It's hard to know, just exactly, when it's time to end a volunteer commitment, but I'd been thinking of ending my service with Literary Mama for about a year before I finally said goodbye to the all-volunteer staff this past June. The challenge was to determine the best way to transition to new leadership without disrupting the workflow and overwhelming the staff.
I think we succeeded. Our nine-month transition began in October and included discussions with senior leadership about finances, the organization's mission, and the many tasks that one does simply because they need to be done. We completed an all-staff survey in April to assess commitment, identify strengths, and solicit ideas for improvement. Best of all, the transition appeared seamless to the reader.
That phrase--appeared seamless to the reader--may be the point I'm most proud of. As I discussed the actual transfer of leadership with the senior leadership, we considered the 10-issues-per-year publication schedule that keeps our editors busy and the habits of our readers and the submission schedules of our writers because we didn't want to damage any of the relationships we'd built. We wanted to live up to the level of trust so many place in us, and we wanted to be deserving of that trust in the future. Call it integrity or obligation or commitment--I believe those concepts should be at the foundation of any leadership changes an organization makes, especially those made by an all-volunteer organization.
There's a bittersweetness that comes with the word "former," but that sentiment is offset by the knowledge that the organization is held in loving hands by women who are excited to move it forward.
I didn't join Literary Mama in 2010 with the hope of becoming Editor-in-Chief. I joined because there was no one else in my community who was interested in reading and writing about motherhood and family the way I was. A local writing group I helped create around 2000 dissolved after a few years when everyone but me moved away. An online critique group I joined shortly after that exposed me to a variety of subjects but became burdensome with a monthly critique requirement that left little time for the subject I was most interested in. There's no doubt that I read of Literary Mama's needs at just the right time in my life. They were looking for a blog editor; I was looking for a new experience and a community that was deliberate in thought, word, and deed.
I've volunteered for many different types of organizations over the years but this one is, by far, the most unique and dear to my heart. From day one, I was encouraged to take initiative and be responsible, to be a self-starter, and to make the position(s) my own. But more importantly, I was supported by thoughtful responses to my questions and sincere interest in my suggestions. This support helped me respond yes when I was asked to accept the roles of senior editor and managing editor in 2014, and two years later, to that of editor-in-chief.
Highlights of my time with Literary Mama:
- crafting more than 100 writing prompts
- developing four blog series that highlighted staff achievements, offered inspiration to writers, and shared tips for having work published on Literary Mama's pages
- expanding Style Guide
- redesigning website
- establishing standards for tracking website and social media metrics
- managing production schedules
- helping hundreds of writers develop their voices
- working with dozens of volunteers spread across five time zones but committed to the same quality of work as I was