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When a Book is Like a Ship

In the six years of days I wrote grants for Mystic Seaport, the most memorable occurred in the summer of 2014, when we launched the Charles W. Morgan. Yes, this was a big day because the 1841 whaleship had not been to sea since her 37th and final voyage in 1921. But it was also a big day because the Morgan was the physical representation of the Museum’s vision and labor – and her return to the water was a visual definition of our success.

And while the advancement department brought in the funding, the real credit for the restoration of the Morgan goes to the shipwrights. Day after day, they employed their adzes and augers, their caulking mallets and planes, their patience and their precision toward the singular goal of again sailing the last wooden whaleship in existence. As they stood on the shore that warm afternoon, wearing their faded blue Mystic Shipyard work shirts and watching the majestic vessel move away from the dock, they must have felt both satisfied and a bit anxious. Would she be okay?

In a very small way, launching a book is like launching a ship. The writer holds in her hands the product of her effort, crafted not from wooden and metal tools but from words formed into paragraphs, pages, and chapters. Her manuscript has become a bound book, packed into boxes and sent to bookstores – ports of call – all over the country. And she wonders if it will resonate with readers, if it will be okay.

At the launch party last week, I had mixed emotions. I was pleased with the story, but I wondered if the book was ready – even though at this point it is too late, of course, for second guessing. What draws my mind away from this fretful state whenever one of my novels is published is the arrival of family and friends at the party celebrating its release into the world. Like those who lined the shores of the Mystic River in 2014, those who gather at the bookstore appear to be just as hopeful as I am that the book will meet with success. Their support buoys me, like water floating a ship. And no matter how many times I say it, I will never be able to thank them enough.

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