Category Archives: VA

The Monday Book: THE FRIENDLY PERSUASION by Jessamyn West

You know how you start thinking about an old friend, and then look them up, and find they were thinking of you? This book is like that.

west-persuasionWest wrote it (and its companion volume Except for Me and Thee) more than 75 years ago, but it’s still just as funny and sweet, mostly because it’s about humans. Just humans, and how they interact, living on a farm in the Midwest as Quakers.

Well, there’s that Civil War bit, and their brush with the Underground Railroad, which is somehow more intense now reading it in these troubled years. So much should have changed by now…..

Not much has changed in human courtship, either, and the stories around love affairs (would be or actual) are as hysterical as they are accurate. If you want to just escape into a world that pre-dates Jan Karon but echoes our own modern troubles, this is a good one.

The author was a woman ahead of her time. She wrote two of my all-time favorite quotes about writing: “Talent is helpful in writing but guts are absolutely essential” and “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

That kinda sums up The Friendly Persuasion. One of the reasons people will still be reading it years from now is its poignant accuracy in describing human interactions.




Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

Wesley Tells His Tail – Er, Tale

Today’s guest blog is from Wesley and his foster mom Willie Dalton. Willie is the author of THREE WITCHES IN A SMALL TOWN, from which the “dumpster six” take their names: Wesley, Steven, Cerulean, Agatha, Mabry, and Maeve. (Maeve is now of blessed memory). You’d love the book as much as the names. It’s available from Mountain Girl Press.

Take it away, Wesley!!!

wesleyHi, I’m Wesley. My five siblings and I had a rough start. Someone taped us up inside a box and dropped us in a dumpster when we were only a few weeks old. Can you believe it? We didn’t do nothin’ to nobody.

Luckily, a nice lady found us and helped us get the food and medicine we really needed. One of my sisters didn’t make it, and we all miss her. But the rest of us are happy and healthy now. I’m getting bigger and stronger every day!

And I sure am happy I can eat on my own now without having to wait for my foster mom to bring me a bottle and feed all my siblings too. I’m not very patient when I’m hungry. But who is, am I right?

My foster mom is great but I think I’m ready for a furever home. There’s a lot of other cats here and I’d appreciate a little more personal attention. Every time I find a nice warm lap to curl up in, my sister Cerulean comes along and hogs all the cuddles. She’s a bit of a diva.

ceruleanI guess I wouldn’t mind another cat or two to play with if the right family comes along but one I thing I definitely need is toys with feathers, lots of feathers, they’re really great.

Everyone who sees me says how handsome I am with my little white face and pink nose but so far no one has taken me home. Maybe it’s because I snore sometimes. I don’t know what else it could be! I’m cute, playful, cuddly and I have have very tidy litter box habits. I’m a real catch.

Mom says the right family will find me soon and fall in love with me, that sounds really nice. But until then I’ll just be napping on the softy blanket on the couch, ya know, until Cerulean tries to steal it from me.

To adopt Wesley, Cerulean, or any of the “dumpster six,” message Appalachian Feline Friends via Facebook.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Non-Book: THE KEY to LIFE

cat-swimOkay, here’s the truth. I haven’t read a book in three weeks. Yep. Revoke my bookselling license.

I went from Boston to the Tidewater to attend back to back conferences and do my rural schtick. Meanwhile Jack and his team ran the Celtic Festival without me and the bookstore turned into command central. I STILL don’t know the names of the guys who slept in the Science Fiction section. But they had towels, and that’s the important thing.

My dad’s heart scare turned into open heart surgery which started the day the conference I actually run started, two days after the conference in Tidewater ended. No pressure. With the excellent assistance of my friend Beth and her minion Mindy-the-amazing, we pulled that off. We even managed a really nice tie-in featuring Barbara Dickson, from our Celtic festival, as the entertainment at the historic Lincoln Theatre for the conference attendees.

Holding my annual board retreat three hours after the conference ended, in the same resort, was one of those ideas that seemed good at the time. I had even pre-packaged folders for each board member and left them in a box in my car. With a couple of hours of down time between the attendees leaving and the board convening I figured I’d move the folders to the meeting site, then have a nice leisurely lake swim. I’d be headed to my parents’ after the board meeting, so a chance to relax sounded good.

Arriving at the lake behind the rest of the leisure-seekers post-conference, I found mhy husband Jack sunbathing on the pier and asked him where our car was parked. “Oh,” he says, “Barbara and Oliver took it to the boat docks so they could rent a canoe. They’ll be out on the water by now. And the car will be locked. They said they’d be gone all afternoon. Why? Did you need something from it?”

I stared at him. Looked out at the lake. And saw Barbara and Oliver stroking into view, headed upriver to the Great Unknown.

Without hesitation I dove off the pier, leaving Jack somewhat startled behind me. And wet.

Making for the canoe with all the speed a lifetime of lifeguarding had taught me, I shouted “I need the car key!” (I was doing breast stroke by then so shouting didn’t make me drown.)

A bit nonplussed, the pair heaved to alongside a floating dock in the middle of the lake. Oliver hauled out the electronic key and gave me a dubious look.

“We can’t bring the canoe to shore in the swim area, and you can’t get this wet. How are you–?”

I opened my mouth. He sighed and placed the key. I fought the urge to cough as I swam back to shore, bobbing above the waves, not thinking about 20 feet of dark water below me and what would happened if I sneezed.

As I reached shore, the onlookers clapped. I handed the key to Jack, who trotted off to fetch the board folders. I swam for another hour, threw my blazer, blouse, and fresh black trousers on over the damp suit, and dashed around the front of the restaurant to meet the first of my board members. We had a lovely time setting strategy for the coming year, and ended in a timely manner with good vibes all around. No one commented on the fact that my clothes were slowly showing dark patches of water.

So no, I haven’t read a book in three weeks. I rather look forward to getting back to it. Meanwhile, let the Stupid Key Swim of 2016 stand as a metaphor for all the moments when we act with desperation rather than thought–and it works.


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

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

It’s that time of Year Again

pipersThere are certain events that mark the calendar year for our bookshop, a literary liturgical year. We have the Epiphany Service gathering community churches in January, followed by the annual Burns Supper, the February Dreadful Date (ghostly love stories) and the St. Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Dance. Then we set aside events as the summer season picks up. Throughout those “quiet” (ha!) summer months, we’re in planning mode for the Celtic Festival, always the fourth Friday evening and all day Saturday in September.

As summer progresses, planning increases, and now we are in full final get-er-done mode. Jack has barricaded himself behind book boxes to finalize the parade planning, while our ever-faithful chairwoman Darinda makes a final round with the indefatigable Rhonda, who heads the merchants association. Elizabeth is figuring out where to put the many vendors who will be selling stuff with us, and Randy has the bagpipe band tuning.

It takes awhile to tune bagpipes. :]

A lot of work, a lot of stress, but every year when the band strikes up and the seven Celtic Nation flags fly, and the Breton association at the school dance in their black and white costumes, it’s worth it. I get a lump in my throat as the people on the sidewalk wave at the people in the parade. Because it’s more than a festival. It’s a town, coming to together to celebrate its past and its future. It’s a whole lot of cooperation and believing in a world that’s short on both. It’s a small town that’s proud of itself.

And that’s no small thing.

For a schedule of events Sept. 23 and 24, visit Big Stone Celtic Day on Facebook. The sheepdogs and Barbara Dickson’s concert are not to be missed!

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

Breaking in to Change the Locks

Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz 2014 Winestate #1 Wine and #1 Shiraz in AUS & NZ (PRNewsFoto/Mollydooker Wines)

Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz 2014 Winestate #1 Wine and #1 Shiraz in AUS & NZ (PRNewsFoto/Mollydooker Wines)

Many of you know that I own a nice little cabin tucked into a hillside in Tennessee. It is the Writer’s Retreat. About a month ago, thanks to the American NewMedia Education Foundation, I started a six-month mentoring program with two writers in SW VA. We went to the cabin and had a fun time writing and retreating (and eating) and left refreshed. One of the writers asked about going back out to the cabin from time to time. I explained where we hid the key and wished her well.

Last week another friend and I went to the cabin because it was nicer than the hotel offered by a conference we were attending. When I unlocked the door, it was evident someone had been staying there. A moldering cup of coffee on the table, pillows piled on the bed. Lots of canned food gone. A cigarette in an ashtray; I don’t allow smoking inside.

And in a sudden horrific downturn of discovery, the soap in the shower was wet.

“Someone’s been squatting,” said my friend Beth. “This is hobo living.” The peanut butter had been half-consumed by spoonfuls, the canned soups eaten, but in something between a funny and a poignant turn, the Indian ready meals of Saag Paneer and Tikka Masala were lying next to ripped-open boxes, unopened in their pouches.

“He can’t read,” Beth said. “He couldn’t follow the cooking directions.”

Indeed, the guy had used the microwave and coffepot but not the stove, and had in many ways indicated that life needed to be simple. I began to feel protective toward him.

“Maybe we should just leave the door unlocked when we leave. He’s not going to walk in while we’re here. He doesn’t want any trouble, hasn’t taken anything except the food.” As I spoke, Beth looked at me as if I’d grown two heads.

“You’re crazy, and not in a good way,” she replied.

We went back down the hill until we had Internet connection (about a mile from the cabin) to inform Jack of the break-in, in case our bodies were never found. Despite his urging, we stayed the night, and I still thought with sadness of the poor guy who just needed a place to crash. But I also shot a quick question to my writing friend who’d used the cabin last, just in case this was all made up in my head and they’d left things a little untidy.

The next day as the conference wound down, I had a reply from Lizbeth. Nope, it wasn’t them. Did that mean the bottle of New Zealand special vintage she’d left me was gone?

I scoured the cupboards. Nowhere waited a special bottle of Pinot Noir.

“Bastard! I hope he dies!” I shrieked to Beth. “We’re changing the locks tomorrow!”

There’s sharing with those in need, and there’s rare vintage. No more squatters in the Writer’s Retreat. But the funniest part of the story came when we went back yesterday to make good on changing those locks–

–and realized we hadn’t brought a key to get in. So Jack broke in so we could change them to break-in-proof ones. We will be the last people able to B&E my little writing retreat. That will make me feel safe when I’m out there writing.

And drinking good Pinot.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

Ariel Chats with the Crowd

arielHi! I’m Ariel! I’m an Appalachian Feline Friends foster cat, which means I have a safe place to stay while my furrever family finds me.

I’m really glad to be an AFF cat, but I’m getting kinda bored, y’know? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know good and well what COULDA happened – don’t think I don’t. It’s just that I’ve been waiting about six weeks now and I only get out to play once a day and it’s just flat boring.

Peggotty, the cat in the pen next to mine, she’s a good conversationalist and sometimes we talk. About the places we’ve been, the hard times we’ve seen, the kinda homes we’re hoping to have. She wants a big place where she can run around up and down stairs, and a nice soft bed to sleep on indoors at night.

Come to think of it, so do I. I’m a real sporty girl, love to run and play, and when I do get my paws on that jingle ball, baby, it’s mine. But I also have a warm side. Shoulder rides are kinda… you know, nice.

What I really wish is I could be captain of a volleyball team, really a beach volleyball team, but the people who work here say they don’t give those jobs to cats. Which is a shame. We’d have won those Olympic thingees for y’all.

But okay, so I have to do cat jobs. I’ll take care of your mice, and I’ll keep my litter box and my bed neat as a pin, and if you have other cats around I’ll play nice with ’em. I’m not too familiar with dogs, but hey, they should be easy for me to train. Never had any trouble teaching the kittens right from wrong, and they’re smarter than dogs. No kittens for me, though. I’m spayed.

Not that I’m prejudiced, mind. Live and let live, that’s my motto. Except for mice. That’s different.

So if you’re looking for a sporty girl with some high energy love to give who would just love to curl up against your shoulder at night for some quality cuddle-n-purr time, look no further. Call AFF and ask for Ariel.

Oh, and yeah, Peggotty’s here too. She says hi.


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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch