Hi, I’m Karen Joan Watson, a Canadian writer and visual artist.

A sense of belonging is important to me – heart, family genetics, and geography – a sense of place. Recent near-death experiences and my recovery involve artwork, writing and caregiving. I am inspired by family patterns, especially related to a genetic heart defect (bicuspid aortic valve) that runs in the family. The sense of place comes from always returning to where we grew up in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec, Canada.

This year of 2022 into 2023, I have new writing and art activities. My drawing “left-handed Covid Selfie” (in AGO’s online art exhibition, Portraits of Resilience) #selfportrait was one of 3000 artworks at the digital tribute at the AGO #artgalleryofontario in 2022, online from 2020 to present. Search under “Karen Joan Watson”!

My chapter “Memory and Acceptance: Lessons from My Mother” was published in the best-selling anthology about caring, in the WSA’s Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference.

At a terrific workshop with writer Jay Teitel, I was encourage to write a “Swimming Trilogy” in the Writers Collective of Canada anthology, Front Lines: Courage (published in June 2022).

It was exciting to be part of eco-art installation talks and tree-hugging presentations on Chris White’s Tree House at Trees Songs 3 and 4 (March 2022) and “Mother Hibiscus” at Save the Trees at the Ottawa Grassroots Festival (April 23, 2022), And writing about my love of books and libraries in the piece, “For the Love of Books” free online on pages 56-59 in ON SITE review 40: the architect’s library, I was inspired by a wonderful editor, Stephanie White. And I continue to provide eldercare to my mum with my siblings, to make her life satisfying.

Thanks to readers like you, I am now an internationally best-selling co-author in two WSA Publishing’s Voices of the 21st Century books: 1) my caregiving story in “Memory and Acceptance: Lessons From My Mother” in the new 2022 anthology, Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference (WSA Publishing, 2022); and 2) my heart story “The Answer is To Be!” in the 2021 anthology of 40 diverse women’s experiences. Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference (WSA Publishing, 2021).

It was fun to be interviewed in 2022 and 2021 by Gail Watson, Editor and Publisher of Voices of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference. We talked about my chapter about the caregiving role for my elderly mother with memory loss.

I’ve written under the Eco-Art tab about how I came to do eco-art, since I was a child. My eco-art is featured in the 2021 Tree Songs 3 video – “Crown of Thorns,” in the 2003 KAAI exhibition book (now Modern Fuel Artist-Run-Centre in Kingston, Ontario) Art for Earth’s Sake: The Millennium Project, and on EcoArt Project and Tree Songs 3 online.

I speak about my eco-art and heart story in this 2021 video: “Karen Joan Watson, Eco-Artist and Author, Ottawa, Canada” (45 mins) by an Arts Vlogger on the Multiple Arts channel on Vimeo.

And in a video interview (20 mins) on writing by the lead of the Canadian Military Spouses Book Club in August 2021, Christine Snider asks questions about why and what I write. It’s fun!

In January 2021, I was interviewed about my Heart story “The Answer is To Be!”: Video interview with publisher of Voices of the 21st Century, Gail Watson (11 mins).

To purchase the Voices books, send me a note through my Contact Me page, or email me at watsonkaren777@gmail.com

And check out the Heart Blog. When the tech gods comply, there are stories and resources, and video links to interviews especially with caregivers/partners (eye-openers! shockers! anger! frustration! and above all, love).

Thanks! Karen

P.S. Stay safe.

Below are Selected Reviews of the Voices of the 21st Century book:

“Hi Karen: I read your piece a couple of days ago now.  What a long time to carry the burden of believing that you could die any time.  I mean, it’s true for all of us, but most don’t have an immediate threat like yours so never think about it.  Sunlight and shadows – casting a pall but making you appreciate each day? So glad you made it!” Carmel Suttor

“Raw, real, revealing, writer Karen J. Watson’s answer to the big question of how and who to become after her risky open-heart surgery is unapologetic and fierce. Both beautiful and ballsy, “The Answer is to Be” nails with precision the stark reality and resilience one woman accepts to keep in the present, and moving beyond the haunting high-stakes medical operation that threatened to take her life and identity.” — Sylvie Hill, writer, poet, educator

Eva B., 5.0 out of 5 stars Feeling alone and powerless? Reviewed in Canada on February 20, 2021. Verified Purchase, I feel a little less lonely having read the stories of these amazing women. Refusing to be defined by circumstance, they bare their souls to reveal their triumphant journeys toward their right to exist, to live life on their own terms and to happiness. They share unreservedly as a good friend would.

For example, Karen Watson’s “The Answer Is to Be!” is an eye-opener into courage. She does not let a threatening, ever-present heart condition overshadow the life experiences that are her birthright, all the while arming herself against its eventual assault. [Sorry. No spoilers from me about how it ends.] Feeling alone and powerless? You have forty resilient sisters who will show you that you are not.

Amazon Miranda, 4.0 out of 5 stars The Answer is To Be: Rising above what the Fates hand out, Reviewed in Canada on February 12, 2021. Verified Purchase, After reading how Karen Watson’s shattered heart was patched up in grueling surgery: “The Answer Is To Be!” I realized that Hamlet’s question works well as a framing device for these women’s voices. Women’s lives can indeed be overwhelmed by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” The stories here show that it’s possible to rise above what the fates hand out. While many of the pieces seem prescriptive to me, it’s high time we hear from a lot of women – along with their ways of weathering the “sea of troubles.”

Robert Gould, 5.0 out of 5 stars Recovery, Reviewed in Canada on February 13, 2021. Verified Purchase, Gail Watson: Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women who rise and make a Difference — In the summer of 2020 I felt it necessary to write to a very gifted woman who had been obliged to undergo emergency cardiac surgery because of the stress caused by a vicious and demented campaign of harassment.

At the same time, and from personal experience, I was able to assure her that once she had regained physical strength and recovered from the psychological shock of the operation, life could certainly offer new and fascinating directions. I contacted her because, decades previously, I had been part of the institution where she had been located when subjected to that vicious campaign and I was staggered that the events she described took place so many years later, in the 21st century. I had thought that such protracted jealous hostility belonged to the past. Of course, and unfortunately, I was mistaken.

As the contributions in this book make very clear, such things have not died out. Destructive verbal and physical violence are very much with us, as is also benevolent physical violence. And make no mistake about it, surgery, including benevolent life-saving surgery, is life-threatening physical violence.

Hence the anger and the complex psychological reactions so eloquently described by Karen J. Watson in her reflective contribution on her experiences following heart surgery. The frank description is highly illuminating. All persons who know they will have to undergo surgery, or who are recovering from surgery, will benefit from such awareness and from having partners to support them. And, I repeat, after trauma, life can and does offer new and fascinating directions. It is this which links the diverse chapters of this revealing book.

The ones I prefer, like Watson’s “Answer” and “Poster Child of Failure” by Carolyn Byrd, admit life’s complexity, writing it into a quirkier perspective that allows life “to be” – an often grievously demanding, yet still beautiful partnering.

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