Grandfather Gandhi

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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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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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 a friend of mine, an actress, who lived in the Bronx. I got her at about 9:02 a.m. I was trying to tell her I was okay, when the building I was shuttered as if in an earthquake as flight 175 flew right over our building and hit Two WTC...

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