My husband and I live in Braddock Heights, Maryland in a log cabin, called Misty Hill Lodge, which was built in 1930 from chestnut trees cut from the woods on the property. All the doors were salvaged from a steamboat that sailed the Chesapeake Bay from 1906 to 1930, when it was sold for scrap. These doors were the inspiration for my novel-in-progress.
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Although my formal writing name is Edith Morris 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 after 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.
My brother, Frank, and I had lots of freedom in those days, and we explored the surrounding neighborhood on our bikes. There was an old graveyard where the cousin of Davey Crockett had been buried (and dug up). At times we even sat along the edge of a canal and watched the filming of some early TV programs such as Flipper, Gentle Ben, and The Everglades. I spent lots of time up in the branches of the live oak trees in my yard.
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. Ormsby, was a published author of children’s books and read her stories aloud to us 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 room downstairs and two rooms and a screened-in porch upstairs. I built dams in the creek, caught salamanders, climbed rocks, hiked up Grandfather Mountain, 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, andA 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 novel, Road to Tater Hill, released by Delacorte Press in September 2009.
Because my father was a flight engineer for Pan American Airways, my family could fly for free (if there were empty seats on the planes). When I was 14, my parents took me out of school for 6 weeks while we traveled around Europe. I was in my first year of studying Latin and loved exploring the Coliseum and the Roman forum, all the while trying to translate the writing on the ruins. We rented a car in Paris and drove through the Loire Valley of France, went sledding in Switzerland, and took a ferry across the English Channel to England, Scotland and then flew on to Ireland. I’ve never decided if my favorite part of the trip was hiking through the ruins of Tintagel (a legendary castle of King Arthur along the coast of Cornwall), scanning Loch Ness for a sight of the monster, or walking by myself out to the Giant’s Causeway at the tip of Northern Ireland. I still have the journal I faithfully wrote in every night of that trip.
Throughout high school, my interest in reading and writing grew. Each summer we attended the Shakespeare Festival at the University of Miami. My mother took courses in English literature, while working on her master’s degree. She and I used to take long evening bike rides while she quoted poetry to me and I tried to figure out the titles and authors of the poems. When it was time for college, the North Carolina mountains drew me back. I attended Guilford College in Greensboro, NC for my first year and then transferred to Appalachian State University in Boone. There I met and fell in love with my brother’s roommate, Doug Hemingway. The first thing that drew me to him was his name. After all, what aspiring author could turn down the possibility of the name E. Hemingway! We were married the summer after we graduated.
The early years of our marriage were taken up with my teaching special education classes in an elementary school in Loudoun County, Virginia and then staying home to raise our two children, Daniel and Katie. Writing took a back seat in those years, but we made a lot of trips to the library. Once my children started school, I started writing again, working mostly on picture book manuscripts, none of which have been published yet. For three years in the 1980s I owned and operated a frozen yogurt shop. During the slow times, I sat in the back room and typed (I did not own a computer then) the first draft of a novel, which, by the way, is still sitting on a shelf. Throughout those years, my husband never laughed at my dream of becoming a published author. 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 and 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. Ten years later in 2006, it was licensed by Scholastic Book Fairs 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, also, was licensed by Scholastic Book Fairs under the same title, but different cover.
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. I graduated in May 2004. In 2012, I was invited to join the Spalding University MFA faculty, where I've been teaching writing for children and young adults ever since.
Now, what I enjoy most of all is spending time with my six grandchildren, Connor, Piper, Annabel, Aria, Gareth, and Mairin (left to right in photo) and working in the seclusion of my writing cabin.