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About Watt Key
The house I grew up in was called Little Fish after my grandmother, Fisher. It was built by my grandfather during the Second World War when he was stationed in Mobile as a ship engineer. Little Fish was never meant to be a year-round home. It wasn't insulated and didn't have many conveniences you would expect to find in most houses during the 1970's. My four brothers and I shared a room with no air conditioning and spent muggy summer nights under ceiling fans. In winter, we kept warm with gas space heaters that burned until we crawled into our beds. Mom would come around and turn them off after we were asleep to save money and to take precautions against the house burning down.
Our house was full of bunk beds and sleeping bags. We preferred the efficiency and portability of sleeping bags over sheets and blankets. Aside from the fact that many mattresses were bare, visitors usually thought it strange that no one had a bed that they considered their own. Everything in the Key household was on a first-come first-serve basis. When we had overnight company, they would often be left confused and alone in the dark waiting for someone to tell them where to sleep.
Books and stories were a large part of our childhood entertainment. (See my favorite books here) My grandfather was a great storyteller and my parents read to us on many nights. From an early age I was fascinated with the concept of a book. I began writing my own stories, drawing the pictures, and binding it all in cardboard. Mom saved one of these creations that she says is my first. I wrote it when I was ten and it is about a collie caught in a barbed-wire fence during a tornado. It has a masking tape cover and gruesome pictures. It doesn't seem to be pulled from my imagination, but more like something a young Steven King would create.
In my first novel, ALABAMA MOON, you will see that I give credit to my high school English teacher for convincing me that I could write books. My school was small. There were only 23 people in my graduating class. I was a mediocre student in just about everything but creative writing. My storytelling ability stood out among my classmates, but I never would have known this if it weren't for a teacher that encouraged my work. It felt good to be the best at something and hear her praises and I worked hard on my assignments so as not to let her down.
After high-school I attended Birmingham-Southern College where I began to write seriously. I think that much of this had to do with my new life in a big city where I didn't have the swamp and the bay to entertain me. Writing was a way to dream away much of my time between studying.
I wrote two or three novels while I was in college and sent all of them up to New York. None of them were published. It took me about fifteen years before I was good enough to get a novel published. ALABAMA MOON was my ninth novel, I think. Maybe my tenth. Nothing I wrote before ALABAMA MOON will ever be published. Those books simply aren't good enough and I have to consider them practice.
I currently live in south Alabama with my wife and three children. To this day I am still practicing my writing. I take nothing for granted, and I'm grateful each time I am able to sell a story. I am even more thankful to you, the reader, for reading my books.
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For as long as ten-year-old Moon can remember, he has lived out in the forest in a shelter with his father. They keep to themselves, their only contact with other human beings an occasional trip to the nearest general store. When Moon's father dies, Moon follows his father's last instructions: to travel to Alaska to find others like themselves. But Moon is soon caught and entangled in a world he doesn't know or understand; he's become property of the government he has been avoiding all his life. As the spirited and resourceful Moon encounters constables, jails, institutions, lawyers, true friends, and true enemies, he adapts his wilderness survival skills and learns to survive in the outside world, and even, perhaps, make his home there. This title has Common Core connections.
Alabama Moon is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
From Watt Key, the author of the acclaimed Alabama Moon, comes a thrilling middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.
It's the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don't feel right, don't go down.
So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie's age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie's instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she's in over her head.
And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished—along with Julie's father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It's only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it's up to her to save them all.
In this riveting middle-grade adventure, the son of a Mississippi policeman finds a boy living on his own in the wilderness. Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his bayou home. Then he discovers a strange kid named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin deep in the woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys and hidden truths become harder to conceal.
This title has Common Core connections.
In this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort's father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put his all skills-and bravery-to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it's up to Cort to win-or lose-the fight for their lives.
This title has Common Core connections.
Beast is a fast-paced adventure of guts and survival, this time with a paranormal twist, from acclaimed author Watt Key...
Adam says he can’t remember where he was for the two months he went missing in a Florida swamp. That’s not true. He does remember. The truth: He was driving with his parents, and the car crashed when his father swerved to avoid colliding with a giant Sasquatch-like creature standing in the highway.
Haunted by his parents’ disappearance and hounded for claiming to have seen Bigfoot, Adam sets off into the deadly wilderness on a hunt for answers as to what really happened that night. The answer he finds is more terrifying—and more fascinating—than he could have imagined.
The story of of the orphan boy Moon, begun in Watt Key's award-winning Alabama Moon, continues with Dirt Road Home
After his recapture, gutsy 14-year-old Hal Mitchell is sentenced to live at Hellenweiler, an institution that is more like a jail than the boys' home it's supposed to be. Hal could walk out in just a few months if he keeps out of trouble. But in a place like Hellenweiler, the more he tries to avoid the gangs and their violence, the stronger Hal's fellow inmates try to make him fail. This title has Common Core connections.
"Key does a fabulous job of keeping his readers involved in the story and vested in the characters. Even reluctant readers will most likely find this one hard to put down." -- VOYA
Twelve-year-old Foster knows in his gut that Dax Ganey, the man dating his widowed mother, is a bad seed. Then a mysterious stranger arrives at their Alabama farm, a former Army Ranger in Iraq rambling across the country, and Foster believes he has found an ally against Dax. The stranger proves a fascinating mentor, full of wisdom and secrets. And Dax soon has reason to resent not just him and Foster but also Foster's mother. A spurned Dax will be a dangerous enemy, but Foster is increasingly aware that the stranger is just as dangerous, if not more so.
From the author of one of the most highly acclaimed children's survival adventures of the last decade comes this tautly wound new novel reminiscent of classic westerns, about a boy caught in the middle of a clash that may turn out to be his own battle to fight.
This title has Common Core connections.
Bay Boy is a collection of essays by award-winning young adult author Watt Key, chronicling his boyhood in Point Clear, Alabama. During his childhood, Point Clear was not the tony enclave of today with its spas, art galleries, and multimillion dollar waterfront properties. Rather, it was a sleepy resort community, practically deserted in the winter, with a considerable population of working-class residents.
As Key notes in his introduction, “Life in Point Clear is really about being outside. . . . I have never found a place so perfectly suited to exercise a young boy’s imagination.” Key and his brother filled their days collecting driftwood to make forts, scooting around the bay in a sturdy Stauter boat, and making art and writing stories when it rained.
In a tone that is simple and direct, punctuated by truly hilarious moments. Key writes about Gulf Coast traditions including Mardi Gras, shrimping, fishing, dove hunting, jubilees, camping out, and bracing for hurricanes. These stories are full of colorful characters— Nasty Bill Dickson, a curmudgeonly tow-truck driver; I’llNeeda, a middle-aged homeless woman encamped in a shack across the road; and the Ghost of Zundel’s Wharf, “the restless soul of a long-dead construction worker.” The stories are illustrated by charming and evocative artwork by the author’s brother Murray Key.
Among the Swamp People is the story of author Watt Key’s discovery of the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. “The swamp” consists of almost 260,000 acres of wetlands located just north of Mobile Bay. There he leases a habitable outcropping of land and constructs a primitive cabin from driftwood to serve as a private getaway. His story is one that chronicles the beauties of the delta’s unparalleled natural wonders, the difficulties of survival within it, and an extraordinary community of characters—by turns generous and violent, gracious and paranoid, hilarious and reckless—who live, thrive, and perish there.
There is no way into the delta except by small boat. To most it would appear a maze of rivers and creeks between stunted swamp trees and mud. Key observes that there are few places where one can step out of a boat without “sinking to the knees in muck the consistency of axle grease. It is the only place I know where gloom and beauty can coexist at such extremes. And it never occurred to me that a land seemingly so bleak could hide such beauty and adventure.”
It also chronicles Key’s maturation as a writer, from a twenty-five-year-old computer programmer with no formal training as a writer to a highly successful, award-winning writer of fiction for a young adult audience with three acclaimed novels published to date.
In learning to make a place for himself in the wild, as in learning to write, Key’s story is one of “hoping someone—even if just myself—would find value in my creations.”