Tag Archives: Adriana Trigiani

The More the Merrier

Jack’s weekly guest blog on why Big Stone Gap is a great place to visit

It’s always a real pleasure to get unsolicited confirmation that we are doing something right. We got two examples this week and I’ll let them speak for themselves.visitors

First of all, to our great surprise and delight, a link to a terrific write-up about Our Good Chef Kelley and the Second Story Cafe appeared yesterday morning. We had had a visit from photographer Jason Barnette a few weeks ago, which he wrote up on his food blog ‘The Southeastern Traveler’.


Today our phone has been ringing off the hook with folk asking about the cafe hours and where exactly we are.

Inside the bookstore. Yes, that bookstore. :]

Then, yesterday afternoon, we were equally delighted to have a group come into the bookshop who had driven down specially from Harrisonburg, VA just because one of them had read The Little Bookstore and they decided to see it for themselves. They stayed overnight in one of the local hotels and then came back for breakfast here and to shop for books.

As they were leaving they said they would definitely be back and raved about the beauty of the town and its setting. We’re so happy to be one of the many reasons people come to Big Stone Gap. We look forward to the film from Adri’s books, and we look forward to the new local businesses that will spring from increased interest in our area.

And we’re ever so proud to be the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Overheard in a Bookstore at Christmastime

Here, in random order, is a list of our favorite customer sayings complied from Christmases past and present (hee hee, get it, present? Oh, never mind):

A woman asks: “Do you have any books about how to be a good husband? Maybe two or three.”

Extended family, browsing, grandmother says to daughter: “Books for the kids? I dunno. Shouldn’t we get them something they’d really like?”

“I’m looking for a book, it’s about a small town, and the people are kinda sweet and backwards.” Against our better judgment, we tried Adriana’s Big Stone Gap series, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Jan Karon’s Mitford books. The customer wanted “Winesburg, Ohio.”

Customer points to a shelf: “You had a book somewhere around here last week; it had a red cover, something about a bird, or maybe it was a dog? I thought my sister would like it. I think the title started with ‘A Day’ or maybe it was ‘My Dog’ or ‘The Day.’ You know, something like that.”

After child rips page out of a picture book while mother browses nearby: “I’m not going to pay for that. You shouldn’t have the children’s books lying about where children can reach them.”

“Do y’all sell Christmas presents here?”

Christmas Eve Day, noon: “So the Christmas books are half off now, right?”

Christmas Eve Day, 3 pm, man enters with little girl, takes her straight to children’s room: “That’s right, honey, anything you want. Mommy said we can’t come home until 5.” Closes children’s room door with daughter inside, turns to staff: “Got any coffee?”

Christmas Eve Day, 4 pm: “…and I wouldn’t normally think of shopping at a bookstore for him, but y’all are right near the house and still open.”

Christmas Eve Day, 5 pm: “I need a gift for my mother-in-law. I don’t care what it is. Just make sure it’s big and heavy. And wrap it for me.”

Christmas Eve Day, 5:50 pm: “Excuse me, do you know a lot about books? OK, pick me out something a 14-year-old will like. Quick, I’m in a hurry.”


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized

Bollards of Big Stone

Note: Jack and Wendy are headed to NYC today, so the blog may be a little off timing the next couple of days as the two country mice adjust. Meanwhile, here’s the fun doings in Big Stone Gap!

The movie being filmed in town right now is causing all sorts of reactions among the locals–mostly enthusiastic FB posts showing them hugging long-suffering Hollywood A-listers. (A big shout of thanks to Ms. Elfman for helping us adopt out 3 PAWS cats within a week by photo-cuddling them.)max and jenna

The movie buzz is good for the town – economically and intellectually. Someone asked me the other day if the movie had made locals proud, and before I could open my mouth a bookstore customer said, “We’ve always been proud of our town. We know who we are. Now we’re proud that other people are hearing about us.”

Jack and I are happy to watch the hoopla and enjoy the buzz, but it got side-splitting silly over the weekend. The movie company set up on Wood Ave (the main street through town) on Friday night. Trust us; we know from experience how hard it is to get a 15-minute parade permit for closing that street, let alone 2 whole days, so we watched with enthusiasm. 

Saturday morning bright and early some police arrived and set up cones across the road that comes off Wood toward our shop. The only one way left to thread through town went right past our bookstore, so we got a front row seat for the high jinks. (And we locked up our indoor/outdoor cats for the day, plying them with kitty candy whenever they yowled to go outside. I think they gained 10 pounds on Saturday alone.)

The  closed block-long section of Fourth Avenue holds the liquor store and post office, so when they put up the bollards (those orange cones) they blocked in some people who’d made an early start to acquisitions (of post office box mail, of course). These folk came out, glanced at the cones, and drove around them–over curbs, through a parking lot, no matter. They waved at the cops and the cops waved back.

But then people watching them drive out started using the same technique to drive in; the cops had gone by now, leaving one little “ROAD CLOSED” sign to do the dirty work. Someone knocked it down, going around it.

The cops came back about an hour later, and put up more roadblock signs, stretched across where the ineffectual bollards had been. That lasted about ten minutes.

The cops returned. They left one of their own, a young woman (she might have been twenty) who was promptly ignored by those driving around her–waving–to reach the liquor store and post office. We have often sat out on our front veranda watching locals breaking every traffic law possible as they turn at that intersection right smack in front of our bookstore, but Saturday and Sunday brought a whole new level. That poor young officer spent the next two hours shouting with increasing frustration and decreasing effect at motorists who just didn’t see why they should care that she was there. We quickly broke them down into three categories:

1) “We wanna see the stars” These were innocent groups of thrill seekers trying to see the action. Road block? Don’t think so.

2) Oblivious folk who failed to see anything different; “Hmm, who put that annoying sign there?” Both drivers and walkers fell into this category, and it was hysterical to watch them head blithely for the center of action, one block away, and be tackled by people leaping in front of them just short of the post office steps. Apparently the cameras were rolling right at the corner of the post office, and I don’t know how many shots were ruined that day by people who just didn’t notice anything unusual.

3) Our personal favorites, the drivers who considered it their God-given right to park outside the post office or ABC store, just as they always did, and complete their weekend errands. “Movie? Stuff and nonsense. Let me by, sonny.” We loved watching these people literally walk past police and film crew with outstretched arms. In one case an older woman swatted at a young man in a ball cap; we could almost hear the conversation “I don’t know you, young man, but get out of my way or I’ll call the police!” (who were about four feet away, also trying to stop her).

bollards of big stoneThe crew filmed two days, and on day two, perhaps realizing less was more, they reduced the street closure to just the Wood Avenue junction, leaving unfettered access to the ABC (which opens at 1 pm on Sundays) and limited access to the post office lobby with its rows of PO boxes.

Some people fear that this movie will encourage people to make fun of “hicks and hillbillies,” and display us, the residents of Big Stone Gap, as the same. But I think the residents of Southwest Virginia have been, are, and always will be resilient people who ignore bollards and stereotypes as we go about our business. We know who we are, and when the hoopla is over, that’s who we’ll still be.

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Retirement, my Arse

Jack’s guest blog on the loneliness of the overworked bookseller

When I joke about there being no such thing as retirement I mostly am really just joking. Except this week…..

We’d only just got through getting Wendy’s new book into a formal proposal and out the door (a process that involves Wendy disappearing into the basement for hours on end while I cope with a list of chores not limited to but dominated by laundry, food services, bookstore management, and dog/cat care) when it was straight into the Celtic Festival with all its associated hair-tearing last minute complications. (Our favorite “least favorite” festival moment: 10:45 a.m. I go out to start my little red ’62 MG to carry Lady Big Stone in the parade, and the engine won’t turn over. Started at 11:02 for the 11:15 parade. I’m too old for that kind of excitement.)

I will add that Big Stone Celtic this year surpassed itself: lovely attendance, lovely weather, lovely performers, lovely vendors, lovely feel to the whole two days. It was delightful.

The day after that loveliness, all the signs and banners had to be taken down and stowed. One of the reasons we had such good attendance is that our friend Elissa headed up publicity; she thought of places to put those signs and banners that defy description.

On Monday we basked in the glow of photographs and comments on the Big Stone Celtic Day’s facebook page, and on the bookstore’s. We must have basked for twenty full minutes before it was time to turn our attention to the SECOND STORY CAFE–opening Oct. 8–and the health inspector’s visit to approve it. Bruce, the inspector, is coming tomorrow, but Rick, the heat and air guy, is still installing the new heat pump in the attic: estimated completion Friday.

Oh, and our friend Gayle Ross will be telling at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, so she’s coming up to do a house concert on Monday, Oct. 7. Quick and intensive advertising to be done.

Surely there can’t be anything else?

Well, we decided to empty the ‘love shack’ and shift all the romances from there into the shop since it’s not a great space for retail in winter. We’re creating a couches-and-coffee room upstairs next door to the main dining room, lining its walls with shelves, and bringing up the classics and poetry; the romances will go where those used to be on the bookshop’s main floor. Unfortunately, we can’t move them yet because first the kitchen has to be ready for Bruce to inspect Thursday and then the room clear for Rick on Friday and then Saturday we’re moving the couches into the coffee shop room so I’ve got to get the shelves built soon.

Did I mention that Adrianna Trigiani’s novel about Big Stone Gap is being filmed here in town starting in two weeks? One of the film crew was in yesterday asking if the restaurant would open while they’re here. I said, “God knows, because I’ve got to put a bathroom in our basement this month or Wendy will kill me.” (We moved into our basement to clear space for the cafe, but women’s bladders are small and my wife has grown tired of making the midnight trek to the toilet one flight up.)

What was that dear? Shelves? What shelves?


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, VA, writing

How the Little Bookstore met the Big Library

An unexpected pleasure Saturday past was meeting two fans of Little Bookstore at Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival and hearing this rather unique tale.  When I said, “this is so getting blogged” (a response friends and neighbors have gotten used to over the past months) Sue Powell  graciously obliged my request that she write it up herself. Sue is starting her own blog; we’ll be sure to let you know when she’s up and running. And now: Sue’s story.


The Library of Congress provides books and other materials to Congress and their staff. As a staff librarian, one of my responsibilities was to select books for the collection from thousands received through the Copyright Office and Cataloging-in-Publication program. LOC receives around 15,000 items daily and adds about 11,000 to the collection each day. Obviously, with those huge numbers many books aren’t selected, and for those that are, many take years to actually get to the shelf.

When selecting new books, I look for titles requested by Congressional offices, books by frequently-requested authors, books on subjects of interest to Congress and books I think they’ll request in the future.

The very place!

The very place!

Being a huge fan of Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series, similar words caught my eye last winter as I scanned the spines in the “new book room.” I pulled “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap” from the shelf and was further intrigued by the subtitle “a memoir of friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book.” From the book jacket, I learned that Wendy Welch was a first-time author. I had a long list of books to look for, and this wasn’t one of them, but I wanted to read it! Also, I’d learned the reading preferences of many Congressional staffers and knew this book would interest them.

Yet more inside!

Yet more inside!

I placed the book in my cart and dropped it off with another 15-20 books to be processed and added to the Library collection within a couple of days. Wendy’s book thus took its place among the 155.3 million items in the largest library in the world! Its cataloging record would be there for other libraries to use as they added the book to their own collections.

I took a copy home to read over the weekend before I recommended it to library clients. After telling my husband about the book, he snatched it up to read as well. As I’d guessed, many of our clients eagerly accepted my suggestion and read it too.

When I retired a few months later, we moved to Kingsport, Tennessee which turns out to be about an hour south of Big Stone Gap, Virginia so one of our first weekend road-trips was to visit “Tales of the Lonesome Pine” bookstore. Wendy was tucked away in her mountain cabin writing, so we didn’t meet her then, but we met Jack and had him autograph a copy of Wendy’s book. Recently we were excited to finally meet Wendy while she was speaking at the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival in Elizabethton, Tennessee and tell her the story of how her first book became a part of the Library of Congress’ collection.

And if you want to look it up: http://lccn.loc.gov/2012026578  This is the catalog record for The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Circles of Words

Jack and I are getting used to people making lunch reservations, or sometimes just showing up at the bookstore, saying they read the book and had to see the place live. At first, we were a little shy. Believe it or not, that outgoing Scotsman can be tongue-tied around large clumps of people. And me, I’m an introvert.

But there’s something very nice about people who want to see your place because they think it sounds “charming” or “sweet” or even “too good to be true,” or who just want to “meet those cats, Beulah and Val-Kyttie.” (Beulah likes meeting people; Val-Kyttie does not.)

So Jack and I set down a “soup, salad, shortbread and tea supper or lunch” menu and started taking reservations that include chatting, singing, browsing, help with other town attractions: whatever the visitors-to-be want. Mostly people come in book club groups, but we also get girlfriend posses.

Friday past, three couples ate with us and did some browsing, then went on to the outdoor drama of Trail of the Lonesome Pine. I never did figure how Pendy, Jill and Vernelle (and I’m sorry if I’ve butchered the name or spelling!) fit together as a reading group since they were all from different states, but they were a lot of fun. Unfortunately they were the ones taking all the pictures on the day; my new iPhone doubles as a camera, but I can never find the thing when it’s needed.

Vernelle made me a bracelet of tiny paper beads with words on them: a circle of words celebrating people brought together by words. Isn’t it pretty?

word bracelet Words bring circles of different kinds of people together. Saturday, the phone rang and a lady from Oregon made a reservation to meet us in October, when she’d be driving by on her way to the Atlantic coast.


On Sunday (when we aren’t open) I was straightening the porch when a car pulled up. It was Barbara–the lady who opened her own bookstore about 40 miles away, for those who’ve read Little Bookstore. Out with her mom and daughter for a drive, she just stopped to say hi. We chatted awhile, but as they were leaving another car pulled in.

“They open?” the woman called to Barbara, who turned to me, eyebrows raised.

“No, but come on in,” I shouted back, and the lady and her husband climbed the porch steps.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “My husband and I live in Cincinnati, and we were passing through for a family funeral, and when I saw how close we were gonna be,  I told him we had to just stop and see the place. I read your book by accident, and I just loved it. It was like you read my mind!”

Turns out she’d been trying to order a copy of the novel Big Stone Gap, but “all those things you said about small towns? Amen, sister!”

It’s fun, this people visiting thing. You just never know what’s gonna happen next.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing