Junk is beautiful and Clevelander Libby Callaway writes about it
by BETTIE MARLOWE, Banner Staff Writer
Oct 16, 2011 | 1514 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Libby Callaway
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If you have watched “American Pickers” on The History Channel and wanted to ask treasure hunters Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, some pointed questions, Oct. 23 will be your chance.

Wolfe will be at the Museum Center at Five Points from 2 to 4 p.m. next Sunday to sign the book “American Pickers Guide to Picking,” along with author Libby Callaway (written with Wolfe, Fritz and Danielle Colby).

But his lecture from 1 to 2 p.m. will be a “don’t miss” event, also. Books will be available and the book signing is free; a $5 ticket will get your entrance to the talk.

Cleveland native Callaway is sure to be remembered as a former Lifestyles editor at the Banner. She is the daughter of Mike and Phyllis Callaway and the sister of Marie Kellner and Millie Callaway.

Callaway said she always knew she wanted to be a writer. “I didn’t know how it would come about, but I knew it would,” she confided.

Even as a sixth-grader, Callaway’s writing project was posted on the bulletin board and, to the young student, it was encouraging. “Wow, I can do this,” she thought. She went on to serve on the newspaper staff at Cleveland High School and was involved with the student association and the Model United Nations.

In a 2000 interview for Career Profiles, Callaway credited her teachers for inspiration and training — teachers such as Nancy Reiser (senior English), journalism teacher Lois Wyche, and Richard Shaw, the sponsor of Model U.N.

She received her bachelor of arts in English Literature and her master’s in journalism (with concentration in cultural criticism) at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

In 1993, she was hired as a writer for the Cleveland Daily Banner and moved into the position of Lifestyles Editor the next spring.

But Callaway’s dreams and ambitions were reaching farther. In July 1995, she began sending resumes to New York. When those didn’t get results, she applied for graduate school at New York University.

Through a colleague, she got into her first fashion show by designer Betsy Johnson. And she said, “I found my niche.” Callaway said she originally wanted to write as a rock music critic and it wasn’t until she started sneaking into New York fashion shows that “the fashion industry won me over.”

She completed grad school and worked for the Open Air P.M., a “failed newspaper,” she said, but gained great experience.

Callaway said she lucked into a position at the New York Post — an editor needed an assistant and she landed the job in June 1997.

She went on to be the fashion editor for the Post and attended such events as fashion shows for Victoria’s Secret, the Cannes Film Festival and a jaunt to Milan. You can find her articles in Glamour, where she was a fashion advice columnist, Self; US magazine, and Travel and Leisure.

But the tug to go back to Tennessee eventually got her to Nashville, closer to home and family in Cleveland. She worked as Lifestyles Editor for the Nashville Banner before she decided to go freelance.

And now, along with her writing, Callaway collects (and sells) vintage clothes — a talented blend of her love of fashion and her love of writing.

How she met the “Pickers” is another story. Getting acquainted with Wolfe led to the promise she could write their story when ...

And so she has.

It’s a book you will read, flip through, go back and re-read as you share the pickers’ excitement (and sometimes disappointments) in their search for hidden treasure. With them, you’ll explore attics, dilapidated buildings, barns, dusty sheds and muddy fields.

And in the reading of their adventures you will get to know the adventurers — their sensitivity for cherished items, their compassion for the ones with stories to tell and the humor of finds and misses.

You’ll wonder how in the world they can do this on and on — driving miles and facing the uncertainty ... there has to be a love for what they do.

They are assisted in their business, Antique Archaeology, by Danielle Colby, who keeps things running on the home front. Don’t let the name fool you — they don’t deal in fine antiques. Their second-hand treasures, they say, are of the “down-and-dirty and sometimes even bizarre variety, from old bicycles and vintage tools to sun-bleached cars and handmade furniture, retired carnival games and unusual taxidermy.”

But the book is informative as well as entertaining if you have a yen to be a picker. The 10 chapters include topics such as “Breaking the ice,” “What’s it worth?” and “Buyers, buyers everywhere.” There is a language, also — “Picker Speak.” Before you start, you need to know these terms.

The New York Post lists “American Pickers Guide to Picking” (published by Hyperion) as required reading. “The Pickers turn backwoods junk and other long-forgotten items into gold on TV. Now former Post reporter Libby Callaway helps the rest of us figure out how to do it, too. Tips include: You have to be quick, you must be willing to get down and dirty and you have to be able to say no.”

The 210-page “American Pickers” is available in hardcover at $24.99 at bookstores and online: www.antiquearchaeology.com; as ebook: www.HypeionBooks.com; and wherever DVDs are sold.