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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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 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)
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.
Mar 21, 2018

This episode features Linda Williams Jackson, the debut author of Midnight Without a Moon and its recently released sequel, A Sky Full of Stars. Our Porchlight conversation with Linda explores her writing journey to share the story of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was killed, allegedly for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Linda talks about how changing the opening line of her query letter took her from a string of rejections to multiple offers from agents and editors. Linda and Bethany also have an honest and powerful conversation about the current state of race relations in America.  

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
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

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