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Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature

Renée Watson
Nixon Center's 2018 Artist in Residence
Winner of the Coretta Scott King and
Newbery Honor Awards!

Renée Watson

March 19-23, 2018   ~   Meet Renée Watson, the Center's new Artist in Residence for 2018. Watson is a highly acclaimed writer, educator, performer and social justice activist, whose works include the young adult novel, Piecing Me Together, and her latest middle grade novel, Betty Before X. Watson will spend a week in Fresno from March 19 through 23.

To welcome Ms. Watson to Fresno State, a catered reception will be held on Monday, March 19 at 2:00 p.m. in the University Dining Hall. Watson will present a talk about her writing and other projects. The public is invited to the free event and Watson's books will be available for sale and autographing.

A second free catered reception and presentation will be held 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, in the Madden Library, Room 2206. Both events are co-sponsored by Fresno State's Cross Cultural and Gender Center, African American Programs and Services, and the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

During her stay, Watson will be embedded in Fresno State English, education, and women's studies classes, working with students and faculty to promote the relevancy of children's literature and provide a more personal level of learning engagement. She will also connect with the wider community, visiting local high schools and presenting at the Fresno County Public Library.

Betty Before X

As a recipient of the fellowship, Watson will receive a $10,000 stipend plus an all-paid weeklong visit to Fresno, California. The Arne Nixon Center Artist-in-Residence Fellowship award was made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor. The awarding committee consists of professors from the Fresno State English department; early, literacy, bilingual and special education department; Chicano and Latin American studies department; women’s studies program and the Arne Nixon Center’s curator, Jennifer Crow.

Watson is the author of a number of highly celebrated books for young people. She received the 2018 Coretta Scott King and Newbery Honor Book awards for her young adult novel Piecing Me Together. Her picture books include Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, which received an NAACP Image Award nomination in children's literature, and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, based on poetry workshops she offered to the children of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Piecing Me Together

Watson's two books for teens are This Side of Home and Piecing Me Together, both of which were nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association and received multiple starred reviews. Piecing Me Together was a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. Writing with Ilyasah Shabazz, Watson's new middle grade novel, Betty Before X, recounts four challenging childhood years in the life of Dr. Betty Shabazz, then future wife of Malcom X. Published in January, it has earned starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly.

Watson has worked as a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. Her articles on teaching and arts education have been published in Rethinking Schools and Oregon English Journal. She is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books. She currently teaches courses on writing for children for the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College.

Campus parking for Monday’s event is recommended in Lot P27. For free parking use parking code 218835 in the permit dispensers located on campus. On Tuesday evening, please park in either Lots P30 or P31 and use parking code 218801.

For event information, including disability accommodations or access, contact Jami Helwig in the Arne Nixon Center at 559.278.8116 or email

Sponsored by Arne Nixon Center, Cross Cultural and Gender Center, African American Programs and Services, Black Faculty and Staff Association