The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow
Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular and quirky Bright’s Pond novels. She is a frequent conference speaker and writing instructor. When she’s not writing or reading Joyce enjoys baseball, needle arts, video games and cream soda but not elevators—especially glass ones. She listens to many kinds of music, shamelessly confesses to enjoying American Idol, has never eaten a scallop or sky dived. Joyce has three children, Rebekah, Emily and Adam and three grandsons, Lemuel, Cedar and Soren and one son-in-law, Joshua. Joyce lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania with her son, Adam and their crazy cat, Mango, where she cares for an eighty-year-old onion plant. You can also visit her blog at:

If George Washington Jumped off a Bridge, Would You?
Well, Yes, Apparently

I have a confession. I am a lousy library patron. I know, I know. It comes as quite a shock that an author would so blatantly and unabashedly take advantage of the greatest public institution ever instituted—The Free Public Library. I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to return books on time. I am like a book Roach Motel—books check out . . . but they don’t check back in. It’s a pathological problem, I’m sure. One time, a librarian from one of the many local libraries in my county called and begged me to please return her copy of Squirrels—Friend or Foe (or something like that).

I had checked it out for my daughter to do a report for school. That was three years previous to the librarian’s heart-wrenching call. She promised she would not impose the fine, she just wanted her book back. Fortunately, I still had it and could even locate it in my vast personal library system—the pile system: A pile here. A pile there. I returned the book—three days after she called!

My heart is in the right place. Each and every time I take books from the library I promise myself and the checkout clerk that I will return the books. But I don’t. My fines are legendary. I’m sure I probably financed the entire collection of Narnia books. Not very long ago I needed some information from the reference librarian. She did some checking and then suggested a book that was available only at a library a few miles down the road.

She called and asked them to hold it for me—the “famous” local author; the woman whose debut novel was selected as one of the top five titles of 2009 by none other than Library Journal—I was so embarrassed. The librarian told me I would have to pay a $27 fine first for a book I had surreptitiously returned in the night drop.

But I think I am in pretty good company. I recently learned that George Washington, yes, the George Washington—first president of the United States—is guilty of this most heinous of misdemeanors. Apparently, George checked out two books from the New York Library system in 1792 and never returned them. Adjusting for inflation, George’s fine would be over $300,000. Congratulations! Way to go, George. The library doesn’t want the money. They just want the books back.

I’m sensing a trend here, a way to buck the system, a bibliophile loophole. It seems to me that if you keep library books long enough, you sort of get off scot-free. After a while they no longer want the money. Hey, it worked for George and me.

Now, I hope you do know that I would never, ever incite people to take out books and keep them until they reach the $300,000 mark and scam the library. Because, as usual, I am going to try to turn a new leaf and become a better library patron. I mean, they are so nice to me. They give me books—for free. It doesn’t get better than that.

Well, except this. My local library is going all out to help me celebrate my debut novel, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. They are sending out press releases, inviting all manner of local dignitaries, and they even dedicated the corner window to me and Agnes. (See picture). I mean really, how red is my face?

The library—use responsibly.


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