Branch News, Spring 2019

WNY Pen Women Celebrate Centennial

By Barbara Blackburn, Western New York Branch Vice President

In 2019, our Western New York Branch celebrates 100 years. Our roster of past presidents begins with Effie F. Burns, a Buffalo teacher and an ardent suffragette. While equality for women writers, artists, and musicians has gone up over the years, the number of our members has gone down. Still, our little local branch, despite its struggles to carry on, has remained  strong in spirit.

Branch President Lorayne Simmons
Branch President Lorayne Simmons

Our group is fortunate in having the legacy of Olga Murray Lindbergh, who left a substantial endowment to our branch. We are able to donate generous yearly scholarships to aspiring writers, artists, and composing musicians. This coup has brought us respect from the community and appreciation from the scholarship recipients. We decided to turn over the management of the money to the Buffalo Community Foundation, which follows our guidelines for choosing recipients. We may attend the foundation’s meetings and are well aware of what is happening.

I joined Pen Women in the 1980s, after a knock at my door introduced me to Marion Elmer, who had read and enjoyed some of my local writings. Personal contact is a good strategy for attracting possible members. I feel that this approach works so much better than the digital approach. 

Anyway, at that time, we had more than 50 members, and we often met at the Park Lane Restaurant, no longer part of our city. Because of the geographical diversity of our members, we also traveled to different locations each time when we met on the third Saturday of each month. During recent years, we have been meeting every six weeks or every other month. These days, most of our tablemates come for the program as well as the conversation and cuisine. There’s truth in the saying,  “Ladies just want to have lunch.” Also, our gatherings have been fun.

Barbara and Alan Blackburn
Branch Vice President (and past president) Barbara Blackburn and her husband, Alan, were among the attendees who dressed in period costumes for the centennial.

To further extend our welcome and to guarantee a number closer to 20, we invite anyone interested. This new category, not recognized officially, is called “Friends of Pen Women.” Additionally, we now have a few male friends, who have been paid for their work (unlike the female “friends,” who still do not officially qualify for membership). Most of our guests who become friends are due to publicity in Olaffub (that’s the reverse spelling of Buffalo) by our own Dale Anderson, of the Buffalo News. He gave one of the best talks at Halloween on writing your own obituary.  For a small group and a small honorarium, we have secured quite a few local celebs, headed by Joanne Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic conductor, who shared not just her music but her poetry. Good publicity helps — not just a mention in a local calendar of events, but a write-up.

So, what’s the real secret to our branch’s longevity? It’s patience, perseverance, and publicity. I might add punctuality, meaning getting out the word in plenty of time.

When we have been led by artists as presidents, we have enjoyed more artsy programs. We have, in the past, sponsored a local juried art show at the famous Keenan Center in Lockport. We have hosted some meetings at famous venues around town, such as the Albright Knox Art Gallery (which has a restaurant), bookstores, and the Iron Island Museum, plus the historical Colored Musicians Club, with a tour of the church that aided the Underground Railroad. Last summer, we built a meeting around a local blues festival in the area of the celebrated club.

My choice for our last planned meeting was a local columnist, who was honored to be a speaker. I believe in choosing locally recognized speakers to boost attendance and to maintain membership, as we wait to rise again, with the vision of “The Dauntless Three,” Marian Longfellow O’Donoghue,  Margaret Sullivan, and Anna Sanbo Hamilton. We celebrated with a champagne toast and a birthday cake at the Eagle House Restaurant, a former stage-coach stop. Like our symbol the owl, we have our eyes set forward for the next hundred years.

Sarasota Hosts Holiday Fundraiser, Outreach Event

By Barbara Jendrysik

Dr. Wilma B. Davidson, Branch President Francesca Simon, Barbara Jendrysik, and Polly Curran at the holiday luncheon

The Sarasota Branch, Florida, hosted its annual holiday fundraiser luncheon on Dec. 12 at the Bird Key Yacht Club to benefit its “Launching Leaders in the Arts” awards program. The program supports local high school seniors. Awards are given based on competitions and encourage the students to continue their education, after graduation, in the areas of art, letters, and music. A performance luncheon takes place in March to honor the student awardees.

Members and their guests were in the holiday spirit and raised over $1,400 for the awards program with a raffle and a silent auction. The silent auction tables were overflowing with special “treasures” that branch members published, created, and composed; and items donated by local businesses. Poinsettias were placed on all the tables and all attendees received a special “thank you” bag of freshly baked cookies made by board members. It was a wonderful event filled with holiday cheer.

And, on Feb. 16, at the downtown Sarasota Library, the Sarasota Branch hosted an informative panel discussion titled “The Artist’s Journey.” This outreach program consists of art, letters, and music members. It is designed to tell the community about each panel member’s “ups and downs” in her artistic journey.

Artist's Journey panel
Ronni Miller, Dr. Wilma Davidson, Dawn Spitz, and Miriam Cassell at Artist’s Journey.
Photo by Polly Curan

It was a full house! Members discussed topics such as roadblocks and successes along the artistic journey, putting personality into your work, creativity inspired by collaboration, and the impact that each member’s work has made on their lives. The panel consisted of  Dr. Wilma Davidson, Dawn Spitz, Miriam Cassell, moderator Ronni Miller, Dr. Alice Moerk, Cia McKoy, and Brenda Spalding.

Cape Cod Launches New Program

By Kathryn Kleekamp, Cape Cod Branch Secretary

At our board meetings over the past few months, we’ve been questioning how we can better meet the needs of our members. How do we enhance networking? Showcase member talents? Attract new members? Importantly, how do we bring the Pen Women name into the community and in some way serve the community?

We’ve formed both a literary committee and an art committee with the purpose of creating a model for panel discussions that our members might want to duplicate and participate in. Under the Pen Women umbrella, these satellite groups can provide panel discussions at venues throughout our Cape Cod, Massachusetts, area — libraries, cultural centers, adult education seminars, book festivals, etc.

Cape Cod Pen Women
Left to right: Panelists Terri Arthur, Janice Riley, Christie Lowrance, Kathryn Kleekamp, and Christina Laurie

For example, in the literary area, five Cape Cod Pen Women who are published authors got together to brainstorm a pilot program. Additionally, we identified what our first presentation would consist of. Four authors would each speak for 15 minutes and a fifth would moderate. We planned for a second hour to adequately address audience questions.

We met once to brainstorm, identify our topics, and generally talk about what we wanted to accomplish; and a second time to practice a run-through of the actual presentation. We named our presentation “Inside Writing.” The specific topics to be discussed are Every Word Counts, Finding the Story, Putting Experience into Words, and Developing Confidence as a Writer.

We currently have multiple upcoming engagements for our presentations.

This type of activity has many advantages. It provides opportunities to get Pen Women out in the community and share a vast wealth of experience with those who may just be starting their writing or artistic journey. Our public presentations welcome men as attendees as well as women. We have an opportunity to sell books at a display table. Working as a group, as opposed to a solitary person doing a book talk, one is more likely to get better attendance. Last and certainly not least, it’s fun and inspiring to work with sister Pen Women.

Santa Clara County Hosts ‘Celebrity Lunch’

By Patricia Dennis

The Santa Clara County Branch and the Diablo-Alameda Branch, California, welcomed National President Evelyn Wofford with two “get acquainted lunches.”  She presented the needs and goals of the League and urged members to get involved at the national level.

Santa Clara Celebrity Lunch winners
“Celebrity” winners, left to right, Anna Miakisk, Alexandra Beltran, Claudia Gray, Judith Tolley, and Elvira Rascov, with membership chair Susan Zerweck.


Santa Clara County went on to host its “Celebrity Lunch” fundraiser event at the Mariani’s restaurant in Santa Clara, honoring professional women who excel in their trade. This year’s achievers were: Claudia Gray, Elvira Rascov, and Judith Tolley in art; Barbara Sher Tinsely in letters; and Alexandra Beltran and Anna Miakisk (Annia Mia) in music.

Keeping with the theme of A Bit of Auld Ireland, the crowd was entertained with music by the “Keltic Katz” and the ever-delightful Susan Zerweck and Edie Matthews. Money raised will go toward supporting monetary awards for young women graduates and undergraduates pursuing a career in the arts.

Boca Raton Showcases Teens’ Talents at Holiday Party

By Elaine Bossik

The Boca Raton Branch hosted a holiday party for teens on Dec. 14 at the Milagro Teen Center in Delray Beach, Florida. There was fun, food, and an abundance of talent on display.

Many of the teens demonstrated skills they were developing in music, art, dance, writing, and robotics. The teens participate in after-school enrichment activities offered at the center. They continue to impress the Boca Raton Pen Women with their spirit and accomplishments.

Several Pen Women shared their creative insights with the teens. Sheila Firestone, who organized the annual event, showed a YouTube video she produced, featuring her musical composition. Author and playwright Carol White discussed careers to consider in theater.

Artist Roberta Melman showed several original oil paintings and discussed her art techniques and style. Poet Marlene Klotz read an original poem. Janet Kleinman discussed how Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired her published book about him. And Vera Ripp Hirschhorn, author and university consultant, demonstrated stress-reduction techniques, a learning tool described in her new book on student development.

Refreshments and gifts for the teens were made possible through generous contributions from branch members.

Branch News, Winter 2019

Diablo/Alameda Artists Honored for Achievements

Diablo Branch award
Elizabeth Hack receives a Visual Arts Award from Artists Embassy International. Photography by Philip Lewenthal

At the invitation of Natica Angilly, vice president of the Diablo/Alameda Branch, members attended the spectacular Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in September for the Dance Poetry Festival.

Margaret Davis, Pat Doyne, Jo Ann Frisch, Elizabeth Hack, Ann Maloney-Mason, and Charlotte Severin were treated to an extravaganza of dance and poetry.

Diablo award 2
Charlotte Severin receives her Visual Arts Award.
Photography by Philip Lewenthal

The program was presented by Artists Embassy International, an arts organization dedicated to furthering peace and understanding through the universal language of the arts. Angilly and her husband, Richard, hosted the program, celebrating its 25th year.

During the event, Hack and Severin received Artists Embassy International’s 2018 Visual Arts awards.

Hack was honored for her work as editor of the journal San Francisco Peace and Hope: Light Up the Sky and for her many achievements in writing and visual arts. Severin was honored for her award from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Her painting, “Hollyhocks in My Garden,” was included in a set of note cards, which were sent to AAUW’s 84,000 members.


Chevy Chase Hosts Event with Three Guest Branches

Chevy Chase Pen Women recently hosted national President Evelyn Wofford at an event that included guests from three other branches: Bethesda, Alexandria, and District of Columbia.

Chevy Chase performers
District of Columbia Branch President Grace Reid, flutist Nancy Stanly, and Bethesda Branch composer An-Ming Wang perform at the event hosted by the Chevy Chase Branch.

President Wofford spoke briefly about the plans and goals of the new administration, as well as new programs happening at Pen Arts. The Pen Women in attendance found her positive and open to new ideas to bring the League into the 21st century.

The Chevy Chase Branch is also focused on taking its membership into the 21st century by elevating and encouraging women who flourish in various areas of the arts. Chevy Chase is also encouraging unity among the local branches.

The program for the event was provided by District of Columbia Branch President Grace Reid on the piano and D.C. Branch member Nancy Stanly on the flute, who performed several pieces written by composer An-Ming Wang from the Bethesda Branch.


Golden Gate-Marin Chooses Art Scholarship Winners

By Catherine Bohrman

The Golden Gate-Marin Branch had a growing and thriving year in 2018. Although our members have primarily been visual artists in Marin, San Francisco and Sonoma counties, our branch has grown with five new members — two in art, two in letters, and another in music and letters.

Basset sculpture
“Bassett,” by 
scholarship winner Courtney Sharps.

We award an annual scholarship to a deserving female Marin high school senior who plans to further her education in the visual arts at a four-year college. This year, Courtney Sharps of Marin Catholic School received the $500 scholarship. She is a ceramics student who participates in advance-placement studio classes and is one of only a few to be given her own studio space at the school. Courtney will attend Syracuse University, where she plans to major in sculpture.

Female portrait
“Color Female Portrait,” by scholarship winner Sophie Levin

We also awarded Sophie Levin of Novato High School the Idell Weiss Memorial Award. She received a $150 gift certificate to use for art supplies at college. Sophie will be attending the Rhode Island School of Design. She has challenged herself to try multiple mediums, but focused on drawing, painting, and illustration for her submission.

The branch exhibited with the NorCal Pen Women this past winter at the John O’Lague Galleria in Hayward’s City Hall, in Hayward, at the Tiburon Town Hall in Tiburon, and at The Redwoods in Mill Valley, California. We are exhibiting once again with NorCal in Hayward this winter.

This year, our past President Lucy Arnold attended the Biennial in Iowa and came back very inspired by her fellow Pen Women. She co-chaired the Presidents Panel at the Biennial and received an Outstanding Pen Woman Award from former national President Virginia Campbell.

Our monthly meetings are not just informative. We treasure the friendship, support, and networking they provide. Our horizons widen as we welcome members in music and letters and discover new inspiration and collaborations.


All Cities Hosts Art Exhibit and Poetry Reading

All Cities Branch event
All Cities Branch President Denise Kolanovic reads during the branch’s poetry and art event in September.

The All Cities Branch Art Exhibit and Poetry Reading took place at Molloy College in New York on Sept. 22.

Pen Women Carolyn DeSoucey, Eleanore O’Sullivan, Dina Fine, and Lisa Hermanson featured their work; All Cities President Denise Kolanovic read poetry from the soon-to-be-published chapbook “Magnetized by Black Irises”; and Pen Woman Anna DiBella read from her new book. Other participants included the invited writer-in-residence from Molloy College, Barbara Novack.


Sarasota Showcases Members’ Work

The Venice Art Center was the latest venue to showcase the work of the Sarasota Branch. From Nov. 16 to Dec. 14, 20 art members filled the walls with 57 works of art. One of the works was an installation — a “first” for the branch’s exhibits — by new member Miriam Cassell.

Letters and music members joined in the exhibit with their books and CDs on display. Opening night was a true gala affair. Carol Doenecke, art chair and treasurer, coordinated the program.

Sarasota Pen Women
Sarasota Branch members celebrate on opening night.
Photography by Polly Curran

NorCal Branches Celebrate Women

Five Northern California branches hosted their second Celebrate Women! Art Show Reception at the John O’Lague Galleria, Hayward City Hall in Hayward, California, on opening day Dec. 13. The show ran through March 1. The exhibit promoted NLAPW and the arts in general.

The exhibit was sponsored by the Hayward Arts Council (HAC). Winnie Thompson, Diablo-Alameda president, is the chair of Celebrate Women! and is on the HAC board. Her husband, Gerry, and Diablo-Alameda member Ann Maloney-Mason hung the show.

NorCal Pen Women
Pen Women from NorCal branches gather under the ornate Christmas tree for a group photo during the Celebrate Women! Art Show Reception in December.

The show presented 59 works of very accomplished artists, writers, and musicians, some of whom have international fame. Many of the members present gathered under the ornate Christmas tree for a group photo.

HAC President Heather Reyes introduced NorCal President Dorothy Atkins and Winnie Thompson, who presented certificates of commendation issued by National President Evelyn Wofford to Mayor Barbara Halliday, and Councilmen Al Mendall and Francisco Zermeno, who spoke of their great interest in seeing the arts flourish in Hayward. Assemblyman Bill Quirk and Congressman Eric Swallwell sent representatives to the event.

Diablo-Alameda member and Celtic harpist Margaret Davis with her husband, Kristoph Klover, enchanted the crowd of about 125. Diablo/Alameda member Debra Nimmer sang a spirited rendition of “When You Need a Friend.”

Patricia Dennis of the Santa Clara County Branch took photos and produced a lovely  “Celebrate Women!” video, which features many of the exhibition artworks. Watch the video on YouTube.

The Pen Woman magazine is free to members. Extra copies available for purchase here.