The member diversity in the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) makes our goal of connecting, educating, advocating, and leading possible. As Bookwomen, we believe “Books Have Power.”
The Bookwoman welcomes Kate Farrell (WNBA-San Francisco) to the “Power Behind the WNBA” interview series!
How long have you been a member of the WNBA-San Francisco chapter? What originally made you join?
I first joined WNBA-SF over 10 years ago after learning about the organization at the San Francisco Writers Conference in 2005. C. W. Gortner, who was manning the WNBA exhibitor’s table, encouraged me to join. His charm and enthusiasm were irresistible!
I was drawn to the WNBA for several reasons:
- it is affiliated with the United Nations.
- it is both an educational and charitable non-profit organization.
- it advocates for literacy and for women’s voice.
- it is a national membership network that includes professional women with careers related to books, not just writers.
The service component intrigued me. Later, I learned that the national founders believed in the power of books as agents for change. They also realized the need for women in the world of words.
While attending the annual Effie Lee Morris Lectures at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), I became reacquainted with Ms. Effie Lee Morris. She was our WNBA-SF chapter founder and the retired chief of children’s services at the SFPL. As a librarian colleague of hers in the 1970s, I knew of her dedication to at-risk youth through community outreach programs. Ms. Morris’ commitment to service greatly influenced the WNBA-SF chapter and motivated me to promote similar activities as a board member.
What are your current and past roles with the WNBA-SF?
In 2011, the WNBA-SF chapter was at a low point in membership and management — preparing to dissolve. I was recruited to help rescue the chapter and appointed vice-president in January 2012. When asked to serve, I resolved to do so for Ms. Morris who had recently passed away.
For the next four years, due to the disarray of the chapter’s records and documentation, I fulfilled the roles of vice-president, president, membership chair, treasurer, web editor, and program director. Over time, with the assistance of other long-time members, Linda Lee and Linda Joy Myers, and with the support of the national board, we were able to re-establish the WNBA-SF chapter. We created systems to sustain its basic functions, both in operations and programming.
Currently, I am delighted and gratified to be the immediate past president of a thriving and dynamic chapter.
What keeps you dedicated to the WNBA-SF?
Because the WNBA is, at its core, an advocate for women’s voice and literacy, I continue to support its mission. Our chapter events that showcase members’ published works are an inspiration. The chapter also serves the writing community with activities such as Pitch-O-Rama, which provides access to literary agents and acquisition editors for local authors.
How has the WNBA-SF evolved since you joined?
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the WNBA-SF chapter. It is a tribute to the many volunteers who contributed to its survival over the years. Though the first decades of the chapter included a majority membership of public librarians and publishers who sponsored literacy outreach, its later years have included beginning writers who see the advantage of a national platform.
It seems that a balance between being a promotional platform for members and a vehicle for service within the community provides the necessary vitality for the WNBA-SF.
Different from just another writers’ club, the WNBA-SF’s network extends throughout the literary world: connecting, educating, advocating, and leading. Its members’ connections — publishers, editors, librarians, conference planners, literary agents, and authors of many genres — is the basis for the multi-faceted organization. It offers members many benefits.
What compelling/interesting events have happened while you have been a part of the WNBA-SF?
As incoming president in 2013, I first connected with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWOP) and sponsored a number of chapter events to highlight their exemplary work. I was thrilled to discover a local group — The Afghan Friends Network (co-founded by our chapter member Humaira Ghilzai) — that agreed to jointly present with AWWP. Since I was first drawn to the WNBA for its international connections, these programs were gratifying in scope.
However, the most compelling aspect of my work was the WNBA literacy program with the Living Room, Santa Rosa, a day center for homeless women and children. Over three years, the WNBA-SF sponsored book drives and donations to the Mothers’ Program. We also visited the center weekly or biweekly to read aloud and donate books to mothers and children. I am most grateful to WNBA-SF for providing the platform for this fulfilling venture.
When the Living Room moved to a larger renovated space, we donated to a standing library there. One of our partners, the Sonoma County Free Bookmobile, visited the Living Room each season, assisted with book orders, and shared resources with WNBA-SF. Partners in the holiday book drive were Copperfields Books and the Sitting Room, a community feminist library.
Anything else you want to share?
It’s exciting to see the WNBA-SF chapter continue its partnerships with the Women’s Building, Litquake, and San Francisco Writers Conference, while expanding to include the Mechanics Institute Library. The many facets of the WNBA-SF chapter facilitates its ability to create a powerful network.
Interview compiled by assistant editor Pam Ebel (WNBA-New Orleans).