Poem of the Week: The Virtual Crafter

Carolyn Aune
Minnesota Branch


My Aunt sits in the well worn wing chair,
Her winter grey braids, thick as a child’s wrist,
Wrap around her noble head.
I’m perched on a low leather hassock,
My thin arms stretched in benediction
Proffering the skein of wool
That my Aunt winds slowly into a ball.
I am five years old.
Later, I watch the needles flash,
Catching the firelight as they tap out a click clack rhythm.
“I can’t teach you how to knit” my aunt murmurs” you’re left handed.”


Yet, might I claim that I did learn to knit If only in the virtual sense?
For, I knitted together the nine Disparate souls, snuggled in my womb For their allotted nine months

Before they were flung into the world
Where they were nourished into a cohesive whole.
Knit together, strong bonds that likely will never unravel. We are still, today, above all else, a close-knit family.


Now, my mother’s mother was a quilter
I see her nestled on a narrow sofa,
Placing every delicate stitch,
No nonsense black lace up oxfords planted firmly Atop the braided rug.
Every pattern in harmony, Every stitch perfect.


Yet might I claim to be a quilter too?
For I have fashioned a crazy quilt of a life, Struck to the core with the dull colors of Grief and Turmoil and tragedy
Blended with flashes of bright colored joy, Recording a kaleidoscope of complexity.

It was in the euphoric months of a first pregnancy, That I tried my hand at weaving. …
A small loom, the strands of wool the soft
Colors of baby pink and blue.
But life intervened, the loom abandoned, accusing me.


Yet might I claim that I did learn to weave? For I wove the strands of nine children’s lives Into a cohesive tapestry able to withstand
A world that hasn’t always been kind.


So I am, if only in the virtual sense,
A knitter, a patchwork quilter,
And a weaver of lives that now look
Fearlessly ahead to the future.


Biennial Bulletin: The Value of Membership in NLAPW, Inc.

A message from Laura Walth, 49th Biennial Chair and Des Moines Branch NLAPW President:

Attending the National League of American Pen Women, Inc. 48th Biennial in Washington, DC, changed my mind and my life. I was so close to dropping out of this organization that I asked the Des Moines Branch if they would cover my registration fee, so I could see for myself why I want to remain a member of NLAPW, Inc. It was the workshops and connecting with the other members at the luncheons that made me excited to be a member of this organization of creative women. The concerts were also very inspiring.


What changed my life was when Virginia Franklin Campbell asked if I would consider being the National Librarian. As exciting as that was to be offered a position on the National Board, I had to be honest: I’ve been a Reference Librarian for over 25 years and know nothing about cataloging books. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that, but I told her it’s like a doctor who specializes in a specific medical field–that wasn’t my expertise.


After giving my President’s Report for our branch at the biennial meeting and mentioning that there is hope for this organization, another life changing moment happened: Virginia asked if I would be the Outreach Chair for National. As excited as I was, I knew my husband would not like the idea of me spending money to attend board meetings. As some of you know, that was one of my concerns as well. That’s when I discovered Where there’s a will, there’s a way! really works. He saw my desire and supported my decision to be involved at the National level.


This experience is so exciting that I am willing to learn from the past, focus on the future, and use the present to accomplish our mission. I’m having so much fun with this, it’s hard to stop thinking about all the possibilities. As a result, our Des Moines branch is gaining new members.


The Outreach mission of NLAPW, Inc. is to provide support and promote community-based arts and creative educational programs through our national headquarters, state associations, and branches throughout the United States.



The purpose of outreach is to advance the creative arts and increase an awareness of the need for all citizens to have access to the enjoyment of the arts and to creative endeavors. It’s my hope that more members discover the value of their membership and have the will to find a way to attend the National League of American Pen Women’s 49th Biennial in Des Moines, Iowa, from April 19th through April 22nd, 2018. This will be the first time the biennial has been held in the Midwest.


The photographs above show some of the women I met at the 48th Biennial in DC. There were many more that are not pictured here.


Please keep and eye out for more information about our upcoming 48th Biennial in Des Moines, Iowa, in upcoming issues of The Pen Woman and on our web site!


Poem of the Week: Meditation on a Mosquito

Kathleen H. Langan
Greenwich Branch


First the tell-tale bzzzzzz, then there it is

walking across my husband’s bare arm

and heading straight to do harm

to me, the Go-To-Girl for mosquitoes,

silent and sinister as it propels its improbable body

on six long skinny legs, jointed in the wrong direction,

its proboscis leading the way to the last meal of the day,

a tasty, warm, bright-red midnight supper.


As the fiend inches toward me,

Albert Schweitzer’s theory pops into my head,

the one he calls reverence for life.

It asks each of us never ever to forget that

the two things all living creatures share

are the right and the desire to go on living

and thus we are constrained to refrain

from killing any of them at all, large or small.
It’s a praiseworthy philosophy, I agree,

but it certainly strains credulity.

I mean, does the dear Doctor really expect me

to believe he lived in Africa all those years

and never once swatted a mosquito?

This one is just playing its role, I grant you that,

Nevertheless, I smash the damned thing

until it is totally dead and flatter than flat.


It’s a Creative Business: How to Use Copyright-free Images and Sound Without Getting in Trouble

This week, Rodika Tollefson discusses the importance of copyright and creative responsibility.


If you create art for a living, you probably feel strongly about protecting your copyrights. After all, even if all that sweat and tears went into the work for the pleasure of it, you have bills to pay.


I am constantly surprised how many creatives don’t think twice when the tables are turned. They think it’s perfectly okay to copy a photo from a news or stock site, or an image from social media, and use it for their own website, brochure, etc.; use a song purchased from iTunes for a video promoting their art, event, etc.; or re-purpose someone else’s painting for their book’s cover.


Paying 99 cents for a song for your personal music library doesn’t mean you can legally use it as a soundtrack for that great video promo you’re making, and just because it’s easy to copy and paste an image from a website or someone shared a photo on Facebook doesn’t mean you can take it for your own use.


This also applies to images from historic archives, including the Library of Congress, because they often have a copyright holder. In these cases, all you may need is to ask permission. Get it in writing!


What’s a creative with a limited budget to do in all other cases? If you need free music or images, look either for works in the public domain, or for those that have a Creative Commons license. Many photographers, musicians and artists — even professionals — freely allow others to use their work, often only in exchange for attribution.


Some sources of free music:


Some sources of free images:


Read the license terms carefully because even a Creative Commons license may have restrictions and specific requirements on how to give the artist credit. Some don’t allow use for commercial purposes — and even if you’re not making any money from the product, your purpose may still be considered commercial. If you can’t give attribution to the artists, many of them will let you use their work for a small fee instead.


One final point: Don’t let by the term “royalty-free” mislead you. It doesn’t mean “free to take.” Chances are, you need to pay a licensing fee, which comes with certain terms, just like Creative Commons (it may restrict use to news purposes, may require author credit even if you’re paying for the image, and may disallow any editing).


And, of course, don’t forget the best resource of all: fellow Pen Women. You may have a composer or photographer in your own branch who would be happy to share her work with you.


(Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney and this column isn’t intended as legal advice on copyrights. Do your own research.)


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.

“Book with Pencil” by winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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: Magenta Waters

Magenta Waters
(Oil on Canvas, 40” x 44”, based on Cape Cod waters at sunset)
by Suzanne M. Packer
Cape Cod 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 arteditor@nlapw.org. Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

Poem of the Week: The Summer Party

Lois Batchelor Howard
Palm Springs, CA Branch


I look into the corner

of my backyard

and the green and flowering


are huddled together.

They look like a cocktail party

with too many guests.

Whom shall I uninvite?

Shears in my hand I approach

the foxtail lily desert candles

the wall germandus

the fairy bells

the bougainvillea

I know this is rude to say to them,

but I do.  “It is too crowded here.”

They laugh and I hear their thoughts

become audible in the late afternoon sun,

“but none of us wants to leave.”

I look at my shears, put them down,

and return with a cocktail to join them.


Art of the Week: View from Above

“View from Above”

Bonnie Jo Smith

Santa Clara 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 arteditor@nlapw.org. Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!

It’s a Creative Business: Business or Unconditional Love

This week, Ronni Miller reflects on her professional journey as a creative.


Business What did I know about business? I had been a stay-at-home mother, raising three children after graduation from Boston University with a liberal arts degree, and before that I was a sheltered daughter from a middle class Jewish family whose father was a lawyer and mother was an in-the-closet artist and writer.


Determination to achieve whatever it was you wanted had been the operative narrative around the dining room table in my home of origin.  All I ever wanted was to write, publish, marry and raise a family. Writing had been my mainstay, my plumb line since I was six years old.


Motherhood absorbed my energies, while creativity found a home in children’s plays I wrote for my children’s school and short stories that were stuffed in file folders. The feminist movement lit my fire, and I began to write articles and essays about the need for women to aspire to their creative potentials. A divorce propelled me into teaching English and theater in a private school, where I continued to hone my experiences by writing curriculum for my sixth and seven grade English courses. Trained in acting, I taught drama. That led to my initiation of a yearly consortium drama festival for six private schools in the area of northern New Jersey, which gave students an opportunity to showcase their talents.


I left teaching and landed jobs editing local newspapers and magazines, continued freelance writing and publishing in local and regional publications, and acquired rejections from national magazines that shook my confidence. All the while, I continued to raise my now high school-aged kids.


I worked as a temporary secretary while my children attended college, which helped supplement a freelance income so that I could finish my first novel. An epiphany happened after years of struggles to survive that led to my Write It Out® service product, now entering its twenty-fifth year. As founder and director, I facilitate workshops in the U.S., Bermuda, and Italy, guiding individuals to express feelings, memories, and experiences through writing. In my private practice as Book Midwife, I coach individuals to birth their books.


I’m thankful every day for that epiphany.  My students and clients have been my inspiration and motivate me to continue offering services. The Program has segued into the healthcare field; it’s used by people affected by cancer as well as those who have suffered loss and life-altering conditions, who want to document their stories in prose, poetry, and theater pieces. Seven published books remind me that joy of creating is a balm to my spirit.


Five suggestions to others:


  • Dedicate yourself and believe in your product or service.
  • Trust yourself to pursue a dream.
  • Rely on desire as your support system.
  • Listen and observe your efforts as an educational experience.
  • Incorporate your life experiences into a new profession.


I’ve translated the word business, still foreign to me, to mean service. That has made all the difference. You can call it business, service, profession or simply unconditional love. I call it being an entrepreneur.



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 our national society. 


“Female Writing on Notebook” image by adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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: MWS: Animalia (Homage)

“MWS: Animalia (Homage),” Oil on canvas
by Barbara Peters
Topeka 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 arteditor@nlapw.org. Please put Art of the Week Submission in the subject line. Thank you!


NLAPW’s Social Media: Come & Connect with Us!

Looking for other Pen Women online? The National League of American Pen Women has expanded and consolidated its social media platform. Click on the links below to access the following sites:



Like National League of American Pen Women (Official Page)

Join NLAPW Members Only (Private Group)

Join Friends of National League of American Pen Women (Public Group, includes nonmembers)


Follow @NLAPW


Join the group!  National League of American Pen Women


Add us to your circles!  National League of American Pen Women, Inc.


Please subscribe!  National League of American Pen Women (Official Channel)


View our boards at NLAPW 


We also seek a few good Pen Women to assist with the management of these platforms. If you’re platform-savvy and would like to add “social media management” to your résumé of marketable skills, please contact the Publications Chair to express interest. We’d be happy to welcome you to the Publications Committee.


We’re looking forward to connecting with you!