Saturday 12 June 2021

Elaine Hemingway – Out of Africa

Elaine Hemingway’s career began as a police constable in the East Yorkshire city of Hull. From there she moved 8,000 miles to take up a post with the Northern Rhodesia Police. Her contract was for three years; she stayed in Africa for half a century.

With a lifelong passion for reading and storytelling, it was natural that Elaine should become a writer. For many of her years in Africa, she wrote for a local newspaper, producing a regular column called Stille Oomblik, which translates to Quiet Moment. 

She had to give up the column when she and her husband, Dennis, moved to Natal, but continued writing for newspapers and magazines, her publications tracking their travels down Africa. A short story in a Zambian newspaper marked her move into writing fiction, whilst an article in a car magazine reflected the self-sufficient life she and her family led.

Elaine nurtured ambitions to write a longer piece, especially as her African travels gave her a fascination with history. She acquired the diaries of Johan van Riebeeck and attempted an historical novel based on his time in South Africa.

The demands of a busy life and growing family prevented completion of this project, and it was a while before Elaine found her writing niche. ‘It was my religious values that brought me back to my writing,’ she says. ‘I grew up with Christian beliefs, but only after a particular disaster did I come to full commitment and find my niche. Writing and studying became a real pleasure, to be indulged more deeply. My Stille Oomblik column was a part of it.’

It was still difficult for Elaine to fit any general writing into her life. She was running a Resource Centre that required a lot of reading and presentation of reviews; leading a home Bible Study group and Experiencing God courses. She managed to write some articles for Baptist Today and Christian Living.

It was after producing a 40th anniversary brochure and magazine complete with interviews with all the previous Pastors, that Elaine started a writing group. ‘At that point in our lives,’ she says. ‘It seemed inevitable.’ The group resulted in diverse publications including a self-published novel from one of the church deacons, a set of biblical crosswords, and the founding of a quarterly Church News magazine.

After Elaine and Dennis moved back to England, the group disbanded but the Resource Centre is still running.

Following her retirement, Elaine became an active member of the Faith Writers. Having re-stoked her long-held ambition to write a novel by completing the latest NaNoWriMochallenge, she began an ambitious project, a Midrashim – fiction based on a Biblical account.

Her major work is now well underway. It interleaves the contemporary story of Marla, a young woman struck by sudden tragedy, with that of another young woman, Shaina, caught up in the Babylonian war of around 600 BC. It’s a hugely ambitious project for a debut novel, juggling time frames and cultures, but Elaine has the background and experience to be able to make it work. 

You can browse Elaine’s many contributions to the Faith Writers HERE.



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