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Today marks 19 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks killed almost three thousand people and injured many more at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Most of us look back on that day and remember where we were and what we were doing before news of these events would change the course of history.

Lake Effect contributor Bruce Campbell shares his experience of being in the operating room the morning of 9/11 and what has happened in the years that followed: /

If you’re a writer, describing places and people in your life can be important to the context of your stories. But writers also come across the predicament of whether or not to use a person’s real name.

For Lake Effect contributor Joanne Nelson, she hadn’t really thought about asking her family’s permission to use their real names for her memoir. But, she came to realize it wasn’t something she should’ve assumed was alright. Nelson shares this in her essay titled, “Who’s in a Name?”


The 2020 Democratic National Convention was historic in many ways. For the first time, the convention was held virtually due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday night California Senator Kamala Harris was the first Black and Asian-American woman to accept the nomination for Vice President in a major party.

Lake Effect contributor Art Cyr takes a historical look at what the office of Vice President represents in his essay, “The Democrats and Party Conventions”.

Essay: Raising Monarch Butterflies

Aug 12, 2020
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The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species of butterfly found in Wisconsin. Right now, the monarch population is peaking in the state and soon large groups of them will migrate back to Mexico. 

North American monarch butterflies are on the decline, facing threats like climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss. So, people are stepping up to help. Retired English professor and butterfly caretaker, Beth Lueck, shares her essay on the joys of helping raise monarch butterflies.


Essay: My Face, My Beautiful Face

Aug 4, 2020
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Our parents pass many things on to us. Our looks, our habits and sometimes our outlook on life. Lake Effect essayist Jan Wilberg learned some tough lessons from her mother on mental illness, aging and acceptance. 

Jan Wilberg is a writer and community activist living in Milwaukee. Her daily blog, Red’s Wrap, deals with politics, feminism, disability, and dogs. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, and several anthologies.

Here’s her essay "My Face, My Beautiful Face":

Barbara Miner

Milwaukee’s empty storefronts and alleys have become a lot more colorful since the protests over police brutality began. Artists have been putting up murals all around the city. The work is a tangible expression of the energy behind these demonstrations.

But as essayist Barbara Miner found out, you might miss them if you’re not looking in the right places. She talks about her own discoveries in her essay Milwaukee’s Alleys: A Hidden Treasure.

Essay: The First Rehearsal

Jul 2, 2020
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Most theaters have been dark for months now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are offering their work online. But for people who love the theater, it’s been hard to replace that feeling of seeing a live performance. 

Essayist Marie Kohler recalls her first experience in a theater in her essay “The First Rehearsal.” And she looks hopefully to a time when we all might be able to return.

“Come along and watch a rehearsal tonight while I’m at my theater meeting.”

My mother pushed away from the dining room table and grabbed her purse.

Essay: Tribute To Fred And Jerry

Jun 22, 2020
Steve Burrows / Miramax

Two comedy legends passed away within the same week in May — Jerry Stiller and Fred Willard. Both of their contributions to comedy in all forms, from stage to television and film, are immeasurable and made them household names. 

Filmmaker and Wisconsin-native Steve Burrows had the pleasure of working with both Stiller and Willard on his film Chump Change — a Miramax showbusiness satire, most of which takes place in Wisconsin.

Essay: The Parish Hall

May 27, 2020
Biewer_Jürgen /

Attending a funeral is never a comfortable experience. But it can be especially uncomfortable if you feel out of place.

Lake Effect contributor Jan Wilberg recently learned that attending a funeral is not about your own comfort but about bringing comfort to others. She recalls her experience attending a funeral on the Oneida reservation in her essay “The Parish Hall.”

Last fall, my friend's son passed away.

Essay: We Have Managed, So Far

May 14, 2020
Mark Trowbridge / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is in some ways an echo of our history. People have compared it to other health crises, like the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Others have compared concerns about an economic downturn to what happened during the Great Depression. 

For essayist Aleta Chossek, these parallels were born out in letters from her grandfather, a business owner who lived through the Depression:

“We have been having bad times here in America, but we have managed, so far."

“There are 12-13 million good laborers unemployed.”

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The coronavirus has transformed how hospitals are operating. Hospitals that once bustled with activity have been reduced to treating only the sickest among us, and many medical students who once roamed the hallways have been sent home out of concern for their health.

Lake Effect contributor Bruce Campbell is a head and neck surgeon who's been teaching medical students at the Medical College of Wisconsin for the past 30 years. He reflects on teaching his students outside of a hospital in this essay titled “Narrative Medicine in the time of COVID-19.” 

Essay: Mindfulness

Apr 23, 2020
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Many of us have a lot on our minds right now. We’re practicing social distancing, unable to see our family and friends. We’re navigating working and learning from home. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic, but practicing mindfulness can help.

Lake Effect contributor, Barbara Miner found we can all learn something about being mindful from watching children. Here's her essay called "Mindfulness":

Spencer Platt / Getty Images News

Dining scenes across America and the world are shuttered due to the coronavirus. Bars and restaurants are closed for dine-in service and some are hanging on through carry-out and delivery sales. But for many of them, their fate on the other side of this is uncertain.

Meagan Schultz

John Prine passed away earlier this month due to COVID-19 complications. He was 73 years old. The music world lost a giant of a composer, recording artist and performer, who was known for his often humorous style of original music.

Lake Effect contributor Meagan Schultz takes a similarly amusing musical approach in reflecting on her current circumstances staying at home with her children during a pandemic. Here she is with her homage to John Prine’s song “In Spite of Ourselves." Her song is called “In Spite of Themselves":

Essay: Wordless

Apr 3, 2020
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Being in isolation can be extremely lonely. For those who are hearing impaired, that isolation is felt all the time. Simple communication or an ordinary interaction with another person can be a challenge. Lake Effect contributor Jan Wilberg shares an essay about her experience in a doctor’s office.