Tag Archives: Big Stone Gap movie

The Wednesday Book Deal (or: why writing is like mining)

mine entranceMany of you have noticed that “the bookstore blog” has been the wee bit irregular this last month. It’s a combo of two things: the Celtic Festival, which we are wrapping up after its very successful 8th annual permutation Sept. 27-28; and the final “throws” of a book deal.

May 2017 will see Fall or Fly from Swallow Press. It is about adoption and foster care children in the Coalfields, and holds two things I love most about writing, plus one I never experienced before and hate (or perhaps fear).

On the one hand, my journalistic roots show when I write about people, and I absolutely love listening to others tell their life stories. They’re fascinating; people are so cool when they’re not pro tellers but are just telling what they know. It is my favorite part of any writing I’ve ever done.

But, to use a metaphor, writing in this instance is like coal mining. It’s dark, and from the entrance comes an unwelcoming smell of decay. Brave people secretly telling me their stories are the guides, lights that shine in the unhuman, inhospitable environment. They are resilient, these storytellers.

Especially the young’uns who came up through this system. With some of the least opportunity to be so, they emerge from all that pressure shining as diamonds: rock-solid, dependable human beings.

One day, after the bookstore Cafe had closed, I spent two hours talking with one person embroiled in the foster care system. When we came downstairs, Jack said the storyteller seemed “ten years younger” while “you looked as though the whole world had settled between your shoulder blades.”

For all that, they’re amazing stories, amazing people, and I’m so pleased to be writing this book. It will be smaller, more intimate than Little Bookstore. (And yes, for those of you asking, a cat book is in line, but Fall or Fly will be first.)

So deep breath, and here we go, diving deep. It’s a wonderful thing – only this time it’s in a dark pool inside a mine with just a few lights. Scary, but the words will come and make the way to get out of the dark places. And that makes everything worth it, because that’s the second part of writing I love: say what you mean, mean what you say. Find the words to tell the stories that need to be told, that other people will feel validated, empowered, even challenged to hear.

Is there anything more satisfying?


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, YA fiction

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

Mr. Smith Goes to Big Stone Gap

In Jack’s weekly blog, he announces his intention of making the world a better place. Or a certain part of it, anyway.

Small towns are amazing places at times, and this one is no exception.

On Saturday morning our good friend Gary (who appears in Wendy’s book under another name) reminded me that I’d been talking about possibly running for a place on our Town Council. That meant gathering the necessary forms and getting at least 125 signatures of registered voters resident in the town to support my application.

Now please recall that this conversation took place in our bookstore about 5:30 pm. At Church next morning at 11, one of our congregation congratulated me on running! Then on Tuesday, when Wendy went to the County courthouse to get the forms, the lady there said “we’ve been expecting you”. No need for the Internet around here when the jungle drums are alive and well.

So now I have three weeks or so to get those signatures and there’s really only one way to make sure they are really resident in town – knock on doors. Because when I trailed around local offices and businesses on Wednesday I was surprised by how few of the people who work here actually live here.

One difference between Scotland and the US when it comes to local democracy concerns party allegiance. In Scotland, even at town level, folk stand on a party ticket and follow the party ‘line’. But, unless I’m much mistaken local democracy here is much more about individuals, and that seems healthy to me.

So – I need to have a ‘platform’! Fittingly enough, I announced mine on Facebook – “I’m not a member of any political party, I’m a good listener, I want BSG to be ready to welcome visitors with something to see and do when the movie comes out, I support local businesses, I am an advocate of lifelong learning and education. How can I not do all in my power to support and represent the citizens of this town who stood beside me in the courthouse and cheered me on as I became a US Citizen?”

I remember the day I became an US Citizen, when every single official there encouraged us ‘newbies’ to become involved in the democratic process. I’m following their advice! And I’m offering a willingness to hear the concerns of the town residents (whether they vote for me or not); a desire to support any initiative that will make the town a place to visit and spend time in; an understanding of the issues that concern the owners of a small business; and over twenty years as a college professor who believes passionately in the value of education.

Plus shortbread for everyone. :] That’s my platform, and I’m standing on it.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

The Monday Book: THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS by Randy Susan Meyers

daughtersThis book came into the bookstore randomly this past fall, and one night in a lighthearted “what will I read next” ramble, I pulled it from the bookshelf …

… and lost my weekend. Murder’s Daughters is one of those “don’t get up” books where your life partner is going to need to bring you sandwiches. (S/he will if you promise to do the same when it’s his or her turn to read the book.) The plot moves pretty quickly for being as psychology-driven as it is, something I really enjoyed. I like analytical books, but they can drag. This one did not. What’s going to happen next was always on my mind as I carried it into the bathroom, read it at the kitchen table, ignored customers in the bookstore the first time they said hello.

The premise is straightforward: a man loses control and kills his wife, but the only reason he’s able to is that one of his two daughters–a mere child–opens the door for him. Everything else in the dysfunction junction tale that follows stems from that moment. And there are some lovely human psychology moments. How the girls get out of the children’s home they get stuck in –because their blood family doesn’t step up to the plate–is so compelling and so true to humanity that I cried.

The ways in which the two girls so differently handle their subsequent relationship with their father is interesting, but more compelling to me was the depiction of their growing up years in a group home, and how they related to each other by in turns being maternal and manipulative. The girls are well-drawn characters. Great characters drive great plots.

Meyers puts the synopsis of the book well on her website (http://www.randysusanmeyers.com/the-murderers-daughters/): “The Murderer’s Daughters is narrated in turn by Merry and Lulu [the daughters]. The book follows the sisters as children, as young women, and as adults, always asking how far forgiveness can stretch, while exploring sibling loyalty, the aftermath of family violence, and the reality of redemption.”

BTW Meyers has links to buy the book on her site. I know y’all will first explore ordering it from your local bookstore, then if needed buy from her Powell’s link; Powell’s is a cool bookstore with excellent business ethics.

On her website you’ll also find links to her new book, The Comfort of Lies. If the characters are as well-drawn as Merry and Lulu, it will be a great read. Clear a weekend.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table, writing

Photoblog: A Day in the Life of a Bookstore Staff Animal


It’s not that easy, being a bookstore staff animal.

Assessing trade-ins...

Assessing trade-ins…

..getting purrrsonally involved in inventory management....

..getting purrrsonally involved in inventory management….

Patrolling the shelves requires constant vigilance.

Patrolling the shelves requires constant vigilance.

Writing ads....

Writing ads….

...training interns....

…training interns….

Answering phone inquiries is a duty only senior staff can handle.

Answering phone inquiries is a duty only senior staff can handle.

Dealing with customers calls on deep diplomacy skills.

Dealing with customers calls on deep diplomacy skills.

That's why it's important to take plenty of breaks.

That’s why it’s important to take plenty of breaks.

PLENTY of breaks...

PLENTY of breaks…

Of course, there are perks to working in the Little Bookstore....

Of course, there are perks to working in the Little Bookstore….

Staff enjoy a certain degree of celebrity.

Staff enjoy a certain degree of celebrity.

We offer a full benefits package under Amerifur, including cone coverage and maternity care.

We offer a full benefits package under Amerifur, including cone coverage.

Reguations governing inter-staff relationships tend to be lax.

Regulations governing inter-staff relationships tend to be lax.

The staff dining room is free, and includes a full milk bar.

And finally, the staff dining room is free, and includes a full milk bar.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Uncategorized, VA

Hidden Pleasures in the Night

One of the coolest things about running a bookstore is the nighttime raids. On any given evening, when the shop is closed and Jack and I head downstairs to our bedroom den, one of us might say, “Oh, I finished my book.” Thus begins a pleasant twenty minutes of discovery.

Jack and I take turns minding the store, so while we each have a really good idea of inventory, things are likely to come in on the other’s watch that we don’t yet know about. Trolling the shelves brings happy surprises. “Oh, I didn’t know we had the latest Sarah Allen!” Or “Hmm, a book about building fake ship docks and air bases during World War II.”

The little gems sit on our shelves waiting for us to traverse a section, not straightening, not searching, just browsing. It is such a pleasure to browse one’s own bookstore. And that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” thing? Hah. Yes you can. You can tell what’s targeting women – hello gorgeous ballgowns or period dresses with the wearer’s head not shown on the cover–and what’s marketed toward lit lite readers, covers edged in a dignified gilt frame, or photos of faraway cities and characters splashed behind a new author’s name.

A gorgeous photo, the judicious use of color, a drawing where a second glance reveals a second meaning: these are guaranteed to make me flip the book and read the blurb. If I’m not hooked by then, I do the random test taught me by a browsing customer years ago. Open to page 123 and read it. If the author’s writing is personally appealing, take the book downstairs. If not, there are 35,ooo more to browse.

I don’t think this would work if we didn’t live here, as we’re too absent-minded to remember to bring the books back once we’ve read them. And of course, if someone wants something, we have to bring it up from the den. I once sold a book Jack was reading from right off the nightstand, removing his bookmark and swearing later I didn’t remember seeing it. (Don’t tell him; he still doesn’t know I did that.)

Yeah, it’s a business. But when the main lights go out, and the relaxed evening hunt for something to read begins, it’s pure hedonistic happiness to live in a bookstore.


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

Romantic Math

As incongruous as these two concepts may seem, bookslingers everywhere recognize the term: romances are to used book stores what fleas are to dog. What glitches are to healthcare.gov. What adverbs are to bad writers.

Jack and I began reducing our romances stock this fall, from their own outbuilding called The Luv Shack to four shelves inside. The goal was to get them down to a single, double-stacked shelf. And that’s when the laws of romantic math kicked in:

  • The number of old romances you box up to recycle, donate, or even dumpster after dark when the neighbors aren’t watching equals the number still on the shelves. In other words, the more you box, the more there are in your store.

    Spot the Bookseller

    Spot the Bookseller in this photo?

  • The more you reduce the price of your romances, the fewer people will buy them. “NOW ON CLEARANCE,  3 for $1!” goes to “10 for $1” slides to “$5 per box!” Yesterday I looked at two women paying for their cafe lunch and said “How’d you like a free box of romances each to take with you?” Their eyes grew wide with alarm and they all but raced out the door. They’re probably on Topix now, telling potential cafe customers: “Don’t go in there! They foist books off on you!”
  • The number of shirtless hunks lounging on–or under–the covers equals eternity–which is how long it will take you to box them. Don’t look. Laughing weakens your muscles.
  • The mere act of announcing on social media that you are reducing your romances stock will cause every Tina, Dot, and Harriet to bring you boxes of them. They take it personally when you say no: you’re rejecting romance? From them? It’s a delicate negotiation.
  • The amount of time you spend sorting books into families will exponentially expand as the number of books reduces. It takes awhile to realize those little icons alleged to make it easier for readers to see which series they want (like the spade and heart on maxi-pad packages, only different) are cross-referenced. “THIS SEASON: MAITLAND MATERNITY RETURNS TO TYLER WITH THE NEXT MCCORMICK BROTHERS FOR ROYAL WEDDINGS!” Give it up. Once you understand that cowboys are undercover sheiks and time-traveling Scotsmen are undercover Special Forces–there’s a lot of undercover in romances, tee hee–it becomes one big muddle. Plus that’s four hours of your life you’ll never get back again.
  • And last but not least, the laugh-out-loud stupidity of any given title you come across will be squared by the next title. I thought “Vampire under the Mistletoe” was the winner this year, until I found this little gem hiding at the back of a shelf:DSCN0278

Happy Christmas, everyone, and may the love in your life keep you warm!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, Uncategorized, writing