Fort Langley author Dr. Jane Watt received an honorary degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) earlier this month for her work exploring and exposing the histories of B.C., particularly the Fraser Valley.
Watt is the author of numerous regional histories including the 2018 Surrey: A City of Stories, which was a finalist for the B.C. Book Prize’s Roderick Haig Brown Regional Prize.
“It’s a very huge honor to be recognized in that way,” Watt said. “As a writer, you throw your words out there and you often hear complaints, but never do you really hear how it’s really touched a person.”
Diane Purvey, dean in the Faculty of Arts at KPU, nominated Watt for the honorary degree.
“Dr. Watt has, in a brief period of time, achieved much that is outstanding in her field of local historical research. Her inclusive histories and consultation processes for the Surrey book is a model for modern history books,” Purvey said.
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Watt has been a consultant since 1998, working with various clients as an editor, writer and researcher. Watt’s other work includes books about the history of B.C.’s dairy industry and floods on the Fraser River, a biography called Places of Her Heart: The Art and Life of Barbara Boldt and a book for children titled The Boy Who Paints.
The author said her interest in history began with the discovery of pictures from other places in time.
“I’ve always been fascinated by photographs – old photos and maps,” she explained. “The information in stories is kind of magical – we can take so much because there is history right where we stand.”
When it came to advice for other writers and people interested in sharing their own local stories, Watt said to start with what’s close and follow their curiosity.
“We have a tendency to keep local history to European history and buildings. We need to catch that, rather than the pioneer narrative because there has always been multicultural stories and indigenous history to tell,” Watt explained.
Watt was presented with the honorary degree on Oct. 8 during KPU’s fall convocation at their surrey Campus.
”You carry it with you. It’s pretty nice to hear that this work has touched people in profound ways and that I’m on the right track with my work,” Dr. Watt said.
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