word craft


Story Behind the Story #23: Windcatcher


For a short time I lived in Con­necti­cut, and for some rea­son or oth­er I came upon a US gov­ern­ment map (I like maps) of its south­ern coast. That’s when I dis­cov­ered the Thim­ble Islands, which, to quote Wikipedia, “is an arch­i­pel­ago con­sist­ing of small islands in Long Island Sound, locat­ed in and around the har­bor of Stony Creek in the south­east cor­ner of Bran­ford, Con­necti­cut.”

Aside from the charm of the name, I was struck with the fact that these islands were rel­a­tive­ly close to shore, and close to one anoth­er. I had also recent­ly pur­chased a tiny sail­boat with a friend, some­thing called a Snark. It was bare­ly more than a styrene cup with a sail. But I learned to sail it—one man in size—and great­ly enjoyed myself.

Put all these things togeth­er, and it is easy to see how I con­ceived the plot of Wind­catch­er, a boy’s adven­ture with a small sail­boat midst the Thim­ble islands. More­over, by the time I was writ­ing it, I was liv­ing in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, with its Por­tuguese pop­u­la­tion, and that added anoth­er ele­ment. The edi­tor and I also agreed to put a map of the Thim­ble Islands in the end papers.

But by the time it was all done I had just pub­lished The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle, which was very well received. Wind­catch­er seemed—to me—a very mod­est book, at least com­pared to Char­lot­te’s tale.

In fact I decid­ed not to pub­lish it. Indeed, I remem­ber putting my hand on the phone, ready to call the edi­tor, to say, “Can­cel it.”

I hes­i­tat­ed, thought of the pub­lish­ing com­pli­ca­tions that would fol­low, and then took my hand from the phone.

Wind­catch­er was pub­lished, my younger read­ers enjoyed it a great deal, it gar­nered good reviews, and did quite well. It’s still around.

There’s one odd thing that hap­pened. Short­ly before pub­li­ca­tion the edi­tor called me, and said, “Avi, was it you who put names to all those small islands?”

“No. I got them from a US Gov­ern­ment map. Why?”

“The copy edi­tor brought to my atten­tion that two of the islands, which are side by side, are called, “Pot Island,” and “High Island.”

I con­fess I had not noticed. I checked the map. “That’s what they are called.”

“You have to change them.”



So if you look at the book, you will see “High” Island. But its near­est neigh­bor is called “Pud­dle” Island.

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