Category Archives: bookstore management

The Unsung Bookstore Heroes!

Jack makes it over the bar with the Wednesday guest post – –

This place is BIG! The odd thing is that it’s gotten bigger over the last fourteen years, as we’ve made less livable spaces more so –

It takes a bit of looking after and keeping clean, and we’ve tried various strategies to deal with that over the years. To begin with we tried to keep on top of things ourselves but later we realized that wasn’t too practicable. So we had a couple of good friends who stepped up to help. The first was Heather, who can be seen in this video jokingly using our cat Owen Meanie as a duster. Heather was an awesome cleaner, thorough, efficient, and with a wicked sense of humor.

But she moved to Colorado so then we had Anne, who not only cleaned but brought posters and knick knacks and little colored baskets to make the shop more cheerful. Eventually health issues meant she had to retire (she’s also in the video as ‘Becky’ in the needlework group). Both of them were painstaking and highly skilled and we missed them—even more as we tried others with mixed results and also went back to trying to handle things ourselves. It was clear that we needed to find someone to take the place on –

Enter Judy!

She already cleaned for our vet friend, the sainted Beth and we had heard some stories that seemed pretty far-fetched. For instance, we were told she only would agree to clean for folk she approved of, and also she did all sorts of stuff that wouldn’t normally be considered ‘cleaning’. Seemed a bit odd, but we sent out a feeler to see if she was interested.

We’re not sure how she assessed our suitability but apparently we passed the test!

Judy is absolutely amazing – she has taken us on as her extended family. She really DOES do far more than we’d expected. Just recently I asked her to mop the front porch deck – she turned up with a power washer and did the deck, the railings and the furniture! Then there was the time she dug up an overgrown bush in the back yard and then brought here truck into the yard and hauled the roots out with a chain. She loves the cats as Heather and Anne did before her, and she once used her mop to physically repel a man trying to dump kittens in the bookstore.

Do not mess with Judy. She is the stuff of which mountain families are made. Also, don’t leave your coffee cup on untreated wood without a coaster. She’ll take you out.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt

wolvesThis is a complicated book. Its central character is 14 and has that bouncy back-and-forthness of wisdom and childhood coming out in lovely sentences like “That’s what being shy feels like. Like my skin is too thin, the light too bright. Like the best place I could possibly be is in a tunnel far under the cool, dark earth.”

The book is about June, her older sister Greta, their late Uncle Finn, and Finn’s partner Toby. Finn is June and Greta’s mother’s brother, and both adults are talented artists. But one is doing taxes and one is dying of AIDS. Like I said, it’s complicated.

The writing is beautiful. Some of the main points are kind of unbelievable–like two girls from Westchester can get up in the middle of the night and drive to Bellevue without their parents noticing, etc. But overall the emotional range of the characters and the plot driven by their needs, angers, and hopes holds up well. Everybody wants something. Not everybody can say what they want, or why they don’t want some of their other family members not to get what they want. That’s the point around which the action rotates.

If you like character-driven drama, you will love this book. If you remember ’80s AIDS–ignoring, exploring, deploring–you will love this book. If you have no patience with unresolved plot points, you might not. There are some loose threads left dangling, but as Stephen King says, “Life has a lot of those. Why shouldn’t writing?”

The weirdest part for me, but the part that many reviewers liked the most, is how the sisters used a painting their uncle had done of them to communicate with each other. Worth a lot on the art market, the girls deface it to send coded messages when words fail them. It was an intriguing take on the art book genre.

Overall, I love the way Brunt writes, and how intensely she draws her main characters. One paintbrush up for TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, writing, YA fiction

The Monday Book (series) GUEST AUTHOR WILLIE DALTON

ad picThis week’s Monday Book comes from my friend and fellow cat rescuer Willie Dalton. I don’t normally care for paranormal romance, but her series was so imaginative, based on such an interesting premise, that I read and enjoyed it tremendously.
“You’ll never guess what happens next…”
    That’s the tagline on my logo, and I tend to hold true to that.  In the writing world there are plotters, and there are pantsers, writers that write by the seat of their pants and wing it, I’m the latter. I’m usually just as surprised by the twists my books take as anyone who reads them. I like things this way though, I’d bore myself otherwise.
    My most recent works “The Gravedigger Series,” takes you on the journey of life and death through the eyes of Helena Pierce. Hel, is a small town gravedigger, following in the footsteps of her adopted dad, Ray. She’s tough, both physically, and emotionally from being in a male-dominated line of work. It surprises her as much as anyone when she falls in love with the mysterious Raphael who shows up in her cemetery one day and it makes it all the worse when she meets her own unexpected death soon after.
  Hel wakes up in the underworld and takes on the role of reaper, but there are no black cloaks and scythes, just another shovel. Now she’s digging people up from the other side of the grave so their souls can move on. Vampires roam the underworld, and a new lover has her intrigued but she can’t move past everything she left behind.
  In, “Digging Up the Dead,” and most recently, “Digging to Hell,” the underworld opens up even further and Hel finds herself in the presence of gods she thought only existed in myths. Was chance the driving force behind this life of death and heartache she knows so well, was it love, or was it fate?
  A lot of people ask me how I came up with the idea for this series. Sadly, it came from my other passion as a kitten rescuer. Many tiny kittens come to me each year, too fragile and weak to last more than a few hours, or days. I have spent many hours digging tiny graves and grieving for these lives that didn’t stand a chance. I’ve poured my blood, sweat, and tears into the ground to give these babies a final resting place while their spirits sprint over Rainbow Bridge. I found a solace in writing these books, and a way to channel the heavy emotions that the work brings on. Digging a grave, even for an animal, is humbling and raw. Growing up, it was always men who would bury pets that passed, partly because it was very physical and partly, because men are less emotional. I think the idea of women digging graves adds in that nurturing, emotional element that takes us from the ones who bring new life in, and then see it to the end.
Facebook.com/authorwilliedalton

1 Comment

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, writing

A Poem for Bert

Our friend James watches the bookshop fairly often when we run about for this or that. James is a gifted poet and he sent us this in honor of our fuzzy guy. (His loss is why there have been no blogs this week. It’s just hard right now.)

So here, from James Ryan, is the poem

BERT

Bert the bookstore Terrier was really quite a guy

He did his job with great aplomb although he’d lost an eye

He inspected all the corners of the bookstore every day

Then he’d take the time to watch the kittens at their play

He greeted each customer as they came through the door

Unless, of course, he was asleep then you’d hear him snore

Watching the bookstore was a fun but never-ending task

The loving he received for this was all that he could ask

He knew his job and did it well whenever there was need

When there wasn’t he would sit and watch the kittens feed

To them he was their Uncle Bert a kind and gentle soul

Who watched them play and laughed when they’d trip and roll

He loved them all and treated them as if they were his own

And celebrated every time one got a furrever home

Now he’s crossed the rainbow bridge with a leap and run

Where his friend Zora is waiting to play and have some fun

He’s in a happy place now where he’ll never take a hurt

So, we celebrate the life of the Bookstore Terrier called BERTBert fostering

8 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized

The Hardest Thing!

Jack’s blog post is on time for a change

I’ve had many dogs over the years, but Bert is the only dog that chose clearly and exclusively me as his human.

bert

He chose me by licking my hand. We’d lost a dog and put up signs offering a reward for his return, and someone called. “I think I have your dog.” It wasn’t him, but Bert looked a lot like our missing Rabbie. The guy who’d found him, a dog lover, sensed he was onto a good thing here. He gave me a $10 and said, “Would you mind taking him to the pound? Here’s the entrance fee. I can’t keep him; I have seven dogs.” Bert looked at me from his one good eye, and licked my hand.

That was it. He came home with me.

The vet said he had only one eye because he’d met “Something meaner than he was” at a young age,  and we discovered he also had serious heart-worm infestation, which required much rest after the debilitating treatment.

But he wasn’t having any of that rest nonsense because he had his best buddy Zora, our other rescue, to chase around with in the back yard. Saint Beth’s (our vet’s) staff even said “Good luck” as they told us to try and have him rest.

Zora taught him all her favorite tricks and feints as they raced around but they had another shared habit. They loved escaping out the front door when someone inadvertently left it open just too long. They’d be off and out and up the street!

Usually Bert was recaptured first, but on one famous occasion he couldn’t be seen. Eventually Wendy found him wandering nonchalantly down the middle of the main street with an enormous coal truck right behind matching his pace. The driver must have been a dog lover to do that five miles per hour thing.

His exploits were legendary and he made many, many good friends among our regulars in the bookstore. Long suffering with kids and always willing to guide folk to the best books.

Just over a year ago Zora headed over the rainbow bridge and Bert never really got over that. We think he was always waiting for her to come back and he went from an outdoor dog to an indoor one. As he developed his own health issues he found another friend. Tooth is a kitten that was dumped over our yard fence while we were in Scotland two years ago and when she saw Bert she immediately assumed the role of nurse and companion. She led him around, pointed him to his food as his eyesight failed and made sure he knew where he should be in the back yard, then leading him back.

It’s so hard to know the point between keeping them for you and letting them go as the kindest thing for them.

But we picture Bert, gazing into the mists at the bridge, and saying, “Zora, ZORA, is that really you?”

3 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

This is your Brain on Blue Cheese

blue cheeseI’m not gonna say I’m stressed. No, I choose this life of writing and cat rescue and advocacy for Appalachia. When the writing leads to a whirlwind schedule of book promotion, this is definitely a first world problem. No complaints. When the cat rescue is super-busy with special opportunities to make a difference, that’s what we’re there for. When Appalachia takes center stage in a national debate, step up to the plate and swing hard.

If all three are happening at the same time, ride the wave, answer the e-mails, smile pretty when you feel like strangling someone, and get a little sleep and some fresh green veggies in there someplace.

That leads me to my current problem…..

Because it’s been a busy time, I have been eating lunch while driving or at my desk. This is not a bad thing, but my office at the hospital (whence most of the advocacy stuff is plotted) is so small I have to step outside to change my mind. No room for fridge or microwave, which means I mostly grab things in Tupperware and eat them cold, or bring things in bags from Trader Joe’s and munch them piece by piece.

One of my favorite comfort foods is those little round Tamarind crackers and a nice blue cheese. One morning about two weeks ago, knowing the day would be long and diverse, I grabbed the leftovers of a bag of crackers and a wedge of cheese and threw them in my office desk drawer. About 2 p.m. I hauled out these delectables, ravenous, and devoured half of each. I put the rest of the crackers back in the drawer and the cheese into my bag.

That’s the last I’ve seen of that blue cheese.

Believe me, I’ve looked for it. I figured at some point it would be more easily found through smell. But the stuff has disappeared. Is it in my bookstore where a customer has run screaming after discovering the elusive bag fallen behind a shelf? Is it in the basement flat I am rumored to share with my husband, that I haven’t seen for 8 days because of the traveling? Is it in my car, which has become a large purse that I drive? Is it somewhere in my hospital office, crushed under stacks of files yet to be filed, waiting its chance?

The cheese is gone. I mourn its loss because it was the good stuff. But more, I mourn the symbolism of losing it. Because I never really wanted blue cheese to become the metaphor for my brain. Swiss cheese, maybe, but not the blue stuff. The jokes are too cheap and easy.

So there it is. If you see my lost mind anywhere, please round it up and keep it safe until you can gently shepherd it back to me. It’s far too small and defenseless to be left out there on its own. As for the cheese, if you find it, please keep it. No, really. Please.

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Times they are a Changin’

It’s Thursday so it must be time for Jack’s Wednesday post –

Well – it’s finally really real.

The bookstore is up and listed for sale and the for-sale sign is prominent out front.

It’s kind of strange to have reached this point after much to-ing and fro-ing, debating and soul-searching. Many people have asked us where we are going and are we taking the bookstore somewhere else? Right now we have no idea where we’ll end up but we both feel that it’s time for another chapter in our shared story and an as yet undefined further adventure. We would much prefer to sell to someone who will continue to run it as the ‘the little bookstore that could’, but if it has to go back to a big old house then so be it.

bennett

Part of the decision was about getting back to a simpler and less complicated life in a more manageable sized house. Of course it’s also just that sometimes a voice in your head says “it’s time’.

In the twenty years Wendy and I have been married we have lived in Fife, Scotland, Padiham, England, White Springs, Florida and here in Big Stone Gap. The longest we’ve been anywhere is here in Virginia.

I should admit right away that I absolutely hate moving house. The physical effort, the decisions about what to keep, the legalities around house sale and purchase and all the change of address stuff involved.

However, despite all that, we remain the same people and we don’t abandon friends. Social media can be a real pain but it is an excellent way to stay in touch with folk regardless of where we might physically be.

Some people have asked what will happen to my radio show and I’ve assured them that, through the wonders of the internet there’s no reason it shouldn’t keep on going as long as WETS wants it.

My tours of Scotland will also continue for two more years, although the 2019 one is fully subscribed at the moment.

A final thought – our time running the bookstore has been delightful and we’ve made many good and loyal friends along the way. Whoever takes it over will be part of a supportive community and a town that is now waking up to its true potential. The town council is bringing forward lots of good ideas to take advantage of the wonderful architecture, history and surrounding beautiful mountain countryside. Big Stone Gap is known for its local authors and famous books and the local outdoor drama based on ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’ has gotten a new lease of life. All of this will continue to pull people in and the bookstore has great potential to take advantage of that and go on to build on its reputation as one of the ‘places not to miss’ for the increasing number of visitors.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch