Going Coastal is a collection of short stories set in Lake Superior’s three surrounding states, about the unique people who inhabit this region.
Contributing authors include Theresa Allison-Price, James Brakken, Judy Budreau, Eric Chandler, Phil Fitzpatrick, Maxwell Reagan, Evan Sasman, Johnna Suihkonen, and Marie Zhuikov.
Zhuikov spearheaded the project by organizing a contest in 2016. “I was talking to the former manager of the Bookstore at Fitger's, and she said a lot of people, especially tourists, used to come in looking for Lake Superior short stories.”
Internet research turned up a smattering of short stories about the North Shore. “Obviously, a group of Lake Superior writers should do a thing like that. At the time, I was helping to organize a contest. Why don’t we do a contest like that and focus in on Lake Superior, then try to get the stories published?”
The Lake Superior Writers Group tapped their pool of established writers, plus a few new ones, to take up the challenge of writing the best short stories.
“The Urge for Going” by Phil Fitzpatrick (a former writer for this newspaper, who authored the About Town column in 2015-16) follows Cisco Two Feathers as he drives home from a decades-long sojourn in St. Paul, where he shared his Native American heritage. Two Feathers closed out that part of his life and decided to leave that world behind. Time and location are woven into the narrative as his life is explored through flashbacks. The fun is getting there; once Two Feathers gets home, the curtain closes. Is there any hope of his adventures being expanded into a novel?
In “The Painting,” Evan Sasman has his portrait done by the “Popcorn Lady” of Ashland, Wisconsin, while she tells childhood stories of growing up on an Indian Reservation along the South Shore of Lake Superior and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “The Painting” highlights the clash between modern life and ancient traditions. I felt like I was there.
“Water Witch” is the aqueous antagonist who slides through the story by Marie Zhuikov. Zhuikov weaves key moments of the title character’s life with a watery entity that skillfully remains in the shadows. The imagery is just right. Zhuivhev tells a good story without a lot of visible craft or too much explanation.
“I watched hues of green streak my window like rain on a spring morning,” and other vivid images paint the canvas of “What a Fire Weighs” by Johnna Suihkonen. This brief entry is mysticism at its finest. Suihkoven makes every word count, with analogy that adds to the collective stew.
“On My Head” is Theresa Allison-Price’s first published literary work. She takes the bold step of making Lake Superior a living, thinking character in order to explore the question: What does the lake think of those who visit her?
Maxwell Reagan also debuts his publishing career with “The Lake Effect,” a swashbuckling story of survival on Lake Superior that offsets the intellectual journeys offered elsewhere in the book.
Eric Chandler’s “The Heart that Lies Under the Lake” describes a catastrophic event in Two Harbor’s past, delving into the physics of the lake’s seiche activity, a phenomenon that occurs in any enclosed body of water when water builds up on one side and depresses on the other, causing it to slosh back and forth. Chandler’s scientific narrative skirts away from being dry by tying it to an unsuspecting group of people nestled near the pier, awaiting their fate.
In James Brakken’s “The Light,” a walk on Madeline Island goes off the path and stays there...or does it? Any more would give it away, but the hook transports you to Lake Superior as night encroaches. It’s an example of the brevity of the form at its best.
Chemistry runs through the veins of “Superior Mordant” by Judy Budreau. The main character, Grams, has a unique hobby that is leading to her demise. Told in flashbacks that allude to her impending endgame, it veers into a twist, just like in real life. Budreau’s style leaves enough density for a reread to catch the bits you missed the first time through.
Two Harbors photographer Christian Dalbec provided the cover art for Going Coastal—a piece of stop-action artistry that graces the book with a classic look and the perfect invite to sample what lies within.