Category Archives: shopsitting

Not Quite a Diva

So the Celtic Festival is upon us, which explains why neither Jack nor Wendy can get a blog post out between getting the flags and signs to each venue, handing out towels to musicians overflowing the bookstore – I don’t even know the names of the guys sleeping in the Science Fiction section – and feeding the foster cats. dickson

Actually, herding the cats and herding the musicians is much of a muchness……

It’s all bedlam and bagpipes right now, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but the cat rescue  still needs to be looked after. Appalachian Feline Friends is primarily a foster organization, but has a small place where we hold cats between leaving the local shelter and entering foster or forever families. AFF had an unexpected and urgent opportunity to empty four cages from the shelter, so in the midst of all the musical mayhem, when a fellow cat lover was able to pull them, I needed to figure out how to get the kitties into the holding tank by myself, since Jack was up to his eyebrows in parade plans.

Enter Barbara Dickson, singer-guitarist extraordinaire and this year’s festival headliner. She and Jack are old friends, from their shared hometown of Dunfermline, Fife. When I called the bookstore from the vet’s office to see if anyone had ten minutes to spare, I was told “Barbara will meet you out front.” She marched herself into the car, settled one of the carriers on her lap, and said, “Right, we’re off.”

At the holding tank, I warned her that there might be a certain catishness to the place, and she waved a hand. When I opened the door, she took a sniff and said, “Right. Where’s the broom and the mop bucket?”

For the next hour and a half, as I fed and watered and cuddled kitties, Barbara swept, mopped, and cleaned up suspicious stains. We had a blast. When I thanked her profusely, she said, “Pff. I love cats.”

And the next day, Barbara put on a dress, put up her hair, and delivered a standing ovation concert to open the Big Stone Celtic Festival.

She’s a woman like that.

You can hear one of Barbara’s Friday night songs here: Big Stone Celtic Day.


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

Chiseling Away at Writing Time

DSCN1814For the past month, I’ve had edits waiting on my next book, Fall or Fly, about foster care and adoption in Coalfields Appalachia. And I’ve been thinking about the very astute notes from the editor and her associate reader and how they can be incorporated. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to sinking my fingers into it.

But I’m also passionately involved in Appalachian Feline Friends, a new effort coalescing individual rescuers into a formalized organization that will be more effective. And a lot of time has, of course, been spent by all of us on that. So to get a clear run at some of the edits without being surrounded by cat-work, Jack and I planned a long weekend at The Cabin.

Thursday evening there would be an event on, and Friday we would head out. Then Jack would continue on his way Sunday to the airport and head to Scotland, while I went back and did my college job and got help running the bookstore.

And God said “HA!”

Jack went down sick Thursday, a woman walked in crying with a kitten she’d found on the Greenbelt mid-event, we received five pre-arranged “adorably sweet” kittens who were not at all socialized and promptly climbed a bookshelf while emptying its contents on the floor, the author giving the talk got lost and was an hour late, etc. Fine. Maybe I could still go Friday? Nope. Friday morning Jack was not fine, so I gave up on the cabin idea until Saturday and handled stuff. Not exactly like a pro, but like a spastic woman feeling slightly sorry for herself, surrounded by kittens spewing venomous hisses and other effluvium.

And this morning Jack got up and said, “I feel well again, go to the cabin and I’ll take care of the stuff that got left and meet you there Sunday and since we’re closed Mondays, why don’t you take Monday off from the college and recover your lost writing day?”

Writing husbands are even better than cat husbands. They get it.

My friend Jane Yolen has written many advice pieces over the years urging writers to protect our writing time. She says it gets pecked to death by the many ducks of life if we’re not careful. Or in our case, nibbled away by rescue kittens. And also to value the things that distract us, because that’s where we get our writing fodder from. Sick husband care is a no-brainer game-changer, but being married to a guy who helps me protect the time is nice.

And when I get back Monday night, I’ll restock the bookshelves the feral babies have knocked down, and over the next two weeks our five fine and socialized babies will re-teach the new kids that life is not as scary or deadly as early experiences would have them believe, and they will become sweet and adoptable. It all works out.

See you Tuesday.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

A Little Ditty about a Ditzy Moment

crazy bookstoreFor some reason our bookstore FB page’s banner photo has been attracting attention again. Granted, it is a weird photo, and my favorite story about it used to be that it featured a national Korean magazine story about it. So over in Korea, people now think they know SW VA based on this photo. Think about it……

But this is my new favorite response. Our own local poet and part-time bookstore employee James Ryan penned this as a photo caption:


Here’s just a little jingle
About a place to mingle
When your mind is tired and sore
There’s a quiet place
And a smiling face
At Tales of The Lonesome Pine Bookstore

You can pet a cat
Now imagine that
‘Til you are thoroughly smitten
You’ll find that adoption
Is a really good option
For that cute and playful kitten

You can find a book
In some bright nook
Or is it maybe a cranny
It’s a wonderful place
For the whole human race
You can even bring your Granny

If you’re in the mood
For some home-made food
Just visit our crowning glory
Because it’s really neat
To sit and eat
In the Café on the second story

The bookstore opens at ten
Tuesday thru Saturday is when
And the café opens at eleven
If your time allows
You can eat then browse
In our little slice of Heaven

So please come sit
And share your wit
With anyone who has time to do it
It’s a marvelous bookstore
And I’ll tell you what’s more
That’s our tale and we’re sticking to it

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

Old World, New World, My World

It’s often only when you’re pulled away at short notice, with many loose ends left dangling, that you realize how many real friends you have. When my sister’s funeral summoned me to Scotland, I was worried that even with Internet availability and my trusty laptop, there were chores that folk at home just wouldn’t know needed to be dealt with, things the bookstore required that wouldn’t get done.

With the evidence of over a hundred messages of condolence and many more FaceBook ‘likes’, and with a high proportion from around here, I should have known better. It’s a guy thing, I guess.

Of course Wendy bore the brunt of it and cheerfully juggled duties while also dealing with a writing deadline and the current exceptional stress of her day job at GMEC–not to mention grabbing the opportunity to ‘launder’ a fourteen count kitten rescue through the store while I was away. I could also depend on the usual emergency cover by the heroic James, Kelley, Kody, Elizabeth and Mark and my exceptional ‘soul-mates’ Tony and Anne.

This core group of people that are a kind of loyal bookstore family (Wendy is family, of course, but you catch my drift) each rallied round and in whatever way they could. This reduced my panic to a bearable level and let me concentrate on family and friends at a time that, although predicated on sadness, also involved a lot of reconnecting with family and friends.

My final evening in Scotland before returning home was an invite for dinner with one of my oldest friends. My former singing partner Barbara had asked me to her and her husband Oliver’s new apartment in Edinburgh along with another couple of friends and her son Archie, who did the catering. Despite having just moved in and with only half the rooms habitable, we all sat down to a relaxed and memorable meal, punctuated with lots of memories of the folk and jazz scenes in Dunfermline, where we had all grown up. In the middle of the evening Barbara began to describe her visit to Big Stone Gap two years ago with her husband Oliver when she headlined our Celtic festival. She spoke of Kelley and Sam and their kids, describing Kelley as “a kind of female rugby character, someone you felt you should not mess with but who has a kind heart.” She depicted life in the bookstore (“kittens everywhere, all adorable”) and reminisced on their visit to Carter Fold (“the dancing, such a community”) I realized that I’m exceptionally lucky. Because I have another extended family back in Scotland, some of whom have visited here and made the connection. I consider myself doubly blessed!

My dearest wish would have been for ‘Big Sis’ Margaret to come over, visit with us and become part of that bigger family, just like my niece Vicki and her daughter Elle.

I had been plotting, but it wasn’t to be – – – Time waits for nothing. Enjoy your family, biological and chosen, while you have them. They are a blessing.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

REPRINT: Overheard in the Little Bookstore at Christmastime

They said WHAT?!

We take pleasure in reprinting here a seasonal blog from 2013. Read it and laugh. Us, we drink heavily….

Here, in random order, is a list of our favorite customer sayings complied from Christmases past and present (hee hee, get it, present? Oh, never mind):

A woman asks: “Do you have any books about how to be a good husband? Maybe two or three.”

Extended family, browsing, grandmother says to daughter: “Books for the kids? I dunno. Shouldn’t we get them something they’d really like?”

“I’m looking for a book, it’s about a small town, and the people are kinda sweet and backwards.” Against our better judgment, we tried Adriana’s Big Stone Gap series, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Jan Karon’s Mitford books. The customer wanted “Winesburg, Ohio.”

Customer points to a shelf: “You had a book somewhere around here last week; it had a red cover, something about a bird, or maybe it was a dog? I thought my sister would like it. I think the title started with ‘A Day’ or maybe it was ‘My Dog’ or ‘The Day.’ You know, something like that.”

After child rips page out of a picture book while mother browses nearby: “I’m not going to pay for that. You shouldn’t have the children’s books lying about where children can reach them.”

“Do y’all sell Christmas presents here?”

Christmas Eve Day, noon: “So the Christmas books are half off now, right?”

Christmas Eve Day, 3 pm, man enters with little girl, takes her straight to children’s room: “That’s right, honey, anything you want. Mommy said we can’t come home until 5.” Closes children’s room door with daughter inside, turns to staff: “Got any coffee?”

Christmas Eve Day, 4 pm: “…and I wouldn’t normally think of shopping at a bookstore for him, but y’all are right near the house and still open.”

Christmas Eve Day, 5 pm: “I need a gift for my mother-in-law. I don’t care what it is. Just make sure it’s big and heavy. And wrap it for me.”

Christmas Eve Day, 5:50 pm: “Excuse me, do you know a lot about books? OK, pick me out something a 14-year-old will like. Quick, I’m in a hurry.”


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

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

Beulah and Me, by David Hamrick

beulahShopsitter David tells of his relationship with a special lady….

I first met Beulah a little over two years ago at the Big Stone Celtic Festival. It was a beautiful late September day with the sun shining and a light breeze just moving the leaves on the trees in town. I had just sat down to eat lunch on a park bench after watching a friend perform for the Celtic festival.

Beulah sat down beside me on the park bench and asked if she could have a chip. Knowing that Beulah’s father was from Scotland and that her mother had lived in Scotland after her marriage, I knew that Beulah was asking for a French fry out of my bag.

I told her yes of course never being one to shy away from eating with a lady. Beulah helped herself to a few chips and we chatted about her life, family, and Big Stone Gap.

Beulah had been born in Florida and moved to Big Stone Gap 8 years earlier when her mother accepted a position at the local university. Beulah really enjoyed speaking about her town and all of the people she knew. I’ve discovered a lot from talking to Beulah. She keeps many secrets about the bookstore and the town. I think that’s why she gets anything she wants to eat; she knows too much.david

Beulah likes being a bookstore cat but she is very reserved around other cats and keeps to herself. She prefers the company of one other human, preferably in his or her lap.

Little did I know that this would be the start of a great friendship. Over the past two years, Beulah and I have become close friends and she often refers to me as the “guy who shares chips.”

Beulah, I just want to tell you that you are one of the best friends that person can have. Next time I’m there, we have to get our picture taken together!







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