Tag Archives: running a bookshop

The Water of Human Kindness

I think I blogged about this a few months ago, but when you run an independent bookshop, people bring you stuff.

Last night I came home to a small pile of laundry on a chair in our shop’s front room. We try (and fail) to keep personal clutter upstairs, out of the shop zone, so Jack followed my displeased look and smiled.

“That wasn’t me,” he said. “J and D were in, and she said I looked cold, and went out to her car, and brought me this spiffy hoodie.” He held up a dark blue, thick and new-looking jacket. “And she said she bought those two undershirts for her husband, but they were too small so she thought of me.” Jack donned the jacket and instantly looked like a Scotsman in a hoodie (aka silly).

Awhile ago, a friend walked in and presented us with a door mat. On it a kitten slumbered atop a book pile. “Saw it in a catalog, knew you had to have it here.” She wouldn’t take any money for it.

Last Sunday, just as Quaker meeting was breaking up, the father of a hunting duo–no matter what season, they come in camo, deer jackets and ammo-logo-bearing ball caps–appeared with a sagging plastic bag in his hand and a smile beaming from his face. The smile faded as he saw the quiet, dignified people just getting up from the worship circle, and he tucked the bag behind his back.

I ran over to him. “Hi! It’s ok. We just finished. Come join us for lunch.”

Shaking his head, he held out the bag. Something dripped onto the floor. “This is what I brung Jack. Jus’ tell ‘im I brung ’em.” He held out the bag–which my hand seized in Quaker compassion before my brain recoiled in squeamish girly squeals and off he went.

Inside? Five whole trout, still in river water. We feasted that night, with fresh asparagus from another friend’s largesse.

It happens all the time: “made brownies and thought y’all would like some”; “my mama loved this baby doll but I just don’t have a place to display it and it’ll look nice on top of a book shelf”; and Jack’s personal favorite “me and the boys just finished the latest batch. Label this so nobody mistakes it for water.”

That not-water came in pretty handy about a month ago when I was going down with a sore-throat, watermelon-head thing. A gargle each morning, three days running, and I was right as rain. Water. Which that was not.

We love running a community bookstore.

Jack and Wendy leave Tuesday for Istanbul. While they’re away, members of the proud and secretive GGG organizations will be writing the blog. When Jack and Wendy return, there will be pictures and travel stories and silliness, oh my, but while the Guerrilla Grammar Girls have control, there will be side-splitting, coffee-spitting guffaws of laughter. Enjoy!


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

A Steady(ing) Weight of Book Boxes

Boxes…. book boxes. They’re everywhere, coming in droves, full of hardback fiction, old textbooks, and occasional gems like the latest bestseller or an obscure Carlos Castaneda title. Jack reckons we’ve had 22 boxes of trade-ins come through in the last week alone.

These coincide with what might be the busiest two weeks of our lives. Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22. My book launches Oct. 2. I’m complaining about NOTHING, mind; The Celtic Festival is fun, and good for the town. My book is fun, and I’m so happy people are liking it, and it’s getting good publicity. (The Book News page has links.)

Through all the hoopla and the final arrangements of where to put the Shetland ponies (on the park lawn) and where to park the British Cars (outside the schoolhouse museum) and when the latest newspaper or radio spot runs for Little Bookstore (I don’t know) those boxes of books trudge like determined soldiers, reminding us that underneath everything else, our bookstore needs to keep running. Or limping, at least.

Between sheepdog trial planning and radio spots, the book boxes stack and empty as Jack and I try to keep the shop floor clear. That anchoring weight of books–solid, steady books–anchors us. Publicity is a wild ride. Running a festival is a wild ride. Books can certainly be wild rides when read, but triaging them for trade-in is a more staid activity. It’s like intellectual solitaire: categorize, value, stack, shelve. Repeat.

That repetitive motion of getting those volumes into places where customers can find them, buy them, read them, enjoy them, is the heartbeat that underpins everything else. We remember this, come happiness or high water, and we are grateful for that steady, weighted pulse, steadying us in the sturm and drang. Because when the festival is over, the hoopla past, and the publicity gone, it will be the two of us, and the book boxes.

What was it Thomas Hardy said? “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be—and whenever I look up, there will be you.” The wild ride is fun, but it’s a ride. When it’s finished, more book boxes will arrive, and we will sort them, Jack and I. Then we will sit together amid our bookshop’s tightly-packed shelves with a sigh of contentment and a cat on each knee–ready to do the same again tomorrow.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA