Category Archives: VA

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

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

The Monday Book: EAT THE DOCUMENT by Dana Spiotta

EatTheDocumentWhen the front blurb of a book compares it to a cross between Joan Didion and Don DeLillo, I admit to thinking, “Nope, won’t like it.” (Call me a plebian; I’ve never been able to get into a DeLillo novel yet.)

But I started it anyway, and 96 pages later the book fell on my face because I’d dozed off trying to finish it before bed. Spiotta has an odd writing style. She tells the story by describing scenes and letting you figure out how the characters are feeling, almost like a screenplay writer. But her prose is compelling. And her characters drive the plot in magnificent ways. I’m a sucker for well-drawn characters.

It’s not just another tiresome sixties novel; it’s got pep and zest and less moral certitude and condescension than others of the genre; the female protagonist is in hiding, and it is her fifteen-year-old son who finally figures it out. Her boyfriend at the time of their criminal troubles is equally well-drawn, and a sympathetic character in ways her stiffness holds back for this reader. If you like character studies and subtle writing, this is your book.

If you like fast pacing, you may not like this novel. It’s a jumble of words, action/inaction, and ideas, and I finished it in two sittings. For me, the book was more about the action and what happens next than the way the author wrote; the words didn’t get in the way of the outcomes and how the characters were reacting to each other. Which I love in an author; poetry is fine, but don’t spend all your time proving you’re clever. Just tell the story and let your characters take over. Which Spiotta did, with bells on.

An enthusiastic two paws up for Eat the Document.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Randomness of Joy, the Joy of Randomness

I awoke this morning determined to get our “caretaker’s flat” in order. After almost three straight weeks of travel and deadlines, the place looked something between a laundromat and a pet grooming facility, both at closing time. Fur, cloth, yarn: not a surface had been spared the clutter. Even the cats had given up trying to find spaces to sleep down there.

Fortified with three cups of coffee and a leftover peanut butter chocolate chip crumb cake from the cafe, I prepared to do battle for our next-to-Godliness souls.

And the bookstore door opened.

In came four people who had driven from South Carolina, clutching copies of Little Bookstore they wanted signed. And one of them had brought us a present.

“I’m downsizing my library, and thought you might like to have a few of my old quilting books,” she said. Four boxes later, they scooped up kittens, scoured the mystery room for Cadfaels, and then went upstairs (sans kittens) to have Our Good Chef Kelley’s amazing tomato bisque with grilled pimento cheese.

And I began categorizing “a few quilt books.” Two hundred of them. It took me most of the morning, but hey, needs must. There were so many, we had to find a new place to display them, reorganizing a little bit of the shop, cleaning a few things on the way. It turned into one of those “tidy as you go” operations.

Jack says I like to sneak in cleaning in those moments. Whatever.

So my morning tidy of our flat went away, but I had such a good time talking to the couples, learning about their lives in South Carolina and Montreal, looking at the books, and generally being a bookshop owner hand-selling good books and enjoying her customers.

Go by, mad world. The dust and clutter will be there tomorrow, when I may or may not have time to attend to it. Joy is random, and sometimes, randomness is joy.


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

Our David, Shopsitter

david hamrickI am home after more than a week away at various events and conferences. Stumbling in the door, I find the place looks immaculate and smells of peppermint and lavender. Our shopsitter David did some wonderful organizational innovations to the shelves–like alphabetizing, and sorting the memoirs by category. The whole place looks brighter, cleaner, cheerfully non-neglected. (Not how it’s looked the month previous, let me assure you.)

This is why we love having shopsitters. David, a Celti-phile friend from Jack’s Scottish trips, who with his wife Susan rescues cats in their North Carolina home, stepped in, looked around, and did stuff that we have either a) meant to get around to for ages now or b) never thought about doing because we are domestically impaired.

The kittens (four from the shelter, two from drop-offs, and one I found during my road trip and brought home) are playing amiably on their new seven-foot cat castle, assembled by Uncle David. The staff cats have had their fur brushed. The one-free-with purchase books have been reshelved by height and color.

Arriving home more brain-fried than a Walking Dead extra and planning to be in bed by 8 pm, I walked in to bookstore vibrant with the loving touches of someone who value books, cats, and people. That is a glorious thing. Thanks David!

(And thanks Susan for lending him to us and for coming over to help on Saturday!)



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