Jeri Hanel Watts (1957–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1957, in Lynchburg, VA; Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: College of William & Mary, B.A., 1979; University of Virginia, M.Ed. (reading), 1991. Religion: Protestant.
Educator and writer. Harrington Waddell School, Lexington, VA, teacher, 1979–2006; Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA, assistant professor, 2006–.
Shenandoah Reading Council Board, Central Virginia Writers Project Board.
Keepers, illustrated by Felicia Marshall, Lee & Low Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Work in Progress
Longtime teacher Jeri Hanel Watts is the author of Keepers, a story about a young boy's strong emotional bond with his grandmother. Kenyon loves to hear his grandmother, Little Dolly, tell stories, and when the woman's birthday approaches, the boy decides he will use his savings to buy her a wonderful gift. However, Kenyon's love of playing baseball overcomes him; instead of using his hard-earned money on a gift for Little Dolly, he buys a baseball glove for himself. Afterward, Kenyon feels remorse, but his understanding grandmother shows that neither her love nor her respect for him have diminished: She now gives him a responsibility: to be the keeper of the family stories. Watts's "acrylic oil paintings in muted colors supply warm, loving portraits of a close-knit African American family" stated Denia Hester in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly critic commented that Watt's storytelling "comes alive with language, particularly the playful dialogue; the lessons she delivers are sturdy and multilayered."
Watts told SATA: "I began writing because I felt compelled to tell stories. A junior high school teacher let me know I was 'a real writer' and I took her word to heart.
"Real life has, however, interfered with being a full-time writer. Being a full-time teacher and a wife and mother means I don't write every day or for the amount of time I'd like. But I write often and continue to produce stories. I try to always be aware of the myriad of ideas that surround me.
"I often combine my work as a writer and my work as a teacher. I work on writing with the fifth-grade students at my school and I find my own experiences as a writer inform my instruction. This 'collaboration' makes both of these aspects of my life richer and more meaningful."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Childhood Education, April 11, 2006.
Booklist, January 1, 1998, Denia Hester, review Keepers, p. 825.
Publishers Weekly, November 24, 1997, review of Keepers, p. 73.
School Library Journal, January, 1998, Marie Wright, review of Keepers, p. 94.
Lee & Low Books Web site, http://www.leeandlow.com/ (April 11, 2006).
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