Mokena Historian Discusses the Art of Writing

Virginia Woolf once said, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” This is true of author Matt Galik, a lifetime Mokena resident whose home base has become more than a residence.

mattGalik has become in expert in Mokena’s history, making a career out of sharing the story of this Chicago south suburban town. The author of two books, Images of America: Mokena and The 1926 Orland Park Murder Mystery, Galik shares his take on writing with The Tidbit.


Tell is a bit about your background and what got you interested in writing?

I’ve long been a reader, pretty much my whole life I’d say. History has always been my topic, be it dinosaurs, then old monster movies, then later the American presidents and eventually into all things American and World history related. At some point while I was still really young, a light went on, something clicked that said I could move past the passive experience of reading and go into the active process of writing, too. I first began experimenting with writing when I was about 11 years old or so, and when I did that, it was like walking into another world, one where I could not only create, but actually be a part of the printed word.

What is your writing process like?

My writing process is kind of all over the place. First an idea sprouts in my head of something that’s worth writing about, and since I almost exclusively write about local history, it’ll come from something I’ve seen around town that reminds me of a certain historic event or person, or I’ll just be thinking about something that I’m really into or passionate about. Once the idea is there, sentences and phrases will spontaneously come to mind while I’m in the middle of doing something, and I have to stop to write them down in my phone, or else they’ll be gone. From there, I put them all into a Word document and kind of start mapping out the story. I then go in and flesh everything out in a few sittings, and before I know it, I’m finished. This is my usual process, it just varies in size depending on what it is I’m writing!

In your experience, what has been your process with writing and publishing books?

With my two books, I’ve been beyond lucky in that my publishers were already seeking what I had to offer, so I didn’t have to worry too much about winning them over. Nevertheless, it’s still quite a process to get a book published, and it got very stressful at times, especially in dealing with deadlines. With my last book, there was also some wrangling between my publisher and myself over what the title would ultimately be, so that got to be nerve-racking as well. Even though this stuff happens, I’d still say it was worth it in the end!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a project about the old village newspaper we had here in Mokena from 1919 to 1969, the News-Bulletin. It’s a solid source I come back to time and time again in my own research, and over the years I’ve come to fall in love with the way it was written, especially in the early years. The family that ran it pretty much the whole time were some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come to know in all my time of digging into Mokena’s past, and I want to immortalize them and their work with this “thing” I’m working on. I say “thing” because I’m not quite sure yet what form it’ll ultimately take; it’s way too long to be a regular article, but not quite book length. The way it looks, it’ll be published by the Will County Historical Society.

Any advice for people wanting to become writers, and writers looking to become authors?

I think this applies pretty well to both questions. I once heard some advice from the famous sci-fi author Ray Bradbury that really stuck with me, and has really served me well. It went something like, “Whatever it is that you’re writing about, never stop doing it.” It really moved me, and I’ve applied it to myself, and at this point I can look back at accomplishments that I never before thought possible.

Any additional info you’d like to share?

I just want to tell anyone that’s writing to keep doing it and keep experimenting, to find whatever their passion is, and to run with that in their writing!


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