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Who We Are

 CNY Branch

Member Bios

        Click on Member Name for Professional Website


Joan Applebaum is a visual artist and instructor who has taught in a variety of programs in New York, the Thousand Islands, and Delaware. She is a member of the Holly, DE Branch and the CNY Branch. She is also the NLAPW Art Chair.

Linda Bigness-Lanigan holds a BFA from Syracuse University and a MA in art history from SUNY Empire. Her work has been collected and exhibited throughout the United States.  

Nancy Benson is a writer and poet. She has written children's books and numerous poems and has had many published poems and stories. 

Sheila M. Byrnes is the NLAPW President. She is  both a Letters and Arts member. She is a widely respected genealogist, freelance writer, and artist. She has long written a national genealogy newsletter, CNYGS E-News.  

Nancy A. Dafoe is the NLAPW Second Vice President and Branch Communications Chair. Author and educator, Dafoe has thirteen published books and numerous published poems and stories. Her many books include Unstuck in Time, a memoir about grief and love, and a novel Socrates is Dead Again

Janine M. DeBaise is the Branch President and has published essays in numerous magazines, including Orion Magazine, Southwest Review, and The Hopper. Her poetry includes the book Body Language and the chapbook Of a Feather. She teaches writing and literature at SUNY ESF.

Rachel Dickinson holds and MFA and is a writer who has written extensively about travel, publishing work in The Atlantic,,, and Audubon. Her essays have appeared in Catapult, Aeon, and Salon. As an author, she's written seven nonfiction books including Falconer on the Edge, The Notorious Reno Gang, and her memoir The Loneliest Places: Loss, Grief, and the Long Journey Home. Her latest book explores the complicated world of loss and grief and what it means to be part of a family after the suicide of her son.

Janet Fagal is a retired teacher, lecturer, and poet. Her poems appear in The Pen Woman and online as well as in anthologies edited by Lee Bennett. She serves as CNY Branch Treasurer.

Marilyn Forth is a visual artist who has enjoyed a distinguished career, teaching Textile Art at Syracuse University and a lifetime tenure with the American Craft Council. She has shown her paintings in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Columbus, NYC (including the Puck Building), and the Edgewood other galleries.

Mary L. Gardner's poems have won international and regional awards and have appeared in several anthologies. In an earlier career, she published articles, pamphlets, and reports in the health field and historic preservation. Her chapbooks are When All Danger of Frost is Past, Place Settings, and Downsizing (FootHills).


Lisa A. Harris is a writer and educator. She is the Branch Vice President. Her novels Geechee Girls, Alleghany Dream, and The Raven's Tale for The Quest Trilogy have been categorized as Northern Appalachian literature. Her poetry chapbooks are: Broken Open, Dwelling Space, and Traveling through Glass. 

Wendy Harris is a nationally known and collected multi-media painter. She is the only commissioned artist to paint a 4 x 4 panel painting for Upstate Medical's Center Treatment Center. Her goal is to awaken everyone to the beauty that surrounds us. 

Nicole Marie Heike is a writer who lives in Liverpool, NY.  She writes poetry inclyding the book Poetic Energy Transcending, children's books including The Boy Who Vacuumed Up the Stars, and dark romance including Metamorphosis: Wilted Souls.  She works in urban schools. 

Karen Foresti Hempson is a retired professor of Social Studies. She currently serves as Branch Secretary. Her creative non-fiction book, Bean Pickers, was published in 2019. Her work has earned finalist status in a number of competitions and second place in the NLAPW Biennial competition. 

Hughes, Julie B. lives in Manlius, NY with her husband and two children. She is the author of My Road: A Runner’s Journey Through Persistent Pain to Healing and Running Into Poetry: An invitation to be present on your path. You can find her week-day blog, Run to Write at:

Vanessa Johnson is a griot (storyteller), playwright, actor, fiber artist, and instructor. Her performances, artwork, and plays tell the tales of Africa, the African-American experience, and social justice movements. Her band Matie Masie transforms literary works into musical performances. Her program Griot Guides teaches youth the art of visual and performance storytelling. She is the artist in residence at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. 

Gretchen Martens is a writer and editor who lives in Pennsylvania but has chosen to join our CNY Branch. She operates the Scholar's Couch editing service and The Village of Care Press.  Her books include Untying the Yellow Ribbon: Transforming How Veterans and Communities Thrive. 

Judith McGinn  CNY Branch past- President. She was a writer of fiction, memoirs, and poetry with a concentration on short fiction. Her work appears in the South Carolina Review, Cork Literary Review, Lun'Allure and The Brave, among others. (Recently deceased)

Stacey Murphy is a poet who enjoys finding connections with human experience in nature in and around the Finger Lakes, has a heart-shaped rock obsession, and is known to stop and talk with creaking trees. Her first poetry collection, Old Stones Understand (Shanti Arts, 2021) won a Royal Dragonfly Award. She co-edited NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology (Cayuga Lake Books, 2017), fostering her love of encouraging writers. Her poems appear in several recent anthologies as well.

Susan Murphy is an artist and Signature Member of the Central New York Watercolor Society. Her work has been shown in the Adirondack Exhibition of American Watercolors, Cooperstown National, Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society, SU Point of Contact Gallery, among many others. She recently had a solo show at LeMoyne College.

Bobbie Dumas Panek is a writer who has two published books: Morning Walks: Zen Meditations, and Just Another Day. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the former poetry editor of the Pen Woman magazine for the national.

Kimberly Paris a true-crime writer. After a career in advertising, where she wrote award-winning ads and feature articles for publications, Kimberly now writes exclusively about unsolved crimes at least 25 years old. Kimberly has worn many hats over the years, including copywriter, broadcast producer, webmaster, public relations director, civil servant, and amateur historian. Her work has appeared on Medium, The Crime Wire, and, most recently, in 28 Voices: A Nonfiction Anthology, Vol. 1. Kimberly is currently writing a book about a little-known tragedy that took place long ago on the Erie Canal.

Karen Pastorello, Ph.D. is an historian, lecturer, and writer with three published historical texts. She retired as full-time teaching professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College after 30 years but continues to teach as an adjunct professor at SUNY Cortland. Her current writing project is focused on the life of Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, a Quaker woman's suffrage activist. 

Georgia Popoff, is the YMCA of CNY’s Downtown Writers Center Workshops Coordinator and faculty member, editor/book coach, former Comstock Review senior editor, co-editor of an essay anthology on Gwendolyn Brooks, and co-author of a book on poetry in K-12 classrooms. Her fourth poetry collection is Psychometry (Tiger Bark Press, 2019). She is the current Poet Laureate of Onondaga County and the Branch Chair of Events.


Mary Raineri is a textual artist whose abstract work straddles two and three-dimensional forms. She integrates a variety of mixed media, including wood, fiber, metal, stone, encaustics, inks, and oils which are combined in collages and assemblages. 

Joan Stier is an artist  

who has made a living for 49 years creating artwork. Her medium is primarily watercolor/ink painting on various subjects from the realistic to the abstract. She has won many awards, and her work may be found in the collections of thousands of owners. 

Sally Storman is an artist. She made her living for many years as a mental health counselor. She tries to capture light with her watercolor paintings and often exhibits in the National Exhibition of American Watercolors, The Art of New York, and other national exhibitions. 

Priscilla Berggren-Thomas is the library director at Phillips Free Library in Homer NY.  She's written research articles as an animal scientist and nurse. She's written numerous articles on feminism and spirituality. She currently writes a monthly column "Raised by Wolves" for the Cortland Standard. She will be completing her MFA in Creative Writing this December. Her thesis "A Judgment of Crones: The Facts and Fictions of a Woman's Life" explores the experience of misogyny across a woman's lifetime.

Laura Thorne is the CEO at Wildebeest Publishing Company. She is an entrepreneur with a background in environmental science, writing, and coaching. She is a certified project management professional, helping to ensure all projects run smoothly. She has traveled the world. 


Sally Roesch Wagner, Ph.D. was awarded one of the first U.S. doctorates for work in women’s studies, Dr. Wagner is a founder of the first college-level women’s studies programs to offer a minor (CSU Sacramento) where she currently teaches, along with courses in Syracuse University’s Honors Program. Dr. Wagner has taught women’s studies courses for 52 years and is the Founder/Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. Dr. Wagner’s anthology The Women&#39's Suffrage Movement, with a Forward by Gloria Steinem (Penguin Classics, 2019), unfolds a new intersectional look at the 19th century woman’s rights movement and the Indigenous influence on suffragists.

Susan Wolstenholme is a writer, editor, and educator. She has written Gothic (Re)visions: Writing Women as Readers (SUNY Press) and other essays. She edited The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the World's Classic Series from Oxford University Press. She is professor emerita at Cayuga Community College. 

About the NLAPW

The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. (NLAPW) was founded in 1897 when women journalists were not permitted to join male-only professional organizations. The League became a supportive professional organization for women writers, artists, and composers, where they could be recognized for their talents.

We are proud of the NLAPW headquarters, The Pen Arts Building and Art Museum, and its place among other historic buildings in Dupont Circle, a popular tourist destination in Washington, D.C.

Branches from all over the United States exist. Pen Women may also be Members at Large and not directly affiliated with a particular branch but be a part of the NLAPW, Inc. 

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