Seul Choix Point, Michigan: Of Shells and Strata, Time and Terrain

Screenshot 2017-01-29 08.53.27BY ROBERT ROOT

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

I’ve been tracking the Niagara Escarpment, a geologic formation that arcs from Wisconsin through upper Michigan and Ontario past Niagara Falls into western New York. In the Upper Peninsula, Seul Choix Point interrupts a long stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, between the Garden Peninsula on the west and the Mackinac Bridge on the east. The name comes either from French explorers who thought the point the only choice–“seul choix”—for shelter between Mackinac Island and Green Bay or from a distortion of an Ojibwa word, “shashoweg,” the straight line. As my wife and I approach, I ignore college French lessons and use the local pronunciation, “Sis-shwa.” I want to see the way the Niagara Cuesta slides under Lake Michigan here.

Passing the Seul Choix Lighthouse to reach a path through the trees to the shoreline, we emerge onto a broad flat rock beach, its surface uneven but mostly uniform. Shrubs and grasses grow in crevasses and deeper indentations are filled with either lake water or layers of small white shells. We weave our way toward the water across eroded strata, broken chunks of flat rock lying in small pools or in the midst of shells. Dark mosses spill over cracks and fractures. Just offshore glacial erratics rise above the waves. It’s an overcast morning, and the waves match the grayness of the clouds and the grayness of the rocks.

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Screenshot 2017-01-20 11.11.571) Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans (Forge Books)

2) Edward McClelland, How to Speak Midwestern (Belt Publishing)

3) Lomas Brown, If These Walls Could Talk, Detroit Lions: Stories from the Detroit Lions Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books)

4) Mitch Albom, the magic strings of Frankie Presto: a novel (HarperCollins Publishers)

5) Michael Emmerich, 100 Things Michigan State Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (Triumph Books)

6) Peter Ho Davies, The Fortunes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

7) Ann Patchett, Commonwealth: A Novel (HarperCollins Publishers)

8) Stan Tekeila, Birds of Michigan Field Guide (Adventure Publications)

9) John U. Bacon, Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football (St. Martin’s Press)

10) Jan Shoemaker, Flesh and Stones: Field Notes from a Finite World (Bottom Dog Press)

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Living in Michigan, Dreaming Manhattan: A Meditation on Memory and Place


This essay, published in the 2015 issue of the Great Lakes Review, was an honorable mention in The Best American Essays series, edited by Jonathan Franzen. We reprint it here with permission from the author. 

Living in Michigan, Dreaming Manhattan: A Meditation on Memory and Place


Someone once said that if the Leelanau Peninsula has a polar opposite, it’s probably Manhattan –Kathleen Stocking, Letters From The Leelanau

It’s just after dawn on New Year’s Day. My wife Carole and I are at our get-away cottage in Leelanau County in Michigan’s north woods. Carole is in the loft working on a painting, and I’m standing at the bay window nursing a cup of coffee, gazing out across Lake Michigan. A few embers still glow in the fireplace, and the smell of smoke intensifies when I stack more logs on the grating. Outside, a pale sun rises through foggy mist above the bay, and a new snow begins to coat the evergreens. It’s an idyllic winter scene, to be sure; yet, my imagination, like the fire, suddenly flares. And the scene I’m conjuring takes place back in the early 60′s, when I was living in Greenwich Village.


An early October morning, and the air has just turned nippy. I leave my West Village walk-up and stroll through Washington Square Park, past sneakered, white-uniformed nannies wheeling baby strollers, and scruffy teenagers making their morning connection with seedy-looking drug dealers. I pause to watch the old men in pea jackets and wool caps playing chess, and I see a group of NYU students gesturing with their hands and talking loudly as they head for their morning classes. Picking up aTimes at the 6′th Avenue subway newsstand, I inhale the musty aroma from the subway grating and watch the spiraling steam rise, while my feet are being warmed by the burst of compressed air that’s been pushed up in the departing train’s wake. I walk by the tiny asphalt park across the avenue and pause to watch the neighborhood kids playing hooky basketball on the fenced-in asphalt court known as “the Cage.” As I head up Bleecker, I wave at the Italian storekeeper stacking the morning’s shipment of produce on the outdoor stalls. My last stop’s at David’s Potbelly, where I linger over a hot cup of coffee and kibbutz with the usual coterie of neighborhood writers and painters about the Yankee’s season-ending loss to the Red Sox. At ten o’clock, I get up and walk over to the New School to attend my weekly writing class.

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Stolen_imageWe’re opening submissions back up — with a twist.

In 2017, we are moving toward a more digitally-focused publishing model. That means shorter pieces that move at a brisker pace for our wired world. That doesn’t mean we are abandoning print altogether, however. At the end of 2017, we will compile a “best-of” issue to come out in early 2018. The issue will feature pieces that will originally appear on our website.

It’s important to note that not all of the pieces accepted for our website will be included in the print issue.

What stays the same is our commitment to the Great Lakes region. We still seek the best fiction, poetry, nonfiction and short drama from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, New York and Ontario.

Our popular Narrative Map project will continue in 2017, as well, with a slight caveat, however: submissions for the general project will be closed from January to March while we take in pieces for the college student writing contest we’re hosting in Michigan. Pieces already submitted to the general project prior to January 2017 will still be considered and will receive a response in due time.

Check our Submissions page for more details. 

Check our College Student Writing Contest page for more details. 

Buy Great Lakes Review Issue 7 now!

screenshot-2016-12-31-08-24-49Great Lakes Review Issue 7 features our best work from 2016.

There are pieces by Dallas Crow, RS Deeren, Maggie Graber, Christian Hayden, Lowell Jaeger, David James, Amy Jomantas, Kaitlin Jennrich, Charles Malone, Justin Longacre, Simon Perchik, Daye Phillippo, Ryan Pratt, Andrew Ruzkowski, Phillip Sterling and Jessica L. Walsh.

Order it now on Amazon. 



Buffalo, New York: A lake forgotten—a performance renewed


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. img_9947-2

Mine is a watery world. Mirages that swell the tales of fisherman as distant sailboats and canoes glide along the edge of a lake forgotten. Lake Erie, at the edge of Buffalo, NY is a fragment of the world that is just now rejoining the mass of lakes surrounding it; showcasing its great comeback.

Sitting on a hollowed out log as laps of water dance near my toes, I gaze at the once putrid green water, now cyan. Its color revived, restoring the glory days of what once was considered one of the grandest vacation destination in America. Inviting visitors, storefronts, corporate investors, restaurants and beachgoers back to a city once labeled a dying part of the Rust Belt. You shall find no rust here. Nothing but clear blue skies, River Birch’s and American Hornbeams, soft white sand, skyscraper-sized fans that harness free energy, and a soft northerly breeze that reminds me of our closest neighbor. As the fan blades rotate in the distance, so gigantic they seem inches from me, I watch a haze of hot summer air lift, removing the veil that covered the city landscape moments before. The lifting of the veil, a dinner bell of sorts to surfers across the city as they descend suddenly upon the tranquil beach for which I sit. Surfers in Buffalo, NY? Technically they are Kite-boarders, but add the waves of Lake Erie and what culminates is a sport of beauty—kite-surfing. It’s an interesting tango between wind, water, human, and machine. I marvel as I watch, in awe of their talent. Beyond them is the vast lake where boaters, canoeists, fishermen, yogis, and sunbathers all gather; everyone taking advantage of Act 1 in a new play where our lake is the star.

A faint smell of the aquatic underworld combines with the tantalizing smells of a taco truck stationed nearby. People lining up to get a taste of their latest creation, or eat one of their popular fish tacos—insert irony here.

Further down the coastline, the lake wraps around the Golden Gate city, breathing new life into a downtown district that was beginning to petrify. Awash with new vibrancy, color, and youth, the harbor bears witness to fitness fanatics, a booming food culture, and artists and musicians all leaving their mark on the city’s revitalization. Yogi’s jump at the chance to workout on the water, balancing on water mats. The old and young seem joyous as they paddle the canal on water bikes. Old steel grain elevators showcase a bit of Vegas with its silos lighting up in multi-colors along Route 5 at night time. Artist’s renderings are displayed along the canal; murals depicting stories of our great comeback and the lake that made it possible. Enormous Adirondack chairs, in their bright greens, whites, blues, and oranges, are staggered under trees, providing a safe haven from the summer sun. Children excitedly play in a sandpit built just for them. How many of them have played in the sand before, in the heart of the city, I wonder?

It wasn’t long ago that the canal was just a stagnant body of water, having once-upon-a-time provided the city with the means for electric power. It was 1901; the era of Nikola Tesla and an age of renaissance for Buffalo. Harnessing the power of the water and electricity, Buffalo showcased, in dramatic fashion, the Pan-American Exposition. However it didn’t take long for Buffalo to slowly descend into a downward spiral of lost opportunity and decay. The lake waited, patiently, for the city and surrounding suburbs, to remember its strength and beauty. It could provide—we just needed to let it.

Snaking my way west down route 5 toward home, past the grain elevators mini-Vegas light show, I roll down my window, taking in the cool night air, listening as gentle waves hit the shoreline. Tree frogs begin their nightly lullaby with cicadas on harmony, and the lake gives its curtain call for another job well done; another show well performed.

Shannon Traphagen is currently the Associate Publisher at Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine and an international freelance writer. She writes essays, fiction, food reviews, inspirational articles and articles on the great outdoors. She also writes and records for radio, and gives motivational speeches. She sits on the Board of Directors for the Hamburg Chamber, a committee members for the Hamburg Tourism Committee, and a Board of Directors member for the WNY American Heart Association. Find her online here. 

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Michigan bestseller list for November

screenshot-2017-01-01-07-07-23MICHIGAN BESTSELLER LIST NOVEMBER 2016

1) Jan Shoemaker, Flesh and Stones: Field Notes from a Finite World (Bottom Dog Press)

2) M.L. Liebler, Heaven was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond (Wayne State University Press)

3) Desiree Cooper, Know the Mother: Stories (Wayne State University Press)

4) Kristin Bartley Lenz, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go (Elephant Rock Productions)

5) Kim Harrison, The Operator (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

6) Patricia Polacco, Because of Thursday (Simon & Schuster)

7) David Livermore, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity (Amacom Books)

8) Lomas Brown, If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Lions—Stories from the Detroit Lions Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books)

9) John Sandford, Escape Clause: A Virgil Flowers Novel (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Books USA) [tied]

9) Aaron Foley, How to Live in Detroit without Being a Jackass (Belt Publishing) [tied]


1) M.L. Liebler, Heaven was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond (Wayne State University Press)

2) Josh MacIver-Andersen, On Heights & Hunger (Outpost 19)

3) Rachel May, The Benedictines: a novella (Braddock Avenue Books)

4) Mardi Link, Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press)

5) Loren R. Graham, The Tale of a Grand Island Chippewa (University of California Press)

6) Beatrice H. Castle, The Grand Island Story (John M. Longyear Research Library) [tied]

6) Rachel May, Quilting with a Modern Slant: people, patterns, and techniques inspiring the Modern Quilting Community (Storey Publishing) [tied]

6) John Smolens, Wolf’s Mouth: A Novel (Michigan State University Press) [tied]

9) Joseph Heywood, Buckular Dystrophy (Lyons Press/Rowman & Littlefield)

10) Gordon Henry Jr., The Failure of Certain Charms: and Other Disparate Signs of Life (Salt Publishing)

The Michigan Best Seller List for November 2016 lists books about Michigan topics, written by Michigan authors, and/or published by Michigan publishers, compiled from twelve Michigan bookstores: The Book Beat in Oak Park,; Dog Ears Books in Northport,; Falling Rock Café and Bookstore in Munising,; Great Lakes Books & Supply in Big Rapids,; Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo,; Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor,; Pages Bookshop in Detroit,; Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord,; Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos,; and Snowbound Books in Marquette,


Help choose the new poet laureate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

2016-10-09-15-44-13You can help choose the next Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula! In 2017, a new Poet Laureate of the U.P. will be named for a two-year term. To serve as Laureate, the nominee must have a strong connection to the Upper Peninsula and agree to promote an appreciation of poetry and the region during their tenure. 

The final nominees for Poet Laureate of the U.P. were chosen by the public; out of a list of 17 names, the following six received the majority of votes. Congrats to all!

Martin Achatz

Sally Brunk
Kathleen Heideman
Kathleen Carlton Johnson
Beverly Matherne
Saara Myrene Raappana

The new Poet Laureate will be selected by public vote, as well. Check back soon for the start of the official voting period at


screenshot-2016-11-28-15-02-03MICHIGAN BESTSELLER LIST FOR OCTOBER 2016

1) Nicole Curtis, Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (and How They Saved Me) (Artisan Books/Workman Publishing Company)

2) Landis Lain, Baby’s Daddy (Brown Girl Books)

3) Thomas C. Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines (Revised Edition) (Harper Perennial)

4) Kristin Bartley Lenz, The Art of Holding on and Letting Go (Elephant Rock Productions)

5) Tom Stanton, Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-Era Detroit (Lyons Press)

6) Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 (Yearling Books/Charles Scribner’s Sons)

7) Dave Coverly, Night of the Living Shadows: A Speed Bump & Slingshot Misadventure (Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan)

8) Kristina Riggle, Vivian in Red (Polis Books)

9) Vince Flynn, Order to Kill: A Mitch Rapp Novel (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)

10) John U. Bacon, Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football (St. Martin’s Press)


1) Joy Morgan Dey, agate (Lake Superior Port Cities)

2) Eric Sevareid, Canoeing with the Cree: A 2,250-Mile voyage from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay (Borealis Books)

3) Margaret Noodin, Weweni: poems in Anishinaabemowin and English (Wayne State University Press) [tie]

3) Gerald Wykes, A Beaver Tale: The Castors of Conners Creek (Wayne State University Press) [tie]

5) Jerry Dennis, Canoeing Michigan Rivers: A Comprehensive Guide to 45 Rivers (Completely Revised & Updated) (Thunder Bay Press)

6) Betsy Bowen, Tracks in the Wild (University of Minnesota Press) [tie]

6) Beatrice H. Castle, The Grand Island Story (John M. Longyear Research Library) [tie]

6) Ron Strickland, The North Country Trail: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips on America’s Longest National Scenic Trail (University of Michigan Press) [tie]

6) Anton Treuer, Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Borealis Books) [tie]

10) Mardi Link, Wicked Takes the Witness Stand: A Tale of Murder and Twisted Deceit in Northern Michigan (University of Michigan Press)

The Michigan Best Seller List for October 2016, compiled by Ron Riekki from eleven Michigan bookstores: The Book Beat in Oak Park,; Bookbug in Kalamazoo,; Dog Ears Books in Northport,; Great Lakes Books & Supply in Big Rapids,; Falling Rock Café and Bookstore in Munising,; Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor,; North Wind Books in Hancock,; Pages Bookshop in Detroit,; Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord,; and Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos,  These stores support Michigan books, authors, and publishers.


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Marquette, Michigan: Landing


This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

Our lives play out indoors. We are caged animals and mostly we like it t10399593_1074358783762_7630_nhis way. The sensations of earthly dependence have left our bodies but they linger somewhere else, and we resent the wind in the trees for being such a tease. But we had a beach once. It wasn’t exactly ours but we seemed to credit ourselves with its presence. It was ours but we did not buy it and we did not make it. We did not grind the sand that sloped so slowly into the cold Superior. We did not mold the sandstone into cliffs and paint them wildly with mineral powders. We were not here 500 million years ago.  But we have descended the gentle slopes, uncomfortable and exposed, waiting for the water to rise and rescue us from our ambivalence. We have seen the light of our fires thrown against the cliffs. We have kissed each other while the Aurora Borealis blazed above us. And often we were drunk. And on those nights Superior was gentler and we could feel our bare bodies become small and tight beneath the water as we darted from rock to rock. We felt that to fly could not be better than this.

There are other people on our beach now and they’ve had to pay for the privilege, five dollars I’m told. I imagine them removing their shoes, rolling up their pants, and loitering on the threshold, bouncing forward and back with the waves. This makes them feel youthful and they’re grateful for it. They comment on the frigid water and its bigness. A lake and not an ocean! Eventually they roll their pants up even higher, so high that it squeezes their calves painfully. They regret not wearing shorts but what does it matter if their pants get a little wet? Later, at home, they open one of the good bottles of wine. They can still feel the bitter Superior around their ankles. Their skin is tight and cold to the touch, but their limbs are light as they linger in the kitchen, raised, unawares, to the tips of their toes on the linoleum.

Andrea Hoyt is a writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado where she edits several magazines. 

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