I was born on July 25th, 1947, and my parents gave me a boy’s name, Clyde. They thought it was pretty, and in the past, it had been the middle name of a distant female relative. Some of our ancestors came from the Firth of Clyde in Scotland as well. Having this name has brought me many hilarious adventures. For example, once when I signed the receipt on my mother’s account at the hardware store with my husband standing next to me, the clerk looked puzzled and said, “Your name is Clyde?” I nodded. Then he turned to my husband and said, “And I suppose you must be Alice?”
I grew up in a two-hundred-year-old house, on a small farm in Vermont, with seven brothers and sisters and a host of animals. Our household was a very lively and noisy place. There were always about 99 things
going on at once. In one corner there might be a child playing with a basket of kittens while another fed a baby goat from a bottle. A pet hen, Hepzibah, strolled in and out of the house as she pleased, occasionally laying an egg on the kitchen floor. There were always people in the kitchen making butter, baking bread or cookies, preparing or cleaning up after a meal. From the shop you might hear hammering and sawing, and there were usually two or three people busy sewing, reading, or drawing. Floating above the din created by all of this activity piano, violin, cello, or flute music could often be heard, for we were all expected to practice our instruments daily.
With both parents involved in creating books, writing and illustrating were a natural part of everyday life. What fun my brothers and sisters and I had writing stories and poems for each other, often making and illustrating our own books. At Christmas time we carved and printed our own greeting cards. We also wrote letters to each other when we were apart, and kept journals in which we wrote about exciting things that happened, as well as about our dreams and our troubles.
My mother, Nancy Dingman Watson, was the author of numerous children's books, most of them illustrated by my father. She encouraged all creative endeavors through her attentive encouragement. My very first published book “Carol To A Child” was a collaboration with both of my parents: I set a Christmas poem of my mother's to music, and my father illustrated it. The year it was published, all 5 of my sisters and I sang in the church choir at Christmas time. For a surprise, we performed the music from this book, all carrying candles. Right in the middle of it, one sister, still quite young, nearly set her hair on fire!
I cherish the image of my mother sitting on the big granite doorstep in Putney, cradling a nursing baby with one hand, scribbling out her next book with the other. When I was grown, our mutual love of words was one of our greatest enjoyments, from doing the Sunday crossword together, to sharing our latest work.
My father, Aldren Auld Watson, is a well-known author and illustrator, and in those years, he worked on the third floor of our house. His studio was a wonderful place to spend time. Dad was very patient with the frequent intrusions of his curious children, though looking back I wonder how on earth he wrote and illustrated over 150 books with eight of us interrupting him all the time. Sometimes we just wanted a certain kind of paper, or to be helped with stitching up a quick little book. At other times we would bring our little arguments or skinned knees to him for comfort or judicial action.
In the studio Dad taught us hand bookbinding, linoleum carving and printing, and other artistic techniques such as pen and ink, watercolor painting, and the art of sketching. If he was busy, there were wonderful things to look at: the Jack Sprat marionette with a wax head, the model tugboat, the ancient steeple clock that showed the Wise Men on camels, following yonder star. The bulletin board was filled with sketches and book ideas, as well as work in progress to study. I will never forget the wonderful smell up there, a combination of linseed oil, printing ink, new paper and a special magic that has no name.I feel very lucky to still live very close to my Dad,who continues to paint and write in his home studio.
After the first book, I went on to collaborate with my sister Wendy Watson, with whom I have produced thirteen picture books. I also teach violin to young children and write my own music.