Category Archives: Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Baby Wins the Internet this Month

Sometimes the Internet gets it right. Watch this, y’all.

This is Baby. She was owner surrendered at age 18 to our local shelter. Amy, an independent cat rescuer, sent a picture of her out on FB and asked for help. Appalachian Feline Friends (the rescue I work with) said to pull her the next day and we’d take her. All accomplished with ease and grace.

The next day, Erin from AFF posted in a closed cat group online that while she understood sometimes cat parents had no good choices, she was incensed at Baby being taken to the shelter so late in life. Several people agreed.*

One of those who agreed was a lady named Laura, who used to live in this area but since moved to Raleigh, NC. Laura got on her own FB timeline and shared a video of Baby exploring her temporary digs at our bookstore, and again railed against an 18-year-old cat ending up at a shelter.

Meanwhile, Appalachian Feline Friends posted Baby’s video and attracted the attention of the lovely Jeff and Christina, also residents of Raleigh. Christina and Jeff adore eldercats and had just lost two of their own. They messaged to ask about Baby, and within the week AFF volunteer Maria Jane was meeting Christina in Boone to deliver Baby to her new furrever home.

All very nice, but wait for the denouement. Laura had meanwhile decided she was going to tell friends of hers about Baby, since they had recently lost their cats. She showed up at Christina and Jeff’s for a pre-arranged dinner, sat down on the sofa and started to tell the story….

….and Baby sauntered past.

Recognizing her from the video, Laura sat, mouth agape, as Christina said, “Go on, what cat?”

By the time the friends had sorted out what happened, Baby had walked back through, given Laura the once-over, and declared she could stay. It’s Baby’s house now. Here she is with a food flight, sampling so Christina and Jeff can record her preferences. Her new housekeeping staff are eager to make sure Baby’s final years are golden ones.

*The lady who surrendered Baby has been in touch to scream about the family getting dragged through the mud on Facebook. I don’t think that happened, but if it did, AFF didn’t do it. Actions have consequences. We recognize that sometimes people can’t help the tough choices they have to make and we’ve seen too much of poverty mixed with love to ever judge someone for that. We’ve also seen plenty of times when someone chose convenience over caring and then got embarrassed for it. We’re not saying which one this looks like, just saying Baby won the Internet this month.

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

The Monday Book: NIGHT JOURNEY by Kathryn Lasky

It stands to reason that, having cleaned out the children’s room, I would have picked up a book or two to read for fun.

What’s really cool is when you start reading, and suddenly you remember a line from the book just before you read it, and you quote it as you read along. Which is how I found out I’d read this book a long, long time ago.

I picked up The Night Journey not because I remembered reading it, but mostly because it had a Samovar on front, and because Trina Schart Hyman illustrated it. She’s one of my two most favorite children’s book illustrators. LOVE her work.

Journey describes a great-grandmother and grandchild reconstructing the elder woman’s escape from pogrom-filled Russia when she was the age of the child to whom she is now telling the story. Filled with finely-drawn characters like Aunt Ghisa (a little bitterness from the unmarried sister who still loves her niece) and Wolf, the tormented loner who escaped an earlier Cossack raid at a cost higher than life. When Rache is first told her great-grandmother’s story, so intense is Wolf’s part in it that she writes it in a letter to be opened on Rache’s eighteenth birthday. The letter being opened is the culmination of the story, and it is intensely bittersweet.

Children’s books aren’t so layered and deep these day, methinks. The dismantling of the Samovar so the family can sneak it out with then, and the protection of the gold coins the family carries, run through the larger historic story like gold threads. It is a very satisfying read.

And fast. Which is fun sometimes, when you just want to spend two nights living someone else’s life from the safety of your pillow.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

The Things You Learn Tidying the Children’s Room

messSo I spent last weekend tidying our children’s book room – something every bookstore owner lives for the opportunity to do. It’s so much fun to rediscover old classics, things you loved as a child. That’s why it takes so long to do a kids room reset; you have to allow twenty minutes of every hour for reading favorite bits.

It was pretty bad. Every Halloween we give out books at the annual afternoon merchant’s trick or treat, and you can imagine what 300 kids traipsing through the place in the space of 3 hours does. And no, it hadn’t been tidied since then. Don’t judge. We’re busy.

There was nothing for it but to start to the left of the door and work my way ’round. (That or a flamethrower, Jack said.) So I separated the Math from the English homeschooling books, Animals Fiction from Animals Non-fiction, and America from All the Other Countries, back into their appropriate shelf bins.

This is where the problems began. One doesn’t want to be part of the problems America is experiencing right now, and I found myself suddenly stymied, standing stock still (heh, get it, stock? Never mind) in the middle of the children’s room, holding a book of Native American folktales in my hand, looking to the right at the All About America shelf, to the left at the Read To Me section……

It was the beginning of the slippery slope. Did The Story of Martin Luther King go in Biography or America? Did Intelligent Design go in Science or Christian Homeschool? Suddenly, I was making political decisions left and right. All I wanted to do was tidy up……

The dangers grew worse. The Natural World was a big book lying in a dusty corner; when I picked it up, one spider sitting astride it was just finishing off another. I guess she’d had enough of his empty promises about watching the egg sac. (I took them outside so she could finish her meal in peace, and then set up housekeeping elsewhere. It’s good to move in the Spring.)

Dead ladybugs from the November invasion (they come every year), a plant that had grown through one of the windows where it hadn’t sealed properly, books wedged behind shelves where they’d fallen–on and on I went, shelf by shelf until by the afternoon Day 2 I had reached Adventure Fiction.

Smack in the middle of the adventure books were two self-published erotic fantasy novels.

Good thing not many kids read adventure these days. I sent the strays back to their home turf with a stern warning not to return, and congratulated myself on avoiding a lawsuit. It’s not like they were illustrated or anything, but can you imagine some kid coming out of the room saying, “Mommy, what does e-j-a-c…” It wasn’t going to end well.

By the end of day two, the books stood upright in their correct locations; I had abandoned the idea that a child’s world could be split into a Christian versus general worldview and had put the All Other Countries Besides America books in Social Studies. This means a board book of Minnie Mouse in Spanish is next to Learning about Others Grade 4, but hey, they look happy together.

The final piece was labeling everything. After some consideration, we created a tag called Parental Guilt for all the “You’re doing it wrong” titles about how to make your kid smarter, stronger, faster, safer than s/he is now. Someday I’m going to snap and divide Parental Guilt into “Need to Know” (Ridlin and ADHD, Autism assistance, etc.) and “Don’t Be Ridiculous” (teach your pre-schooler to get straight A’s etc.)

And so it goes. The room will stay clean for a few weeks, and I have blocked all the places where ladybugs, spiders, and Triffids – ehm, plants – can get in. It smells good, looks good, and is well-organized according to my brain.

Heh heh heh. Yeah. C’mon down. We got the Erotica out.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

– – You don’t know what you’ve got ’til – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

I consider myself lucky for having had a comfortable and relatively untroubled life. A happy childhood unmarred by any obvious parental disputes, although I’m sure there were some. An adolescence troubled by the usual small matters of growing into oneself and not getting anyone pregnant, but nothing more.

Wendy’s latest book ‘Fall or Fly’ is about fostering and adoption in Appalachia and got me to thinking about the contrast between my life, growing up, and the stories she unearthed during her many interviews that informed the final draft. As usual I was her initial ‘reviewer’ and I have to admit I was by turns shocked and inspired.

There’s a real problem around here with prescription drugs and that’s mainly down to one company that makes a painkiller they swore wasn’t habit-forming but is now proven so. It is also widely available both above and below the counter. Big profits for them of course – – –

I never had any exposure to drugs growing up and never had any interest in them. Once I tried marijuana but it had no effect whatsoever. I even listened carefully to the lyrics of ‘Mellow Yellow’ and like many others tried everything with bananas—which I loathed then and loath now–to no effect!

So, I think of myself as one of these balls that drops down through a game machine and just keeps going in the right direction, although I’ve little doubt there’s always the equal chance it can go the other way (I once studied probability factors).

I’m telling you this on behalf of the young people we come across who haven’t been as lucky as me or maybe even you. One of them is close to breaking my heart right now, and I don’t know if I can do anything for the child.

So, what can I say? This lovely young person, so intelligent, so competent, so lost. What to do, how to help, where the line between enabling and assistance?

Who to blame for taking away what never got used? The drug companies, the high school seller, the “friend” at the party who said, “C’mon, just try it?”

What to say, what to do? With other friends, we make sure the Temporarily Misplaced Youth has enough to eat, and eventually the wherewithal to see through the fog to the Light. And we pray, and we wait and, perhaps, sometimes, we weep.

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

The Monday Book: MWF SEEKS BFF by Rachel Bertsche

The trouble with writing a high-concept memoir is that you have to let someone else inside something pretty esoteric without scaring them through detail or boring them with the obvious. They’re hard to write.

Rachel Bertsche, newly moved to Chicago, wants to make friends. And she finally decides to go about it the same way she did dating: literal girl-dates, 52 in a year, to see who she can find out there. She meets a lot of people. She describes meeting a lot of people. Some of the descriptions are interesting, some repetitive. Sometimes it feels like she’s caught in the mechanics of her writing. (She promised to write up every single date.)

And sometimes it’s really funny. Occasionally insightful. What I find most interesting about the book is how much the reader can project into it. “That person she’s talking to now is me.” Or “that’s how I would have reacted to that person,” etc.

Bertsche’s writing is very journalistic, combining pop psych with lived experience. It’s not my favorite style, but she gives it her all and it’s compelling. If you’ve wondered how to meet people, or why people are drawn to each other, you’ll enjoy this book.

Perhaps the thing that frustrated me the most about her memoir is how many women were in Chicago for the same reason as Bertsche, and who met with Bertsche because of it, but never discussed why: they followed their guy to his career-launching jobs, and then had to fend for themselves. In a book full of women self-empowering themselves on relationships, nobody really talked about this. Hmmm…..

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

…And Then You Sneeze

For weeks, I have been writing on Little Cathouse (the working title of the next fun book) finishing up edits on Fall or Fly (the foster care and adoption journalism storytelling book with Ohio University Press, less fun than intense) and moving offices at the college, where the Graduate Medical Education Consortium I run is headed to the local hospital to operate as an independent 501c3. All good stuff, but busy.

So I had kind of set my clock that the second week of April, as soon as the big conferences were over and I’d sent the final edits of Fly and the working draft of Cathouse, I would get to putter around the bookstore. The Classics room looks like someone threw a keg party. The Mystery room appears to have been the scene of a crime. And the Children’s room looks . . . well, as though kids were in there.

They all need straightening. It’s good Zen. I like to have my hands on the bookstore even when other things call me away. So I was so looking forward to this weekend….

….and then the sneezing started. I’ve gone done with one of those “I don’t care what happens next” illnesses, where your hair hurts and your brain curls in on itself and you can hear the blood in your ears. What isn’t flowing is waiting for its chance, and there isn’t much in the universe of interest.

So the shelves will wait another week. Right now, the shop could tumble around my ears, the books start their own major league baseball teams and head out on a bus, and the cats take over the cooking–and I wouldn’t notice.

I’m going back to bed. Next week.

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

A Surge of Protective Love

So wearing my other hat I travel from time to time on behalf of Southwest Virginia, representing as a business owner and a healthcare worker its many complexities and subtleties.

Those complex subtle bits tend to flatten out like mountains blasted for coal when you get into posh hotels full of suits and go-getters, but at this two-day event, regional break-out sessions brought rooms of despairing people together, and the Phoenix emerged.

Phoenixes rise from their own ashes, you know, and I’ve always thought that was a great metaphor for hope. Hope is born when despair leads to combustion. When you have nothing left to lose, you start over.

That’s where a lot of us feel we are in our little rural areas, trying to keep the population healthy, the younger generation at home, the older generation from having to raise yet another one on their own. And it all comes down to drugs.

Yet it comes down to something more, we agreed, as the law enforcement officers, social workers, doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and administrators sat around looking at lists. It comes down to those of us willing and able to be part of the change we want to see in the world.

We talked about the need for recovering addicts to have clean housing, a place where they won’t be confronted with others using as they try to stay clean. One doctor said she thought rather than opening a halfway house, people in churches could open their homes and take in one person, one at a time, to better effect.

The city people in the room giggled, but those from rural areas nodded. Because we get it. Plenty of changes have come from outside to make it worse – hi, TVA and Big Pharma and a few others. But who makes it better?

That comes down to an incredible surge of protective love for the place we call home. Because the facts of life in our region are, nothing has ever changed for the better except when those who live here changed it.

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