Tag Archives: International Storytelling Center

Michael Reno Harrell on Bookstores

Today’s guest blog is from Michael Reno Harrell, storyteller, on Why I’m a Big Fan of Independent Bookstores. Michael will be with us for a concert August 29th, and is storytelling in residence in Jonesboro that week.harrell

 

I’m a storyteller. I write songs and tell stories, mostly about the Southern experience, which I perform all across the United States and the British Isles. I have written for magazines and newsletters and blogs, have had my work published in books and recorded fifteen CD’s. I’m lucky that I have an agent that likes for me to be working. I don’t have to pay her 20% or even15%. She gets it all. She’s my wife, Joan.

I find that most of the folks who are interested in folk music and storytelling tend to be avid readers as well, so I look at everything I do as one in the same, storytelling. I remember as a teenaged Woody Guthrie want-to-be going into record stores and coming out two hours later, having perused minutely every folk album cover in the store. What a wonderful way to spend some Saturday afternoon time.

 

A good bookstore is the same. We each have our own personal analogies, for me it’s, like entering a favorite restaurant where the staff knows what you like and only suggest things that they know you will enjoy. And I know that I will leave an hour later sated. There really is something so right about sliding a finger along the spines of a row of books until it stops on an intriguing title. There is that moment of ponder, then the volume is slid from its place in line, opened and the first page is scanned. This process is repeated until one finds oneself on page three. A small voice in the head says “Yes” and the book is tucked under an arm and a new friendship has begun. Or maybe you simply want to stop in and thumb through a periodical about a new field of interest.

In the last few years Joan has become a gardener. Now the gardening section in bookstores and the magazines on the subject are where she heads first, then to cycling and health stuff. For me it’s motorcycle magazines, fiction, autobiographies, DYI, a good chair, coffee and a blueberry scone. It is the experience, the colors and the smells and the lighting and all that information and entertainment just waiting for me to hold in my hands. Try that on a laptop.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, reading, VA

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?

2 Comments

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