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Former VOA Learning English Reporter Publishes a Book

First-time novelist and former VOA Learning English reporter Jeri Watson
First-time novelist and former VOA Learning English reporter Jeri Watson
Former VOA Learning English Reporter Writes a Book
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Where did Jeri Watson go?

For 24 years, Jeri wrote and reported for VOA Learning English. She covered many subjects. In her final year at VOA, she also began working as a broadcaster. People who had enjoyed her stories since 1990 finally got to hear some of them in her own voice.

They liked what they heard -- her voice was clear and easy to listen to -- and, like Jeri, friendly. Many people wondered why she had not been broadcasting earlier.

Then, 19 months ago, Jeri was no longer heard on VOA. And her byline was no longer seen.

Where was she?

After a long career in journalism, Jeri simply and quietly retired.

She said she wanted to spend more time visiting her children and grandchildren.

Jeri returned to visit her friends at VOA recently. Everyone was happy to see her again. She said she misses her work at VOA, but she does not regret retiring.

“We all reach a, a time when work comes to an end. For me it was about 25 years with VOA and working for a Chicago daily newspaper years ago. I felt that I had a wonderful career and it was time to sleep late in the mornings.”

Jeri also wanted to complete the novel she had been writing in her spare time. Finally, she was able to spend hours every day on the project.

“I write on my sunporch, with only the company of my cat -- two cats to tell the truth -- and that felt very strange after working all these years with good friends at VOA. We talk(ed) to each other constantly, so writing in the quiet felt lonely at first.”

“But you like it now?”

“I have totally adjusted. And I have to say I had no trouble adjusting to sleeping a little later in the morning.”

"Sorrow Street" is about an American reporter working in Brazil.
"Sorrow Street" is about an American reporter working in Brazil.

The book has just been published. It is called “Sorrow Street.” The main character is an American reporter named Sandra Shelton. She is sent to Brazil to report from Rio de Janeiro. She is depressed over a recent end of a relationship. She is also unhappy leaving Washington, D.C.

Jeri says Sandra is modeled on the many reporters she has known who have dealt with serious disappointments in their life.

In Rio, Sandra tries to help some mysterious children -- a young boy and his younger sister -- who appear to be living on the city’s dangerous streets alone. The reporter is pulled into a drug dealer’s dangerous kidnapping plot. She also discovers a part of her past -- a past she has tried hard to forget.

Jeri Watson has travelled to Brazil many times. The book includes details that only someone who experienced the complex and beautiful country first-hand could know. Jeri first visited Brazil 18 years ago. Several return trips followed. She was back again last year.

“Just walking around and talking to people and seeing how things were going. And you would have to be not very observant to miss the fact that things had been economically better for quite a time there and having bad days again, corruption again, has made people feel very sad.”

Jeri says those who have read the book, including other authors, have said they enjoyed it.

Here, Jeri reads from “Sorrow Street.” Pedro, the little boy Sandra has been trying to help, is now in a shelter.

“It was after midnight but the shelter was still noisy. A couple of young kids cried and mumbled in their sleep. Pedro rolled around restlessly on the soft bed. It seemed to swallow his body. He’d often longed for a softer place to sleep than the pavement, but now he thought a cot was kind of flimsy.”

“He dreamed of ice-cream with pieces of chocolate cookies in it. He dreamed of his mother, her wide red and blue cotton skirt swishing as she pulled up the threadbare sheet to his waist, as she patted at the deflated, torn pillow under his head on the mattress. She spoke softly as she leaned over him.”

Jeri is very active in her retirement. She swims and hikes. And twice a week she teaches people from around the world American English. In her classes, she uses some of the stories she has written for VOA Learning English.

Jeri seems very happy and looks great. Retirement agrees with her. That means it is good for her.

Jeri is now writing another book. It will tell about her long life and the many adventures she has had. She thinks it will be easier to write than a fiction book. When it is published, we will write about it and you will hear from Jeri Watson again.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Christopher Jones-Cruise reported this story from Washington and wrote it in VOA Special English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

byline – n. a line at the beginning of a newspaper or magazine article that gives the writer's name

novel – n. a long written story usually about imaginary characters and events

spare – adj. available to be used in whatever way you want

sunporch – n. a structure attached to the entrance of a building that has a roof and that may or may not have walls and is designed to be a place where rays from the sun enter

constantly – adj. happening all the time or very often over a period of time

adjust – v. to change in order to work or do better in a new situation

model on – v. to try to be like and to behave like (someone you admire)

disappointment – n. the state or feeling of being disappointed, making (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

first-hand – adj. coming directly from actually experiencing or seeing something

mumble – v. to say (something) quietly in an unclear way that makes it difficult for people to know what you said

swallow – v. to flow over and cover (something) completely (used here figuratively)

pavement – n. the hard surface of a road, driveway, etc.

cot – n. a narrow, light bed often made of cloth stretched over a folding frame

flimsy – adj. easily broken, torn, etc.; not strong or solid

skirt – n. a piece of clothing worn by women and girls that hangs from the waist down

threadbare – adj. very thin and in bad condition from too much use

deflate – v. to release air or gas from (something, such as a tire or balloon) and make it smaller

torn – adj. ripped; split

mattress – n. a cloth case that is filled with material and used as a bed