood and Virginia Pye’s River of Dust.  Further down are Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish, Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen’s North by Northwestern (because, why not?), and several David Baldacci and Patricia Cornwell books. The base of the stack is science fiction, including Asimov and Heinlein novels I want to re-read.  I am currently reading Ben Anderson’s first person account of war in Afghanistan, No Worse Enemy, loaned to me by a co-worker who is a young Marine who fought there.  On my Kindle is Jared Diamond’s The World Before Yesterday, and I read a chapter every workday at lunchtime.

What writing projects are in the works for you right now?

Cathy Allen: Currently I create and edit The Grove Miner, a community newsletter, but I also plan to unearth that mystery series I’ve left for dead and bring it to life!

Denise Golinowski: Final edits for Aces Down‘s. Revise & resubmit to my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Aces Down is a paranormal romance set in the same world as my Collector’s Item book (available from The Wild Rose Press). Aces Down is not sold yet, but I have my fingers crossed. Then I’ll dive into the book to follow Collector’s Item–another paranormal romance involving Peter Marant, the older brother of Collector’s Item‘s heroine, KT Marant. With the third Marant book, involving Nick Marant, KT’s younger brother, simmering on the back burner. Not to mention a bevy of fantasy shorts fluttering around in the belfry.

Cathy Hill: I have been lagging in my own writing.  The hard sci-fi novel is on hold while I reconsider the future technology available to the characters.  I once met Isaac Asimov and consider him my idol when it comes to writing fiction.  I wouldn’t want to let his memory down by doing a poor job of prognosticating.  In the meantime, I’ve been writing some odd short-stories.  I’ve been told they’re Stephen King-like or Twilight Zone-ish.  I haven’t sent any of my babies off for rejection in a while, but I really do need to soon.  The current WIP [work in progress] began as a short story, but my critique group is demanding more, so I’m contemplating where the characters travels will take them.

What thoughts or insight can you give to the next person taking over your responsibilities, to help them be the best volunteer?

Cathy Allen: It’s time for change, and the calendar is now in your capable hands. Take it, and make it your own.

Denise Golinowski: Remember what it was like the first time you walked into a JRW event. What would have made you more comfortable? Take a moment away from catching up with your regulars to meet someone new. It only takes a friendly smile and a welcoming attitude to show them they’re home.

Cathy Hill: For future volunteers, I would only recommend remembering that they are the first face attendees see when they come to The Writing Show, so a smile and a “Welcome” are  important.  Otherwise, it’s an easy way to help support JRW.


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