When I was young, I took my time to learn about life and art and writing – getting a BA in Communications and a BFA in studio art, while working and travelling. I received accolades and awards as an artist and government writer/manager.
Six years ago I had open heart surgery for a birth defect. The mystery of being alive made me want to tell stories, especially mysteries. In 2017 I joined the Sunnyside Writers Group (led by Ottawa author, Michael F. Stewart), and later, the Writers Collective of Canada (WCC). Since 2021, I’ve been published in three anthologies and a Canadian architectural journal, ON SITE review 40.
My writing is linked to my love of nature and community and family. I get ideas from caring for my witty but elderly mother, and volunteering with PAL Ottawa (affordable arts housing), TreeSongs.ca, Hospice Care Ottawa, and an antiracism and reconciliation group.
2022: THREE STORIES – “Swimming Trilogy” in Writers Collective of Canada anthology, Front Lines: Courage (2022, Sonderho Press, Prescott, Ontario, Canada). At a terrific WCC workshop with writer Jay Teitel, I was encouraged to write about my love of swimming, and these stories came about: Grace Under Fire, Amazing Grace, Grace Full. (available on Amazon)
2022: ESSAY – “For the Love of Books” (pp.56-59) in Canadian architectural journal, ON SITE review 40: the architect’s library (2022, Field Notes Press), As a book and library lover, I contributed this essay, inspired by ON SITE review‘s wonderful editor Stephanie White. (available for free as online edition; print available through ON SITE review website, link above).
2022: My caregiving CHAPTER- “Memory and Acceptance: Lessons from my mother” in the best-selling collaborative anthology, VOICES of the 21st Century: Conscious Caring Women Who Make a Difference, (2022, WSA Publishing, NY, NY) (available from me (personalized, signed) and from Amazon).
2021, September Issue: ARTICLE – “VOTE” (p. 12) published before the 2021 Canadian federal election in local Cabbagetown (Toronto) newspaper, Parliament Street News, published by Peter Lovering, Parliament Street News (available free online, link above)
2021: My heart story CHAPTER – “The Answer is To Be!” in the best-selling collaborative anthology, VOICES of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Make a Difference, (2021, WSA Publishing, NY, NY). (REVIEWS below). — Watch the Video Interview with Karen J. Watson by publisher Gail Watson (11 mins.). — See Heart Blog for excerpts and posts about the heart and caregivers and heart community (available from me (personalized, signed) and from Amazon),
1998-2000: Municipal “SPECIAL REPORTS” – longer articles commissioned by Forum Magazine, Canada’s Municipal Affairs Magazine, published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (now out of print): “Dick Tracy, Call Home (GPS)”; “Art and Revitalizing Communities”; “Heavy Equipment”; “Data Management” – (available through me)
1981 Historical ESSAY: “The Stone Church of St. Stephen” in Up the Gatineau, Vol. 7, 1981. (1981, GVHS, Quebec, Canada). I won an early award for historical research and writing about the origins and architecture of this Old Chelsea, Quebec landmark, and was published in the Gatineau Valley Historical Society‘s review. (available free online, link above)
COST –$20 CUSTOMIZED SIGNED COPY (+ $5 shipping)–and the $18 BULK RATE: Treat a friend @$18 each (+shipping); For BOOK CLUBS – See “Book Club Conversations Starters” at the end of the Voices books.
FREE LIBRARY COPY of Voices4 and heart story, Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference – available at the Ottawa Public Library at the Ottawa Public Library. (2021, WSA Publishing, NY, NY)
FREE online ESSAY – “For the Love of Books” in ON SITE review 40: the architect’s library (2022, Field Notes Press, Canada)
FREE online ARTICLE – “VOTE” (p. 12) in magazine, Parliament Street News, September 2021 (2021, September issue, Peter Lovering, Parliament Street News, Toronto, Canada)
FREE online ESSAY – “The Stone Church of St. Stephen” in Up the Gatineau, Vol. 7, 1981. (1981, GVHS, Quebec, Canada)
Read below the SELECTED REVIEWS of Voices 4 with my heart story — Voices of the 21st Century: Resilient Women Who Rise and Make a Difference – and MORE REVIEWS at Goodreads.com reviews ; Amazon.ca reviews (Canada and international); Amazon.com reviews (U.S.)
“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
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.” — Eva B., 5.0 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.”
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..”– Amazon Miranda, 4.0 out of 5 stars
Sunlight and Shadows, “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
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.” — Robert Gould, 5.0 out of 5 stars