Tag Archives: independent bookstores

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, friedtales2@gmail.com

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

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

Dorian Grey, Kitten of Erudition, Speaks

DorianGood afternoon. I am Dorian Grey the Kitten. No doubt you’ve heard of me.

For those who missed the major news stories, I was in a litter of four kittens and their mother pulled from the shelter by a kind rescuer named Julie Winston. Ms. Winston asked The Bookstore to take me in. That’s how we call it in cat circles; it’s taken on the mythical proportions of Shangri-La or El Dorado. By the time she had a “yes” it was too late to pick us up that weekend. However, it did save our lives, as we were excused from the Friday cull. Thank you, Ms. Winston.

May I state for the record how disappointed I am in Mom’s former “owner,” who dumped us all in the shelter because we were “too much to take care of.” Hmmph. If one is going to be so irresponsible as to not spay a “beloved” pet, the least one can do is own the problem so created. Namely, ME. Yes, I realize spaying Mom would’ve resulted in me not being here, but let me tell you, as poster child for the unwanted offspring of household pets, the shelter is no place for newborns.

By the time we left on Monday we were all sick as dogs. The shelter staff lady works hard—she was the one who made sure the rescuers knew we were in there—but it’s too much for one person to keep the place disinfected. The vet we went to told the Bookstore Lady I would likely die, but she could save my sisters and brother.

Bookstore Lady took me home. I don’t remember very much about that, as I wasn’t feeling at all well. But I remember when she gave me goat milk in a syringe; I was so hungry I practically jerked the thing out of her hand! The lady that makes desserts for the Café in The Bookstore came downstairs and saw me eating. She likes to care for kittens at night because she doesn’t sleep much, so she took me home and fed me every two hours. She saved my life – the third human that day to do so!

DoriNow, as you can see, I am the very picture of health and vitality. And adorability, if I do say so myself. Also, I’ve been adopted by a nice lady named Maeve who is collecting me Monday. I still have a few meds to finish up before leaving, plus I weigh .7 and everybody wants me to weigh a pound before I go. I have no objections.

My sisters and brother are still at The Bookstore; they’re not as cute as me, but even so they need homes. Mom is in Hospital getting her hysterectomy, and then she’ll be looking for a place as well. She won’t ever have to go through that shelter thing again, trying to keep babies and herself alive with so little hope.

I’d like all you humans to be responsible for your pets, so they don’t end up sick and scared and starving like me. Because who would want to live in a world without cuteness?

Thank you. You may go now.


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


Jack and I are headed out to emcee the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Elizabethton, TN this weekend. Busy and running about, I offer in place of a hand-written blog this LOVELY piece of news.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES ARE THRIVING!!!! Click the link to read all about it.


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

We Won the Inaugural International Cat Day at Bookstores Award!

In case anyone missed it, Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness did his column on us this past week. Here’s the article and the link. And we LOVED seeing Valkyttie’s picture going national. :]


Robert Gray: International Cat Day Bookstore Prize

In case you missed it, last Saturday was International Cat Day, during which “felines take over the internet (even more than usual),” the Telegraph noted. As news-gathering organizations go, our bookstore cat coverage is pretty comprehensive, so we can testify to the clickbait potential inherent in any hyperlink that includes the words “Bookstore Cats.”

See, you just went there instinctively, didn’t you? Welcome back.

Today, I have the honor of both inventing and announcing the inaugural International Cat Day Bookstore Prize winner. From a long list of worthy contenders, the judges (well, me) unanimously selected Tales of the Lonesome Pine, Big Stone Gap, Va., which is currently hosting a Bookstore Cat Adoption Reunion on Facebook to celebrate all of the “forever homes” they have found for their temporary bookstore kitty interns.

“We started in June 2009, and in May of this year we adopted out our 200th cat (named Reepicheep),” said co-owner Wendy Welch. “The bookstore is a great place to get adoptions going because it acts kind of like a pet store window; people interact with the cats, pick them up and carry them, have fun with them. The tactile experience of being around them has increased adoptions, I think. We still have ‘impulse’ adoptions, although we are careful of those. More often now that we’re established we have people contact us after viewing our Facebook photos.”

Tales of the Lonesome Pine has three cat adoption rules, Welch noted: “Let the cat choose the person–they never miss; give the cats timely literary names (we named a group Harper Lee, Scout, and Boo Radley when Go Set a Watchman came out); and write about their purrsonailities on Facebook. After a cat’s been with us long enough to know them, I usually do a ‘if this cat were a woman/girl’ post and for some reason everybody loves these. I also write a lot of ‘cat voice‘ blogs as if the cat were writing it about his experiences at the shop. These get lots of hits and comments.”

Visitors to the bookstore occasionally donate money (“a kitty for the kitties,” as her husband, Jack, describes it), but Welch said, “We don’t have a jar out and in our troubled economic region I would flat not ask people for money; there are people struggling to feed their families here, literally. We’re not interested in taking their cash. In fact, that’s who we rescue for. Some families would love a pet, be good to it, have enough to feed and care for it, if they didn’t have to pay for spaying and neutering. I have friends who can sometimes be called on to ‘sponsor’ a family if they need it, and we let those ‘kitty’ donations add up to spays as well.”

She also crochets for the cause: “It’s a hobby I’ve had since childhood; I’m fast, and if I do say so myself, I’m really good at it. I can make all sorts of fun stuff; in 2013 it was the Spay & Neuter Afghan–a free online pattern called ‘Rows of Cats.’ I put it online with a note that said ‘This is what you get if you don’t spay and neuter: rows and rows of cats.’ And those things sold like hotcakes; I sold them for the price of a neuter. In 2014 I must have sold 400 of these cool little trivets shaped like penguins and chicks and roosters. This year it is animal scarves and hoodies, and mermaid tail lap blankets. People buy these a lot, and they donate yarn so I can sell them at prices everyone can afford, and still make money for the kitties’ kitty.”

Since the 2012 publication of her book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Welch said many readers “from outside the area have been quick to assist us, or to assist their local cat shelters in our honor. That’s very cool. The farthest away we have adopted cats is Kansas and Massachusetts. Someone agreed to meet the adopter halfway, and off our babies went to life in the big city–or the American plains. Whichever. We adopted a girl recently to a family in Arlington who came to see the shop because they’d read my book and wanted to see it for themselves. And they came with the idea of getting a cat in mind. We love it when this happens.”

Tales of The Lonesome Pine’s official bookshop cat philosophy is summed up nicely in her book: “The whole establishment catered in design and policy to every whim of the two permanent staff cats and the myriad fosters who have found forever homes via the bookstore.”

Sometimes people ask why they do all this. “We do it for the same reason we run a bookstore: because it’s fun, because it’s important, and because it’s compassionate,” Welch observed. “Animals can’t speak for themselves, tell their own story. They need advocates, and when they get them, they reciprocate by being way more fun to watch than Netflix–plus more engaging.” —Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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

A Picture from 1000 Words…..

Rainbow 041“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

“The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”

– majority opinion of Justice Kennedy.


Filed under Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Wendy Welch

For a Murderer, He’s an awfully nice Guy

temp welchSo I was asked to speak on a panel at the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium, on developing ideas into stories. The symposium was about an hour away, a beautiful drive through the June-green mountains.

Jeffery Deaver, of crime thriller fame, was the keynote, but hadn’t arrived yet because a family event had intervened, the moderator announced. Also, regrettably, Mr. Deaver would have no books with him because of the glitch.

As a collective sigh of disappointment arose from the assembly, my mind flew back to our mystery room’s “D” shelf, better known as “DeMille/Deaver” with a few James Dosses thrown in.

I offered to fetch the 40+pre-loved thrillers and sell them at the book signing after his talk, but–on finding Mr. D was unreachable in transit–hesitated. Authors sometimes have love/hate relationships with second-hand book sellers and seizing the day at someone else’s expense just seemed uncouth. Once the organizing committee grasped the question, they agreed to ask when he arrived, while I headed home; if he wanted them, no problem and I’d head back.

Not to worry; when the keynote speaker arrived he said, “That is an amazingly generous offer and yes please. And I’m a big fan of independent bookstores, by the way.”

It was a win-win-win. The speaker got to talk to people in a structured setting after his keynote; the people attending could buy books they wanted to read; and I sold – HANDSOLD – fiction with the author at my left elbow. Believe it or not, bookslingers LOVE to handsell; doing it in tandem with the author just doesn’t happen every day. At one point a sweet lady asked for one “with the least possible horror content” and I reached for SPEAKING IN TONGUES.

“Oh no, no, this one,” said Monsieur Deaver, picking up another – might have been TWELFTH CARD but I couldn’t swear to it. (Is this the moment to admit I haven’t read them all?) We depleted the stock of titles to about 1/3 in just 30 minutes. It was handselling on steroids, and it sure was fun.

temp welch IIJeffery Deaver is a very pleasant person, quick to generosity toward an offer not every author would have appreciated, invested in his readers while signing. He asked people about their own works-in-progress, chatted about the day’s speakers, and generally gave off a laid-back cheerfulness in the face of a rather long line. He then personally authorized (and illustrated) a book for Our Good Chef Kelley at Second Story Cafe. Who was the teensy bit jealous that I had spent the afternoon with her favorite author.

Judging by how his characters die, one might not peg Jeffery Deaver, bestselling thriller writer, for a mellow, pleasant individual with a passion for Celtic folk music. But he is, and it was a delightful afternoon.

Thanks Mr. Deaver!

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