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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Now displaying: 2017
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.