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YA and children's author Renee Watson

Renée Watson

Children's Author

Renée Watson is a poet, a teacher, and an award-winning author of books for young readers, including the Ryan Hart middle grade series, the picture book biography Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Florence Mills Story, the story of Maya Angelou told in free verse (Maya’s Song), the picture book Born on the Water, and the middle grade novel Some Places More Than Others. Many of her books are inspired by her experiences growing up as a Black girl in the Pacific Northwest. 


Renée Watson has been writing since she was a young child. When Renée was seven years old, she wrote a 21-page story and her teacher told her, “I think you’re going to be a writer one day!” And Renée has  been writing ever since: poetry, plays, and books. Some of Renée’s picture books include Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Florence Mills Story, Maya’s Song, and The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. Her books for middle grade and YA readers include Ways to Make Sunshine (and other books in the Ryan Hart series), Some Places More Than Others, and This Side of Home. Her novel Piecing Me Together won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Newbery Honor.

Renée Watson grew up in Portland, Oregon and many of her books are inspired by the neighborhood she lived in. When Renée is working on a new book, she makes a playlist of songs she thinks her main character would like and listens to it while she writes. She does most of her writing in her writing nook, surrounded by inspiring quotes, photos of loved ones, and art. Renée believes that words are powerful and she wants to use her words to inspire, heal, and change the world.

She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan and New Zealand. One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Renée was a writer-in-residence for over 20 years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She founded I, Too Arts Collective, a nonprofit that was housed in the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived the last twenty years of his life. The organization hosted poetry workshops for youth and literary events for the community from 2016-2019.

In 2023, the Highlights Foundation established the Renée Watson Cottage (opens in a new window) in Milanville, PA, a space for children’s writers and illustrators to reflect and create. “It’s important for writers to have uninterrupted time to think, process, and generate work — and I hope this space feels calming and nurturing,” says Renée. 

Renée splits her time between Portland, Oregon and New York City. 

This brief bio is adapted from Renée’s official website (opens in a new window), where you can find teacher guides for her books and links to her essays — including What Ramona Quimby Taught Me about Taking Up Space (opens in a new window) for Portland Monthly.

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