GOTV – Stumping for Hillary in Kalamazoo

captureOn Tuesday, November 8, the country is going to elect the next President of the United States. As I see it, no matter the outcome, a whole lot of people are going to be waking up the next morning wondering how we will survive the next four or, God forbid, eight years.

But for many, November 8th will be a day of celebration. Whether you identify as a Republican, Democrat, Independent or Other, hopefully, you are able to take a step back from the political circus, and appreciate the historical moment that is likely to take place.

On this day, we just might elect a woman to the office of The President of the United States. (Let that sink in for a moment.)

As I sat home one evening watching another negative political commercial (Or was it a pro political spot? They seem to all blur together), I thought about the significance of Hillary Clinton clinching the coveted position, and how watching that historical moment from the boring surroundings of my living room just didn’t fit the scenario. I needed to be at a real party on that night, and what better than the local Democratic Committee Party that will be happening right here in Kalamazoo. But in order to be invited to such a party, you need to either know the right people or pay your dues by kicking in time or money – or as I assume they would prefer, both.

And that’s how I arrived at this spot in time – on Douglas Avenue, knocking on doors on a beautiful day when I would rather be doing anything else.


“Here’s your list,” said the young man, handing me a clipboard and a pile of brochures, and who I suspected wasn’t even of voting age. “You’ll be campaigning today for Paul Clements who is running for Congress. These are all the addresses you need to hit,” he continued, flipping through 300 pages of survey forms. You will need to complete the response information on these forms after every door you knock on, so we know that you won’t really be knocking back Two Hearteds at Bell’s for two hours, and throwing away the brochures on your way out the door.”

OK, he didn’t really say the last part but he didn’t have to. I have never stumped for a politician before, and I had no idea what I was in for, other than an uncomfortable couple of hours of wishing no one is home.

So with clipboard in-hand, and my Hillary button clipped to my chest, I knock on the first door…

Door #1

There’s a hole where the doorbell used to be so after a couple of knocks, I stand back, and in my head, I go over the script they gave me. “Good afternoon. My name is _______________. I’m a volunteer with the Michigan Democrats here in (Local community name), working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.”

My knocking ignites a medley of barking dogs, and as the door slowly opens, a snout, followed by a humongous dog head, pushes through the slender opening.

“Satan! Get back!”

As a tiny woman pushes the dog back, all memory of the script flies away, and I stammer something about Hillary and “Please vote November 8th. As the petite woman finally manages to shove the dog back in, she slams the door shut. Damn, I think as I fill out the form. I didn’t ask anything that was on this form. No problem.  I’ll get the next one.

Door #2-13

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that people simply don’t answer their front door. No one has ever opened the door to a stranger, only to receive a gift. Nope. People who knock on doors are selling something. And I was selling the Democratic Party…just not very well. As the day progresses, I wave to a set of eyes peeking through the front blinds as I wad up another brochure, trying to shove it into the crack in the door.

Door #14

“Good afternoon,” I say, surprised that someone forgot the code, and actually opened their door to me. “Are you…Chenglei?” knowing that I’m mangling the name printed out on my form, and knowing all too well that the very large white gentleman standing in front of me is neither Asian nor registered to vote. The gentleman stares at me, and since I’m appreciative of the audience, I continue…

“I’m out today reminding people that Elections are Tuesday, November 8th.  Not this Tuesday, but next Tuesday. Are you registered to vote?” The large man opens the door a little wider, and I can see that it’s been some time since his home has seen a broom or a dust rag. He continues to stare at me. “OK,” I stammer, unsure of where to go with my pitch at this point, since the script I was given did not include the scenario of non-communicative feedback. “I’m going to leave this with you in case you would like to learn a little more about these fine people who are running for local office.” I stick out my hand, and he stares at the brochure. Finally, he takes it, and stares back at me.

“Have a great day,” I smile as the door slowly shuts, swallowing up the man, and my most interesting interaction of the day.

Doors #15-26

No one answers the doors, and yet, I can hear people whispering from inside. It’s a humbling feeling, knowing that people just want you to go away.

Door #27

“Yeah?” the young man asks, rubbing his eyes, and probably finding my intrusion a bit rude so early on a Saturday afternoon. A skunky smell hits me, and I watch as smoke floats past the young man, disappearing into the air behind me. As I launch into my pitch, the young man politely listens, and promises that he’ll be voting on Tuesday, and will be casting his vote for the Democratic ticket.

As I dodge another plume of smoke, I don’t doubt for a moment that he’ll be voting Democratic.

Doors #28-32

And more empty responses to my doorbell rings and knocks, giving me many creative ways of stuffing brochures into door cracks, under welcome mats and next to empty beer bottles (I’m in a heavy student neighborhood, after all.)

And that was my day as a Hillary Believer spreading the gospel of GOTVGet Out The Vote. Or as I like to think of it, Getting Off Track with the Vision. Along with the rest of the world, I’m looking forward to November 9th when this political circus is over…for now.

Heidi McCrary

Advertising Goddess / Writer

Run Like a Girl

Hilary run like a girlScene #1 – A Bowling Alley

As a natural athlete, a teenage girl goes bowling with her boyfriend who is new to the world of bowling shoes and this popular Michigan social activity. As the two played against each other, the distance between their scores grew wider as the girl consistently threw strikes and spares. But just when you thought that the girl was going to leave her boyfriend in the dust, a strange thing happened…

Suddenly, this over-achieving natural athlete started throwing gutter balls – laughing it off to having an off-day. It didn’t take long for her boyfriend to catch up to his girlfriend, and pass her by on his way to a winning day at the bowling alley. He, after all, had no problem with the notion of beating a girl at bowling.

Next is a similar scenario, but with a very different outcome…

Scene #2 – The Golf Course

With the encouragement of her boyfriend, a young lady decides to take up golf. After hitting the links with a borrowed driver and a 7 iron, this recent college grad not only kept up with her golf-crazy boyfriend, she actually had fun. Who has fun their first time out on a golf course?!

As she packed up her clubs after 12 holes on a 9-hole course, her boyfriend reassured her that she had it in her to be as great as any female golfer. To which she replied, “What do you mean, ‘female golfer?’ I can be as good as ANY man.”

With that declaration, I could not be more relieved to hear that not only is feminism ‘Not Dead’ with the next generation, but appears to be thriving. As the mother of two boys, I missed out on being part of a young girl’s growth into learning who she is, and what she can become, but I was able to view it from a distance through my children’s friends – and it wasn’t always positive, but it was definitely enlightening.

Today, as young girls grow up in a world that still throws gender bias around like a Frisbee, I want to believe that we adults are teaching our children (girls AND boys) to realize the capability of everyone. This year, the voting public will have the opportunity to elect the first woman ever for President of the United States. Whether you consider yourself Republican, Democrat, Independent or other, hopefully we can all realize the historical significance of this moment, and embrace the celebration of not only having a woman on a major party ticket, but having her win! Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton has faced a serious backlash from many women who find her unlikeable, perhaps forgetting that these same characteristics would be seen as signs of strength in a man.

Here’s a thought… As we go to the polls this November, let’s hope that the next generation is paying attention, and that more girls will say, “That’s what I want to be!”

Be like Hillary, and run like a girl!

Heidi McCrary

Writer & Advertising Goddess

Four Things about Frank Lloyd Wright

Tucked away in a small wooded area in the Winchell neighborhood, and alongside Asylum Lake in Kalamazoo, sits Parkwyn Village – a community that features a beautiful variety of homes designed by local architects, Norman Carver Jr. and George Sprau. Parkwyn is also the home of several houses designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright.

Hosted by Gazelle Sports, a tour guide lead over 200 people through the Parkwyn neighborhood, and as we visited each of the four homes, our tour guide shared with us, a few interesting tidbits about this famous architect and this quirky little neighborhood. Following are four random things I learned along the way…

  1. The name, Parkwyn comes from Parkview and Winchellthe two main streets that run adjacent to the neighborhood. Someone must have thought that changing the i to a y would give the new name sophistication.IMG_1767
  2. Frank was an a** hole. Yep, more than one homeowner shared a story of Frank’s diva-like antics. Apparently greatness doesn’t like to be questioned – like if a purchased door is not the one he selected.IMG_1789
  3. Frank had no use for kitchens. Not only did he delegate very little floor space to the kitchen, he fired one set of Parkwyn homeowners when they insisted on adding a window to his kitchen plan.IMG_1770
  4. All Frank Lloyd Wright Homes at Parkwyn are designed with the emphasis in the back. Frank’s belief was that the home should embrace nature, so many of his homes are designed with the bedrooms all having a view of the backyard. The beauty of a Frank Lloyd Home is the view looking out.IMG_1783

Heidi McCrary, Author

Pitching an Agent – Speed Dating in the Literary World

Pitching Agent.JPGThis past weekend, writers from throughout the region participated  in the Writing Workshop of Chicago – a well-run machine that teams up writers, authors and agents with a series of workshops, panel discussions and pitches. If you’ve never pitched an agent in person, let me explain the process… Dot a hotel conference room with a multitude of little round tables adorned with white linen tablecloths. Add two chairs to each table along with a lone lit candle placed in the center. OK, I’m making up the candle-part but you get the idea. It’s intimate.  Then add one of the 20 or so literary agents at each table, all looking at their smart phones wishing they were anywhere else.

Literally, anywhere.

As a writer partaking in the workshop, you are given the option of pitching your finished manuscript to any one of the attending agents. Paying for the opportunity to talk to an agent in the hope that they will ask you to send them your manuscript or a portion of it, seems a bit like a politician handing you $50, and asking for your vote. But with that said, I’m not at all above the idea of purchasing 10 minutes of precious one-on-one time with a literary agent.

And 10 minutes is exactly the time I got with each agent-purchase at this workshop. As the day continued, I moved around the pitch room like a chess piece looking to topple the King. While I have never participated in speed-dating, I have sat through enough rom-coms to know that this form of pitching an agent is similar to speed-dating, in that you have a short window of time to capture someone’s heart. Only this time, you want them to fall in love with your book.

And the pitching begins…

9:30am                 Agent #1

Fortunately, my very first pitch of the day is with an agent that represents solely Young Adult and Children’s Books. I had been struggling with labeling the genre of my book because while the narrator of CHASING CRAZY is a youngster, the theme is more adult in nature, so labeling it as Young Adult, seemed off. But the Internet told me that my book was YA, and if the Internet says that, it must be true.

But after hearing my initial introduction of CHASING CRAZY, Agent #1 scrunches up her face in thought, and informs me that perhaps I have mislabeled the genre of my book. So while she takes a polite pass on my work, her bit of wisdom is invaluable to me, and certainly worth the investment.

And the buzzer…

9:50am                 Scout #1

A Literary Scout is different from an agent in that their job is to find promising writers for the agents back home. I like the idea of someone who is looking out for others, and I’m looking forward to meeting Scout #1. Maybe it’s the word, Scout, since I love TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but I digress.

With my newfound knowledge that CHASING CRAZY is now Women’s Lit, and Upmarket Fiction (Is my book YA? Hell no!), I present my manuscript with a renewed sense of confidence in knowing who the heck my audience is. Agents do not want to hear, “My book is perfect for everyone!” It’s not. Scout #1 not only listens to my pitch, she asks questions and seems genuinely interested – not looking at her phone even once. At the end of our 10 minute date, I’m asked to send my manuscript to a particular agent at her agency, along with a note that I come highly recommended by her. OK, I added the “highly” but she didn’t say I couldn’t say “highly.”

So far so good. And the bell…

10:50am               Agent #2

With this agent, I did something a little different. Writers at this workshop had an option of purchasing two allotments of time with any agent, meaning that they could buy 20 minutes of time. Not having gone through this process before, this seemed intriguing to me along with being a bit dangerous. I had this vision of the conversation starting with the agent saying, “Oh, your story takes place in 1970? Yeah, I hate stories set in the 70s,” I would be dead in the water, and we would both spend the next 15 minutes discussing the 40 degree weather in Chicago – even though its mid-May (Which, if you’re not familiar with Chicago, is quite normal).

But I shook off this fear and bought my 20 minutes with this rock star of the literary world. Not only do we hit it off, we plow through the 20 minutes like we’re having drinks together at the bar (which I would prefer). As the buzzer goes off, I leave with a request for viewing my whole manuscript.

Bingo! As I soak in the awesomeness of this moment, the next writer comes along and shoves me out of my chair.

4:50pm                 Agent #3

Believe it or not, I actually requested the last slot of the day with this agent – my theory being, that if our date, I mean meeting, went along swimmingly, the agent wouldn’t care when the 10 minute bell went off, and we would simply keep talking and talking like BFFs. Maybe get a drink at the bar.

She cared.

I can now tell you to never request the last time slot of the day for pitching an agent. Their eyes slowly glaze over as the morning turns into day, which crawls into the afternoon. While she smiled at the appropriate times, and requested that I send her the first 20 pages of my manuscript, I don’t think she would have remembered me if we ran into each other 30 seconds later in the hallway.

She was done.

So… if you are a writer looking for a literary agent, and you have the opportunity to purchase pitching time, buy away. And keep in mind that it’s not just about the agent liking you, and wanting to represent your work – it’s a two-way street. You have to like them as well. Just relax and have fun.

But don’t ask for the last time slot!

Heidi McCrary