Mission and History

Our Mission

James River Writers builds community by connecting and inspiring writers and all those in central Virginia with a love for the written word.

Our Past

JRW was established in 2002 by three co-founders–David L. Robbins, Dean King, and Phaedra Hise–who saw the need to support the growth of the region’s literary community. The first James River Writers Conference was held in October 2003.

Our Present

Today, JRW has grown into multi-faceted non-profit organization based in Richmond, Virginia, that serves as central Virginia’s literary hub and a welcoming home for anyone who loves the written word. Aspiring and professional writers in all genres and at all levels of ability benefit from a variety of programs, services, and events, often presented in partnership with other cultural organizations. We are supported by government grants, foundations, corporate partners, and the generosity of our members.

To find out more about JRW, including financial information and tax return information, see our profile on GiveRichmond.org or Guidestar.org. We also have a .pdf overview of our activities.


A few key events in our organization’s history:

2002    A group of area writers begins plans for a new literary organization in Richmond, Virginia.

2003    Inaugural conference sells out. Keynote speaker Tom Robbins inspires audience and thanks Richmond for his inspiration.

2004    JRW partners with Library of Virginia and the Barksdale Theatre to produce the first Virginia Arts and Letters LIVE, a celebration of live storytelling and original short fiction produced in Virginia. JRW launches Get Your Word On, an on-line newsletter.

2005    JRW launches The Writing Show, a lively monthly panel on the craft and the business of writing. JRW establishes its first office.

2006    JRW wins the Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts and launches the Best Unpublished Novel Contest.

2007    Style Weekly names the founding of JRW as one of the pivotal moments in the past quarter century of Richmond arts.

2008    JRW launches its Focus on Youth initiative including student writing contests open to all Richmond area students. Successful transition to second generation of organizational board leadership.

2009    JRW adds the Best Poetry Contest in association with Richmond magazine.

2010    JRW becomes an NEA grant recipient, launches a new professionally designed brand identity, and creates a community writing award in honor of Emyl Jenkins.

2011    New strategic plan in place, emphasizing JRW’s goals of engaging diverse audiences, continued growth of our programs, and achieving greater financial stability.

2012    JRW celebrates its tenth year, establishes the Founders Fund, hires an executive director, and moves the conference to the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

2013    JRW hires a bookkeeper and a program director, receives a CultureWorks grant, and forms a Youth Advisory Board. Office moves to Church Hill.

2014    JRW hires a membership coordinator, receives a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant, and sponsors the first Best Self-Published Novel Contest. The Best Poetry Contest is renamed in memory of Shann Palmer. Writers Farmhouse, a community gathering at Urban Farmhouse Midlothian, starts in March.

2015    JRW focuses on community partnerships and outreach, adding collaborative efforts with ROSMY, the Poe Museum, and others. With the Poe Museum, JRW launches the Poe Inspires flash fiction/poetry contest.

2016    JRW and the Poe Museum collaborate to bring five free Literary Salons and the first Poetry Unhappy Hour to the RVA community. CultureWorks awards a grant to update the website.

2017    JRW celebrates its fifteenth year, and the conference sells out for the first time at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The organization moves to hosting one contest per year (on a rotating, three-year basis), gaining Richmond magazine’s support for the Best Self-published Novel Contest.

2018    Membership reaches an all-time high of 470 members. The Writing Show has its best attendance in five years, and six out of ten Master Classes sell out. Six hands-on intensives prove to be a popular addition to the annual conference.