Category Archives: shopsitting

The Naming of Cats is a Difficult Matter…….

For your pleasure and edification, this weekend’s blog is word for word an online conversation between Our Good Chef Kelley, Saint Beth the Vet, and me. Here’s the background: Our Good Chef Kelley likes to name some of the foster cats, and we told her next time they came around, she could do so. After being foster-free for 12 hours, we agreed to take in kittens from three different rescuers – a momma and three babies from the shelter immediately, and two sets of three feral kittens from two rescuers trying to trap them, as and when they managed to. Plus one male cat from a lady who was getting drop-offs at her house and couldn’t afford to neuter him amongst all her girl cat pets (not spayed). All of them were to go to Dr. Beth before coming here, to get checked out.

You can guess what happened, can’t you? No sooner had the shelter cats arrived than the feral trappers informed me they’d caught the kitties and the lady with the drop off dropped him off. Beth went from 0 to 9 Bookstore cats in the space of an hour. We can pick up the thread from there as Beth tries to talk Kelley through the naming process.

  • Beth (2:38 pm): We have a Female torrid and Black male Grey who thinks he is badass

     That is tortie not torrid
     and an orange long hair male

    Then we have the sickly ones. Grey female Orange make and tortie female

    All need names

    And the little sick runt Erin has, that Wendy took this afternoon.

    Kelley (2:42 pm): Mom = Berenice Dilute tortie = Morella Orange male = Prospero Gray tabby = Montressor

    It is Edgar Allan Poe time smile emoticon

    I don’t wanna name the sick one till I know he is gonna make it

     Beth (2:43 pm): That’s the one I’m not sure of sex either

     baby 2

    Kelley (2:45 pm): Wait hang on. There is a black male too?

    Beth (2:45 pm): Yes

    Kelley (2:45 pm): So mama and five kittens?

    Beth : 6

    Kelley (2:46 pm): One mama, six kittens?

    Beth (2:46 pm): Plus the sick one

    Kelley (2:46 pm): So plus the sick one, 1 mama and seven babies?

    Beth (2:46 pm): Yes

     And orange boy

    baby 1Kelley (2;54): 1. Mom 2. Black male 3. Orange male 4. Dilute tortie 5. Gray male tabby 6. Gray male? tabby with Erin 7. ? 8. ?

  • Beth (2;55 pm): Another tortie kitten and adult male orange and grey male solid

Kelley (2:55 pm): Ok so all of these do not belong to the mama?

  • Beth (2:56 pm) : Nope

    Kelley (3:10 pm) : I’m so confused. Sorry. Are there 9 total?

    Beth (3:11 pm) : Yes if u count Erin’s

    I’m not helping. I’m brain dead

    Kelley (3:12 pm) : Ok gotcha

    Is OK Wendy didn’t tell me about all of the others

    Mom = Berenice Dilute tortie = Morella Orange male = Prospero Gray tabby = Montressor Black male = Pluto Tortie 2 = Annabel

    Who am I missing?

    Other than the sick one. I am missing 2

    Beth (3:15 pm) : Adult orange male and kitten orange male

     So which one is prospero

    Kelley (3:16 pm) : Is there a sickly orange kitten and a well orange kitten?

    Beth (3:17 pm) : Sick orange and healthy adult

    And grey bad assbaby 3

  • Kelley (3:34 pm):

    Confused again. I named an orange kitten Prospero. Is there another orange kitten or just an adult orange?

    Beth (3:35 pm): Adult

    Kelley (3:36 pm) : Healthy adult orange = Luchesi (loo-kasey)

    Ok so that is everyone but badass gray?

    Is the solid gray male the badass?

    Beth (3:37 pm) : He certainly thinks so

    Kelley (3:38 pm): The only one I haven’t named is the solid gray

    Let’s call the badass Montressor and the tabby boy can be Valdemar

    And that should be everyone except sick baby. Right?

    Wendy (3:40 pm): Y’all are so cute

    Kelley (3:40 pm) : Ok cool. ROFL. Wendy I didn’t know there were so many! Hehehe

  • Wendy (3:41 pm): Neither does Jack.

    They’re coming in groups of 3

    The rest are hanging with Auntie Beth awhile

     He’ll never know how many there are if they come in clumps.
    So now you know, gentle readers: neither the life nor the online presence of a rescuer is ever dull.
    baby 4


Filed under animal rescue, bad writing, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, shopsitting, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

Retire and Move to America, They Said. It’ll be Fun, They Said.

DSCN1410It’s not that Jack feels sorry for himself; it’s just that he’s got a lot to do…..

As a semi-pro Scottish folk singer I used to do two or three gigs per week, touring around Europe and the US , as well as helping to run folksong clubs and festivals. When I retired and moved to the US permanently, and then we opened a bookstore,  I thought to myself, Ah, this will be the life! The gentleman scholar in comfy sweater, spectacles perched on my nose, a cat or two purring in the background as I putter about the shop, perhaps even time enough to get back into my hobby of model airplane building ….could it get any more relaxing?

And God said “HA!”

Here’s my typical schedule now –

Annual tour of Scotland (; weekly Celtic music program on and (; annual Celtic music festival (; regular house concerts and events in the bookstore; regular book festivals all over the US with Wendy. Total per year: 30 average. Some of them here, some of them there and everywhere….

We’ve just come back from emceeing the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, as we have for the last eight years. It’s a real labor-of-love for us, plus we get to hear great music, see old friends and dip our toes into someone else’s last minute panics! It’s also a terrific way of getting us into the mood for BIG STONE CELTIC CROSSROADS which is two weeks later.

Now we are about to head to West Jefferson North Carolina for their annual book festival, then we have Big Stone Celtic. After a brief hiatus we have Wendy’s annual health conference ‘Head for the Hills’ at the glorious Breaks Park, then presentations to Lee High School students, a storytelling event with our old friend Lyn Ford, a bookstore concert here with the fabulous fiddle player Jamie Laval, another bookstore concert with musicians Ron Short and Willie Dodson, an author event with Willie Dalton (don’t confuse author Willie Dalton with musician Willie Dodson; she’s blond and willowy, he’s bearded and brings a banjo) and yet another shop concert with my Scots fiddle playing buddy Pete Clark. That moves us effortlessly (hah!) into Christmas – which we will spend in Dublin, Ireland with friends – who will make no demands on me whatsoever – – -right, David and Susan?????

Maybe I should go back to being an itinerant folk singer – the hours were easier and I got more sleep.

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


Jack and I are headed out to emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Elizabethton, TN this weekend. Busy and running about, I offer in place of a hand-written blog this LOVELY piece of news.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES ARE THRIVING!!!! Click the link to read all about it.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Coming Up, Rushing ‘Round, and all things ‘Twixt and ‘Tween


in which Jack contemplates all that is to be accomplished between now and Thanksgiving…..

It’s that time of year again –  when Wendy and I take a deep breath before diving into the whirl of Fall and early Winter events in and around the bookstore and the country.

Coming up on September 25th and 26th is the 9th annual Big Stone Celtic festival which always means plenty of last minute arranging, checking and panicking. Before that, though, we MC the Sycamore Shoals Celtic festival this weekend over in Elizabethton and that’s much more relaxing and an opportunity to re-connect with old friends. The weekend between, we will be heading to the On the Same Page literary festival in West Jefferson where I will be singing and Wendy is a guest author.

Just a couple of weeks after Big Stone Celtic is Wendy’s yearly medical conference, Head for the Hills at the gorgeous Breaks Park, where I can relax (but Wendy cannot!).

Then we’ll be into the season of bookstore events: a house concert and traditional foods supper with storyteller Lyn Ford Oct. 30; a Nov. 6 eat with the author event featuring Willie Dalton, who wrote Three Witches in a Small Town;  and as-yet-unscheduled house concerts musicians Jamie Laval, Pete Clark and Ron Short.  We usually try to throw in an autumnal murder mystery,but this year we may have to punt.

A gifted storyteller and author, we remember Lyn most fondly from a house party in Ohio, when she ever so diplomatically persuaded another storyteller NOT to give a demonstration of ‘keening’ after we’d all had a few. We forward to a no less entertaining evening this time around as Lyn will have copies of her Afrilachian Folktales book for sale and signing.

Jamie is an old friend from our time on the staff of Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week. An award winning and very popular exponent of Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton fiddling (not to mention percussive foot tapping!), he will be with us for a full weekend so I can ‘try out’ as one of his guitar accompanists at his house concert.

Pete, from Dunkeld in Scotland, will be touring with accordionist Gregor Lowrie and also staying over a weekend. He is no stranger to Big Stone and will enjoy introducing Gregor to the delights of fishing at Lake Keokee. He has also toured and taught all over the world as the acknowledged expert in the fiddle style of Highland Perthshire.

Ron Short will be joined by Willie Dodson to provide an evening of immersion in the culture and music of this part of Appalachia. Strong connections link the cultures of my homeland of Scotland and this area – stories, songs and fiddle tunes as well as language and attitudes.

Somewhere in between all this we also need to handle the day-to-day requirements of running a retail business, which means relying on friends and neighbors to mind the store – we are eternally grateful to James Ryan, Erin Dalton, and David Hamrick for stepping into the Gap!


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

We Won the Inaugural International Cat Day at Bookstores Award!

In case anyone missed it, Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness did his column on us this past week. Here’s the article and the link. And we LOVED seeing Valkyttie’s picture going national. :]


Robert Gray: International Cat Day Bookstore Prize

In case you missed it, last Saturday was International Cat Day, during which “felines take over the internet (even more than usual),” the Telegraph noted. As news-gathering organizations go, our bookstore cat coverage is pretty comprehensive, so we can testify to the clickbait potential inherent in any hyperlink that includes the words “Bookstore Cats.”

See, you just went there instinctively, didn’t you? Welcome back.

Today, I have the honor of both inventing and announcing the inaugural International Cat Day Bookstore Prize winner. From a long list of worthy contenders, the judges (well, me) unanimously selected Tales of the Lonesome Pine, Big Stone Gap, Va., which is currently hosting a Bookstore Cat Adoption Reunion on Facebook to celebrate all of the “forever homes” they have found for their temporary bookstore kitty interns.

“We started in June 2009, and in May of this year we adopted out our 200th cat (named Reepicheep),” said co-owner Wendy Welch. “The bookstore is a great place to get adoptions going because it acts kind of like a pet store window; people interact with the cats, pick them up and carry them, have fun with them. The tactile experience of being around them has increased adoptions, I think. We still have ‘impulse’ adoptions, although we are careful of those. More often now that we’re established we have people contact us after viewing our Facebook photos.”

Tales of the Lonesome Pine has three cat adoption rules, Welch noted: “Let the cat choose the person–they never miss; give the cats timely literary names (we named a group Harper Lee, Scout, and Boo Radley when Go Set a Watchman came out); and write about their purrsonailities on Facebook. After a cat’s been with us long enough to know them, I usually do a ‘if this cat were a woman/girl’ post and for some reason everybody loves these. I also write a lot of ‘cat voice‘ blogs as if the cat were writing it about his experiences at the shop. These get lots of hits and comments.”

Visitors to the bookstore occasionally donate money (“a kitty for the kitties,” as her husband, Jack, describes it), but Welch said, “We don’t have a jar out and in our troubled economic region I would flat not ask people for money; there are people struggling to feed their families here, literally. We’re not interested in taking their cash. In fact, that’s who we rescue for. Some families would love a pet, be good to it, have enough to feed and care for it, if they didn’t have to pay for spaying and neutering. I have friends who can sometimes be called on to ‘sponsor’ a family if they need it, and we let those ‘kitty’ donations add up to spays as well.”

She also crochets for the cause: “It’s a hobby I’ve had since childhood; I’m fast, and if I do say so myself, I’m really good at it. I can make all sorts of fun stuff; in 2013 it was the Spay & Neuter Afghan–a free online pattern called ‘Rows of Cats.’ I put it online with a note that said ‘This is what you get if you don’t spay and neuter: rows and rows of cats.’ And those things sold like hotcakes; I sold them for the price of a neuter. In 2014 I must have sold 400 of these cool little trivets shaped like penguins and chicks and roosters. This year it is animal scarves and hoodies, and mermaid tail lap blankets. People buy these a lot, and they donate yarn so I can sell them at prices everyone can afford, and still make money for the kitties’ kitty.”

Since the 2012 publication of her book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Welch said many readers “from outside the area have been quick to assist us, or to assist their local cat shelters in our honor. That’s very cool. The farthest away we have adopted cats is Kansas and Massachusetts. Someone agreed to meet the adopter halfway, and off our babies went to life in the big city–or the American plains. Whichever. We adopted a girl recently to a family in Arlington who came to see the shop because they’d read my book and wanted to see it for themselves. And they came with the idea of getting a cat in mind. We love it when this happens.”

Tales of The Lonesome Pine’s official bookshop cat philosophy is summed up nicely in her book: “The whole establishment catered in design and policy to every whim of the two permanent staff cats and the myriad fosters who have found forever homes via the bookstore.”

Sometimes people ask why they do all this. “We do it for the same reason we run a bookstore: because it’s fun, because it’s important, and because it’s compassionate,” Welch observed. “Animals can’t speak for themselves, tell their own story. They need advocates, and when they get them, they reciprocate by being way more fun to watch than Netflix–plus more engaging.” —Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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

It’s the Great Cat Reunion of 2015!

Jack and I have wanted to have a cat reunion for ages, but in the present economy travel money is tricky for people.

Plus some people think having a cat reunion is a crazy notion, and although they love the cat they got from us, they’re not going to travel to show it.

And you have to admit, having a bunch of cats in one place and time like that would be like, well, herding cats.

So our friend Elissa came up with a great idea, and created the BOOKSTORE CATS ADOPTION REUNION on Facebook. If you’ve adopted a cat from us (or placed a cat with us) we want to hear your stories, see your videos and pictures, and find out how things are going.

Send us your favorites, and let us do what the Internet was created for: ooh and over cats.

As an incentive, here’s our big boy Mal, who was adopted by David and Susan in North Carolina. Mal had a cleft palate and looked like he was ten minutes from dying. With a serious operation and a lot of TLC afterward, he gained health and vitality – plus weight. Pity he never gained brain cells, but that’s a separate story. mal 1And now, five pictures of Mal showing the transformation love and a little luck can bring. (They go in reverse order, from Mal on David and Susan’s couch to the Sunday afternoon we found him on our bookstore lawn and stashed him in the garage until we could get him to the vet.)

mal 2mal3

mal 4mal 5


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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Scotland, shopsitting, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch


Our shopsitter Emily guest blogs on her shelving experiences

EmilyI like to organize. So in a bookstore where there’s always books coming in and out, daily, I feel these urges to put all the shelves in perfect order – alphabetical, by genre, all in a line, etc. Which has led me to stand in front of the shelves for a few days in a row now, head slightly tilted, sometimes just staring, sometimes repeating the alphabet out loud to myself, looking like a weirdo, trying to figure out what all these words on the spine mean and each bound object relates to each other.

I’ve discovered who Grace Livingston Hill is and that “inspirational romance” is quite popular (I’m going to have to try one, it sounds quite nice). I’ve seen parenting books that start with dealing with your own mommy issues and work through just about every month of the next twenty years of your life. There’s more gender in books than I’d ever realized before – clearly, some books are ladies’ books and some books are gents’ books. I’ve spent most of my time so far among the fiction books, and I’m totally impressed by the number of stories there are to tell in the world.

But one of the coolest parts has been realizing that all (or at least most) of these used books have come from someone else’s home, where they were sitting on someone else’s bookshelves or nightstand or closet floor. They probably all have a story to tell about the home they used to live in and how they got that slightly crooked spine. In my time here, the books on these shelves have already witnessed dozens of friendly faces, new and familiar, a rowdy game night, four cats who got adopted, and a strange lady who keeps staring at them, planning a master plan about how best to move them shelf to shelf to shelf just so they can get adopted, too. If only books could speak, right?


Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized