Elizabeth G Fagan is a photographer, artist, and writer. For most of her life, she’s resided on Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Fagan calls her place in the world Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.
Just before her 13th birthday, Fagan’s family moved from the Washington, DC area to the Connecticut shoreline. Fagan attended a private arts high school adjacent to Hammonasset State Park on Long Island Sound. There she began writing and taking photographs. “The Hammonasset School was the epitome of a hippie school. No grades, no requirements. It was a different era,” she says.
Fagan went on to study at Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA), Grinnell-in-London (UK) and UIC (Chicago), where she earned a BA in English. “I loved Chicago. ‘The City on the Lake’ became my home town.” Continuing at UIC, Fagan acquired an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL).
After college, Fagan became an editor at a Chicago–area book publisher. A few years later, she launched a successful writing and consulting business. “I was a mercenary writer,” she says.
Then the internet came along. Fagan viewed it as the world’s publishing platform and wanted to be part of it. She returned to college for an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University (Chicago). “Websites were static pages at first. Then we started innovating. It was exciting. We had a lot of fun.”
Professional highlights included an invitation from Microsoft to work on a version of Windows. “At the time, Microsoft was the most valuable company in the world. They were getting 50,000 unsolicited résumés a week. I almost fell out of my chair when I got an email from Microsoft HR. They asked me if I wanted a job!” says Fagan. “I enjoyed working in the Seattle area on a contract basis. But I had married a Chicagoan who never wanted to leave Chicago.”
After returning to Chicago, Fagan landed a position at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago. “Oprah has always been one of my heroes. She overcame so many obstacles to become the world’s most successful woman.” Fagan started as a front-end coder and was promoted to Manager of Web Development. She worked on oprah.com for five years. “Ms. Winfrey was the world’s best boss.”
As the internet expanded, web teams and web specialists evolved. “The internet was monetized. The work became repetitive, boring.” says Fagan. “The online world became a shopping mall, ruled by big business, patrolled by search engines. And there are malevolent forces at play.” Fagan stepped away from her corporate career.
Fagan was happily married—no children by choice—when she abruptly became a widow. “He was the best friend I ever had. I miss him every day,” says Fagan. “We had a wonderful life in Chicago. We had lots of friends. We went to restaurants, movies, concerts. And we traveled a lot—New England, the Caribbean, Europe. I miss our travels, too.”
Fagan’s family has deep Wisconsin roots. “My parents were Wisconsin natives who met at UWM. My two sisters and I were all born in Madison. We lived in Thiensville until I was 10. My father was appointed Executive Director of the EEOC, so we moved to DC.”
Fagan’s mother, to whom she was very close, retired to Cedarburg and lived there for many years. Fagan and her husband visited often. “My husband died the day we put Mom in a nursing home. Her mental acuity slowly faded. It broke my heart. Then she passed. It was the Great Recession. I wanted to move to the end of the world. I made it as far as Wisconsin.”
Fagan now lives in what she calls a “run-down, mid-century Lake Michigan cottage” with two cats and a German Shepherd named Rosie. She writes, takes photographs, and makes art. Formerly a long-time urban dweller, Fagan says, “living on a Great Lake is like camping, but in a house.” She also gardens—”that’s a euphemism for fighting invasive species”—and collects rocks and fossils along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
Fagan loves the Chicago Cubs. “Wrigley Field was my neighbor for 35 years,” says Fagan. “The beautiful ballpark, the summer crowds, the bars and sports shops were all part of my neighborhood. In summer, I rode the El with Cubs fans headed for Wrigley. The Chicago Cubs are part me.”
Over the years, Fagan has maintained her own blogs and websites; lakemichigansleftcoast.com is her active website. She writes code and content, creates the art, and posts the images. “I use wordpress for lakemichigansleftcoast.com. That makes everything a lot easier,” says Fagan. “My online professional portfolio is sort of a disastrous pile of text, images, and web code,” says Fagan. “I link to it on lakemichigansleftcoast.com, but I don’t want to revisit it to fix it up. My life is so different now.”
Unauthorized use is prohibited