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Research Interests: Contemporary poetry, literature for children, linguistics, women’s studies, eighteenth-century British literature, nineteenth-century British literature, twentieth-century British literature, American literature, literary criticism, the drama, creative writing, composition, Jewish literature.

I have a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. I am a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and I am currently president of the Michigan College English Association.

I have published four poetry books: Nature’s Olympics (Wipf and Stock, 2021), Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011). I have published 200 poems in journals and anthologies.

Fictive Press published my middle-grade historical fiction chapter book The Passover Surprise in 2015 and 2016.  This book concerns sibling rivalry and parental favoritism.

I am a founding mother of Primavera, a literary magazine. Primavera has won awards from Chicago Women in Publishing and the Illinois Arts Council and grants from CCLM and the NEA. My book of literary criticism, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama, was published in 1990 by the University of Missouri Press. My creative nonfiction essay “Returning to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin” appeared in Midwestern Miscellany in 2008. My play The Cell Phone won fourth place in a national contest and was performed twice at the Fenton Village Players One-Act Play Festival on June 24-25, 2011 in Fenton, Michigan. My play Pledging was performed at Triton College in Illinois as part of the Tritonysia Play Festival in 2017.

My fiction picture book about bullying for children, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; 6th edition 2018), won a Book Sense Pick in 2006, a Children’s Choices selection for 2007, a Benjamin Franklin Award for 2007, and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2007. In 2009, How the Moon Regained Her Shape was one of five finalists for the Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award given by the Oregon Reading Association.


University of Chicago.  Ph.D. in English Language and Literature, 1987.

University of Wisconsin, Madison.  B.A. with Honors in English Literature, 1971.  M.A. in English Literature, 1973.  Majors:  English and Spanish;  Minor:  Linguistics.

Oberlin College.  Dean’s List 1967-70.  Majors:  English and Spanish.


Nature’s Olympics (poetry book). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2021.

The Passover Surprise (children’s middle-grade fiction chapter book).  Illus. Ronald Kauffman.  Gabriola Island, British Columbia:  Fictive Press, 2015, 2016.

Exodus (poetry book).  Cincinnati OH:  WordTech Editions, 2014.

Folk Concert: Changing Times (poetry book).  Cochran, GA :  Anaphora Literary Press, 2012.

Traffic Stop (poetry chapbook). Georgetown, KY:  Finishing Line Press, 2011.

How the Moon Regained Her Shape (children’s fiction picture book).  Illus. Ben Hodson.  Mount Pleasant SC:  Arbordale Publishing, 2006; 6th edn. 2018.  Book Sense Pick, 2006.  Benjamin Franklin Award, 2007.  Children’s Choices award, 2007.  Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, 2007.  Finalist for the Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award, 2009.

Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (scholarly book).  Columbia:  University of Missouri Press, 1990, 225 pages.

Blog Posts


    Modern Language Association‑‑Regional delegate for the Delegate Assembly, 1985‑1987

    Midwest Modern Language Association

    Michigan College English Association—President and Board Member, 1990-present

    National Council of Teachers of English

    Association of Writers and Writing Programs

    Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

    International Literacy Association

    Michigan Reading Association

    College English Association

    Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature—President and Program Chair, 2002-2004, and Board Member, 1999-2007

    Women’s Advisory Council for WGVU Public Media, 2011-2013

    Ladies’ Library Association of Kalamazoo, President, 2018 to 2019; Past President 2020 to present

    Janet Ruth Heller

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