What a thoughtful, insightful review about LITTLE BOOKSTORE and its place in Appalachia, by Jeff Minick at Smoky Mountain News.
“Bookshops are magic.”
This quotation, buried in the middle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book (ISBN 978-1-250-01063-6, $24.99), could serve as the banner for this wonderful account of a used bookstore and the community in which it came to life.
Wendy Welch and her husband Jack Beck, a native of Scotland, had lived overseas, and had then returned to the United States, where they both worked high-powered jobs. In addition to her professional life, Wendy Welch also worked as a storyteller. After becoming dissatisfied with the back-stabbing and cutthroat office politics at her place of employment, Welch and her husband decided to seek out a quieter life. Their search brought them to Big Stone Gap in rural Virginia, a former coal town which was suffering, like so many small towns, economic upheavals. Here they found a five bedroom Edwardian house which, despite its exposed wiring, rickety fans, and need of paint, struck them as their dream home.
It also sparked another of their dreams. For years the two of them had fantasized about owning a used bookstore one day. Though the thought was at first a mutual jest, eventually it began to take on shape. On finding the house, they decided that the bottom floor would become the bookshop of their dreams.
Welch takes readers on a humorous journey as she and Jack build the bookshop. They began with no books other than those from their own collection, and so purchase their books from yardsales. Welch’s sister cleverly advises them to advertise that they will pay for books from customers with promises of future credit, and the idea begins to bring in more and more residents of Big Stone Gap.
With her fine eye for detail, Welch introduces us to many of the shop’s regulars, and we watch as their initial incredulity — “A bookstore? You’re nuts!” is the usual reaction of the locals — turns to acceptance and then to love. Welch’s descriptions of these customers reflects her love for them. Here, for example, is her portrait of Fiona:
“A transplant from Europe many years ago, Fiona runs a pottery and weaving studio on the town’s main street, and her designs command international respect. Not quite five feet tall, she sports a pixie cut of magnolia-blossom white hair. Her smiling eyes hint at mischief bobbing just beneath the surface. I couldn’t say what it is about her — her pixielike figure, baby face, or charming upper-class British accent — but sellers knock themselves out to throw discounts at this happy-go-lucky grandmother.”
In addition to describing encounters in the shop, Welch also gives us a fine portrait of this Appalachian town. In the chapter titled “God Bless You for Trying, Losers,” Welch shows her readers — and I suspect many of them may recognize the sensation — the difficulties of entering into the life of a tight community. When she is fired from a day job, which she’d taken to help support the store, a certain clique in the town begins gossiping about her, and some refuse to bring their business to the bookshop. She writes that “amid the innuendoes and nuances, relationships between insiders and outsiders — and who gets called which — can be as subtle as a homemade quilt.” She and Jack finally prevail in their quest for acceptance through their resolve to stay in the town and keep the shop open, and through Stephen Igo’s celebratory column about the shop that appeared in The Kingsport Times-News, bringing a sense of appreciation to Welch and more customers to the store.
In further efforts to attract customers, and because both of them are community-minded, Jack and Wendy hosted many events at the store. Some of these were impromptu parties with wine and homegrown music, others involved occasions like Needlework Night, when women from the town gather to talk while crocheting and knitting.
At the heart of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, of course, are books. Welch not only offers anecdote after anecdote about customers and why they buy certain books, but she also shares her own preferences in reading along with those of her husband. She discusses the place of the book in today’s digitalized culture, and the special place of second-hand bookshops in the book world. Her chapter “On Recommending Books” should send readers off to open old classics and newer novels. (I was particularly gladdened to see that she had recommended “Till We Have Faces,” which is for me not only the best novel ever written by C.S. Lewis, but a truly important work about relationships and the human spirit).
Tales of the Lonesome Pine is the real name of Jack and Wendy’s bookshop, chosen because of the town’s association with John Fox Jr.’s novel The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Both the bookshop and the town of Big Stone Gap are now on my “places to visit” wish list. For the present, however, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap must serve as a sort of secondhand visit to this secondhand shop.
And a fine visit it was.
(Jeff Minick is a teacher and reviewer. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
HOW COOL IS THIS?! Little Bookstore is a library staff pick in New Zealand. Thanks!
“This book about books will capture your heart, whether you are a bibliophile and believe in the power that books have to bring people together, or are an admirer of those who live with purpose.
If, like me, you happen to be both, so much the better – read it soon. “
Rita Knight, from Olympia, Washington, sent these gorgeous bookmarks to Jack and Wendy. Thank you, Ms. Knight!
Wendy was interviewed by Writers Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino:
Debut Author Interview: Wendy Welch, Author of the Memoir THE LITTLE BOOKSTORE OF BIG STONE GAP
I love featuring interviews with first-time book writers on my blog. It’s a rare treat that I get to sit down and talk with a debut memoir writer, but that’s just what’s happening today. Meet author Wendy Welch, who wrote the inspiring and fun book, THE LITTLE BOOKSTORE OF BIG STONE GAP (Oct. 2012, St. Martins). The book has been featured by People. Redbook, NPR, and many other media outlets.
Wendy’s story is billed as “the little Virginia bookstore that could: how two people, two cats, two dogs, and thirty-eight thousand books helped a small town find its heart. It is a story about people and books, and how together they create community.” Publishers Weekly said “The whole narrative exudes enormous charm and the value of dreams and lives truly lived,” while Kirkus called it “An entertaining book with a full cast of eccentric characters.” Find Wendy online here.
What is the book’s genre/category?
THE LITTLE BOOKSTORE OF BIG STONE GAP is Memoir/Comedy and Books & Reading.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Two bibliophiles with no retail experience set in motion a comedy of errors when they move to the Appalachian Coalfields and start a used books shop, just as the economy tanks and e-readers debut—and manage to build a community.
Where do you write from?
The front room table of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books and Café, in Big Stone Gap, VA, between customers.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I was trying to make sense of all the silly, strange, sweet things that happened while we were setting up the bookshop. Having been a storyteller who stopped working in the arts, I was used to organizing my thoughts by narration, so I started talking to myself about what was going on in the store, then writing it down (after two or three strange looks from people in the cars next to me at red lights, or behind me on the walking path). That became the book.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
The draft of the book was about five months in the making, then working with my agent on the proposal was another two months. I actually wrote the book twice. First it was a “here’s how you run a bookshop” but the only agent who saw that draft said, “Don’t be a dinosaur. Bookstores are dead.” And when I told some friends in despair, they said, “You know what? You and Jack are really funny and fun people. Instead of writing ‘here’s how you do it’ why don’t you write ‘here’s what happened to us as we were trying to get it done’?” So I did and that was the five-months-work draft that Pamela, my agent, saw and liked right away.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?
Pamela Malpas at Harold Ober Agency represents me, and she’s brilliant. A friend represented by her introduced us. I had queried 11 agents and received “let me see more” interest from two, when Cami Ostman (author of the running memoir Second Wind) out of the blue e-mailed that she’d spoken to her agent about my book and the agent would be up for a query. So I sent a polite and carefully constructed letter, and Pamela asked to see the manuscript, then asked me to call.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
When Jack (my husband and co-store-owner) and I realized we’d need someone to watch the shop while we were gone at various book launch things, we asked around for a retired librarian or some such who would enjoy staying in our guest room for two months. We live above the bookstore. The shop is small and in a small town, and we had read about Shakespeare and Co., the bookshop in Paris that had students stay above it free in return for working there, so we cold-called two people – Kim Beatty, Goodwill Librarian on Facebook, and Robert Gray, a columnist with Shelf Awareness – to ask if they could help find someone for us. Kim put the info on her page, and the next day it had been shared some 200 times. Bob then offered to write a column, and that thing went viral. NPR called a week later and had us on Weekend Edition. A magazine in Sweden and two in France put a notice in their editions (and Jack still regrets not inviting the two Swedish girls who applied). The LA Times and several New York online publications picked it up. One of them called us “the last great job in America.” And the Huffington Post followed the whole story. Then SIBA offered to set up a shopsitting service for small bookstores like ours, because they said it was a felt need in the whole community, and we worked with them on that.
It was just amazing to see the shopsitter thing snowball, when all we’d wanted was someone who would enjoy being here and not burn the place down to keep it going while we were away. So I guess that was the first surprise, in two ways. First, bookstores are not dead in the public imagination and interest, no matter what anyone says. And second, as much as one hears about how the whole publishing industry turns on money and fame and who’s bigger than who, suddenly here was this little silly story about a tiny bookshop and people were so happy for us and 158 people applied. That reaffirmed for me that sincerity, just doing your thing, and being yourself, is still a viable way to live AND to write. No one was asking anyone to sell their soul in a pact with the devil to get published. We were just living our lives, and suddenly a bunch of people wanted to be part of it. I think sometimes my publisher and the whole Ober agency laugh at my over-the-top stereotypes of Big Bad New York City. But then both my editor and agent are small town girls who transplanted to rise to successful careers in publishing, so sometimes we all laugh together.
(BTW we found a great shopsitter. His name was Andrew Whalen, he was a native of Ohio living in NYC, and our one regret is we’ll never be able to have a shopsitter again, because he was perfect. Responsible, sensible, he took great care of our dogs and cats, and by the time we got back the whole community loved him and were stuffing him with casseroles and trying to introduce him to their daughters home from college for Thanksgiving.)
What would you have done differently if you could do it again?
Worked faster and more steadily on the edits instead of procrastinating. I was holed up in a cabin with no Internet or phone the last three days before the final draft had to be in, editing like a mad fiend. That’s not as much fun—or as productive—as taking each day as it comes, getting the work done but enjoying doing it. I’d really found the writing, editing, marketing, figuring out how it all worked as a newbie process, etc. pleasurable until those three days. They were writing Hell.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
As you’ve heard, I definitely didn’t. Although I had assets and resources to bring to a platform, I didn’t know what they were. First Pamela, and then Cassie and Kim (marketing and publicity, respectively) at St. Martin’s Press helped me harness what I had and develop what I didn’t. They taught me the value of Twitter and Pinterest (I was already a Facebook addict) and they kept e-mailing with little gems like “By the way, you’re going to be in People in October” and “buy a copy of Redbook this month; you’re in it” and “Your book is being published in Korea.” Stuff I hadn’t done diddly to get. They knew who was interested in a sweet, funny story about two naïve people carving a bookstore into a community, and they kept that interest going.
For my part, Jack and I set up visits to about 20 independent bookstores around the Eastern seaboard and as far west as Missouri. People we knew in the business, or people who emailed in the pre-publication days to say how much they liked the book. And while we had a blast doing that, the horrible truth is that only about 3-6% of all books sold in America are sold via small independent bookstores. Jack and I networked and made friends and had a great time going to Parnassus and Winchester Book Gallery and Larry Bowen’s Reader’s Corner, but that’s our world. Cassie and Kim worked their world, and they worked it well. We’re under no illusions about which had more immediate results, but we like to think that we’re helping change attitudes toward saving money versus investing in community—both in retail and in publishing, if that makes sense. Jack and I believe in, understand, share with other booksellers (particularly those at Malaprops, who have been espousing this philosophy for 30 years) a belief in the power of small, community-oriented shops. A LOT of books about bookstores came out this season, and we hope we’re a part of keeping indies around.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Two pieces of advice, and they’re intertwined.
1) Be yourself. That way if you do find someone interested in publishing what you have to say, it will be your voice and not a made-up person you feel trapped into being for the whole rest of the process. And if you don’t find someone to publish you, you can enjoy the ride, then self-publish with wisdom and a sense of humor and insider discernment.
2) Celebrate every step from your first draft through hunting the agent, through hooking a publisher, through editing and marketing to publication day. Not only is publishing fickle, but the world is a pretty random place; you never know what will or won’t happen tomorrow. When I finished the draft that ultimately became the book, we called over a dozen friends and had a “Wendy wrote a book and it’ll probably never get published but it was fun” party. And no one at that party, Jack and I included, really gave credence to anything happening after that. When I started querying agents, I didn’t have confidence. And then bang bang bang the dominoes fell. The party was in February, Cami emailed in April, Pamela and I worked on the proposal throughout May and June, then she put the manuscript and proposal out July 3 and on July 20 two houses were bidding on it. When I told the friends who attended the draft party, they were laughingly trying to hide how surprised they were. (And of course we had another party.) Cami, when she got Pamela as her agent, had an “I got an agent” party. Celebrate everything. The journey is more than just the destination.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I have the world’s worst sense of direction. I can get lost in my own bookshop. Put me down two blocks from my city hotel in a straight line, and you’ll find me two hours later, wandering the suburbs.
Almost anything with a strong female lead in period costume.
www.wendywelchbigstonegap.wordpress.com is our blog and has the bookshop calendar, links to Jack’s music and the annual tour he leads to Scotland and Ireland, and other fun stuff.
People are beginning to visit the bookshop from outside our region; they have lunch in our café and explore downtown Big Stone (which takes about an hour but is worthwhile, nonetheless!) and go down to Carter’s Fold or over to Barter Theatre and have a great weekend out. We’re enjoying meeting so many people from such varied lifestyles and places.
Right now we’re just riding that wave, being in the moment, enjoying the visitors and also opportunities the book’s brought to participate in events like the VA Festival of the Book, the Whipporwill Festival in KY, library and bookstore talks, giving a writing workshop here or there—fun things that start to fill up the calendar around daily obligations. Between and behind the busy-ness I’m writing fiction, and when things calm down I’ll get back to working harder on it. (She said, smiling.) Honest.
One of our favorite reviews ever, by Sandy Swartzentruber
Here’s a link to a great review in the Washington Post -
And here’s a page from Country Woman magazine -
Isn’t this a sweet book review? It’s from a church that is reading LITTLE BOOKSTORE for their book club.
Library News from Bill Wade: A Used Bookstore in Big Stone Gap? That's Nuts! [http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs146/1103500019343/img/403.jpg] Wendy Welch at the Washington County Public Library last Sunday. Photo: TimesNews.net<http://TimesNews.net> A couple of weeks ago Martin Dotterweich emailed me that I might enjoy attending one of his classes to hear an individual from Scotland make a presentation. I've come to know Martin well enough to recognize that when he offers a suggestion, however mild, it is likely to be something of greater significance than I would anticipate. So I was prompt to show up for class and to hear Jack Beck, his Scottish guest, speak. The moment he opened his mouth, memories of my earlier trips to Scotland flooded into my mind, for I could not understand a thing he said, nary a word. But gradually I became accustomed to the brogue and by the end of the hour was comprehending what he had to say. And a story began to unfold. Beck had fairly recently come to Big Stone Gap, Virginia (population 5,000), with his wife, Wendy Welch, who is an American, and they had opened a used bookstore. "They're nuts!" I said to myself. But they have made a go of it; the bookstore has prospered. Moreover, Wendy, who has a Ph.D. in ethnography (you may have to look that up in the dictionary), has written a book about their experience, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book. Within days I obtained a copy of it and, after reading only a few pages, knew that this book was appropriate for our church library and I wanted you to know about it. Perhaps a little explanation is in order here. I always try to obtain books for our church library that have some clear spiritual merit. And what is the merit in the story of a used bookstore? The point is this: Jack and Wendy did not simply want to run a bookstore. As outsiders coming into a small, somewhat insulated community, they wanted to become accepted by the local folk and to make a personal contribution. They wrote out a mission statement: to provide quality books at a fair price, to make a fair profit, to become "responsible members of our community," and stated that their bookstore "is a kind of sacred trust ... it should be friendly and fun for customers and us." Wendy's book tells the story, and it is very human, with good and sad moments, serious and also funny. Jack was at first rejected for membership in the local Kiwanis; they were Quakers but sought to find a comfortable church home in Big Stone, and finally found it with the Presbyterians. Initially, customers were scarce, but gradually business began to pick up. They encouraged groups to use the store as a social gathering place, and in time quilters, weavers, and all kinds of craft people were meeting there. They became aware of the personal stories of local residents and offered their help when there was death, sickness, divorce, and other tragedy. One resident commented that they had made their bookstore a local church. This is a wonderful story, beautifully written by Wendy, and it's especially appropriate at Christmas. It has similarities to the motion picture It's a Wonderful Life, which is so often screened at this season. In fact, her book would make a marvelous movie, and I'm already considering who should play the parts of Jack and Wendy. I heartily recommend it to you as a beautiful, warming book, and if you are like me, you will be planning a trip to Big Stone Gap.
Here’s the UVA Wise Talk Show Wendy did recently (it’s a full length show of half an hour)
And below is the link to the TV interview Wendy did with “Virginia This Morning”- a fun time!
“If there was ever a book about inspiring you to follow your dreams, it is the memoir The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. When you read the story of Wendy Welch and her husband who opened up a bookstore in a small town during the decline in the U.S. economy, you’ll be amazed at how books can bring even the most unlikely people (and animals) together.” (An excerpt from the review in the parenting magazine below!)
What a great tagline from a review in this Delaware, Maryland, Virginia newspaper: “a fun memoir … full of community, reading and coming home to a place you’ve never been before”
The Roanoke Times was very complimentary of both book and bookstore, in the link below.
And look what august company we keep in the Christian Science Monitor’s composite review of great books about books!
MacMillan ran a librarians-only give-away with a book Wendy signed for them; this sparked some fun commentary on Goodreads! (The link is to MacMillan; the Goodreads discussion is on the librarians only list.) http://www.macmillanlibrary.com/2012/10/24/the-little-bookstore-of-big-stone-gap-giveaway
Wendy got this lovely note from a newly minted college grad who saw her in Asheville at Malaprop’s:
Your book was amazing; I literally couldn’t put it down. I found myself in tears at the end of it because you somehow managed to restore my faith in humanity and my own future simultaneously. Also, permit me to mention that you are an incredible writer– I felt like I was actually living your journey. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this book helped me realize that it is totally plausible to expect and work for real happiness in life. If ever faced with the choice between something “important” and something better, I will think of you. I hope you know what my decision will be.
People Magazine listed Little Bookstore as a Great Read in Non-fiction!
The Richmond Times Dispatch summed up the review below with: A skillful story of following your dream even when reality intrudes, a vivid portrait of small-town customs and quirks, a cornucopia for bibliophiles and a work of sincerity and humanity, “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap” will captivate a few hours of your time and enrich your life, too.
What a great article on Big Stone itself, and the book in particular, from Hampton Roads!
Redbook referred to The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap as “lovely” and featured it on their October “Inspiration Board” (page 23). You can see this online at their slide show.
If you want to know how Zora and Bert feel about all this -
From the Knoxville News Sentinel:
This great article ran in Chapter 16, the Tennessee arts magazine:
The Bristol Herald Courier says:
DearReader recently had Wendy as a guest columnist:
Here’s the podcast Wendy did recently:
This review blog gave Little Bookstore an excellent recommendation:
Booklist has this to say:
Once the dream of every bibliophile, owning one’s own bookstore means something different in these days
of Amazon.com and e-readers. Keeping an independent bookstore thriving is problematic in even the
biggest cities and best of economic times, and it’s especially difficult in a rural community of 5,000 facing
a major economic downturn. Yet none of those factors deterred Welch and her husband from impulsively
buying a ramshackle Victorian mansion and filling it with thousands of used books. Nor did their lack of
book trade knowledge or any type of local support stand in their way. Frugal, resourceful, cunning, and
determined, they vowed to win over those who thought they’d never last. Having a pair of saucy cats and
plates of Scottish shortbread helped convert any holdouts, but it was their empathetic demeanor and
unabashed love of books that earned the Welches continuing success. Amusing, engaging, astute, and
perceptive, Welch’s buoyant memoir of an endangered way of life is a fervent affirmation of the power of
books to bring people together.
— Carol Haggas
Whoohoo! Publisher’s Weekly called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap “beguiling” and said it “exudes enormous charm.” How nice is that?!
Sorry the jpg below is a bit fuzzy, but you can use the link above if you prefer.
This is a link to Wendy’s Huffington Post essay that ran August 2, about #IndieThursday and local bookstores: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-welch/the-importance-of-local-bookstores_b_1730964.html
It got picked up with some additional info (and a nice photo of our bookshop) in SHELF AWARENESS the next day: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1797#m17022
Also, our search for a “SHOPSITTER” went viral! After Robert Gray wrote a nice column for us in Shelf Awareness (and Kim the Goodwill Librarian on Facebook posted it on her page) we were featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition. You can hear the program here:
We also made international news! Actualitte, a French literary magazine, wrote this about us the week of August 27th. (Doesn’t Val-kyttie look lovely in accent marks?)
Logé, blanchi, avec un chats et chiens à nourrir : le librairie-sitter
Une offre d’emploi cocasse !
Devenir libraire-sitter, comme on peut s’improviser baby-sitter ? C’est la proposition de Wendy Welch et Jack Beck, qui possèdent l’établissement Tales of the Lonesome Pine, situé dans la ville de Big Stone Gap, en Virginie. Population : 5400 âmes. Le contrat est simple : tenir leur boutique durant deux mois, contre un logement et quelques avantages. Et un chat à nourrir. Ainsi qu’un chien.
L’idée, c’est que Wendy vient de publier un livre, et qu’elle s’apprête à partir en tournée, à partir de l’automne. Et comme tous deux souhaitent profiter ensemble de ces voyages, sans pour autant fermer les portes de leur librairie, ils ont décidé de lancer une annonce.
(There’s more to this article, found here if you read French! http://www.actualitte.com/librairies/loge-blanchi-avec-un-chats-et-chiens-a-nourrir-le-librairie-sitter-36310.htm)
Then Litteratur Magazinet in Sweden published this; we think our shop looks cute in umlauts, too!
Sökes: Bokhandelsvakt. Sälj böcker, mata katterna. Husrum ingår.
Drömmer du om att driva en egen liten bokhandel? Nu finns ett gyllne tillfälle att pröva om det är så mysigt som det låter. Ägarna av en liten bokhandel i Virginia i USA söker nämligen en bokhandelsvakt under oktober och november. Men du måste gilla katter – för att att mata och gosa med ägarnas katter ingår också!
And here in the States, several bloggers and magazines picked up the story. The Awl (a NYC literary magazine) called us:
Ever wanted to run an independent bookstore? Maybe one in picturesque rural Virginia, in October and November? Now’s your chance.The owners of Tales of the Lonesome Pine used bookstore in Big Stone Gap (pop. 5,400) have put out a call for a bookstore-sitter. They will provide lodging and provisions in exchange for the bookstore-sitter keeping the store’s doors open for two months.
and the Huffington Post ran this lovely piece, complete with our shop video!
Tales Of The Lonesome Pine Used Books Has Not Yet Hired Its Bookstore-Sitter
Posted: 09/05/2012 2:55 pm Updated: 09/05/2012 2:55 pm
WASHINGTON — How would you like to wait out election season taking care of a used bookstore — and its attendant dogs and cats — in a small town in southernwestern Virginia?
You’ve got until Friday to apply. And you’ve got competition.
Wendy Welch and Jack Beck, the owners of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Bookstore in Big Stone Gap, Va., are looking for someone to take care of their store — and adorable pets; you can see pictures of the two dogs and three cats on Welch’s blog — while the pair go on a two-month book tour for Welch’s new book, “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.”
“We’ve had over one hundred applications from all over the world,” Beck told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. “Sweden, France, New Zealand…”
The bookstore-sitter is needed from Sept. 20 to Nov. 20. The dates will coincide with Big Stone Gap’s annual Celtic Festival. Shelf-Awareness details what Welch says will be involved:
As far as the “practicalities” are concerned, they “are not offering wages, just full living expenses; we can’t accommodate anyone’s pets, because our dogs are territorial and Val-Kyttie is senile. Children are possible but they would have to sleep in the living room as we have only one guest room.”A prospective bookshop-sitter would be expected to work Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., “and we’ll introduce them to the support team in the community so they can get a pinch-hitter if an emergency arises,” she noted. “We will be home a day here or there, but we’re headed out October 5 and I suspect that trip would end the week before Thanksgiving. If this person wants to be home for Thanksgiving, that’s not a problem. Ideally the person would come the last week of September and spend a week with us learning the ropes, then off we’d go and they’d be in charge.”
Interested? (Of course you are!) Welch says how to get in touch on her blog:
Potential shop-sitters please send to firstname.lastname@example.org your experience with litter boxes, history with books, proof you are nice but not a pushover, and what you would do if you were suddenly called home for a job or emergency, plus any questions you have for us. Thanks!
Check out a video of the bookstore below:
Not quite so lovely was the LA Times, which did two articles: first, this nice one from August 26th, 2012:
http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-jc-wanted-bookstoresitter-sell-books-feed and then a second one in response to an angry bookshop owner in California who called us "hobbyists." The second article from the LA Times featured our bookshop video, which bumped it up to almost a thousand hits, practically overnight! It also prompted Big Stone Gap local Elizabeth Cooperstein, MD, to write a scathing response. Here's the second article link: http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-jc-bookstore-sitting-gig-not-so-charming-20120905,0,3928105.story and here's how Elizabeth responded at 2:21 PM September 11, 2012
So let me get this straight. The measure of value is how much revenue is generated? If that is so, the only entities of value in far southwest Virginia are the coal companies; not the restaurant owners, not the dry cleaner, not the guy who fixes your car, not the farmer next door. Even the local hospitals and physician practices rely on medicare and medicaid, anathema in other parts of the country. I reckon if you live in an area with 150,000 people no one has to get a second job for benefits. However, we live here and we deal with the challenges and just because there is no money here doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate a bookstore and those willing to live here and run it. Please don’t send Books a Million missionaries. We are happy with our ‘hobbyists’.
More accurate in its portrayal of rural issues and our bookshop was this great blog on rural living:
And finally, the link to the story in NYC’s magazine Brokelyn
Here’s a review from Kirkus about the book that prompted the shopsitter hunt! Other reviews have appeared in Publishers Weekly, The Cozy Little Library Blog, and Library Journal. There have also been many reviews on Goodreads, with a 4.3 rating overall at last check.
THE LITTLE BOOKSTORE OF BIG STONE GAP
Review Issue Date: August 15, 2012
Online Publish Date: July 30, 2012
Price ( Hardcover ): $24.99
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-01063-6
How a couple of outsiders captured the heart of a small Virginia community in the Appalachian Mountains and succeeded in the unlikely enterprise of opening an independent bookstore.
When her husband, Jack, retired from his position as head of a college department in Edinburgh, the couple decided to move to the United States. Welch, an American ethnographer, had been offered a seemingly attractive position directing an arts nonprofit in the United States, but it didn’t work out. Checking out new places, they settled on Big Stone Gap, the scene of Adriana Trigiani’s popular novels as well as the 1908 classic, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, by John Fox Jr. On impulse, Welch and her husband purchased an old Edwardian mansion in poor repair and then decided to open a secondhand bookstore, which they gave the whimsical name Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, Music and Internet Café. In Scotland, the couple had spent weekends performing at local fairs (she as a professional storyteller and he singing Scottish ballads), and Lonesome Pine soon doubled as a community center with a writing group, Celtic songs and dancing, mystery nights, gourmet treats and more. They worked to draw people in from surrounding communities, and initially, their unlikely gamble proved to be a big success as the store thrived. However, to supplement their income, the author took a job at a local nonprofit and ran into a conflict on policy. Gossip spread that they were “uppity incomers,” her husband was refused membership in the Kiwanis club and customers fell away. This time, they determined to stay and in time were accepted as “Jack and Wendy, who run our town’s bookstore.” Welch discusses the financial practicalities and the ephemeral aspects involved in creating a peaceful space where people can hang out.
An entertaining book with a full cast of eccentric characters.
And finally, With Good Reason interviewed Jack and Wendy about the “Booking Down the Road Trip” in March 2012: http://withgoodreasonradio.org/2012/03/the-little-bookstore-of-big-stone-gap/