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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Employee Writes Novel

A view of the Boston Harbor islands
A view of the Boston Harbor islands

Creative inspiration, more often than not, arises from personal experience. For Linda Smith-Mooney, it was an accumulation of experiences that led her to compose Tales of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Linda Smith-Mooney is an assistant director of Student Life and manager of the Wit’s End Café here on the UMass Boston campus. Tales of the Boston Harbor Islands is her first foray in the field of creative authorship. She expresses none of the angst that seems to plague most beginning authors, however. Speaking of the book, she said simply, “I had fun writing it.”

Smith-Mooney grew up around Boston Harbor; when she was a child, the islands were her playground. Those were happy times. Then, in 1999, tragedy struck when her brother was lost at sea off the coast of South Carolina. The harbor became a place of solace for Smith-Mooney.

“I would go down to the beach and look out at the waves,” she said, “and that’s where the idea for the story came from.”

Working on the Tales helped her to deal with the loss of her brother, to whom the book is dedicated. “It was a salvation for me,” she said.

She went on to add, “It is also a memoir for my own kids”, who also grew up playing around the islands, and whose own childhoods inform the personalities and experiences of the main characters in the book. In a way, as Mooney said, “It’s a kind of diary.”

Mooney was also inspired by the recent renovations occurring on the Harbor Islands, particularly at Spectacle Island which has increased in size thanks to dirt shipped in from the Big Dig and which is currently undergoing major transformation. All this work has brought renewed interest to the islands, and Smith-Mooney’s book picks up on that interest.

Most of all, though, she was inspired by her sincere personal attachment to the harbor area: “I just love the islands,” she said with a smile.

Tales of the Boston Harbor Islands is a short novel that tells the story of three courageous kids-Milynda, her brother Robert, and their cousin Karla-who, quite to their surprise, find themselves on an amazing adventure. As the novel begins, the three children, having just received the terrible news that their Uncle has disappeared from his fishing boat stationed in South Carolina, gather together on the beach of Boston Harbor to find comfort in the quiet and in each other’s company. On the beach they discover a bottle with a message inside. This message outlines a quest that is to take them across the Harbor Islands and through time itself in search of a treasure that may just turn out to be more personally valuable than any of them can imagine.

Though the basic premise of the book, a treasure hunt involving time travel, is purely fictional, the novel abounds with real-life events drawn from local, as well as personal, history.

“I did a lot of research,” said Smith-Mooney. The book contains Island legends such as that of the “Lady in Black”, and little known facts such as how Edgar Allan Poe derived the story of his “Cask of Amontillado” from an experience he had as a soldier stationed on Castle Island, back when he still went by the name Edgar Allan Perry. Smith-Mooney paid close attention to historical detail, researching images of the time periods to insure accuracy in the dress and characteristics of the characters and their way of life. All that work pays off, creating a believable sense of time and place.

The novel imparts important moments of the Islands’ history in a fun and engaging manner. It seems particularly geared to the interests of young readers, providing them with useful lessons in history while keeping them entertained.

“I really think it could be a good book for teenagers,” said Smith-Mooney, “I think it’s educational.”

Smith-Mooney expressed her thanks to all those who helped her in the composition of the book. Especially, she said, “I want to thank Professor Mary Shaner [of the English Department] for giving me her time and support…and for encouraging me to send it to a publisher.”

This reporter would like to second that encouragement. Smith-Mooney is currently engaged in finding a publisher for her work, and I hope that she finds one.

After reading the manuscript, I found it to be a fun and original work. With it’s fantastical plot and down to earth language, it’s blend of fact and fiction, it’s got all the elements of good youth-oriented fiction: it engages both the intellect and imagination. And in the relationship of its three convincingly drawn protagonists, brought closer together as they cope with a very real personal grief, it is poignant and tender. With a little luck, we may soon see Linda Smith-Mooney’s Tales of the Boston Harbor Islands gracing the shelves of local bookstores.