Local writer showcases new novel

Van Milligen encourages folks to fulfill their dreams

AUTHOR MARY VAN Milligen (center) gave a preview of her new book, The Glimpse Gift, to an audience at the Coal City Public Library on Saturday, Aug. 5. On hand at the talk and book signing event was (from left) Deb Bugg, one of Van Milligen's RCHS teachers, Bugg's daughter Megan, and Van Milligen's two daughters, Charlotte, 8, and Avery, 11.
Marney Simon
Staff writer

Putting words to paper isn’t always as easy as sitting down and hammering out a few lines. But for one local teacher, the dream of publishing a novel has finally come to fruition.

Author Mary Van Milligen made a visit to the Coal City Library on Saturday, Aug. 5.

The Custer Park native and Reed-Custer High School grad now lives in Plainfield with her husband Dennis and daughters, Avery, 11, and Charlotte, 8.

While she works as an English teacher full time, she was recently able to fulfill her dream of putting words to paper and publishing her first book.

Van Milligen discussed her book, The Glimpse Gift, a story about love, faith, courage and trust. The novel follows the life of Hope Dempsey, a young woman with the ability to glimpse two minutes into the future. Hope sets out on a divine journey to mend issues for people, guided by Saints and alongside a handsome antique dealer named Nathan.

It’s a story that Van Milligen was excited to tell.

“I always wanted to write a book, it’s something that I’ve done hobbywise, on and off, for two decades,” Van Milligen said. “Then I was getting closer and closer to 40, and I hadn’t done it yet. But I had a story that I had to tell. What happened to me during me second pregnancy is what the first two chapters are about, then I thought, how can I take that story and make a novel out of it? How can it be the inspiration for the novel? So it didn’t take long, it just kind of came to me. I think that’s how I knew this was the book I was going to publish.”

Van Milligen said the beginning of the book mirrors some of her own personal experiences, but the remainder is fiction. Home from work for summer break, she took the effort to write, rewrite, and edit her creation seriously.

“I treated it like a job in the summer,” Van Milligen said. “I would go to the public library and I would sit there for hours and just draft and revise and draft and revise. I went ahead and finished it when I was 40, and got it published by 41.”

Going from story idea to print had plenty of challenges along the way. Van Milligen said for herself and other writers, the key to getting a good story told is patience, time, and plenty of editing.

“Finding the time to discipline myself, and sticking to that, was a bit of a challenge,” Van Milligen said. “But the hardest part for me was working to get it published and the editing part of it, because it’s so tedious. You have to write in a special form... and just rereading the book so frequently and trying to find everything, but then eventually giving yourself permission to allow there to be errors.”

Along with the challenges came some of the fun stuff, too.

“Working on the cover was fun. Finding the best self-publishing deal was fun. Talking to marketing was fun,” Van Milligen said. “People should read this book because it has a little blend of every kind of novel. It’s got a little bit of romance, it’s got humor, it’s got faith, it’s got mystery. So, I think it’s a healthy combination of a good narrator with a good voice that people will definitely find relatable.”

As both an author and a teacher, Van Milligen also stressed the importance of writing.

“I find writing really therapeutic. I think it’s important to be a really strong communicator, and playing with words is going to allow you to develop that skill,” Van Milligen said. “I think from a therapeutic sense, I believe writing unleashes you, it purifies you, it humbles you, it owns you, it calms you, it can irritate you. It also has always invited me to write, and it’s a good challenge, I’m pushing myself. And I love to read, so I like to see how other writers write. We need to be effective communicators, especially now, with how often we communicate and we’re doing it in writing.”

Van Milligen hopes her fulfillment of her own dream to write a novel can inspire others to follow through on their long-term goals.

“Stop saying I have a dream one day, and start saying, I have a reality. It’s not a dream, it’s a reality, you’re capable of doing it,” Van Milligen said. “And also, if you like the book, talk about it and share it.”

The Glimpse Gift is available for checkout at the Coal City Public Library.