At Bat for Ashley Rountree: Jenn Watson

“At Bat” is the Ashley|Rountree series that introduces you to our staff and consultants on a more personal level. The series name is a nod to our baseball-loving founder, Jeff Ashley, and the collaborative spirit of our team members who go to bat every day for our nonprofit client partners.

Jenn Watson

This month, meet grant writing consultant and editor Jenn Watson. She has been working and volunteering with nonprofits for more than 15 years, most recently helping raise funds through grant writing for The Earth & Spirit Center, The Center for Women and Families, and Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. As an English teacher of 10 years, Jenn enjoys crafting narratives that simultaneously illuminate the important work our local nonprofits do while highlighting the exciting ways in which they wish to grow.

A Louisville native, Jenn graduated from Centre College in 2005 with a B.A. in English. She also holds an M.A. in English Literature from Wake Forest University and an M.A.T. from Bellarmine University. She and her husband, Adam, have been married for 17 years and have three highly opinionated daughters.

Now batting for Ashley|Rountree, here’s Jenn. Turn up her at-bat music, AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” as you learn more about her!

What have you read recently that made an impact on your work or personal life?

As a former English teacher and general book nerd, it is hard to name a favorite book (there are just too many), but one thing I loved to teach was a unit on the evolution of fairy tales, mostly because we looked at the socio-political underpinnings of each one and how they often reflected what was happening culturally at the time. For example, “Beauty and the Beast” was, in part, written to convince young girls that they would be just fine if they were married off to older “beastly” men as was often the case in 18th century France (and, well, everywhere else). The poisoned apple in “Snow White” arose from an issue with tomatoes at the time. Tomatoes were sometimes referred to as “poisoned apples” because they were round and red like an apple but contained a ridiculous amount of lead, which they absorbed from plates due to their acidity. Of course, just about everything contained high amounts of lead in Europe at the time, including wine, bread, cheese, and the lining of pills. Yum.

In terms of books that I have read recently, though, I have really enjoyed both Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” and Doug Tallamy’s “Nature’s Best Hope.” They are both nonfiction and discuss our long history with nature, and how small acts can make a positive and sizable impact on the environment. Needless to say, I have now spent all the money saved for my kids’ college tuition on native plants. I have also logged a truly inadvisable number of hours taking pictures of bees and talking to caterpillars in my backyard. I am a very fun person…

What are some of your favorite destinations?

I have traveled to a lot of truly wonderful places, but at the top of the list is a trip I took several years ago with my husband to Germany and Switzerland. We went to the top of Mt. Pilatus in the Alps on Christmas day. We were so high up that we were looking down through clouds. The best part, though, was that the lift that was supposed to take us back down the mountain closed at noon. We walked to the lift to see that the doors were locked and all the lights were off. We had no idea what to do and were resigned to our eventual deaths until we spied a sign that said “Go here if lift is closed.” We followed the arrow around the corner to find a pile of the world’s tiniest wooden sleds. It was definitely a “one person per ride” kind of situation, and we just had to sled down the Alps. To make it more challenging, everything was blanketed in snow and there were no trails, per se, so you really just had to kick off and hope for the best. You could have been heading towards a cliff, and you absolutely wouldn’t have known until it was too late. It was terrifying and amazing all at once, and I would do it again in a second.

If given ample funds, I would love to travel to Spain, Iceland, Morocco, and the Pacific northwest.

Photo of sleds in the Alps
Jenn’s spontaneous and necessary sledding adventure in the Alps.

Do you have any unique passions or hobbies?

I used to work as a potter on the side and sold my mugs through Heine Brothers for a while. I still make things but less often and mostly give them as gifts to friends.

I am currently learning how to play the cello much to the chagrin of my family, cats, neighbors, and anyone else who may be within earshot. I am really quite terrible but honestly find it so rewarding. It gives me the chance to focus on just one thing at a time rather than five thousand things at a time (which is my usual M.O.). I have wanted to play for years but only just inherited my grandfather’s cello, so that has made the process easier.

On occasion, I also work with oil pastels and do some creative writing on the side.

Photo of pottery
Samples of Jenn’s pottery.

What is a favorite holiday tradition in your family?

We have adopted the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod or “book flood,” which we celebrate on Christmas Eve. My husband and I buy a ton of books for our daughters and for each other, pass them out at night, and then we all stay up late reading and eating chocolate. I honestly think it is because of this tradition that our daughters like to read. It’s hard to dislike books when you pair them with the promise of unlimited sugar and no bedtime. Marketing at its finest, I tell you.

What is a personal or professional lesson you’ve learned?

When I was a new teacher and had no idea how to create boundaries between work and home life, a colleague told me that “work will always expand to fill the time.” I would never work until the work was complete because, to me, the work would never feel complete. Thus, I was pulling extremely long hours and imperiling my health in the process. This statement helped me to set time limits and hard stop times, which ultimately made me more efficient and protected my mental and physical health.

More recently, though, my colleague Tilda Andrews ended an email to me with the line: “Stay the course; trust yourself.” I have never in my whole 40 years been told to trust myself. As a hardcore second-guesser and overthinker, I truly needed to hear these words. I now have this on a post-it by my laptop. It keeps me focused. And sane.

Photo of Jenn and daughters
Jenn and her three daughters, in warmer weather.

Lightning round!

  • French fry dipping sauce: Ketchup
  • Cards or Cats: Cards
  • Dogs or cats: Cats
  • Comfort food: I’m stealing Carol‘s answer here. It’s hard to beat a hearty stew on a chilly night.
  • Favorite holiday: Halloween
  • Favorite season: Summer

Contact Jenn!

Have any burning questions for us? Would you like to see a particular team member featured? Let us know!