Each Friday this summer, IWPA’s 3rd Vice President and Professional Contest Chair Ana Mendez will shine a spotlight on one of our 2018 Mate E. Palmer/National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest Winners. This week’s featured communicator is longtime IWPA member Marlene Cook…

Marlene Cook, honorary lifetime member of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, has entered the annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest every year since she joined the organization in 1975. Her 2018 wins come from newsletters. The first, entitled Fenger News, is a quarterly 4-8 page letter for Fenger High School, Class of June 1952. Marlene was also victorious for her submission to PenPoints, the quarterly IWPA newsletter, and a monthly newsletter provided to congregants of the First Church PCA in Lansing, IL.

This year her work went on to nationals, where Marlene received 3rd Place and an Honorable Mention in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communications Contest. Her wins across her personal contest history are numerous and span many different genres; from writing columns, newsletter layout, photography work, and speeches. Her expertise is commensurate with a lifetime of dedication to the communications industry.

But, like many of our members today, Marlene was once a novice needing guidance. She recalls, “I entered my first writing competition while I was still a wannabe writer…It was 1975 when long-time member Verneeta Gowens suggested I enter the Mate E. Palmer Communication Contest of IWPA.” That moment was fateful. Her first submissions won two first places, four second places, and two third place awards. The professional recognition of her work left Marlene in awe, “Oh boy, was I ever pumped! I didn’t know whether to scream, laugh or cry.”

From 1975 through today, Marlene has been a vital contributing member to the association. Through her participation she was able to feel a sense of creative validity and credibility. When asked why she continues to enter the contest, she observes, “First, it keeps me motivated to do my best and sets my goals a little higher. The judges’ critiques shows my weaknesses and where to make improvements to pursue excellence. It’s peer approval and rubbing elbows with the best writers. It’s not about being better than someone else. It’s about bettering yourself and improving self-esteem and confidence.”

With a strong professional network, Marlene became confident in her abilities in a way that allowed her to continue developing her communications career. She stays curious. Currently she is researching an 1860 cemetery at her church. Her investigation reveals the earliest date on the tombstones to be 1871. Of her findings she says, “All records were lost when the church burned down in 1945. When they put in streets, they covered bodies and no one knows who is sleeping under the street. I’m doing profiles on all I can find and plan to publish a book by the end of the year. Six generations of ancestors still worship in the same site their forefathers founded. I have lots of stories, about 80 plus, of people from Civil War vets to infants. It’s really an interesting journey.”

Though officially retired, Marlene is also working on a biography, and is an active member of her church. We treasure her longtime membership and success.  She is quite clearly synonymous with the hard work, values and opportunity for which IWPA stands.

 Congratulations to Marlene!


To be a featured member email IWPA Contest Chair Ana Mendez