Illinois Women's Press Association, Since 1885
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- 2013 IWPA Board Members -

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- President: Rebecca (Becky) Sarwate
- 2nd Vice President-Membership Chair: Beth Dugan
- 3rd Vice President-Professional Contest Chair: Diane Bushemi
- High School Contest Chair: Suzanne Hanney
- Recording Secretary: Lolita Ditzler
- Treasurer: Susan Brauer
- Immediate Past President-Historian & Archivist: Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas
- PenPoints Editor: Cora Weisenberger
- Printers Row Book Fair: Susan and Art Brauer

Rebecca Sarwate, IWPA President
Rebecca (Becky) Sarwate
IWPA President

Rebecca (Becky) Sarwate began life as the quintessential book worm, poet and diarist, often requiring a childhood push to lay down her pen and novels and enjoy the natural world. Becky earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2000. She spent several years working in corporate communications for companies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel, before returning to Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago to earn an M.A. in Literature in 2007. After two additional years spent working in the corporate sector, and a lot of soul searching, Becky finally listened to the inner voice that had been whispering a true calling in her ear for most of her life. In 2009, she turned her attention to a writing career, working freelance as a theater critic for EDGE Media Network, serving as the urban agriculture beat reporter for StreetWise and acting as the copy editor for Jettison Quarterly magazine, all located in Chicago.

After receiving first place IWPA and NFPW awards for agriculture reporting in 2010, Becky accepted a full-time Web Writer position at Think Glink Publishing in Glencoe. At Think Glink she developed content for celebrity real estate and personal finance journalist Ilyce Glink's suite of media avenues including: a syndicated newspaper column, highly trafficked CBS MoneyWatch blog and social media platforms.

In the Fall of 2011, Becky was recruited by Hearthware, Inc., a direct retail marketing firm and manufacturer of home products, to serve as the company's Senior Manager, Social Media Marketing and Head Writer. In this newly created position, she functioned as the architect of the brand's social media strategy across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and others. In addition, she worked as the firm's press contact and was the head writer for the company's printed media and online content.

In July of 2013, Becky returned to the world of personal finance, accepting a position as a Marketing Manager at HUB International, the tenth largest insurance brokerage in the world.

Becky continues to accept freelance assignments when she is able. In 2011, she received another first place award from the IWPA in recognition of her work as a regular political columnist for RootSpeak magazine in Denver. Another second place award was received for her personal blog posts on the Open Salon platform. In 2013, Becky was recognized by the NFPW with a first place award for her personal blog and an honorable mention for her continued work in theater criticism. She has also published pieces in NewCity magazine,Make It Better, a publication produced for busy parents along Chicago's North Shore and

Becky was appointed editor of the IWPA's quarterly newsletter, PenPoints, in January of 2011. As an experienced professional in new media, and with the support and vision of then-IWPA President Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas, she was on a mission to take the organization's Web 2.0 engagement to the next level. In addition to her editorial responsibilities, Becky was charged with expanding and further developing the social media platforms for the Association, creating a Facebook page and Twitter feed on behalf of the Association. Becky believes that the traditional newsletter format, website and social media presence are partners in branding, and key to the attraction of the next generation's communication professionals.

In April of 2013, Becky was honored to be voted President-elect of the IWPA, serving the May 2013-May 2015 term.


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Beth Dugan
2nd Vice President
Membership Chair

Beth Dugan is a graduate of the University of Iowa and studied writing at the prestigious Fiction Writing program at Columbia College, Chicago. She has been a freelance writer for almost a decade and has written for: Time Out Chicago, The Pampered Chef, New City Chicago, APICS, Think Glink and the MNG along with CBS MoneyWatch, the Spectrem Group, UR Chicago, Venus Zine, Baby & Kids magazine, Fancy Food and Culinary Products Magazine,,,, Open Salon blog, Chicago Collection Magazine, the Banana King, Centerstage and the EDGE Chicago Network. She had performed her work at 2nd Story and RUI:Reading Under the Influence. She tells stories. She would love to tell yours. Check out her website at

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Diane Bushemi
3rd Vice President-Professional Contest Chair

Diane Bushemi has always loved the written word and has created poetry and fiction since grammar school. She has degrees with majors in Accounting and Psychology, as well as a BFA in Oil Painting from the American Academy of Art. Diane is also a singer/songwriter who is currently furthering her music education at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

She has more recently ventured into writing as a potential vocation, and reads voraciously for pleasure and research. Her wide array of interests provides an intriguing pool from which to write about in her personal blog. Diane has had several pieces selected as Editor’s Pick on Open Salon. In addition, she has co-written an illustrated childrens’ book series, and is working on a horror-themed graphic novel, both of which are in the process of publication.

When Diane is not at her full-time position as an Accounting Manager, she is expanding her portfolios in prose, painting, and drawing, as well as recording and performing original music. She is currently designing and building a website on which she intends to combine her passions of writing, art, and music. In the meantime, check out her blog: The Purple Pendant.

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Suzanne Hanney
High School Contest Chair

Suzanne Hanney is editor of Chicago’s StreetWise, sold by people who are or were homeless, after working Downstate, including a stint as “Ronald Reagan editor” in his boyhood hometown.

Hanney graduated from Northwestern University’s journalism school, and then edited a weekly newspaper in Marseilles, which she briefly published.

Next, she was lifestyle editor of the daily Dixon Evening Telegraph. Then she interviewed Reagan’s contemporaries, compiled archives for a special edition and consulted with global media.

She later served as assistant news editor, editor of a new weekly paper, then as a copyeditor at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa.In Chicago, she freelanced for The American Banker and United Press International.

Suzanne was elected four times to a Local School Council in a Chicago public school. She is Past President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and both scholarship chair and vice president for print of the Association for Women Journalists in Chicago.

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Deidra Somerville
Lolita Ditzler
Recording Secretary

Lolita Ditzler is currently revisiting the fifties writing a memoir about the seven-year romance that led to her marriage.

She been a member of IWPA since 1984. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association and In Print, an affiliate of Chicago Writers Association.

She began her freelance writing career as a correspondent for the Rockford (IL) Morning Star daily newspaper. Through the years, she has earned awards in the Mate E. Palmer contests with articles published by newspapers, farm magazines, police magazines, and women’s magazines.

In her home community of Durand, Ditzler serves as the township clerk and the multi-township assessment district treasurer.

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Treasurer: Susan Brauer
Susan Brauer

Co-Chair Printers Row Book Fair

Susan Brauer is founder and president of the publishing company, Dreamers Tapestry, Inc. Her published autobiography, a tapestry of abuse and triumph entitled “Just Keep Dancing” was awarded 1st Place in the prestigious Illinois Woman’s Press Association (IWPA) Matte Palmer Literary and Communications Competition. She is also a columnist for the Womens Linked Local Network.

Susan was selected as the Illinois Woman’s Press Association's 2011 Communicator of Achievement (COA). This prestigious award is an honor bestowed by the IWPA upon those members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession. “It’s All about the Words”, her acceptance speech at the Spring Awards Luncheon, was well received.

Susan is active in “Stop the Violence” programs of the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) at a number of Illinois high schools and in December 2011, she was presented the “Volunteer Excellence Award” for her continued participation in Illinois High School District 228’s “Stop the Violence” program. Additionally, Susan shared her “Just Keep Dancing Workshop” on domestic violence with students and teachers at the 2013 FCCLA State Conference held in Springfield, Illinois.

Her experiences as a returning woman, starting out on the road to higher education at the age of 33 as a wife and mother of six, then becoming a successful engineer and manager, an author, and the owner and president of a publishing company are the basis for her presentations and workshops that target issues that women face today while empowering women to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams.

Susan holds a BSEE and an MSEE from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Previous to her presidency at Dreamers Tapestry Inc., she was the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University, Chicago. Before her tenure at DeVry University, Susan was a Section Manager in design & development at Motorola and prior to that an RF design & development engineer at Argonne National Laboratory.

Susan is presently a board member and Treasurer of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, and was previously a member of the board of the Chicago Council of Science and Technology (C2ST) and Illinois First Robotics.

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Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas, Immediate Past President-Historian & Archivist
Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas
Immediate Past President
Historian & Archivist

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas is the author of “Joliet,” Images of America Series with Arcadia Publishing, of “The Joliet Rivals Club – a centennial celebration,” and her newest book, "Leadership 1937-203, The First Forty Presidents of the National Federation of Press Women", a short-story author, and community volunteer. Her writing has won top awards from the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. She is co-editor of the 2014 IWPA anniversary anthology.

Marianne was selected as the National Federation of Press Women Communicator of Achievement in 2013 and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association Communicator of Achievement in 2013 and in 2008.

Wolf-Astrauskas served two-terms as the President of the Executive Board of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association (2013-2009). Before becoming President of the IWPA, Wolf-Astrauskas served the organization as 2nd Vice President /Membership Chair (2009-2005), High School Contest Chair (2012-2010) National Convention Committee (2010) and Book Fair Chair.

Today, she is the Second Vice President of the Executive Board of the National Federation of Press Women. She served NFPW as Membership Chair (2009-2011) and Executive Board Secretary (2011-2013).
A graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University, Marianne is President of the Illinois Wesleyan University Chicago Alumni Board and serves on the Illinois Wesleyan University Alumni Association Executive Board. She is a member of the Union League Club of Chicago.

Wolf-Astrauskas served on the senate staff of United State Senator Roland W. Burris as Manager/Intern Coordinator of his Chicago Office.


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Cora Weisenberger, IWOA PenPoints Editor
Cora Weisenberger
PenPoints Editor

As proof that you can “go home again”, Cora Weisenberger started her writing career at her hometown newspaper in Kankakee IL, as a feature writer and editor of the weekly food section. During her tenure at the paper, she wrote about everything from fatal train wrecks to a 60-year-old jar of green beans, and loved every minute of it. Cora’s work won numerous awards from state and regional journalism organizations including the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and the Illinois Press Association.

After eight years as a reporter, and in the throes of early-onset mid-life crises, Cora quit her job and enrolled in the graduate program at the Medill School of Journalism. She earned her master’s degree in 2006.

Degree and student loan in hand, Cora worked as the editor for B2B publications and at the international direct-selling company, The Pampered Chef. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in publications produced by Rand-McNally, The Chicago Tribune, M2Media360, among others.

Cora is now seeking her next great adventure. Part of that adventure is writing her weekly blog “The Food Goddess” (a name she jokingly gave herself during her newspaper days) which appears on


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The Illinois Woman's Press Association, IWPA (since 1885) is an organization of communications professionals whose objective is to maintain and improve the professional standards of members in mass communications in Illinois, to promote their interest, and to provide for the sharing of ideas and information. Having celebrated 125 years in 2010, IWPA continues to hold a firm place in the history of women communicators in Illinois. Today, IWPA embraces members of all gender and generations. IWPA is an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women and found on Wikipedia.

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