‘I wanted to get my book in the stores I grew up going to’

The Creative Endeavor Project gives Kalamazoo area authors a space to promote and sell their books inside the Michigan News Agency, a 76-year-old family-owned bookstore and newsstand.
Dean Hauck, an older white woman wearing a red-and-white checked shirt, stands next to a bookshelf full of books.
Dean Hauck, owner of the Michigan News Agency, poses in front of a selection from the Creative Endeavor Project. Photo by Dave Person.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, prose or poetry, the works of budding Kalamazoo area authors have a home at the Michigan News Agency.

If someone calls asking if the downtown Kalamazoo fixture will display their book, owner Dean Hauck’s stock answer is, “Yes, I am waiting for you.”

Authors set their own prices, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales of those books are returned to the author.

“It’s my effort to support my community,” Hauck says of the Creative Endeavor Project, a special section in the 76-year-old Michigan News Agency, located at 308 W. Michigan Avenue, that is still packed with thousands of newspapers, magazines, and books.

“That’s how you make a community breathe. That’s how you help a community invest in itself, and that’s what local support really means.”

A bookshelf at the Michigan News Agency filled with books. A hand-written sign taped above the shelf reads "Creative Endeavor Project - All Cash Goes to Author"
A sign indicates that all proceeds from books in the Creative Endeavor Project goes to the authors. Photo by Dave Person.

Over the years, she has displayed hundreds of different titles on shelves specially reserved for books in the project.

“People bring in three signed copies,” Hauck says. “When I sell two, I tell them to come in with more copies and that I have money for them. … When I return that money to them, they can use that to write the next one.”

Many new authors say they took their books to the Michigan News Agency because they were familiar with the business and Dean’s support for the community, but they were unaware of the Creative Endeavor Project until they asked her to display their books.

“The news agency was a store my grandmother took me to when I was little,” says Kalamazoo resident Trevon Hobson, who travels extensively as a hip-hop artist and works locally doing street outreach for Kalamazoo Covenant Academy, an alternative high school.

He recently published his autobiography, “Water From Cactus,” and took copies to Hauck to see if she would display them.

“I wanted to get my book in the stores I grew up going to,” he says.

The book cover of "Water from Cactus: Autobiography of Trevon Hobson". The cover has a photo of a Black man with a full beard, glasses, and a bald head. He sits on a chair looking intently at the viewer. He wears a black shirt with gold designs down the sleeves, a gold chain, and blue jeans. The entire room around him is flat white.
“Water From Cactus” by Kalamazoo resident Trevon Hobson. Photo by Dave Person.

Hauck, who began sweeping floors at the same shop as a child and worked as a cashier there for her stepfather while she was in high school, moved back home from Illinois 35 years ago.

Soon after her return, she encountered a junior high-age girl reading poetry books. She told Hauck, “I can write better poetry than this.” Hauck told her to bring in what she had written, so the girl did.

“And she was right,” recalls Hauck, who sold copies of the girl’s poetry in her store.

And the Community Endeavor Project was born. Since that time, Hauck has been encouraging new authors to bring their published books to her. While most of the authors have self-published books, all she requires is that they have a cover and binding.

“I don’t censor anything,” she says. “I don’t put that restriction on a creative piece that someone else has spun.”

Although the program is for Kalamazoo area authors, Hauck says her definition of the region that encompasses is quite broad. She takes in books from as far away as Detroit, Chicago, and Traverse City.

“Dean is there and promoting you,” says Three Rivers resident Kathleen Rabbers, whose book of poetry, “The Mountain Ash,” is part of the Creative Endeavor Project.

“As soon as I got it, I took it to her and she … was excited and wanted it,” Rabbers says.

The book cover of "The Mountain Ash" by Kathleen Rabbers. A blurb at the bottom of the cover reads "michigan writers cooperative press 2021". The cover has a painting of a bright sun shining through the branches of a tree filled with bright red flowers."
“The Mountain Ash” by Three Rivers resident Kathleen Rabbers. Photo by Dave Person.

Douglas Zaccanelli, a Vietnam combat veteran originally from Grand Rapids and now a resident of Cloverdale, wrote “The Art and Science of Being Still, A Practical and Proven Guide to Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health and Healing” over the course of several years, and then found Hauck to be an enthusiastic supporter in his efforts to sell the book.

“It took me probably five or six years to write it,” he says of the book that is based on Raja yoga, a system of retraining the mind.

“I went down there (to the Michigan News Agency), and she said she’d sell my book for me,” Zaccanelli says of Hauck.

He says it has been good exposure for the book, which explains the practice that helped him overcome his own post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his experiences in Vietnam.

“I’ve been down there three or four times, at least, to bring her more (copies),” he says.

The book cover of "The Art and Science of Being Still: A practical and proven guide to mental, emotional and spiritual health and healing." The author is Douglas D. Zaccanelli, a Vietnam Combat Infantry Veteran. A blurb at the top of the cover reads "For when you've realized that you can't think, therapy, medicate or meditate your way out of depression or PTSD. A photo on the cover depicts a drop of water hitting the surface of a pond, concentric circles spreading out from the middle of the droplet.
“The Art and Science of Being Still, A Practical and Proven Guide to Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health and Healing” by Grand Rapids native Douglas Zaccanelli. Photo by Dave Person.

Hauck has several shelves dedicated to the Creative Endeavor Project, as well as a more well-known display of books by established Michigan authors.

Lynne Heasley, a professor in Western Michigan University’s School of Environment, Geography and Sustainability, is a longtime patron of the Michigan News Agency, but it wasn’t until she asked Hauck if she would display her book, “The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes,” among the books by Michigan authors that she learned about the project.

“One day I asked if she would consider placing a copy of ‘The Accidental Reef’ on that local bookshelf,” Heasley says. “That’s when we had this lovely conversation about the way she intentionally tries to elevate our literary community.”

Hauck says she doesn’t have a limit on the amount of time an author can take advantage of the Creative Endeavor Project.

“I go on with the author as long as they want to go on with me,” she says.

The book also doesn’t have to be the author’s first publication. “The Accidental Reef,” for example, is Heasley’s second book.

The book cover of "The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes" by Lynne Heasley with illustrations by Glenn Wolff and a foreword by Jerry Dennis. The cover has stylized paintings of fish and birds under a moon and sun. A gold sticker reads "Winner: Indie Book Awards"
“The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes” by Lynne Heasley, a Western Michigan University professor. Photo by Dave Person.

Hauck says the Creative Endeavor Project benefits her, as well as the authors, because it brings people into her bookstore who then browse her other shelves and make purchases.

Heasley says having her book included in the Creative Endeavor Project is about more than sales, it’s the overall experience of being part of something bigger, and the benefit it brings to the community.

Since her book has been part of the project, she’s sold “a few copies, which I was excited about, because it’s people browsing for a short time, rather than intentionally looking for the book. And that’s how I’ve come across books from area authors, too. I recently bought a volume of poetry that I hadn’t known about,” Heasley says.

“I love how Dean has this deeper commitment to a literary and arts community. I’m guessing you can’t be an independent bookseller without a lot of passion and talent for weaving together a whole community.

“Plus there’s Dean’s care for the well-being of downtown Kalamazoo. Her life’s work is uplifting on many levels.”

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