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Alabama Spitfire Announced

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in Alabama Spitfire | 0 comments

Alabama Spitfire Announced

Kristin Rens of HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray has acquired world rights to Bethany Hegedus’ (l.) Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird in a pre-empt. This first picture book biography of the renowned author tells how a scrappy tomboy named Nelle realized her lifelong dream of becoming an author and penned one of the most influential books of our time. Erin McGuire will illustrate; publication is scheduled for spring 2018; Alexandra Penfold at Upstart Crow Literary represented the author and Susan Cohen of Writers House represented the illustrator.” —Publishers...

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School Visit at NYOS (Not Your Ordinary School) Charter School

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in Grandfather Gandhi, School Visits | Comments Off on School Visit at NYOS (Not Your Ordinary School) Charter School

School Visit at NYOS (Not Your Ordinary School) Charter School

  On March 27, 2015 Bethany Hegedus visited the Kramer & Lamar campuses at the NYOS (Not Your Ordinary School) to inspire students to choose to live as light and make positive change in the world. Her presentation on Grandfather Gandhi left a glow on the school with staff and students taking the “Live your Life as Light” pledge and promising to make a difference. Here are a few snapshots and testimonials to enlighten your day. “While reading Grandfather Gandhi with Benjamin yesterday he was able to tell me the black string represented anger.  When we finished he said that he wanted to live like Gandhi and really seemed to think about anger and how to be peaceful.  I was happy to see that a 5 year old was able to think in such a way.” – Melissa Hefner, teacher and parent.  “Bethany Hegedus is an amazing speaker. She kept all the students engaged and participating, Pre-K through 5th grade. She talked about the writing process and how the first step was to, “Read, Read, Read!” and the last step was to, “Revise, Revise, Revise!” She taught the students about living as light and the choices we have when we are angry. She taught the students that writing is a process and it takes time, but never to give up. I love that she told the students to start by telling their story aloud to themselves over and over again before writing it down. Her book, Grandfather Gandhi, speaks not just to students but to teachers and all adults everywhere. It is an amazing story to be shared. I know my students and I will choose to live as light and will change the world, one choice at a time!”–Lisa Boone, librarian NYOS Charter School, Austin. Bethany would like to thank everyone at NYOS Charter School for their wonderful hospitality and a special thank you to librarian extraordinaire Lisa Boone and her mother-in-law for making the visit possible. Bethany is excited to see the talented young writers pouring out their hearts in their first and finished drafts. Thank you to Ms. Boone for sending along their writing samples.  ...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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On 9/11

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi | Comments Off on On 9/11

On 9/11

  The journey of the picture book Grandfather Gandhi began for me on a cloudless early fall day in Manhattan. I was wearing a lime green linen coat over a lime green top with black trousers. I don’t remember the shoes, but I remember the rest of the outfit. I never wore it again. I made it to work, as a receptionist, at One World Financial Center, a bit late that morning. I was to clock in at 8:30 am but I had a headache and was moving slower than usual. I hopped off the Path train under the Trade Towers as I did every Monday through Friday since I moved to NYC three years earlier. I made it through the maze of the underground concourse and I exited Two WTC. I stopped at a fruit vendor to buy an orange before hustling across the bridge over Vessey Street. I had made it to the office at 8:40am. I had just enough time to log in to my computer and grab a cup of coffee from the break room and open the main doors to the 31st floor before the first plane, Flight 11 hit. One World Financial was all glass. The man in the corner office closets to One WTC stepped into the hallway screaming, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” I turned and fuselage was flying by the sliver of window behind me. I threw open the closed door to the left of reception and repeated his words to the side of the building that faced the Statue of Liberty. As a fire searcher for the company I worked for, I checked the bathrooms and my side of the building and made sure everyone had exited the floor before I did. The stairway was backed up. There were too many bodies. Some folks chatted, having grabbed their bagels and coffee. Without any news, we didn’t know what had really happened. Word of mouth said it was a small plane and the pilot had a heart attack. I stopped on a floor about ten flights below where I worked, looking for my boss, Maureen, our fire warden. We were to go ten flights and call the lobby. That was our duty, what we were supposed to do. The floor I entered was a brokerage house. It was all windows, no offices or partitions. I found Maureen. She had worked at the WTC in 1993, at the time of the first terrorist attack on the building, and knew this was an act of terrorism, but I fought that realization until I saw someone jump. And another. And another. There were so many people on the streets and with the fuselage and now bodies plummeting to the ground we were safer inside, we were told. We took the elevators to our floor, the second from the top. Once at my desk, I tried calling my parents in Georgia but didn’t get them. My aunt picked up at her place, and had heard what I heard from watching Today—a small plane, pilot heart attack. Then I called my brother, who was in line at the DMV; he didn’t understand what I was saying. He thought I was hysterical, muttering about planes and people jumping. We hung up and I called...

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These Stories Should Be a Picture Book

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Arun Gandhi, Grandfather Gandhi | Comments Off on These Stories Should Be a Picture Book

These Stories Should Be a Picture Book

A month after 9/11, I sat in the wooden chairs of Town Hall on West 43rd street, and listened to Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi tell stories of living with his grandfather at the Sevagram ashram as a boy. Arun had been invited by Paul Tenglia of Unity New York, to speak to the city. To help us heal. Arun spoke that night about many things but the thing that stuck with me most was his story of his grandfather relating to him that anger was like electricity. I turned to my friends, Maggie and Dawn Marie, and whispered “these stories should be a picture book.” They nodded and by the end of the talk, I felt more alive than I had since turning on my office computer that Tuesday morning. I was coming back to myself. I took the postcard advertising Arun Gandhi’s talk home with me. The company I worked for had relocated to the Grand Central area, first occupying the hallways of other branches of CIBC Oppenheimer, and then later moving into our own space a few blocks away. I hung the postcard on my bulletin board and often I’d stare up at the Mahatma’s face while I worked. I had moved to NYC to become an actor, but instead discovered I was a writer. The day job as a receptionist allowed me to work on my fiction when I wasn’t answering the phones or greeting clients. I continued to stare at the Mahatma’s face, close my eyes and hear Arun’s words, all the while telling myself though Arun’s story should be a book for children, that I was not the one to help write it. Why would he work with me? I wasn’t published. I’d only been writing a year or two. I’d never been to India. I wasn’t a Gandhi scholar. I had no ties or connection to Mr. Gandhi but still the thought didn’t leave me, “his story would be a beautiful picture book.” At the time, I was working on what would become my first novel, Between Us Baxters, which is set in the civil rights era. I had long been a student of this time period, and came to know Gandhi’s work because of his influence on Dr. Martin Luther King. The thought of a Gandhi book wouldn’t leave me as I worked on my novel, and one day, I had the thought: The Mahatma believed we are all one. Perhaps his grandson, despite my lack of credits, won’t see me as unworthy either. I searched the web, checked with the minister who’d invited Gandhi to Town Hall to see if I had the correct email address and finally after months of trying to talk myself out of it, I sent Mr. Gandhi an email, asking him to work with me. I mentioned hearing his talk, being a 9/11 fire searcher at One WFC, and my love of children’s literature and the novel I was working on. I did everything I could to say yes to myself as I made the biggest ask I had ever made, hoping he would feel my passion and know I was the right person to tell this story. On January 29, 2002, Arun sent back his reply. It was a yes. Many nos...

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There is No Preparing for India

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi, India | Comments Off on There is No Preparing for India

There is No Preparing for India

Post by Bethany Hegedus In 2012, I married my husband, Vivek Bakshi, a man whose voice if I once heard it on a dollar bus in Jersey City would have made me blood pressure rise. My husband is from India, born and raised in Lucknow. He studied at Indian Institute of Technology  (IIT Kanpur) and has lived in the United States for the last thirty years. (And for anyone wondering, my father also learned from his prejudices and he accepted my husband into our family with arms wide open. His race and nationality were never up for discussion.) In late 2013, we traveled to India for a family wedding. It was my first trip and I was beyond myself excited. After meeting a few of my husband’s childhood friends, one of which who commented on how accommodating I was, I wrote this in my journal. Here, my presence is thankful—grateful. This country, this family, lost this man, whether it meant to gift him to me or not—it has. This man, my husband of almost two years, knows I am not accommodating, for the sake of people pleasing, which I could care less about, but out of a respect for him, his family, and this country that gave me a purpose—The Gandhi book—which is soon to come out and which, in turn gave me a family: my husband, his daughter, and our dog. All of which make up that family for now. I am not surprised that as I drive around in the back of a small packed sedan there is a smile on my face. It is exhilarating here. The place is brimming with life, with struggle, with pride and ego and spirituality and the shedding of the false self. My husband told me, “There is no preparing for India.” I didn’t understand this before I arrived but now I do.  There is no preparation needed here, because in India, as with life itself, which I believe is the way our Master intended, we learn as we go. We take the moment before us and we say, ‘Namaste.‘” We surge our vehicle into the road and announce—it is my turn. We shout and we haggle and we weep and we inwardly smile when the wife of your husband’s brother says to you, about your first sari, “It is alright that we wear a similar shade, we are sisters.” And we are. The thread of my family is many colors....

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