Tag Archives: used book shops

Caption Contest VII (The LAST ONE)

Okay, all you kitten lovers and bibliophiles out there: have at it! This is the last caption contest of the seven St. Martin’s Press has sponsored. Cassie, back in the bowels of the Flatiron Building in NYC, waits to give the winner a print or e-copy of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Here’s the photo, and captions are due by midnight on Monday, Sept. 24.

If you are unfamiliar with either figure in this photo, on the right is my husband Jack. On the left is staff kitten Owen Meany. (There’s a blog about how Owen got her name if you scroll back to late June. Yes, her name.)

Put your captions under comments, keep it family-friendly of course, and have fun! Also, congratulations to Callie the Flower, who won Caption Contest VI with her entry comparing Shakespeare to tuna. (The contest is Aug. 29 if you’d like to see what she wrote and what inspired the writing.) In second place was Kaylee with “To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there’s the belly rub.” Which might give you an idea about the photo she was captioning. BTW the cat in the Shakespeare photo is named Garfunkel and he was adopted by a family in the same week that the contest ran. If you read this blog regionally, we have the world’s friendliest female cat here, Agnes Grey, looking for her forever home. Agnes is a total snuggle bunny who likes to ride on your shoulder like a baby. Come see her if you’re in town!)


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA

Holding her Grandmother’s Book

Yesterday before picking up my friend Cami from the airport I recorded a radio program for “Inside Appalachia.”

During the interview, the strange relationship between bookstores and fires came up. Most rural bookstores owners will be familiar with this phenomenon: one of the first things people replace after a house fire, once they have the basics covered, is their beloved childhood books. It was a shock, the first time a man who looked stronger than the mountains surrounding us got red about the eyes as we handed him a replacement copy of Beautiful Joe. “Had it since I was eight,” he said. “Stole it from the school library ’cause I liked it so much.”

Wayne, the radio host, laughed at this story, then nodded. “You know, the other day my daughter was looking through our bookcase, and she pulled out some books of my mom’s, things she sent us before she died, that she’d had since she was a little girl. And my daughter was just idly leafing through one of them, and I got a catch in my throat. There was something so wonderful, seeing that, her grandmother leaving this trail. They’re just objects, but objects that contain thoughts that inspired my mom all her life. And it never would have occurred to me to be that sentimental about them, but yeah, I wouldn’t have missed that moment for the world.”


(If you want to hear the “Inside Appalachia” interview, it airs the week of Sept. 28; check your local station, or visit the WETS website for live streaming on the day. Don’t forget caption contest VI is under August 29 if you want to enter, and Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22; come one, come all!)


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, small town USA

Staff Dog Zora Conducts Shop-sitter Orientation


Good morning: I’m Zora and I’ll be conducting your orientation training today. I should start by explaining that I’m in charge of Human Resources and will be your line manager during your time here. When I’m finished with you, scroll down to yesterday’s post where you’ll find application specifications for the shop-sitting position. I understand the humans who work here have a search going.

But first, let’s get acquainted. My management style has sometimes been described as ‘woofless’ but I would dispute that; indeed I’d say my bark is worse than my bite. As a junior member of staff, your main duties will be to attend to my needs, so you should first take note of where the treats are kept and never let them run out. There’s some stuff about books and customers as well, but you needn’t worry about that yet.

Where was I? Ah yes – my needs. As well as the treats you should fill my food bowl and water dish regularly. I think there’s something about the cats I should be telling you but that’s not important right now – except you should always make sure the cat food dishes are near enough the counter top that I can reach them.

There’s another canine manager here: my subordinate Bert. He’s the security chief. Whenever he barks you give us a treat, me first with the biggest one, of course. You might think he’d eventually stop barking if you wait long enough, but if you think that then you’re barking—barking mad!

I mentioned the cats earlier. There are three of them and the youngest is really quite cute. When he first arrived he was tiny and didn’t know how to look after himself. I soon licked him into shape! He is called Owen Meanie. Then there’s Val-Kyttie, our CEO. She’s a Scottish lady of advanced years and is on the slide towards retirement; she pretends she’s drawing up the annual forward plan, but we’ve never seen one in the six years we’ve been here. Best just to leave her alone and agree with anything she says (if you can understand her accent). Finally there’s Beulah, a unique cat indeed. She played a very important role in publicizing the bookstore when it first opened and quickly became everyone’s favorite (except for Val-Kyttie, who can’t stand her of course). It’s funny how all marketing managers end up marketing themselves!

So, I should probably tell you about your bookish duties now – no, wait, let’s just review what you’ve learned so far. Where are the treats?

(For information on applying to be our shop-sitter, please see yesterday’s blog post. To enter caption contest VI and potentially win a free copy of Wendy’s book, scroll down to August 29. And don’t forget that Big Stone Celtic, the town-wide festival celebrating all things celtic in food, song, story, dance and general merriment, is Saturday, Sept. 22.)


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

Caption Contest VI (closes Sept. 10)

Okay, your favorite thing! Caption Contest VI is the last but one in our seven-contest series sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. Winner gets a free book (the one I wrote, although if you really wanted a different one we could probably find it for you. We’re a bookshop, after all.)

Put your caption under comments, keep ’em family-friendly, and have fun! (Oh, and please make sure we have a way to find you if we win; we can’t find “SAL,” who won caption contest V.)


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

Never Fear, Staff Dog Bert is Here

Hi! I’m Bert! I work here at Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books. I’m in charge of shop security.

Hey, I wonder what’s for dinner?

Oh yeah, as I was saying, I make sure that all the customers who come into the shop feel secure and happy. I’m not allowed to walk around on the shop floor because…. well, I’m not proud of this, but I guess I kind of have a reputation for running away. If the front door is open, I mean, there’s a whole world out there to explore. So many great smells… Instinct just takes over, y’know?

Speaking of smells, do you smell anything cooking? I wonder if the humans who stay here have started dinner.

There’s two humans here, a guy who knows just where to scratch, and a lady who yells a lot and says I’m an escape artist. She’s the reason I only get let out when we’re having special events, like Robert Burns Night or Celtic Christmas or a murder mystery, and everyone knows not to open the door until the event is over.

I’m actually named for Robert Burns, you know, but everyone calls me Bert because Burns was too hard to explain to people.

Burns…. do you smell anything cooking? I wonder what’s for dinner.

Anyway, I focus very hard on what needs to be done here at the shop–keeping the foster kittens in line, barking to point out sales shelves to the customers, making sure everyone who comes in fondles my ears… that type of thing. Zora – she’s the other staff dog who works here — says I have to concentrate more, but I think my powers of concentration are just fine, thank you.

Hey, has anyone said anything to you about what’s for dinner?

So come on down and visit us. We’re open Tuesday-Saturday 10-6, and if you come and visit, Zora likes the crunchy rawhides and I like the soft ones, flavored like beef.

Hmmm… beef. I wonder if that’s what’s for dinner?


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

The Day the Borders Opened and Closed at the Same Time

Last year, my husband Jack and I  decided to take a vacation in celebration of two things: 1) five years of keeping Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books open despite e-readers, a tanking economy, and online sellers; and 2) that an agent had agreed to represent my book about our bookstore–a woman whose kind heart, spot-on instincts and amazing brain got my book proposal shored up and out the door in three short months.

The day after the proposal ambled off to make its way in the world, we did what any small-town small-business owners would do: hopped on the Internet to hunt 1/2-price vacation deals. (We had a lot to celebrate, but not much to do it with.)

Chicago proved affordable; off we flew for a week of forgetting we were poor. Our last day there, I awoke to an email from Agent Pamela; two publishing houses wanted to talk. On holiday herself, Pamela nevertheless called me, her voice exuberant as she explained, “We have sold this book, Wendy; it’s just a question of to whom.”

Jack and I did the happy dance around our hotel room, pelting each other with pillows.  We half-waltzed, half-floated down the stairs and around the corner to our usual breakfast nook–

–where the newspaper on the table lay open to a story that all remaining Borders Bookstores were closing.

Human hearts can sing with joy even as they crack open.

“Bookstores are doomed” blared the op-ed, while the news story gave facts and figures. Jack and I both cried while reading; here we were, on vacation from our solvent-enough shop, giddy with happiness that a book about our bookstore would be published, and one of the big guys was going down for the last time. Drowning, not waving.

Jack looked at me. “We passed a Borders yesterday, near the hotel.” Off we went, coffees unfinished.

Some of the staff were dismantling computers, pulling wires out of walls. One was crying. I heard customers asking if the books were half-off now.

I don’t know that I can convey this well, but in that moment “my book” became a book honoring we happy few, we band of booksellers who make sure people have access to not just the best-sellers, but the quiet wonders as well.

What we booksellers do is important, more than nostalgia, more than casual access to retail. Social Justice, All God’s Critters Got a Voice in the Choir, Equality, Education: take your pick. We represent an open market of free ideas, with value tied to meaning more than money. We have to be in our children’s future, or more will be lost than the feel and smell of pages. So much will be lost that the next generation won’t be able to count it. Worse, they won’t even be able to name it.

So Jack and I came home from Chicago with a book deal, and 20 books we’d bought at Borders–plus Unabridged, Myopic and After-Words. And we came home with an unabashed–and unquenchable–fire in our bellies, determined to be lifelong advocates for books and the people who sell them. That impractical, improbable trip to Chicago has been on my mind lately, as Little Bookstore prepares to launch Oct. 2

Because bookstores are more than important; they are irreplaceable.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, small town USA