Branch News, Spring 2020

Outreach Program — an Effort of Love for Community

By Patricia Dennis, Santa Clara County Branch

Sock drive photo
Left to right, Santa Clara County Pen Women
Luanna Leisure, Dorothy Atkins, and Patricia Dennis work on the sock drive.

What is a successful outreach program? It is an opportunity to let the community know about the National League of American Pen Women, Inc.

This can be done in many ways and we all know that word of mouth goes far. Pair that with determination and the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Outreach is an effort of love. Love for the branch and love for the community. Dorothy Atkins is at the forefront as a prime example of a caring member. Her ideas are always in the works. This year, it was a sock drive, with the theme “Socks for cold feet and beyond.”

The branch partnered with the Saratoga Senior Center and branch member Louise Webb’s memoirs class for greater exposure. The groups collected socks for the less fortunate and unsheltered individuals through March 2020. They delivered more than 600 pairs of socks to the United Presbyterian Church, which in turn ensures that the homeless community receives them.

The idea was so well received that even a local country band, The Country Cougars, pitched in and promoted the sock drive at its own holiday party.   

Efforts like these promote Pen Women as being an active member in the community!


Boca Raton Branch Receives Holiday Surprise

Pen Women from the Boca Raton Branch have been hosting a holiday program for teens at the Milagro Teen Center in Delray Beach, Florida, every Christmas season for the past five years. The Milagro Center offers after-school enrichment activities for local youngsters.

Boca-Raton Pen Women
Dayle Herstik, Elaine Bossik, and Vera Hirschhorn receive the gift from Milagro teens. Photography by Carol White and Sheila Firestone

This past Christmas, the branch was asked to host two parties — one for a younger group and one for an older group. The Pen Women accepted the proposal from the Milagro Center and, under the direction of Sheila Firestone, prepared refreshments, a holiday program, and gifts for 90 teens.

Many branch members attended the event to lend a hand. They met the youngsters, shared insights into their own creative work, and discussed careers in the arts.

Milagro teens perform at the event.
Milagro teens perform at the event.

The teens surprised the Pen Woman with demonstrations of their many talents that were nurtured by the skilled Milagro staff members. Boca Raton Pen Women have watched these teens grow over the past five years from shy youngsters into confident and poised young people, eager to hone their skills and talents. They read original monologues, sang songs they had practiced, and played musical instruments.

There were gift cards for all the teens so they could choose their own gifts this season, as well as other gifts. And they surprised the Pen Women with a special gift they created — an original painting, with the words, “Thank you, Boca Raton Branch, National League of Pen Women.”

The branch hopes to continue this gratifying and worthy community outreach program for the Milagro Teen Center for many years to come. Generous contributions from Pen members made this holiday event possible.


Wellesley Welcomes Two New Members

By Priscilla Cogan

Wellesley Pen Women welcome Carole McNamee (second from right).
Wellesley Pen Women welcome Carole McNamee (second from right).

On Jan. 13, the NLAPW Wellesley Branch celebrated the addition of our newest member, Carole McNamee, PhD (doctorate in computer science and another in marriage and family therapy). A delightful addition to the branch, she has a wide range of experience in academic computer theory, expressive arts workshops, book art, and now as a solo artist. Her life motto is to welcome change and explore the question: What next?

Earlier in 2019, we were lucky enough to welcome a new member, Mara Levin, a visual artist who does incredible work in animal portraits. We are really looking forward to seeing her studio on her horse farm! She has a great sense of humor and a winning personality.


Honolulu Finalizes Schedule for June Writers Conference

By Luanna Meyer

The Honolulu Branch has announced the full schedule of speakers for its Honolulu Writers Conference, June 6 and 7, at the University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa. The conference opens with a Saturday evening session featuring presentations open to the public, beginning with an official proclamation from Mayor Kirk Caldwell announcing Honolulu Writers Day. The mayor’s proclamation encourages residents and families across the generations to recognize the full value of writing skills — and the significant links of those skills to successful employment and personal fulfillment — and to make reading and writing lifelong pursuits.

Saturday’s program will begin with the keynote presentation titled “The Fool’s Errand: Belief, Humility, and Writing Outside Your Experience” by bestselling author of “Lucky Boy,” Shanthi Sekaran. She will also present a separate workshop, “Bringing Characters to Life Through Dialogue.”

Among the featured speakers sharing their expertise, experiences, and enthusiasm for writing will be Pen Woman Leslie Hayashi. A trial judge for 25 years, she will present a session on “Writing for Children: Mistakes, Myths, and Money,” overviewing publishing for children and sharing lessons about common mistakes and assumptions. She is an award-winning published author of short stories, magazine articles, and 10 books featuring unique treasures of Hawai‘i.

In addition, there will be a diverse array of workshops, performances, and presentations for aspiring and accomplished writers alike by outstanding authors and performers.

Up-to-date information is regularly posted on our website or you may contact me at 

Should the coronavirus require either rescheduling or cancellation of the Honolulu Writers Conference, registrations will be fully refunded with the option of re-registering


Pensacola’s Art Show Honors Heroines

By Karen McAferty Morris

Following a season of presentations on their artistic and literary heroines, the Pensacola Branch capped off the theme with an art show titled “Legacy of Heroines,” which took place Dec. 10, 2019-Jan. 12, 2020 at The Wright Place Gallery in downtown Pensacola.

Gaylene Brotherton
Gaylene Brotherton stands next to the puppets Christmas tree.
Photography by Mara Viksnins

Organized by Bev Elliott, the event showcased approximately 45 pieces, including acrylics, oils, photography, collage, and weaving, by 18 participating artists.

Earlier in October, members had made “puppets” of their heroines at a workshop led by Sandy Ford. The puppets, 3.5-by-12-inch rectangles decorated with colorful paper cutouts reminiscent of such artists and writers as Frida Kahlo, Karen Blixen, and Hannah Senesh, were arranged on the wall of the Wright Place as ornaments on a Christmas tree by Gaylene Brotherton.

“Celebrating the creative forces within us; inspired by the women trailblazers before us” was the subtheme, as expressed by Nancy Nesvik, who designed the publicity items. Anne Baehr created a collage poster of early Pensacola Pen Women, and her puppet was used on the promo pieces.

“The amazing, talented women of our local branch really pulled out the stops for this show,” said Elliott, calling it “a beautiful gathering of art.”


Sarasota Members Launch Private Art Series

By Wilma Davidson

On Jan. 9, five talented Sarasota Pen Women art members created a private gallery for the residents of Grand Bay in their Longboat Key Clubhouse. These Pen Women delighted and wowed the audience with their talent and stories of how they came to be artists. They shared with the audience not only their art but also what drives it.

The audience and the Pen Women equally welcomed this event and the opportunity to spread around art and admiration for the presentation. This was the first of a four-part series to be presented monthly at Grand Bay.

Left to right, Pen Women who participated in the event: Polly Curran, Miriam Cassell, Lolly Owens, Marge Bennett, Wilma Davidson (vice president), and Dirce Kennedy.
Left to right, Pen Women who participated in the event: Polly Curran, Miriam Cassell, Lolly Owens, Marge Bennett, Wilma Davidson (vice president), and Dirce Kennedy.


Santa Clara County Honors Members and Achievers

This year’s Celebrity Luncheon honored more than the achievers. President Luanna Leisure made a surprise announcement, acknowledging 11 members for their membership of over 20 years with the National League of American Pen Women, Inc.

National President Evelyn Wofford presented the awards and then in turn was honored by NorCal President Dorothy Atkins for her own 33 years as a Pen Woman.

The women honored were:

• Carol Green (20 years)  • Geraldine Scaife (20)

• Tola Minkoff (21)  • Ursula Meier (26)

• Audry Lynch (26)  • ShaRon Haugen (28)

• Louise Webb (28)   • Susan Zerweck (28)

• Patricia Suggs (33) • Alice Ann Glenn (38)

• Barbara Chamberlain (48 years, lifetime member)

Eight talented ladies were then honored for their achievements in their respective fields: Tracy Beardsley, Danielle Dufayet, and Holly VanHart, art; Jade Bradbury, Danni Burton, and Lisa Marino-Becker, letters; and JoAnnah Nagler and Khalilah Ramirez, music.

Nagler’s duo played music for the preluncheon entertainment and Ramirez performed a lively peace dance during lunch.

Branch award recipients
Left to right, Danni Burton, Khalilah Ramirez, Danielle Dufayet, Holly VanHart,JoAnnah Nager, Tracey Beardsley, Jade Bradbury, and Lisa Marino-Becker. Photography by Patricia Dennis


Sarasota Honors Young Arts Leaders

It was an afternoon of festivity on March 11 at the Bird Key Yacht Club as the Sarasota Branch honored its Launching Leaders in the Arts Program winners. The branch gives out the awards in letters, art, and music — based on competitions — to high school seniors in the Sarasota and Manatee school districts.

Nicole Colton
Nicole Colton won the Betty Altman Award of Excellence for her oil painting, “Lady Le Fleur.” Photography by Polly Curran

The purpose is to encourage further education in the arts after graduation and also to develop confidence and self-esteem through participation in the awards program.

At the awards luncheon, the student awardees performed their music, read their compositions or poetry, and displayed their award-winning art.

Through the generous support of sponsors, fundraising events, and member donations, over $10,000 was awarded to 13 students. Sponsors included The David Altman Foundation (in memory of Art member Betty Altman), the Elder family, pianist Eleonora Lvov (who performed a benefit concert), ABC 4 Children & Adults, the National Association of Social Workers-Florida Chapter, Publix Supermarkets, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, and members of the Sarasota Branch.

The 2020 winners are:

• Letters: Madigan Wilford, Christopher Miscannon, Anna Grady, Isaac Tellechea, Clareese Keniston, Farrah Cavus, Ashley Cendere (letters chairs: Madelaine Ginsberg, Judy Allen, branch President Francesca Simon)

• Art: Nicole Colton, Cara Kaminski, Kaley Rio, Jordyn Chiodo, Keanna Jones  (art chairs:  Marie Garafano and Joy Pat Robertson)

• Music: Kerry Carr (music chair: Anne Marie Vale)

Congratulations to these talented, creative young students!    

Student winners of the Sarasota Branch 2020 Awards Program. Right,
Student winners of the Sarasota Branch 2020 Awards Program.

Branch News, Winter 2020

Pensacola Participates in Local Cultural Festival

By Terry Henry, Pensacola Branch

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to take a glimpse inside a salon of artists and writers, and talk to Georgia O’Keeffe about her work or listen to the witty quips of Dorothy Parker at The Algonquin? Pensacola Pen Women created such a venue on the evening of Nov. 5 at Artel Gallery in conjunction with Pensacola’s annual Foo Foo Fest, a 12-day celebration of culturally creative happenings under one banner, designed to attract visitors to Pensacola. 

Karen Morris, Andrea Walker, Pat Black-Gould, Claire Massey, Staci Miron, Gaylene Brotherton, Terry Henry, and Ruth Goldberg at “Artists, Poets Live!” — a Pen Women event for Foo Foo Fest.
Karen Morris, Andrea Walker, Pat Black-Gould, Claire Massey, Staci Miron, Gaylene Brotherton, Terry Henry, and Ruth Goldberg at “Artists, Poets Live!” — a Pen Women event for Foo Foo Fest.

“Artists, Poets Live!” featured members reading the poetry of Mary Oliver, Naomi Nye, and Hannah Senesh, while others assumed the identities of Georgia O’Keeffe, Anni Albers, and Dorothy Parker, interacting with and entertaining guests during the evening.

“Taking part in local arts events is an effective way to communicate the mission of the NLAPW,” said Karen McAferty Morris, event chair. “These events create opportunities to embrace art and literature, while showcasing the creativity of our local members.”


Boca Raton Kicks Off New Season with Luncheon

Left o right: Pat Wilson, Prue Carrico,
and Jo Jo Harder.

The Boca Raton Branch kicked off the 2019–2020 season with a luncheon and silent auction at the Indian Spring Country Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, on Oct. 17. Members came together to begin a new creative year with plans for writing workshops, art shows, music programs, and community outreach events. Many guests joined to meet the member artists, writers, music composers, and patrons of the arts.

A silent auction, which is a highlight of Pen Women’s opening luncheon, is a primary fundraiser for a student scholarship program. Proceeds from the auction fund scholarship 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 this event.

Traffic at the auction tables was brisk, as attendees bid and outbid each other for one-of-a-kind items, including original artwork by Pen Women artists. A bonus book table displayed Pen women authors’ books at discounted prices.

Honolulu Plans June 2020 Writers Conference

By Luanna Meyer

The Honolulu Branch will host its Honolulu Writers Conference on June 6 and 7 at the University of Hawai‘i – Mānoa. The conference opens with a Saturday evening session open to the public, with an all-day Sunday program featuring presentations and workshops aimed at multiple writing genres, including literary and commercial fiction, nonfiction, family history, poetry, journalism, children’s literature, scriptwriting, publishing, and marketing.

Conference keynote speaker Shanthi Sekaran

Of special note is keynote speaker Shanthi Sekaran, a New York Times bestselling author, who will share her insights on vivid storytelling and character through wit, empathy, and artful writing. Her most recent book, “Lucky Boy,” was awarded best book of 2017 by NPR, the Women’s National Book Association, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers and was described by People Magazine as a “page-turner that’s touching and all too real” with “a generous understanding of how modern issues — from illegal immigration to income inequality — play out in people’s lives.” We feel extremely fortunate to have this inspiring young writer on our program.

Among the many other featured presenters on the program will be Susan Scott, a letters member, author of a memoir and nine nonfiction books on nature in Hawai‘i, and a journalist whose widely read marine science column “Ocean Watch” is published weekly in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Another presenter is Christine Sleeter, internationally known for her work in multicultural education, having published over 20 books in her academic field, as well as two novels.

We invite accomplished and aspiring writers alike to participate in this exciting opportunity to enhance your writing, connect with other writers, and enjoy time in exciting Honolulu on the beautiful island of O‘ahu. Registration opens in January. For more information, see  or contact me at

Des Moines Celebrates 80 Years

By Laura Walth, Branch President

On Nov. 2, we celebrated 80 years of the Des Moines Branch at Mainframe Studios, a new nonprofit model for providing permanent, affordable workspace for artists of all disciplines.

Making this connection with director Siobhan Spain was a wonderful opportunity to spread the word that the Des Moines Branch is here to support the arts. Our guest speaker, Anna Steenson, was a great example of someone who was able to combine writing, visual arts, and music composition to create a film called “INK,” explaining dyslexia. Having dyslexia herself, she has found the ability in what some may think is a disability and uses her creativity in the field of video production and music as a profession. Her presentation generated a lot of discussion on the topic of the arts as a viable profession.

Left to right: Branch President Laura Walth, Norma Wolff, ML Hopson, Linda Hodges, Elaine Erickson, Kaukab Barni Merchant, and Vice President Pat Underwood,.

The newly created space we were in was designed for another nonprofit organization called Momentum, which believes in the transformative power of art as a tool that can build confidence, inspire hope, and develop resilience.

This connection was another wonderful opportunity for our branch outreach in the community. Momentum provides free art opportunities to underserved populations that include an annual juried art competition and exhibition, as well as art workshops offered throughout the year.

Another great connection made was with Sarah Schroeder, who is working on the celebration of the 19th Amendment in 2020 by bringing other women’s organizations together to celebrate women’s right to vote. She was thrilled to find out about our organization, and we are looking forward to helping her with this celebration.

Santa Clara County Members Receive Awards

By Patricia Dennis

During the summer, the Santa Clara County Branch theme was “Be Creative!” Eleven talented members of the branch displayed their art at the Coastal Art League Gallery in Half Moon Bay. All of the artists have received awards or honorable mentions in their field of art. They brought a variety of mediums to celebrate the Solstice and Earth’s bounty.

Coastal Art League exhibiting artists, left to right: Back row, Judy Bingman, ShaRon Haugen, Annette Tan, Cyra Cowan, Jeanne Carbone, C. Gray. Seated, Tracy Beardsley, Dorothy Atkins, Patricia Dennis, and Jude Tolley. Not pictured is Marcia Sivek.

Participating were acrylic artists Dorothy Atkins, Tracy Beardsley, Annette Tan, and Jude Tolley; oil artists Cyra Cowan and ShaRon Haugen; photographers Judy Bingman and Patricia Dennis; watercolor and mixed-media artist Jeanne Carbonne, and multimedia artist Claudia Gray. The event was well attended and a true Pen effort.

Pen Women also showed up in the spotlight at Campbell Art Guild awards. For the second year in a row, Jude Toley won Best in Show with one of her beautiful portraits. First-place in photography was Karen Franzenburg, followed by Patricia Dennis in second place and Claudia Gray in third.

Mary Lou Taylor participated in multiple book signings with the release of her new poetry book “In the Beginning,” paired with the memorable art of David Park’s genesis suite.

Dorothy Atkins with her book “Heady Scent of Lilac” and Audry Lynch with “Steinbeck Remembered” were among local authors to participate in the San Jose Woman’s Club Chill Out and Read Summer Social, kicking off the celebration of 125 years of supporting strong women doing amazing things. The San Jose Woman’s Club enjoys a great relationship with the Pen Women and supports our outreach program. Dorothy Atkins’ book will also be featured in the Martin Luther King Library in San Jose.

Cape Cod Branch Pen Women Collaborate on Book

By Terri Arthur, Cape Cod Branch

book coverCape Cod Branch Pen Women Christina Laurie and Elizabeth Moisan recently collaborated on a newly published book, “The Lobsters’ Night Before Christmas.”

In this book, the well-known poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by The Rev. Clement C. Moore has been cleverly adapted to the creatures of the ocean as they celebrate Christmas Eve. Under the waves and surrounded by swaying eel grass, Sea Santa makes his yearly journey in a clamshell sleigh pulled by his faithful minnows with names like Silver, Peamouth, and, of course, Rose Red.

The book combines the holiday classic with delightful newness, and Laurie knew how important the illustrations would be to make her story viable and saleable.

“I had to find someone whose work I admired and who I knew could draw lobsters,” she explained. “When I asked Liz (Moisan) if she could draw lobsters, she said, ‘I can draw anything!’ And she can.”

Christina Laurie and Liz Moisan
Author Christina Laurie (right) and artist Liz Moisan show the result of their collaboration.

Moisan chose to use the soft watercolor hues of greens and blues of the ocean, giving readers a feeling that they are looking under water. Her illustrations are softly exuberant, bringing the story’s sea creatures to life.

Both women bring experience to this joint effort. Laurie is no novice to the art of story and poetry writing for children. Her first poem was published in 1976. Since then, her works have appeared in magazines, anthologies, and periodicals in the United States, Canada, England, and Japan. She has authored two poetry books and has written a wildly popular alphabet book for all ages, “C is for Cape Cod.”

Book illustration
An illustration by Liz Moisan from the book.

Moisan’s career spans 49 years, and for most of that time, she designed high-end carpets “to the trade.” She retired from the home furnishings industry in 2014 and started to illustrate and design books full time. She hopes to retire soon from creating art for other people and start working on her own projects: two novels and 14 children’s books she plans to write and illustrate.

Collaboration between the two women began with an agreement and a contract to firm up all of the essential details.

“Every step of the way to the finished book required discussion, understanding, and finding a place that made us both happy,” Moisan says.

Once Laurie sent her the manuscript, Moisan produced a storyboard showing rough sketches. When both agreed on these sketches and layout, Moisan started to paint in the illustrations in the soft hues reminiscent of a Monet painting.

The use of rhythmic rhyme works together with swaying of the eel grass and seaweed.

As seaweed waved gently in the deep stormy waves

Casting shadows that swept by our caves,

Deep down in the ocean the mini-fish swam

While Sea Nick brought toys for each lobster and clam.

At the end of the book, readers will learn facts about lobsters, giving this charming fantasy a touch of reality. This is a coastal Christmas tale sure to delight all who read it.