Carol Cronin lives athletic dream, writes first book, ‘Oliver’s Surprise’
In the world of sports, nothing could possibly come close to the pinnacle of athletic achievement among amateurs: representing your country and competing in the Olympic Games.
In the literary world, perhaps an equal scenario might be writing, and publishing, your first book.
Carol Newman Cronin is a rare example of somebody who has accomplished both. And with great success.
On Monday, Cronin came to Sanibel to promote her young adult novel, “Oliver’s Surprise: A Boy, A Schooner and the Great Hurricane of 1938,” at the Sanibel Island Bookshop.
A member of the elite U.S. Sailing Team from 2001 through 2007, Cronin has won numerous national and international sailing championships. She and her husband, Paul, spend as many hours as possible on the water, mostly aboard a Herreshoff Marlin that was built — ironically enough — in 1938.
The skipper of a three-person women’s sailing crew on Team USA during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Cronin described the “whirlwind” process of how she and her teammates were selected to represent the United States.
“We won a regatta in Miami in February of 2004… that’s how we made it,” said Cronin, a resident of Rhode Island. “Back then, the philosophy was to put pressure on everyone to win one event, rather than a series of events. We came in as underdogs, but that summer we found ourselves competing in the Summer Olympics.”
After several races that spring in the European regatta circuit, including a final tune-up race in Athens, Cronin arrived at the center of the world stage for amateur sports.
“It was fabulous, very much a whirlwind experience,” she said. “Walking into the stadium with Team USA was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”
On day two of the games, Cronin and her crew began a series that would include 11 races over 13 days of competition. Team USA won two races, earning 10th place overall.
“We realized about halfway through the regatta that we weren’t going to medal,” she explained. “But after I got home, I thought to myself, ‘Wow! I got to compete in the Olympics!’ It was a great experience and something I’ll never forget.”
Asked how she made the transition from Olympic athlete to author, Cronin noted that her grandmother used to write books.
“I think that self-motivation is the link,” she said. “Self-motivation is the key to being an Olympian and self-motivation is the key to writing.”
“Oliver’s Surprise” tells the tale of 12-year-old Oliver Nichols-Bee, who skips school on a sparkling September afternoon and hides out on the historical schooner, Surprise. There, he reminisces about the deceased grandfather he loved, who once owned a boatyard.
After a sudden fall, Oliver wakes up in the world of the past and meets his grandfather, who is also named Oliver; his grandmother, Nellie; the Surprise’s Cap’n Eli; and a boy named Finn. Oliver learns what life was like during the days prior to the Great Hurricane of 1938; he also comes to know his grandfather as a young man and discovers why the Surprise was the only boat to survive the storm.
Cronin began the process of writing the book as a Christmas present for her nephew, Oliver.
“I thought once it was finished, that would be it,” she said. “But I just couldn’t step away from it, so I decided to self-publish the book.”
As she began assembling the book, which included several illustration from her cousin Laurie Ann Cronin, a publisher in Boston — GemmaMedia — heard about “Oliver’s Surprise” and offered to publish it under their brand.
“It’s a better product than I could’ve produced, and they’ve given me a greater reach than I could’ve gotten on my own,” she added.
This summer, the sequel to her first book, entitled “Cape Cod Surprise,” will be released. Cronin noted that the new title, set in 1954 during Hurricane Carol, will include the same main character as before… much to the chagrin of her other nieces and nephews.
“They’re all big readers,” she said with a laugh. “They’d like a book with them featured in it, too.”
For more information on the author or “Oliver’s Surprise,” visit www.livewirepress.com.