Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Janet Desaulniers  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction

Audience: Adult; Adult;

Born: 1954 in Kansas City, Missouri

-- Janet Desaulniers on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Janet Desaulniers is Associate Professor of Writing at the School of the Art Instute, in Chicago, and lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Desaulniers is a fiction writer whose collection of stories, ''What You’ve Been Missing'', won the 2004 John Simmons Award. Her work has appeared in ''The New Yorker'', ''Chelsea'', ''TriQuarterly'', and ''Ploughshares'', among other publications. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, an Emerging Fiction Writer of Illinois award, four fellowships and three finalist awards from the Illinois Arts Council, along with prizes from ''Glimmer Train'' and ''Ploughshares'' magazines, artist residencies at the Ragdale and Millay colonies, citation among the 100 Distinguished Stories of the year by the Best American Short Stories, and inclusion in the ''Pushcart Prize'' anthology and the recent ''Scribner’s Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction''. She has taught writing to prisoners, the elderly, literary and literacy groups, to Chicago schoolchildren and teachers, and to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Missouri, Northwestern University, and Carthage College. Currently, she lives in Evanston and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was the inaugural Chair of the MFA in Writing program and is an Associate Professor.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

What You've Been Missing (Iowa Short Fiction Award)
ISBN: 087745910X

University Of Iowa Press. 2004

Populated by characters as frank as their midwestern settings, What You’ve Been Missing, Janet Desaulniers’s debut collection, explores the unsettling moments when ordinary life ceases to exist. Parents, confused by their five-year-old’s refusal to sit up in her chair, lift her blouse to find she’s been beaten. A woman returns from a shopping trip just in time to see her husband kissing a young co-worker. A young husband constructs an elaborate and romanticized version of his new marriage and then ruins it in one gesture. These singular moments propel each person on a journey beyond the realm of everyday existence.

Vividly portraying the possible horrors and detours that can mark anyone’s life, Desaulniers beautifully captures the vast and often conflicting emotions that humans endure at times of loss and sorrow—loneliness, pain, desperation, desire. Yet this balletic push and pull of emotions will challenge, wound, and ultimately enlighten her characters, transporting them to a place beyond individual sorrow.

At times unbearably heartbreaking, What You’ve Been Missing is not just another set of stories about bad things happening to good people. At its heart, this award-winning collection is about people continuing to talk—rather than shutting down—as bad things happen to them. As the recently divorced Liza thinks in “The Good Fight”: “Words do ease us. They comfort us. Maybe they protect us in a way, rescue us from the agony of what our bodies feel.”


Pushcart Prize, 1984 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, 2004 Iowa Short Fiction Award

Speaking Engagements

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