Donna Hemans

Critically Acclaimed Novelist
Short Story Author
Travels from: Baltimore, MD

Tea By the Sea is a powder keg of a novel, where secrets and lies explode into truth and consequences, all told with spellbinding, shattering power. Hemans doesn’t just fulfill the promise of her debut— she soars past it.” —Marlon James, Man Booker Prize Winning author

Donna Hemans is the author River Woman, Tea by the Sea and Tree of a Thousand Feet (forthcoming from Zibby Books). In 2015, she won the Lignum Vitae Una Marson Award for Adult Literature for the unpublished manuscript of Tea by the Sea and was named co-winner of the 2003-4 Towson University Prize for Literature for River Woman.

Donna’s short fiction and essays have appeared in Slice, Electric Literature, Ms. Magazine, The Rumpus, Crab Orchard Review, among others.

She was the 2007-2008 Black Mountain Institute (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) International Women’s Forum Fellow and twice served as the Lannan Visiting Creative Writer in Residence at Georgetown University. In addition, Donna has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Prince George’s County Arts Council, as well as residential fellowships from Hedgebrook, Millay Colony for the Arts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Donna received her undergraduate degree in English and Media Studies from Fordham University and an MFA from American University. She lives in Maryland, and is also the owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers based in Washington, D.C.

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Tea by the Sea

Red Hen Press |
Novel

A seventeen-year-old taken from her mother at birth; an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see; a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story–that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to find her daughter and how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart.

River Woman

Washington Square Press |
Novel

As she washes her laundry in the Rio Minho, Kelithe is startled from her daydreams by women’s screams. It is not until she sees a small body in the shallow water that she realizes what has happened. Her young son has drowned. The Women of Standfast, Jamaica, whisper that she let Timothy die so that she could seize her chance to join her mother in America. Numb with grief, Kelithe lacks the strength to confront them. She can only wait for the funeral. And for her mother to come stand by her at last.

What really happened at the river? It is a question Kelithe’s mother cannot ask and an accusation Kelithe will not answer. And it lies at the heart of this shattering novel of promises kept and broken. In spare prose, Donna Hemans lays bare the human heart, exploring the unyielding bonds joining mother and child and the many facets of truth.

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Writing Fiction From Personal Stories—No Matter How Small

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Finding the Heart of Your Story—A Workshop on Revision

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Writing Culture—A Talk on Dialect, Dialogue and Character

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Leaning Into Your Obsessions: Writing About Absence, Belonging and Home

Donna in the news

Donna’s Recent Work

Tea by the Sea Reading Guide

Donna’s Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Lignum Vitae Writing Award
Carribean Readers’ Awards

Media Kit

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