Category Archives: politics

You Might be Drawn to my Book If: A Quiz



Would you enjoy “The Reluctant Archivist?” Take the quiz and find out!’      

1. Seeing the phrases “mental illness,” “politics,” and “mystery” together makes you feel:  a) nothing in particular  b) intrigued  c) somewhat repelled.

2.  You would rather read:   a) a book set in the here and now     b) a book set in medieval  times      c) a book set in the 1970’s

3.  To read a book to its end, you need:   a) over a dozen quirky characters   b) the possibility that the main characters find no meaning in their experience         c) a main character who realizes his purpose

4.  Your usual attitude toward the Midwestern U.S. is:    a)  it’s a down-to-earth place   b)  seems kinda boring to me        c) never been there and don’t care to go

5. You think the main character should usually:   a) show flaws but also great resilience    b) never waver and be strong as iron     c) have the most weaknesses and limitations  of any character

6.  Your ideal fiction book has:  a) steamy romance and innuendo       b) mystery elements and twists       c) new technological gadgets

Chose most of these? 


* 1970’s setting

* intrigued by mental illness, politics, and mystery

* main character who finds his purpose

* the Midwest is a down-to-earth place

* flawed but resilient main character

* twists and mystery

You’ll enjoy “The Reluctant Archivist.” 




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Filed under activism, e-book, historical fiction, mental illness, politics, Uncategorized

Hello, My Name is Ambivalent

Ambivalence in real life is a pain. 1747917718_7d941b5441_zBut my ambivalent book character, Mill, may pique your interest.  Just read the synopsis:

Ever since his participation in high school debate team, Milliard (“Mill”) Fairbairn has known he wanted to pursue a career in local politics. Becoming the mayor of Champaign IL has now become The Goal in his life.

As Mill’s coalition and campaign gathers steam, his older brother Gary, always less ambitious but equally intelligent, plunges into a traumatic future from which even his resourceful brother can’t extricate him.

Mill, ever-supportive, is relieved when Gary achieves some stability, but it is quickly threatened by Mill’s conniving political rivals, who will use any opening to discredit Mill. One night their efforts even threaten Gary’s life and home.5879429534_90b400b642_z

As Gary loses emotional ground, Mill’s own vulnerability to stress becomes more and more apparent. Not willing to entirely give up The Goal, Mill’s distraction and self-sabotage nevertheless nearly derails his plans forever. In the end, however, a change of direction provides the very information necessary to get back on track and achieve what Mill could never have accomplished at home in Champaign.

I’ve been preparing to publish my book, “The Reluctant Archivist” for several years now. I’ve revised the heck out of it. It needs to either be published, or perish.

Shall I send it out to fifty agents, hoping one will like my synopsis enough to consider promoting me to a publisher? Or do I pay a publisher to publish and help me promote my book?

Since you’re not my mother, my publishing angst probably won’t move you. But leave a comment if my synopsis does!

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Filed under character sketch, e-book, historical fiction, mental illness, politics

Mill’s Campaign Canapes

In my upcoming book The Reluctant Archivist, Mill and John’s class presidential campaign rally at the University of Illinois showcases some foods that dominated the 70’s landscape in the Midwest. For example, Mill’s Campaign Canapes, composed of a tablespoon of deviled ham on rye with a gherkin to garnish, were and probably still are welcome finger foods for informal gatherings.

Do you remember the deviled ham in the white can with the red devil adorning it? If so, why share your 1970’s nostalgia and post a comment at

Quench your thirst for meaning–read. 14827095698_3f0083a596_z

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Which of the Two Are You?

There are two types of people in this world: those who feel compelled to label others, and those who don’t. 

That said, if you had no choice but to travel in time to the future or to the past, which would you choose? I would explore the past. In a way I’ve already had little choice, having a historian father whose greatest joy was to spend vacations at presidential museums and other historic sites. Because of his mini-lectures I impressed docents and dates alike with my grasp of life in past eras.

Granted, living in an era without texting or elliptical machines could be a hardship, but more subtle advantages would abound. Imagine what you could learn about your own resilience and creativity when you fell in love with a confederate soldier who could not accept, nor even comprehend, your ambition to be a contestant on “Ninja Warrior.”

Historical fiction could, in fact, be defined as time travel sans Wayback machine or  TARDIS. I gravitate toward the genre because I prefer tBack_to_the_Future_The_Ride_at_Universal_Studios_Japan_2o focus less on the physics and mechanics of trip than the conundrums my character will have to resolve in his time and place.

My current book-in-progress, The Reluctant Archivist, takes place primarily in the 1970’s–the age in which I grew up filing mental images of life at school, home, and our small town. My access to these facts far exceeds anything I learned in physics class.

My main character, Mill Fairbairn, grows to adulthood in the mid- 70’s and pursues his political ambition unaided by the Internet or Starbucks coffee. Because I want my readers to imagesenter his world and find it fascinating, I  take up this challenge: for one week I will avoid using any technology, eating any food, or doing any activity not available to Mill in the 1970’s.* And I will definitely fall short. You will hear about my lapses and mistakes, the book will improve, and you reap those rewards.

*to avoid losing my part-time job, I will use my computer and cell phone for work-related tasks only. Paying bills is not an optional activity.


Filed under character sketch, politics, time travel

Story Based on My Book Character


Mill gazed at the four-foot-high columns of paper, looming like steles in an Assyrian temple. They shouldn’t be anywhere in there. But he’d looked everywhere else: under his desk and atop it, in one of the two file cabinets anyway. The other file cabinet squatted on the other side of the desk, mocking his frustration.

His Crusaders meeting was this evening, and he needed to be ready. His Crusaders wouldn’t last very long without it.  Sure, they’d feign their usual commitment to the cause, but their work ethic would drop off substantially. And he really couldn’t blame them. Good thing they’d started meeting at the campaign headquarters–he’d be mortified if anyone saw this chaos on entering his front room. He blew out a shallow breath and ran his fingers through his hair, a color often termed “oak” in the furniture biz. His eyes alit on a newspaper article about Illinois’s Governor, and within seconds he had abandoned his search to read about  lukewarm gubernatorial support for Community-Integrated Living homes, or CILAs. But how much of that rhetoric could he file under “truth?” If he only maintained files on Truth he’d have no problem finding what he sought today.

Decisions made at today’s meeting wielded great importance for the next–and last–month of his mayoral campaign. Results of polls and community canvassing guided Melissa in the next promotional strategy. But if he couldn’t provide the expected resources would they continue to assemble round, leaning toward his every word, loyal as golden retrievers? His accelerated heartbeat voted no.

CILA article devoured, Mill considered discarding the newspaper. It had already resided, rent-free on his desk, for three weeks. Again he hesitated, reluctant to part with a story nestled so close to his brother’s needs. He would clip the article and trash the newspaper later. With an Incredible Hulk-like spurt of vigor he pawed through the remaining newspapers and magazines on his desk, then turned to the box atop the file cabinet. He upended it, then slowed and pieced through each piece of paper, breathing through his diaphragm as if readying for a television conference. Nothing.

Mill tried to talk to himself nicely. They won’t abandon you because of something like this. How long have you lead them through the wilderness, without even a figurative staff of supernatural power to succor them? Perhaps he could substitute another item for the usual offering. Yes, that could work. He’d call–who? His mind sorted through recommendations Rich had mentioned only last week. The crew had been somewhat enthusiastic at the time. Well, not un-enthusiastic, anyway. He had put his phone book–where? He gazed across the room at the coffee table, weighed down like Atlas carrying the world. Was that a crack in the table’s glass top? Maybe he should move some of the boxes of stuff to his bedroom. Set them on the floor next to his college campaign memorabilia. He didn’t want to damage the coffee table.

As he picked up the first box, he nearly dropped it in surprise. The Yellow Pages sat underneath, reliable in its vocation of adding height to short things– children unable to see over the tops of dining tables, for example. He leaned sideways, shifting the box’s weight to one arm as he grasped the phone book at its spine with the other hand. The box clunked on the floor next to the table. Straightening up again, Mill noted a small rectangle of paper losing its place inside the phone book’s cover and drifting toward the floor. He didn’t retrieve it immediately–his fingers busy doing the walking through the book.  When he’d found a few options, he headed for his kitchen phone. But when his foot skidded on the scrap, he bent and scooped it up.

Fortunately Mill’s neighbors couldn’t see him raise his arms in jubilant salute–a candidate about to give his victory speech. He was lost himself in a jig of joy.  Of course he’d stuck it in the Yellow Pages. He’d done it deliberately, intending to note the organization’s number on the scrap and take with him to the meeting. Whew! He would languish no more on the shore of broken dreams. Thanks to this buy-one-get-one coupon, Mill could order extra. And the Crusaders would munch their pizza as they gave reports, brainstormed photo opportunities, and made him mayor.

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Filed under character sketch, mental illness, politics

Writing As Advocacy


Mill Fairbairn is a mental health advocate, lesser known but no less determined than U.S.  Rep. Tim Murphy. (sponsor of HR 3717, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis”)  He’s also a book character. Like many advocates, a crisis struck close to home and propelled Mill into the fray.  Rep. Murphy introduced HR 3717 in 2013, and unfortunately, it’s “still just a bill.”

Will my letter to my congressman make a difference? I want to be more like these two gentlemen, so I’m going to do something I don’t often do. I am going to presume the answer is yes.  I am going to set my butt down and write a letter supporting HR 3717.  Not just clicking to sign a letter and speed it on its way, but composing each word.  A letter from Julie–author, social worker, and parent. What a concept.



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What Would Jane Addams or (insert your hero here) Do?



It’s not that difficult to be an advocate. Even something as basic as pointing out your child’s strengths to their teacher is advocacy.  We all serve as advocates,  motivated by concern for our loved ones. The challenge lies in identifying the compelling issue(s) which will drive us beyond the needs of our families to those who have nothing to give us.  We can then make time to reflect on where to cultivate our patch of passion in the garden of justice. We can. Being intentionally goal-oriented and focused on a particular organization can be helpful in moving out of our private space and into the complex world of injustice and problems awaiting solutions.

For me, the challenge of more thoughtfully and consistently listening to local and national news was my starting point.  This week a variety of stories on National Public Radio captured my imagination: the U.S.-Iranian nuclear program talks, the mental health system that may have failed the Germanwings pilot. I’ll continue, in the next few months, to comment on my progress in becoming more aware of political issues. The goal is personal for me: to become a better writer and Christian citizen.

I admire my book character Mill for his natural bent toward political advocacy. He seems intuitively to know what issues should take priority and how to persuade others of their importance. Another gifted advocate you’ll want to know.

Quench Your Thirst for Meaning–Read.



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Mill, Bills, and Capitol Hill


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a new favorite organization of mine, and one whose advocacy recommendations I intend (with God’s help!)  to review regularly. Deep inside I know how crucial it is to stand up for our brothers and sisters with mental illness. My book characters, Mill and Gary Fairbairn, are brothers who struggle with these issues as well.

With this in mind, I educated myself this week on two federal mental health services bills competing for the privilege of becoming law. schoolhouse-rock-bill2

“At least I hope and pray that one will, but today it is still–just a bill.”  (thanks Schoolhouse Rock)

Here is a little bill background, courtesy of NAMI:

“Both bills authorize federal resources for jail diversion, expand resources for suicide prevention, protect access to psychiatric medications in Medicaid and Medicare, and provide financial incentives for improved health information technology in mental health care. There are also some differences that reflect contrasting visions of what is needed to improve the mental health system.”  

In my book, “The Reluctant Archivist,” I weave the late 1970’s version of mental health care into the story–the good, bad, and ugly. How far have we come, or were people better off in 1975?

Quench Your Thirst for Meaning–Read.

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Part of JFK’s Vision for (Mental) Health Care?

Photo1297FYou value privacy in your health care, but if that privacy prevented your primary MD and a specialist or two from coordinating your various treatments, you might feel differently. And the state of Minnesota seems to be leading the charge in enabling MDs, paramedics, and ER clinicians to share information when needed.

I assert this is even more crucial for people with long-term mental illness. Family and friends,  strained by the person’s unpredictable or unpleasant behavior,  may be unavailable or unwilling to take the time to advocate for the patient. When docs can’t access the treatment and medication history needed to create a personalized treatment plan–look out!  People are misdiagnosed, prescribed duplicate or previously intolerable meds, and are at great risk for relapse or re-hospitalization.

Many of us remember the Community Mental Health Act, passed during JFK’s administration. The Act funded construction of outpatient community mental health centers, with the good intention of making the psych unit obsolete. Medical and treatment monitoring boosted patient autonomy and positive self-image. Unfortunately, the under-funded programs didn’t translate into enough centers to accommodate the many people who needed them.

Because of the push from government budget concerns, groups of hospitals, home care agencies, and physician practices are finally collaborating. Sharing information via integrated software networks is permitted as patients sign a release upon admission. Having sympathized at the bedside with hundreds of patients insisting “their doctors never talk to each other,” I know this is not an isolated problem.

Whether or not I am a JFK-admirer is not the point. I think JFK would be encouraged and pleased with Minnesota’s Community Health Network. Not to mention coalitions such as Rush University Medical Center’s Bridge Program, here in my good ‘ol Chicago.





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Filed under mental illness, politics, Uncategorized

Taking More Than Just A (News)Bite


We’re living in a political world, but I’m not a political girl. Can I be reformed? Start to care? You’d think a writer whose main character, Mill Fairbairn, is running for mayor, would be politically aware and fascinated by the latest party wranglings. Not so much. I have a hard time concentrating during five minutes of radio news bites.

I’m aware of this shortcoming and ready to repent of it. So I’m going to launch another experiment: for the next two months I’m going to write a weekly post about what I’ve learned from at least one story concerning state or national politics. Obama? ISIS? Murder rates in Alaska? I’d welcome any suggestions of sources of reputable information: TV, websites, magazines–any and all.

Let my journey from uninformed to cutting edge begin. I think Mill would be proud.

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