"The red sun hung in the sky like a lost carnival balloon, and I wished I could reach up and pull it into my lap." A short sentence, yes, but it took seven years to reach the printed page.
Carol Crowe, local author of the newly published "Waiting for Dolphins," looked intent as she laid her hands flat in front of her and explained what happened. "I'd always wanted to write, but suddenly I just couldn't," she said.
But, perhaps we should backtrack a bit. Crowe had finished all the work for her doctorate in English at Long Island's SUNY at Stonybrook, when she and her husband, Jack, decided to leave their secure lifestyle in New York and go sailing.
"Wonderful," Carol thought, "I'll have all the time in the world to write." She was very excited. Then, after moving to the Caribbean on their newly acquired boat, she sat down to write a letter home one day and found she couldn't. Not even a letter.
"I had developed a phobia, a real honest to God phobia," she said. She had absolutely no idea what to do about it. She didn't like the idea of anyone seeing anything she had written, even letters – this after she had taught writing in college! What to do? She finally accepted that time would have to be the cure.
And it was. A lot of time. One day, seven years later, while cruising in the BVI, she went below, sat down, and wrote that above sentence. "It had been in my head for a long time, but I didn't know it," she said. After the first sentence, she just sat there, sort of dumbfounded. But not for long. Next came the second sentence, and the third, and . . . Well, she now has two published books and another five completed. One of these is currently with her editor, another is being translated into a screenplay, and the remaining three are in the wings.
"Waiting for Dolphins," set in the Caribbean, is a young adults novel, as are all Crowe's books, so far.
Though "Dolphins" was her first book, it is just now being published. "I had a friend in New York who wrote children's books, and she loved it. She tried everywhere to get it into print," Crowe said, "and I never got a rude rejection slip." She said all her rejection slips were encouraging, even chatty. But, they were still just that – rejection slips.
Crowe said she didn't let that get her down. Once the gates were opened, she could not stop writing and the stories simply kept coming. She could hardly keep up with herself and all the characters growing in her head. "I fall in love with my characters," she said, "I live with them."
That's easy to believe, as Carol draws one into her world. A brunette with large brown eyes and shoulder length hair she keeps tossing over her shoulder, she is very expressive and intense as she talks about her fictional world.
Molly, the main character in "Dolphins," is a 15-year old who has just lost her father to alcoholism, leaving herself and her mother to deal alone with life on their boat, "Emerald Eyes," and with their grief and their feelings about one another. Molly is filled with anger toward her mother, and deep loss and guilt about her father. She feels she let him down, that she could have saved him. On the brighter side, the story takes place in a Caribbean which though mythical, is still filled with familiar people and places.
But lets not reveal the story. "Publishers of books for younger people these days, want stories more on the so-called 'cutting edge'," Crowe said. "They are looking for realism, more than the old Nancy Drew mysteries had," she said. Crowe's own life has been touched with alcoholism, and she feels it is a subject probably familiar to many teenagers' lives today. In that regard, she feels she is speaking to an audience who can relate to Molly.
About two years after finishing "Dolphins," Crowe wrote a ghost story, "Sharp Horns on the Moon," which was published in 1997, her first book in print. "Yes, I was excited about that, but my heart was still with 'Dolphins'," she said. Though quiet and thoughtful, the author's enthusiasm for her new found gift comes through. "It's my passion," she said, eyes sparkling.
She and her husband, Jack, live on their 37-foot boat, "Morning Dove," in Sapphire Bay Marina. Though she hardly knew a sail from a sheet, (oops, they are called sheets), 14 years ago when the two set sail, she has more than enough knowledge now to support her boat stories. Like many "boaties," they live in St. Thomas, where they work during the winter, and cruise in the summer.
Crowe has some advice for newly published authors: Don't read your book. The temptation is great, but it can bring woe, or embarrassment. Crowe opened "Dolphins," only to discover "mako jumbie." "I'm going to wear a sign around my neck saying 'I know how to spell mocko jumbie', " Crowe said, laughing.
Now that she is a published author, what does the future hold? "More writing," Crowe said. Yes, we knew that. "We've spent a couple summers in New Mexico, and I may take a teaching job there next year," she said. "Besides, I see a young girl there, peeking at me from behind a tree . . . I know she wants to say something."
Crowe will be talking about her writing at her book-signing for "Waiting for Dolphins" from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Dockside Bookshop in Havensight.


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