From the President

The Pen Woman, Fall 2017

A List of Ingredients: Pen Women Create Recipes of Abundance

As your national president, I have visited 20 branches thus far, and have presented my “We Are What We Create” PowerPoint briefing to 18 of those branches. On a personal level, it has been an enormously gratifying, refreshing, and humbling experience for me. After each gathering, I left proud to be representing such an abundance of creative and enriching women.

Each branch has its own personality stemming from the influences of its particular community. It all begins with the environment in which the branch is meeting, whether it be a local historic building, an elegant country club on the ocean, a significant arts center, a welcoming library, a favorite restaurant, or an inviting retirement community. Several members opened their homes to the members. One member has beautiful gardens that I was able to stroll through, and were reminiscent of Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France. On another occasion, I was seated at a member’s dining room table beneath a Chihuly glass chandelier.

Dale Chihuly glass chandelier in the home of Pat Schaefer,  Muncie Branch member.

I was afforded the opportunity to be included in several meetings, observing how the branches conduct their business. A common thread, no matter how formal or informal the meeting, was the genuine caring of Pen Women for those who were burdened with the trials and tribulations of life. I witnessed compassion for those members experiencing health challenges, those infirmed or suffering a death in the family, as well as deep concern for how a member was coping with the tragedy of her home being destroyed by fire. This experience reinforced my belief that Pen Women exist to support and assist their members in many significant ways, not just in their professional endeavors.

As several of the branches do, each meeting includes sharing their personal, professional triumphs or disappointments, and I was witness to the response one member gave following the reading of another member’s poem. The encouragement was articulate, profound, and passionate. I actually gasped, because in about a three- or four-sentence evaluation, the poet gained enough confidence for several months, while realizing once again why she sacrificed her time to come to that meeting, and, further, why she was a Pen Woman.

In every case, the branches wanted to make certain that I was well fed (and often times, my husband as well). During a buffet lunch, a member scurried to assist a fellow sister who obviously had mobility issues. She helped serve her plate and saw that she was properly seated with appropriate drink, all the while carrying on a conversation with me. Just being a Pen Woman and living out our motto, “All for One and One for All.” My eyes filled with tears of pride of how Pen Women truly care for each other.

At one branch, members routinely conduct a raffle following the meeting, donating money to various charities. One member brought jars of her homemade lemon jelly. She had an open jar so that anyone could sample a taste of it. One taste, and I was sold; I was buying that jar of lemon jelly! She would have none of my buying it; instead, she wanted me to have it as a gift. My mouth waters for that delightful taste as I write this letter. Another member gave me a winter scarf she was raffling, because I was cold at the time. (The money raised that day went to NLAPW.)

The Wynn House, where the Columbus Branch, Georgia, meets. Photo courtesy of  The Wynn House.

I was able to visit galleries where Pen Women members’ art was on display. One display was in the local chamber of commerce building. I was only able to meet with the president of the branch and because it was Sunday, there was no place for us to sit except the cold, hard, marble steps. We were still able to talk about Pen Women and issues that were confronting that branch, until our bottoms were so cold that we had to get up.

Several branches wanted to have their members display their creations during my visit. One branch invited several former members to display theirs as well. This was an innovative gesture to encourage former members to return to the fold.

Each branch went all out to get members to come and visit with the national president; several had never had a national president visit them. Much of the time, it wasn’t their regular meeting date, so members adjusted their schedules in order to be present.

In my presentation, I offer an honest, frank picture of our current financial situation, but assure them that the organization is still vibrant and otherwise thriving. Witnessing the dedication of members to their branches and the League allowed me to engage in an honest dialogue about the present and the future.

One branch president served me homemade soup containing vegetables from her garden. As I ate, I thought of the many women in this organization — all creatives, but each talent as different and fulfilling as the carrots, celery, and the potatoes that made my repast so delightful.
I am grateful for the abundant, warm welcomes and hospitality I’ve experienced on these journeys.  It has reinvigorated my dedication to Pen Women and stirred my soul.

The Pen Woman, Winter 2017

Becoming a Stronger Organization in the 21st Century

President Virginia Franklin Campbell and husband Verne at The Pen Arts Building and Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

As a woman in my eighth decade, I am increasingly aware of the need to live in the “here and now.” When I joined my branch, our only way of communicating with each other was either by phone or United States Postal Service — one extremely time consuming, because that also preceded most telephone answering machines or voice mail, and the other an additional expense for the branch.

Now, we depend on email, as well as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. It has opened our entire League to the world, and we are compelled to use each of those venues for the ever-expanding possibilities that they offer.

Our website has seen many changes in the last few months. Our web editor, Elizabeth Martin, has diligently dedicated many hours to make it our megaphone, belting out positive messages about and for the League. All branches and members at large have the opportunity to share their projects, creative output and joy of being a Pen Woman.

The website needs to speak of who we are, what we want to be, and thereby encourage other women to become a part of our thriving organization. “Thriving” as in our ongoing and visionary projects, our goals, and the execution of our mission.

Visit our website and share it with everyone. This is not the ‘80s or ‘90s, and we need to understand that “We Are What We Create.” Our website is part of that portrayal to the community.

Become a part of our Facebook page; communicate with fellow members in our “members only” group. One of my goals is to be more inclusive of members at large, who are just as much Pen Women as any one of us, BUT they don’t have regular opportunities to share with sister Pen Women.

Now, they have that opening. We want to hear from you. We urge you to share your latest poem, your latest paragraph, your latest achievements.

Ladies, this is our chance to become a stronger, closer organization, and that happens by embracing those tools that the 21st century offers us.

We also have a Twitter page and a blog, which are efficient, inexpensive ways to spread the message of creative Pen Women. We must utilize all of these pathways of communication to effectively make our organization grow, both in recognition and in membership.

Recently, one of our youngest and newest members shared some marketing ideas and concepts with me that involve several points:

• An elevated sense of responsibility in the membership; starting with the individual, the branch, and national. When speaking with branches, I have quoted John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In a similar vein, please ask yourself, what can you do for your branch and/or for national?

• An elevated sense of opportunity. Realizing what being a Pen Woman can mean and embracing the current social media to put that message across.

• An elevated sense of pride in the organization. Buy our lapel pin and wear it proudly. Be proud to support and encourage others to support our mission. We need to listen to the younger generation and learn from them. This means communicating through their forms of media and not just relying on the methods of the past.

Promoting creative women, highlighting and applauding their creative output, and providing universal encouragement to each of our writers, artists, musicians, and those in allied professional fields who walk with us is our calling. Let us endeavor to speak the language of our time for the benefit of all.


New President’s address May 2016

Virginia Franklin Campbell, NLAPW President

Virginia Franklin Campbell, NLAPW President

It’s an honor and very humbling to be chosen to be your president for the next two years. I recognize the challenges facing the League in the months ahead, and truly believe you, the membership, have a Board of Directors, both elected officers and appointed chairs, who possess the capabilities and commitment to positively address the needs of our great organization in a positive and visionary manner.

I have selected a theme for my term of office, “We Are What We Create,” that draws on one of the underpinnings I adopted to motivate my piano students during my long career as a piano teacher. This theme also builds on the previous administration under Candace Long, who proclaimed “Born to Create” as her beacon for progress.

Quilt made by President Virginia Franklin Campbell and refurbished by Pen Woman Diana S. Alishouse

Quilt made by President Virginia Franklin Campbell and refurbished by Pen Woman Diana S. Alishouse

My way forward is focused on bringing our collective talents and skills to bear in solving problems, seeking new ideas for outreach, expanding our membership, opening new vistas for women in the arts, and spreading our story to the nation.

We celebrate our 120th anniversary in 2017, and I want to reduce the size of the population who respond with quizzical looks when queried and admit they’ve never heard of Pen Women. New horizons are now available that weren’t in our “toolbox” just short months ago. Expanded opportunities for music membership have already resulted in a few new members. I anticipate slow, but steady growth in that category. The new possibility for allied professional membership has opened the door to many of our colleagues who have previously professed a desire to join with us in passionately blazing trails for women in the arts, but who didn’t specifically meet the requirements in letters, art, and music. We welcome their voices and look with excitement to their collaborative efforts in moving the League forward.

So many creative minds who are now qualified to be allied professionals can have a formidable impact on a broader recognition of the League and the furtherance of its objectives and goals. I feel blessed to have the officers and chairs who are settling into their new roles. It’s difficult to imagine a more dedicated and harmonious group of kindred spirits than those serving you during this administration. Please appreciate that we are all volunteers, and we stand ready to give our all in accordance with our motto, “All for One and One for All.” I look ahead with hope, optimism, and steadfastness, understanding that “We Are What We Create.”