Archives for June 2017

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: The Written Words of Women

This week, Connie Spittler encourages women to crack open their worlds—on paper.


The poet Muriel Rukeyser asked, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?” Her answer: “The world would split open.”


We hold a universal knowledge within us. Telling it, sharing it, writing it down sets the commotion in motion. Like a breakfast egg, we crack open the sphere that is our world and find our truth, the simple wisdom that comes from our life stories.


We belong to an ancient tribe of storytellers, a long line of ancestors who washed clothes down by the river and remembered, who sewed at quilting bees and talked of the past, who cooked for harvesters and shared stories, who held children on warm laps and whispered true tales. Today in shopping malls and beauty shops, on cell phones and during coffee breaks, women talk of life’s unfolding events. No matter where it happens, this is storytelling, one of our oldest traditions. Our stories become a lasting tribute to the fact that we were here.


Since time eternal, women have told and retold family stories while we stir soup, wipe little noses, and comfort oldsters. We’ve accomplished great things, led countries, discovered radium, protected the environment, founded colleges, crusaded against birth defects. Think Indira Gandhi, Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, Mary McLeod Bethune and Virginia Apgar, M.D.


Closer at hand, we soothe teething babies and clean mineral deposits off faucets, make paste from flour and water in the morning and gravy thickener from water and flour in the afternoon. We know facts and events unknown by scholars and historians, possessing a tantalizing mix of information to offer others; family stories and heartbreaking secrets, like the reason cousin Maria doesn’t talk to cousin Edith, the medical history of miscarriage in our family, the reasons I was beaten as a child by my daddy.


Whether we’re thirty or 100, passing on the story of our lives—the wisdom we’ve discovered—is important. Remember Muriel Rukeyser’s question, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?” I visualize the earth reacting gently to one woman’s story, unfolding her reality. Then the world reverberates to the buzzing of hundreds—why not millions of women?—telling the truth of their lives. The globe moves to the magnificent hubbub of happiness, sadness, love, laughter, grieving and anger as women’s words sing out, each story separate, yet connected. I imagine their words on paper, the sphere trembling in anticipation as pages go flying faster and faster, spinning and turning, cream into butter, straw into gold, life into stories, until Mother Earth splits open from the pure joy of it all.


Take up your pencil and paper. Turn on your computer. Crack open your world. When the writing is finished, say, “Yes, I was here.” Your stories can last as long as the paper that holds them and as long as the people read them. Long live this endless paper trail of women’s wisdom.


Connie Spittler’s literary mystery The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies won 2nd Place in The Eudora Welty Memorial Award in NLAPW’s Biennial Letters Competition 2016. She also has received recognition from The Chanticleer International Mystery and Mayhem Contest and Wishing Shelf Book Clubs in Great Britain and Sweden. Her essays appear in twenty anthologies alongside The Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Kingsolver, and Terry Tempest Williams. The video series that she wrote/produced is archived in Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. She is a member of Omaha Branch NLAPW.


“Abstract Colour Pencil” image by tigger11th/


WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!


Art of the Week: Eye of the Beholder

“Eye of the Beholder”


Diana Sanzone

All Cities Branch NLAPW





Attention Pen Women! We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and send only one work per email as a low resolution file. Put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line and provide the information seen in the posts (title/medium/name/branch). Your submission may then be made to Jamie Tate at Thank you!

It’s A Creative Business: Expressive Writing—A Foundation for Business Success

This week, Ronni Miller discusses the merits of expressive writing as a business tool.


You don’t have to be a writer to express yourself through the medium of expressive writing.


I began writing in childhood. It was a way for me, a shy child, to express my views, insights, upsets and imagined thoughts. It was a way to vent.  As a child, I had no idea about these grownup words like vent or even express thoughts. It was just a way for me to get my voice out of my head and down on paper. It made me feel happy to release it.


In 1999, I discovered that what I had been doing all my life had a name.  It is called expressive writing.  I first read about the term and its value in medicine when reading the research work of James W. Pennebaker, PhD.  His research proved that writing about trauma reduced the effects of illnesses.  Pennebaker and other scientific researchers in the field have documented the success of writing about trauma as it relates to wellness and reduces anxiety.  I began to incorporate that concept into Write It Out ®, a program I created and taught to children and adults that began seven years earlier as a motivational program. For the last eighteen years it has segued into the health care field, where I facilitate expressive writing workshops at cancer centers and hospitals as well as in universities and education centers. It has become an important arm of my business, Write It Out.


How then can expressive writing, which I define as any writing in any genre that includes journal writing, poetry, prose and theater pieces, be a tool for creative artists in business?




  • clears the cobwebs
  • restarts the engine
  • reduces anxiety
  • taps into feelings, memories and experiences
  • boosts health and well being
  • recharges self-confidence and self-esteem
  • fosters courage in the face of naysayers
  • provides a venting outlet
  • supports the vision


Most artists work alone, and the business side of creativity is often daunting.  Many prefer to just create and have someone else, a magic genie, take over the business of selling, marketing and finances.  All too often the artist, marketer, seller and financial person need to be all-in-one. This can cause stress and conflict.


Recently I spoke to an artist and illustrator who told me that, due to a letter she wrote to a client expressing enjoyment of painting a picture of the woman’s grandchildren and inviting her to the studio to see more of her work, she was commissioned to do six paintings of characters from The Wizard of Oz. “This client is now a major collector of my work,” said Karizu-Becher.


Another fine artist described how recording a dream in her journal led to an oil painting that won first prize in a juried show.


Take a few minutes to express your feelings and thoughts in writing or to record your dreams. You may find yourself just documenting or you may discover the pleasure of creating a poem or prose piece based on angst and thoughts. In either case, you will have used a simple method to release anxiety and help your business succeed.


Ronni Miller, award winning fiction writer, author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, produced playwright, published essayist is the Founder and Director of Write It Out® a motivational and expressive writing program for individuals of all ages since 1992. She facilitates workshops in the US, Italy and Bermuda and has a private practice as Book Midwife. A NLAPW member since 2008, she serves as board member of her Sarasota, FL Branch and 4th Vice President of NLAPW. 


“Spiral Notebook with Pen” image by adamr/


WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!


Poem of the Week: Nourishing You

Patricia A. Oplinger
Member-at-Large from Cherokee Village, AR


I wish I could take language

and pour it into a bowl

of warm, encouraging thoughts


I would splash soothing sentences

around its edges

for you to set astir


I would adjust the fragrant spice

of self-esteem

for you to inhale


I would have you listen

to the plop of paragraphs

saying, “Hush, hush, it’s all right.


Then I would spoon you sweet phrases

to heal damages past words

may have caused


Art of the Week: Bridge Structures at the Forth

“Bridge Structures at the Forth”

(Original digital image, 15″ x 12″;  framed, 18″ x 15″)

maria keane

Diamond State Branch NLAPW



Attention Pen Women! We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and then submit your work in an email to Jamie Tate at Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

It’s A Creative Business: To Freelance or Not to Freelance? ‘Tis Not an Easy Answer…

This week, Rodika Tollefson weighs the pros and cons of a freelancing career.


Ahh, the freelance life. Have you been dreaming of being your own boss, working in your pajamas, and playing hooky whenever the muse abandons you?


There’s certain romanticism about “working for yourself.” Turning every day into casual Friday (PJs or otherwise), picking and choosing your projects, and making your own schedule sounds appealing, indeed—and that sweet 30-second commute to the office can’t be beat.


But the freelance life has just as many drawbacks as advantages. If you’re thinking about making the leap, make sure you know what you’re getting into.


When I started the freelance life more than 15 years ago, I wanted flexibility while the kids were young. Little did I know about the “feast or famine” that’s inherent with self-employment, or the other costs of “flexibility.”


I’ve dabbled a few times since then with the idea of getting a “real” (i.e. full-time) job but despite the potential perks—paid vacation and sick leave, medical insurance, stable paycheck, and consistent hours—I hope I never have go back to “punching the clock.” Once you’ve been self-employed for a while, it’s tough to go back!


If freelancing full-time is on your mind, let’s talk about some pros and cons:


Being your own boss: Don’t like having a boss? Try having a dozen! Although customers can’t tell you how, when, and what to do, you are accountable to every single one of them through your deliverables. They don’t always listen to your expertise either—but, as the cliché goes, the customer’s always right.


To add to the pressure, clients often have competing priorities and deadlines. It’s up to you to meet them all.


On the other hand, being your own boss means you’re in charge of your own opportunities. If you have the self-drive and motivation to succeed, this is a wonderful thing.


Setting your own schedule: So long, vacation requests at the mercy of the HR manager! You can take time off whenever you please.


That is, until several requests pour in at the same time—which, says Murphy’s Law, happens more often than you may like, especially when you’re in the middle of packing for that extended weekend.


The beauty of working your own schedule is that nobody cares if you work in the wee hours of morning or late at night (well, maybe your family does). You can work from the beach and even from the other side of the country or world (I did that several times, and no one was the wiser).


Choosing your projects: You can turn down a potential client or project any time you want. But in reality, you’re not likely to do that regularly unless you’re so renowned in your field that you can command top dollar or earn a good living with just a few gigs here and there.


Remember that “feast or famine” nobody warned me about? After 15 years of doing this, it’s still not uncommon.


Take last month, for example. I was enjoying the slower pace the first week, even thinking I’d finally have time to do some creative writing, which doesn’t pay the bills like my commercial work does. And then, the floodgates opened and I spent the next three weeks camped in my home office, working 60 or more hours a week.


I could have turned down some of the projects, but they were all wonderful, new opportunities that could become long-term, well-paying projects. So I marched on. Besides, nobody’s paying for my time off—so making “extra” is a good way to finance that dream vacation.


Running your business: Whether you’re a freelance writer like me or an artist, musician, or any other type of creative, working for yourself means you’re running a bona fide business.


On the positive side, that means you can deduct business expenses like furniture for your home office and mileage. On the other hand, you have to pay oodles of taxes, as well as cover all your expenses, from equipment and professional development to marketing.


Without a regular paycheck, you have to plan your cash flow carefully. Even if you think you’re well prepared for the ebb and flow, all it takes to feel unstable is a longtime client pulling the plug.


I can’t tell you how many times I got a phone call or email informing me that a project I’ve done for years was moved “in-house” or defunded, or an ongoing monthly project was canceled without any notice—sometimes more than one project in the same month.


Freelancing doesn’t just take a certain kind of free spirit and self-motivation. To succeed, you need to be resilient, dogged, and thick-skinned. If you need stability, this is not the path for you.


But if you can handle some rough seas, bon voyage! You’ll be the captain of your own ship (as well as the first mate and deckhand), and where your great new adventure takes you is completely up to you.



Rodika Tollefson is a member-at-large who has a master’s degree in digital media, which included coursework in digital media law. She’s a seasoned journalist who now provides digital media content and strategy, and is currently the editor of The Pen Woman and the National Public Relations Committee Chair.

“Memo Book” by winnond/

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

Art of the Week: “Light Offering”

“Light Offering”


Janine Wilson

Yucca Branch NLAPW



Attention Pen Women! We’d love to see your best work for possible publication as Art of the Week. Please review the general submission guidelines on our web site and then submit your work in an email to Jamie Tate at Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: What is Creativity?

This week, Dr. Patricia Daly-Lipe asks the question and ruminates on an answer.


What is creativity? To find out, we can pursue two avenues. On the one hand, we can follow a systematic, methodical mode of rational thought. On the other hand, the search can be approached irrationally or non-logically, a non-linear mode of thought.


On the rational side, we begin with words. To form a description of creativity, we need a vocabulary. Or do we? Here, the right brain (the non-rational side) kicks in and challenges the left’s (or rational side’s) attempt at analysis. Is part of the essence of creativity beyond definition? If this is the case, can we think (and thus experience creativity) without words?


Are language and the naming of things equivalent to thinking? According to Webster, to think means “to have the mind occupied on some subject; to judge; to intend; to imagine, to consider” and “to believe.” Can we imagine without imaging something? Can we believe without believing something? Prior to naming things, is man thinking?


Thinking involves knowing, and what follows is the possibility that knowing does not need an image. Perhaps to know requires that we recognize how much we do not know. To paraphrase St. Thomas: “The more that I know, the more I know how little I know.” Etymology or the study of the derivation of words can assist and enhance our search for the origin of thought. The word “recognize,” for example, comes from “re” (again) and cognosere (Latin), meaning ‘to know.’ Thus, if we recognize something, it is because we knew it before. But when did we actually begin to know? And, therefore, when did we begin to think, since thinking and knowing are mutually supporting? Again, we look at words. How do we “know,” understand, and “recognize” (know again) the following words: love, hate, envy? These are words but they aren’t objects; they cannot be visualized. They come from within. These are called emotions. Our primitive ancestors probably anthropomorphized word pictures to express feelings; adjectives came later.


Metaphor pairs two images thrown into relief but intact, each unto itself. There is a definite psychological mechanism used in the processing of a metaphor. “Metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by man,” wrote José Ortega Gassetin in 1948. For Ortega, life was an intense dialogue between oneself and one’s environment. “Things are not me and I am not things: we are mutually transcendent, but both are immanent in that absolute coexistence, which is life.” (Unas lecciones de metafisica, 1966) “Yo soy yo y mi circumstancia – I am I and my circumstances.” Metaphor transcends the obvious and the visual, and translates man’s relation to his environment on another level—a “transcendent,” unique or creative level.


Another linguistic aspect of creativity might be observed in Descartes’ definition of the essence of man: “Je pense, donc je suis.” (I think; therefore, I am.) which occurs in his Discourse on Method (1637). Philosophical thought expresses both the potential and the limitations of human knowledge. It demands that we attempt to think beyond reality.


But how did man jump from naming names to ‘understanding’ them, from depicting observed images on the walls of a cave to developing philosophical insight? The answer, I believe, occurred when we became conscious of the difference between us and other; when we understood that we were ‘seeing’ this or that and we were somehow involved with what was “out there.” Could it be that our awareness of ourselves in the world as other than the objects came before words? If so, the words, even the painted images, followed thought. And if this is so, thought comes before words. Man can think without words. I am; therefore, I think. So, the depiction of what we observed and the development of a language to express our relationship with the observed were preceded by something beyond words.


The root of the word imagination, is image. To imagine something in the mind’s eye, we must have seen it in the “outside” world. The object is on the outside; the thought of the object is on the inside. However, the two sides are not separate. Sensations follow the same logic. We can feel/hear/see/smell; there is no hearing without sound, no sense-perception without an object to provoke it. Again, it is a question of the person knowing that he knows, being aware that he is aware. First there is the thought and then there is the thing. The inevitable question follows: If there were no thought of it, would the object not be there? Is an object/sensation a thing unto itself without a person’s perception of it? Does thought exist before words?


Science can contribute facts; however, the philosopher (from Latin, philos, meaning “loving,” and Sophos, meaning “wise”) in his wide intellectual pursuit knows no boundaries.


The word ‘create’ means to bring forth something new as an artistic or intellectual invention. The moment preceding the act of spontaneous creativity has been described many ways. Dancer Isadora Duncan called it a “state of complete suspense.” This non-verbal excitement, dreamlike, vague, and ambiguous is also experienced in the other arts: painting, writing, music, and sculpting. Author and poet Stephen Spender expressed it succinctly and pointedly as “a dim cloud of an idea, which I feel must be condensed into a shower of words.” In painting, I have often experienced what Cézanne described as “an iridescent chaos” when the painting and I compete for dominance. Paint stroke by paint stroke, the colors sit up on the canvas, and the adventure begins as I attempt to come to an agreement (or image) while the painting seems to have a mind of its own. This sounds like nonsense, but for me it sets in motion my subconscious. Mesmerized, I watch as something new manifests itself on the canvas before my bewildered eyes. The same happens in creative writing, when the words take over and I am amazed.


But it is the art of music which represents a plane of consciousness beyond form and epitomizes creativity at its most abstract and pure state. In its acoustical and physical manifestation, music is imbued with mathematics. Pythagoras (c. 582 B.C. – 497 B.C.) was considered an early “scientist” and was thought to be the originator of the theory of harmonics. Fascinated with numbers and their manifestations as chords, Pythagoras is supposed to have “cured” his ailing disciples by playing music. In ancient times, music was inseparable from science mainly because of its source, mathematics. Recent studies have shown that the music of Mozart strengthens the neural connections that underline mathematical thought. So, the ancients were on to something after all. The etymology of “mathematics” is from the Greek, mathema, meaning what is learned. Perhaps this should convince us of music as a source of creativity outside of the visible but well within the norm of analysis?


Digging into the consciousness, letting loose associations and the confines of sequential constraints and expressing an ah-ha moment or creative vision is not confined to the artist. Were it not for the free ranging of his imagination, Einstein could never have formulated his laws of relativity. It was in a dream, he said, that he “discovered” the basis of his insight into relativity. “Inspiration,” he wrote, “is more important than knowledge.” The free-roaming mind allows the scientist to “discover” things he surely would miss if he were locked into pure rationality.


To summarize, “creativity” may be viewed in this new age of fiber optics and cyberspace as an oddity, half-feared and half-distrusted but surreptitiously peeking its head out, demanding attention. The sixth sense needs to be heeded. Perhaps that is the most important function, the goal of the artist, to “transport the mind in experience past the guardians—desire and fear—to the…rapture of seeing in a single hair ‘a thousand golden lions’” (Joseph Campbell). As Alfred North Whitehead concluded, “Nature is a structure of evolving processes. The reality is the process.” And equally, understanding creativity is itself a “process.” Answers are not required!


Dr. Lipe is a past president of La Jolla Branch NLAPW and DC Branch NLAPW. She is the author of nine books including Historic Tales of La Jolla, published by The History Press last January, and Helen Holt, Memoir of A Servant Leader. Patricia is the recipient of numerous awards. An artist as well as a rescuer of thoroughbred horses, Patricia shares her love of nature and animals with her husband, Dr. Steele Lipe, at their farm in Virginia. Please visit

“Brain in Electric Bulb” by digitalart /

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

Poem of the Week: Give Them a Brake

Barb Whitmarsh
Bayou City II, TX Branch


It’s time again
For the Red Neck Sliders
Certainly not known
To be traffic law abiders
They’re on the roadways
Quiet as “mouses”
Always towing their RV houses
It’s hard to believe
If they don’t get struck
They’ll out live us all
With any luck
Please give these terrapins a brake
Not to do it’s a big mistake
They’re trying to survive
And never fought us
Yes, this is what
The turtles tortoise