The Most Punk Rock Model T

Michelle Haunold Lorenz, 54, the CEO of Gearhead, a magazine and record label based in Elk Grove, Calif., on her and her husband Bill Lorenz’s 1927 T bucket roadster, as told to A.J. Baime.

The punk rock and hot-rodding movements came about in the same way. In the 1940s, friends would get together in a garage and mess with a car. They would say, “Hmm, how can we get this thing to go faster and look cooler?” Then they would take the car out and race it. With punk rock, friends would get together in a garage and come up…

The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses

The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses
Illustration: Pep Montserrat

After decades of screening potential leaders for charm and charisma, some employers are realizing they’ve been missing one of the most important traits of all: humility.

In an era when hubris is rewarded on social media and in business and politics, researchers and employment experts say turning the limelight on humble people might yield better results.

Humility is a core quality of leaders who inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams, according to several studies in the past three years. Humble people tend to be aware of their own weaknesses, eager to improve themselves, appreciative of others’ strengths and focused on goals beyond their own self-interest.

Among employees, it’s linked to lower turnover and absenteeism. These strengths are often overlooked because humble people tend to fly under the radar, making outsiders think it’s their teams doing all the work.

More companies are taking humility into account in making hiring and promotion decisions. Researchers are developing new methods of tracking this low-key trait.

Hogan Assessments, a leading maker of workplace personality tests, plans to unveil a new 20-item scale early in 2019 designed to measure humility in job seekers and candidates for leadership posts, says Ryne Sherman, chief science officer for the Tulsa, Okla., company. The scale will prompt people to agree or disagree with such statements as, “I appreciate other people’s advice at work,” or “I’m entitled to more respect than the average person.”

“Most of the thinking suggests leaders should be charismatic, attention-seeking and persuasive,” Dr. Sherman says. “Yet such leaders tend to ruin their companies because they take on more than they can handle, are overconfident and don’t listen to feedback from others,” he says.

Humble leaders can also be highly competitive and ambitious. But they tend to avoid the spotlight and give credit to their teams, Dr. Sherman says. They also ask for help and listen to feedback from others, setting an example that causes subordinates to do the same.

More employers are also screening entry-level recruits for humility. That’s partly because it predicts ethical behavior and longer tenure on the job, says Adam Miller, chief executive of Cornerstone OnDemand, a Santa Monica, Calif., provider of talent-management software.

The apparel company Patagonia begins scrutinizing job applicants for humility as soon as they walk through the door for interviews. Managers screening new recruits follow up by asking receptionists, “How did they engage at the front desk?” says Dean Carter, global head of human resources for the Ventura, Calif.-based company.

If staff members report disrespectful or self-absorbed behavior, “that can be a deal killer,” he says. Fostering humility makes employees at all levels feel free to suggest ideas, Mr. Carter says. Humble employees also are more likely to support the company’s mission of helping solve environmental problems.

In interviews, he asks applicants to tell him about a time when they experienced a major failure. “If they say, ‘Wow, let me think about this, because there are a lot of times when I’ve messed things up,’ that says a lot,” he says. “If they have to pick among a lot of humble learning moments, that’s good.”

Indian Hotels, operator of the luxury Taj Hotels in the U.S. and elsewhere, uses Hogan’s assessments, among others, to screen potential leaders. “Humility is an emotional skill leaders need to have,” says P.V. Ramana Murthy, global head of human resources for the Mumbai-based company. Humility gives rise to deep listening, respect for diverse views and a willingness to hear suggestions and feedback, he says.

The company also tries to instill humility in senior executives through coaching and a nine-month training program.

If you think you know which of your colleagues are humble, you could easily be wrong. Humble people don’t flaunt it. And many workers, including arrogant ones, try to be seen as humble and helpful to make a good impression, says Kibeom Lee, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta.

Poll: How Humble Are You?

Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

1) I appreciate other people’s advice at work.

2) It’s not my job to applaud others’ achievements.

3) People lose respect when they admit their limitations.

4) I am entitled to more respect than the average person.

5) I do many things better than almost everyone I know.

6) It annoys me when others ignore my accomplishments.

People high in humility tend to agree with Item 1 and disagree with Items 2 through 6.

Source: Hogan Assessment Systems

Hogan’s new humility scale is based in part on research by Dr. Lee and Michael Ashton, a psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. After reviewing personality research in several languages years ago, they identified a combination of humility and honesty, or what they called the H factor, as a stable personality trait.

It’s marked by a cluster of attributes that appear consistently in some people, including sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness and unpretentiousness. The same people tend to avoid manipulating others, bending the rules or behaving in greedy or hypocritical ways. The H factor is included in a free online personality inventory they developed.

Workplace researchers often rely on subordinates’ reports to assess leaders’ level of humility. In a 2015 study of 326 employees working on 77 teams at a health-care company, researchers asked team members to assess their managers’ humility, based on a scale including their willingness to learn from others or admit when they don’t know how to do something. Team members also assessed their teams’ attitudes and performance.

Teams with humble leaders performed better and did higher-quality work than teams whose leaders exhibited less humility, according to lead researcher Bradley P. Owens, an associate professor of business ethics at Brigham Young University.

The performance gains held up independently of how much team leaders exhibited other positive leadership qualities unrelated to humility.

Some challenges may call for a different leadership style. For example, employees facing extreme threats or intense time pressure might perform better when a leader takes a more authoritative, top-down approach, Dr. Owens says.

However, companies with humble chief executives are more likely than others to have upper-management teams that work smoothly together, help each other and share decision-making, according to a study of 105 computer hardware and software firms published in the Journal of Management.

Such companies also are likely to have smaller pay gaps between the CEO and other senior executives. These factors predict closer collaboration among all senior executives, which in turn leads to greater companywide efficiency, innovation and profitability, researchers found.

Work & Family Mailbox

Q: Your Jan. 3 column about whether to quit a new job that’s a bad fit was excellent. I’m an engineer in my first job out of college and after less than four months, I’m already disappointed. My co-workers are almost all in their late 40s or early 50s, and I feel like this is the kind of place where you coast until retirement. Also, the company is smaller than I was led to believe. All I’m getting is a paycheck and some experience. Any advice?—M.R.

A: A misunderstanding about your employer’s size probably shouldn’t be a deal breaker, and it’s usually best to give a new job at least a year. Quitting after only a few months means you’ll have less freedom to make job changes in the future without being seen as a job-hopper.

Consider setting some goals. What can you learn on this job? How can you use it to help get where you want to be in five or 10 years? What skills do you need to get to the next step?

Do a little networking internally to find out what other employees and teams are doing and whether they’re excited about any parts of their jobs. Look for ways to take initiative and leave a lasting, positive impression. Consider setting some personal-development goals with your manager. Are there new skills you could be learning, or new tasks you could take on? Also, be cautious about letting your negative attitude show. If it’s obvious to managers and colleagues, it could be preventing them from offering you new opportunities.

Also, consider joining a professional group outside the company and attending a few gatherings to hear what others at your stage are doing.

Helpful books include “Ask a Manager,” by career columnist Alison Green, or “The New Rules of Work” by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew, co-founders of the career website the Muse.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at

More From Work & Family

Cocaine, Reefer and the F-Word: Sometimes Alexa and Google Home Go a Little Crazy

Smart devices, such as Amazon’s Echo, which uses the Alexa voice assistant, are growing in popularity.
Smart devices, such as Amazon’s Echo, which uses the Alexa voice assistant, are growing in popularity. Photo: Andrew Burton/Bloomberg News

Rheganne Mooradian was sitting on her bed crying one day after having just quit her job, listening to music, when she said she heard a voice tell her, “It’s going to be OK.” The words might have been comforting had she not heard them from Alexa— Inc.’s voice assistant which powers the Echo Dot speaker on her nightstand.

“I unplugged her instantly and I literally ran downstairs and shoved her in a drawer,” said Ms. Mooradian, 24, who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. “I was just like, whoa, this is not normal. She’s not supposed to do that.”

Smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home products can handle a growing array of tasks from playing music to adjusting the thermostat to arming a security system.

They are also sometimes freaking people out, seeming to drop into conversations uninvited, playing music unprompted in the middle of the night, turning on other gadgets at random and acting generally, well, possessed.

Companies say there are reasonable explanations, such as the device mishearing its “wake word”—which it recognizes to start listening to commands. But such episodes can leave owners shaken and unsure of what to do next. Chalk it up to a misunderstanding? Reboot? Put the device in time out?

Ms. Mooradian eventually took the Echo Dot out of the drawer. “I let her sit in there a while, for a couple days, and then I was like, OK, that’s enough and brought her back,” she said.

She says there was no record of a command in the Alexa history, so what happened remains a mystery.

Amazon said it could offer tech support. Ms. Mooradian declined.

She has taken to leaving the device unplugged unless she’s using it: “I’m just a little bit more cautious,” she said.

Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home products are only getting more popular. In the second quarter of 2018, 24% of U.S. homes had a smart speaker, up from 22% in the first quarter, according to Nielsen’s MediaTech Trender Survey.

Wanda McDaniel, right, with her daughter Erin Spinks, who got her a Google Home Mini as a gift.
Wanda McDaniel, right, with her daughter Erin Spinks, who got her a Google Home Mini as a gift. Photo: Erin Spinks

Wanda McDaniel, 63, received a Google Home Mini for Christmas from her daughter. She used it without incident until August, when she was watching TV and the machine announced it had set a 1 p.m. alarm—for “cocaine and reefer.”

“My thought was, somebody in the neighborhood is setting up a drug deal and for some reason this information is coming to my Google,” said Mrs. McDaniel, who works as a cashier. “I was a little bit afraid.”

Mrs. McDaniel’s husband, Calvin McDaniel, heard the same thing: “I jumped up. What’s this, a dope deal?”

The family’s Google Home activity revealed a pastor on television had said, “They lose their love for cocaine and reefer” while speaking about spirituality and addiction. The words “They lose” may have sounded enough like the words “Hey Google” to wake the device up.

“In very rare instances, the Google Home may experience what we call a ‘false accept.’ This means that there was some noise or words in the background that our software interpreted to be the hotword (‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’),” a Google spokesman said. “We work very hard to help to prevent against this, and have a number of protections in place.”

Neva and Rick Sprung of St. Louis were visiting family last winter when a man’s voice suddenly came from the Echo speaker, spewing expletives.

“It was very strange but it was ‘f—, f—, f—, f—,’” said Mrs. Sprung, 65. “There might have been some F-yous in there. It was just a straight effing rant.”

Alexa’s history showed the Echo heard instructions to “play another person.” It chose a track called “Another Person,” which indeed features the F-word multiple times.

Google Home smart speakers at the company's booth during the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Google Home smart speakers at the company’s booth during the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

The couple doesn’t own a smart speaker, and the experience hasn’t changed that. “We’ll probably never get one,” Mrs. Sprung said.

“The device detects the wake word by identifying acoustic patterns that match the wake word, and will only respond after it is detected,” an Amazon spokesman said. “In rare cases, Echo devices will wake up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa’ or the chosen wake word.”

Last spring, Alexa was creeping people out by randomly laughing; it turned out the device was too easily mishearing the command “Alexa laugh.” Amazon changed it to, “Alexa, can you laugh?”

Kristen Harris, 22, a student at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, was in bed one night when she heard music from her bathroom, where she keeps her Google Home Mini.

Kristen Harris heard music coming from her bathroom, where she keeps her Google Home Mini.
Kristen Harris heard music coming from her bathroom, where she keeps her Google Home Mini. Photo: Kristen Harris

“I get up and open the door and ‘Chandelier’ by Sia is just playing so loudly and I’m like, uh, I didn’t tell you to do this, Google,” she said.

The music suddenly stopped, so Ms. Harris went back to bed. Ten minutes later, the song started again. She went into the bathroom, and the music stopped.

“This continues on for two more nights and I think I’m going crazy, or this thing is actually possessed,” she said.

Ms. Harris relayed the issue to her roommate—who confessed to pranking her by controlling the music from her phone through the shared Wi-Fi network.

“I felt dumb for actually thinking it was possessed or something but it was a good joke,” said Ms. Harris. “I had to give her credit for it.”

Wendy Crocker, 55, who lives near Bath in the U.K., initially didn’t like the Google Home her husband bought because it wouldn’t respond to her voice; she liked it less after waking up one night in April to voices downstairs.

“It was quite alarming,” said Mrs. Crocker. “I pondered it a bit. Is this some intruder?”

She decided people burgling a house wouldn’t talk so loud, so she went to investigate. She found the lights and TV on. Mrs. Crocker says she had turned everything off and was the last one to bed. Her husband was asleep, so she blamed the Google Home.

“I thought, well, if it’s going to have a mind of its own and do what it wants when it wants, I’m going to get rid of it,” she said. Mrs. Crocker told her husband the next morning there was room for only one woman in their marriage and the device better behave.

A Google spokesman said Google Home can be accessed by other people on an account or Wi-Fi network, and smart-home products might be triggered by their own apps.

Alan Crocker, 55, who works as an IT support manager, was unfazed.

“Things happen with IT,” he said. His wife, too, has moved on.

“Given it was a one off, it hasn’t really bothered me and I’m kind of warming to it,” she said. “It’s becoming quite useful.”

Appeared in the October 9, 2018, print edition as ‘Is There Someone in the Kitchen? Phew, It’s Just Alexa Acting Out.’

Has Fashion’s Licensing of Art Gone Too Far?

GRATEFUL DEAD CUFFLINKS. Andy Warhol socks. Jean-Michel Basquiat T-shirts. Lately my email inbox brims with press releases from fashion companies pitching these items. These are not, of course, the handiwork of the artists themselves (R.I.P. Jerry, Andy and Jean-Michel) but the result of licensing partnerships struck between a brand (Tateosian, Happy Socks and Diamond Supply Co., respectively) and an estate, foundation or company.

These types of deals have long been negotiated for mass merchandise, often kid’s items emblazoned…

The Uphill Fight Against Fake Prescription Drugs

Pfizer last year conducted a pilot with law enforcement testing 138 samples of Xanax purchased from the dark web and found only seven samples were authentic. Here is a sample of fake Xanax bought from an online site.
Pfizer last year conducted a pilot with law enforcement testing 138 samples of Xanax purchased from the dark web and found only seven samples were authentic. Here is a sample of fake Xanax bought from an online site. Photo: Pfizer

Tosh Ackerman took part of what he thought was a Xanax pill to help him sleep one night three years ago. His girlfriend found the 29-year-old dead the next day.

The Xanax he obtained from an acquaintance was counterfeit, says his mother, Carrie Luther, who lives in Mount Hermon, Calif. Toxicology reports found it contained a fatal dose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often produced illicitly for the black market.

“It looked like Xanax to the untrained eye,” says Ms. Luther, who now regularly speaks about the dangers of counterfeit drugs.

Carrie Luther holds a picture of her son, Tosh Ackerman, who died three years ago after taking a counterfeit Xanax pill that had a fatal dose of fentanyl in it.
Carrie Luther holds a picture of her son, Tosh Ackerman, who died three years ago after taking a counterfeit Xanax pill that had a fatal dose of fentanyl in it. Photo: Joe Shymanski

The issue of counterfeit prescription medications like Xanax is a growing problem, attracting the attention of law enforcement organizations and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer , which manufactures Xanax.

In June the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened a meeting around the problem of illegal opioids sold online and through social media.

“Millennials and those younger rely heavily on social media,” says Alex Khu, assistant director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Global Trade Investigations division. “Criminal organizations recognize that trend and we’re starting to see advertisements and sales of counterfeit or substandard prescription drugs on social media sites.”

In a survey conducted last year by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) 55% of U.S. consumers said they have or would consider purchasing medications online, notes Libby Baney, a senior adviser to the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

At best, counterfeit medications aren’t what they are supposed to be, like sugar pills. At worst, they’re dangerous and even deadly, particularly when fentanyl is involved.

“The biggest danger is that these sites do not require a medical examination or a prescription, and the sites do not impose limitations on how much or how often the consumer purchases drugs,” Mr. Khu says.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviewed nearly 12,000 internet drug outlets selling prescription medications to U.S. patients. Of these, about 95% were found uncompliant with state and federal laws and NABP standards, according to a report published in September, which highlighted the role social media sites play.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often produced illicitly and sold on the black market, is increasingly showing up in counterfeit medications in fatal doses.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often produced illicitly and sold on the black market, is increasingly showing up in counterfeit medications in fatal doses. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Pfizer manufactures Xanax, an antianxiety medication also known as alprazolam, but its patent has expired. That means the vast majority of the medication is made and sold by other companies and available in a generic form.

Pfizer’s global security team provides counterfeit-awareness training to law enforcement and customs agencies around the world, in addition to helping with investigations. Recently they spoke with a group of psychiatrists and separately, state attorneys general.

Over the past three years Pfizer has reported more than 10,000 Facebook accounts or profiles selling counterfeit Pfizer medications to the social media company, says Neil Campbell, director of strategic intelligence at Pfizer. They’ve referred more than 1,000 Instagram accounts selling counterfeit Pfizer products over the past six months to Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

Beware the Counterfeits

The five most popular categories of counterfeit medications:

  • Drugs that treat erectile dysfunction, like Viagra.
  • Antibiotics like penicillin.
  • Central nervous system drugs used for anxiety and depression, such as Xanax, and painkillers like oxycodone.
  • Hormonal drugs, such as birth control and fertility drugs, like Clomid.
  • Cardiovascular drugs like statins, used to lower cholesterol levels.

Source: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies

A spokeswoman for Facebook says the company’s regulated goods policy prohibits anyone from purchasing, selling or trading nonmedical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs or marijuana.

“We have zero tolerance for any attempts to sell, trade or purchase any of those substances on Facebook or Instagram,” she says. “We take a very comprehensive approach to this, because bad actors are constantly trying to change their tactics.”

The company says it works hard to find and remove drug sales by blocking and filtering terms associated with them, and says it works quickly to shut down suspicious accounts that people report to them. It is also working on developing new technology to identify when someone is trying to sell drugs.

Lev Kubiak, vice president and deputy chief security officer at Pfizer, says in 2017 authorities from 49 countries seized more than 12 million counterfeit doses of Pfizer products. More than 5,000 vendors were advertising Xanax for sale on the dark web—websites on an encrypted network that can’t be found through most search engines or browsers—without requiring a prescription.

Last year Pfizer global security conducted a pilot program with law enforcement and bought 138 Xanax samples on the dark web. They tested them and found only seven, or 5%, were authentic.

Products included pills that looked exactly like Xanax but were counterfeit, as well as gummies. A red version of the pill purported to be 2 milligrams actually contained 5.5 milligrams of the active ingredient.

Ms. Baney of ASOP Global says consumers face multiple risks from buying medications from an unverified source online. The drugs can have too much or too little of an active ingredient, be substandard or expired, or contain poisons and contaminants such as floor wax, mercury, boric acid, paint or antifreeze.

The ASOP Global survey also found that more than 80% of doctors don’t talk to patients about where they get their drugs. If a patient tells her doctor her medication isn’t working, a doctor unaware that she bought the drugs from a questionable source could mistakenly prescribe a higher dose or different product.

ASOP Global advises consumers buying prescription medications online to only buy from sites that end with “.pharmacy,” as these sites are verified and approved by the NABP. They also suggest checking URLs for websites through NABP or at the website LegitScript. And they suggest avoiding websites that claim to sell products from Canada. Many have no connection to Canada.

Thomas Kubic, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, a Virginia-based nonprofit, says there are roughly 15,000 to 17,000 annual cases of counterfeit drugs reported globally to his organization from its members, who include security directors from 33 pharmaceutical companies.

The number of new reported cases was 1,178 from 134 countries in 2107, up 7% from 2016, he says. Cases ranged from small quantities to millions of units.

The bulk of counterfeits appear to be found in China, India and the U.S., he says.

The latest and most dangerous ingredient authorities are finding in counterfeit medications is fentanyl, says Shabbir Safdar, executive director of Partnerships for Safe Medicines, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. He says officials found counterfeit drugs made with fentanyl in 44 states and confirmed it to be a cause of death in 26 states.

“Right now you’re seeing Xanax and opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone made both oversees and domestically with fentanyl, which is super cheap and easy to get,” Mr. Safdar says.

Oct. 27 will mark the third anniversary marking the death of Ms. Luther’s son. She plans to get together with family and friends to celebrate his life.

“You don’t have to be an addict to die from counterfeit medication,” Ms. Luther says. “It’s just rampant now and it’s all about greed. There’s no way to tell if what you’re getting is the real thing unless you get it from your local brick and mortar store.”

Write to Sumathi Reddy at

More on Your Health

For Crime Novelist Lou Berney, a Winding Path Led to ‘November Road’

JFK’s assassination provides the backdrop to Lou Berney’s new crime novel, ‘November Road.’
JFK’s assassination provides the backdrop to Lou Berney’s new crime novel, ‘November Road.’ Photo: Brett Deering for The Wall Street Journal

Lou Berney’s mother used to say he was conceived on the day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, but he is wary of the claim. “It’s plausible,” says the writer, “though the math is a stretch, and my mother always did like a good story.”

The death of the president resonated for his family, which lived 200 miles to the north in Oklahoma City. Every summer, when they went down to see the Texas Rangers play in Arlington, his dad would drive through Dealey Plaza and point out the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository Building.

Today, the assassination provides the backdrop to Mr. Berney’s new crime novel. “November Road” arrives Oct. 9 with glowing early reviews and extra sales support from its publisher William Morrow.

‘November Road’ arrives Oct. 9.
‘November Road’ arrives Oct. 9.

It’s welcome validation for Mr. Berney, whose lurching writing career didn’t take off until he entered his 50s. “November Road” follows his successful 2015 novel, “The Long and Faraway Gone,” a tale of memory and murder in Oklahoma City, which won enthusiastic notices and an Edgar award for best mystery.

His latest follows two strangers whose paths cross—a street-smart operator who works for a New Orleans mob boss, and an Oklahoma City mother fleeing her husband. The premise came from a small prairie town he’d heard about, a “cool-off” spot where soldiers for crime organizations went to lay low. Mr. Berney originally set his story in 1968: A brutal hit man goes to this out-of-the-way redoubt and falls for a local woman with two precocious daughters, a drunken husband and an epileptic dog. The character was inspired by his late mother, a secretary with talent and ambition who never broke through the barriers of the time.

Something wasn’t firing early on, though. His new agent, Shane Salerno, suggested relocating to the days following Nov. 22, 1963. The presidential assassination itself wouldn’t be the focus, but it would ignite the story and its aftermath would provide a backdrop: “a seismic change in our country that can be reflected in the characters who are forced into motion by this event,” Mr. Berney says.

When the JFK news hits, the protagonist, mob foot soldier Frank Guidry, realizes that days before he’d been asked to park a sky-blue ’59 Cadillac Eldorado in a garage two blocks from Dealey Plaza. He had figured it was a routine assignment, maybe leaving a getaway car for a contract killer, but this scared him because he knew his boss despised Jack and Bobby Kennedy and was capable of anything. He bolts, knowing the mob will eliminate him as a potential witness. And indeed a brutal hit man is right behind him.

A fleeing Guidry happens upon the Oklahoma mom, Charlotte, for whom the JFK assassination has been equally consequential. “When everyone else around her is crying and distraught and about the future, she realizes she’s not feeling that—her life isn’t going to change because of what happened in Dallas. She’s got to do something now or she’s going to be stuck for the rest of her life,” says Mr. Berney.

She leaves her husband, taking her kids and the dog, heading for California. Guidry joins them, figuring traveling with a family would be safer. Along Route 66 and points west, in the empty environs of the Sun Belt before it was called the Sun Belt, their lives intertwine.

The love story—and the curiosity of the kids—drives much of the action, as Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” plays in the background, a portend of unimaginable changes to come. Guidry and his pursuer are part a fading old order, a creaky albeit criminal institution about to be paved over. Charlotte is chasing a new future, if not for her then for her daughters. The book is filled with Brownie cameras, gaudy roadside attractions, cars that always break down and children without smartphones. While he was writing, Mr. Berney avoided reading anything set after 1963.

He doesn’t romanticize the landscape. As a teenager, he couldn’t wait to get out of Oklahoma City. “When I was 17, I kind of walked off the high school graduation stage and got in my car.”

He went to Loyola University in New Orleans for college, then the University of Massachusetts Amherst for grad school. His career then took a too-heady turn. He sent a short story to the New Yorker, which published it. He was 24. Celebrated New York editor Corlies “Cork” Smith signed him to a book contract for a collection of stories called “The Road to Bobby Joe,” which came out before he finished his MFA. Well-reviewed by some, it was full of quirky twists and absurdist humor with stories like “One Hundred Foreskins” and “Jesus in the ’Do,” about an image reflected in a woman’s hairdo. “Please don’t read it,” he says. “If I had a story with a plotline it was accidental. I was trying to do too much.”

He didn’t see another book published for 19 years. The novels he agonized over met only rejection letters. He gave up writing books and taught creative writing in San Francisco. “There’s nothing worse than teaching people to write when you know you can’t do it yourself,” he says.

He wrote some Hollywood scripts which gave him paydays. The one that got made was a 2013 Christmas movie called “Angels Sing” whose stars included Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton and Willie Nelson. Some reviews praised the music, not the screenplay. “They changed 95% of it,” Mr. Berney says without ruefulness.

He and his wife Christine, whom he’d met in grad school, moved to Oklahoma City in 2001 to help care for his father who had Alzheimer’s. His parents both passed away that decade, and the Berneys stayed.

It was then, comfortable back home but stressed out after a bleak winter as his dad’s health declined, that he started a crime novel. “I decided to write something that would help me escape, the way a reader reads to escape,” he says. Set in Las Vegas and Panama, “Gutshot Straight,” about a poker-playing getaway driver named Shake Bouchon, was followed by a sequel, “Whiplash River,” the lurid titles derived from Texas Hold ’em jargon. Tough and wisecracking, the books drew comparisons to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, if not a huge audience. But they gave him incentive to reach further.

The warm reception for “The Long and Faraway Gone” encouraged him. It was more ambitious than his previous two books, although still grisly, gritty and funny, and he thought he’d found a balance between the genre fiction of his first two books and his earlier aspirations.

“It took me those two books to find out what kind of writer I am,” he says. “I was never sure if I was a literary writer or a crime writer, and with “Long and Faraway Gone” and this one, it’s finally like I could do both. It just took me 30 years to find out.”

More Arts Coverage

In London, Collectors Get Fired Up for Ceramics

One of Picasso’s vases. Ceramics were in focus at several auctions in London, as well as the art fair Frieze.
One of Picasso’s vases. Ceramics were in focus at several auctions in London, as well as the art fair Frieze. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd.

Asian collectors have long prized porcelain vases as much as paintings, but until recently, art lovers elsewhere largely treated ceramics like a second-class craft. Now, the global art market is trying to elevate clay art into the realm of the blue chip.

Christie’s and Phillips for the first time added stand-alone auctions of 20th-century and contemporary ceramics to their high-profile set of evening sales in London with examples by artists like Paul Gauguin, Lucio Fontana and Thomas Schütte. All but three of the 36 pieces in Christie’s $4 million “Un/Breakable” sale on Tuesday found buyers.

Across town at the art fair Frieze London, which overlapped with the week’s auctions, at least half a dozen galleries also offered ceramic works in their booths, including Robert Arneson’s 1983 bust of his wife Sandra Shannonhouse, “Woman in Gold,” at Venus Over Manhattan’s booth. It was priced at $650,000.

Paul Gauguin, ‘Vase porte-bouquet "Atahualpa"’
Paul Gauguin, ‘Vase porte-bouquet “Atahualpa”’ Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd.

Another highlight: Spanish-Egyptian artist Teresa Solar Abboud’s 2018 “Everything Is OK,” a salmon-colored column of lumpen ceramic bowls that evoke an intestinal tract, priced for around $5,800. As of Friday afternoon, Ms. Solar Abboud’s piece was still available, and Venus Over Manhattan declined to divulge the status of Mr. Arneson’s piece. The fair concludes Sunday.

Elsewhere this season, several tastemaker galleries and museums are also playing up pottery. Gagosian’s gallery in Geneva, Switzerland, has a “Fire and Clay” show running until Dec. 15 that includes potters Shio Kusaka, who is based in Los Angeles, and Ron Nagle, who is from San Francisco. In New York, the Museum of Arts and Design just opened an exhibit of apocalyptic ceramics by Los Angeles’s Sterling Ruby. It runs through March.

Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter Marina Picassogave the contemporary ceramics market a jolt three years ago when she enlisted Sotheby’s to sell off a portion of her inherited trove of the artist’s playful pottery. Collectors over the course of three sales bought every ceramic piece, in some cases paying six-figure sums that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. “Jurassic Park” actor Richard Attenborough’s estate sale of Picasso ceramics at Christie’s two years ago stoked a similar buy-it-all frenzy, with a Picasso vase selling for $909,407.

The canny push from auction houses also comes at a time when collector confidence remains highest in the middle of the market where pieces typically sell for between $500,000 to $5 million as opposed to the trophy top of the market where pieces can top $100 million, according to the auction-tracking firm ArtTactic’s Contemporary Art Market Confidence Report issued Tuesday.

Ai Weiwei’s ‘He Xie,’ incorporating porcelain sunflower seeds and river crabs, sold for $793,000 on Friday.
Ai Weiwei’s ‘He Xie,’ incorporating porcelain sunflower seeds and river crabs, sold for $793,000 on Friday. Photo: Phillips

Trophies are still selling at Sotheby’s, though: On Friday, its sale of part of New Jersey management consultant David Teiger’s estate included a $12.4 million Jenny Saville, “Propped,” that reset the record for a living female artist at auction.

The mood has nudged collectors to bolster ceramic pieces for dozens of artists like Peter Voulkos, whose 1958 stoneware abstract, “Rondena,” sold at Phillips last December for $915,000, over its $500,000 high estimate. The sale also established a new auction high bar for a 20th-century ceramic made by a U.S. artist.

That price still pales in comparison with the $38 million paid for a Chinese ceramic at auction—Sotheby’s sold a Northern Song-era vessel for washing paintbrushes—but the overall recalibration could expand the collector base. Watch for prices to rise for modern ceramists like George Ohr—the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi”—as well as postwar potters Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. Their works have long been funneled into decorative-art sales alongside lamps and sofas, rather than with paintings, sculptures and other fine art, but Christie’s expert Leonie Mir said such designations are blurring because younger contemporary collectors don’t sift or rank artworks strictly by medium anymore.

Neither do contemporary artists like Ai Weiwei, who incorporates all sorts of materials in his work. Among his recent installations: Room-size piles of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds and river crabs.

“There’s a lot of cross-pollination going on,” said Meaghan Roddy, a senior international specialist at Phillips, who sold the river crabs, or “He Xie,” for $793,000 on Friday.

Here’s a look at five other artists from Frieze Week who got creative with clay.

Picasso’s ‘Grand vase aux femmes voilées’ (A.R. 116)
Picasso’s ‘Grand vase aux femmes voilées’ (A.R. 116) Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd.
Pablo Picasso

Picasso started making earthenware plates and bowls in the 1940s as a breezy summer pastime, but he stuck with it for the rest of his life—eventually making more than 600 types of pieces, often shaped like animals or adorned with images of mythological characters. On Tuesday, Christie’s top lot was a 1950 terra-cotta “Large Vase With Veiled Women” that sold for $526,175, slightly over its $520,000 low estimate. But there are signs that collectors are starting to flip his pottery like they do his paintings: Christie’s also sold his 1950 “Tripod (A.R. 125)” vase depicting his mistress, Françoise Gilot, for $195,000—but the seller paid Sotheby’s $272,060 for it only two years ago.

Fausto Melotti, ‘I gessetti’ (1959)
Fausto Melotti, ‘I gessetti’ (1959) Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd.
Fausto Melotti

Fausto Melotti, an art-student pal of Lucio Fontana, initially gained fame in the 1930s for making wiry, geometric sculptures, but after his Milan studio was destroyed during World War II, he turned in grief to terra-cotta. He started making clay scenes with tiny figures often separated as if living on separate floors. He hinted at stories with this series of puppet-theater works, said Ms. Mir of Christie’s, adding, “There’s a domesticity to them, but the figures are isolated.” Today, Melotti’s quivering metal sculptures have sold for as much as $665,000, but Christie’s reset his clay record Tuesday by selling 1959’s “The Chalks,” for $416,975.

‘Overgrown’ by Kathy Butterly
‘Overgrown’ by Kathy Butterly Photo: Phillips
Kathy Butterly

New York artist Kathy Butterly has spent the past couple of decades crumbling clay into cheery, misfit forms that appear to topple, yet don’t. She has used nail polish as a glaze, sometimes firing her pieces dozens of times and risking destruction in the process, according to her dealer James Cohan, who has a solo show of her work, “Thought Presence,” up through Oct. 20 in New York. On Friday in London, Phillips’s $3.3 million sale included her 7-inch piece, “Overgrown,” that sold for $21,160. It was priced to sell for up to $20,000.

Betty Woodman’s ‘Balustrade Relief Vase 07-4’ (2007)
Betty Woodman’s ‘Balustrade Relief Vase 07-4’ (2007) Photo: Phillips
Betty Woodman

Betty Woodman, who died earlier this year, studied pottery in New York in the late 1940s, but after that she spent time in Tuscany, where she gained a reputation for creating vases that looked like they’d been deconstructed and pinned to the wall. “She’s creating three-dimensional works in a 2-D way,” Ms. Roddy of Phillips said. In 2006, Woodman was the first living ceramist to get a retrospective of her work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and since then her market has started to tick upward. On Friday, Phillips sold her 2007 “Balustrade Relief Vase 07-4” for $61,850, tripling its high estimate.

Yeesookyung, ‘Translated Vase_2016 TVJ 2’ (2016)
Yeesookyung, ‘Translated Vase_2016 TVJ 2’ (2016) Photo: Gallery Hyundai

Since 2002, Seoul-based artist Yeesookyung has gathered potsherds of traditional Korean ceramics broken by manufacturers because they have flaws. She takes the pieces and builds them into new, bulbous shapes using an ancient technique where 24-karat gold leaf is used as a binding seam. Her “Translated Vases,” as she calls them, have since been collected by museums, displayed in last year’s Venice Biennale and sold at auction for as much as $33,231. During the VIP day for Frieze on Wednesday, Gallery Hyundai sold her 2016 “Translated Vase_2016 TVJ 2” for $26,000.

Write to Kelly Crow at

Meet the 9-Year-Old Telling You What to Wear

Giana, a 9-year-old artist and fashion fan, has accumulated 22,800 followers on Instagram.
Giana, a 9-year-old artist and fashion fan, has accumulated 22,800 followers on Instagram. Photo: Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal


One of fashion’s “It” girls is actually a girl. Not a young woman. Not a teen. A girl.

Giana, known to her 22,800 Instagram followers as Dear Giana, is a photogenic 9-year-old artist and fashion enthusiast with an elfin frame and a marketing heft that brands want to harness.

Through her street-style flair and fashion drawings displayed on an Instagram account her mom runs, Giana has corralled fans, including art galleries,, streetwear fashion blog Highsnobiety and Nike . The sneaker and apparel giant collaborated with Dear Giana on three T-shirts to be released Oct. 11, the International Day of the Girl.

“It’s very cool, for sure,” said Giana during a recent interview, where she had on Nike Air Force 1 sneakers and Nike socks.

In images from her ‘Dear Giana’ Instagram, the young fashionista shows off streetwear looks.
In images from her ‘Dear Giana’ Instagram, the young fashionista shows off streetwear looks. Photo: g.von.g

Giana is among the stylish pre-teens made famous by social media and anointed mini-influencers or mini-creatives. Their ascent comes as marketers are striving to reach Generation Z, the roughly 67 million individuals born roughly between 1997 and a few years ago. They have about $44 billion in purchasing power, according to Mintel. Thanks to social media, members of Gen Z can see a staggering array of merchandise, and pinpoint precisely the clothes and shoes they want to wear, even if their parents are still paying for them. Gen Z also is the most racially diverse generation in American history: Almost half are a race other than non-Hispanic white.

“They already hold much influence, particularly due to their unprecedented digital access and resources, which is prompting them to try things while they are young that weren’t possible for past generations of kids,” said Meredith Hirt, senior insights writer at Cassandra, a research firm specializing in young consumers. “Children don’t have to wait until they grow up to be influential, …which is causing brands across all industries to take notice.”

For 33% of 7-to-12-year-olds in the U.S., clothing ranks second behind technology in categories they consider worthy of splurges, according to Cassandra, showing that pre-teens are focused on fashion and nearly as interested in it as millennials are. Clothing ranked second for 36% of 13-to 20-year-olds. “We’ve noticed a rise in car makers targeting parents through their kids,” Ms. Hirt added, “recognizing that kids and tweens are influential and have sway as to what their parents decide to buy.”

Nike’s director of communications for North America, Jenna Golden, wrote in an email, “We feel that Dear Giana is such an inspiration for young girls everywhere.” The company declined to disclose financial terms of its contract with her. Earlier this year, Nike worked with eight young “athlete influencers” and asked each to design children’s versions of one of the company’s shoes.

Trend forecaster WGSN, which has tracked Giana since she entered the scene two years ago, labeled her the “girl of the moment” and the “next leading mini-creative” in a recent report. Giana has a gap-toothed smile, dark bangs and loves sunglasses. She is of Filipino and Mexican ancestry and lives with her parents and two younger siblings in Dallas. Gena, her mother and manager, asked that the family’s last name be withheld for security reasons. “It’s just to keep her safe,” Gena said.

The fashion industry, perennially in search of the new, has a complicated history with youth. In 1980, Calvin Klein drew criticism for ads with a 15-year-old Brooke Shields. About a decade ago, 11-year-old Tavi Gevinson became famous for her fashion blog. In 2011, fashion line Miu Miu tapped actor Hailee Steinfeld, then 14, to star in its ads. Today, 14-year-old actor Millie Bobby Brown is a fashion muse. Spotlighting children raises concerns about exploitation and privacy. This year, Vogue pledged to stop using models under 18; some modeling agencies said they would cease using models younger than 16. Last year, two luxury conglomerates, LVMH , which owns Louis Vuitton, and Kering, which owns Balenciaga and Gucci, banned models under 16.

While fashion’s highest levels took steps to keep children out of the limelight, social media offered them an entirely new platform. The pre-teen market took off in 2010 with the launch of Instagram. Ms. Hirt, of Cassandra, said a few years ago J.Crew commissioned Sydney Keiser, a blogger from Milford, Ohio, to design a special collection for children. At the time, Ms. Keiser was 4. J.Crew came across her paper reconstructions of red-carpet dresses on her mother’s Instagram account.

Parents who post images of their children’s handiwork can find themselves being contacted by brands or talent scouts scouring Instagram for the next potential star. That’s how Giana was discovered. According to her mother, Giana started to show an artistic bent at age 3, when she would tackle coloring-book pages with watercolors or stage “art shows” with little rock formations in the backyard.

Artwork by Giana, who a few years ago began tearing out pages from her mother’s copies of Vogue and customizing them.
Artwork by Giana, who a few years ago began tearing out pages from her mother’s copies of Vogue and customizing them. Photo: Dear Giana

At 5 or 6, Giana was pulling pictures from her mother’s copies of Vogue and customizing them with crayons, pencils and markers. Gena started posting images and videos of her daughter’s efforts on Instagram. In 2016, when Giana was a 7-year-old second-grader, a children’s clothing brand called même. proposed hosting her first art exhibit in Seattle, Gena said. Giana displayed more than 40 works in the show and was on her way. Drawing pictures and styling streetwear looks that catch fire online comes naturally, Giana said. “I just did what I like…I just buy some clothes and wear it how I want to wear it.” Gena said Giana loves what she is doing. Giana said her mother “never forced me to do anything. She just let me do what I wanted to do.”

In the two years since Giana’s first art show, there have been three more, including one with Nike. Streetwear-style blogs like Hypebae and fashion and entertainment news sites like Complex have taken note of the pint-size cool girl who is a fan of Supreme, Louis Vuitton, and Virgil Abloh of Off-White. Brands are asking Giana to wear their clothes and accessories and post about them.

After discovering Giana on Instagram, Highsnobiety published an interview with her in December. “Even more than here’s this little girl that wears pretty cool clothes, it’s the fact that she wants to be an artist and has an outlet to reflect her creativity,” said Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety’s editorial director. “The fact that she’s doing a Nike collaboration is truly mind-blowing.” asked Giana to illustrate a few looks from New York Fashion Week in February and captured her at work in a video. Vogue saw that “Giana wasn’t playing dress-up, she actually had something to say and share with the world,” fashion news editor Monica Kim said. Giana’s passion for streetwear and her art encourages other children to be creative while inspiring adults too, said Erin Rechner, senior kidswear editor at WGSN. “They’re looking to her for new, fresh inspiration.”

To keep Giana from taking all the attention too seriously, her parents “limit how much stuff that we tell her,” Gena said. “We’re keeping her grounded.” Her father, Anthony, is a creative director. Gena, who studied set design and retail window display, says their daughter still has household chores, such as making her bed and cleaning her room.

Gena, above, with her daughter, says the family is keeping Giana grounded amidst her growing fame.
Gena, above, with her daughter, says the family is keeping Giana grounded amidst her growing fame. Photo: Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

This year, the family hired an agent, Jeffrey Klein, director of the influencers division at Photogenics, a Los Angeles talent agency. In an email Mr. Klein wrote that he is wrapping up deals for Giana with “major brands for design collaborations to drop in 2019 and as far out as Spring 2020.”

Write to Ray A. Smith at

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends

“WHAT IS REAL is what lasts,” said Oprah Winfrey in her toast to Ralph Lauren at his recent anniversary event in Central Park. After 50 years as a pivotal fashion figure with an unwavering American aesthetic, Mr. Lauren has outlasted his contemporaries like Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, both of whom no longer design for their namesake companies. At the close of a season marked by change, Mr. Lauren’s consistency stands out in a mutable fashion landscape. While some brands are still defined by their core DNA, others have been reinvented by a revolving-door procession of creative directors.

At the label Mr. Klein launched in 1968, originally known for its beige-y minimalism, Belgian designer Raf Simons proposed inventive, postmodern clothing for spring with references from prom to “Jaws.” It was heart-poundingly fun, and relevant, but bore little resemblance to Mr. Klein’s blueprint. At Celine, which former creative head Phoebe Philo turned into a brand beloved by women for its professional yet comforting shapes, Hedi Slimane divisively pulled the accent off the first “e” and sent sharp, very-Slimane tailoring and abbreviated dresses down the runway. The renegade designer Demna Gvasalia continued his sleight of hand at Balenciaga, combining elements from the brand’s past (like architectural waistlines) with technical fabrics. More faithfully, Pierpaolo Piccioli drew gasps for his gowns at Valentino, many in the brand’s signature scarlet color. And as one of the few designers who rivals Ralph Lauren’s longevity, Miuccia Prada unveiled delightfully (and characteristically) eccentric efforts at both Prada and Miu Miu. A variation on Ms. Winfrey’s sentiment seems likely to be chewed over in seasons to come: Do women want consistency or evolution?

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends
Seeing Spots

That Betty Boop-ish vintage standby, polka dots, was given new life. From left: a sweet minidress at Carolina Herrera (care of a new designer, Wes Gordon); a sheer frock (slip required) at Prada; volume play at Celine; va-va-voom mega-dots at Dolce & Gabbana; a baby-doll at Burberry (newly designed by Riccardo Tisci).

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends
To Dye For

This season proved that tie-dye, against all odds, can be refined. From left: An acid-washed interpretation on the cool girls at Proenza Schouler; a ladylike, deconstructed, shibori-style skirt at Prada; hints of a Bali summer gone absolutely right by Paco Rabanne; a silken slip dress at Christian Dior ; a showstopping, full-tie-dye jumpsuit (on Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter) at Stella McCartney.

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends
Shore Things

Retro beach vibes harked back to more glamorous summer travel. From left: patterned splendor at Etro; that Goa lifestyle at Chloé, a fringed ensemble at Valentino for SPF-50 types; the ultimate embroidered caftan at Tory Burch; a yé-yé-girl shift at Chanel, where the models walked barefoot on a ‘beach.’

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends
Noir Hour

Inky, gathered, voluminous dresses were a novel idea for evening. From left: Thick navy knots show Rei Kawakubo’s mastery at Comme des Garçons; an off-the-shoulder gown at Valentino; The Row’s sheer layers of chicness; Simone Rocha’s silk taffeta garment, topped off with a lacy veil.

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends
Practical Magic

Refined utility looks will make phone storage a cinch in spring. From left: Sheer pocket play at Fendi; Givenchy’s luxe cargo pants are wish list-worthy; Hermès nailed the pocket-y jumpsuit; at Loewe the pockets were almost as big as the garment; Louis Vuitton’s futuristic woman uses old-school utility tricks.

Next Year’s Most Wearable Women’s Trends

From left: Croc coat at Burberry; a pearly gradient at Gabriela Hearst; ruffled sleeves at Max Mara; stripped-down stripes at Tod’s.

More in Style & Fashion

Appeared in the October 6, 2018, print edition as ‘SPRING THEORIES ROLL Things We (Mostly) Loved.’