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The Book of Her Life: Tribute to a Scribe

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How many authors can say that their work has been published in magazines ranging from Reader’s Digest to True Confessions; and that their debut novel was accepted for publication by one of the biggest fiction houses in the country? Well, throughout a writing career that lasted for well over three decades, my cousin Janice Desper could make this claim. And when this venerable penwoman, hailing from Anderson, Indiana, wasn’t authoring her own literary masterworks, she was kindly and patiently editing those of her dreamy-eyed younger cous, a journalist named Megan who–under Janice’s tutelage–became something of a fiction author as well.

Janice K. Morgan Desper passed away on April 12, 2023, leaving behind a loving family and a legacy of written works that bespeak her talent, creativity, and more than a little grit.

Although never formally trained in the literary arts, this mother, substitute teacher, and homemaker always managed to make time for writing–setting aside the dinner dishes to scribble an anecdote eventually published in the “Life in These United States” feature of Reader’s Digest, numerous fiction tales as well as first-person (and, much to the relief of her husband Ralph) totally fictional confession stories, as well as essays in a myriad of Christian-themed journals. And she penned a novel, a romance titled “Tall Timber” that was contracted, but never printed, by Silhouette Books.

As a budding features writer at The Muncie Evening Press in Muncie, Indiana, I profiled Janice for the arts and entertainment page of our newspaper, proud to showcase a member of my family while also shyly inquiring if she’d be willing to take a look at one of my own sweet romance stories.
“I’d be happy to,” she answered immediately. “Only I must warn you, I will be honest.”
“Um, how honest?” I cringed.

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Yet Janice, it turned out, was always patient and even-handed in her critiques; and when I myself saw the publication of my first book in 2005, I knew that I had her to thank.

Beyond her status as an exemplary writer, Janice was an adoring mother to son David (the focus of her published story, “At Last”), a loving wife to Ralph, and a warm, kind friend.

Aw, Jan; as sad as I am that you never had a chance to read Tapestries, the poetry book I wrote recently with my friend and co-author Linda White-Francis, I know that you’re proud of me. You always were. And while your own amazing book was never published, rest assured that you wrote your own very beautiful chapter in the book of my life.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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