Tag Archives: Word Up Bookstore


Jack’s guest blog this week discusses the family of booksellers, from NYC to BSG

Our second NYC visit, to meet up with Wendy’s editorial team at St Martins Press and her agent Pamela, has been great. We were a little more confident about surviving in the Big Apple this time, even able –with the assistance of ‘shop-sitter’ Andrew–to navigate our way around the subway system and cross streets without getting knocked down.

Another reason for being there was an event Jess (our lovely publicist) had organized at Word Up Books, on Thursday evening. Organizer Veronica met us at the door and immediately said how much she had been looking forward to welcoming us as she had read ‘The Little Bookstore’ with growing recognition of everything Wendy had written about pertaining to their store. “Been there, done that”!

What impressed me most about ‘Word Up’ was how it met our paradigm of what a bookstore should be – truly a community center in its neighborhood. Started a couple of years ago as what was meant to be a very temporary ‘Pop-Up’ store lasting for a week in an empty building, it was so successful that the locals demanded it stay on. First it was a month, then another couple of months and finally a permanent institution. It had to eventually move to different premises and ‘crowd-funded’ the necessary $70,000 opening costs in just a few weeks!

Run entirely by volunteers, Word Up provides a space for all sorts of activities, and always have coffee on the go as well. They keep their costs down by getting donations of used books, plus support from the publishing industry itself in the form of seconds, overstocks, and even editors slipping in a few books to handsell—a win-win for authors, publicists, and sellers alike.

We learned that a neighborhood in New York can also be a ‘small town’ just like Big Stone Gap and has the same needs. This neighborhood had a mix of Spanish speakers from all over the world, plus the usual NYC melting pot and the bookstore specializes in Spanish language reading, but also caters for those other cultures

Finally – our event felt like a real family affair as Wendy’s agent Pamela and Pamela;s assistant Michelle, editor Nichole with her assistant Laura, publicist Jessica, shop-sitter Andrew and his significant other Ali, plus Veronica, store owner Gio, and a phalanx of small business owners from the community joined shop regulars. They made us feel like celebrities, but even more fun, we got to talk books and business, and the business of books, with people who live and breathe it as we do.

Woo Hoo – –

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

Hey Ho for the Open Road – – –

Since moving to the U.S. I’ve had many a long road trip. Coming from a country where the opposite coast could be accessed by a  2-hour drive (but the trip required packets of sandwiches, a thermos flask of coffee, and other emergency supplies) you can imagine how I’ve adapted to a place where 7 or 8 hours is the norm!

Usually Wendy and I do these long trips together and she does most of the driving. In a couple of weeks, though, I head off solo to Colorado to attend the annual PVS conference (Prison Visitation and Support, and by the way thank you for all those postcards).

Wendy was originally slated to go with me and visit with old friends who recently moved to Pueblo, so she organized a couple of book gigs along the way: LuAnn Locke’s Afterwords in Edwardsville, Illinois and in Wichita, Kansas at Al’s Old and New Book Store, managed by Anita Siemer. And we’d hoped to meet Hilda, owner of BookMedley, who helped arrange the KS gig.

And then—-

Unable to find someone to mind the shop in rapid succession over four road trips (we have the Southern Festival of the Book this weekend and a trip to NYC in November to see Wendy’s agent and visit Word Up Bookstore) not to mention the small matter of finding time to write her new book, and the brand new cafe upstairs in our bookstore, forced Wendy to call off. So it’s over to me.

My first big US road-trip solo! 8 hours on Tuesday to LuAnn, 7 1/2 hours on Wednesday to Anita, and 6 hours on Thursday. Then the whole thing backwards in a straight shot homeward, no stops, when the conference finishes on Sunday.

I suppose my biggest worry is navigating through the cities to find the bookstores and the conference hotel. Talking with the book clubs and guests at bookstore events is fun. Wendy wrote the book, but we both lived it, and over the months we’ve been doing events patterns of questions have emerged, yet pleasant and surprising insights as well.

Then as soon as I get back we prepare for New York, but that will be (at least partly) a train ride. And we will get to visit with last year’s live-in shopsitter, Andrew “perfect” Whalen, who promises to show us a good time in Brooklyn.

Should we be afraid, do you think?

Meanwhile, I have nothing to fear but the drive itself. I used to think, when a little boy, that the annual summer holiday trip from Dunfermline to Aberdour (about 15 miles) was a long journey and a real adventure. We took a break halfway at Otterson Loch–in the words of the famous old ballad: Half Ower, Half Ower, tae Aberdour–where I’d catch minnows and put them in a jar.

That was then, this is now! I’ll settle for finding the hotel.

Editor’s note: Wendy would like to mention that Jack may not be worried, but she is. He keeps telling customers that he’s driving to “Arizona.” She has pointed out several times that Colorado is a different place, but Jack just waves his hand. “Pshaw, it’s out west someplace, and it’s all America, isn’t it?” {sigh}


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