NOTE: 63rd street between State Line Road and Mission is closed due to construction. Take State Line Road to Tomahawk Road to Aberdeen Street to get to the Celebration of the Muse. A map of the route is attached below.
This year we will honor Maryfrances Wagner and Tina Hacker for their many years of seemingly tireless service to The Writers Place. Ann Slegman Isenberg and Tom Isenberg will host the event.
It was a pivotal moment in Tina Hacker’s life. She broke a vow. After serving on numerous boards and holding offices in several organizations, she vowed, “No more.” But in 2007, The Writers Place board asked her and Maryfrances Wagner to serve as Co-Presidents. Tina said, “Yes.”
It was also a pivotal time for The Writers Place. The dynamic duo served not only as Co-Presidents but also as interim Executive Directors. Tina jokes that they took on the jobs of janitor, file clerk, carpet cleaner, caulker and any other task, including answering late night calls when the alarm went off. They each worked more than forty hours a week for two years to ensure that the organization continued to fulfill its mission.
Some of Tina’s favorite memories at The Writers Place are the Jewish reading she sponsored, including a kosher buffet, and the Italian reading she emceed with a very “falso” Italian accent. Also, three script-in-hand performances of Love & Shrimp by Judith Viorst that she organized, complete with a luscious chocolate bar.
Tina’s world pivoted several times before she joined The Writers Place. One occurred during her sophomore year at the University of Illinois. She was having a bad day so she wrote a poem. It was as if someone blew a whistle to begin a race. She had no experience in writing but spent every spare minute composing poetry. Within a year she was published in two university journals. She then went on to earn a master’s degree.
Her talent with words won her a career writing and editing for Hallmark Cards, Inc. She worked on nearly every product line and is especially proud of her 15 children’s books. After 37 years, she retired as an Editorial Director. Tina won three Omni Awards, a first place newsletter award and the Matrix Honor Award from Women in Communications. She served two terms on that association’s national board of directors as vice president of the Midwest Region.
Poetry continues to play a pivotal role in Tina’s life, and she is widely published in both print and online journals. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a finalist in New Letters and George F. Wedge competitions and Editor’s Choice in two journals. Her full-length book, Listening to Night Whistles, was published by Aldrich Press, and her chapbook, Cutting It, by The Lives You Touch Publications.
Since 1976, Tina has been a volunteer poetry editor for Veterans’ Voices, a magazine that previously accepted writing from veterans recovering from medical problems, but now accepts work from all veterans. She reads hundreds of poems for each issue, edits them and chooses prizes for the best. It’s one of the ways she advocates for veterans.
There is another pivot in Tina’s life that can’t be omitted. She was a first-time bride, marrying Lynn Norton at the age of 50. Possibly a record.
Since the day she and her husband, Greg Field, scrubbed windows and watched Sharon Eiker tear down the wall that would become a staircase, Maryfrances Wagner has been a loyal fan and active member of The Writers Place. She’s served on the board of directors as vice president and later as co-president as well as interim executive director with Tina Hacker. She’s attended most of the events over the years (including the night the Oprah show came to TWP) and currently is an emeritus board member and chair of the Programming Readings and Special Events Committee. She’s also helped fundraise by chairing a Walk for Words Marathon and seven silent auctions at TWP, and she assisted with Wild Words and Bohemian Balls. She’s enjoyed working on the Youth Poetry Symposium and In Our Own Words teen programs. She received the Writers Place Award with her husband for literary achievement in writing, teaching, editing, and outreach. Plus, she’s one of the few to encounter the ghost while working alone at TWP one day.
From the time she was a child, Maryfrances’ parents wrote poems to each other and tucked poems to her into her overnight bag, camp suitcase, or cards. She started writing poems, too, and when a teacher assigned a project on family life, she wrote a poem that later appeared in the school literary magazine. Poetry became a passion, but it wasn’t until college creative writing classes that she learned there were literary standards and lots of revising to craft a poem. Since then, she has published five books and two chapbooks of poetry as well as book reviews and professional articles. Her book Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn Book Award, and her work has appeared in literary journals, anthologies, and textbooks to include The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writing by Italian Americans, winner of the American Book Award.
Another passion for her was teaching. In third grade, Maryfrances announced that she wanted to teach, so her parents bought her a miniature roll top desk and blackboard. Imaginary teaching began before evolving into a career. She taught writing and literature in high school and college and writing workshops at all levels. In addition to teaching for UMKC, she served as the English coordinator for the High School College Program where she mentored teachers, provided in-service training, and taught undergraduate and graduate classes. During the years she taught in high school, she served as English Department Chair and District Coordinator. She won the Excellence in Teaching Award sponsored by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Star, served as District Teacher of the Year and Missouri State Teacher of the Year Finalist.
She also discovered a passion for editing. In the 1990s she and her husband co-edited New Letters Review of Books. She also co-edited with Robert C. Jones Missouri Poets: An Anthology and co-edited with Vernon Rowe and David and Judy Ray The Whirlybird Anthology of Greater Kansas City Writers. Currently, she is co-editor of I-70 Review with Gary Lechliter, Jan Duncan-O’Neal, and Greg Field.
Maryfrances also has served on the American Poet Series board, was co-director of the Simpson House Readings, co-sponsors the Crystal Field Scholarship Award, and serves on the board of Kansas City Creates.