Bethany Hegedus

Bethany Hegedus is a former high school English and Theatre teacher and holds a MFA for Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her debut picture book Grandfather Gandhi, co-written by Arun Gandhi, illustrated by Evan Turk (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014) has received starred reviews and the follow-up Grandfather Gandhi book Be the Change (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Aug 31, 2016) also received a starred review from School Library Journal. The highly anticipated picture book biography Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird releases Jan 2018 (Balzer & Bray). Her middle grade books are Truth with a Capitol T (Delacort Books for Young Readers, 2010), Bank Street Best Books of 2010 and Between Us Baxters (Westside Books, 2009) Bank Street Best Books of 2009.

Bethany is a dynamic speaker, moderator, and teacher and loves visiting schools, conferences and festivals all over the world. She is also the owner of the Writing Barn where she holds writing workshops around the year.

* Starred Review for Grandfather Gandhi

“Never burdened by its message, this exceptional title works on multiple levels; it is both a striking introduction to a singular icon and a compelling story about the universal experience of a child seeking approval from a revered adult.”–Kirkus Reviews

* Grandfather Gandhi was a Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List Selection

School Visit Presentations

Writing The Stories Only You Can Tell, Just Like Harper Lee – 60 min  – Gr 3+

Think you don’t have a story in you? Think again!  Acclaimed author, Bethany Hegedus believes story begins with character and character begins with YOU.  Bethany will read from her new book: ALABAMA SPITFIRE: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and then will lead a writing workshop. Bethany will guide students in creating a character sketch, with back story and mine an emotional memory from their past or present and use it as a jumping off point to create a character and begin a fictional story. The very same technique Nelle Harper Lee and her childhood best friend Truman Capote did.

Students share their writing pieces (not everyone has to). Bethany and students will talk about each writer’s voice. Children will discover that we have different voices. No one writer sounds the same. The choices that writers make with word choice, sentence fluency, emotion, tone, and mood inform and reveal their voice. The workshop ends with a Q&A from students and about Bethany’s writing process, and writing both biography and fiction.

Alabama Spitfire: Dream it and Be it – 20-45 minutes, grades K-8

In this interactive presentation, Bethany talks about the inspiration behind writing ALABAMA SPITFIRE: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and how her love of America’s favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM), which, she read every summer for twenty years, inspired her to become a writer. Alabama Spitfire is the book Bethany was born to write because of her long love of TKAM and because of how the book mirrors her own journey to published author. Like Harper Lee, Bethany was a young girl in love with books who lived in a small town, a girl who dreamed of becoming an author, who packed up for New York City to make her dreams come true and eventually left New York City for a slower life. Nelle’s childhood along with Bethany’s will to speak to young readers and show them how to take the risks and chances needed to create lives of their own design. The presentation will end with Bethany questioning attendees about their dreams—and what they can do to begin living them today!

Be the Change: A reading and sharing of Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi story as well as  an age appropriate overview of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work and how Gandhian ideas influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, a discussion of what changes we want to see made in the world and a brainstorming of what we can do to take one step to make that change can be included. Readers discuss Gandhi’s lesson of how passive violence leads to physical violence in the world and the audience may take the Be the Change pledge.

The Mahatma & Me:   A reading and sharing of Grandfather Gandhi as well as an age appropriate overview of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and work, and how Gandhian ideas influenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, details of how Bethany met and began working with Arun Gandhi – which came about because of her 9/11 experience working as a fire searcher at the WFC in New York are shared. Readers discuss Gandhi’s lesson of how anger is like electricity and all the audience may to take the Live your Life as Light pledge.

Keynote/Breakout/Workshop Presentations

After the Final No: Saying Yes to Yourself When the World Says No

Overnight success is a myth and it’s Bethany’s mission to break it. Bethany shares her deeply personal story of how she turned surviving a national tragedy (9/11) into a triumph that changed her life. Based on Bethany’s favorite rejection mantra, “After the final no, there comes a yes and on that yes the future world depends,” Bethany turns rejection, near misses, setbacks and frustration into the gift that it really is, while at the same time, demonstrating how each of us can work to be the change the world needs to see: for ourselves, and for our students.

Alabama Spitfire: Taking Risks and Chances to Create Lives of Your Own Design

In this interactive presentation, Bethany talks about the inspiration behind writing ALABAMA SPITFIRE: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and how her love of America’s favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM), which, she read every summer for twenty years, inspired her to become a writer.  Alabama Spitfire is the book Bethany was born to write because of her long love of TKAM and because of how the book mirrors her own journey to becoming an author. Like Harper Lee, Bethany was a young girl in love with books who lived in a small town, a girl who dreamed of becoming an author, who packed up for New York City to make her dreams come true and eventually left New York City for a slower paced life. Nelle’s childhood along with Bethany’s will speak to educators and show them how to take the risks and chances needed to create lives of their own design.

How to Turn Minor Memories into Full Blown Stories: Where the roots of the story come from: the minor moments of memory and how to develop them into full blown stories complete with character, setting, and conflict.

Bethany will share how in both fiction and nonfiction she finds moments of emotional connection and builds stories from there. She will walk educators through creating a character sketch with students based on an emotional moment and will also share from her forthcoming picture book, ALABAMA SPITFIRE: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and how Harper Lee’s childhood inspired one of the most loved books of the century.

Ruin is the Road to Transformation

Author Bethany Hegedus shares how in the days after 9/11, Bethany, a fire searcher, that fateful Tuesday, found healing listening to Arun Gandhi share stories of living on the Sevagram ashram with his grandfather as a boy. Together, they co-authored Grandfather Gandhi & Be the Change, and Bethany will share how she was moved to ask Arun Gandhi, a world leader, to work with her when she was yet-to-be published.

She also tells the inspirational 12 year journey to the books acclaimed publications. Included in the talk, will be the sharing of the Live Your Life as Light/Be the Change pledge, and the story of how Mahatma Gandhi believed anger is nothing to be ashamed of, but how it can be transformed into action and healing.

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Availability and Honorariums

Please contact Carmen Oliver for rate information and availability.

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