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Edith here, writing from a chilly north of Boston.
When I first started being published over a decade ago, a very different Edith Maxwell was the first result returned in any Google search. This Edith wasn’t an author – although she has books written about her. No, she was a young schoolteacher in Virginia who in 1935 was convicted at age 21 of murdering her apparently abusive father.
She even has her own Wikipedia page.
Naturally, I was intrigued. I poured over the Wikipedia article and other historical documents.
I read Never Seen the Moon, a true crime account of Edith’s life by Sharon Hatfield. The Hearst news machine took up Maxwell’s story, and she became a sensational scandal. She was pardoned five years after her conviction, in part due to an appeal by Eleanor Roosevelt.
I also read Sharyn McCrumb’s novel about the other Edith, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, which lifts the story, changes the names, and focuses on the role of the journalists.
Which is all fascinating. But none of it helped me as an author, especially after my books started coming out in 2012. As time went by, because of blog posts, news articles, and my own web site, Google hits started yielding more of me and less of the Edith of a hundred years earlier.
But I still wanted my own Wikipedia page. Once in a while I searched the site for author pages. Sure, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky have their own pages. Louise Penny, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Hallie Ephron. No surprise there. But Jeri Westerson has one. Sheila Connolly, too. And Toni L.P. Kelner. The careers of these last three, while ahead of my own, didn’t seem so different from mine, especially as time went by.
So, how could I rate a page, too? My older son knows quite a lot about Wikipedia, having immersed himself in it during college fifteen years ago. I asked Allan if he could help. Bless his tech-savvy heart, he agreed. I drafted a, well, draft. He implemented.
But Wikipedia refused it. We tweaked. They rejected. Okay. I let it go for a while. Then, this fall, I thought, “But I won the freaking Agatha Award. Shouldn’t that count for something?” Allan – who works full time, has a wife he adores, and a busy life baking sourdough bread, bicycling, winning trivia games, and much more – agreed to dig in again. He thought the page needed more external citations to give it credibility with the wikipowers that be.
To my delight, a few weeks ago he said it had been approved! Got your bubbly ready to pop open and pour? Voila – I present you Edith Maxwell (author).
I love the “Not to be confused with…” line under my name, which was added by Wikipedia. I write about murder. So far I haven’t been accused of committing one.
But apparently I did commit something wrong the other night. Anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, and I have an account. I spent a full hour adding more external links and details about both my writing career and my personal life. Some site monitor reverted all of it. Gah. Like I have an extra hour to waste at this time of year. Maybe next year I’ll study up on the fine details of editing and try again. I guess it’s good their monitors are keeping a close eye on amateurs like me.
For now, I’m an entry on The Free Encyclopedia and it’s a damn fine Christmas gift. Allan, if you’re reading this, I don’t need anything else!
Readers: Do you use Wikipedia? Did you learn anything new or surprising on my page? I’d love to send one commenter a copy of Murder at the Taffy Shop, which will be out in wide release at the end of March, and a book mark to anyone who wants one (send your mailing address to me at email@example.com).