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:

A Tale of Two Operations

MangoThese last two and half months were something extraordinary for me. My sister Barbara moved in. She lives in Grass Valley, California, but came east to have her right shoulder replaced. Yikes. It’s not like choosing a new sofa. You don’t go to the shoulder store and say, “I’ll take that one, please. Have it delivered.” It’s major surgery involving hammers and chisels and bone saws—oh my!

Barb has rheumatoid arthritis, which has pretty much destroyed her major joints. She’s already had both knees replaced and now it’s on to the shoulders. We wondered if it was possible to have her toe joints replaced. Ha! That would be funny. She is in many ways the bionic woman. So I invited her to come and live me while she recovered, knowing that she would need lots of help. It was an amazing transformation.

When the doc came to see me in the waiting room after the surgery and told me how he had to cut through all those ligaments and tendons and then sew it all back together, I was awestruck. How in the world did he do it? I know what it’s like to break bones and that’s bad enough. But to have a bone removed? Then he told me how important it was for her not to move that shoulder for two weeks! Pressure. Anyway, she came through the surgery with no problems.

The hard work was about to begin: dealing with the pain, learning to function with one arm, and going to rehab. They put her right arm in an immobilizer with more Velcro and straps than they used on Hannibal Lector. What an ordeal. She was my hero during that time. I watched her endure pain that can only be compared to childbirth. She learned to live with one arm tied down.

All this while I was trying to make my deadline for Zondervan. But I must say that as much as I was Barb’s cheerleader, she was mine. She made certain my butt was in my chair and I was working every morning. It turned out to be a win-win for both of us. Even Mango, that’s him in the picture, made sure I was working. Barbara was a blessing.

Writing a novel is a lot like recovering from surgery and making it through the physical therapy. At least for me it was. It seems I completely forget how to write every time I write a new book. I must relearn how to navigate the sometimes stormy waters of plot, figure out why and how my character needs to go from one place to another. It was the same for Barb. She had to relearn how to eat with one arm, write left-handed, and take a shower with her arm tied down.

She sat with her pain, ice packs on both shoulders, and I sat at my laptop, coaxing words and sentences out in my own brand of pain and triumph. As the days flew past, Barbara’s strength recovered, and my word count grew larger. My characters grew stronger. She was able to walk farther than a few feet. Harriet

Beamer (my protagonist) crossed the country. Barb and I ventured outside and went to the grocery store. I passed the 100,000-word mark. The further she progressed in her recovery, the further along my story went.

And then, the same day the doctor discharged her and told she could go home to California, I finished my book. Barbara was out of the immobilizer, using her right arm with strength, and, best of all, with no or very little pain. I clicked the SEND button and off went my novel. We had a great celebration with a little party. My kids, Mango, and a couple of friends ate pulled pork, grilled veggies, and berry cobbler. We watched a Bette Davis movie. My sister and I both had journeys to take those couple of months, and we made it to the finish line together.

Who knows what’s next or when. Barb will need the left shoulder replaced soon. Maybe she’ll come back. We’ll do it together. She on the big chair with ice packs and soda; me at the laptop. She learning to use a new shoulder; me learning to write a new novel.


Carrying Mason

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