Branch News, Fall 2020

Diamond State Members Stay Active

Although many regular routines were disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions, Diamond State Branch, Delaware, members have remained active and productive during this pandemic.

Art member Anna Bellenger received the first Women in the Arts Award from the Chester County Chapter of NSDAR (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution). Her accomplishments in creating new techniques and unique works of art are so strong and the recommendations so glowing that the approval process was very rapid.

This award does not require NSDAR membership, but it does require that the nominee be recognized for her accomplishments in her field as well as innovative in her techniques. Bellenger has demonstrated both. Sometime this autumn, the American Heritage Committee will present her with the award certificate and pin.

Art and letters member Maria Keane presented at the Fourth Annual Delaware Art Museum Writers’ Conference  in July. The conference topic was “Untold Stories” and Keane’s presentation was titled “Mary Magdalene: Saint/Sinner, Let’s Get It Right, Searching the History of Her Spirituality.”

The workshop suggested methods to research the valuable lives of women whose worth may have been overlooked or misconstrued in the annals of history. The conference was a virtual experience via Zoom.

Letters member Billie Tavalini hosted Lewes Creative Writers’ Conference — an event she founded — virtually, via Zoom, in August. The 13th annual conference began with readings on a Friday evening, followed on Saturday by two open sessions and two small critique workshops for poets. For prose writers, there were two open sessions and a small critique workshop in fiction and one in nonfiction.

The Diamond State Branch helps sponsor this event each year as part of its outreach program.

Greenwich Changes Guard While Social-Distancing

Sarah Littman, retiring president of the Greenwich  Pen Women, presents the president’s gavel to incoming  President Lee Paine
Sarah Littman, retiring president of the Greenwich
Pen Women, presents the president’s gavel to incoming President Lee Paine.
Photography by Josh Littman



Greenwich Pen Women made a smooth transition from retiring President Sarah Darer Littman to incoming President Lee Paine, the first local member to be admitted to the group in all three categories of art, letters, and music. The branch has been active in Greenwich since 1955.



Santa Clara County Introduces Two New Members

By Patricia Dennis

The Santa Clara County Pen Women recently welcomed new members Lori Howell Thompson and Gail Lockhart.

A multitalented, exuberant lady that is always on the go, Lori Howell Thompson started writing at a very tender age.

As a youngster, she could be found with pen and paper in hand, writing poems and stories while the other kids were playing. She carried her love of writing throughout the years and had articles published in the Carmel Pine and Monterey News and Views. Thompson was also the co-founder and publicist for the Monterey Poetry Review magazine, which had a circulation of 4,500 in three counties.

Lori Howell Thompson

To date, Thompson has written two children’s books, “An Adventure with Joshua and Hoppy Frog” and “Joshua and Rocky the Otter.” In addition, her mystery novel, “Reflections,” won awards as a converted screenplay.

Her personal quote is, “I live to write and write to live.” Thompson believes that life is a continuing story and her mind is always whirling around ideas how best to express that. She is already working on her next book.

Thompson is also an artist.

“I only took up painting two years ago when a dear friend saw my doodling and encouraged me to carry it further,” she says.

Since then, she has expanded from pencil to acrylic and oil. Two of her latest paintings are in the process of being juried in to an art show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco.

Thompson said that when researching NLAPW, she was highly impressed that the organization was founded in 1897 and that it promotes, encourages, mentors, and supports fine art, writing, music, and much more.

“It is so encouraging to be able to be supported by like-minded women,” she says. “I want to be part of that and in turn help others by giving them the confidence to embrace and share their own talents. When a woman has confidence, she can step out and do almost anything.”

Also multitalented, Gail Lockhart joined under letters but will soon add art to her membership as well.

As a financial adviser for more than 15 years, Lockhart thought it important that children were also given the opportunity to learn about money.

Gail Lockhart

“Why not write a book for children,” she says. “They spend money; they work for it — let them know more about it, for they are the future of our buying and investing society.”

Her book, “Timmy and the Money Tree,” received a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award from the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs. In this children’s story, a little boy named Timmy and his family make a special trip to learn how paper money is made and distributed. Her second book, “Timmy and the Ice Cream Man,” teaches children the importance of correctly counting change. She is now working on her third, “Timmy and Allowances.”

Lockhart has further unleashed her creative side by becoming a stained-glass artist and a painter.

“For years, I have tried working with other mediums, beadwork, and drawing, but my heart was telling me they were not for me, until I discovered stained glass. Designing and creating my stained-glass pieces brings out a creative side in me that I did not know how to access,” she says. “Stained glass just makes my heart sing. I see a beautiful piece of colored glass and I ask myself, what design can I make with this?”

She says she joined NLAPW because she wanted to be part of an organization that gives back to the community — and that’s exactly what the branch’s annual scholarships do.

“I am inspired by the talent of the club and appreciate the camaraderie and support that is offered,” she says.

Boca Raton Supports Organizations in Need

The Boca Raton Branch has made donations to two Palm Beach County organizations, Milagro Center and Helping Hands, that provide food for families in need.

Milagro Center is an after-school outreach program for children of all ages. Because the branch won’t be able to hold its annual holiday party for the center this year, the Pen Women will connect with the teens via Zoom.

Helping Hands is a food pantry and has four locations throughout Palm Beach County. The organization distributes thousands of bags of food each month.

The Boca Raton Pen Women have scheduled a September Zoom meeting to introduce the branch’s board of directors. Several new members who recently joined also will have a chance to introduce themselves.

Honolulu Selects Winners in Annual Competition

Honolulu Branch is excited to announce the winners of the 2020 Lorin Tarr Gill Writing Competition. This contest is funded by members of the Gill family — a major, much appreciated commitment.

Anita ’Ilima Stern won second place in the poetry competition. A Honolulu Branch friend, Stern has attended every meeting prior to the pandemic and starts each meeting with a Hawaiian greeting.

The branch also acknowledges the honored judges, who included Tess Black, Dr. Craig Howes, Christy Passion, Dr. Craig Santos Perez, Leigh Saffold, and Frank Stewart. Each is a published author or editor who devoted time and effort to support NLAPW’s Honolulu Branch.

The competition operated entirely online, with a Zoom celebration of the winners being planned. The awardees are:

  • Fiction: Jeffery Ryan Long, first prize for “Notion of Forever”; Susan Soong, second place; Deborah Ross, third; and Tom Gammarino, honorable mention.
  • Poetry: Leslie A. Hayashi (member), first place for “Goodnight Mom, Goodnight Dad”; Anita ’Ilima Stern (friend of the branch), second; Eric Paul Shaffer, third; and John Simonds, honorable mention.
  • Nonfiction: Eric Paul Shaffer, first place for “Gnats in the Kula Sunset in March”; Kristin M. McAndrews, second; Tabby Viso-Naffah, third; and Sabra Rae Feldstein (member), honorable mention.

Diablo-Alameda, Santa Clara County Join in Meeting

By Winifred Thompson, Diablo-Alameda Branch President

The Diablo-Alameda and Santa Clara County branches had their first joint Zoom meeting in August to discuss the effects of racism and prejudice on members of color and those who are immigrants. National President Evelyn Wofford participated from Washington, D.C.

Julie Cohn, Diablo-Alameda Branch vice president, was Zoom host and moderator. Keynote speakers were NorCal President Dorothy Atkins and Diablo-Alameda Branch Treasurer Usha Shukla.

“You have to be uncomfortable before you are comfortable to approach the subject of racism,” Atkins said.

During the joint meeting, Pen Women from both branches shared comments about how racism is based on color and how racism is learned, taught, and perpetuated.

“It’s easy, but unfair, to stereotype immigrants,” Shukla said. “We must strive to treat all people as we would want to be treated — regardless of their country of origin.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, members agreed that they must change the narrative and speak out against hate. Being callous to a person can destroy their self-respect. We must work together to educate and enlighten.

Branch News, Summer 2020

Synergy and Symbiosis Featured in Pensacola Branch Projects

By Karen McAferty Morris

This past spring, our Pensacola Branch embarked upon two projects that have brought members together to promote creativity and strengthen relationships: an online writers group and a pairing of artists and writers from different Florida branches, both of which call to mind the scientific terms synergy and symbiosis.

Branch President Barbara Dunham envisioned a partnering project long before the pandemic, and our branch Poet Laureate Claire Massey and I organized a writing group after in-person meetings came to a halt in March.

Barbara conceived the idea during the Florida State Conference in November 2019 after presenting a collaborative project with fellow branch member Patricia Black-Gould. In a desire “to bring state branches closer together,” she sent out a call for artists and writers of different branches to team up and spur on the creative process.

There are now 22 teams of two persons each from the Pensacola, Cape Canaveral, and Jacksonville branches.

“It was a blind pairing among the entrants,” Barbara explains. “Most teams are comprised of an artist and a writer, but we do have a couple of teams of just artists.”

She sent guidelines that allowed freedom in the process, but included a Sept. 1 deadline for completion of the project and suggestions for sharing the results, adding that each branch was “free to feature their collaboration at a fall branch meeting and at the state convention,” where she may organize a presentation for the workshop agenda.

“Cactus Flower” by Pam E. Webb
“Cactus Flower” by Pam E. Webb

I have the pleasure of working in tandem with Pam E. Webb, a watercolorist from the Cape Canaveral Branch, who beautifully captures scenes from the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida Keys. Over a few weeks, we exchanged personal information and sent each other samples of our work. I perused her website ( and soon had written two poems, “The Straw Ladies” based on Pam’s “Exuma Straw Market” and “The Heron” based on her “Quiet Flight.”

Pam created “Cactus Flower” inspired by a passage from my poem “The Ease of Spring.” I have been excited and gratified to work with Pam and look forward to more new pieces stemming from our alliance.

In April, to encourage our local writers to create new pieces and share them (since workshops and writers groups were shut down), Claire and I began an online group called Write On, organized very simply. Once a week, I’d send out one email to the 12 writers who signed up, which contained several prompts from Claire, followed by pieces that the members had sent to me from the previous week’s prompts. Group members were encouraged to send feedback to each writer via email.

Writers groups are important. Claire explains, “By thoughtfully critiquing the work of others, your ability to critique your own work grows exponentially.”

Some of her prompts included these:
• Explore life’s polarities. Think freedom/confinement, dawn/dusk, loss/gain, suspicion/trust.
• Be inspired to write a poem, story, or memoir after reading a good quote, such as, “We contain all the ages we have ever been.” (Anne Lamott)
• Here’s a new twist on an old favorite. Describe a very early, detailed memory. Looking back over all that has happened in your life, tell us why you think that event or those moments held a lasting significance.
• Take anything we find normal today (shopping malls, infomercials, microwaves) and write from the perspective of an archaeologist 5,000 years in the future, who has unearthed this stuff. He or she is tasked with explaining the historical/religious/sociological significance.

“Most emerging writers are not afraid to write,” Claire believes. “They’re afraid to share the result. The right group bolsters courage and promotes a mutual honing of skills.”

We have been gratified by the interaction of the writers, their devotion to their craft, their courage in sharing, and the helpful comments that have contributed to the revision process of fellow writers.

I hope all of us who have been involved in the branch-to-branch teamwork and the electronic writers group have been as satisfied as I have. I have created new work and received excellent feedback that has improved my writing — and I have made valuable new acquaintances.

So, symbiosis (a relationship where individuals or groups depend upon each other) and synergy (combined power that is greater than what is achieved separately) are terms that can certainly be applied to the creative process.

Keeping in Touch While Staying Apart

The inability to host meetings due to lockdowns across the country has made it tough for Pen Women to keep in touch.

Branches are missing their inspirational get-togethers — but many have been getting creative and moving their meetings and other events online instead.


Pen Women ZoomDiablo-Alameda Branch, California, had its first Zoom meeting on April 23, with Usha Shukla and Julie Cohn leading the meeting.

“It was wonderful to finally get to meet so many of you and to put beautiful faces to the names I’ve been reading in all the emails this past year,” returning member Susan Wight wrote to the branch after the meeting. “I’m so glad to be back in the warm embrace of Pen Women again. I look forward to future Zoom get-togethers with all of you!”

Indeed, branch President Winnie Thompson said more Zoom meetings were planned. Members were getting the hang of “zooming,” as they call it, and were looking forward to more. The branch is also planning online art shows.

Washington, D.C.

DC-ZoomOn May 2, Washington, D.C., Branch had a very constructive meeting where many interesting topics were discussed (including membership, Biennial, planning social events, and envisioning the future). Pen Women brought up solutions and discussed them in a very collaborative way.

Participants included Pen Women Nancy Kyme (branch president), Darlene Allen (treasurer), Grace Reid (membership committee chair), Marie-C Marcoux (archivist), Marie-B Cilia De Amicis (historian and membership committee member), and Inger Mcphail (membership committee member); guests Lillian Gaskin, Katherine Gotthardt, Ceceile Kay Richter, and Katharine Taylor; and prospective members Sally Canzoneri (photographer) and Camilla Bozzoli (water colorist and illustrator).


Modesto-ZoomThe Modesto Branch, California, had its final business meeting of the year via Zoom, and 18 members were able to attend. The officers, board members, and chairpersons for 2018-2020 were acknowledged and thanked, and a new slate of officers was installed for the upcoming two-year term. In addition, the branch voted to put forward the application for a new letters member.

Despite the uncertainty in regard to opening up public places, the branch is going ahead with a planned exhibit to honor the ratification of the 19th Amendment. “Women in America” will be an ekphrastic exhibit with branch artists and writers pairing up to display their works for this theme. Art pieces and prose and poetry will be hung side-by-side in a local gallery, and if restrictions are still in place by July, it will become a “virtual” exhibit.