Tag Archives: reading groups

What has it got in its Pocketses?

golumnPeople who own bookstores wind up with the most amazing things in our pockets at the end of the day. Here is an inventory of mine from yesterday:

a broken cat toy – Saw it on the floor, didn’t want a dog to swallow it, picked it up just as our first customers walked in, so stuck it in my pocket until I could get to a trash can.

guitar picks – Jack is often asked to spontaneously entertain bookstore guests, and he leaves these everywhere after.

wood screws – Ditto. I don’t complain; he puts up shelves every week, just about, or does some other repair. Sometimes I think he leaves the screws so I’ll know he was working there….

a crochet hook – This is the only thing I deliberately put in my pocket that morning. Because you never know when you’ll have spare time.

various receipts and school photographs – People are forever leaving these in books. I’m pretty sure I never bought “vg lmn ast 2pk $4.99” from a place called “Far and Away” in Levington, MT. (IS there a Levington, MT?)

a mangled paperback cover – Our foster kittens sleep in the mystery room. Usually they understand the rules of correct behavior, but yesterday they’d had a go at poor Herman Wouk. I grabbed the shredded evidence from the floor because I was on my way to showing customers where Sue Grafton’s books were, and I didn’t want them to see what the kittens had done.

a lettuce leaf – We had several people eating buffet style yesterday. I don’t help serve, but was up there getting a glass of water and the leaf was just sitting, enigmatically, on a low shelf of food-themed murder mysteries. I picked it up, intending to throw it away, but someone was in the bathroom so I stuck it in my pocket until I could get to a trash can.

two pencils, a pen, four paper clips, and a pencil sharpener – Straightening a couple of shelves, I noticed some books didn’t have prices, so grabbed a pencil. Apparently about an hour later, I did the same thing, plus the sharpener. I grabbed the pen to tally a customer. I don’t know how the paper clips got in there.

a child’s sock – I found it in the children’s room, on a shelf. I don’t know why. I don’t know what to do with it.

two business cards – People come in; they tell you about their services; you tell them they can put a flyer up in the “local business” section by the door. They thank you, give you one business card, and leave. They never bring flyers. I don’t know why.

assorted bottle caps – Customers who come into the store with soft drinks or bottled water are usually very taken with the kittens, and give them the caps to play with. No problem, everyone likes this, but throughout the day I tend to rake in quite a haul.

a 500MG Tylenol – I meant to swallow it surreptitiously in our private kitchen, but when a customer asked a question, I pocketed it for later, and then it got mixed up with the pencils and the lettuce leaf, and the sock…

So, what’s in your pockets?

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections

ARE THESE INTERESTING QUESTIONS?

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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Not Like Radio

When I used to tell stories for a living, I dreaded radio gigs. Telling a story on the radio was like being in a black box; you knew there were people out there but you couldn’t see or hear their reactions to what you were doing, be guided by them in how you told the story.

You could only say what you had to say and hope for the best.

Writing Little Bookstore reminded me a lot of telling stories on the radio. Just say what you mean, mean what you say, and make your deadlines with the editor.

So one of the delights of being a bookstore owner who wrote a book about her bookstore is having people who’ve read the book show up at the bookstore and tell you about their experience reading it.

Wednesday saw 21 readers of LB wander through our place. 18 were from two book clubs run out of Pike County Public Library in Kentucky. The others were a solo traveler and a girlfriend team. The book club asked questions about Scottish history and compared notes on small town life from the book to their life experiences.

The solo traveler was an 81-year-old lady named Virginia from a small town two hours up the road, whose children had forbade her to visit us alone. “But I could come today and I knew you were in today–last time I came you two were away–so I just ignored them and came anyway.”

Sorry, Virginia’s family, but we really enjoyed your mom. She is a hoot, and so intelligent and well-read. She asked us lots of insightful questions about biography writers and epochs of American history. When she left about 5, we thought the day just couldn’t get better.

In walked The Lady From Bristol. She had read Little Bookstore and loved it, had several questions to ask Jack (I was out running an errand) and told some stories of her own about setting up business in a small town. She bought two whacking great stacks of books, refused help carrying them to the car, then came back inside with an armful of bakery boxes.

“Here,” she said. “From one small town success story to another.” She had a dozen doughnuts, several decorated shortbread cookies, and a Key Lime Bar from Blackbird Bakery, in Bristol. (Bristol is a town half in Virginia, half in Tennessee; I don’t know which side of the street Blackbird is on, but it’s well known for its confections. With good reason.)

“Thank you for opening a bookshop, and for writing this book,” she said, set the baked goods down on the counter, and walked out at 6:02.

It’s sweet to be given baked goods. It’s lovely to entertain intelligent conversationalists in the shop. And it’s flat out wonderful to hear directly from people how your book touched them, and why.

Black box begone. Life is good. *munches doughnut*

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