KATHRYN "KITSI" WATTERSON


TEACHING

"We should see ourselves not as merely another person doing another thing, but as magicians, as healers, as lovers of humanity, as givers and sharers. From that perspective, living becomes an art in itself. Then everything we do becomes magic!"
- David Paladin

As a writer, I reach out to my audience of readers with stories that break through stereotypical projections, and as a teacher of writing, I work similarly with my students. I believe true change happens when the mind is enlightened through the heart. My relationship to both my reading audience and my community of students is aimed at that enlightenment. Who I am as an artist plays a role in this. I tell stories and share my creative process. We begin class with meditation, movement, visualization, and free writes. I aim to give students the opportunity for experiential learning, so they'll learn how to write from the inside out. As part of this process, they read a wide range of literature and immerse themselves in creating, shaping, sharing, and revising stories that matter to them. Students build their skills as writers, listeners, and editors at the same time they're gaining more access to and acceptance of their own inner lives.

Select lectures, workshops & speaking events:

• UPenn: Host of "100 Thousand Poets for Change" Kelly Writers House

• UPenn: Host of "Reckoning with Torture," Kelly Writers House

• First Person Arts Festival Workshop for MLA Program

• "Owning Your Story," A Penn LPS/MLA Workshop, First Person Arts

• Northern Michigan University, Reading, Resident Writer

• Poets & Writers Workshops, Barnes & Noble

• The University of New Mexico, Reading, Writer-in-Residence

• Lehigh Valley Writers Conference, Fiction Workshop Cabrini College, Social Justice Lectures

• Aegean Arts Circle, led 10-day workshop on Adros Island in Greece

• UPenn's MLK Symposium, "James Baldwin & MLK"

• "Writing in the Moment" Workshop at Story House in New Hampshire

• Pendle Hill, Quaker Retreat Center, "Falling Down & Getting Up"

• Eastern Connecticut University, Lecture & Reading

• 20th Annual Writers' Conference, College of New Jersey

• "Writing Women's Lives," Recursos, Santa Fe, NM

• University of Georgia, Reading and Lecture

• Princeton Public Library, Authors Reading Series

• Wrightstown (PA) Library Annual Authors' Luncheon, Speaker

• Associated Writing Program, Annual Conference, Panel Moderator

• Wilkes University, Visiting Writer, Lecturer

• Penn State, Visiting Writer and Lecturer

• Nebraska Wesleyan University, Reading, Visiting Writer

• American Jewish Committee, at Princeton University, Reading

• Temple Har Sinai, Trenton, Keynote Speaker

• Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, Keynote Speaker

• Brandeis University National Women's Committee, NYC, Lecture

• Drew University, Meet the Author, Reading

• Carnegie Mellon University, Reading, Visiting Writer

• Goddard College, Reading

• Western Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, Guest Speaker

• York College, Reading, Visiting Writer

• The University of Oregon, "The Future of Justice," Keynote Speaker

• Virginia Commonwealth University, Keynote Speaker, "Women and the Law" conference sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and VCU

• Pennsylvania Women's Press Association, "Ethical Issues in the Media," Keynote Speaker

• Spokane Community College, Keynote Speaker, Students' Symposium

• Academy of Contemporary Problems, Fellow

• Russell Sage College, Writer-in-Residence at the Intercultural Center

• NET special on the Women in Prison, Co-Host

• Appeared on the "Today" show, San Diego's "Sun Rise," Phil Donahue, Larry King, National Public Radio's "Fresh Air," and other television and radio shows in the U.S. and Canada.



Writers' Colonies:

• The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, Eureka Springs, ARK

• Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sweet Briar, VA

COURSES

At Princeton University from 1987 to 2003, Watterson focused on identity, race, class and gender. In "The Writer in the Community," students worked in soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other crisis centers, and wrote about poverty, discrimination, and unsung heroes. In "The Art of Oral History," students interviewed residents of the historic Black neighborhood in Princeton. At the University of Pennsylvania since 2003, her undergraduate and graduate writing seminars have included: "Writing & Remembering: A Memoir Workshop," "James Baldwin & the Issues of Our Times," "Learning from the Harlem Renaissance," "Considering Race, Class, & Punishment in the American Prison System," "Finding Voice: Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender," "Writing in the Moment." and "The Site of Memory."


Karim Thomas, Princeton 2004



The North's Most Southern Town

An Oral History Project: Voices of African-American Princeton: 1900-2000 Residents of the Witherspoon neighborhood asked me in 1999 to do an oral history of their historic neighborhood in the heart of the Borough of Princeton. Together we mounted a project that lasted for several years and included the first university course at Princeton focused on the history of this neighborhood. My undergraduate students got academic credit for their work as well as the education of a lifetime. In the process they contributed to the collection of 55 oral histories that convey a lived history of people who grew up in a segregated town, under harsh social and economic conditions. Their lives, and how they've dealt with the legacies of slavery, are a tribute to human ingenuity, integrity, and vision. This year, with the editorial help of my University of Pennsylvania intern, Katie Sanders, I've completed a manuscript called, Voices of African American Princeton: The North's Most Southern Town 1900-2000. It provides a fresh lens for viewing the personal ways in which racism and institutional inequalities work in our society. During readings of the oral history at the library, university, and community centers, I felt the impact of this work through the glow, tears and laughter of the people in the audience as they listened. One older resident said, "Listening to those words, I felt I was walking in the footsteps of my ancestors."


QUOTES

"This class has brought writing to the forefront of my life. What is new for me in this class is the habit of writing. Regularly—not as a performance, but as an exchange. The back and forth between reading and writing, the constant assignments and the instant feedback, in-class free-writing exercises, the drafts and revisions, all this frames writing as a process, and lowers the pressure on any one piece.

"The other thing I've really valued in this class is the sense of community. Kitsi's insistence on attentiveness. Her responsiveness to everyone's writing and comments. I think everyone in her classes feels heard. By creating an accepting environment, she gives students courage to explore unresolved feelings. There's a vulnerability that comes with this self-exposure, and that creates intimacy. I feel emotionally closer to some students in this class than to people I've known for years. It's as if we've gone through combat together. Or were bunk-mates at a sleep away camp."


--Alina McNeil UPENN 2010


"Before this semester, I developed mysterious headaches when asked to read a piece of my creative writing. I felt exposed, naked, almost violated reading my writing aloud. After all, this was me.

"Now, five months later, I feel like a literary nudist—this is me! This is who I am! This is my writing: sometimes it's shitty and sometimes it's good. You can judge me for it, but I am courageous to write it, and even bolder to share it. This class has dared me to develop the confidence to share my work without the burden of self-representation. It has helped me develop both a detachment and an intimacy with my work. Detachment in the sense that my writing is a separate entity, and intimate in that I can now interact with it, get to know it, let it change organically. From this intimacy with my writing comes a better sense of knowing myself."


--Kavita Vinkar, UPENN 20120


"Kitsi's classes are the ones where, at the end of a long, tense days, I always say, "Well at least I have Kitsi's class now." My wife marvels at how I come home bouncing and energetic after class. She brings out the best in us, and I'm always grateful for how she takes my work that I proudly think is perfect, do major surgery on it, and help me turn it into something ten times better."

--Alan Atchison, UPENN 2012


"This class blew me away. It is the best English class I've ever taken—and I've taken quite a few. Before this class, the most free-thinking creative writing workshop I ever took still required us to write in a certain narrative style that suited my professor's taste. I felt that Professor Watterson wanted us to feel comfortable with our own work first and understand that writing is meant to be a form of creation and expression and joy, not just text to fit a rigid guideline or a looming deadline we're unsure we can meet. She did a great job of balancing the personal with the practical: we meditated and danced, but we also had an entire session devoted to publishing."

Alice Ma, UPENN 2012


"It was transformational to be in a creative environment where raw immediacy is so encouraged and cultivated, as opposed to careful analysis being the primary focus. This class was a safe zone, a space I could "let it all hang out," be myself, and be unashamed. That unusual sense of freedom and acceptance also had a huge impact on my growth as a writer."

Rachel Glover, UPENN, MLA 2012


"Last night I had a long talk with my cousin, who works for the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecuting Organized Crime. During the whole conversation, I felt empowered by the knowledge I had acquired in class. I could cite narratives, guest lecturers, and course readings with ease and synthesize them into a cohesive position. Having taken so many other classes where I have forgotten so much class material, I asked myself what made Professor Watterson's class stand out from others.

"I remembered when she talked about her particular pedagogy, she said students forget what they learn unless they immerse themselves in the experience. This is why we went [to the prison in] Chester. This is why we went to Hearings. Why I could apply my knowledge from class.

"I've taken a few courses on criminal justice, but the focus has been on legal and public policy. I never saw the faces that suffered from those policies. I'm a better human being than I was at the beginning of the semester. Professor Watterson's compassion for people who have committed all kinds of crimes is a great example, and that compassion alone forced me to question many long-held assumptions about what it means to be a criminal. I had plenty of confidence but was missing knowledge and structure.


--David Wolfish, UPENN 2010


"The environment of the classroom, Professor Watterson created a place where respect was esteemed, and I did not fear being judged. Almost every reading somehow resonated with a personal memory, many that hadn't crossed my mind in years, and some that I never knew I held within myself. During focused free-writes and meditations, I tapped into parts of myself that I was not in tune with on a regular basis—my imagination, untold memories, my secrets, my dreams."

--Samantha, UPENN 2011


"Free-writing cleared away a major problem for me. I've always had problems finishing writing projects, and I think one of the major reasons is that I started backwards. I started out with the editing! I'd obsess over sentence style and word chose as soon I wrote the first sentence. Free-writing has freed me from this.

"Another key revelation is the idea of revision as re-envisioning. This was another new idea for me, and yet I'm already comfortably doing it and much happier with the results. I'm more open to experimenting with different forms now: short stories, poems, op-eds, creative non-fiction, and memoir. I'm also writing more—and submitting more. I've submitted three things during this semester and gotten one of them published.

"I appreciated the way Kitsi conducted our class. She created an atmosphere where people were free to experiment and develop their talents without fear of embarrassment or rejection. This positive, loving atmosphere will be one of the things I remember about this semester."

--Tom Hutt, UPENN 2012


"I thank my classmates and Professor Watterson for reminding me that writing is a process and it takes time. I learned a lot from the stories my classmates shared. These stories of love and betrayal moved me. I feel honored to have been a wee part of this cathartic and empowering experience for all of us. Putting down on paper what really matters to us was powerful and effective. I fell in love with each of my classmates' stories and every one of them."

--Kishani Martin, UPENN 2009