French Toast

In Dream Boy, Martin has his first experience with French Toast. Spoiler alert: He likes it. A lot. Which serves as a good reminder to the rest of us that it’s okay to eat French Toast any time of day. If your reading group takes on Dream Boy, French Toast pretty much has to be on the menu.

I have more experience with French Toast than Martin does, so I thought I’d offer up the following:

Hint No. 1: The bread: Though you can make just about any leftover bread taste good, I prefer to use challah, leftover from a Friday night shabbat dinner. (Really, we need more than leftovers so sometimes I buy or make two challahs. Thinking ahead!)

Hint No. 2: This is the one I keep saying I’m going to send to Heloise, but I haven’t: I often slice down one of the challahs and throw it in the freezer. That way, when I dip the bread in milk for the recipe, it doesn’t get too soggy or rip or crumble before I get it in the pan. The same trick works when you’re making peanut butter sandwiches. (Spread PB on frozen bread. Pack lunch box. It will thaw in plenty of time.)

My recipe is pretty basic:
Scramble an egg on one bowl/plate (I prefer using the oval dishes that you’d normally fine in Chinese restaurants.)
Pour some milk in another.
Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil (you’ll be adding as you cook) and set on a medium heat.
The order goes: Soak bread in milk. Flip. Then dip in egg. Flip. Put in frying pan. Sprinkle cinnamon on the side that’s facing up. After a minute or so, flip toast and sprinkle the other side with cinnamon. Keep flipping until golden brown.
Toppings: Strawberries, blackberries, honey or syrup.

Photo by Luis Roca used with Creative Commons license:

For an alternative, try Pumpkin Pie French Toast.

For Dream Boy, try:



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Factory Man by Beth Macy

Author Beth Macy

I’m button-popping proud to present journalist Beth Macy, whose new book Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town, comes out today. It’s a story of family, feuding, grit, gumption, pride, war and furniture. The book, which has been getting rave reviews, is Beth’s first, but you can bet the farm that it won’t be her last.

Me: As a newspaper reporter, you’ve done in-depth stories before, but you’ve never gone in depth to the tune of 582 pages. Aside from the obvious word-count difference, what are some of the differences between this type of journalism and daily newspaper journalism?

Beth: The planning was the biggest undertaking — and by that I mean the three months it took me and my agent to get the book proposal, including a 27-chapter outline, into shape before submitting it to publishers. I followed that loose outline religiously, though some of the facts changed as my reporting turned up new details and twists. Having the rough outline storyboarded like that afforded me the opportunity to focus close-in on the chapter I was working on at the time, which was freeing. I had the entire outline written on Wizard Wall (office supply nerd alert!) on an entire wall of my office. And I kept a white board next to my desk with notes for the chapter I was working on, plus a column on the left for ideas that came to me for the subsequent chapter. Between digital documents (interview notes, copious e-mails and court-case archives) and paper documents (in books, magazine and newspaper articles), I probably had 1,000+ different sources to comb through. Command-F on my iMac desktop was a constant companion; it was hard to remember what I’d named all my files. I need a better system for my next book!

Me: I’ll ask a similar question about cultivating sources: I recall your saying you’d talked to John Basset III (the chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. and the book’s central character) more than 300 times on the phone alone. What was it like to go back to him that many times?

Beth with JBIII -- still speaking.

Beth: This is a hilarious question because I maybe called him five times out of the 300. It was — just about all of our communication — very much on his time: nights, weekends, daytime. Whenever he felt like calling me, he did. This entitled sense of timing is a huge part of his personality, though, and I was able to understand it better as I personally experienced it. I kept a list of questions I needed to ask him handy because I knew that usually a day wouldn’t pass before he’d call me again. We visited in person maybe a dozen times, including at his home and his factory.

Me: Did you ever have a point during the publishing process where you thought: This just isn’t going to happen?

Beth: No. Funny thing about an advance: They pay you, and you have to produce — or else you have to give it back, and that’s a very productivity-inspiring thing! I knew I had the bones of the story going in because I’d already written a pretty extensive 5,000 word newspaper article on JBIII. The more interviews I did and the deeper it went, the story just got richer and richer, and I became more excited about the material. I was overwhelmed at times by the scope of it — try to cover 110 years, with business practices spanning the globe — but mostly the more I learned, the juicier it got.

Me: What was the most difficult hurdle in writing this book?

Beth: Getting the CEOs who’d closed factories to talk to me. Most of them said no, including (initially) Rob Spilman of Bassett Furniture. I’d seen this great interview with George Packer on The Daily Show after his amazing book, “The Unwinding,” came out last year. And he actually made a quip about not wanting to talk to the CEOs in his book because he didn’t want them to become human to him. I thought, Amen! Then one of my best friends, a reporter visiting from Boston, convinced me that I needed to lay out all my cards with Spilman and convince him to talk. Because the book was as much, maybe even more, about what happened to Bassett, Va., as to Galax, and if I wanted to be fair and nuanced then I needed Rob’s perspective. He had a story to tell, too, and she advised being as transparent with him as possible about what I was trying to do.

A relative eventually intervened on my behalf, and I asked Rob a fourth (or whatever it was) time, and he finally relented to two lengthy interviews and several fact-checking sessions by phone and e-mail. He ended up giving me some of the best material in the book — including hilariously damning anecdotes about his father (stabbing the suckling pig and shouting “Larry Moh!”), poignant scenes about the closures, and important insights behind the company’s major shift to retail when imports hit and the factories closed. I’m grateful to him for talking to me, but I don’t expect he’s going to embrace the book because he believes the people and the town need to move on from the losses and not “sit around and cry in our beer.”

But a lot of people I talked to aren’t yet ready to move on from the losses. Many are still hurting, still looking for work. To move on, those losses first need to be acknowledged.

"The first known photo of Bassett Furniture Industries, circa 1902, wherein a wily saw miller named J.D. Bassett Sr. and his brother set out to swipe furniture-making from Michigan and New York and turn all that Reconstruction-era cheap labor and free trees into a furniture-making dynasty." (Quotes from Beth Macy)

Me: Has your research for Factory Man changed your shopping habits at all? In what way?

Beth: Our dishwasher broke last year, and when we finally got around to replacing it, we researched our options and chose a Maytag replacement because it was made in a Kentucky factory and was exactly what we wanted. (The price was comparable to the imports.) I go out of my way, buying clothes, to shop at local boutiques that carry made-in-America items, and I always thank the owners for providing that option. I made an attempt to buy Christmas presents for everybody with made-in-America items, but that was waylaid by the teenagers who wanted electronics and a new cellphone – neither of which were made domestically. When the older boy went off to his first college apartment and took his bed with him, we turned his room into a guest room and bought made-in-Galax Vaughan-Bassett Furniture from a local store. I know intimately now that there are real people and real livelihoods at stake at the other end of a consumer purchase. Continue reading

Posted in author interview, family, furniture, future award winners, genre jumpers, history, journalism, nonfiction, poverty | 2 Comments

Inches and yards

The weeks just before and after a book come out are crazy-making time. Strangers read your book and the past three years of your life are suddenly open, flipped through and judged. These are the weeks when I wake up at 4 a.m. These are the weeks when my head spins.

I get sick on roller coasters (see item 3) and that goes for the emotional roller coaster that is publishing, too. So I grab at the things that steady me. Sometimes it’s a saltine cracker. This week it was a note from a reader, who, next to her name, wrote “AKA Mrs. Martin Zirkle.” A single reader. Not enough to put our book on the best seller list. But enough to help me shake off the crazy-making stuff and focus. Enough to help me remember why I write in the first place.

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A gift from MomThis bottle tree was a gift from my mom to celebrate the launch of Dream Boy, my book with Mary Crockett, which is out today. Mary and I we were friends before, but our friendship was truly sealed in the pages of this book. There are so many ups and downs in publishing. Having a friend to share those with you? Pretty darn priceless!



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Posted in Dream Boy, dreams, gardening, writing with a partner, ya, young adult | 2 Comments

Dream Boy Blog Tour: The Launch

We laughed. We yelled. We teased. We listened to each other sound off about flooded basements and tricky freelance assignments and sick cats and crazy people. We tramped around the woods and solved a few (but by no means all) of the problems that come along with child rearing. And somehow, in between all of that, my friend Mary Crockett and I wrote a book.


Dream Boy comes out July 1st from Sourcebooks, and in the days leading up to that (and the days following) we have a group of fabulous bloggers who are hosting us as part of our Launch Tour. We hope you will visit them. The sites will feature reviews, guest posts (I finally get to talk about my thwarted career as a rock star), and give-aways. So now, without further ado:

June 6th: Today! Madelyn and Mary tell you exactly where to go. =)

June 8th: A book giveaway at YA BOOKS CENTRAL

June 9th: Find us at Kate Ormand’s blog. Mary will be spreading herself thin and is also appearing at Reading is My Treasure and Fic Faire.

June 13th: Follow Madelyn over to talk rock music and leather pants at Buried in Books.

June 17th: Madelyn pays a visit to Spirit of Children’s Literature. You can also see what Autumn is cooking up over at The Avid Reader.

June 18th: Look for us over at Artzicarol Ramblings. PLUS, Mary made a book trailer and it’s going to be revealed on Mundie Moms.

June 19th: It’s Nerd Herd time!

June 20th: Behind-the-scenes talk with Amy from Writing Hope and a review from Kelesea over at Literature Obsessed. Plus, Mary on the radio! (Ooh whoa oh oh oh on the radio.)

June 23rd: Mary hangs out with Giselle at Xpresso Reads.

June 24th: Madelyn answers some of Jean’s tough questions at Book Nerd.

June 25th: Keeping it local, Madelyn runs down the street to visit Amy at Aya M Productions.

June 26th: Mary and Madelyn talk old movies with Erin at Jump Into Books.

June 27th: Mary is on the spot again, this time at Blogging Between the Lines.

June 30th: Learn 10 random things about Madelyn and Mary over at Jessica’s Blog, Jessabella Reads.

Early July: Check out the review at Wondrous Reads.

July 1st: And T minus five seconds. Four. Three. Two. One. LAUNCH! Look who’s been dreaming all over the web! Mary will have a round-up of authors sharing their dreams over at One Four Kidlit.

July 2nd: Mary hangs out with Carol Riggs at the Fearless Fifteeners.

July 3rd: Books in the Spotlight.

July 3rd: Heather’s Book Chatter.

July 4th: Guest post with Lucy and a review of Dream Boy at Moonlight Gleam.

July 6th: Find out more about the debut author challenge at at That Artsy Reader Girl.

July 7th: Not on television yet, but we are on Kelly Vision.

July 8th:  Long and Short Reviews.

July 9th: Mallory Heart Reviews.

July 10th: Playlist time! Madelyn shares some of her favorite songs about dreams, plus some songs we listened to while writing Dream Boy, over on yamisfits.

July 11th: Mary visits with Tressa at Tressa’s Wishful Endings.

July 12th: Mary dishes on Chilton fashion at the Unofficial Addiction Book Club. 

July 12th: If you’re in Virginia, we’ll be in Salem, live and in the flesh at the Salem Museum for our real world launch party from 3 to 5. Come see us! (Looking for a Northern Virginia date as well.)

July 14th: Hanging out today with Melissa over at Pimples, Popularity and Protagonists. We’ll also be hanging out with Jill talking dreams at Bitches n’ Prose. (We’ve cloned ourselves. Yay!)

July 15th: What are we doing? Oh, Just Reading Away the Days. We’re also over at Book Swoon.

July 16th: Madelyn heads to Canada (virtually) to talk about (fictional) boys with Dayla at Book Addict, 24-7.

July 17th: Maryann (who created our lovely banner, by the way. Thanks, Maryann!) talks Dream Boy at Chapter by Chapter.

July 24th: Madelyn and Mary hang out with the fabulous people, live and in person, at One More Page Books and More. We’ll talk about writing with a partner and fill you in on who wrote what. Locals (and not locals) should come check us out. The store also sells chocolate and wine!

Whew. More stuff as we find out about it. Meanwhile, we hope you’ll look for our book!



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Photo by Cece Bell


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