Category Archives: humor

Caption This

So you’ve all noticed by now that the blog times and lengths and subjects are sliding all over the place. That’s because I’m writing a book, deadline for delivery Feb. 29, 2016. (Leap Year brought me an extra day!)

The subject is adoption and foster care in Appalachia, and it is a strange writing process this time. I love going back to my journalistic roots, but I’ve never had to be self-protective in writing before. The material is darkness and light in unexpected blotches of both, and you never know when you’re going to hit which. You just listen to the people telling their stories, and refuse to bundle things into patterns where they don’t belong. No square pegs forced into round holes to make us feel better about ourselves as humans.

And you keep a sense of humor about you. Which is why, in lieu of a lengthy angst-ridden blog post about writing Fall or Fly (the working title of the book) I am offering the following.

CAPTION THIS – winner gets three hand-crocheted dishcloths. Second place gets a kitten. :]

Let’s say deadline is Dec. 1, since I think that’s Tuesday coming and a lot of people will also visit for the Monday Book. If I can manage to post it on Monday this week. I’ve got a good one. But not as good as this photo. Have fun!

caption this! 011


Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

The Other Side of the Microphone

Jack’s weekly guest blog


DSCN1013Both Wendy and I have some experience of radio broadcasting; in my case that covers BBC Radio Scotland,  ‘Scene Around’ on Heartland fm in Scotland, and ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ on WETS fm out of Johnson City in Tennessee.

But when Wendy’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap was published we suddenly found ourselves on the other side of the microphone. Some of these interviews were on local NPR stations ahead of book signing events, others nationally syndicated shows like ‘Weekend Edition’. It was fascinating to see how other presenters worked and the studios were set up, from very relaxed and laid back to pretty frenetic.

Interviews get repeated from time-to-time and we don’t always know that will happen; messages or emails or phone calls from someone say they heard us as they were driving through some remote part of the country. Which is fun.

Even more fun is that for once we do know ahead of time. The widely broadcast NPR program ‘With Good Reason’ interviewed us in 2013, and it was probably the one we remember most fondly. Very relaxed and long enough to cover our road trip to small towns across America, seeking out bookstores and talking about our experiences with Little Bookstore.

‘With Good Reason’ is broadcast in many states at different times. Find your local listening time and station here: Where and When to Listen

Or, if you’d like to listen to it any time during the week. the podcast link is – Little Bookstore Nov. 28 – Dec. 4

We hope you enjoy listening – we had a lot of fun making the program!


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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Luchesi the Loquacious Tenor Discourses on Pancreatitis and other Matters

LuchesiGood morning. My name is Luchesi and I am a foster cat at Tales of the Lonesome Pine, the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. I haven’t been here long, although I did spend quite a long time prior to this location at the spa–called Powell Valley Animal Hospital, I believe. (And between you and me, the nurses who work up there are very, very cute.)

Ahem, but I digress. I was one of several cats living rough out at the old high school. Once I was taken into care, it became evident that something was wrong, ehm, back there. Dr. Beth and her team of nubile young maidens spent a month working to diagnose the problem, for which I am eternally grateful. A stray cat with diarrhea can kiss any chance of a good home goodbye, you know.

They divined that I have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which means my internal organ needs a little extra enzyme stimulation to work properly. Every morning I get half a teaspoon of powder in my food, and a leisurely fifteen minutes in which to eat it. That’s the extent of my medical care, and the bottle of powder is about $100 for a year’s supply. No other special needs. My foster parents are concerned that people will find this excessive, but really it just takes planning aforethought. Every four days my mom divides a can into four little bowls, adds the powder, and then lets it sit in the fridge until the morning I should eat it.  Very efficient. And quite tasty, I might add.

winston salem kitty 021Please understand, I refuse to be defined by my illness. I am so much more than my pancreas! Among other things, I am an excellent tenor. I sing because I’m happy, and since this is a nice place, I sing a fair bit. My trill can stop traffic; people come running to hear “who made that adorable sound?” Adorable is not quite the word I would have used–sonorous, deep and meaningful would do nicely, thank you–but since they rub my ears and pick me up then, I play along.

Also, my fur is magnificent, if I do say so myself. Many cats are orange tabbies, but not many have such long and luxurious side tufts, or a tail of such exquisite boa proportions. Which I use to great effect when prancing. I’m not much of a jingle ball chaser, but give me a chance to lead the cat congo line when we’re playing together, and watch me strut my stuff. I could be the Grand Marshal for Macy’s Thanksgiving parade!

winston salem kitty 002And of course I would be most thankful for a home of my own. I like dogs, cats, people, and bunnies. We’re all God’s creatures, after all, and all God’s creatures got a place in the choir. (Mine is featured tenor soloist.) Thank you and I look forward to meeting you soon when you come visit the bookstore.


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

The Monday Book: ANYTHING CONSIDERED by Peter Mayle

As Wendy immerses herself in a writing project, Jack takes on  the Monday book this week.


Mayle is best known for his amusing semi-autobiographical books featuring an Englishman living in France (A Year in Provence etc) and in some ways this is another of the same – but not quite!


This does have an Englishman and it is set in France, but it’s also very different from Mayle’s previous books. This is a classic and gripping heist story and even has a femme fatale.


The basic premise concerns the fact that truffles (not the chocolate kind – the ones that grow underground) are worth a fortune and there are no ways to farm them to order. The Englishman gets caught up in the auction of a case containing the formula for growing truffles plus vials of spores in the formula ready to go. The auction involves some very shady and dangerous folk, a great deal of money and a beautiful American girl. There’s humor as well, including a group of drunken monks who aren’t really monks at all – they just dress like they are!


The odd thing is that this time some of Mayle’s characters are just a bit shallow and two dimensional but it doesn’t actually matter too much for two reasons. First of all the story is really great and rattles along at a terrific pace and secondly the descriptions of countryside and villages of the south of France which are spot on. I toured that part of the world quite a few times with my old group Heritage – so I know of whence I speak.


In case that sounds like less than a euphoric endorsement, I should say that if you like a gripping story with engaging characters, a cliff-hanger ending and some tongue in cheek laughs then you will surely enjoy this.


I know I did!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

You are Entering… the INDIE BOOKSTORE ZONE

A guest blog from Lyn Ford, Storyteller, who scared everybody out of their wits here on Friday night. It was a magnificent evening!

lynIn October, I often stand in candlelight and pumpkin light, moonlight and dimmed stage light, to tell frightening tales of experiences that never happened (well, most of them didn’t). I speak of love, death, relationships gone bad, strange children, the wrath of the undead—you know, your average, everyday topics of conversation. I am…wait for it…a storyteller.

I share stories in the twilight at the edges of graveyards, in haunted historic sites and moody park gazebos. But my favorite place to haunt is what the first-season monologue for the “Twilight Zone” television series calls “the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition…between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge…the dimension of imagination.” It is a place called…the independent bookstore.

Storytelling programs in independent bookstores hold a timeless, haunting energy, and the people who come to listen are ready for stories. The atmosphere can be greatly enhanced by the presence of a resident cat or two. And when the cat is named Edgar Alan Poe, well, that’s Haunt Heaven, honey.DSCN0999

I can now add to my résumé an evening spent as the guest storytelling spirit at Tales of The Lonesome Pine LLC Use Book Store. If you’re reading this blog, you may already know of the store and its owners, Wendy Welch and her husband/partner in music, story, and love, Jack Beck. But you might not know Edgar, the cat, or be aware of the occasional supper-and-stories events Wendy and Jack produce. At these special occasions, you enjoy good food and a friendly, conversational atmosphere in the café upstairs, after perusing the books and petting the lovely kitties ensconced in the bookstore downstairs.

If you’re in southwest Virginia, plan a visit. If you can’t get to Virginia, visit an independent bookstore in your area. Wandering through an independent book store is one of the best gifts you can offer yourself, especially in the season of “volumes of forgotten lore” (I’m quoting Poe the man, not Edgar the cat).   Creep through the titles among the shelves. Be shocked and amazed at the variety and value you will discover. In the crisp, cool air of October (or any other time of year), relish the warm and generous welcome of the store’s owners–they are truly happy to see you!

You’ll probably enter a different dimension of sight and sound, and stay a lot longer than you’d intended.

Lyn Ford,

visit Lyn’s website and see her books Hot Wind, Boiling Rain, Affrilachian Tales, and Beyond the Briar Patch here.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

The Monday Books: HANK THE COW DOG by John Erickson

hankWhen the going gets tough, the tough go to the children’s section of the library. There they check out audio books: specifically, HANK THE COW DOG audio books.

These little babies are more fun to listen to than to read, I admit readily. When I have a long trip, or need a crochet break from Netflix, or just want to surrender to silliness for a  few hours, they become my go to boys. hank quote 3

Hank is a self-important idiot cow dog of indistinct origins, hairier than he is smart. Still, Hank manages, with the help of his friends, to solve quite a few crimes on the ol’ ranch. His friends include a father-and-son buzzard team, the little dog Drover (whose voice reminds you of every western you’ve ever seen with the expendable beloved elder sidekick) and sundry horses, chickens, and ranch hands. Also his arch-enemy, The Cat.

hank quote 1Hank’s ponderous thinking processes, the voices Erickson uses for the characters (all done himself) and the cute plots (foiling a fiddling fox in the hen house, living rough with the coyotes when he decides he’s not valued enough at the ranch) make these books laugh out loud fun. Each book features at least one song, lyrical gems such as

Eating bugs is lots of fun, they don’t require a hot dog bun/Nourishment for everyone, eating bugs is fun!!!

That kind of thing.

hank quote 2With 66 to choose from, I recommend spacing them out. If you binge listen, they get the sameness that every prolific author inevitably displays. But if you parse them out over long car drives or desperate needs to stop adulting for a couple of hours, they act like little tea breaks for the mind. Return refreshed from the M-Cross ranch, and Hank’s weird brand of doggie wisdom.

Authors, take note (and heart): Erickson started self-publishing these books in 1982 out of his garage, intending them for adults; they have since been translated into 26 languages and sold more than 8.5 million copies to become one of the most beloved family-friendly series of all time. There’s a lot of joy to be found within believing in yourself.

hank quote 4hank quote 5Hank-the-Cowdog-1024x682



Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

Prospero Pontificates on Luck and Weather

DSCN1019Hi. My name is Prospero. That’s me on the left, doing a mind meld with my foster brother, Stephen Pinkerton. We’re not related, just sharing a room at the orphanage until our forever families find us. Stephen’s cool; he used to be a stray and tells lots of street stories.

I was a shelter baby. My sisters and I went there with my mom because her family took us when we were about four weeks old. I don’t remember much, except it was cold. A few days later a nice lady named Tammy came and said, “Give me the cats” and the five of us and a guy named Eisneberg and a calico named Ave Marie, we left with her. It was nice all going together. The shelter lady (who was nice) said that didn’t happen very often, and we were lucky.

But it didn’t feel lucky, because we all went to a hospital, ’cause we were sick. Ave just kept getting sicker, but my three sisters got better fast: Dori, Morella and Madelyn–although Morella had a really bad eye problem for awhile. It made her look ugly; well, uglier than usual. Then a nice lady named Kim came and took my sisters out of the hospital, and they all got forever families, which was nice for them.

Me, I was getting nosebleeds a lot, ’cause while we were in the shelter we got these sores in our mouth and ears and noses. Nobody wants a cat who can’t keep his nose clean, so I figured the jig was up and I’d go back to the shelter. But then another lady took me to a big place full of books. It had four other cats in it, all boys. And guess what! Mom was there!!!! She recognized me and gave me a big lick. ‘Course, the other guys teased me about that, but hey, a boy’s best friend is his mom, y’know?

The people here gave me medicine and my nose cleared up. I like it at the bookstore: there’s a big cat castle, lots of toys, and plenty to eat all the time. People come in and pet us and carry us around and say nice things about how handsome we are. In the morning we get wet breakfast and you have to move fast or Patrick Wilson, the youngest guy, he’ll steal it right from under your nose. DSCN1076

There’s a big cat who lives here named Owen. He says soon people are gonna take us to a forever home. He says homes are all different; some are real and some can be fake forevers, but the people who run the bookstore will help us choose good humans.

I want a human who will make sure I never have kids, after what happened to Mom. And play with me and let me sit on their lap and maybe ride on their shoulder. It’s fun to do that. It would be nice to have a home with other cats, but I really hope my forever home has a dog in it, ’cause the bookstore has two. I like to snuggle into their fur and rub noses, and they like me a lot. Which is nice. It kinda makes up for feeling like nobody wanted us, when we went to the shelter.

So DSCN1013me and my new brothers, we’re hanging out waiting for the right people who smell reliable to come get us. It’s nice to be inside where it’s warm, with the weather getting cold and all. I think about the other cats out there who must be looking for places to stay and enough to eat, and I know how lucky I am that lady walked into the shelter and said, “Give me the cats.”


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch