Tag Archives: author events

Rewrite a Classic Title Game

DSCN0018Some friends and I on a bookstore owner list were playing with classic titles, rewriting them to reflect the realities of running a bookshop. Here are a few we came up with:

Oh the Places You’ll Dust

Farewell my Harlequins (please!)

The Old Man and the C Shelf

Bonfire of the Vanity Presses

The Optimist’s Slaughter

Go Set a Watch (for those unfamiliar, timing the moment your front door can close so you can go to a party/go to bed early is one of the big joys of small business ownership)

How to Make Friends and Influence People’s Reading Habits

And we actually found a few titles that needed no alteration:

The Hunger Games

The Friendly Persuasion

Odd Hours

Yeah, you kind of have to be a literary snob, or worked retail, to get some of them. Please add your titles in comments. It’s kind of addictive once you get started….

Think and Grow Poor

The Thorn Books (those by authors whose star has faded; think about it)

The Cuckoo Flew Over One’s Nest (because you do kinda have to be crazy to do this)

To Kill a Mocking Teen

The Devil Wears Too Much Perfume (for all who’ve ever been choked by a customer)

Along Came a Spiderweb

Two Years before I went Bankrupt

The Battle of the Bookshelf Labyrinth

A Farewell to Free Time

A Prayer for All the Meanies (if you’ve ever worked retail….)

Come on, you know you want to make up a few…


Filed under bad writing, between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table

We’re Still Having Fun

Jack’s weekly guest blog

Wendy and I often have conversations on Facebook with other owners of small independent bookstores – usually about how to drive more customers through the door. The trouble is that every bookstore is unique in some way, be that the character of the owners, the geographical position of the shop, the demographic of the local population, etc, etc.

Our own strategies have been many and varied and some are detailed in ‘The Little Bookstore’. They have ranged from the early days of me handing out flyers outside the local Super-Wallie to running community events in the store. Flyers are good when you’re getting established. Community events are good for two reasons – publicity and bringing in new folk who might become regular customers.

This is where local circumstances come into play; Wendy and I live in the same building as the bookstore so it’s no biggie for us to run events. It might not be so easy for others.

We are currently running a ‘give-away’ competition for boxes of children’s and young adult books aimed at the local schools. This is partly because we simply have too many, but also to help raise awareness among school staff, parents and students that we are here and our children’s books are cheap even when you have to buy them.

We have also found that opening a cafe created spin-off business between the two. Of course that means finding the space, meeting health inspection rules (GOATS!), and identifying someone with the skills and personality with whom you can comfortably work, etc, etc. We were very lucky to find Our Good Chef Kelley as a partner!

Finally, it certainly helps to write and have published a best-selling memoir all about your bookstore. That has brought lots of people from around the country (and abroad) to visit us who generally don’t leave without buying books and eating lunch. As I write this a couple from Fairfax sit upstairs in the cafe; they drove all the way here because of the book. They have a book club who all read Wendy’s book and are talking about a group visit. That would certainly involve an overnight stay, so additional business for the town as well.

And after finally (well, a post-script then) it pays to have fun. Enjoy what you’re doing, and you’ll never work a day in your life. :]


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Finally, I have done as my wise (and patient) agent Pamela suggested, and written “Questions for book group discussions of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.” Since many minds make smooth sentences, if you have any suggestions, please send them along. I’d particularly like to add a couple on bookshop management, if any other store owners out there have ideas. I kinda hit a blank wall, writing stuff that was too esoteric. Thanks!

1. Have you ever tried to fit into a place you weren’t from or familiar with? What did you find were the joys, the barriers, the unexpected curve balls of doing so?

2. Is there a snake pit in your life? Do you agree with Wendy’s assessment that almost all of us face such job situations at some point?

3. Cats: what place do they have in the lives of bookstores? Have you seen the newest cats and fosters at Tales of the Lonesome Pine (online via Wendy’s blog)? What do you think about the overpopulation problem of companion animals in the United States? What responsibilities, if any, do humans have toward animals?

4. Of all the stories in Little Bookstore, the two that seem to resonate most with people are of Wee Willie, and the Kiwanis letter. People run the gamut, don’t they, from being unpleasant to one another, to being generous beyond imagination. Why do you think these two stories have been the most mentioned by readers? Do you have circumstances in your own life where you experienced something similar?

5. Fire victims replacing childhood books is a poignant expression of loss, love, and memory. What do you think this priority says about us as humans?

6. Reading Little Bookstore, do you see places where people misunderstood each other, misrepresented each other, yet overcame these miscommunications to understand each other? Do these moments have echoes in your life?

7. If you could suddenly change your life tomorrow, start a business, leave your residence or job, whatever…would you? If so, what would you do? If not, why not?

8. What’s the difference between luck and learning fast to adapt? Where did you see these differences in how Jack and Wendy survived their inept start at being bookstore owners?

9. Wendy talks a fair bit about happiness and contentment. She quotes several other authors and how they describe happiness. Does happiness disappear when you look it square in the face, or elude us when actively pursued? Is it true, as Garrison Keillor (an author not quoted in the book) says, that the realization of happiness comes moments after whatever has made us happy ends? Or can we recognize contentedness when we have it?

10. Discuss the role independent bookstores play in reading satisfaction. Is the process of acquiring the book part of the story it tells, or is cheap, fast, and easy what we want in our shopping experiences nowadays? Is it worth paying more to visit a real bookstore (and do you really pay more)?

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Hey Ho for the Open Road – – –

Since moving to the U.S. I’ve had many a long road trip. Coming from a country where the opposite coast could be accessed by a  2-hour drive (but the trip required packets of sandwiches, a thermos flask of coffee, and other emergency supplies) you can imagine how I’ve adapted to a place where 7 or 8 hours is the norm!

Usually Wendy and I do these long trips together and she does most of the driving. In a couple of weeks, though, I head off solo to Colorado to attend the annual PVS conference (Prison Visitation and Support, and by the way thank you for all those postcards).

Wendy was originally slated to go with me and visit with old friends who recently moved to Pueblo, so she organized a couple of book gigs along the way: LuAnn Locke’s Afterwords in Edwardsville, Illinois and in Wichita, Kansas at Al’s Old and New Book Store, managed by Anita Siemer. And we’d hoped to meet Hilda, owner of BookMedley, who helped arrange the KS gig.

And then—-

Unable to find someone to mind the shop in rapid succession over four road trips (we have the Southern Festival of the Book this weekend and a trip to NYC in November to see Wendy’s agent and visit Word Up Bookstore) not to mention the small matter of finding time to write her new book, and the brand new cafe upstairs in our bookstore, forced Wendy to call off. So it’s over to me.

My first big US road-trip solo! 8 hours on Tuesday to LuAnn, 7 1/2 hours on Wednesday to Anita, and 6 hours on Thursday. Then the whole thing backwards in a straight shot homeward, no stops, when the conference finishes on Sunday.

I suppose my biggest worry is navigating through the cities to find the bookstores and the conference hotel. Talking with the book clubs and guests at bookstore events is fun. Wendy wrote the book, but we both lived it, and over the months we’ve been doing events patterns of questions have emerged, yet pleasant and surprising insights as well.

Then as soon as I get back we prepare for New York, but that will be (at least partly) a train ride. And we will get to visit with last year’s live-in shopsitter, Andrew “perfect” Whalen, who promises to show us a good time in Brooklyn.

Should we be afraid, do you think?

Meanwhile, I have nothing to fear but the drive itself. I used to think, when a little boy, that the annual summer holiday trip from Dunfermline to Aberdour (about 15 miles) was a long journey and a real adventure. We took a break halfway at Otterson Loch–in the words of the famous old ballad: Half Ower, Half Ower, tae Aberdour–where I’d catch minnows and put them in a jar.

That was then, this is now! I’ll settle for finding the hotel.

Editor’s note: Wendy would like to mention that Jack may not be worried, but she is. He keeps telling customers that he’s driving to “Arizona.” She has pointed out several times that Colorado is a different place, but Jack just waves his hand. “Pshaw, it’s out west someplace, and it’s all America, isn’t it?” {sigh}


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, publishing, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, 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.

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