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Retired Military Man Turns Novelist


Ken Jewett '76 keeps history alive through his series of novels, using his own family as characters living through the Revolutionary War. Combining his love of history with his extensive military experience, Jewett has created a three-book series that chronicles the struggles of a family living in colonial Virginia. His first book, To the Valley, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by its publisher, Ithaca Press. The Valley series actually began as letters by Jewett to his nephew. When visiting historical sites such as Williamsburg, Jewett would write as if her were living during that time period. 

A history major, he joined the Air Force after graduation, specializing in intercontinental ballistic missile operations for 22 years before moving into the diplomatic arena. It wasn't until he retired as a colonel after 30 years of service that Jewett expanded those early letters into a book. The first novel started as a way for his two nephews to connect with a grandfather they had never met, as well as with other family members from the past. "I use a lot of family names in the books; it makes it fun for them," he said. In fact, the stories revolve around the Jewett family, who often interacts with well-known figures, including George Washington and Daniel Boone. While his writings are set in the past, the writing process is very much a part of the 21st century. "How I've written has changed a lot," he said. For instance, to locate a publisher for his books, he simply searched online. "I don't send them a fat envelope with pages anymore. They want an electronic copy. The editor sends her comments back via e-mail. Other than the gallery proof, which is paper, all work is done via 21st-century methods."

Jewett's early experiences at Otterbein have helped him in both his military and his writing careers: "The best thing about an Otterbein education is you have to learn, youcan't hide in a large lecture hall," he said. "Beyond writing your paper in proper English, you also had to do proper research so you actually had something to say.... Defending myself before Drs. Hancock and Holtermann was more nerve-wrecking than standing before any general, precisely because they had taught me so well."