We asked our contributors some questions about writing and living in the Midwest. Here are their answers!
Portage Magazine: What prompted you to sit down and write about your experience in the Midwest?
Brian Czyzyk: I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life. There are so many sites to see, natural and otherwise, I write about these things because they’re universally understood, and also carry personal significance. I like writing about experiences that resonate.
Maryann Hurtt: What I love about writing, reading, and living is the chance over and over to live the moments that make me get up every morning. I live down the road from the Ice Age Trail- it seems every time I go there, I see (or hear, smell, touch, taste) new things. I also think about what an 102-year-old friend told me about senses, “You think there are five senses, no six- the sixth is imagination, you got nothing without that 6th sense.” It seems the more I know of a place and I think it is wise to really get to know a place, the more my imagination creates.
Jennifer Neely: I have had the good fortune to travel to many other places, but I find trying to write about them inauthentic: I don’t know them the way I know the Midwest. It is my foundation: the imagery is imprinted; the themes are established.
Portage Magazine: Is there any experience you did not want to write about?
Kate Lore: I wanted these characters to have traumatic experience in common, but I never wanted that the be the focus of the story. It’s about what happens after, the trying to get over trauma. Bad things happen to children all over the world, even in the Midwest. Maybe in the Midwest it’s more hidden, less expected and less talked about which makes it more difficult for the people who need help to get it.
Lynn Pattinson: I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t write about. Of course I strive to avoid clichés and stereotypes associated with the region. I love the northern reaches of the Midwest: Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the huge forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the beauty and power and mystery of the Great Lakes.
George Stevenson: No. There are some experiences I have not written about yet, but none I can think of that I don’t want to. What attracts me is the contrasts between here and there, then and now. At high school dances, the boys would line up on one side of they gym and the girls on the other side, with the boys trying to get up courage to walk across that wide, polished floor in sight of everyone, and the girls waiting to see if someone would walk over to them. Today I have gone to parties in Chicago given by gay friends and see the same thing; men on one side of the room and women on the other. But for different reasons.
Sarah Rose Thomas: Once someone asked me if it was hard to write about losing my mother when I was 15. I think that writing it out was both cathartic and memorializing. It was like creating a scrapbook of good memories and exorcising the bad. Anyways, I believe that even terrible experiences can be this way, and so I don’t feel reluctant to write about the difficult topics.
Portage Magazine: If you still live in the Midwest (and enjoy it), what is your favorite part?
Taylor Belmer: One thing I am grateful for is that all of my roots, my family, my memories, are not far off…I can easily transport myself from the city to suburban southeast Wisconsin. It’s all right here and it is all home to me. That is my favorite part. Oh! That and experiencing all four seasons…though I am not big on winter, I do enjoy spicing up the year. (Given winter finds its end…) I would miss the sense of home. Its comfort. And (generally) polite people. I swear, the Midwest is the kindest.
Zella Christensen: I love when the lakes are really frozen solid in the middle of winter and entire “towns” of trucks and fishing shanties appear on the ice. There’s something surreal about it. I miss white Christmases, but I don’t miss clearing snow from the driveway. I guess it’s sort of a trade-off!
Dewitt Clinton: My wife and I moved here planning to stay only a year or two, and now it’s been over 35 years of our lives. We’ve grown accustomed to the wonderful opportunities in Milwaukee for the arts and entertainment as well as becoming avid Packer fans. Though we’ve talked about living in a warmer climate, I really can’t quite imagine not living here, but the future always seems to surprise us with unexpected.
Adrian Potter: Most of my family and friends are Midwesterners, so it would have to be the people. And I love the beer, too. You can keep the winter snow. But Midwest spring and fall weather is sublime. I would miss that for sure.
Jeannie Roberts: My favorite part of the Midwest is its natural beauty:, the lakes, rivers, forests, wildlife, and its vegetation. If I were to move away from Wisconsin, I would definitely miss the seasons; all four hold an inherent loveliness, only found in the Midwest.
Mary Rowin: The sky is the best part of the Midwest, I love that you can see forever, that no craggy grey mountains get in the way of seeing a faraway horizon, and I love the seasons, the constant change of light, color, temperature and scent. I am an explorer who loves the new and I cannot get enough variety, so the seasons here in Wisconsin suit me perfectly.
Marilyn Zelke-Windau: My Midwest upbringing taught me to be kind to others, to work hard, to try even harder, and to accept successes humbly and defeats graciously. These Midwest attributes can be observed in many places all over the world. I learned them first here.
Portage Magazine: If you left the Midwest, what do/did you miss? Or what do/did you not miss?
Signe Jorgenson: When I was living outside of the Midwest, the thing I missed most (apart from the dairy products) was the people — especially my people. Family and friends, of course, but it was more than that. For instance, my heritage is 100% Norwegian, and Wisconsin and Minnesota are home to more Norwegians than Norway is. Being in Alaska, I didn’t have easy access to that Norwegian community anymore. I missed the food, the vocabulary, the accents, the Norwegian flags flying in town squares and in front yards. It’s something I took for granted until it wasn’t there anymore.
Doris Rauschenbach: The four seasons. I appreciate the fact that there is a new beginning every three months or so. The smells of the damp ground and the budding of new life in the spring. Fresh cut grass and the heat of the sun on my skin in the summer. The harvest colors and crunch of fallen leaves under my shoes in the fall. The glittered trees and crisp blanket of snow in the winter. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My home is here. I’ve lived in two homes in my fifty-five years, within seven blocks of each other.