Tag Archives: independent bookstores

The Monday Book: The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin

I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself. ~Marlene Dietrich

epigraphPicked this book up when Jack and I visited Williamsburg on holiday in January. I love quotes, have kept a notebook of them forever, and sometimes, just for fun, I troll quote sites.

So now you know.

Rosemary Ahern’s editing of this book has them organized by loose subjects, but she also wrote a nice contextualizing essay about epigraphs (the quotes that open a book chapter or book by being a kind of sideways poetic move into what the text will deal with). She refers to them as ‘mental furniture’ and a way of understanding not only what the chapter will be about, but how the author thinks about life–a little peek inside the study, if you will.

I figured this was  a “dipping” book, the kind one picked up at bedtime and browsed amiably until sleep fogged the brain and the words danced away from your eyes. (That’s usually the last thing that happens before the book falls on my face and wakes me up.) But in reality, this is a bad book to read before bed. You kinda have to think about the quotes, because they’re set on the page above the title of the book they open. Which is like a game of Dixit, or Apples to Apples, with words and somebody else’s brain waves. Cool, fun, but not really sleep-inducing. More of a wake-up call for.

Insights are glorious things, but as Elizabeth Gilbert said in her TED talk, sometimes you don’t want to be inspired because you’re trying to drive a car or get some sleep.

Ain’t no plot to this book, but if you’ve read the books that are under the epigraphs, you totally spend a few minutes moving the letters around inside the square to see if you can form the mystery key word. Thought Boggle?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it is one of the few, the proud, that I will keep rather than Frisbee-flick into the shop for someone else to find. Getcher own copy, and I highly recommend purchasing rather than the library. You’re going to want to write notes in the margins. :]

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book: HAUNTING JASMINE by Anjali Banerjee

♪ IIIIII’m in the moooooooood ♪ for Fluff! ♪

ganeshAlthough I like most novels and memoirs about India or Pakistan, I tend to avoid the Bollywood-in-print end of that continuum. But Jasmine is about a woman who watches her aunt’s bookshop for a month. So I had to read it.

If you read Sarah Addison Allen’s charming romance Garden Spells, in which an apple tree chucks fruit at Mr. Wrong and rains petals down while wafting heady perfume at opportune moments, you have the concept of this book. The shop has a mind of its own, guarded by Ganesh, the Hindu remover of obstacles, who works in collusion with the ghosts that haunt the place.

A LOT of ghosts haunt this place. There are no surprises in this book. If it were food, it would be cotton candy. PINK cotton candy.

And very well made. Not your clumpy spun sugar, but the smooth, fluffy, cloud of sweetness that dissolves even as you start to taste it. This is a fast read, a light read, fun and fluffy.

I can hear regular readers of this blog thinking, “Yes, okay, but how is the WRITING?”

Practically non-existent. Like that spun sugar, it disappears as you’re reading it. You don’t remember turns of phrase, just the story line. And you can kinda see what’s coming, but that’s party of the pleasantness–anticipation of that next mouthful of dulce ethereal.

You don’t have to own a bookstore to enjoy the inside jokes about books, bookshops, or the customers who frequent them. But if you do, you might laugh at more places than the rest of the world. There are plenty of laughs as Jasmine struggles with her mysterious suitor, her scumbag ex-husband, and her inability to believe that Horatio and co. were right- there are more things under heaven than we might already know about.

Two cotton candy cones up for this pink-lit, chick-lit romance.

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

Independent Bookstores- there’s a Meme for That!

People from many corners of our round world send memes to our bookstore page. We like it; it’s a fun way to communicate ideas quickly, or share humor.

We do have to admit that, once a meme appears, it tends to appear again and again in rapid succession, because, well, great minds think alike. A shared sense of humor is a wonderful thing.

So here are some memes that have popped up more than a dozen times in the past few weeks, plus a few new ones interspersed. Enjoy!

meme library cake The library birthday cake looked to me like the perfect meme. Not something I would ever have the skill to do, but if it appeared on my doorstep, I’d certainly photograph it before diving in. Then another poster pointed out the fatal flaw: there is no cat on this cake. I’m sure that can be corrected, but isn’t it gorgeous?!

Psst – My birthday is in May, if anyone wants to tackle this. :] Just sayin’.

 

 

meme viking cats Tempting, this. A lot of people know I crochet in order to support spays and neuters for feral and foster cats. But each time I think about making one of these, assessing the time it would take the lacerations to heal (lost crochet time) stops me. Our bookstore cats have little truck with cute clothing, sadly.

meme tankOh, but speaking of vehicles! This one has only appeared once, so far. Argentina has a long history of tanks in sad places, so what better statement than making one into a free bookmobile! If you google Argentine Book Tank, you can see photos of the books being passed out – 900 of them! (And thanks, Alma, for posting it!)

 

meme wrong bookstore

 

This is the most-repeated meme for any bookstore owner. Ever. Yep, funny. It was funny. Was……. although please don’t think me a killjoy to admit it made me nervous, too, the joke being based on someone’s name. (Snopes says this doesn’t exist, btw.) Going through American high school with the name Welch, one empathizes. :]

meme mermaid tailAnd yes, our book friends really get us. Because they keep posting crochet patterns! And this one, repeated about a dozen times, led to a great development. I can’t crochet fast enough to make all the things that cat supporters would buy, so a friend of a friend, Kate Smith, is now making mermaid tails on behalf of Foster Kitty City! I’m concentrating on hats and sandals – the other pattern people keep posting. (Keep ‘em coming, and thanks!)

Then there are the book memes – which we love to repost on our bookstore page. These sometimes have great graphics, but this week’s favorite is just text: I’m a hybrid. I run on books and tea.

Yep.

So thank you for the funny, sweet, thoughtful memes (and useful patterns) y’all post to our timelines. Keep ‘em coming, as and when.

(BTW, we delete memes or stories that have to do with hurt animals. We understand, but it doesn’t help.)

But oh, how we laughed at the one fellow bookstore owner Tina Hoerauf (Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah, WI) sent. After three straight weeks of snow-turned-into-flooding, this little gem appeared on our timeline yesterday. Thanks, Tina!

meme eeyore

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

Let it Stop, Let it Stop, Let it Stop!

Jack’s guest blog this week tackles marriage in a snowstorm

The  snow storms of the last few weeks have confined us both to the shop as the campus location of Wendy’s day-job has been closed, along with many other businesses in town. Recently I checked in with our vet, Saint Beth,  and her chiropractor husband TNB, newlyweds also snowed in. TNB (his real name is Brandon) said that, with both his and his wife’s practices closed: “I’m awaiting orders on what we will build, move, clean, or restore next.”

Amen, brother.

With no hiding place I have had to suffer the full glare of my wife’s ever more frenetic plans. Floors have been scrubbed, shelves re-positioned, questions about how (or why) we do (or don’t) do certain things (in certain ways) asked. While it certainly helped that we had very few customers for the same reason we were trapped, what didn’t were the frequent phone calls from folk asking to us to take in freezing stray kittens – – –

Our good friend ‘Saint’ Beth’s animal hospital was also snowed in and she had 8 kittens that needed somewhere warm and safe so they were added to our own 4 kitty employees. Add up the litter tray and feeding requirements!

12 cats and kittens chasing each other over and through the shelves can scatter an awful lot of books. So I imagine you might be getting a picture of the general scene now? Book replacing, shelf re-positioning, floor scrubbing, picture re-hanging, kitten boxes, phone calls about stray cats and all.

Meanwhile the cafe did (mostly) manage to operate as usual thanks to our 4 wheel drive truck that managed to get chef Kelley in from her house each day, but that quickly became an emergency feeding center for the elderly and infirm within delivery distance. Kelley and Wendy delivered meals three days running.

There were times when it was a relief to go out and shovel snow, I tell you. But weather forecasts for next week are good, so we’re all looking forward to better times. And even in the midst of all this chaos, we still managed to have two Friday concerts and adopt out three cats.

It’s not so bad…..

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, crafting, Downton Abbey, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Heating With Books

books 010Now don’t judge me for what I’m about to tell you. Because every one of us who runs a bookstore has had to face this dilemma at one point or another, and if I do say so myself, Jack and I have found a creative and elegant solution.

Bookstores have unsellable books. It happens. 1970s manuals on why the Rapture will be within the next 10 years – reprinted in the 1980s and 1990s. At which point I assume the preacher died and went to his Heavenly Reward. (I’m not cynical, just have a wicked sense of humor and a healthy disrespect for fearmongering versus “This is God. Get to know God. It’s important.”)

Then there are the Arthur Hailey novels, the 1960s Fiction Book of the Month Club, and Thomas Costain.

Costain works the best for our purposes, because his paperbacks are nice and thick. Still, the book club editions stack well.

books 009Around the walls. We finally sat down and worked out a solution to “What are we gonna do about our heating bills” for this 1903 drafty monstrosity of a bookstore we live in. We needed to insulate better. What did we have to do it with?

Why hel-LO there, Danielle Steel! Steamy heated love scenes? Perfect for under the windows. We lined all the outer walls of our shop with romances, has-been how-tos, hardback fiction that’s been there, done that, and a few copies of  Time Life Big Books.

Thin, those, but nice and tall for the corners.

We got heat, ladies and gentlemen, and those books are getting the dignified retirement they deserve. If someone actually wanted to buy one, I’d have to explain that market value would be determined by the temperature outside, of course. Not that anyone will. These books are elegantly unsellable.books 008

And thick. And weighty. And perfect. We are WARM! Our heating bill is going down. And we culled our shelves. Life is going great in these sub-zero temperatures.

Jack and I live in a house lined with books. Go by, cold world!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Home Sweet Bookstore

What with our Chile vacation, log cabin Christmas and then my unexpected trip to Scotland for the funeral of my old friend Davy, I haven’t had a great deal of time in the bookstore over the last couple of months.

But now I’m back in harness it’s like slipping on a well worn pair of favorite slippers. The routine we’ve established over the last seven years (I know it’s that long because our local newspaper had us on a special tribute page to much loved and established downtown businesses last week) covers, of course, much more than just selling books. There’s keeping the place clean, looking after the cats and dogs, liaising with Kelley and ‘The Second Story Cafe’, sorting the daily influx of traded books and writing weekly guest blog posts like this one.

On top of that I need to keep up with my weekly radio show ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’, and contribute to the various Facebook accounts that relate in one way or another to us or Tales of the Lonesome Pine.

I remember some years ago, when I was still working in a community college in Scotland, meeting a recently retired colleague in the street and asking how he was enjoying his retirement. “Jack” he said “it was made for a younger man than me!” Although I can sympathize with his sentiment, I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to think I regret anything about my current workload. In fact I positively relish it and I feel sorry for folk who spend their retirement either pining for their former job or wandering aimlessly.

There’s an old Scots saying – East, West, hame’s best. I think for me it should be – North, South, East, West, the little bookstore hame’s best!

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

Remember Customer Service? We do.

Little Bookstore is one of several on a list of second-hand bookslingers who trade ideas and share knowledge–including that there’s such a thing as being TOO local. People can take the approach that you must be in this small town because you couldn’t make it in the big city; I’ve just come back from an economic summit where rural town managers discussed this problem.

Being too local is a problem anytime of year, but at Christmas, people can also eschew specialty businesses because they believe making a mad dash through the discount warehouses will be “cheaper and more convenient.”

(Yeah, and the shortcut is always faster….)

Small Business Saturday and the Christmas season tend to be a special challenge for bookstores because much of our unique charm lies in our handselling technique; a proprietor knows his or her customers, and has developed a relationship of trust, of not trying to just sell, sell, sell but to match. We take pride in matching the correct book to the right person. Trust is the foundation of customer service, trying to help the customer rather than meet an imposed quota.

Everybody sells books at Christmas, but who can greet you by name, ask how your niece liked Divergent, suggest a new detective series because they know you like mysteries themed around food? Or, who can meet you for the first time, listen to a list of the last five books your dad read and what he thought of them, and then suggest the perfect present based on that information? How much time will you save with that kind of service?

That’s what we do, and what our friends in the bookselling business do. Because we are our businesses; we don’t just work for them. We believe in selling you what you want, not what you’ve been told you need. And we believe you are your own person.

Visit your local bookseller this holiday season–be it Paperback Book Exhange in Neenah, Wisconsin; Al’s Books out in Kansas; maybe that sweet little Country Bookshop in North Carolina; or one of the other 2,500-or-so used book shops across America. The coffee will be hot, the chairs comfy, the kittens purring, and the proprietors ready to listen, serve, and smile.

 

 

 

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