Friday, October 8, 2010

Author up in a Treehouse

What a delight to have my former student and fellow children’s author Edie Hemingway come to Fern Forest with her husband Doug for a night in the treehouse. Edie was one of the early graduates of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program, and both of us were feeling our way through the academic wilderness. I had published a few books and she had co-authored two middle-grade works of historical fiction, so we were more like colleagues than mentor-mentee.

I admit that I was a little full of myself in those days, having been invited by the best-selling author Sena Jeter Naslund to serve on the faculty when she began the program in 2001. But Edie was no stranger to publishing. She planned to attend the SCBWI conference in New York, and I joined her there, along with a couple other Spalding MFA students. We met an editor from Scholastic, who invited us to submit our books for consideration. I sent him my first novel, The Black Bonnet, about the underground railroad in Vermont. He rejected it. Edie sent him her book Broken Drum, also set at the beginning of the Civil War. The editor took her book, printed thousands of copies and sold most of them. Broken Drum is quickly becoming a classic for young readers and the script has been pitched for a movie. The editor was so impressed with the success of Edie’s book that he acquired her other novel, Rebel Hart, about a woman who became a confederate spy in the Civil War. Edie has also sold movie rights for Rebel Hart.

Am I jealous? Naw—Edie is so nice that it’s impossible to be jealous of her. And she’s a darn good writer. Delacorte thought so when they bought her third book, Road To Tater Hill, another middle-grade reader set in 1963. This one won a Parents Choice Award, and Edie is finishing an enrichment semester at Spalding in screenwriting in hopes of selling the movie script. There’s a golden glow around her head, and I’m beginning to believe she can do just about anything to which she sets her mind.

Instead of sour grapes, I say: You go girl!

Edie’s husband Doug is one of those strong, silent types. They live in a 1930s bungalow called Misty Hill Lodge outside Frederick, Maryland, and Doug has fixed it up, adding a master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet (I believe it’s the only closet in the house) and a stone patio with fire pit for outdoor cooking (Doug loves to cook—Edie’s too busy writing). Edie offers writing workshops in front of the big stone fireplace, and if I lived closer, I’d sign up.

Edie and Doug were on their way to Vinalhaven in Maine, where she planned to do research for her next book, and they went out of their way to spend a couple days with us. It had been raining hard and the treehouse was a little damp. I offered them the guest room in the house, but Edie said no—they wanted the adventure. She’s on a literary adventure, too, and I hope the road she’s on is filled with sunshine and sweet breezes. Edie deserves that—and she has earned it. Visit her website at

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