The Porchlight

The Porchlight is brought to you by Bethany Hegedus, Creative Director at The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas. ( Join us as we chat with authors, illustrators and other creatives in and outside of the kid-lit field.
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Apr 17, 2019

In this brand new episode of The Porchlight's popular installmentCourage to Create,author Bethany Hegedus talks about the F word. Yes you read me correctly. The dreaded F word: Failure. We've all been there, whether it be a rejection or a bad review or any of the other small failures we encounter in our daily lives as humans, failure is inevitable. But it is not fatal, nor is it final. 

“Success is not final, failureis not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.”
- Winston Churchil

Using this quote as a catalyst for the episode, Bethany Hegedus, discusses some of the many private and public failures writers and creatives come face to face with. We're often searching for 'stamps of approval' in order to feel validate in our work. But what happens when that need for validation gets in the way of the work itself? When the endless stream of stamps of approval takes away the joy that writing brought you in the first place.

That is when we need to take a step back and reflect on our many successes, be thankful that we have something that brings us joy, and continue nurturing and protecting our passion, rather than worry about future failure.

Apr 10, 2019
In this brand new episode of The Porchlight, Bethany Hegedus interviews friend and local Austin author Lindsay Leslie whose debut picture book, THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS, has one of the finest first page turns ever according to a review from Booklist.
Lindsay was a journalism major who worked as a public relations executive, but it wasn't until she found her way into the world of children's literature that she felt safe and at home. She began telling bedtime stories to her children and realized she wanted to write stories as well. In fact, the inspiration for THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS came from her son's messy room when she stepped on a picture book and feared she'd broken its spine.
During the episode, Bethany and Lindsay discuss all the picture book rules and when and how to break them. Lindsay talks about her love of meta picture books and how they allow such a deep connection with readers by pulling them in to be participants in the story. Creation gives Lindsay courage, and writing helps her handle anxiety.
Her hope is that her stories will also help readers handle anxiety, which she says is only one of our feelings and not one that deserves the grand stage. Also, she tells listeners the story of how she first got a book contract offer via a Twitter pitch contest and got an agent second, which flips the usual pattern of things on its head. Tune in today to this funny and inspiring episode of The Porchlight. For more about Lindsay and her work, go to
Feb 13, 2019

In this season 3 finale of The Porchlight Podcast, Bethany Hegedus caps off her newest series Courage to Create with an episode on 

In this inspiring episode Bethany asks listeners to define what meaning, happiness, and purpose looks like in their own lives. How can we gift ourselves these assets on a regular basis? Is our life purpose directly related to our relative happiness? How many times do we as artists put ourselves last, when what we really need to be doing is nourishing the soul that we may better nurture others and our craft.

Throughout the Courage to Create series Bethany has led us through the difficulties and upsets that are all too present in our field, light we can reward ourselves during this difficult (and life long!) journey. 

Complete with personality quizzes, NYT articles, inspiring Facebook posts and more, this Courage to Create episode pulls from the every day to show writers how we can infuse meaning, purpose, and most importantly, happiness into our writer lives. 

If you'd like to learn more about your "Sparktype" take the quiz here!


Feb 6, 2019

Fourth grade teacher and author Rob Sanders joins Bethany for this inspiring episode of The Porchlight where they discuss everything from Rob's literary life to the importance of inclusion, social justice, and perseverance. Rob is the author of eight picture books, including PRIDE, PEACEFUL FIGHTS FOR EQUAL RIGHTS, RODZILLA, and the forthcoming STONEWALL, which allows readers to learn about the rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the gay civil rights movement.

Rob is a Florida resident who met Bethany when he took one of her online classes at The Writing Barn, where he now teaches as well. As someone who loves to leap into new ventures, Rob discusses how he started writing nonfiction and how he seeks to explore new forms, genres, and styles in his work. He believes that the best way to help kids become social justice advocates for themselves and others is to talk to them about all topics and history in an age appropriate way because kids are talking among themselves and need to know the facts.

Rob strives to show both his readers and his students how civil rights progress we have gained initially still has to be maintained, and this is one of many reasons he is passionate about writing stories of diversity and inclusion. Bethany and Rob also discuss their mutual love of teaching and what they learn from their students, both adults and children. For more information about Rob and his work, visit his website at

Jan 30, 2019

In episode six of Courage to Create, Bethany talks about how to become what writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls a deeply disciplined half-ass. Our own inner critic and perfectionism can stop us from even getting started with our writing.

Bethany discusses how we can overcome this and stop our stopping when we are scared. She encourages listeners to forget about perfect and focus on the good, realistic, possible, and fun. Perfectionism keeps us from feeling joy in our work, and Bethany gives tips on how we can find a middle ground and a balance between perfectionism and keeping our work hidden away in our own heads or in the drawers of our desks.

With references to authors Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert and how they are fiercely themselves, Bethany encourages us all to learn the art and humor of becoming our own deeply disciplined half-ass and finding joy in our work. 

Jan 23, 2019
In episode 41 of The Porchlight, Marcie Colleen charms us with her wit and heart, both of which are larger than life. Marcie holds a bachelor’s degree in Education of English and Language Arts from Oswego State University and a master’s degree in Educational Theater from New York University. She is the author of THE SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series with Macmillan/Imprint, as well as her debut picture book, LOVE, TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins), and PENGUINAUT!, illustrated by Emma Yarlett and published by Scholastic in 2018. Marcie creates highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and state mandated standards. She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Marcie is also a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops and teaches online at The Writing Barn, Kidlit Writing School, and other venues. 
During Marcie's interview with host Bethany Hegedus, they discuss the random places ideas can come from and the sometimes difficult process of finding the right title. Marcie details a story of how she listened to too many voices of critique and had to find her way back to her own vision after writing 39 drafts of PENGUINAUT. They give a shout out to author and 12X12 founder Julie Hedlund, featured on episode 20 of The Porchlight, for introducing them online. Marcie also discusses the joy she finds in puns and wordplay and how she uses both in her work. She also believes she was called to teaching and giving back by empowering new writers no matter how green they are because she seeks to lift people up the way she herself was lifted up by her mentors, which include Alvina Ling. Get ready to laugh and be inspired by Marcie Colleen, and find out more about her at
Jan 16, 2019

The dark night of the soul. As writers, we've all been there. We've all had those moments where we feel like our work is not good enough. Will never be good enough. That we are not good enough. In Courage to Create episode #5, Bethany Hegedus walks us through this dark night and leads us back out.

January feels like a fresh start, a new page, a time to move forward. But if you're experiencing a crisis of faith in your work and/or yourself, moving forward can feel impossible. Bethany delves into the hurt of rejections, the shame we often feel, and how we tend to turn that into wondering why we're not good enough and fearing we never will be.

She uses inspiring quotes and vignettes from Anne Lamott and Flannery O'Connor, both successful authors who have been through dark nights of their own. Bethany also reads a letter from one of her Write. Submit. Support. students and encourages listeners to send her their own letters detailing what they say to themselves when they're in a place of doubt and despair.

Most significantly, Bethany guides listeners back into the light and shows us how we can overcome our own dark nights and keep moving forward in our literary lives. You won't want to miss this inspiring episode of The Porchlight.

Jan 9, 2019

On this episode of The Porchlight we flip the script and interview Matthew Winner, Librarian and Podcast Host of All The Wonders, a podcast that we here at The Writing Barn hold near and dear to us. We just knew we had to interview Matthew for The Porchlight. Listen to this in-person interview at The Writing Barn during our Picture Book Intensive (for which Matthew was faculty). 

Today's Porchlight guest is elementary school librarian, author, and host and creator of The Children's Book Podcast (formerly All the Wonders), Matthew Winner. He is the author of ASHA WENT WALKING, a webcomic for young readers, and in 2013, Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker.

Matthew and Bethany discuss the origins of his podcast and how he's just recorded his 469th episode! Matthew details the evolution of his podcast over the years and how he's come to use it as a platform for marginalized voices so that all children feel heard and seen. He believes books should serve as both mirrors and windows and talks about why this is so important. Matthew also discusses how he finds guests for his podcast and who his dream interviews are.

Join Bethany and Matthew for an open, honest, and inspiring conversation on this episode of The Porchlight. And find out all about Matthew and his work at:

All The Wonders is a home for readers to discover new books and to experience the stories they love in wondrous ways. It is an entertainment channel, a variety show, and a modern library all wrapped up into one digital home. Be sure to subscribe!

Jan 2, 2019
In episode four of The Porchlight's new Courage to Create series with Bethany Hegedus, Bethany talks about the power of believing stories and books into being. Courage is a crucial component of that belief, and Bethany discusses how you can find your own courage to create and why she chose to give the series that title. She comments on finding time for your work and saving energy for your creativity even while living your daily life filled with job, family, and friends. Bethany explains how boredom can be a major feeder for creativity and how in our busy lives, we often need to schedule boredom so we have time for long walks and unplugging and focusing on our work. 
Also, Bethany and The Writing Barn want to hear from you, our listeners and students! How can we help you live your best literary life? Where are you feeling courage these days? Where are you feeling fear? Comment on any of our social media and start a dialogue with us about your literary life. Remember, we are navigating this creative journey together!
Dec 19, 2018
In this live Words and Wine event at The Writing Barn, Bethany Hegedus interviews her own literary agent, Alexandra Penfold, who is the author of five picture books plus NEW YORK A LA CART, which spotlights the best of the Big Apple's food-on-the-go. Alex's newest picture book, ALL ARE WELCOME, spent a month on the New York Times bestseller list, and Alex brings her experiences in marketing, editing, and now as an agent and writer to her own work as well as to the work of her clients. 
Dec 12, 2018

In episode three of the new Courage to Create series, Bethany Hegedus takes us through the agent/client relationship, including what it should and should not be, how to make sure it's a fitting partnership on both sides, and how to be your own boss.

How can you know yourself first as a client before entering the relationship? How can you be wary of "schmagents" who are not in it to be your advocate? What do you need and want from an agent? Bethany answers these questions and more on how you can find the right agent and build a professional relationship based on communication and conversations, even those about the tough stuff. Plus she reminds us that continuing to do the work and study the craft and seek our own approval matter more than awards and reviews. Learn and be inspired by Bethany's wisdom and guidance as you navigate your own literary life path. 

Dec 5, 2018
On episode 35 of The Porchlight, Bethany Hegedus speaks with debut author Lucia DiStefano about her YA novel BORROWED, a genre-bending book about the mysteries of cellular memory in a teen girl who receives a heart transplant. Lucia is a first generation Sicilian and the daughter of an olive farmer. She grew up in Connecticut and now lives near Austin, TX. A former high school English teacher, Lucia now not only writes fiction, but she also works as an editor, ghost writer, and writing coach. 
Bethany calls this episode a master class in creativity as she and Lucia delve into what Norman Mailer calls "the spooky art" of writing and the magic and mystery of the creative process. They discuss how the seeds of ideas are first planted in a writer's mind as well as the many iterations ideas can go through as they evolve into a book. Lucia talks about how much she loves to ask the big questions, the ones that don't have easy answers, and how she explores that in her work along with the question: how much control do we truly have over who we are? She and Bethany also ruminate on the importance of feeling excited over a good day's work and remembering to enjoy the process of writing. Find out more about BORROWED at and find Lucia on Twitter @LuciaDiStef
Nov 28, 2018

In episode two of The Porchlight's new series, Courage to Create, Writing Barn founder and author Bethany Hegedus asks listeners to answer the question why were you called to live this literary life? 

Nov 21, 2018
Join Bethany Hegedus as she interviews friend and fellow author, Cate Berry, about Cate's debut picture book, PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON'T DO BEDTIME (Balzer + Bray 2018). The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books has said that "The story is a smartly comedic entry in the genre of the anti-bedtime story, and the exclamatory dialogue-only text adds energy and humor. This will be a joyous bedtime read.” 
Cate is a seventh generation Texan with an MFA in Children's Literature from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also teaches at The Writing Barn and is a longtime member of SCBWI and The Writer's League of Texas. Cate speaks at schools, libraries, and conferences year round. Visit her online at
In this entertaining and inspiring episode, Bethany and Cate discuss the circuitous journey of the literary life, the walls women must scale to break into comedy, and they even sing a little! The episode also touches on how important inclusivity and diversity are in picture books and how all children's writers need to be aware of avoiding stereotypes in their work. Both writers agree that children love to feel empowered, and a good book can do that. Finally, they discuss how they find time to squeeze writing in, even at the most unlikely places. 
Nov 14, 2018
Writing Barn founder and director, Bethany Hegedus, launches her Literary Life series of talks on this episode of The Porchlight. Bethany's goal with these episodes is to delve deeply into what leading a literary life means to each individual and how we can keep ourselves inspired and engaged in our work without neglecting the many other areas of our lives. This series grew out of a talk Bethany gave years ago, and then it evolved into the Write. Submit. Support classes offered both in-person and online at The Writing Barn. The next evolution of Bethany's idea is this, the podcast, where she monologues on how we can engage with ourselves and our work as well as with the community of creators around us in order to lead our best, most fulfilling creative lives. In this pilot episode, Bethany goes through Elmore Leonard and Zadie Smith's Top Ten Rules for living a literary life as well as her own list. Hoping these talks will serve as a creative tool for listeners to get in touch with their own goals and make their own lists, Bethany is sure to encourage, educate, and inspire in this new podcast series.
Nov 7, 2018

Jamie A. Swenson, author of the newly released picture book A FALL BALL FOR ALL, joins Bethany on this episode of The Porchlight. Jamie has an MFA from Hamline University and is the author of four picture books and two chapter books, including BIG RIG and MEET WOOF AND QUACK. She's also an associate librarian and early literacy story teller who lives in Wisconsin and is teaching an online picture book class via The Writing Barn beginning in January 2019.

During their conversation, Bethany and Jamie discuss the challenges of writing rhyming picture books and the importance of punctuation and page turns in the picture book format as well as how a writer can leave room for the illustrator. They share their mutual love of author Phyllis Root and discuss how much they learn not only as students but also as teachers of other writers. Jamie shares how she makes time for her writing amidst her busy work and life schedules, and Bethany calls Jamie's commentary a master class in living the literary life. To learn more about Jamie, visit her website at

Sep 7, 2018

In this latest episode of The Porchlight Podcast, Writing Barn Founder, Bethany Hegedus, speaks with author, long-time friend, and Austin's own SCBWI Regional Advisor, Samantha M. Clark. Listen as they discuss the release of Samantha's debut novel, The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast  (Simon & Schuster 2018).

This inspiring episode touches on craft, creation, and the long, sometimes arduous road your book must take on its way to publication. But as Sam points out in this episode, the only thing we can control is the creation itself, all we can control is finding the heart of the story, making sure it beats with intention and power. If we do this, then we have done enough.

Samantha M. Clark loves stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances because if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? Until she finds her own real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. She grew up in different countries around the world and now lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and she explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Visit her online at

Aug 21, 2018

In this newest episode of The Porchlight, Writing Barn Founder talks with poet and novelist Carrie Fountain about her debut novel I'm Not Missing (Flatiron Books 2018). 

I'm Not Missing, is a coming of age novel set in Las Cruces, New Mexico and follows the life of the protagonist, Miranda, as she navigates her senior year and the sudden disappearance of her best friend. 

In this episode Bethany and Carrie discuss the writer life, transitioning from poetry to Young Adult Fiction and the power and honor behind being a woman writing for younger women. Carrie and Bethany reminisce on the books that changed them as young readers, from Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes, to Tolstoy's War and Peace

Enjoy our latest episode of The Porchlight, and don't forget to pick up your own copy of I'm Not Missing by Carrie Fountain, on shelves now!

Aug 7, 2018

Dianne White  is the award-winning author of Blue on Blue (S&S/Beach Lane Books), illustrated by Caldecott medalist, Beth Krommes. She holds an elementary bilingual teaching credential and a master’s degree in Language and Literacy. In 2007, she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

After 25 years teaching students of all ages, Dianne now writes full-time from her home in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. Two new picture books are forthcoming in 2018 – Goodbye Brings Hello, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Who Eats Orange?, illustrated by Robin Page (S&S/Beach Lane Books). Visit Dianne online at

Jun 20, 2018


Author Natalia Sylvester joins Bethany at The Writing Barn for this interview in which they discuss Natalia’s first novel, CHASING THE SUN, as well as her recently published second novel, EVERYONE KNOWS YOU GO HOME. Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia came to the U.S. at age four and has lived in Florida and Texas. She received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University.
During their conversation, Natalia and Bethany talk about the revision process, and Natalia mentions some methods she uses to revise. She and Bethany also discuss the question of whether talent can be taught or not and whether they think talent is more important vs. the desire to write and the commitment to it. They also delve into the complexities of the shift between public life as a published author and private life as a writer. Natalia then details some of her experiences as a Latina writer and how she and her work are perceived. To find out more about Natalia and her novels, go to
May 15, 2018
This episode of the Porchlight features Deborah Hopkinson, author of more than 50 books for young readers, including picture books, middle grade fiction and nonfiction. Her she discusses her newest book, Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen, a picture book biography of a now famous author - who was neither rich nor famous during her lifetime. She talks about the writer's role as an observer of everyday life and how the events of childhood contribute to who we become as adults, as well as the importance of revision and growing as a writer. And how even after 50 books, she still goes through many, many drafts and has several books rejected each year.
Deborah Hopkinson website:
Publishers link to book:
Melissa Sweet's nonfiction categories posts: (mentioned in the discussion)
May 15, 2018

In this episode, Bethany talks to picture book author Lisl Detlefsen.

Lisl is the author of TIME FOR CRANBERRIES and IF YOU HAD A JET PACK as well as the forthcoming 3, 2, 1 JUMP!, a humorous book about swimming lessons. Lisl lives on a family-owned cranberry marsh near Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, with her husband and two sons.

She grew up with a mother who was a librarian and created a customized class in children’s literature for Lisl to study while she was majoring in art in college. During their conversation, Lisl and Bethany discuss being both picture book writers and novelists. They also talk about how craft study is a lifelong pursuit and that living a creative life is a choice people must make every day. They hash over the feeling of imposter syndrome and how it often sticks with writers, published or not. You can find Lisl online at

This summer, Lisl will also be teaching Perfecting the Picture Book I online at The Writing Barn for six weeks beginning June 11th. Go to for more information and to register. 

Apr 18, 2018
This inspiring episode of The Porchlight features middle grade author Nanci Turner Steveson, author of SWING SIDEWAYS and GEORGIA RULES as well as a forthcoming novel in 2019. Nanci grew up in a large family of six kids, and after raising her two sons in Maryland, she now lives in a historic meadow cabin in the shadow of the Teton mountains in Wyoming. Nanci says she was the kid who walked around with her head in the clouds, a book in one hand, and the reins of a pony in the other. Reading BLACK BEAUTY at age nine inspired Nancy to be a writer.
During their conversation, Bethany and Nanci discuss everything from why debut books are so special to how Nancy learned the craft of writing through workshops, conferences, critiques, and being Bethany's mentee. They talk about the power of bringing setting to life as its own character and how setting can offer both readers and characters new places that allow them to figure out where they fit in the world. Nanci comments on the complex relationships between mothers and daughters in her work and how writing, especially during challenging times in her life, has been both cathartic and sanity-saving for her. And keep listening to learn about the joy and healing power of trees and the influences of good juju on creativity!
Apr 11, 2018
Daria Peoples-Riley’s first job was at nine years old in the children’s section of her hometown library. Much later, she became a teacher, and now she is a full-time author and illustrator. THIS IS IT is her first picture book inspired by her daughter, her rich cultural background, and their first visit to New York City. She lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In this Porchlight conversation, Bethany and Daria discuss Daria's inspired path to becoming an author/illustrator and how both her childhood and her own daughter were stepping stones along the way. They talk about the unique challenge of being both an author and an illustrator and Daria's desire to reach children who rarely, if ever, see themselves in books. Daria discusses her experiences with the We Need Diverse Books campaign and the impact it's had on both her personal and professional life as a woman of color who can "check lots of boxes" when she's asked about her heritage. Daria also explains how she came to realize her stories are worthy and important and how she hopes they will help children navigate through the rough places in their lives. 
For more information on We Need Diverse Books, go to and #weneeddiversebooks
You can find out more about Daria at 
Apr 6, 2018
Lina Maslo is the debut author and illustrator of FREE AS A BIRD: THE STORY OF MALALA and the forthcoming picture book biography of C.S. Lewis, THE DOOR TO NARNIA, which will be published in 2019. Lina was born in Ukraine and came to the USA at age five. She has an art degree from New College of Florida and now lives in South Carolina with her husband and four children.
In this Porchlight episode, Bethany Hegedus and Lina Maslo discuss Lina's path to publication and how her life changed once she found an agent to represent FREE AS A BIRD: THE STORY OF MALALA. Lina was first drawn to Malala's story after reading her autobiography and realizing that Malala's relationship with her parents, and in particular her father, hadn't yet been covered in other works. Through her take on Malala's courageous story, Lina hopes readers will learn about the power of words and how they can be used to make a difference as well as learn about the power and privilege of receiving an education no matter where in the world you live. Lina and Bethany also chat about the need for authors writing biographies to find a personal connection with their subjects as well as discussing the encouragement a skilled, enthusiastic editor can give authors and illustrators. Finally, they talk about the many challenges of being both a working parent and a creative artist.
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