Celebrating ‘Factory Man’ By Beth Macy

It’s July 15, publication day for FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town by Beth Macy, an award-winning journalist and former reporter for the Roanoke Times. Anyone who lives in my region and has been even a casual reader of the Roanoke Times through the years is surely familiar with Macy’s excellent work as a reporter and storyteller who, as her bio says, gives voice to outsiders and underdogs.

That’s certainly the case in her authorial debut. FACTORY MAN is the story of John Bassett III and his quest to save his furniture company, his employees (and their jobs) and his town (Galax, Virginia) against the fierce Asian competition that was decimating a once-strong and proud American industry.

This factory man is a gritty, determined David against a cunning, overseas Goliath. Unfair or not, Bassett chose to fight.

By intricately telling us about wooden furniture, hard-working men and women, a fiercely stubborn company owner and a small Virginia town, Macy, through FACTORY MAN, has delivered a large American story. There’s much more to the Bassett tale, including a family feud. I can’t do it justice.

What I can tell you is that outstanding reviews have been spilling out of the literary world like finely crafted cabinets rolling off the Bassett assembly line.

The New York Times’ Janet Maslin compares Macy’s debut to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Publisher Weekly and Kirkus offered starred reviews. Jonathan Alter wrote, “Beth Macy has done a masterful job in personalizing the biggest American economic story of our time….”


Beth Macy.

An admirer of her work from afar, I’ve had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Beth Macy the last few years as our paths have crossed at writing events.

Last Saturday at the Radford Reads Literary Festival, she lamented a missed anecdote that she would have weaved into FACTORY MAN. Despite countless interviews, she couldn’t have known about these particular details because they didn’t surface until well after her copious research and writing were complete.

Nonetheless, it bothered this reporter who, I’m guessing, is every bit as tenacious about telling human stories as John Bassett III is about making quality furniture. FACTORY MAN is a finely constructed and polished American story you don’t want to miss.

Inaugural Radford Literary Festival This Saturday

radfordreadssplash-272x300The Radford Reads Literary Festival debuts this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Glencoe Museum (600 Unruh Drive) in Radford, Virginia. The event will include readings, storytelling, music and fun activities for children.

And it’s free.

Presenters include:

Charlotte Rogan
Jan Neuharth
Bill Lepp
Tim Jackson
Michael Abraham
Fred First
Squire Bin Forever
Tim Poland
Beth Macy
Philip Kent Church
Lou Gallo
Ralph Berrier
Charles Lytton
Roland Lazenby
Donald Secreast
Kathryn Jordan
Kathryn Starke
Mara Eve Robbins
Java Brothers

My Agent Answers: Why Did You Become a Literary Agent?

My literary agent, Rick Broadhead, specializes in non-fiction and works with the top publishing houses in North America. Rick has represented non-fiction books that have appeared on bestseller lists. His clients’ books have also been shortlisted for literary awards, translated into multiple languages and optioned for film and TV development.

By Rick Broadhead

Copyright © Rick Broadhead. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I love the business side of publishing–finding great authors and book ideas, pitching book projects, negotiating deals and being a part of an exciting and dynamic industry.

I became a bestselling author early in my career and eight years later, after several successive bestsellers, I decided to put my business savvy and passion for publishing to work for other authors.

I love what I do, and I love getting excited about a new book project that I can pitch to the editors I work with. There’s something special about holding a book in your hand and realizing you played a part in its creation.

Marketplace (NPR): “Everybody Uses Linkedin”

Do you ever wonder if your time investment in social media is worth it?

Let me be more specific. LinkedIn. Does the famed business networking site help you if you’re looking for a job or work of some kind?

The NPR program Marketplace recently filed a report on LinkedIn. You can listen to it by clicking here. Here’s the opening from Marketplace contributor Sally Herships:

Looking for a job hunting can feel like dropping resumes into a black hole. And what about your LinkedIn profile? Is anyone actually reading it? Or your updates? Turns out–yes. Someone, many someones, like Dwight Scott, a recruiter with ExecuSearch in New York, are searching LinkedIn, potentially for you.

BONUS: Herships’s five tips for getting a job on LinkedIn.

VA Festival of the Book Announces New Program Director


Jane Gulow.

Jane Kulow is the new program director of the Virginia Festival of the Book. Kulow is a longtime Festival volunteer, most recently serving as assistant to the Virginia Foundation president. Her professional career and personal interests revolve around literacy and literary culture, including her current tenure as trustee of Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

Kulow replaces Nancy Damon, who retired after two decades with the Festival.

2015 Festival Information

The 2015 Festival will take place March 18-22.

The application form to be a presenter at the 2015 Festival is at vabook.org. The deadline is October 1. Previous presenters must reapply.

Those wishing to host or create a Festival program should consult organizers. Reservations for space at the annual Book Fair will be available online in mid-September.

Garrison Keillor on Finding Lake Wobegon

Keillor ReaderI’m a longtime Garrison Keillor fan. Keillor, 71, said he was going to retire in Spring 2013, but judging from my radio on Saturday evenings he’s still at it, it being his Prairie Home Companion show heard on NPR.

In a 2011 interview, Keiller told AARP Bulletin, “When I was younger, I was all in favor of [retirement], and now that I’m at that age, I’m not sure. I sure don’t want to make a fool of myself and be singing romantic duets with 25-year-old women when I’m 75. But on the other hand, it’s so much fun. And in radio, the lighting is right.”

Keillor has released a new book, The Keillor Reader. The Bulletin ran an excerpt, in which Keillor explained the genesis of his fictional town of Lake Wobegon.

“I had a big beard and long hair when Minnesota Public Radio hired me,” Keillor writes, “but I was willing to get up at 4 a.m. and work the early morning shift and that’s where I discovered that irony and a dark world-view are not useful on the radio early in the morning.

“Listeners have enough darkness of their own. They didn’t need mine.”

Instead, Keillor turned toward something that would transport him through the years and build an audience more than happy to come along for the ride.

“I created a cheery on-air persona, the Old Scout, who rallied listeners to rise and shine and face the day with a smile. It was a good persona and in time I came to believe it myself. On that early morning shift, I invented a town where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are all above average. Businesses in that town advertised on my show–Jack’s Auto Repair, Bob’s Bank, Bunsen Motors, Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, the Chatterbox Café, the Sidetrack Tap, Skoglund’s Five & Dime, the Mercantile–and that town, Lake Wobegon, became my story.”

I’m not disappointed that retirement is still elusive for Garrison.