Writer turns Hepburn into role model for kids

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Standing next to Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn, cigarette holder in hand, dressed in a little black dress and a wide-brimmed hat, boldly stood up and delivered her report.

“I am Audrey Hepburn, and I am the best actress in the world, and if you don’t know me, you’re not cool like me.”
No, this was not a glamorous award show or a gala. This was middle school. And this was the school project that changed Margaret Cardillo’s life.

Cardillo had come home from school wondering what to do for the character parade. Her mother suggested Audrey Hepburn and then showed her the movie Roman Holiday. She instantly fell for the Hepburn magic.

It was this fascination with the film star that led Cardillo to write Just Being Audrey, a Hepburn biography in the form of a children’s book. In February, the book won the 2011 Florida Book Award for Children’s Literature.

audrey“I found out I had won late one night after I had been struggling with my writing; It was exactly what I needed,” Cardillo said. “To represent Florida and their literary efforts is a real honor.”

Cardillo, 31, a second-year MFA screenwriting student, is the recipient of a Michener Fellowship, awarded to graduate and post-graduate writers based on their written work.

In addition to teaching an introduction to screenwriting class, she is working on a young adult novel, another children’s book biography and two screenplays, Personal Statement and Rules of the Game, which is about a tomboy whose love of sports affects her chances of getting her dream job. Cardillo is a sports fanatic herself, which is where the idea came from.

Cardillo said she wrote the Hepburn book because she loves how the actress, who died in 1993, used her fame to help children all over the world as an ambassador to UNICEF and eventually gave up her career to help others. It was a lesson she wanted to share with children, she said.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn’t love her,” Cardillo said. “She’s enduring and endearing and not just for her movies, but in fashion, in her humanitarian efforts, and I think that’s great to share with kids.”

She got the idea to write the book when she saw a Hepburn poster in a shop.

She emailed herself the first line of the book and told herself she would write the story. Six months went by until she finally opened that email, and what she had written ended up becoming the opening line of the book.

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Cardillo graduated from Boston College cum laude, with an English major and concentration in writing as well as a minor in Italian. She worked as an assistant editor at Disney’s Hyperion Books in New York City for about five years. She also received an MFA in creative writing in 2009.

When she’s not working on all her many projects, Cardillo is most likely spending time with her family, her husband, Luke Fronefield, or her dog Zampano, which is Italian for “big paw.”

So, when Cardillo is seen packing a lot into a day, laughing as much as possible, and eating, there’s no doubt about it, she’s just being Margaret.

This article originally appeared in The Communique at the University of Miami in August 2012.

For more on Margaret Cardillo, visit margaretcardillo.com

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