Posts by WritingBarnAdmin

Writing Process Blog Tour

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Writing Process | Comments Off on Writing Process Blog Tour

Writing Process Blog Tour

We writers love talking process. So much so that the smart and perhaps a little evil (one of her next books is titled Evil Librarian) Michelle Knudsen and Paula Freedman put together a Writing Process Blog Tour. Whether you’re a fellow published author  or have yet to be published, this collection of blog posts offers tips of the trade, confessions on what makes a writer’s process unique and much, much, more. Last week’s writer spotlight was on the mysterious F. A. Michaels, where she shared about her process, writing multiple books at a time, and some funny facts about her new time travel romance. This week, I am in the hot seat, as is Donna Bowman Bratton.   What am I currently working on? Oh, this is a scary question. I usually love talking about what I am working on. I am not one of those writers that believe talking about a project steals energy away from it. Yes, I believe you shouldn’t share a project too soon, when someone’s reaction or questions may stop you from getting to the page, but once I begin, I have a trusted circle of writer friends with whom I routinely share pages. A small circle is not the interwebs…but here goes; I am flying without a net, just like the main character in my dark YA circus fantasy. Yep, you heard right. Me: Middle-grade realistic and historical writer and picture book author am working on a YA fantasy!  The plot is still developing; I am about 75 pages into the first draft and it is unlike anything I have ever written before. The main conflict is not only over who will control the fate of the Ibolya circus, but if Magik will be wiped from the land of Magya, as General Soros works to cleanse the land of all those with Magikal blood. Sixteen-year-old Ada Barbas, an acrobat and Ibolya’s premier act, is at the center of the struggle. As Soros develops a blood test to uncover who contains Magik or not, will her bond with Emil, the Joiner, who has miraculously moved to the ranks of a Talent, be severed forever? It’s the first time I am working in omniscience as well. Here is a small section, from the Teller’s point of view. The Teller held her breath as twenty feet away, a caped Barker and blanketed figure moved through the night. At first, because of the mention of drink, the Teller wondered if the Barker was leading another village girl to his wagon, but the blanketed figure was as tall as the Barker and had larger shoulders, like that of an ox. It had to be Emil, cloaked in a thick blanket to keep warm, as the Barker led him to Isten knows where. She had left her hand drawn cards in her wagon. Not thinking to bring her sacred pouch with her was foolish, and the Teller could not afford to be foolish. One palm resting on the rough bark of the tree, she moved the other to her heart. She bowed her head and prayed, “Show me where they go, if this knowledge need be mine.” With eyes closed, with no stars shining under her lids, Orion’s bow lit up the light of her inner eye and it pointed directly at the girl with the white hot heart, Ada. They were on their way to wake the daughter of the dead. The Teller pushed off from where she’d stopped, careful to place her wooden cane a few inches in front of her, and hurried herself along.   How...

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Austin American Statesman feature on Grandfather Gandhi

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi | Comments Off on Austin American Statesman feature on Grandfather Gandhi

Austin American Statesman feature on Grandfather Gandhi

This past Friday, the Austin American-Statesman published an article featuring The Writing Barn’s owner and creative director, Bethany Hegedus. The article discussed her new children’s book, Grandfather Gandhi, inspired by events told by Gandhi’s own grandson, Arun Gandhi. The book is out now. You can purchase it at Book People. It is a great read for all ages. Click Here to Read the Entire...

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An Open Book Foundation: A Book for Every Child

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi, School Visits | Comments Off on An Open Book Foundation: A Book for Every Child

An Open Book Foundation: A Book for Every Child

It’s an author’s dream to do a school visit and have each and every child in the audience that day leave with a signed copy. Not only is it an author’s dream, more importantly it’s a child’s dream. An Open Book Foundation makes dreams come true for kids, for educators and for authors. Their mission: “to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving books to students and schools and providing access to authors and illustrators.”  Dara La Porte, founder of An Open Book Foundation, saw the inequity in the schools and kids who got to welcome authors, whether in-house or at indie bookstores such as the wonderful Politics & Prose, where she once worked and she decided to do something about it. Knowing every child deserves a home library, with special books made even more special with author and illustrator signatures, she got to work raising money, writing grants, and getting the books into the hands of eager readers. She welcomed me to the DC area, escorting me from my hotel to Graham Road Elementary in Falls Church Virginia, with Aino Askaagar, and 120 copies of Grandfather Gandhi to give out to the awaiting students. I was thrilled to see the awaiting stack of books, and even more thrilled to get to present to the kids. At school visits, we talk not only about the book, but also about becoming an author. We talk about drafting, ideas and I even admit my revision times. (Which are usually the age of the kids or older. Grandfather Gandhi took 8 years to revise and 12 before it hit the shelves!) Then we get down to Gandhi. It’s surprising how many students today aren’t familiar with Gandhi and his work. I begin by talking to the kids about what they do know–that he is a leader, from India. Students may know he worked to free India from British rule. I ask who else the British once owned and when the answer is “US” as in U.S. or us, we go on to compare the Boston Tea Party to Gandhi’s Salt March and the idea that though he wanted freedom, he didn’t want to fight for it, but to rather use his words as weapons, creating lasting change. After a reading of Grandfather Gandhi we discuss the themes and visual aspect of the book. This is always eye-opening for me as the kids in attendance bring new insights and questions to the discussion. Every school visit is joyful, as I love inspiring kids to read, but it is especially meaningful to me to have deep discussions with kids about anger and violence and how we can choose to act rather than react. Even though their grandfather isn’t a Gandhi, kids relate to the pressure to live up to family ideals, they relate to being shoved on the soccer field, and they relate to feeling “other” as Arun does on the ashram, and they relate to Arun’s hidden shame. The interesting thing is when we talk about our shame and our anger, it often disappears. And what we are left with is connection and all of us feeling and trying to better ourselves.                 Thank you to the students at Graham Road Elementary for welcoming me, for participating in the discussion of transforming our anger from lightning to lamp, and for cherishing the donated books that Dara and the others at An Open Book Foundation work so hard to bring you. “The students were really engaged and I loved...

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Learning about Lightning: Grandfather Gandhi School Visits

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi | Comments Off on Learning about Lightning: Grandfather Gandhi School Visits

Learning about Lightning: Grandfather Gandhi School Visits

This last week, a day after the pub date, for Grandfather Gandhi, I was out in the “field”—visiting classrooms, sharing the story behind the-story of Grandfather Gandhi (for more on how the book came to be, read this interview with Arun Gandhi and myself by Kirkus), reading the book, and talking to kids about choosing to live our lives as light and how to use our anger proactively. At Newton Country Day, when I asked the girls (it’s an all-girls school) whether or not they had ever been pushed or shoved on the playground and pushed or shoved back I heard a chorus of “yeses.” I was proud of the audience, for telling the truth—which can be hard, when we know our behavior is not what the adult wants to hear or may disapprove of. This honest answer was brave and important, because it is only in telling the truth to ourselves, that we are able to look at our internal feelings and outer behaviors and make choices. Our discussion of lashing out “like lightning” when the conditions are ripe, did not stop there. After a reading of the book, we discussed Arun’s anger. Participating in the talk with the girls, we discovered that Arun wasn’t just angry by being shoved during the soccer match, about what was happening in the moment. When I asked why else he may have been angry, one girl’s hand shot up. “His tutor was mean to him.” This was an eye-opener. I hadn’t thought of this before but it opened up a discussion on teacher expectations and family expectations, things the audience could relate to. We then went on to discuss the racial beatings Arun endured. We came to a conclusion that all of these things had been boiling around inside Arun for awhile and the moment on the soccer field was about more than just that moment and those circumstances. I asked the students to, when thinking about their own anger, to not just examine what was happening in the moment but to look back at the days, weeks, and months before and see if something had been bothering them that they choose to let out in the “lightning” moment. During the Q&A the 5th and 6th grades had wonderful questions—including asking if I had ever gotten rejected as a writer—and later with librarian, Rebecca Kinney, we got down on our hands and knees and made color wheels, to model the feeling of concentration and peace that comes with sitting before a spinning wheel, an important instrument in Gandhi’s non-violent teachings and movement. This hands-on-activity was designed by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City. On Friday, I visited Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island. Here I talked to grades 2 through 5 at different times throughout the day—the last day before spring break! I’d heard horror stories of presenting to kids before vacations but the kids at Moses Brown were attentive, well-prepared by their school librarian, Laura Gladding, and were supported by informed teachers, as “peace” is part of the school’s mission. Here, with the different age levels and multiple sessions, our discussions varied from presentation to presentation. Again, the kids in attendance, thought deeply and meaningfully about the story and we had eye-opening discussions on the emotional renderings in Evan Turk’s illustrations. One child brought up how when Arun was angry, his face was very big and the perspective close up. This comment had me realize how when we are angry, our emotions feel like they are consuming us and everything feels larger-than-life. Another child commented on how when Arun was...

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Journey to the Picture Book

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Arun Gandhi, Grandfather Gandhi | Comments Off on Journey to the Picture Book

Journey to the Picture Book

  In February of 2002, Arun and I began corresponding over email and telephone about the possibility of creating the book that would become Grandfather Gandhi. He sent me manuscript pages of what would become his book, Legacy of Love: My Education in the Path of Nonviolence and I read, attempting to find and translate Arun’s experience of his grandfather into stories that would work in the picture book form. There was much we wanted to include. I was struck by the autograph story, the pencil story, which Arun shares and is referenced in the final Grandfather Gandhi text. I was riveted about how on the ashram there was no waste, and how when Arun threw the nub of a pencil out into a field, that night he was asked by his grandfather to retrieve it. We began to work, me drafting and composing, and Arun fact-checking and helping me with precise facts about India and its culture and being sure the emotional truth being told was his own. We did this off and on, until we secured an agent for the project and for my other work, but time and time again, though publishing houses were interested in the concept, they had other ideas. We were told it should be a middle grade book, after all Arun was 12 when he began living at Sevagram. Picture books took place in one day, one week…Arun’s time with his grandfather took place over two years. Each time we had a no, I’d sit with it, not sharing it with Arun for a bit, as not to bother him with his busy schedule. I’d reach out again when there was more revision work to do, when I had found I had more questions that needed answering. Around 2005, Arun’s wife Sunanda, was becoming ill and they moved from Mississippi where they had began a non-violence institute to Rochester, New York to live closer to one of their children. I lived in New York City then and I proposed we meet, finally. Off I went to interview Arun in person, in his home, this small townhouse that was much like the one my parents were living in outside Atlanta. He welcomed me, and his lovely wife Sunanda who was ill stayed in her recliner, as Arun prepared the tea. He asked me if I took sugar, and Sunanda, said her husband always took two lumps, “It keeps him sweet,” she told me. Over his kitchen table, we rifled through his papers, I asked more questions, searching for details, for what the story was missing. It wasn’t to be a chapter book, a middle-grade non-fiction title or even a fictional story based on Arun’s experiences living with his grandfather in India. The night I heard Arun talk, when I had gone to hear him to help me release the sadness and pain of what I witnessed on 9/11, I had thought, “these would make beautiful picture books” and it was a picture book I wanted to tell, and I knew we were doing something different. In fact, Kirkus in its starred review  dubbed our final product, “a picture book memoir” which was far as I know, hasn’t been a term used before. For many years, the manuscript opened with the scene of Arun being beaten by whites in South Africa, where he was born and raised, for “whistling” in a white neighborhood—although as Arun walked it was a servant that whistled, and not him. Weeks after enduring the harsh beating of white adults, those college age and older, Arun was beaten by Zulu’s for...

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