Branch News, Fall 2019

Cape Canaveral Celebrates 50 Years

Scholarship recipient Bethany Davis performs at the anniversary luncheon.

In May, members and friends of Florida’s Cape Canaveral Branch gathered for their annual scholarship luncheon and to celebrate the branch’s 50-year anniversary.

Cape Canaveral Branch was founded in 1969 by an extraordinary author and musician, Dr. Elaine Murray Stone. One of her daughters, Pam Webb, is a member of the branch, and her sister Cathy Rayburn and nephew David Rayburn were guests at the luncheon.

Branch scholarship chair Anne Bonner introduced Marshall Frank, vice president of the Creative Arts Foundation of Brevard, who presented this year’s $500 scholarship in music to Bethany Davis, a Cocoa Beach high school senior proficient in piano and cello. Davis, who will enter Boston College in the fall, performed a Bach piece on the cello as a finale of the luncheon celebration.

Greenwich Hosts Successful Open Mic Events

Ever wonder how your stories, poems, and memoirs sound to others? Greenwich Pen Women found out when the branch launched two Open Mic events in southwest Connecticut.

Greenwich Branch Program Director Diane Morello moderated and read at the Open Mic.

“Roughly 50 people attended the Open Mic events, and nearly half of those people had the courage to stand up and share their original work in five-minute speaking slots,” says Diane Morello, Greenwich Pen Women program director and letters member.

“The Open Mic events were a success,” she says. “People shared terrific work — mystery chapters, short stories, poetry, lyrics, blogs, free verse, memoirs, personal essays, science fiction, and children’s stories. We look forward to another success with the final 2019 Open Mic event on Oct. 21.”

The road map for launching an Open Mic series is something nearly any NLAPW branch can adopt.

“First, we brought the Open Mic idea to the board, then we added it to our program roster. Second, we contacted local libraries. We knew the libraries’ community missions dovetailed with Greenwich Pen Women’s community outreach,” Morello says.

“Third, we negotiated event dates, going out three to six months,” she says. “Finally, we vigorously promoted the Open Mic events through emails, word of mouth, newsletters, press, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, websites, writing communities, radio, and host libraries. Social media was invaluable: It had a multiplying effect on the people who heard about the event and decided to attend and share their work.”

Open Mics are live events, coordinated in real time. As people arrive, they sign up for five-minute time slots. A moderator — in this case, from Greenwich Pen Women — sets the stage, outlines the rules, manages the clock, and invites up the speakers.

“We have a vibrant writing community in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. Open Mic gives people an opportunity to share their original work, meet members of Greenwich Pen Women, and learn about becoming members, Morello says. “When writers and creatives come together to speak their work aloud, they hone their skills and amplify the power of their voices.”

Des Moines Selects Art Student for Scholarship Award

Rachel Geyer

The Des Moines Branch awarded a $175 scholarship designated for a student at the Centre for Arts & Artists (CAA). The branch selected Rachel Geyer, who hopes to save money to study abroad in London one day. She was introduced to CAA by her high school art educator, Laura Lengeling, who is also a studio artist at CAA.

As a candidate and then recipient of a Brendan O’Brien Memorial Scholarship during her senior year at Newton High School, Geyer became more involved in CAA activities. In one instance, she spent the day demonstrating her art techniques to 250 students who toured CAA during an annual art tour.

Recently, she attended college full-time while holding down a job and family responsibilities. Geyer was also named to the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) presidents’ list for her academic excellence.

Diamond State’s Members Featured in Separate Exhibits

Diamond State Branch Members Maria Keane and Mary Lou Griffin had their paintings accepted into the Philadelphia Water Color Society  (PWCS) 119th Anniversary International Works on Paper Show. The juror was Joseph Zbukvic, an internationally renowned master water-colorist from Melbourne, Australia.

“Seated Model” by Maria


Out of 411 entries, 99 were selected for the show, which opened Sept. 8 at the Wallingford Arts Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. This is the second PWCS international show for Griffin, which will earn her “signature member” status in the Philadelphia Water Color Society. Keane is already a signature member of PWCS.

Additionally, Diamond State Pen Woman Betsy Greer had her painting, “Sifting Beach Sand,” accepted into the Biggs Museum of American Art juried competition titled “The Biggs Body.” The competition was open to artists of the mid-Atlantic region and explored interpretations of human and animal forms.

The work chosen was judged on how successful the artist interpreted, evoked, or responded to the body. The exhibit runs through Nov. 17.

“Evening Reflections” by Mary Lou Griffin


Sifting Beach Hands” by Betsy Greer


Small but Mighty Des Moines Branch Celebrates 80 Years

By Laura Walth, Branch President

At the home of Kaukab Barni Merchant, the first allied professional art member in the history of the Des Moines Branch. Back row, left to right: Pat Underwood, Norma Wolff, Linda Hodges, Val Weaver. Front row: Laura Walth, Kaukab Barni Merchant, Elaine Erickson. Not pictured are Kimberlee Spillers (who took the photo), Karen Kellogg, and ML Hopson.

It has been 80 years since the Des Moines Branch became a chartered NLAPW member on Nov. 21, 1939. Seventy-six years later, in April 2018, our branch sponsored for the first time the Biennial, which took place in Des Moines, Iowa.

With about a dozen members remaining, we collaborated with other nonprofit organizations in our city and brought members together from across the United States. Some came to Des Moines for the first time and others attended their first Biennial.

Members from other states and members-at-large shared their knowledge and experience with those of us who have never organized a Biennial. It was a great opportunity to show other branches that even with a few members in your branch, a lot can be accomplished.

Our oldest member, Dorothy Timmons, passed away at the age of 101. She was an inspiration to many of our members. She had a sharp mind and a willingness to join us whenever she could.

Our new members inspire us with creative and new approaches. Our creative minds never age.

In the past, the Des Moines Branch had more than 40 members. Today, we are beginning a new phase in the history of our branch with about a dozen members.

When our branches are built on a strong foundation, we can sustain the organization for the next decade. Our founding members were visionary and were willing to embrace the future with their new members, as both new and senior Pen Women learned to adapt to the new decade.

We have high standards within the organization, and this helps creative people to reach higher levels. Let’s embrace the new decade by helping other creative people express their art and invite others to join. If each of us brings one new member into the organization, imagine what we could do after accomplishing so much with a  smaller membership.

Attending the 50th Biennial in Washington, D.C., is a great way to inspire enthusiasm among Pen Women as well as future members who bring additional ideas to our organization.

Golden Gate-Marin Awards Scholarship, Hosts Exhibit

Scholarship recipient Katarina Ament with members of the Golden Gate-Marin Branch. Back row, left to right: Eric Oldmixon (Ament’s art teacher), Rita Weink, Lucy Arnold. Front row, left to right: Melissa Woodburn, Debra Patrick, , Cathy Moreno, Judy Barnett.

In April, the Scholarship Committee of the Golden Gate-Marin Branch of California met to determine who would receive this year’s $500 scholarship, which is awarded to a deserving female Marin high school senior who plans to pursue further art studies at a four-year college. After a lively discussion of all the candidates, they selected Katarina Ament from Branson High School.

Ament plans to attend Carleton College in the fall to major in art. She is a skilled 2-D artist, but is currently focused on installation art.

She hopes to help both individuals and society at large to look at larger issues such as mental illness. As an example, one of Ament’s installations deals with the stigma of depression.

Her interactive pieces integrate audio, visual, and tactile experiences to completely immerse the viewer in her work. She seeks to “promote empathy and understanding” and encourages discussions around mental illness, even providing brochures of helpful resources at her installations.

“She creates work with deep conceptual and emotional meaning and impact,” her art teacher said.

This is the first time the Scholarship Committee has chosen an installation artist, but the committee feels her dedication to making art for social good shows a level of maturity beyond most high school applicants.

Other Branch News

“Basilisk, Orchids, Frogs,” 30×34 watercolor by Lucy Arnold, is one of the works on display at the Redwood Foyer Gallery.

Golden Gate-Marin has a group art exhibit at the Redwood Foyer Gallery of the Marines Memorial Auditorium through Jan 3, 2020. The Redwood Foyer Gallery is a beautiful open space, which meant the participating artists could exhibit five or six large pieces each. The gallery is available to attendees of the Marin Symphony and other events at the Marines Memorial Auditorium. The Redwood Foyer Gallery is located at 10 Avenue of the Flags in San Rafael.


La Jolla Celebrates 60 Years with Anthology

By Elizabeth Yahn Williams, Member-at-Large, California

Recently, I enjoyed visiting the La Jolla Branch as it reveled in reading parts of “Celebrating 60 Years of La Jolla Pen Women.” Compiled and designed by Susanne Pistor, this anthology features members of the branch from 1956 to 2016. Its colorful cover reflects rainbows of educational, medical, musical, artistic, and scientific achievements.

This photo by Pistor was used for the book’s back cover. The view of La Jolla’s floral coves faces south against the Pacific Ocean.

For example, readers will be fascinated to find that branch President Anne Hoiberg (founder of the Women’s Museum of California) has also served for 25 years as a research psychologist for the federal government. Her curriculum vita includes more than 130 scientific articles, book chapters, and reports — as well as two books and approximately 100 presentations at national and international conferences. After retiring, she volunteered as an election supervisor for the U.S. Department of State in “emerging” countries (eight missions).

Anthology project manager and co-editor Susanne Pistor

Project master Susanne Pistor, a chemical engineer from Cologne, also has many international ties. Her bio tells readers that after immigrating to San Francisco (where she met her Japanese husband), she worked in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and then raised their family for 20 years in Tokyo, where she became a librarian at the American School. She photographed many of the images published in La Jolla’s anthology.

Liverpudlian Audrea Ireland-Liszt writes her bio as a prose poem; poet Doris Nichols Sutton includes photos of her days as a model; and composer Bette Miller provides images of her recent paintings, as does Beverly J. Hudson. And past La Jolla President Sandi Nielubowicz shares her Penguin’s festive group photo.

Kudos to the 30 members whose bios appear in the book.

Long Island Members Exhibit at Art Show

Long Island Branch members whose work was exhibited at Long Island’s exhibit at b.j. spoke gallery included, among others, from right to left, Dolores Caporell, Karen Kirshner, branch President Melissa Assael, Joan Israel, Alicia Gitlitz, Phyllis Coniglio, and Diane Hawkins.

Long Island Branch Pen Women had a show at b.j. spoke gallery in Huntington, New York, through the month of April. Former National President Anna DiBella, who was invited by Karen Kirshner, attended the event, much to the delight of members. The artist-owned, nonprofit gallery is located just down the block from the historic, famous Roslyn deli, and is the last remaining dedicated private art gallery in Nassau County.

Branch News, Summer 2019

Greenwich Connecticut Presents Successful Outreach

By Jean P. Moore, Publicity Coordinator

The Greenwich Connecticut branch (some 70 members strong) is “all in” on community outreach. One example: Art members coordinated a citywide show, “Creative Women: Artists of the Greenwich Pen Women,” in the fall that extended into this year. Related to the show was a panel discussion, “What Is Creativity,” which drew a large and enthusiastic audience.

Authors Guild General
Counsel Cheryl Davis with
Greenwich Branch President Sarah Darer.

For the past three years, letters members have joined hands with the Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich to facilitate a book discussion series. The first of these took place in 2017 and was comprised of three sessions in the spring and fall. The presenters selected the books based on criteria such as library availability and popularity of fiction and nonfiction titles.

The first season was so successful, the series ran again in 2018 with several new Pen Women presenters and new titles, and was extended to four sessions. We are currently in our third season. The titles selected are representative of book club selections, making the event similar to a book club; however, the event is free and open to the public.

Branch members at the Authors Guild event, from left: seated, Diane Morello and Stasha Healy; back row, prospective member Tina Nunno and members Barbara Ehrentreu and Leigh Grant.

The latest of our library outreach programs took place in April of this year, again at the Perrot, in conjunction with the Authors Guild. Our president, Sarah Darer Littman, introduced speaker Cheryl Davis, general counsel of the guild. The topic, “Protecting Your Intellectual Property,” proved a good one, drawing an appreciative audience of members and guests, many of whom stayed after the presentation to learn more about the topic and our branch.

There are more community outreach programs in the offing, all free and designed to enhance community relations. They include three Open Mic events, an opportunity to present, in five minutes, 500-1,000 words of creativity. These too will be presented in partnership with local libraries and branches.

One could say, when it comes to our public offerings, these are the bywords for Greenwich Pen Women events: “Free and Open to the Public.” We enjoy our community, our organization, and spreading the word.

Florida Pen Women Go Museum-Hopping

JoAnna O’Keefe (visiting from Omaha) and Mary Dall (Cape Canaveral).

Some Florida Pen Women have been on the road. On Valentine’s Day, the Vero Beach Branch invited the Cape Canaveral Branch to join them for a visit to the Vero Beach Museum of Art. After a docent tour of the museum’s traveling exhibit, “Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement,” the group enjoyed lunch in the Museum Cafe.

In March, the Cape Canaveral Pen Women traveled to Orlando to visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Modern Art, famous for its Tiffany exhibits. Florida members-at-large from Orlando met the Cape Canaveral women for a docent tour of the museum and lunch at the nearby La Scala Restaurant.

Golden Gate-Marin Hosts ‘Pop-up Party with Pen Women’

Event poster

The Golden Gate-Marin Branch hosted a “Pop-Up Party with Pen Women” on April 17. The purpose was to introduce the branch to the local community of one of the members, poet Lee Dunne, who resides at the Marin Valley Mobile Home Park in Novato, California.

Rita Wienk shows one of her photographs.

It seemed to be a great success, judging by the number of interested, engaged guests who attended. Dunne arranged for the use of the Community Room, which was a wonderful venue. The event was publicized with emails, flyers, and posters.

Many members stepped up to decorate, set up tables and chairs, bring treats, and make coffee and tea. Karen Sellinger (friend of member Lucy Arnold) provided lovely live classical guitar music. Dunne and her guest, future branch member Lorraine Walker Williams, read their poetry, which was very well-received. The rest of the branch members introduced themselves and showed examples of their artwork to the rapt audience, many of whom were artists themselves.

Santa Clara County Awards 2019 Scholarships

Santa Clara Pen Women Luanna Leisure, Pat Fisher, Louise Web, ShaRon Haugen, Mary Lou Taylor, Patricia-Dennis, Dorothy-Atkins, and Audry Lynch

Another successful year with outstanding applicants!  The scholarship team assisting were Nancy Bloomer Deussen, and Susan Zerweck for music; Patricia Dennis and Jeannie Carbone for art; and Luanna Leisure and Tina Williams for literary. Once again, members of the branch gathered together to offer a wonderful potluck lunch to the attendees.

Santa Clara Pen Women Patricia Dennis (left) and Luanna Leisure (right) with scholarship recipients Julia Torokhova, Ana Mata, and Katy Watts.

This year’s talented recipients were: Julia Torokhova, art; Ana Mata, literary; and Katy Watts, music. In addition, Raven Vujevich received a special award donated by Dorothy Finney in memory of her husband. Raven was unable to attend the awards presentation due to travel with her high school theater troupe but scholarship chair Luanna Leisure and co-chair Patricia Dennis presented the award to Raven on stage at her high school in front of a full house where she was performing in “Mama Mia!”

On May 3, another outreach program took place at the Saratoga Senior Center. Dorothy Atkins, outreach chair, organized this event as a luncheon. NLAPW’s “Why I am a Pen Woman” video was played as an introduction, followed by Atkins, who gave more information on the NLAPW and the Santa Clara Branch.

Lorna Kohler was introduced and entertained the guests as she sang and played guitar. Leisure then talked about the celebrity luncheon and the scholarship awards program. Dennis ended the event with a video of her photography slide show “On the outside looking in.” Other Pen Women in attendance and supporting the event were Pat Fisher, ShaRon Haugen, Mary Lou Tyler, Audrey Lynch, Louise Webb, and Katie Tyler.

Huntsville Honors Local Women with Creative Spirit Award

By Susan Livingston, VP Programs, Huntsville Branch

Art award recipient Deborah Brashear Simpson.

The Huntsville Branch, Alabama, hosted its biennial Creative Spirit Award luncheon on March 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn. Branch members nominated and elected area nonmembers who have contributed significantly to the arts in Huntsville. The women received awards in music, art, and letters.

This year’s awardees were Debra Brashear Simpson, an artist who also was one of the creators of the Monte Sano Art Festival, which has become a prime art festival in Alabama;  Beth Thames, a 25-year Huntsville Times columnist and NPR contributor; and Alex Hendrix, musician and the driving force behind the Women in Music Weekend.

Member Margaret Vann with guest speaker Ginny Kennedy.

Ginny Kennedy, news anchor and classical music host for WLRH, served as guest speaker. A silent auction also took place.

The luncheon was enthusiastically attended. One attendee commented that she had so much fun clapping for and honoring these women that she would love to be a part of an organization such as NLAPW.

Thanks to the Event Committee — Dinah Gilbert, Kate Leonard, Susan Livingston, Jessica Temple, Margaret Vann, and Carol Wissman — the luncheon was highly successful in meeting the branch’s objectives: honoring creative women, bringing attention to NLAPW, and attracting new members.

Sarasota Selects ‘Launching Leaders in the Arts’ Winners

Art winner Emily Aviles and teacher Marilyn Caruso.

It was a very festive afternoon on March 8 at the Bird Key Yacht Club as the Sarasota Branch honored its “Launching Leaders in the Arts” winners. The awards are given in letters, art, and music to high school seniors in Sarasota and Manatee school districts based on competitions. The purpose is to encourage further education in the arts after graduation and to develop confidence and self-esteem through participation in the awards program.

At the awards luncheon, the awardees performed their music, read their composition or poetry, and displayed their award-winning art. The program also includes a survey of all participants, student awardee and teacher interviews on the branch website (, a follow-up with the awardees nine to 12 months later, and information about NLAPW’s student membership.

Art winner Bianca Johnson.

Through the generous support of sponsors, branch fundraising events, and member donations, $8,800 was awarded to 13 students. The highest awards were funded by the David Altman Foundation in memory of late art member Betty Altman; the Sylvia Anderson Price Award in Writing, and the Amy Elder Family Award in Music.

This year’s winners are Claire Ellis, Mina Quesen, Julia Weber, Ryley Ober, and Cassandra Atzrodt for letters; Amy Portillo, Emily Aviles, Bianca Johnson, Sophia Sahr, and Zachary Timmons for art; and Bryant Crawford, Zainab Farooq, and Anthony Bilotta for music. Congratulations to these talented, creative young adults.

D.C. Branch Hosts Award-Winning Journalist

By Grace Reid, Past President

The D.C. Branch had the privilege of meeting Joseph Dalton, a general arts reporter and classical music critic for the Times Union in Albany since 2002, and the author of “Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat, and the Rise of Women Journalists.”

He earned a first-place award for arts and entertainment writing from the New York Associated Press and has twice received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for music journalism. Dalton has also been a contributor to Time Out New York, Opera News, and The Advocate, among other publications. 

Award-winning journalist and author Joseph Dalton at Pen Arts.

Hope Ridings Miller is his first cousin twice removed. We also got to meet his sister, Cathy, with a delightful Southern accent from North Carolina. Their family originated from East Texas. We enjoyed lunch together with local members, Dupont Circle neighbors, and nonmembers from Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Barbara Nunes, the president of the Alexandria Branch, also joined us for lunch and the talk afterwards. 

If you haven’t read Dalton’s insightful book into the life of this pioneering woman journalist who covered the powerful vortex of politics, diplomacy, and society during a career that stretched from FDR to LBJ, then you absolutely need to order it. The book displays the wit and wisdom that Hope Ridings Miller showed in her writing and her grace in dealing with people in all stations of life. 

Pensacola Has Inspirational Year

The Pensacola Branch created a dynamic, cohesive theme for the 2018-2019 year, titled “Arise from Your Dreaming.” Our Poet Laureate Karen Morris conceived the project based on Vinnie Ream’s philosophy of  “Get out of the clouds and produce.”

Terry Henry gives a dramatic portrayal of Dorothy Parker. Photography by Anne Baehr

Due to this motivation, our group had the opportunity to develop presentations based on women writers and visual artists who personally inspired each of us. Our crew put their hearts and souls into their work and instead of a series of lectures, the result was the opportunity for each of us to step into the lives of amazing authors and painters who fearlessly broke new ground in their creative endeavors. These heroines pioneered innovations that deeply influenced generations of women. Using a variety of mediums that fully engaged the audience, our presenters brought these women to life.

We were awed by the skills of Edna St. Vincent Millay in using a traditional poetic form to portray the changing attitudes of the 20th century. We were transported through time, gazing at the life of women in the 19th century through the eyes of artist Mary Cassatt and author Mary Shelley. We explored the stunning, native folk art of Frida Kahlo, the beauty of New Mexico’s deserts with Georgia O’Keeffe, and the themes of cultural prejudice and conflict in the works of Edna Ferber.

Diana Obe completely envelopes herself in her
presentation on Frida Kahlo. Photography by Anne Baehr

The faith and courage of Corrie ten Boom, whose sacrifices saved lives during the Nazi reign of terror, were vividly brought to mind. Through theatrical presentations, we joined Dorothy Parker for a martini as she shared memories and gossip of her artistic journey, and we sat at Alice James’ bedside as she first began her journal. We traveled the road with Alice Walker from her roots in rural Georgia to worldwide acclaim for works in every literary genre, and we became acquainted with the textile magic of Anni Albers.

Whether the members of our branch are artists or writers, or a mix of both, through our passions and our inspirations, we learned not only about famous women throughout history, but we discovered a lot more about each other. Sharing the lives and works of those who excited our own creativity aroused us from dreaming and impelled us to learn more. Our year of inspiration left us ready to give life to creations that were hovering on the edge of dreams.