Janice Hisle is proof that dreams come true.
Growing up in Alliance, a young Janice Haidet attended a program at Rodman Public Library to hear Brinton Turkle, another Carnation City native, discuss his 1970 book Mooncoin Castle.
“I remember looking at him with awe and wonder,” recalls Hisle. “I remember feeling inspired to one day become a published author, too.”
Following a distinguished career as a journalist, Hisle is now a freelance writer and will be speaking about her first book -- SUBMERGED: Ryan Widmer, His Drowned Bride and the Justice System (Chilidog Press, 2018) – when she kicks off Rodman Public Library’s 2022 Fogle Author Series at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 24.
Hisle says seeing Turkle is just one among many fond memories she has of Rodman Public Library, describing herself as an odd mixture of a bookworm, a tomboy, and a girly girl while growing up in Alliance.
“I was a tomboy because I loved football, skateboarding, and climbing trees,” explained Hisle. “I was a girly girl because I loved manicures and makeup. But my core identity is really that of a bookworm. My mom, Eileen, taught me to read before I entered kindergarten at North Lincoln Elementary School. While a student there, I remember how eagerly I scooped up armloads of books from my school library and from Rodman Public Library. I am pretty sure I read every single copy of The Hardy Boys mystery series that the libraries had stocked in their collections. In the summertime, I really went into overdrive with my reading. I was determined to complete Rodman Library's summer reading program as fast as I possibly could. I also fondly recall listening to many ‘story hours’ at the library.”
Hisle added that her love of reading eventually turned into a love of writing.
“I decided I didn’t want to merely devour the words on the page,” said Hisle. “I wanted to put them there. I wanted to make that magic happen. I decided when I was a 12-year-old that I wanted to be a journalist. I remember holding in my hands an essay that I had written about a thunderstorm, and a substitute teacher had scrawled across the front, ‘Good job! You write a lot like a newspaper reporter.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that sounds cool.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I can get paid to read, write and talk to people!’ I joined the school newspaper staff at Stanton, and, gosh I feel so old when I say this, but I helped use a mimeograph machine to run off copies of the student newspaper, The Buckeye Spotlight.”
While at Alliance High School, the adviser for the school newspaper, The Red and Blue, James Ballor, encouraged Hisle greatly. He also developed a funny nickname for her —“Miss Verbosity” because of her tendency to write longer than most of her peers.
“As the cliché says, old habits die hard because, when I went into newspapers, my editors repeatedly would admonish me: ‘Write tight! What are you trying to do, write a book?!’” said Hisle. “My pat answer now: ‘Well, yes, apparently I was.’ Coming full-circle, I was so incredibly touched when I processed a book order for SUBMERGED from none other than James Ballor. That made me feel so honored, and I was so saddened by his recent passing; he shall always hold a special place in my heart. I’ll always wonder what he thought of the book. I hope he feels that I did him proud.”
A 1982 Alliance High graduate, Hisle went on to Kent State University and worked at newspapers in Dayton, Youngstown and Kent-Ravenna before a 15-year stint at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Throughout her career, she won numerous awards for breaking news, personality profiles, and investigative reporting. She was recognized by the Ohio Department of Public Safety for her series on dangerous teen drivers.
During her career, Hisle covered more than 300 murder trials, including three spellbinding trials involving Ryan Widmer, the subject of SUBMERGED, which explores hidden angles of a nationally publicized bathtub-drowning mystery.
The book won the true crime category in two nationwide contests in 2020 -- the IndieReader Discovery Award and the National Indie Excellence Award.
Much of Hisle’s appearance at Rodman Library will deal with SUBMERGED.
“I felt compelled to write this book because among the 300-plus murder cases I covered during my career, this was THE ONE about which I had the most unanswered questions,” said Hisle. “It was also the case that got under my skin more than any other. I also think this case embodies one of the most powerful lessons that any of us can learn about life, and that is things are rarely as simple as they appear.”
As a result of the success of SUBMERGED, Hisle was chosen to chronicle the life of philanthropist Mary Jo Cropper in a book titled A Comforting Light: Cancer Crusader Mary Jo Cropper & Her Legacy of Hope (Orange Frazer Press, 2020).
Hisle is now under contract to write a third book, which is expected to be released in mid-2023. That book, a memoir, chronicles an Ohio mother’s fight for justice for her abused children.
Hisle, who is communications chair for the Germania Society of Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization celebrating the city’s proud German heritage, also teaches five group fitness classes each week and has competed as a natural athlete along with her husband, Michael, in the sport of bodybuilding.
A resident of Warren County, Hisle is looking forward to a visit to the Carnation City and Rodman Public Library, the place that helped foster her love of reading and where she first envisioned herself as being a published writer.
“In many ways, it is a dream come true for me to come speak at the same library where I was bedazzled at such a young age,” said Hisle.