Born in Chattanooga, Watts moved to northwest Georgia as a child. After beginning her college career pursing English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in journalism.
Watts worked as a journalist in California for a few years and even managed to write five screenplays during that time. She eventually decided, however, that a career in journalism was not compatable with her more creative ambitions, so she moved back to Georgia to concentrate on writing. She now lives in the Woodstation community off Ga. 151 in Catoosa.
Watts discovered at an early age that she had a penchant for working with words. By the time she was eight, she kept a journal in which she imitated local news headlines to describe the various animal-related events on her northwest Georgia farm home.
One such chilling headline, “Colt froze to death,” is early evidence of her lifelong love of horses and later be-came the basis for her short story “Frosty Georgia Morning,” featured in the compilation “Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul.”
Watts’ writing has been included in three other “Chicken Soup” books: “Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul II,” “Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover’s Soul” and, most recently, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family.”
The story in this latest book recounts Watts’ experience with her Sicilian mother-in-law’s unusual Holy Saturday ritual. A non-fiction account of literally chasing the devil out of the house with a flyswatter, “Spring Cleaning” shows off Watts’ more humorously introspective side.
Watts describes her creative process as a balance between writing and waiting. She usually will put a completed story away for a few days before going back and rewriting it all over again. All of her stories go through between three to seven different renditions, and like any good writer, she can never say that anything is truly ‘finished.’
To date, Janie Dempsey Watts is the author of approximately 25 pieces of short non-fiction, 10 short fiction sto-ries, and an innumerable number of articles. She has completed one novel and is currently working on another. Furthermore, Watts is a regular contributor to the “Catoosa Life Magazine” and has also written for the “Georgia Backroads” magazine, “Guideposts” magazine, and the Christian Science Monitor.
She has also been honored as a finalist and semi-finalist, respectively, in the 2004 and 2005 William Faulkner Words and Music Writing Competitions. Watts was more recently selected to read one of her stories and participate in a fiction workshop with her fellow writers at the Southern Women Writer’s Conference, hosted by Berry College in Rome in September 2009.
She states that one of the most thrilling evidences of her success comes when she searches her name online and “it comes up in Spanish and Japanese. It’s very meaningful to see.” A friend of Watts’ who teaches English in Tai-wan even used one of her stories as a language exercise for her class. “It makes me feel connected,” Watts said.
Despite her success, Watts has remained grounded, mostly thanks to her family, whose reaction to her latest publication has been not so much “Congratulations” as “What’s for dinner?” She nonetheless credits her family, not her publications, as her greatest accomplishment. Unfortunately, her family and friends sometimes do not realize that writing is just as demanding as any other chosen career. “It’s a serious time-consuming thing.”
Asked what advice she would give to other aspiring writers, Watts immediately responds, “Don’t talk about it, do it!” She does warn, however, that breaking into the writing business is much more difficult than people might think. Unfortunately, for every one story or novel that gets published, there are six others that do not. “You gotta keep sending it out. Rejection is constant.”
Despite this, Watts sincerely hopes that, in the near future, more people will come to realize that anyone and everyone can be a writer. “People don’t necessarily have to have an aptitude for it — just do it. We’re all just nor-mal. We’re all human.”
And naturally, according to Watts, we all have equally valid stories to share.
Closeup: Janie Dempsey Watts
Family: Husband Stephen Spataro, lawyer, and sons Anthony, software developer in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Jack, student at Dalton State University.
Organizations: Writer’s Guild of Chattanooga, Southern Literature Book Club.
Church: Woodstation United Methodist.
Favorite authors: Jill McCorkle, Connie May Fowler, Lee Smith, Sue Monk Kidd, Susan Gregg Gilmore and Natasha Bauman.
Favorite fiction books: “On Agate Hill,” “Cold Sassy Tree.”
Favorite non-fiction book: “Chosen by a Horse.”
Favorite movies: “Forrest Gump,” “Big Fish.”
Favorite music: French, Italian or Spanish “sidewalk café”-style music.
Favorite musicians: The Beatles, The Doors, Bocelli.
Favorite TV shows: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Bored to Death.”
Favorite actor/actress: Robert de Niro, Scarlett Johansson.
Hobbies: Horses, hiking, reading.
Pets: Bulldog Bella and horses Fancy and Sunny
Favorite quote: “He who endures patiently, conquers.”
Personal philosophy: Be curious.
Little-known-fact: I once dove over a limousine hood to touch John Lennon as he walked past with the other Beatles down in Jack-sonville, Florida.