Edith (Edie) Hemingway is co-author of two Civil War novels, both licensed by Scholastic Book Fairs and optioned for films. Her middle grade novel, Road to Tater Hill (Delacorte Press) won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and was listed on Bank Street College’s Best Books List and several state lists. That Smudge of Smoke (BeaLu Books, 2023) is her newest MG novel set in two timeframes and told from different points of view.
An MFA graduate of Spalding University’s Naslund-Mann School of Writing, Edie taught writing for children and young adults as a member of their faculty for nine years. She served four years as Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV chapter of SCBWI and is an active member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC.
More About Me
Although my formal writing name is Edith M. Hemingway, most everyone calls me Edie. I was named for my great grandmother, Edith Call, and the only other “Edith” I knew as a child was my elementary school librarian. I was born in Miami and spent most of my growing up years in south Florida. My family lived near a bicycle path, and my brother and I often rode our bikes to the beach. Every now and then I’d meet an alligator stretched across the path, and if there wasn’t room to pass it, I’d turn around. My biggest fear, though, was of land crabs. Whenever it rained hard (especially during hurricanes), the crab holes were flooded, and huge pink and blue crabs crawled onto our front porch. Their gigantic claws spanned more than a foot, and I was sure those clicking monsters could snap my toes or fingers right off.
I loved to read and write from the time I first learned my alphabet and started putting words together. In second grade, I was the first in my class to be inducted into the “Fifty Book Club” and won the second-grade spelling bee. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Virginia Ormsby, was a published author of children’s books and read her stories aloud to the class before sending them to her publisher. She had quiet “writing” times for us everyday after lunch, and it was that year that I won my first writing contest and decided someday I, too, would be an author. My prize was a homemade book, written and illustrated by Mrs. Ormsby’s son, Alan. The title was “Edith Morris meets Charlie the Mouse,” and, though faded and tattered, it’s still one of my prized possessions. I take it with me whenever I visit schools to talk about my books and the writing process.
Every summer, my family spent time in the North Carolina mountains where my grandparents had a small cabin with one big room downstairs and two rooms and a screened-in sleeping porch upstairs. I built dams in the creek, caught salamanders, climbed rocks, hiked up Grandfather Mountain, went horseback riding, picked wild blackberries on Tater Hill, square danced, listened to Appalachian folk music, and, of course, read. Some of my favorite books were The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Calico Captive, The Good Master, and A Wrinkle In Time.
It was in North Carolina that my baby sister, Mary Kate, was born prematurely and died, and also where I accidentally stuck my hand into a yellow jackets’ nest and was stung more than 30 times. These childhood memories were the inspiration for my MG novel, Road to Tater Hill.
In college, I postponed my dream of becoming an author and trained to be a special education teacher. It wasn’t until I married and had 2 children of my own that I came back to writing. In the 1980s, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended conferences whenever I could afford them. I also took evening adult education classes in creative writing, where I met Jacqueline Shields, another aspiring author.
Around the time of Ken Burn’s public television series on the Civil War, Jackie and I decided to combine our writing talents and collaborate on a Civil War story for children. During a trip to the Antietam Battlefield Museum near Sharpsburg, MD, we were intrigued by the photograph of Charley King, a 12-year-old drummer boy who had enlisted in the Pennsylvania 49th Volunteers at the start of the Civil War. That faded photograph became our inspiration for Broken Drum, published by White Mane Publishing Co. in 1996. Broken Drum was later picked up by Scholastic Book Fairs in 2006 under the title of Drums of War.
After our success with our first book, we collaborated again on Rebel Hart (White Mane Publishing Co., Inc., 2000), the story of Nancy Hart, a legendary teenaged Confederate spy and rebel raider in what is now the state of West Virginia. This book, too, was picked up by Scholastic Book Fairs in 2008.
During the years Jackie and I researched and wrote both books, I was working fulltime in the Guidance Department of Frederick High School and later in admissions and academic advising first at Hood College in Frederick, MD and then at Carroll Community College in Westminster, MD.
In 2002, I decided to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) with a concentration in Writing for Children at the newly established low residency program at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. In the process, I made lasting friendships with other writers and discovered another deep interest—that of teaching creative writing. Since my graduation in May 2004, I have taught a number of fiction-writing workshops in my home and at local community colleges. In 2012, I was invited to join the faculty of the Spalding University MFA program, where I taught for 9 years.
For 21 years, my husband and I lived in a 1930s log cabin, whose doors were salvaged from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat that was sold for scrap in 1930. The doors still had their original keys, complete with leather tags inscribed with cabin numbers and the name of the ship. For years as I passed through those doors, a story brewed in my head. I finally figured out how to incorporate two time periods and two settings into one story, That Smudge of Smoke, my latest middle grade novel, which will be published by BeaLu Books in spring 2023.
I am still a member of SCBWI (which I highly recommend to all aspiring writers), as well as a member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. And for 4 years, I served as Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV chapter of SCBWI.
Now my husband and I live on the northern neck of Virginia in a house overlooking the Great Wicomico River —a river once traveled by the steamboats I write about in That Smudge of Smoke. When I’m not working on my next novel in my writing room, I enjoy spending time with my family, including 6 grandchildren, kayaking on the river with my husband, and making colorful quilts.