Branch News, Spring 2022

Sarasota Clowns Around

By Wilma Davidson, Branch President

At our monthly luncheon programs, members of the Sarasota Branch always learn something connected to the arts. On Feb. 9, the Sarasota Pen Women enjoyed Zoltan Karpathy, the vice president of Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory, speak about the history of “the big top” — the circus, a prominent Sarasota legacy and national treasure.

Group of Pen Women
Sarasota Pen Women with Circus Arts Conservatory Vice President Zoltan Karpathy.

Like NLAPW, the Circus Arts Conservatory is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to preserve a rich heritage, to promote the performing arts, and to have a lasting impact on the community and its youth.

When we think of Sarasota, we can’t help but praise its culture and support of the arts. Opera. Theatre. Art. Symphony. Let’s add “Circus Capital” to that list. Specifically, a contemporary Circus Arts Conservatory that trains youth for professional performance, brings a smile to all, teaches youngsters about math and science, and preserves the “wonder of the circus.”

More than 200,000 people annually enjoy benefits from the outreach and world-class performances. Ninety-three percent of students from the dozens and dozens of local schools pass standardized testing after participating in the Circus Conservatory’s “Science Machine” education program where technology, arts, communication, theater, and math are taught using circus performing arts. Impressive.

Additionally, Karpathy shared that their outreach includes more than training students to perform professionally and going to classrooms to make tough topics understandable. “Through our humor therapy program, we made more than 7,000 visits to area nursing homes and care facilities and brought with us life’s best medicine — humor,” he said.

What a gem right in our backyard: the nation’s only circus arts nonprofit that combines professional circus performances, youth training, and community outreach programs. Now, who said learning couldn’t be fun?

Denver Presents Peace Tapestry

Group with tapestry block



The Denver Branch has been the caretaker of a masterful and huge peace tapestry, created by NLAPW members. Members have sought organizations that would display one of the colorful panels: schools, churches, and libraries. The group presented one panel to the Denver School of the Arts in 2021. Denver Branch President Diane Chambers is pictured standing in front center.


Santa Clara County Learns about Art and Community

By Patricia Dennis

art image
Dorothy Atkins’ painting from the “One Love” series.

At the Santa Clara County Branch Zoom meeting, branch Outreach Chair and NorCal President Dorothy Atkins discussed using art to build communities, along with her painting series, “One Love.” Approximately 34 ladies were in attendance, which included members from the Modesto Branch and other guests.

Atkins opened with a reading from her journal. “‘Eyes wide open’ is part of my ongoing series of ‘One Love’ paintings that were inspired by the power we hold in making changes in the world,” she said. “Nothing readied me for the social unrest nor the pandemic. Through a myriad of commonalities and humanity that I carry within, I found the tender moonlight to paint about caring.

“Eyes wide open allowed me to paint through pain and stunt hatred. See me, see us, and see each other. Look closely and see that we are connected by more than emotional wounds. As an emotional artist, I find power through my paintbrush. I am able to shift the narrative with subtle images. I paint so the viewer finds soft changes as we continue to look at each other. My paintings of women suggest the strength that women hold in finding that tender moonlight that resides in all of us.”

Following her reading, she showed her “One Love” paintings and discussed what inspired her to paint every day for three years. Her images have made their way around the world. Congratulations, Dorothy Atkins, who is truly a Pen Woman with a purpose.


NorCal Hosts New Exhibition, Opening Reception

By Winifred Thompson, Branch President

NorCal (Diablo-Alameda, Santa Clara County, Golden Gate-Marin, Modesto, and Stockton-Lodi branches) hosted an “Art Creating Community” exhibition at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery in San Ramon, California, Nov. 19-Dec. 17. Pat Doyne and Winifred Thompson of Diablo-Alameda Branch and Linda Larson of Golden Gate-Marin co-chaired.

The Diablo-Alameda Branch was able to meet in person for the Dec. 8 reception, but due to COVID, other NorCal Pen Women had to join via Zoom. National President Evelyn Wofford also “Zoomed” in. In the photo, front row: Winifred Thompson (left) and Ruey Syrop. Back (left to right): Margaret Davis, Connie Rusk, Jo Ann Frisch, Usha Shukla, Charlotte Severin, Pam Holloway.


Boca Raton Resumes In-Person Luncheons

By Elaine Bossik

Pictured at one of the branch events are Lee Ravine (right) and chaplain and “raffle queen” Barbara Lunde.

The Boca Raton Branch organized its first in-person program of the 2021- 2022 season with a luncheon and raffle at the Delray Beach Golf Club in Delray Beach, Florida, on Dec. 15. Members came together to reconnect and begin a new creative year with plans for writing, art, music programs, and special events. Guests joined us to meet our member artists, writers, music composers, and patrons.

Memoir author Romola Hodos, the featured speaker, presented a fascinating talk about how she grew up as the daughter of the notorious porn king of Times Square. She related shocking details about her childhood journey through abuse and trauma. Her published book, “The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn,” is an inspirational story of how she overcame incredible odds and became a successful businesswoman.

Hodos appears in a new Netflix documentary series, “The Times Square Killer,” in which she tells part of her personal story. The series, released in December, dramatizes the seedy, crime-ridden scene in and around Times Square in the 1970s.

A raffle to support our student achievement program followed the program. Members and guests bid on one-of-a-kind donated items, including jewelry and a gift card donated by Publix Super Markets. Raffle proceeds will fund awards for talented students who need financial assistance to pursue careers in the arts.

An annual community outreach event for teens at the Milagro Center in Delray Beach is also supported through our fundraising raffles. Boca Pen Women were pleased to offer a contribution to the Milagro Teen Center this season.

The success of the raffle at this program was made possible through generous gifts from many individual contributors who donated items and from Publix Super Markets.

The branch continued with in-person luncheon meetings in February and March. The Feb. 16 luncheon featured member Lee Ravine, who discussed sexism and violence against women.

The March 30 luncheon hosted Jacqueline Lorber, CEO and president of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra. The branch continues to raise funds for achievement awards with fantastic raffles.

“Crows” by Claire Hurrey

Yucca Members’ Art Selected for Historical Route 66 Banners


The City of Albuquerque’s (New Mexico) West Central Community Development Group has selected “Bandelier,” an acrylic painting by Yucca Branch President Janine Wilson; and “Crows,” a charcoal on paper by member Claire Hurrey, to be hung as part of its light pole banner project along the West Central Avenue portion of Historic Route 66. Each banner is 24 by 48 inches.

Selected banner images will also eventually hang in the Route 66 Visitors Center, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2022.


Pensacola’s First 2022 Meeting Jumpstarts Creativity

By Karen McAferty Morris

“Our Stories Unfold” is the theme of the Pensacola branch this year, and branch members’ presentations have demonstrated how well they can kindle creativity. Andrea Walker’s presentation at the January meeting was a clarion call to members to move forward with this theme.

Walker focused on writing memoirs, in particular flash (or very short) memoirs, and the presentation was chock full of members offering their own distinct memories.

Some examples:

  • Roller skating in New York City in clip-on-your-shoes skates, watching out for traffic
  • A grandmother’s shotgun house, Ivory soap, a claw-foot tub, and a picture of “The Last Supper” on the wall
  • Three great aunts, bubble baths, a chipped domino, giggles at bedtime
  • Grandparents’ house, gumbo, reading books, and “a ghost on the property”
  • An old tattered farmhouse, a resident snake on the sassafras tree, and fireflies
  • Hurrying from her grandmother’s four-poster bed, across the cracked linoleum to warm herself by the gas fire, the blue-and-white Currier and Ives plates that she still has

Walker encouraged members to enter a local literary society’s flash memoir contest, “In Focus,” conceived and developed by our branch member and the literary society’s board member Claire Massey, who had provided a workshop on flash nonfiction for the Florida State Association’s 2021 Biennial Conference in October. She also had promoted the contest as a writing opportunity for branch members.

Several Pen Women did enter the Flash Memoir contest, and we were thrilled to learn that Lori Zavada took third place for “Loose Curls.” Additionally, Walker received third honorable mention for “What I Learned from the Kelp Beds” and branch patron Carolyn Tokson took second place for “April 1968.”

President Nancy Nesvik summed it all up by emphasizing how memoir writing naturally crosses over to visual art, too, that artists can draw from memory to create by paint or brush.

This first meeting, with its motivating presentation and eager participation, was perfect for all members to let their stories unfold in whatever creative way that lay open to them.


Branch News, Winter 2022

Diamond State Has Active, Busy Fall

By Mary Lou Griffin, Diamond State Branch President

The Diamond State Branch has ended the summer season and started the fall season with several events. The branch kept the traditional Creative Week at the Beach in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Eleven art and letters members spent the last week in September supporting each other, dining together, and working on individual and group art projects in a large rental home in an inspiring setting. They also discussed ideas and new projects for the coming year.

art project
The 2021 Rehoboth Beach joint art project for scarves.

While there, the Pen Women helped Taralee Morgan, branch outreach coordinator, with the task of putting together and mailing letters, posters, and postcards to educators across the Delaware region for this year’s Scholastic Student Art and Writing Competition. When the week ended, it was time to return to Wilmington for the Opening Reception of the NLAPW Diamond State Biennial Art Show at the Station Gallery on Oct. 8. Eighteen artists and one letters member, Iris Gray Dowling, participated in the show.

Art awards were given to: Nita Balderston, first place; Maria Keane, second place; Joan Supplee, third place; Cathern Bosk, Michele Foster, and Mary Lou Griffin, honorable mentions. The opening was well attended, and the Station Gallery was pleased that there were new visitors coming to see who these “Pen Women” are and what they do.

The branch had its first meeting of the season on Oct. 23 with a luncheon and guest speaker Darlene Amobi from the Hockessin Delaware Historical Society. Nineteen members attended, visiting with each other and listening to an interesting educational presentation about the town of Hockessin, Delaware, and its importance to the Underground Railroad in transporting of runaway slaves to freedom in Pennsylvania. The Pen Women welcomed three new members, who received their NLAPW membership certificates.

The branch planned to meet again in December, with an after-lunch program to be presented by music member Evelyn Swensson. She was eager to share the musical program she presented this past October at the Hyllningsfest Festival in Lindsborg, Kansas, honoring the Swedish immigrants who settled the region. It’s wonderful to be together again.

Central Ohio Showcases Variety in Collaborative Exhibition

One of the rooms of the Central Ohio Branch exhibition.

The Central Ohio Branch presented “The Language of Creativity,” a group exhibition that included works by visual artists, writers, and performing artists. The exhibition ran from Sept. 21 through Oct. 29 at the Dublin Arts Council in Dublin, Ohio. The facility, situated on the bank of the Scioto River, provided a graceful setting that complemented the varied works of art on display.

Through diverse mediums, the Pen Women responded to the theme of creativity. Novels, poems, short stories, paintings, photographs, encaustics, sculptures, and musical compositions were all presented in an experience that unfolded as visitors made their way through the rooms.

The works were thoughtfully arranged to emphasize connectivity and shared appreciation of color, composition, and subject.

Branch member Brenda Layman prepared and edited a free “Coloring and Activity Booklet for Creative Families.” It included images created from art in the exhibition, paired with literacy activities. The Dublin Arts Council made the booklets available at the show and distributed them throughout the community.

Santa Clara County Gets Together for Virtual Readings

Santa Clara County Branch Outreach Chair and NorCal President Dorothy Atkins hosted an “August Summer Read Voice of Women” event that brought together the Stockton Lodi Branch and member-at-large Elizabeth Williams for an exciting morning of poetry and prose that provoked thought, surprised participants, comforted them, and touched their hearts.

branch members in videoconferceneParticipants included Caroline Henry, Tina Jones Williams, Dorothy Atkins, Luanna Leisure, Elizabeth Williams, Norma Slavit, Barbara Chamberlain, Darlene Weingand, Audry Lynch, Patty Dick, Louise Webb, Diana Chan, Harriett Arnold, Edie Matthews, and Parthenia Hicks. The success of this event where members were delighted to showcase their work has prompted the organizers to host more of these readings and include other branches and members-at-large.

The branch is taking full advantage of Zoom and getting the message out about Pen Women. On the heels of Summer Read, Atkins, who is also a member of the San Jose Woman’s Club (SJWC), invited Santa Clara County Branch to a joint meeting where members highlighted their creative works. It was a cornucopia of talent, videos, storytelling, artwork, book reviews, and a history of Pen Women.

Branch members participating in the SJWC event (pictured above) were Patricia Dennis, Luanna Leisure, Dorothy Atkins, Louise Webb, Patty Watkins Dick, Lorna Kohler, Tina Jones Williams, Mary Miller Chiao, and Lorraine Gabbert.

Florida State Association Biennial Conference Rocks Virtually

By Wilma Davidson, Sarasota Branch President

This past October, the Florida State Association of NLAPW went boldly where no state biennial conference has gone before — virtual!

This daunting task — for the committee; the presenters; and Jan Schaberg, conference chair, state VP, and Sarasota Branch recording secretary — was almost two years in the making. The conference committee proved how flexible and inventive members can be when needed.

Those who registered visited both new and familiar worlds. From touching tributes to immortalize longtime Florida members now departed, to workshops that included new genres, to art and the freedom found in art therapy, and to new musical compositions, members from around the state led sessions and contributed their knowledge, ideas, and professionalism to educate, entertain — and just plain make us proud to be in their presence.

The keynote conference speaker, bestselling author Lisa Unger, provided a personable talk about her life and the writing of her first novel (she is now working on her 20th), and shared her own writing process while giving us apt advice about ours.

And what conference could conclude without announcing state winners in the visual arts, letters, and music competitions? Those exciting announcements were saved for the second and final video day, along with a can’t-help-but-make-you-laugh B-roll of bloopers.

Although we didn’t get to meet and greet in person, share meals, talk, or walk the beach together, we learned, we laughed, we lauded. What phenomenal work it was to pull it all together.

As the saying goes, “Women are like teabags. You never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.” The pandemic proved that. As did our Florida State Association of Pen Women.