Born and raised in Brookfield, Illinois and a graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School, Michele VanOrt Cozzens is a wife, mother, resort owner and jewelry designer. She is also the author of six books, including her last novel, Irish Twins, and her most recent release, How-to Achieve Your Dream Life: Start-up Advice from a Successful Innkeeper. Sadly, Michele’s publisher has passed away, which explains a gap in continuing output of her books. Prior to losing him, however, Ric Bollinger gifted the copyrights of each of her six books to her and they are all still available on Amazon.com and through her business website, sandpointproshop.com
The story, Irish Twins, focuses on a family who hails from a village called Grossdale, Illinois, which was the original name for Brookfield when it was named for its founder, Samuel Eberly Gross. “There’s a little piece of Brookfield in nearly everything I write,” said Michele.
Michele has a degree in Journalism from Southern Illinois University and has worked as a reporter, feature writer, graphic designer, editor and newspaper columnist. She started her freelance publishing business, “Michelaneous,” in 1986. In 1993 she set aside her journalism career and with her husband, Mike Cozzens, created the world’s first disc golf resort in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. They celebrated 22 years of operation this summer.
Sandy Point Resort offers seven deluxe, lakefront cabins for family vacations, along with a world-class, 27-hole disc golf course. Her first book, I’m Living Your Dream Life: The Story of a Northwoods Resort Owner, is part memoir, part how-to, and is about how she and Mike gave up their professional careers and moved to the woods to create this one-of-a-kind destination. The resort is also home to her jewelry store, where her Dream Life Designs jewelry is featured.
Her second book, The Things I Wish I’d Said, is a collection of previously published newspaper columns from her days as a columnist for a group of community newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Each column is accompanied by updated commentary, with reflections on the girl she was and the woman she had become.
Michele’s first novel, A Line Between Friends, won the McKenna Publishing Group’s Fiction Contest. This story, told from two perspectives—a man and a woman who are both from the Chicago-area—poses the question of whether or not members of the opposite sex can maintain a platonic relationship after each marries someone else.
Her second novel is a stylized comedy about a group of women who play the popular dice game “bunko.” It’s Not Your Mother’s Bridge Club features four strong, female characters and explores many challenges common among middle-aged women today. More than the fun and games of a girls’ night out, these colorful characters are affected by alcoholism, caring for an aging parent, economic crisis, breast cancer and divorce, and they learn how to lean on and support one another through the daily grind.
Irish Twins, published in late 2010, is Michele’s most personal and poignant journey to date. The narrator, Anne Shields, is a fictionalized version of her mother, who died in 199 while water-skiing at the age of 80. The story begins with Anne’s death and we follow her to a place called Ohr, where her Irish Twin, Molly, dead some 50 years earlier, greets her. Molly acts as Anne’s guide as she examines her life and the lives of her surviving husband and children. The device for viewing these scenes are endless cups of tea, with each teacup playing a significant role to time and place. Through what is essentially Anne’s personal judgment, family secrets are revealed and discoveries about her Irish Twin and her own pair of Irish Twins, her youngest children, are made. This is ultimately a story about the power of love and forgiveness.
Michele is the co-founder of a grass-roots educational campaign called HerBeware, and proceeds from her book sales have been dedicated to spreading the word about the potential dangers of unregulated herbs, particularly those found in dietary supplements. I’m Living Your Dream Life is dedicated to her niece, Stephanie Rose, who suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 20 after taking the Chinese herb, ma huang (ephedra) in a dietary supplement. She is also a supporter of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and contributed profits from sales of It’s Not Your Mother’s Bridge Club to Bunko for Breast Cancer groups around the country.
When Michele isn’t writing or running the resort, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading and reviewing books, and playing disc golf with her husband. She and Mike were married in San Francisco in October, 1989 and they have two daughters, Willow, 23 and Camille 21. The smallest member of the family is LEMMON, a 4 lb. yorkiepoo, named for Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ