Tag Archives: Tales of the Lonesome Pine LLC

Matron!

Jack’s weekly guest blog post, in which he sinks ever deeper into senility -

We sell a few books each week on the Internet through Half dot Com, an online marketplace where you can buy and sell books, videos and CDs (a branch of Evil Bay). When one of our listed books sells, we get an email saying which it is and who it has to be sent to.

A few days ago we got one of these messages and I couldn’t find the book. I asked Wendy if she’d seen it. As it turns out, she’d just finished reading it, so we figured it was probably down in our basement apartment. No luck! Finally Wendy turned it up hidden in among the ordered books waiting to be picked up by local customers.

Meanwhile -

Wendy, knowing I’m a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, had picked up one of his books for me from the local library (I blogged about it last week) and, now that I’d finished it, I’d laid it aside to be returned to the library.

Yesterday morning I had two early tasks. I had to package for mailing three ‘kitty afghans’ that Wendy had crocheted to raise ‘spay and neutering money’  and I had to package the aforementioned ordered book. I then walked over to the post office and sent them both off.

Except -

When Wendy got home she picked up the now only too familiar ordered book and waved it at me – “Haven’t you mailed this yet?”

Uh, Oh – - -

Yes – that’s right! In all the kerfuffle of getting the three afghans into a compact box and getting it all taped up and addressed, I’d stuck the book into its envelope without double checking. If I had, I’d have seen that I was mailing the McCall Smith LIBRARY BOOK by mistake. So I’ve sent the buyer a crawling apology by e-mail, explaining what happened, and included a similar note with the correct book, which finally went off by parcel post this morning.

And, yes, I did double check this time, and triple checked, and – - -

I wonder if I’m going to have to buy a McCall Smith on Half dot Com to take back to the library?

12 Comments

Filed under bookstore management, humor

As One Door Closes – - –

Jack’s weekly (kind of) guest post -

I have to admit that the sudden closure of the iconic ‘Mutual Pharmacy and Diner’ which features in The Little Bookstore, and in Adriana Trigiana’s Big Stone Gap series of novels, was a severe shock to everyone in our community. Wendy and I believe in places like that and so it hit us particularly hard. The fact that it was bought out by a well known national pharmacy chain (which probably needs to remain nameless, but is the only one in BSG) only makes it more poignant. Of course we are glad that said chain is re-employing some of the staff, but there’s a suspicion that it was all about removing competition.

But nothing lasts for ever, and that brings me to another point. Small towns have a USP (OK – I have an MBA so I’m allowed to mention a Unique Selling Point) and that is easily experienced, but very hard to define. It’s a mixture of architecture, culture, personality/character, position, dynamic and history (at least). Big Stone Gap has all of that in abundance, so I am optimistic about its future despite the closure of ‘The Mutual’.

Something else that the ‘Gap’ has is a growing number of people who realize that waiting for one of the existing established organizations to do ‘it’ for them is not necessarily a recipe for success. When Wendy and I travel around the country to other small towns we continually see that the thriving ones are that way because enough people just got together and did something. Sometimes that is centered on a business, but just as often it will be a farmers’ market, or a community yard sale.

Today I was doing my normal quick trawl through FaceBook and saw a post announcing that Bob’s Market and Family Drug was having a re-opening event. This is another long established local business. Bob has retired and everyone thought that was another one gone. But, no! New owners have taken over and are rarin’ to go – that’s great!

So, what’s the message?

All communities change and develop – sometimes much loved landmarks go; but sometimes enthusiasts like the new owners of Bob’s Market and Family Drug arrive on the scene. Their timing, in this case, was spot on! So to David Adkins, Kara Goins Adkins and Rick Mullins, I can only give the traditional Scottish well-wish: Lang may yir lum reek!

 

For more on the background to this post check out our friend Amy Clark’s op-ed piece in a recent edition of the NY Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/opinion/appalachian-hope-and-heartbreak.html?

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, small town USA, VA

Who, Us?

     Tuesday past at Needlework Night was the annual post-holiday Leftovers Party. We hold two of these each year, one the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the other the Tuesday after New Year.  Each needleworker brings some leftover food—the rules are very specific: no cooking; no prettying up; just haul out the plate with the cling film cover and bring it along—and drink.
     After New Year, each attendee also brings a leftover present for the Rude Santa gift exchange (the one where you can steal each other’s presents).
     So no one, least of all Jack (who had to fly solo that night because I was out of town) thought anything about the brown paper-wrapped package sitting on the end table alongside one of the shelves. The Needleworkers pulled leftover Christmas crackers, ate cheese ball and fruitcake, and traded stories of in-law hells, house guests from hell, and drunken office party hellraisers as they swapped crockery, sweaters, cookie tins and other “I don’t want this” presents accumulated during the 2012 holiday run.
     But as the party ended and everyone began putting on coats, pulling off their paper crowns, and tucking their new gifts for old into their needlework baskets, the package still sat there. Jack picked it up. It definitely contained books.
     “Anybody forget this?” he asked. All demurred. Jack shrugged and tore open the paper.
     You guessed it: Fifty Shades of Grey, the trilogy.
     “All right, ‘fess up. Who left these?” Jack said with a laugh, waving them above his head amid the women who form Big Stone Gap’s library board, hospital auxiliary, and church vestry committees for every conceivable denomination.
     They all looked shocked. As if, said their lightly mascaraed eyes beneath the sensible pageboy haircut variations.
     So, we have another set of Those Books in the bookstore—or had. Someone bought them Friday afternoon, half off retail since they were used. There were some yarn strands left as bookmarks in a couple of passages, but in a small town, it doesn’t do to pay close attention to who’s working with which fibers. Live and let knit.

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized

Your Old Book is not *%#^%$ Valuable, OK?

People come into the shop on a fairly regular basis, clutching a single tome wrapped in plastic. They have the hopeful idea that this will purchase their retirement on a small private island.

Sorry, but here are the seven most common reasons we see on why your book might cover lunch at Applebee’s but no more:old books

7. It’s a paperback. Trust us on this one; by the time a paperback is old enough to be antique, it’s too battered to be pretty. Planned obsolescence in the binding glue, or something like that.

6. You have the book club edition. Jack and I got very excited in the early days, finding we had an old hardback of Laura Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, which goes for $600 in a first edition. We had the sturdy, ubiquitous one instead. It’s like the difference between an Aston Martin and an MGB GT; both are pretty, both are cool, but only one is hard to find.

5. It has worm holes. Yes, even if the worm is dead, even if the cover still has its gilt lettering and hand-sewn edges intact, those holes aren’t adding character, they’re subtracting value. Ask any Science Fiction fan: worm holes are bad news.

4. It has Reader’s Digest in the title. Just stop it, ok? We don’t want to buy it and neither does anyone else on the planet.

3. Something has chewed the corners. Dog-eared, maybe; dog-chewed, nyet. And no, we don’t want to hear what got it, or how. Just leave quietly without touching anything. Thanks.

2. The author is still alive. I once mentioned to my agent Pamela, just before visiting her in NYC, that in the used business, a dead author’s work tends to be worth exponentially more than that of a live one. After a brief pause, she asked in honeyed tones, “Do you like Ferris wheels, dear?”

1. It’s part of an encyclopedia set. Unless it’s pre-1800s (we’ve seen one in six years) make a book angel out of it and be happy.

So your book is probably not valuable in terms of money, but let’s not forget it’s still a wisdom house, a snapshot of words between covers that–barring dogs and old glue–hold them in one place, and through time. It may not be worth money, but it’s still valuable. Enjoy it; display its pretty cover; read it, turning the pages gently (and possibly wearing gloves). It’s yours to discover.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

The All-Season Greeting Display, or How Lazy People Decorate a Bookshop

With all the other things there are to do in the bookshop, Jack and I have decided we’re never expending energy decorating for a holiday again. Instead we set up the All-Season Happiness Display.

We will just move the yellow sticky with an arrow pointing to the appropriate seasonal cheer item.

We think this will catch on quickly. It’s really the lazy version of not taking your tree down,  but we won’t have to string Hearts, Shamrocks, Bunnies and the rest throughout the year. All we have to do is move the sticky arrow.

Yes, we know we should patent it, but we want the rest of humanity to benefit from our genius.

Also, lest any of you judge us for our … shall we say, conservation of personal energy, we do wish to point out that the shop IS ready for Christmas, Hanukkah and the rest. (Belated Eid Mubarak to our friends back in the UK.) We’ve looked out all our Christmas items, no matter how… bizarre. Cozy murder mysteries with titles like “Mad as the Dickens” and “‘Twas the Bite Before Christmas” and even a DVD called “Santa’s Slay” grace our shelves.

No, I’m not making that up. Look at the picture. Or don’t; it might give you nightmares.

So we feel well-decorated with books, and the rather odd DVD or two, and the place smells like Christmas thanks to Heather’s homemade candles. Come Christmas, come whatever, we are ready.

Except maybe for that Santa Slay guy….

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

I Survived the 2012 Bookquake

The sirens went off at noon. I went to the window to find the police barricading the streets. The dogs began barking. They’re always barking, but maybe this was special barking. Things had gone awry.

Something rumbled. At 12:10 I turned to my visiting special lady friend and said, “Did you feel that?” She had.  Must just be something old houses do, we thought to ourselves before going back to our books.

Now the sirens were going crazy. I looked outside, expecting to see the complete breakdown of civilization. Would I need to run to the hunting store next door to buy a shotgun? Nope: Veteran’s Day Parade. Oh.

The Veteran’s Day Parade Must Go On

A woman sifting through general fiction got a phone call. “Oh yeah? I didn’t even feel it,” she said. She got off the phone and told me that her daughter had called to check up on her because there had been an earthquake.

The street adjacent to the bookstore split into a wide gash… three days ago when they dug the trench for the new sewer line. I want to say books fell off the shelf in the quake. But that didn’t happen.

So when you see me wearing my “I survived the 2012 Big Stone Gap earthquake” t-shirt, what I really mean is that I noticed the earthquake, then stuck my nose back in a book and took a long slurp from my cup of tea.

Epicenter of the Mild Distractionquake

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, folklore and ethnography, humor, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Thank you, Mr. S

The sweetest note arrived at our bookstore late last week. I opened the hand-addressed envelope and a ten-dollar bill fell out.

Good start.

The accompanying letter was from Mike S of Rhode Island, who said he’d come across my book in a used bookstore in Connecticut (Book Barn) and picked it up for a fiver. (Which settles one of the questions that Jack, my agent Pamela, and I have been debating: how long would it take for Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, a book about a used bookstore, to hit the used books market? 32 days.)

But those of you who have read it know that Chapter 24 (or so) deals with how artists do or don’t get paid for their work, pointing out that resale rarely benefits the creator, etc. etc. Mike said he enjoyed the book so much, he felt he had to send me something as the creator of it, hence the ten-spot. Now isn’t that sweet, kind, genteel?

But Mike also pointed out something that’s been on my mind since my NYC discussion with Nichole (my editor at St. Martin’s Press) last month, when she emphasized that only 5% of all booksales in America are through independent bricks-and-mortar shops. Mike (clearly a man of discerning tastes) likened the rise of little bookshops everywhere to the craft beer industry. A market that used to have just three or four big and basic tastes now has microbreweries everywhere–and those little guys have put the social back into drinking. They’ve returned fun to a business that was sinking under its own weight.

Smallness can revolutionize homogeneous bigness. Etsy is doing so for crafters in other materials besides hops; I have friends selling their gorgeous homemade pottery and knitwear–stuff Walmart will never see and that will outlast anything you buy there–for reasonable prices on that small-creators site. And of course, Jack and I run the classic example of a little bookstore: independent, used, and ours. No corporate manuals, no CEO other than Val-Kyttie (whose every whim is catered to, natch).

So, Mr. Mike, as I said in my return thank you note–a thank you note for a thank you note? Anyway–you have done me three good turns: added an example to the thought path I’m headed down, this juxtaposition of little bigness in the American marketplace; gave Jack, Andrew, and me a laugh when that $10 fell to the floor; and funded kitten kibble for the home team. Staff kitten Owen Meany says, “Thank you, Mr. S.”

So say we all.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA