A very special chair and a recommendation to librarians everywhere

I visited the Townsend Library in Massachusetts this week. I spoke to some lovely people about my path to becoming a writer, ordered them to go home and write, answered some interesting questions about my books, teaching, and the writing process, and then listened in as a book club discussed The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

It was fascinating to listening to people talk about my characters as if they were real people. In my mind, they are absolutely real, but rarely do I get to hear others talk about them in the same way I think about them.

They loved Polly. Argued about Emily. Identified with Caroline.

They all claimed to love the story, but I was sitting about three feet away, so perhaps they were being kind.

The book club consisted of about ten women and one man, who amusingly had to raise his hand in order to speak. Apparently it's difficult to get a word in edgewise.   

I was also permitted to sit in a chair that very few people are allowed to even touch. Apparently one of the librarians - a woman named Molly - is fairly protective of this commemorative chair, going so far as to placing a warning sign on the chair which contains a picture of the chair in the event the sign somehow falls off the chair. 

I was told more than once how fortunate I was to be sitting there.

Before I left, another librarian, Stacy, showed me the shelves containing my last book: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.

So rarely have I thought that a library or bookstore has the right number of my book.

In the case of the Townsend Library, they nailed it.

Librarians around the world may want to take note.

The moment for which every author longs, experienced by my wife.

My wife was checking out books at the library when a woman stepped up beside her and handed Unexpectedly, Milo to the adjacent librarian.


“That’s my husband’s book,” Elysha said.

“What?” the woman asked.

“What?” the librarian asked.

“That’s my husband’s book,” she repeated. “He wrote it.”

“He did?” the woman said.

“He did?” the librarian said.

I can count on two hands the number of times I have seen one of my novels in the wild, and I have never seen Unexpectedly, Milo in anyone’s hands outside of friends and family. I see it on bookstore and library shelves all the time, but rarely in a reader’s actual hands.

I dream of the day when I step on a plane or walk across a beach or stroll by a row of treadmills and see a handful of people reading my books. For a few select author

The woman returning the book, it turns out, knows me. I attended her book club a few months back to discuss Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, and she has since read my other two books. In fact, the library where the woman borrowed the book places a rating sheet on the back page, giving readers the chance to assign a numerical score and add comments about the book. She had been the first to take the time to fill out my book’s rating sheet.


It was exciting for my wife to see someone plop down one of my books right in front of her, and part of me is glad that my wife was able to experience that “in the wild” moment. I spend much of my life trying desperately to impress her, so a moment like this helps my cause.

Still, books in the wild are a tough thing to come by, and I was a little jealous that she was there to experience that moment and not me. Perhaps with the publication of my next book, set for the fall, my opportunities for seeing my books in the wild will increase substantially.

Fingers crossed.

Mystery behind this photograph solved, though the solution was fairly obvious.

Yesterday, I wished that I knew the story behind this photograph.


Thanks to a kind reader, today I know. It was a librarian, of course. Those fanatical zealots of books, always looking for a way, however crazy it may seem, to get a story into your hands. 

Honestly, who else could it have been?

My daughter received her first library card. Her father might be more excited about it than she is, and for good reason.

My daughter received her first library card last weekend. She was thrilled.

I think my wife and I were even more excited than she was.

She also checked out her first book with it: If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

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I didn’t receive my first library card until I was ten years-old. There were very few books in my home when I was growing up, so my library card represented access to a world never before seen by me. I loved my public library, despite it’s miniscule size (a single room of books) and placement in the basement of our town hall. I would walk the aisles, staring at the spines of the books, unable to fathom how many stories were now available to me.

Today my hometown library is a beautiful building located in what used to be my middle school. It’s enormous, illuminated by natural light, filled with more books than my childhood mind could have ever imagined, and equipped with all the amenities of a modern-day library.


I’ve had the pleasure of speaking there on a few occasions, and while I adore the space, I still hold a special place in my heart for that small, basement room in the town hall where so many doors opened for me for the first time.

After some sleuthing by a clever reader, I even managed to identify and locate the first library book that I ever checked out, and a copy sits on my bookshelf today.


I have yet to reread it, fearful that it won’t be as spellbinding as I remember it to be, but I’ll crack it open soon.

Today copies of all three of my novels can be found in the same library where my daughter received her first library card All three can also be found on the shelves of my hometown library.

This astounds me. My heart still flutters every time I see one of my novels on a bookstore shelf, but seeing them on the shelves of these two libraries means more to me than I can describe.

I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, but in my wildest boyhood dreams, I never imagined that my books would someday find their way onto the shelves of the library where the world of books and reading first opened to me.

And as a parent, the idea that my books are sitting on the shelves of the same library where my daughter received her first library card is equally indescribable.

My daughter was decidedly less impressed, and she is never terribly  excited about seeing her father’s books on library or bookstore shelves. That’s okay. My novels don’t have any pictures, and the endings aren’t always happy.

As long as she’s reading something, I don’t care.

I’ve always thought that a library fine was a good thing. Unexpected income. Some librarians have disagreed. Am I wrong?

From a piece in the Hartford Courant entitled Wethersfield Library Begins ‘Food For Fines’ Program:

For a limited time, Wethersfield Library patrons can pay their overdue fines with a can of beans or a jar of spaghetti sauce.

The library's Food for Fines program, which began Monday and lasts through the end of August, donates the items to the town's food bank, Library Director Laurel Goodgion said. The library runs the program every year, she said.

"People like doing it," Goodgion said. "It gives them a way to feel good paying off their fines."

I have always been a person who doesn’t mind paying fines for overdue books. I’ve always considered it my way of supporting the library. And because I’m never borrowing a new release, the books that I borrow are presumably not in demand. No one else is waiting for them when I am finished reading. I’ve never been accused of making another patron wait for a book.

In my mind, my fines have always been favors for the library.

Unexpected income.

Some librarians have disagreed.


While I admire and respect librarians a great deal, I have run into one or two in my time who become genuinely angry when I return an overdue book. It typically occurs when the librarian attempts to scold me for my tardiness, and I respond with a smile and a comment over how happy I am to pay the fine.

One time the discussion became so heated that I stormed out of the library and charged into the restroom in the outer hallway, only to find myself standing over a half-naked woman sitting on the toilet.

Her fault for failing to lock the door on the single occupancy restroom, but had I not been so angry, I may have offered a courtesy knock before entering.

While I understand that one of a librarian’s duties is to safeguard books and other media on behalf of the general public, I have never understood the emotional response that has occasionally greeted me.

The system of overdue fines serves a purpose. If I am late in returning a book, the library (and thereby the general public) is compensated for my lateness.

And it’s not as if I’m paying a fine for speeding or failing to stop at a crosswalk, which endangers the lives of others. It’s a fine for a book that I kept for three extra days.

Can’t we be a little happy that the book is being returned along with some unexpected cash?

I’d even be happy to pay more. Increase the fines if necessary. I’m more than happy to contribute to the library. Perhaps the increased fine would increase my chances of returning the book on time. At the very least, it may give librarians a reason to smile while collecting the fine, knowing the money will support the institution that they and I love.

Am I wrong about this?

My daughter’s favorite library is not a library

My wife agreed to bring my daughter to her favorite library yesterday. “The one with the stage and the trains,” she said.

The main branch of the West Hartford public library has both a stage and a train set in its children’s section, so naturally they went there.

Upon arriving, Clara said, “We’re going to my favorite library. Right?”

“Yes,” Elysha said, pointing to the red brick building in front of them.

“No,” Clara said. “Not that one. That one.” Her finger turned left in the direction of the adjacent Barnes & Noble, which also happens to have trains and a stage in their children’s area.


My four year-old thinks that the bookstore is a library.

She also thinks that a town would place two libraries adjacent to each other, which seems even more bizarre to me, but she’s a kid, so I’ll let that go.

But I’m not sure how to feel about this. Obviously Clara has failed to differentiate between Mommy and Daddy borrowing books and buying books, which says something about her understanding of commerce and the transaction of money in order to procure goods and services, but is thinking of a bookstore and a library as one and the same a bad thing for libraries?

Or for bookstores?