On the Record

The write stuff

On the Record with Mil Misic

Writer Mil Misic holds her first article, "A Rip Van Secretary's return," published in 1982 in The Observer section of the Chicago Tribune.
Writer Mil Misic holds her first article, "A Rip Van Secretary's return," published in 1982 in The Observer section of the Chicago Tribune.

DeKALB – Mil Misic has always been a writer.

From writing letters to her husband before they were married to penning more than 300 letters to the editor for the Chicago Tribune’s section “The Observer,” writing has been Misic’s lifelong passion.

She also writes letters to the editor in the Daily Chronicle.

MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton met with Misic to discuss her articles, inspiration and longtime involvement in newspapers.

Milton: Tell me about yourself.

Misic: I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. It’s the old story of the traveling salesman and the secretary: I met my husband [Donald] when he was in Minnesota, but he was from Chicago. When he returned home, we wrote each other letters. It was a good way to get acquainted. I moved to Chicago and we got married. He was a good logical thinker, great at math and science. I was always more literary. We just jelled, he had such a great sense of humor. They say that a happy home is like an early heaven. He passed away eight years ago in 2010.

Milton: How and when did you first start working in newspapers?

Misic: I was young, 14 to 16 years old, and I worked once a week for our small-town weekly newspaper’s editor and his wife. I did some of the office’s housework and helped with the printing mechanism. On Thursday mornings at 3 a.m., I went to the office and folded the newspaper. They were either four or six pages. We would then tie the papers up and take them to the post office by 7 a.m. At that time, nothing else was open in town. People would be waiting for the paper to see what food was for sale that week in the ads. That job got me into a love of newspapers. There’s nothing like the printed word.

Milton: How did you become a journalist?

Misic: I wrote my first piece in 1982. It was my first venture of returning to work after raising my two kids, and I wrote about that. They both went away to college, and I had empty nest syndrome. The Chicago Tribune used to have a feature section called “The Observer.” I wrote in relative obscurity, nobody knew who I was, just a guest writer. Later, when I spoke to the paper’s editor, I was told that I was probably the section’s most frequent writer. I had between 300 and 400 letters published.

Milton: How would you describe the type of articles that you write?

Misic: I’m not a columnist, I write a letter to the editor about two times a month. You name it, I’ve written about it. I write about any topic at all. I like writing articles that people can relate to. I know when I wrote about a dress I wore as a girl that was made out of a flour sack, I had a lot of positive feedback and comments. People like to read about things that are nostalgic, things that are reminiscent of their own childhood.

Milton: What do you write about?

Misic: I write about the passing scene, nothing controversial. There’s enough of those kinds of articles out there. I write about everyday happenings, nostalgic topics and the old days. I also like to entertain my audience. I’d like to think I have a good sense of humor. I like dry, British-kind of humor the most. I write about topics people talk about. I try to be upbeat. I’m no Pollyanna, but I try to look on the bright side.

Milton: How do you come up with your article topics?

Misic: I think of ideas as I’m eating breakfast or as I’m sitting in the parking lot of Jewel [Osco] watching people coming and going. When something comes in my mind, I write it down. … I never know what my next topic is going to be. I guess I’d say it’s whatever will pop into my head, and I start writing from there. I write like I talk to people. I never use an outline, even though some people do.

Milton: Who are some of your favorite writers?

Misic: I’m a great admirer of the founders of our nation, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, for who they were and all they wrote. They were statesmen, not politicians. I like David McCullough because he brings history alive. I also like David Brinkley, especially his “Everyone’s Entitled to My Opinion.” I also admire Barbara Walters, I think she’s one of the best interviewers.

Milton: Who or what has been your writing inspiration through the years?

Misic: My husband always encouraged me. We used to write each other letters. Even when I was younger, my friends loved receiving my letters. They’d ask each other if anyone got a letter from Mil and they’d all read it together. I think that my support from my family and friends is what has kept me writing all these years. I’ve formed a great friendship with [Daily Chronicle columnist] Barry Schraeder, and he even included an interview with me in his book. Also, I would like to thank and mention my two children, Kristi and Mark. They are my rock, they’re great kids, and I’m extremely proud of them.

Milton: Will you continue to write?

Misic: I think I’ll be writing forever, as long as I can. Writing has always been my passion. I’ve always been a writer. I’m a self-admitted email addict. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my email. I also collect quotes. I think it all comes from a love of words, a love of reading and a love of writing.

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