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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The Porchlight




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Feb 7, 2018

This episode features founder of 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, Julie Hedlund. Julie is an award-winning children's book author and a regular speaker at SCBWI and other industry events. Her latest book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014) has been hailed as belonging on the shelf "between Guess How Much I Love You and Goodnight Moon." Her book A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS (Little Bahalia, 2013) was also published as an interactive storybook app and received the 2014 Independent Book Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Digital Gold Award. When she is not acting like a monkey while spending time with her two children, Julie is busy writing more books and visiting with the kids who read them at schools, bookstores and libraries.

We discuss the ins and outs of 12 x 12, which is now going on it's 7th year. Julie originally wanted members to, "Get those ideas down on paper so you have something to work with," but over the years, 12 x 12, "Grew into more than a challenge. It became a community and now a family." We even hear a bit of Julie's personal journey. Did Julie choose the literary life? Or did it choose her?

12 x 12 Challenge

Jan 24, 2018

In this Writing Barn Words and Wine event, Program Manager Claire Campbell talks with author Cory Putman Oakes about her latest book, Witchtown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books For Young Readers) takes place in the wake of the Second Inquisition, in which modern day witches live in witch-only communities called Havens. Cory discusses her process of research for the book including watching Bewitched, studying herbs, and Wiccan theology.

Kirkus Reviews said, “This uncomplicated, romantic story will charm reluctant readers who want a little magic.” and Booklist said, “This genre-blender - think Ocean’s 11 meets Charmed – is an enjoyable coming-of-age tale sure to be a hit with readers who like their romance or mystery with a hint of the paranormal.”

Cory's Website

Dec 7, 2017
Episode 18 features Newbery winner Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw and most recently, Wishtree. Our Porchlight conversation with Katherine Applegate explores developing a unique point of view character, along with the optimism of middle grade readers. 
Katherine also reflects on the writing process and her journey - including the time she considered giving up on the Ivan manuscript and the dynamics of the author/agent relationship. 
Includes announcement of Katherine's Write, Submit, Support scholarship in honor of poet Mary Carolyn Davies, who wrote the epigraph that opens Wishtree.
Wishtree book trailer
Wishtree website
Nov 22, 2017
Episode 17 features Hannah Barnaby, author of novels Wonder Show and Some of the Parts and picture books Bad Guy and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring
Our Porchlight conversation with Hannah Barnaby explores her progression from writing novels to picture books, and how she balances working-writing mom balance. She discusses her publishing journey, as well as how illustrations enhance the tone and voice of her picture books.  Discussion includes looking at what is conceptually complete in picture book writing versus what is creatively complete, and where there is room to grow with illustrators and publishers. 

Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunesGoogle Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with  others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.

Oct 19, 2017

Disclaimer: This episode contains some distracting paper shuffling. Nothing too jarring. We wouldn't be serious writers without some paper shuffling every once in a while anyway. Thanks!

Sheryl Scarborough, author of debut novel To Catch A Killer and forthcoming sequel To Right a Wrong (February 2018) by Tor Teen. Sheryl is award-winning writer for children’s television and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, lives in Washington state, and has always had an obsession with forensics. 

In this Porchlight conversation Bethany and Sheryl talk about looking at the “why” of their writing and how that adds depth to the work. They discuss how the writer might not immediately see their personal connection to their story, but they can find power in connecting the emotionality between themselves and the work itself. Sheryl talks about the differences between writing for television and writing books and how the three act structure is paramount. She explains how “structure creates your pace” and how “the genre chooses the writer”. She shares the support in her writing community and what can be learned from reviews.

Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunesGoogle Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.

Show Notes:

(book covers & author photos) – all available on Sheryl’s website:

Sheryl’s social media: Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook

Oct 4, 2017

This episode features the sparkly, Sarah Aronson. Sarah began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Titles forthcoming include her first nonfiction picture book, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books, TBD) and a new young MG series about the worst fairy godmother ever, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017). When Sarah is not writing or reading (or cooking or riding her bike), she is talking to readers about creativity, writing, and of course, sparkle power! She loves working with other writers in one of her classes at Writer's on the Net* or the amazing Highlights Foundation. She is also the cofounder and organizer of the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at VCFA, now approaching its fifteenth year. She has served as an SCBWI mentor in both Illinois and Michigan. She overuses exclamation points. When she’s excited, she talks with her hands.

This Porchlight conversation is full of humor and light. We discuss talent vs. hard work, world building, writing a series, and of course, sparkles! "There are three things you need to write a book, inspiration, intuition (which includes a lot of luck), and the hard work." Sarah shares how she uses the Pomodoro Technique as well as her own personal take on the word, mentor. "A writing teacher is a friend who gives you keys to a car."


Sarah Aronson's Blog

Monday Morning Motivations

Writer's on the Net

Sep 6, 2017
In this Writing Barn Words and Wine event, Program Manager Claire Campbell talks with author and illustrator Misha Maynerick Blaise about her new book, This Phenomenal Life (Lyons Press, 2017). The book explores the beauty and humor of science through surprising facts about the world around us and our connection with the universe. Misha discusses her process of making art, writers and illustrators who have influenced her and sources of inspiration. 
Publishers Weekly gave This Phenomenal Life a starred review, saying the lovely graphic book "offers a sweet-spirited reminder that all human beings are more alike than different, and that the entire cosmos is interconnected in ways we're only beginning to comprehend."
Her next book, This is Texas, Y'all, is due from Lone Star Books in October.
Misha's Website
Publishers Weekly Review
Aug 23, 2017
Episode Thirteen features Jason Gallaher, author of Whobert Whoover, Owl Detective, Margaret K. McElderry Books, July 2017. Jason's debut picture book solves the mystery of what happened to Perry the Possum. Whobert Whover, Owl Detective, is on the case to keep his woods safe in this hilarious who-who-dun-it. Jason Gallaher is a children’s book writer who fell in love with detective work while watching episodes of Blue’s Clues. He solved the mystery of what to do when he grew up and became an author when he learned being a merman is impossible (at least for now). Jason lives in Austin, Texas, with his Pomeranian, Pom Brokaw, who is a super sleuth when it comes to finding treats. 
In our Porchlight conversation, we discuss not only how Whobert Whoover leaped from idea to published book, but also how Jason leaped from awkward jobs, to behind the scenes publishing, to writer, to published author. "If you're doubting yourself, sometimes you're the person who's standing in the way." Jason shares what he's currently working on, including his spectacular merman videos, a Whobert story kit, and how he connects with everyone whether on social media or school visits.  "I'm just a person and you're just a person so let's connect on our humanity together."
Links (One of his merman videos)
Jun 29, 2017

Episode 11 features Katie Bayerl, author of A Psalm For Lost Girls, Putnam, March 2017. Katie's debut novel is a contemporary YA in mystery clothing, about an abduction that changes the lives of three girls. Katie holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and directs the VCFA Young Writers Network. The Network connects VCFA alums to underserved young readers through writing workshops at no cost for attendees. She has taught creative writing in schools and a variety of community settings and currently teaches classes for teens at GrubStreet.

Our Porchlight conversation with Katie explores her love of writing, "there's always more to learn." She discusses her publishing journey and the challenges of revision - "the messy part of being a novelist." Katie estimates it took her eight years to complete A Psalm for Lost Girls, but has since developed tools to make sure each chapter is moving the story forward. She'll be sharing these tools with attendees of The Literary Page Turner: Advanced Writer Weekend at The Writing Barn in November. Katie and Bethany also discuss the value of writing retreats and how being in a new place can give a writer new perspective on their work.
A Psalm for Lost Girls
Jun 28, 2017
Episode 10 features Cynthia Levinson, author of We've Got a Job; Watch Out for Flying Kids: How Two Circuses, Two Countries and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can; The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Henricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist (illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton) and the forthcoming Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights and the Flaws that Affect us Today (with co-author Sanford Levinson) and Donna Janell Bowman, author of Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness (illustrated by Daniel Minter) and the forthcoming En Garde! Abraham Lincoln's Dueling Words (illustrated by S.D. Schindler) and King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagra (illustrated by Adam Gustavson).
Our Porchlight conversation with Cynthia and Donna explores their love of discovering true stories through research and finding fascinating hidden histories. They discuss their publishing journey, as well as how illustrations enhance the tone of picture book biographies. Focus is primarily on Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness and The Youngest Marcher; including excerpts read by the authors. Both these books focus on individuals who influenced change in the world: Doc Key helped start the humane movement and Audrey Henricks played a role in ending segregation during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Discussion of craft aspects including creative nonfiction, using direct quotes, structure, conveying emotional resonance with the characters and decisions about whether a story is best suited for a picture book or middle grade audience.

Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunesGoogle Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with  others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.

Show Notes:

May 25, 2017

Episode 9 features Varsha Bajaj, author of the lyrical picture books How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight? (illustrated by Ivan Bates), T is for Taj Mahal (illustrated by Robert Crawford), This is Our Baby, Born Today(illustrated by Eliza Wheeler), and the forthcoming Our Earth, Our Home(illustrated by Simona Mulazzani).


Our Porchlight conversation with Varsha explores her path in the writing business, from feeling “invisible” to meeting mentor and friend Kathi Appelt, agent and poet Jill Corcoran, and her gentle and patient editor, Nancy Paulsen. We also discuss This is Our Baby, Born Today and its transformation from first to final draft, including the choice of a baby elephant as the main character and the ways that the matriarchal society of elephants has touched the diverse readership of the book. (We also discover Varsha’s celebratory rituals, which may or may not include a bag of Cape Cod Kettle Cooked 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chips!)


Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunes, Google Play or Sticher—sharethe Porchlight with others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.

Show Notes:

Publishers Weekly Review of This is Our Baby, Born Today

Illustrator Eliza Wheeler on the process of bringing This is Our Baby, Born Today to life

Simona Mulazzani, illustrator of the forthcoming Our Earth, Our Home

Apr 5, 2017

Episode Twelve features Jessixa Bagley, author & illustrator of Boats for Papa, Before I Leave, and Laundry Day.


This Porchlight episode was recorded live when Jessixa led our last Picture Book Intensive. In this conversation we discuss Jessixa's fondness for anthropomorphic creatures and the rich imagery they provide in her own picture books. Jessixa sheds light on the struggle of writing about the difficult theme of an absent parent in Boats for Papa. She also discusses the challenging yet rewarding process of writing a new picture book with her husband, also and author & illustrator, and their different roles in this new partnership.


Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunesGoogle Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with  others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.



Jessixa Bagley

Picture Books That Deliver Eureka Moments

Feb 17, 2017

Episode 7 Evan Turk


Evan phones in from Queens to chat with his friend and collaborator Bethany Hegedus. Evan is the illustrator of two picture books authored by Bethany, Grandfather Gandhi and Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, which was recently released. He is also the author/illustrator of The Storyteller, published last June.

Hang out with Bethany and Evan on the porch and listen as they discuss Evan’s first project, Grandfather Gandhi, and how his illustration approach, materials, and methods accentuate a book’s contents. You’ll hear about the forthcoming book about Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan, and Evan’s research process for biography projects. Bethany and Evan discuss the fact that biography picture books don’t have to tell the character’s entire life story but instead can illuminate their emotional life. The two reflect on their school visits to promote their Gandhi books and share some fun anecdotes (because kids say the darndest things). 

Listen to find out how illustrating someone else’s writing differs from illustrating your own writing, as well as why Evan keeps a cupful of pencil nubs. You can’t help leaving the porch with a better appreciation for illustration and a desire to draw something.

Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunes, Google Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate. 

Oct 18, 2016

Episode 8 Kristen-Paige Madonia


Join the live audience at Austin's Bookpeople as author Bethany Hegedus chats with author Kristen-Paige Madonia. Kristen-Paige’s most recent YA novel Invisible Fault Lines is now available from Simon & Schuster and follows her successful first YA novel Fingerprints of You.


In their chat, Bethany and Kristen-Paige touch on KP’s journey to become an “accidental YA author,” as well as on valuable book business advice from her author–mentor, none other than Judy Blume. You’ll hear about Kristen-Paige’s process while writing Invisible Fault Lines, including the intellectual exploration of ambiguous loss and starting with a shift in the ordinary. Bethany and Kristen-Paige discuss the idea of leaving room for the reader to make some decisions on their own about the story, for better or for worse. The two authors also reflect on making use of family experiences as inspiration for characters and critical relationships within novels.


Listen to find out what Kristen-Paige is working on next and how becoming a mother has changed her writing process. You’ll leave the porch with a better appreciation of the value of advice from fellow creatives and an admiration for great art directors.


Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunesGoogle Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate.


Oct 12, 2016

Episode 6 features Sara Pennypacker, award-winning author of Pax, the New York Times best-selling Clementine series, the Waylon! series, Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Pierre in Love, Sparrow Girl, The Amazing World of Stuart, and many more.


During Sara’s Porchlight visit, she and host Bethany Hegedus explore her journey creating Pax, including what it means to write from an animal’s point of view and how much "wildness” it takes to live an authentic life. We discuss the scary but beautiful craft of writing and allowing the story to be the boss—letting go so that we can tell the story that wants to be told. Sara also talks about her friendship with her hands-on editor, Donna Bray.

Sara will be coming to the Writing Barn February 23 – 26, 2017 for our Advanced Writer Weekend Workshop: Mastering the Middle Grade with NYT bestseller Sara Pennypacker and Publisher Donna Bray


Show Notes:

 New York Times Review of Pax

 Sara Pennypacker’s Pax Interview with NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’

Intensive with Sara Pennypacker is now sold out!

Sep 13, 2016

Episode 5   Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is the author Maybe a Fox, co-written with Alison McGhee. Her many other award-winning books include The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp, The Underneath,and When Otis Courted Mama, Counting Crows and more. She pops by the Porchlight and together she and host Bethany Hegedus meander on a craft and creativity talk, that like the loveliest of long walks takes in the beauty and importance of place. 

We discuss literary friendships—the meaningful ones with our artist colleagues that push us to do our best work. We touch on omniscience and knowing when (or allowing the gut to dictate when) a shift needs to be made and the most radical version of 1st person omniscience Kathi has read—ever: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. We take a break to talk about grit and determination and how it can yield great joy.

Enjoy your time with Kathi. I sure did.

Thank you for listening. Please share your comments and thoughts on the podcast with us. Rate us on iTunes, Google Play or Sticher—share the Porchlight with others. And remember to retreat, create and celebrate. 

Aug 12, 2016

Episode 4 features fabulous friend and Writing Barn teaching artist Carmen Oliver, author of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies and founder of The Booking Biz, a boutique speaking agency, with such esteemed clients as Kwame Alexander, Evan Turk, Arun Gandhi, and Bethany Hegedus.


Our Porchlight conversation with Carmen covers writing picture book text, teaching the picture book and helping writers find their stories hearts, the importance of analysis work and more. We then dive in to Carmen’s career as a literary business person and how and why she formed The Booking Biz (with a big shout out to Kwame Alexander, Carmen’s top client). We discuss writing mentors: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Liz Garton Scanlon, Sarah Aronson and how deep study yields deep results.

For those of you who live in Central Texas, don’t miss the chance to study with Carmen in Perfecting the PB II: Draft, Draft, Drafting beginning 9/15. 

Show notes:

Carmen’s class shared on Book Riot byMaya Smart

Kirkus Review of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies

Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies Book Trailer





Jun 23, 2016

Craft & Creativity Conversations
Episode Three

From time to time, here at the Porchlight podcast we will be sharing a LIVE podcast directly from the party porch, with a live audience. Applause. Laughter. Wine and cheese. (Perhaps this will replace our tag line: Retreat. Create. Celebrate.) What could be better? Today we share with you our first LIVE AND DIRECT FROM THE PARTY PORCH episode, complete with audience questions.

Episode Three features the incredibly multi-talented Katherine Catmull discussing her glorious new novel The Radiant Road

Katherine and I discuss bad reviews, working in various creative communities,  how she came to write about fairies, the "Freedom" to turn off the internet, character intention and motivation and how to teach that in our work with other writers, and how for Katherine acting is more like reading than writing, and the best description of show vs tell that I guarantee you will have ever heard.

also get into the Oxford comma debate, and her work with her big famous editor Julie Strauss Gable, how Cynthia Leitich Smith hits delete at the end of first drafts, and how following our obsessions can lead to a career.

Show notes:

Julie Strauss Gabel feature in the New York Times.

Katherine Catmull's article on World Building for the Austin Chronicle.

Texans: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Hill Country folks this means YOU--you can study with Katherine right here at The Writing Barn. She will be teaching World Building: Emotional Engagement with us THIS August. You can register for her class here.


Jun 16, 2016

Craft & Creativity Conversations
Episode Two

The Porchlight: Craft & Creativity Conversations welcomes author G. Neri (Greg to his friends and family.) Join us as we talk about mining stories from real life headlines, following the happy accidents, becoming an accidental author, the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the research behind Tru & Nelle. Harper Lee and Truman Capote enthusiasts will have much to grin about as Greg shares about Tru and Nelle’s love of Sherlock Holmes and how their childhood reading influenced their lives. And if you listen close, Greg even reveals a “dark” secret—never shared before.

As an added bonus, author and filmmaker EE Charlulto filmed Greg on his visit to Monroeville, Alabama—hometown of Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Enjoy the film they made of his time in the birthplace of these two literary greats here.

Join us soon for Episode Three with Katherine Catmull.

Jun 16, 2016

The Writing Barn is thrilled to premiere its new series

Porchlight Podcast

So much of being a writer involves talking about writing. Whether it be about the grueling process of getting the words on the page or the hardships of submissions and rejections, when we are able to talk about the successes and pitfalls of our creative careers it all begins to feel less daunting and we begin to feel part of something bigger than ourselves and our next manuscripts.

The Porchlight Podcast is centered around these kinds of conversations with authors who have been through it all. 

For episode one we are beyond excited to welcome author Donna Gephart. Join us as we talk about her new novel, her love for the humorous, and her work with children and adults of all ages. 

Her humorous/heartbreaking middle grade novels include:

1. DEATH BY TOILET PAPER -- Will Ben be able to keep a promise to his recently deceased dad and save his family from eviction, using his creativity and contest skills?
2. OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN -- Can Olivia overcome huge obstacles to achieve her dream of appearing on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!?
3. HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL -- David is famous online from his hilarious YouTube videos, but how will he ever survive middle school?
4. AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT -- won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award and the Florida State Book Award. Can spelling bee champ, Vanessa, do what's necessary to save her mom from an assassination attempt on the campaign trail?

Donna's books have won a number of awards, received starred reviews, and landed on many state reading lists.

She's a popular speaker at schools, book festivals, libraries, and conferences, including the S.C.B.W.I. National Conference, the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers' Workshop, F.A.M.E., the Conference on Children's Literature, and others.

Her newest novel, Lily and Dunkin, is a Booklist Starred Review, JLG Selection, SIBA Okra Pick, and Amazon Best of the Month Selection. The story centers around a girl dealing with gender identity issues and a boy struggling with mental illness, who come together to form an unlikely friendship.

The Writing Barn was lucky enough to host a Weekend Writing Intensive where Donna, along with ICM agent, Tina Wexler, led discussions about craft and held workshops critiquing attendee manuscripts. Pictures of that event are HERE.