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Pen Women Receive Kendig Award

Becky Mushko and Peggy Shifflett are with the award-winning Pen Women.
Becky Mushko and Peggy Shifflett are with the award-winning Pen Women.

The Roanoke Valley branch of the National League of Pen Women will be presented with a 2009 Perry F. Kendig Award as an outstanding arts & cultural organization. The writer’s group, which offers modest scholarships for local women returning to college (to study creative writing) and conducts a poetry contest every year, will receive the award from the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge at the Taubman Museum of Art, Wednesday, June 24.

Among the other eight Kendig Award winners is former Roanoke Mayor Nelson Harris, who envisioned arts and culture as an economic development tool while in office.

The Roanoke Pen Women are involved in numerous projects throughout the year, often working with children. They also teach the art of writing to all age groups in schools.  Branch president Peggy Ann Shifflett, a retired Radford University professor, says the 100-year-old-plus national organization is “made up of women who demonstrate talent in arts, letters and music composition. There are about 250 branches.”

“Everybody needs criticism of their writing,” says Shifflett about the value of groups like the Pen Women; “positive and sometimes negative.”

Shifflett also owns the Cottage Curio shop in Salem, where she sells locally made Appalachian arts & crafts, often featuring area writers as well. Shifflett has written several books, including “The Living Room Bed,” which is due out this summer.

The Roanoke Valley Pen Women also delve into other forms of media, such as the artistic quilts some members stitched together last year.

“The league promotes and conducts literary educational and charitable activities,” says Shifflett, noting that working with young people is a major goal.

The annual $100 college scholarship, given to the winner of an essay contest, is to be used for incidentals.

“Mainly it’s a way of encouraging younger women …we’re behind them,” says Pen Women member Becky Mushko. “We’d like to see them do well in their area of the arts in college.”

Mushko taught in Roanoke City schools for 27 years and has now published a handful of books, with several more projects, including a middle school grade novel, in the works. Involved with several writers groups besides the Pen Women, Mushko said, “Writers groups can also help you find publication sources.” Her blog may be found at

The Roanoke Valley branch of the National League of Pen Women meets monthly at the Daily Grind on Rt. 419 in Roanoke County.

“We come together to share our work … and invite speakers,” says Shifflett. “We support each other. We’re just a very active group of women.”

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