Craig Wieland likes to call himself a “serial entrepreneur.”
“I’ve started 10 businesses. Of course, eight of them were colossal failures.”
Whether he knows it or not he’s just started his 11th business by self-publishing his collection of poetry, “Pointed Poems: Tools for Teaching Conservative Thinking.” The book is illustrated by noted local artist Dennis Preston, printed by Thomson Shore of Dexter and distributed by Partners of Holt.
His publishing enterprise started about five years ago when he wrote a series of poems for his five daughters on conservative issues relating to capitalism.
He saw it as a means of what he called “reverse indoctrination” from the teachings of Okemos Schools.
Wieland also didn’t like a lot of the conservative stuff he was hearing on the airwaves: “It was screaming and it was vile.”
His publishing project began to take shape last October when one of his daughters suggested the family opt for the decidedly un-capitalistic approach of home-made Christmas gifts.
“As I started putting the book together for Christmas gifts it kind of snowballed,” he said. “I began with a rag-tag bunch of poems which put conservative principles in story form.”
So he began, in a form akin to "Aesop’s Fables," a story titled "The Money Machine": “Down in a room at the Federal Reserve is a secret machine with a purpose to serve. When things in Washington get kind of tight, they fire it up, deep in the night.”
In just six months Wieland had turned out a 279-page paean to conservative thought with 31 chapters covering everything from printing money to patriotism, and from animal rights to rich guys and fossil fuels.
The book is a lighthearted walk through conservative thought as a father instructs his son about the right way to think.
Several of his chapters would have played well in Wieland’s hometown of Kawkawlin, where recently a heated argument played out over whether to build a coal-fired power plant on Saginaw Bay, just a few miles across from where he grew up.
Wieland comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His grandfather built the largest International Harvester tractor dealership in the state. His father started a construction company and Wieland poured his efforts into rental property in Bay City.
He likes to point out that 18 of his 19 first cousins are entrepreneurs.
As the family construction firm sputtered, Wieland made an entrepreneurial move, relocating the company to the greener pastures of Lansing — although he previously considered Ann Arbor (“too liberal”) and Grand Rapids (“I’m not Dutch”).
Since the move, Wieland-Davco Corp. has become an international construction company focused on the construction of industrial processes, churches, offices and auto dealerships.
As “Pointed Poems” poured out, Wieland stapled some rough drafts together and sent them out to conservative thinkers and politicians asking for blurbs.
He said he was surprised when the likes of John Ashcroft and former Vice President Dan Quayle answered his queries. A blurb by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson graces the front cover, while the back cover is filled with blurbs by the leaders of every major conservative think-tank in the U.S.
To make the book more than just a collection of poetry, Wieland turned to Preston for the illustrations.
Preston said he and Wieland met about once a week. Wieland would act out the expressions and body poses he wanted to get his point across.
The artist would then go home and recreate those expressions to represent some of Wieland’s favorite targets, such as a money-grubbing senator visited by a “guardian angel” and an Uncle Sam going begging with a tin cup.
Many of the book’s illustrations, like editorial cartoons, send their own message with only a few words needed.
Preston said Wieland knew right away want he wanted: “I don’t get a lot of clients who do that: He knows what he wants.”
Preston, who is noted for caricatures of individuals, has stretched his skills admirably in this book.
“I did things I hadn’t done before. How do you make up what a grade school teacher would look like?” Wieland gives much of the credit to Preston, who he says “would just get it.”
According to Wieland, the book has sold more than 2,000 books and a second printing is planned. He recently finished a teacher’s guide, quizzes, tests, syllabus and final exams for the home-school market.
Although he’s not sure that incoming Gov. Rick Snyder has seen the book, one of his close advisers has a copy.
Wieland’s message to Snyder is simple: End the corporate income tax and all business subsidies. Snyder could find that laid out nicely in Chapter 4: "Discouraging Wealth Creation" and Chapter 25: "Rich Guys."
The book is available online at www.pointedpoems.com and at local bookstores, including Schuler’s Books and Music.