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YRC 38: Featured Author — Jerusha Watson

Somewhere in the lush greenery of the far east of Singapore — coupled with the occasional sightings of monkeys, monitor lizards, and snakes — our Featured Author this issue is kicking it back after being relieved of the hustle and bustle of the PSLE. Meet 12-year-old Jerusha Watson, formerly a student of Meridian Primary and currently taking it easy until the next phase of her educational journey. We sat down with Jerusha and her parents, Mr Watson and Mdm Ninitha, to talk about her experiences as a YAS student, a YAA finalist, and an avid learner of anything and everything.

It was two years ago when we first met Jerusha as a Primary 4 student in Meridian Primary, where she was part of the pioneer batch for the Junior Young Author Scheme (JYAS for short — a version of our champion Young Author Scheme catered for younger primary school students).
You may have come across the story Jerusha wrote then in Issue 33 — A Tale of Friendship, a clever take on the origin of the platypus and the platonic love story between the beaver Dooro and the duck Miena.
The heartwarming piece earned Jerusha second place at the Young Author Awards 2014/2015, and a spot on our newly launched e-store (you can buy Jerusha’s book at

A Tale of Friendship was so memorable that we had to ask Jerusha how it came to be. And we found the source of the story to be just as touching as its content. “I have a lot of friends,” Jerusha shared. “And we all come from different races and everything. And normally, you don’t have to befriend somebody from the same race or religion. You can make friends with people from different races, different religions, and different cultures.”
So, why the platypus as the story’s subject? “I was just searching the Internet when I saw a picture of the platypus. It looked like (the combination) of a duck and a beaver to me, so I decided for a duck and the beaver to represent two people from two different cultures. So I wrote that story.”
Jerusha added on that she was searching the Internet for animals, as she wanted to write something on animals for her JYAS submission. “I am an animal lover,” she shared. Seeing the platypus triggered something she remembered about mixing and matching animals, and her inspiration sparked.
Another thing that stood out from Jerusha’s story was its length; Jerusha wrote much more than the 1000-word standard required for the JYAS. That piqued our curiosity, so we could not help but ask her what drove her to write so much. Keywords: Just Do It. “I didn’t really know I was writing that much,” Jerusha said. “I just wrote whatever came to my mind.”
That spark of imagination applied to whenever she wrote in the little free time she had as a student. “When I write, there will be this sudden inspiration in my mind that will make me write a bit. Bit by bit, I will write, then I will connect all the bits to form one whole story.”

Jerusha revealed something when we asked her about being picked by her teachers to attend the JYAS two years ago — she initially did not want to go for the course. “I didn’t really feel like going for it because it was like an extra supplementary class for me,” she shared. “But after a lot of pestering, I decided to go for it, and I really enjoyed it.”
It was Jerusha’s parents who ‘pestered’ and encouraged her to go for the JYAS. We do agree that pestering is one of anybody’s top pet peeves, but seeing how far Jerusha had come as a result, do we (begrudgingly) admit that some nagging is good for us?
“Before I joined the JYAS,” Jerusha said. “I was writing compos in school and getting 20 to 30 marks for them. But when I joined, I learned new words and phrases. I learned new styles of writing compos, and looked at new perspectives. So yeah, it (my parents’ pestering) was really worth it.”
So what did Jerusha enjoy and not enjoy about the JYAS? “When I was writing, it felt like I was in the story, so it was a whole new world for me,” she replied. “But what I didn’t enjoy was that when I was writing, my hand hurt a lot. And also, I had to put what I had written (by hand) into the computer (by typing), so that was a lot of work for me.”
Jerusha’s parents were not just there for her at the beginning of her JYAS journey, but they stuck with her throughout to the end. “We were looking at her compos and we saw that her story ideas were very good,” Mdm Ninitha, a contact coordinator for automatons, shared about pushing Jerusha to join the JYAS. “When she was practising her writing, instead of following the given image, she would write her own stories. So we wanted her to write. We also saw that she used to write out her emotions when she was younger.”
“I encouraged her a lot,” Mr Watson, an aircraft engine servicer, said. “With some nagging.” Jerusha pointed him out as the parent who did most of the pestering to join the JYAS.
“He does shift work, so he is home most of the time,” Mdm Ninitha added on. “And when he is home, he would talk to her and pester her about her studies. So it was him who encouraged her to go for the course. For him, it is encouraging. For her, it is pestering.”
Both parents shared their joy in seeing Jerusha express her creativity through writing during the JYAS and using her time wisely. “It was good seeing her spend her time usefully writing,” Mdm Ninitha shared. “Sometimes she asks for our help for typing (from first draft into the computer) and emailing to the teacher, and it was a little tiring to do, especially after work.”
Jerusha points out her mother as her inspiration. “She’s a working woman. She goes to work and then comes home, and even though she wants to talk to her friends, she always does the housework first. She’s a busy woman.”
After the Young Author Awards where she clinched second place, Jerusha found herself with little time to write due to preparations for her PSLE. “I had to focus on the weak parts of my studies,” she shared. “Now I am focusing on relaxing first, and maybe after that, I may start writing again.”
Now that Jerusha has some time to herself after PSLE, what has she been up to in the reading department? She holds up the title she had been checking out: The Case of Lisandra P, by Hélène Grémillon and Alison Anderson. It was an enigmatic whodunit about the mysterious death of the titular character and the speculation of her husband being her killer.
“I was just browsing through the books, because I couldn’t find anything to read,” Jerusha explained how she came across the title. “Then I came across this book, because it was featured in the librarian’s stack. And it looked interesting, so I took it. And when I started reading it, I really got into it.”
Jerusha shared that rather than sticking to a singular genre, she prefers checking out anything and everything, counted that they interested her. “I’m someone who reads all types of books,” she said. “I don’t really look at the authors. If I see a title that affects me (that I find interesting), I just take it and read it. I am very random!”

It may not be that surprising to know that outside of tear-jerking animal tales and mysterious demises of protagonists, Jerusha is just like anybody else her age. Like most students, as she shared with us, she enjoys reading, drawing, watching television, and watching videos on YouTube. Mdm Ninitha chips in that Jerusha had written some poems and cheers for a National Day celebration at school.
“I watch HG TV, and watch how people go around to look at houses and find ways to make them better or make new houses. I also watch Project Runway and TLC (The Lifestyle Channel),” Jerusha shares what she watches on television. “On YouTube, I watch Girl Meets World and Game Shakers.”
At the time of the interview, Jerusha’s younger sister Jedisha, ten, was in school taking her exams. We discover that Jedisha’s hobbies and interests lie on a different wavelength from Jerusha’s. She is, as Mdm Ninitha puts it, a musician rather than a writer or reader.
“She’s very musical,” Mdm Ninitha shared. “She likes to sing. Even if she does not know the words, she will still be humming along. She can catch the tune of a song. We bought the karaoke machine for her to sing. We have a lot of musical instruments here — the violin, the keyboard, the piano, and the ukulele. She is currently practising the drums.”
Jerusha, on the other hand, aspires to be in the design field. “I wanted to be a fashion designer last time,” she shared. “But my mum said it was too weird and childish, and that it was really not a good job. So now, I want to be an architect.”
Although the two sisters clash from time to time, as all siblings do, Mdm Ninitha had observed that no matter what, they still love each other very much. “Even though they fight, it would only be for five minutes, then they will hug. It (the fight) usually wouldn’t last long. Maybe a few days, at most.”
The two sisters spend time with their parents on the weekends and during holidays, sometimes going on little cycling expeditions at the parks near their home.
So, what is our Featured Author’s advice for budding writers? “Whenever an idea pops into your head, don’t be too lazy and just go write it down,” Jerusha gives advice that she would have given her pre-JYAS self. “Your idea may make sense after a while. That way, you may be able to collect more stuff and this new story may come out. And you can be really proud of it.”
Mdm Ninitha and Mr Watson hope that Jerusha would continue her writing ventures. Their wishes for their daughter include using her time properly to be both a good student and an avid writer, especially as she steps into secondary school next year.
We also asked them for writing advice for budding writers and they have this to say: “Put all your thoughts into writing, whatever it may be, whatever you are thinking. Writing expresses a lot. Through writing, we can let others understand and hear what you think. Writing is essential and connects us to other people.”
Too random for anybody? We think not.

Monday,5 December 2016 by | Blog, Catherine Khoo, Featured Authors |