Category Archives: small town USA

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

The Monday CD: DECEMBER by George Winston

decemberSo it’s close enough to Thanksgiving now that we can listen to Christmas music with impunity, right? Because I LOVE George Winston’s CD December. In high school I used to listen to it in bed at night, falling asleep to the piano sounds of snow. Now I haul it up on Pandora, turn it up on the Christmas stations, and even play some of it on my dulcimer.

December is what the Christmas season SHOULD sound like – even when it’s moving fast, it’s got a relaxed feel to it, and a sense of holistic purpose. It untangles the inner knots of your stomach. It lets you remember that yes, this too shall pass, and there’s more than one way to see a situation, resolve an argument, and play “Greensleeves.”

DEFINITELY more than one way to play “Greensleeves.”

I look forward to this CD all year – it’s one of those seasonal treats, like strawberries, that should only be played during the time period. (Although I did once haul the CD out during an August heat wave, as a kind of reminder that this too would pass.)

Yes, I recognize this CD is not a book, but you know, if you listen to it start to end, you actually hear the story of December passing. It’s kinda cool that way.


Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

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

Little Cabin in the Wilderness

Jack’s guest blog on a place he loves

We love to head over to our log cabin in the backwoods of Tennessee whenever we get the chance. It nestles inside 12 acres of  densely wooded surrounding hills. When it rains the run-off feeds the pond in front of the cabin and keeps our tame carp and catfish happy.


Built along with seven others, in the early 1970s at the time of the Knoxville World’s Fair, it has seen its ups and downs – particularly when we rented it out at various times to some very dubious characters. The last of these left the place in poor condition, and we called on our good friend and excellent carpenter Guy. He not only completely replaced the floor in the original half of the building, but proceeded to replace the shingles, construct a spare room in the attic, add an extra two rooms and a laundry, and install a wood-burning stove.

Over the last five years or so it has become our ‘bolt-hole’ and is the perfect antidote to the pressures of our regular lives. It has no internet, no phone, no cell-phone reception and no TV, and our dogs, Zora and Bert, can run around to their hearts’ content with no worries about traffic. Wendy gets a LOT of writing done.

We were there all last week for just that purpose, and I was intrigued (as I always am) by the complete change of pace and the time it takes to adjust to it. We fall into a new pattern of “just live, just write, just eat, just relax” so quickly.

The cabin has no TV, but contains a radio and it’s only when we’re there that I get the chance to hear my show Celtic Clanjamphry on WETSfm. The rest of my time is usually spent foraging for fallen branches and cutting them into logs for the stove (amazing how time consuming that can be) and taking care of various bits of maintenance that always seem to be needed. That and the reading I never usually have enough time for back at the bookstore (funny that).

We do let friends rent the place whenever they want and now we’ve had the driveway re-graveled it looks more inviting. (It’s a steep drive.) We have a one degree of separation rule: if we know you, and you know someone who wants to use it, that’s okay.



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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing

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

How to Ask for Kitten Rescue Help

DSCN1013Along with many independent rescuers, Jack and I triage NUMEROUS requests to take in kittens and cats. Over the years we’ve come up with a few observations and suggestions for understanding how rescuers hear and respond to those requests. We hope this helps!

1) Rescuers are focused on the animal. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Yet people often approach individuals or organizations saying they “just can’t handle kittens right now” or “have a lot on my plate.” With cats euthanized daily in shelters and untold others meeting death by coyote-in-the-woods or car-on-the-road, we’re not motivated by your convenience; we’re all about them cats, and we’re stressing ourselves in ways you haven’t even thought of to help them.

baby 22) We wish there were life reward points for being compassionate, but have never found any. It’s kind of sad, we know. You DO have a lot on your plate: college student, single parent, low income, about to move. We totally agree you SHOULD get points for caring enough to inconvenience yourself by not dumping your cat’s kittens at the shelter (because spaying your pet is next on your list as soon as you can afford it) or rescue your neighbor’s neglected kittens, or scoop a cat from an intersection. You took a stray to your garage and she rewarded you by birthing five adorable kittens. Bravo to you for taking her in. Being nice doesn’t bump you to the head of the rescue queue, ALTHOUGH WE THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS FOR CARING.

3) We’re on to your bad cop routine. Acting like a jerk and saying “they’re going to the shelter if you don’t take them” to try and motivate us is a no-no. We’re sifting through garbage dumps and crying at shelters where newborn kittens have a one-day window before they die of disease, never mind euthanasia. If we tell you we can’t take the kittens, calling us uncaring or unfeeling or saying we’re not doing our job right isn’t going to help. You are quite likely the fourth call that day – in May and June, the fourth call that HOUR.Dori

4) Don’t disdain help other than what you asked for. If you care enough to take a cat into your garage, you care enough. If we say we can’t take your kittens but will help you advertise them, get you into a network that will spay Mom cheap, find you some supplies you don’t have to pay for, or otherwise organize logistic or emotional support, don’t go off in a Facebook huff. That’s time well spent by rescuers who know what they’re doing, and it will help.

5) Pay for what you’re asking for. Let me be clear: NOBODY can afford to help all the cats out there, and NOBODY believes he or she has “extra” cash. We’re not expecting you to take food off your family’s table, but giving up lunch out, a pack of smokes, to help an animal in need? Show good faith. Offer a bag of litter or food. TRANSPORT THE CAT to the place where the rescuer can get you help. When the monthly limit we rescuers can afford is hit, our hearts break knowing we have to say no, or default on our mortgage. When a rescuer says, “I can’t,” she means can’t, not won’t.

baby 16) You are appreciated, not special. Your call asking for help with a pet/stray/feral colony is likely her third one that day. We sometimes forget to deal with you as an individual, because the stories fall into patterns. While we shouldn’t do this and try not to, well, it’s inevitable sometimes. You are not alone in doing the right thing, trying to help a needy animal. THANK YOU. BLESS YOU. Good luck, and feel free to ask for advice. We want to help you. We’ll do what we can.

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