Ann Slegman: Muse of the Year
by Charles Ferruzza
You could say that giving Ann Slegman Isenberg the 2015 “Muse of the Year Award” is the equivalent of giving the popular writer, editor, political activist and philanthropist a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Writers Place. She was, after all, there at the very beginning.
Ann Slegman, as she’s known in the writing community, was one of the founding members of The Writers Place in 1992, when Gloria Vando Hickok and the late Bill Hickok organized Kansas City’s first arts organization focused exclusively on the literary arts, part of the Midwest Center for the Literary Arts, along with Helicon Nine.
Helicon Nine was Gloria’s earlier venture, a journal of women’s arts and letters, where Slegman became a proofreader and editor. “Gloria became my champion and a true mentor for me,” Slegman says.
The other founding members, in addition to the Hickoks, included Phil Miller, Patricia Cleary Miller, Elaine Lally, Bob Stewart and Sharon Eiker. The plan was to create a physical location where Kansas City writers could gather for readings, lectures and a quiet place to write.
“Bill Hickok found this building,” recalls Slegman. “Its last incarnation had been a church and, although it had once been a beautiful old mansion, going in we found it was in horrible shape, filled with shag carpeting and ugly paneling. It was beautifully transformed, but at the time I remember thinking, 'What have we gotten into?' But when you have a vision, you move forward."
Writing is part of Slegman’s DNA: Her late mother, Betty Harvey Slegman, had been a broadcast reporter with United Press International (she covered the dropping of the atomic bomb) before moving to Kansas City to marry Bob Slegman, the president of the Stern-Slegman-Prins Company, which manufactured the Betty Rose line of suits and coats. Also, Ann’s cousin Stephen Harvey was associate curator of film at the Museum of Modern Art and writer of several definitive books on cinema before his untimely death in 1993.
Slegman, the youngest of three, can’t remember a time she didn’t want to be a writer. “I first thought of it when I was really young, second grade I think. I’m sure it had something to do with my Mom’s influence,” she says. “I started writing poetry in high school -- you know, really bad poetry. But I was so lucky to have had an early workshop with Dan Jaffe. He taught us what was clichéd and what got to the very essence of things.” Today, Ann Slegman is the author of two books: a novel, Return to Sender, and a book of poetry, Conversations.
A graduate of the Sunset Hill School, Slegman attended the University of Colorado, majoring in English and Creative Writing before receiving a master’s degree in creative writing at Brown University. Ann later worked as an editor at the former (and venerable) McCall’s magazine, which was renamed Rosie magazine after comedian Rosie O’Donnell and ceased publication in 2002. Slegman moved back to Kansas City in 1983 and married Tom Isenberg in 1985. They are the parents of two children, Katie and David. “My proudest achievements,” she says.
“I’m very proud of my affiliation with The Writers Place,” says Slegman, who served as both vice-president and president of the board of directors. She was integral in launching the Youth Poetry Symposium and outreach to local schools.
I don’t think there is a board member, volunteer, or frequent patron of The Writers Place who hasn’t met or experienced the wisdom, humor, diplomacy and generosity of Ann Slegman Isenberg. She has been the beating heart of the organization for many years.
Celebration of the Muse
Honoring our 2015 Muse of the Year, Ann Slegman,
for her contributions to The Writers Place
and the literary life of Kansas City.
A fundraising event benefiting The Writers Place
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6–8 P.M.
Diastole Scholars' Center, 2501 Holmes St.,
Kansas City, Mo. 64108
To purchase tickets, please CLICK HERE.