Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin. She calls her region Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. “On a map, Wisconsin is on the left-hand side of the Lake” says Fagan.
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. 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.
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.”
As the internet expanded, web teams and web specialists evolved. As a writer for corporate websites, Fagan was told to write “search-optimized content loaded with keywords.” As a user-experience architect (“a type of web designer”), Fagan’s projects centered on shopping cards and ad banners.
“As the internet was monetized, the work became repetitive” says Fagan. “The web became a giant shopping mall ruled by big business, patrolled by search engines. It wasn’t fun anymore.” Fagan stepped away from her 30-year corporate career.
“My 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.” Fagan was recruited by Microsoft to work on a version of Windows. At Harpo Studios in Chicago, she was manager of web development for oprah.com.
Fagan was happily married—”no children by choice”—when she abruptly became a widow. “I miss him every day,” says Fagan. “We had a posh urban lifestyle in Chicago. We traveled a lot—New England, the Caribbean, Europe. I miss that, too.”
Fagan’s family has deep Wisconsin roots. “When I was a kid, we lived in Thiensville. I went to Oriole Lane School in Mequon.” Her mother, to whom she was close, lived in Cedarburg for many years. “My Mom died a few years after my husband died. I wanted to move to the middle of nowhere.”
Fagan now lives in 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.
Whenever she can, she watches movies or listens to baseball on the radio. “I lived within walking distance of Wrigley Field for 35 years. The park, the summer crowds, the bars and sports shops were all part of the neighborhood. They’re in my blood. Of course I am a Cubs fan!”
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