Are You Our Next Program Director?

We are sad to share that our program director, Sheila Sheppard Lovelady, is stepping down as of May 31st due to a relocation and to focus on her own writing. Her recent move to the Eastern Shore will bring her the opportunity to achieve her dream of pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and we wish her well on this new leg of her journey! In the meantime, though, we are starting the job search right away so that our next program director can benefit from her expertise before she leaves us.

Please see the overview of this part-time position below as well as more detailed information that follows. If you are interested in applying, please send your resume, cover letter, and three letters of recommendation to Katharine Herndon at by 5:00 on April 25.

Overview: A 25 hour/week position, the program director will work closely with the executive director, board members, and volunteers to ensure all aspects of programming are scheduled, publicized, staffed, and implemented smoothly and professionally. Good communication, administration, and organizational skills are a must. $22,000/year

Skills Needed: Candidates should have 3-5 years of experience in 1) event planning and management, 2) communicating and working well with an active board and membership, 3) utilizing a computer for word processing, spreadsheets, donor database access, and internet, 4) managing volunteers, and 5) writing and editing press releases and newsletters.

Additional Qualifications Desired:

  • Experience utilizing MailChimp, WordPress, Dropbox, and Google Docs
  • Familiarity with James River Writers programs
  • Exceptional writing skills


Mark Covington on his debut musical comedy, Writers’ Weekend

JRW member Mark Covington, interviewed by Joanna S. Lee, warns us not to take ourselves too seriously in his debut musical comedy, Writers’ Weekend, showcasing at Richmond Triangle Players on Saturday, May 11.

Elizabeth Brown, frustrated & unpublished writer, has arrived at “The Porches,” an antebellum bed and breakfast and writers’ retreat in rural Virginia, to facilitate a weekend writers’ workshop and whip a group of aspiring writers into literary shape. And she has her work cut out for her. Her group includes Prescott Moore, formerly Captain Fabulous, a B-grade television actor attempting to fine-tune his play (Rickets -The Musical), whose former identity returns to haunt him when he encounters Zebula Nebulon, self-published science fiction writer and consummate Captain Fabulous fan. Ed R. Thompson is a retired newspaper reporter-turned-crime-writer who butts heads over who is the most street-wise with Sojourn Word, an angry slam poet from the suburbs. Desiree Lamoure, successful romance writer and Elizabeth’s former English teacher, sets her bodice-ripping sights on seducing Miles Stanley, a young technical writer who specializes in trains. Faced with the awful prose produced by these literary novices, Elizabeth decides to have the group members swap genres …to hilarious ends. To top it off, a major literary agency has sent their most critical agent, Roxanne Gold, to attend the group’s end-of-workshop recital…

J: What inspired you to write about writers? 

M: The idea materialized through a dinner conversation with another writer. We were talking about some of the folks that attend the various writing functions and meetings – some real characters. So I thought they would make a perfect cast for a play.

J (laughing): So… any character similarities to writers you know (we know)?

M: When you interact with a writer, you have to remember, he’s taking notes. So, yes, enough to make them know if they’re in there… not enough to get sued! It’s really an amalgamation of character traits, mixed and matched. A part of someone you might know in one character, another in different character, all jumbled in with the stereotypes for the different genres.

J: Is there any single character you most identify with as a writer?

M: [pause] I wanted to stay out of it. [Then] Maybe the crime writer.

J: Why did you choose a musical format?

M: It just sort of evolved that way. It’s very character driven, and I felt the plot needed more, so I decided that giving each writer a song to capture his or her respective genre would not only fill in the plot, but also add comedic value. There’s nothing better than a funny song.

J: You’re no stranger to theater. Your first play, Shakespeare in the Trailer Park, which debuted at the Barnstormes Theater in Phillidelphia in 2012, and showcased in Richmond at the Gottwald (Richmond CenterStage), received rave reviews. How was the Writers’ Weekend process different from Shakespeare?

M: Writing a musical is much more complex and it’s tough to coordinate because there are more moving parts, lyrics, music and choreography… it takes more people to get something done. Each of the key players – in this case lyricist Rebecca Elizabeth Jones and composer Paul R. Bartsch – has their own priorities and schedules… it just complicates things by another order of magnitude.

J: What was your favorite part in seeing it all come together?

M: The bad writing! It was so much fun writing bad romance… bad poetry… bad science fiction… Just to write really terribly… and have fun with it.

J: Do you see this as a show that will appeal to all audiences? Or primarily to writers themselves? 

M: It’s got it all – humor, a great cast of characters, fantastic music and wonderful songs. … It’s definitely not just for writers, but for anyone who’s ever known a writer or tried to write.

J: Any final thoughts on the process or what we should know going in? 

M: Definitely keep an open mind… it’s a musical comedy, a reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously or pigeonhole ourselves into a single genre stereotype. In a nutshell, it’s a series of hookups and throw downs that showcases, through song, how different writers approach their craft.

Oh, and it’s typical for a stage reading/showcase that there are no costumes, no sets and that the actors are reading from scripts. In the full production of this work, there are no costumes, only six chairs and a bar for a set… and they’ll be reading from manuscripts throughout… so the showcase is pretty much the same as the full show—I’d encourage anyone who wants to see it, to try to make the showcase.

Writers’ Weekend

Showcase on May 11, 2014 at 8:00 PM at Richmond Triangle Players
Book by V. Mark Covington,
Lyrics by Rebecca Elizabeth Jones and
Music by Paul R. Bartsch.
Produced and Directed by Billy Christopher Maupin.
Tickets are only $10 and are available for purchase online or via the ticket hotline at 804-346-8113

V. Mark Covington

V. Mark Covington is the author of five published novels Church of the Path of LeastResistance, BullfishHeavenly Pleasure, Homemade Sin, 2012 Montezuma’s Revenge. His play Shakespeare in the Trailer Park debuted in Philadelphia in 2011 and was produced as a stage reading by Richmond Shakespeare in 2012. His second play - Writers’ Weekend – A Musical will debut at Richmond Triangle Players on May 11, 2014. He currently lives in Richmond Virginia, where he writes novels exploring the cosmically comical nature of the universe, the purpose of which is to create someone who lives in Richmond, Virginia and write novels exploring the cosmically comical nature of the universe.


Joanna S. Lee has never been formally trained in any kind of writing, thank you very much. She can, however, dissect the brainstem of a neonatal mouse or diagnose your lower back pain. Her first full-length book of poetry, the somersaults I did as I fell, was released in January of 2009. Her work has been recently featured in Right Hand Pointing and qarrtsiluni, among others.

Special Podcast: Plot Mechanics with Pip Ballantine
and Tee Morris

Philippa Ballantine and Tee MorrisIn a few weeks, the husband-and-wife writing team of Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine will invade Richmond and share their writing wisdom. Of course, unless you go to our Writing Show on Thursday night and their Master Class on Friday, you’ll miss it.

Pip and Tee, co-writers of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, are no strangers to Richmond or James River Writers. They also spoke at our annual conference in 2013, and anyone who attended their panels knows they’re well worth the price of admission later this month.

Bill Blume, author of Tales of a 10th Grade Vampire Hunter, moderated the dynamic steampunk duo on a panel about plot mechanics, and they had a blast. Bill will get a second crack at hosting a discussion with Pip and Tee at our Writing Show on Thursday, March 27th. They’ll be talking about the “Hybrid Author,” and how writers can combine traditional and indie publishing to improve their literary presence and income.

Still need more incentive to go? Well, fine. Here’s an audio sample of what Pip and Tee had to offer attendees at our 2013 conference. After that, go register for the March 27th Writing Show and the March 28th Master Class.


Shann Palmer (1950-2013): What Remains

A Remembrance by Erica Orloff

ShannEvery time I think I am all cried out about the death of my beloved friend, poet Shann Palmer, it turns out I am not. As I fell into bed last night, again I sobbed for missing her. She left us far too soon, collapsing in mid-December from a heart attack, lingering in a coma for about ten days, before passing on December 21st, just before her birthday. This was a spitfire of a woman.  I fully expected her to be raising hell well into her nineties, or to be sitting side by side with her in rocking chairs laughing and talking poetry and words.

But I know, because that is how mourning works, that time will lessen the intensity of the grief, until it feels less like a blade and more like a butter knife. I, and all who loved this amazing woman, will cry less often. And then we’ll have What Remains. (more…)

Thank you for buying t-shirts! They will ship soon!


Thank you to each of you who bought the JRW t-shirts and helped us complete a successful campaign with Bonfire funds. A portion of each sale goes to James River Writers.  Not only did you help us raise more than $300, you helped us accomplish our wider goal of letting people know that there is a thriving literary community in Richmond and beyond.

Do you write RVA? Of couse you do!

Thank you for your support!


Twitter Chat with Jennifer Miller on Wednesday, July 10, at noon

JenniferMillerPlease join James River Writers on Wednesday, July 10th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET to participate in a Twitter chat with Jennifer Miller, author of the award-winning Year of the Gadfly, about all things writing related.

Here is how it will work:

1. You will need a Twitter account to talk with Jennifer during the Twitter chat.

2. Follow James River Writers (@JamesRvrWriters) and Jennifer Miller (@PROPJEN) before the Twitter chat so that you don’t miss anything

3. Log into Twitter a few minutes before the chat. Enter #JRWC13 in the search box. (more…)

The Lowdown on the Arts & Culture Xpo, Saturday June 29, 2013

I’ll admit, it took me a while to cotton on to the whole concept of the Arts and Culture Xpo. They give you money? For free? And it’s yours to give to whatever nonprofit you choose, including JRW? Why, sign me up!


The Xpo is an annual event presented by CultureWorks, a consortium whose sole purpose is to promote cultural and artistic endeavors in the Richmond area. The Xpo, held this year at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on June 29th, spotlighted the region’s many nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Over 100 local groups were represented, including not only the James River Writers, but Henley Street Theatre, Gallery5, the Library of Virginia, Richmond Shakespeare, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Conciliation Project, Podium Foundation, and many, many, many more. Patrons (technical term: “Cultural Shareholders”) were given bank envelopes with “Xpo Bucks” and encouraged to browse the booths, checking out the variety of artistic and cultural endeavors available in Richmond, and supporting the organizations that caught their fancies. Ninety (“real”) cents out of every $1 Xpo Buck went directly to the nonprofit at the end of the day. Some booths displayed their creative wares and services; others snared visitors’ eyes and Xpo Bucks by offering something in exchange: t-shirts, CDs, raffle tickets.

At the JRW table, it was custom-written haiku and zombie stories.


Executive Director Katharine Herndon and Program Director Sheila Sheppard Lovelady manned the booth, churning out zombie gore and poetry while chatting with visitors and fans. Youth Advisory Board member Annesha Sengupta was also there to lend a hand for much of the day, and poets Shann Palmer and I stopped by to write a few haiku on our way to the stage. (more…)

James River Writers Announces the 2013 Best Unpublished Novel Contest Winner and Finalists

James River Writers is pleased to announce Laura Long of Charlottesville, for What Will Burn, as the first place winner of the JRW and Richmond Magazine 2013 Best Unpublished Novel Contest. Phyllis Haislip of Williamsburg, for The Viscount’s Daughter, and Derek Kannemeyer of Richmond, for The Memory Addicts, have been selected as finalists.

The Best Unpublished Novel Contest, held since 2008 in alternating years with the Best Poetry Contest, is at the heart of James River Writers’ mission of connecting and inspiring readers and writers.

Seventy-two writers submitted the first fifty pages of their manuscripts to be scored by a cadre of volunteer readers. The process was completely anonymous. A team of second-round judges—Maya Payne Smart, Gigi Amateau, and Douglas Jones—selected the three finalists from the top nine’s complete manuscripts. Head judge Virginia Pye then determined the winner.

“Long’s What Will Burn is written in simple, clear language that shows admirable restraint and even, at times, elegance,” says Pye, author of River of Dust (Unbridled Books, May 2013). (more…)

Support JRW at the Arts & Culture Xpo on June 29

Arts & Culture XpoWouldn’t your life be complete with a custom haiki crafted by a Richmond poet? Haven’t you been dreaming of starring in your own zombie story?

Come by the JRW booth at the Arts & Culture Xpo on Saturday, June 29, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., to help us raise money and have fun with the written word.

Also be sure to visit Stage 2 at 3:15 PM. You won’t want to miss Shann Palmer and Joanna Lee performing spoken word.

The Arts and Culture Xpo is an annual event presented by CultureWorks spotlighting over 100 of the Richmond region’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations all under one roof on one day. It is a gathering for anyone who values arts and culture in our community.

Sign-up to be a Cultural Shareholder today to receive free Xpo Bucks to support the arts at the Xpo. Anyone, of voting age, who recognizes and values arts and culture to help build great communities can become a Cultural Shareholder. There are no fees but registration is required.  (more…)

Twitter Chat with Virginia Pye on Friday, June 21

River of Dust CoverPlease join James River Writers on Friday, June 21st from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET to participate in a Twitter chat with Virginia Pye, author of the debut novel River of Dust, about all things writing related.

Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, is an Indie Next Pick for May, 2013. She has a recent essay inThe Rumpus, one forthcoming in The New York Times Opinionator blog and was interviewed at The Nervous Breakdown and The Huffington Post. Her award-winning short stories have been published in numerous literary magazines. Virginia holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and The University of Pennsylvania. She was a past three term chair of James River Writers.Visit 

Here is how the Twitter chat will work:  (more…)