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Phyllis Zimbler Miller: “Don’t try to immediately explain why you are right”

Although my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist — deals with overcoming religious, racial, class and geographic prejudice, my current social impact project is a play rather than a book — THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE — to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking in young people. As part of my series about “authors who are making an […]

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Although my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist — deals with overcoming religious, racial, class and geographic prejudice, my current social impact project is a play rather than a book — THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE — to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking in young people.


As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, a screenwriter, playwright and published author in Los Angeles whose free nonfiction theater project www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com has been developed to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking. She is also the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, the oldest of four children. Because I was the only Jewish child in my school classes I was mostly protected from the anti-Semitism from which many years later I learned my parents had protected my siblings and me.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I took my A.A Milne books to college (Michigan State University) with me — THE WORLD OF POOH and THE WORLD OF CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — and I still recite some of the poems.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

During high school, I purposely missed the deadline for applying to attend a summer pre-college program. I should have applied, seen if I got accepted, and then decided whether I wanted to go. I have tried not to make this mistake again.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Although my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist — deals with overcoming religious, racial, class and geographic prejudice, my current social impact project is a play rather than a book — THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE — to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking in young people.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

When my husband and I were stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich from September 1970 to May 1972 we several times visited the nearby Dachau concentration camp. I will never forget the moment I looked over at the gate leading from the main camp to the crematoriums and saw three silhouetted Romani — a man on either side of a woman. I remember thinking that they were also at Dachau to honor those murdered by the Nazis.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

A couple of years ago I told a fellow writer how upset I was that the compelling firsthand testimonies of Holocaust saviors and survivors I had published as an editor at a Philadelphia Jewish newspaper would be lost because the accounts were published before the internet. She said, “Write a play.” I did, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. Then the project grew to being much more than just the play.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I met via a Zoom sci fi discussion a 10th grade history teacher in Heidelberg, Germany. He was so impressed with the THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE project that he is paying to have the play professionally translated into German.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Education, education, education. Educating young people on: 1) how the Nazis’ systematic implementation of virulent propaganda turned an entire nation into murderers and silent bystanders; 2) the importance of critical thinking and “speaking up.”

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Being a leader is the willingness to speak up when something is wrong as two non-Jewish high school seniors did about a reprehensible school assignment in 2017 in Oswego, New York.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Have a growth mindset as described in Carol S. Dweck’s book MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS.
  2. As a writer getting feedback, don’t try to immediately explain why you are right; take the note and later consider what was really being said.
  3. Go to the top if possible when pitching a new idea as I learned from a “brown bag” lunch while getting my M.B.A. at The Wharton School.
  4. Try to remember information from as many different fields as you can even if the fields aren’t of immediate interest; you never know when a piece of information can clinch a deal. (Learned at the same “brown bag” Wharton lunch.)
  5. When you are about to disagree with a company senior at a meeting, first acknowledge what the senior said before presenting your POV. In this way the senior is much more likely to “hear” what you have to say.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Everyone has an interesting story about himself or herself (if you ask the right questions). As a journalist and later a researcher, I learned that asking the right questions is imperative.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-

Nico Hofmann — CEO of UFA Fiction (www.ufa.de/die-ufa/team) — because his company produces numerous German television and film projects; many of my writing projects take place in Germany.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place for this social impact project is at www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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