From Muse to Reality

Fiction, Politics and Essays


Dear Senator

Honorable Richard Durbin,

Keeping up with the news, several issues have troubled me.

The Department of Labor said Illinois’ unemployment rate is 8.6% (rarely to they report unemployment among people of color, which is generally more than 3 times higher). Also bothersome is the reduction in the food stamp program (hidden the Farm Bill). Hanging in the balance is denial of continued emergency unemployment compensation benefits will rock this nation.

“Worse, a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts projected Illinois would be dead last among 50 States for job creation in 2014.”

How is it possible that this “Great Nation” can be so callus?

I will listen very closely to President Obama‘s State of the Nation speech this evening, but I must say in advance, he cannot run this nation alone.

Retired but still connected.

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On Being a Writer

By Minnie Estelle Miller


December 9, 2014

For me, being a writer is a mixture of all my emotions. Beginning to write my story is easy. Most times, I have a dream or an idea that stirs my emotions and jump-starts my imagination. I write down thoughts, even if only a couple of sentences, and let them simmer for a week or so. It is inspiring to see your words from another perspective, especially when involved in something completely detached from your draft.

Some may think that reading is detached from writing. Not true. It is fundamental to writing. It helps me find the proper words for some thoughts. Often I am stuck trying to clarify a situation. I may use a few words of other writers, being mindful of copyright laws.

Unknown to me right away is why some words stir my imagination. It could be a person’s comments, or watching the sunset, or something that I have tried to ignore—there are several of those. I simply listen to the voices in my head and write. It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle. You won’t know where they fit right away. Patience and determination helps here.

In time, my protagonist steps to center stage and fights for his or her place in the story. Of course, you must take into consideration the premises of your story—that is unless it turns into a stronger premises. This is sensual for me because at this point my Muse has taken over. It is amazing!

Real memories become a part of fiction. I remember being at the beach wading bare foot in the water’s edge. Forever with me are the beautiful, flagrant flowers around Grandma’s front yard. They warmed my heart and created the foundation for a young, active mind. I remember attending an opera with a friend who wore white cotton socks with high heel shoes. I appreciated her independent soul. Most of all, I cannot forget the time a boyfriend tried to choke me to death when I caught him in several lies. The circles in my mind are like ripples in a stream that reach throughout life’s journey.

Then you begin to understand why your protagonist fits so well—you have seen him or her before. The good and bad circumstances fall into place. Is the bad redeemable? Therein lays the needed friction—elements sliding against each other. Step outside of your story and “see” if this bad person is redeemable in real life and in fiction. To be true to your story, you must take into consideration your own background; otherwise, it will read too scripted. That is when it gets hard…my Grandmother would have said, etc., etc. Well, maybe not. It could produce the opposite picture you need to bring out the “bad” character. Most importantly, the ending must be a mixture of real life and fantasy.

After three or four edits, and at the end of your final manuscript, you read your baby. But wait. Put it aside for several weeks and in the quiet of the evening (or morning whichever is best for you), read it to its completion. You will think, Wow! The emotion is almost orgasmic! Unless I miss my guess, you will say, “Who wrote this?” Then you will understand you are a serious writer.

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Minnie Estelle Miller



The Seduction of Mr. Bradley

Assertive. Smooth. Handsome. Comes a graying Sky.

Bill was piloting the plane, losing control, and spiraling downward. A crash was inevitable.

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I still have a few copies left at a reduced price.  Please contact me at my email addresses.

Minnie E Miller


The Seduction of Mr. Bradley

The Seduction of Mr. Bradley

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Power of Attorney for Medical Care

November 11, 2014
By Minnie E. Miller & Guest Writer

I have a Power of Attorney for Medical Care. The four-page document sits next to my purse within reach at all times. I also have a Do Not Resuscitate Directive if my heart and breathing stop.

My agents are one of my nephews and my niece as second. I mailed copies by certified mail. To be honest, neither relative wanted to discuss the document when they received it. My nephew said he will read it later and asked if I was of sound mind when I wrote it. I had to laugh. There in could lay the problem, especially if I am in the hospital unable to speak. My niece has said nothing. Nevertheless, the document contains my wishes and is legal even if no one speaks on my behalf.

A brief history of family and me: I am single and seventy-seven years old; live alone; divorced; and childless. My immediate adult family have their responsibilities and live in various other states.

No, I do not expect to die soon. Still, in the event something happens by accident, or because of health problems, I do not want my family to be at a loss handling my personal matters. Moreover, heaven knows they do not deserve the expense of closing out my life financially.

An Outpatient Care Manager, assigned by my retiring Doctor, gave me the Power of Attorney for Medical Care form. A completed copy is in the Doctor’s file. The Care Manager is a registered nurse and has access to my medical data (an innovation by Advocate Medical Group, my healthcare provider). She calls often to check on my health and answer any questions I may have. This is very comforting.

If my life changes for whatever reason, I can update the form and redistribute it same as before.

I know that some think the best-laid plans can go astray. Not a problem. I understand.

Below are excerpts from an article on Power of Attorney for Medical Care. Do not confuse the Medical Care document with a living-will regarding your personal possessions.

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Advocate Health Care: health enews Today – November 11, 2014

I’ve completed an advance medical directive…now what?
By: Jodie Futornick

Advance medical directives (Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care; Living Will; Five Wishes) are important documents that can offer both practical guidance and peace of mind for your loved ones and your health care providers in challenging circumstances. Writing an advance medical directive is an important first step in planning for your future health care needs. Learn to use them in a way that will be most helpful to you and those around you.

You and your agent (the person you have chosen to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so) should both keep your advance medical directives in a place that is readily accessible.

The most important component of an advance directive is not the formality of a piece of paper, but the ongoing conversations you have with your loved ones. Discuss your wishes, including your choice of agent and your treatment preferences, with your close family and friends.

Be sure your primary medical providers are aware of your wishes. Remember that the Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, and Five Wishes documents are reflections of your preferences; they are not medical orders. If you have specific concerns regarding life-sustaining treatment (for example, a wish that you not be resuscitated if your heart and breathing stop), it is imperative that you discuss this with your doctor.

About the Author

Jodie Futornick

Rabbi Jodie Futornick is a staff chaplain and ethics consultant at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. She has a Masters’ degree in Bioethics and Healthcare Policy at Loyola University of Chicago and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the same institution. Jodie is fond of introducing herself as “a Jewish chaplain at a Protestant hospital with a degree from a Catholic university.”

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Note from me: Thank you for reading this important information. I hope it helps.


Minnie E. Miller
Writer & Essayist on social reform


AGING AND HEALTH: Different Views

Aging and Health: Different views

Ezekiel Emanuel.

“OpEd in The Atlantic” Excerpts

September 2014


That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

This preference drives my daughters crazy. It drives my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do. To convince me of my errors, they enumerate the myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well. They are certain that as I get closer to 75, I will push the desired age back to 80, then 85, maybe even 90.

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.

Let me be clear about my wish. I’m neither asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening my life. Today I am, as far as my physician and I know, very healthy, with no chronic illness. I just climbed Kilimanjaro with two of my nephews. So I am not talking about bargaining with God to live to 75 because I have a terminal illness. Nor am I talking about waking up one morning 18 years from now and ending my life through euthanasia or suicide. Since the 1990s, I have actively opposed legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. People who want to die in one of these ways tend to suffer not from unremitting pain but from depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control. The people they leave behind inevitably feel they have somehow failed. The answer to these symptoms is not ending a life but getting help. I have long argued that we should focus on giving all terminally ill people a good, compassionate death—not euthanasia or assisted suicide for a tiny minority.

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.

Americans may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Not to me.

This was confirmed by a recent worldwide assessment of “healthy life expectancy” conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The researchers included not just physical but also mental disabilities such as depression and dementia. They found not a compression of morbidity but in fact an expansion—an “increase in the absolute number of years lost to disability as life expectancy rises.”


If life-expectancy trends continue, that future may be near, transforming society in surprising and far-reaching ways.

Gregg Easterbrook

September 17, 2014

Should research find a life-span breakthrough, the proportion of the U.S. population that is elderly—fated to rise anyway, considering declining fertility rates, the retirement of the Baby Boomers, and the continuing uplift of the escalator—may climb even more. Longer life has obvious appeal, but it entails societal risks. Politics may come to be dominated by the old, who might vote themselves ever more generous benefits for which the young must pay. Social Security and private pensions could be burdened well beyond what current actuarial tables suggest. If longer life expectancy simply leads to more years in which pensioners are disabled and demand expensive services, health-care costs may balloon as never before, while other social needs go unmet.

Postwar medical research has focused on specific conditions: there are heart-disease laboratories, cancer institutes, and so on. Traditional research assumes the chronic later-life diseases that are among the nation’s leading killers—cardiovascular blockage, stroke, Alzheimer’s—arise individually and should be treated individually. What if, instead, aging is the root cause of many chronic diseases, and aging can be slowed? Not just life span but “health span” might increase.

Drugs that lengthen health span are becoming to medical researchers what vaccines and antibiotics were to previous generations in the lab: their grail. If health-span research is successful, pharmaceuticals as remarkable as those earlier generations of drugs may result. In the process, society might learn the answer to an ancient mystery: Given that every cell in a mammal’s body contains the DNA blueprint of a healthy young version of itself, why do we age at all?


Olga Khazan

October 8, 2014

Why Americans Are Drowning in Medical Debt

Healthcare is the number-one cause of personal bankruptcy and is responsible for more collections than credit cards.

After his recent herniated-disk surgery, Peter Drier was ready for the $56,000 hospital charge, the $4,300 anesthesiologist bill, and the $133,000 fee for orthopedist. All were either in-network under his insurance or had been previously negotiated. But as Elisabeth Rosenthal recently explained in her great New York Times piece, he wasn’t quite prepared for a $117,000 bill from an “assistant surgeon”—an out-of-network doctor that the hospital tacked on at the last minute.

It’s practices like these that contribute to Americans’ widespread medical-debt woes. Roughly 40 percent of Americans owe collectors money for times they were sick. U.S. adults are likelier than those in other developed countries to struggle to pay their medical bills or to forgo care because of cost.

California patients paid more than $291,000 for the procedure, while those in Arkansas paid just $5,400.

Earlier this year, the financial-advice company NerdWallet found that medical bankruptcy is the number-one cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. With a new report out today, the company dug into how, exactly, medical treatment leaves so many Americans broke.

Another contributing factor is that hospitals charge wildly different amounts for the same procedures. In the most extreme example NerdWallet analyzed, the highest charge for an inpatient stay for severe intestinal bleeding was 54 times higher than the lowest charge. At most, California patients paid more than $291,000 for the procedure, while those in Arkansas paid just $5,400.

It’s worth noting that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion might alleviate some of this debt strain over the coming years. But otherwise, patients have few options beyond attempting to research hospital charges ahead of time—which is probably the furthest thing from a person’s mind when they are most in need of a hospital.

Links are from The Atlantic. The operative word in all these articles is AGING.

My side note: When I was bleeding internally researching hospital costs was the furthest from my mind. All I understood was I was hemorrhaging and needed help immediately.

Minnie E. Miller
Writer, Essayist on social reform

draft of edit

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Publishers Weekly Tips on writing

Re-blogged from Publishers Weekly

Notes from PW’s

October 3, 2014
PW’s 5 Writing Tips

Our ongoing series, 5 Writing Tips, now has 9 iterations from the most respected and talented practitioners of the craft. Here are all the posts we’ve done (so far). Click the author’s name to see the full article.

[Sorry, not included here. Go to the website for links.]

Jane Smiley: “My favorite thing to remember about novel-writing is an observation I saw taped to a friend’s wall in her office in graduate school: “Nobody asked you to write that novel”. Therefore novel-writing is a choice—you can always stop, always keep going.”

Dinaw Mengestu: “Be generous to your characters: kill them, save them, break their hearts and then heal them. Stuff them with life, emotions, histories, objects and people they love, and once you’ve done that, once they are bursting at the seams, strip them bare.”

Paul Harding: “Don’t write your books for people who won’t like them. Give yourself wholly to the kind of book you want to write and don’t try to please readers who like something different.”

Tana French: “Kill the dream sequence.”

Max Brooks: “Drafts. Nothing is more intimidating than a blank page. Writing in drafts helps to diffuse some of that pressure. My rough draft has one goal; to write “The End.” I have the next 200-300 drafts to make it good.”

Laini Taylor: “Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self.”

Blake Bailey: “Be funny.”

Chelsea Cain: “Write the stuff that makes you feel nervous.”

Mary Sharratt: “Research remains ongoing, in parallel with my writing until I reach the final page proofs—just in case I’ve missed any tiny detail.”
“Nabokov’s handwritten margin notes on Jane Austen.”

[Ha! Looks like my first drafts.]

Featured image


Peace and Love
Minnie E. Miller
Writer, Essayist on social reform


Love of Writing

March 9, 2014

Primarily you must be in love with writing. Like most love affairs, it will have its difficulties. You will laugh, cry, starve yourself, and lose sleep over writing. You must also watch your temper when you receive your edits back. They are necessary to improve, not slander, your work. I feel for the brave souls who write their butts off, work day (or night) jobs, and rise raise families.

A bit about Minnie E. Miller, the writer: I have self-published three books (2 of them novels). I do not have an agent. I only shopped my first manuscript and received 10 rejections out of 30 queries. It was clear to me that at age 56, I could not wait for a publisher.

My first book consists of three short stories titled “Catharsis” (published March 2003). One reviewer was woeful, but congratulated me on the clean, clear writing. She said I had a “voice.” Damn, I thought.  Guess that’s good to know. There is so much emphasis put on finding “your voice.”

The first story in “Catharsis” is about two vampires rescuing slaves from plantations. Of course, Moses is the name I gave the driver of the horse and wagon delivering escaped slaves to the Underground Railroad. Most readers enjoyed it and wanted more. The second, a vampire love story–uh-huh, they love too –, and the third a paranormal contemporary love story. Many said the love story is also too short. As I said, this was my first self-published book. I have had a professional editor from the beginning of my writing career; IMO, this is very important.

My second novel is “The Seduction of Mr. Bradley” (published November 29, 2006). I tried writing it from a female POV, but Mr. Bradley was not having it. He stole the show with his struggle to change his lifestyle after he meets and falls in love with a straight, beautiful lady. Yet, he still loved his paramour/father image. He straddles the so-called fence, not sure if he wants to change. If you name your books according to your feelings about them, I call this one, My Baby. Allow me to brag here. I believe this novel was before its time.

Mr. Bradley was not an easy story to write. I felt the need to get into his head and heart at the same time. A lot of research went into bisexual men. When I asked to interview them for this story, none came forward. Most of the information came from gay men and my personal experience. (That’s another book.) During my research, I learned bisexuals deal with pressure from both sides of the lifestyle – some women generally felt they are simply cheaters. Gay men said bisexuals are gay, just in the so-called closet. Interesting thought, there are many bisexual career men, CEOs.

“The Seduction of Mr. Bradley” is also an eBook.

The third novel, “Whispers from the Mirror” (published 11/29/2006), is also close to my heart and contain streams of my life. It, however, is not a tell-all. I believe all writers have a bit of their lives mixed in their stories. It’s only natural — most everyone has lived through a wealth of experiences that sit in their subconscious. Most waiting for a word or a thought to attach to a story. For me, that’s one of the pleasures of writing — bringing alive those subconscious thoughts.

The protagonist in “Whispers,” Brianna, is an activist hiding behind a mask of feminism. She realizes at age 52 that she has been living in her mother’s shadow for years and needs to know more about the older Brianna. “The Mirror” in her bathroom shows Brianna her life, insists she must change. She must open her heart to love or she will die a lonely woman.

My writing career includes fiction, essays, and highly political articles. Moreover, when I feel it necessary, I send emails to President Obama, my Senator, and U.S. Representative in Congress. You might say I am a lobbyist for children and the poor. Nevertheless, I do not pay for political help, nor am I paid for my activism.

I cannot express strongly enough how important it is to keep writing; anything, anywhere, and about anything (but not in the bathtub, that doesn’t work too well), if you have chosen writing as a career. Write with value and purpose. Keep up with the literary world and our Nation – always have your say in both worlds.

After running from city-to-city and outside the United States, trying to shake a deeply painful relationship, I returned to Chicago, Illinois, aged and wiser. Now my days are devoted to writing and reading. Oh, and trying to understand this thing called aging.

Minnie E Miller
Writer, Essayist, and Humanist


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Spies of Mississippi

Bob Edwards Weekend, February 9, 2014, featured civil rights issues. Below is part of the information to be aired on PBS this Monday.
Please allow me to add that I read the book (in 1965), “Three Lives For Mississippi,” by William Bradford Huie, a reporter. I still possess this book. Huie writes about the murder of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, young students who came to Mississippi to assist Negroes in the deliberately constrained voting process. Huie summed up his feelings in “A Personal Word.”
“Even those citizens who fear Negroes voting are beginning to understand that the Nobel Prize was won for Martin Luther King by Bull Connor and George Wallace … that passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was helped by George Wallace and Byron de la Beckwith … and that the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 is the handiwork of Wallace, Sheriff Jim Clark’s posse, and the murderers of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman.
Successful revolutions, it appears, are made as much by their opponents as by their proponents.”
William Bradford Huie
March 29, 1965
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I’m anxious to see Spies of Mississippi on PBS Monday.
From The Bob Edwards Weekend Show
HOUR TWO:   In the mid-1950s, the government of Mississippi created the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a secret organization that spied on Civil Rights activists.  Director Dawn Porter’s documentary, Spies of Mississippi, tells its history and airs February 10th on the PBS series Independent Lens.


Minnie E. Miller


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