Voices for the Lakes essay contest winners
From November 1, 2009 until February 1, 2010, Envision Minnesota accepted essay submissions that described a connection with Minnesota’s greatest natural resource –- its lakes. We wanted stories of less than 400 words that present and future generations need to hear. We wanted these essays to be the voice our lakes need now more than ever. Our theme was a quote by Isabelle Allende: “Write what should not be forgotten.”
We received over 90 submissions from all over the state. Some of the names of the authors you will recognize. Most you will not, but their stories are just as powerful as those who make a living doing this kind of concise writing. A nine-year-old girl wrote one of our selected essays.
A middle school in Baxter, Minnesota took this on as an assignment. Their essays show us that lakes are just as important now as they were when lake cabins were actually cabins. Phil Hunsicker, the project coordinator, visited Forestview Middle School on May 5 and presented certificates of achievement to our 8 selected authors from the school. Shown in the picture above are, from left to right: Melissa Lund (teacher), Jared Rubado, Phil Hunsicker, Kadin White, Jennifer Hendrickson, Brandon Wetherbee, Amanda Johnson, Ken Perry (teacher), Kayli Scammahorn, and Toni Gohman (absent – Ryan Votruba).
Many of the essays you read will have you saying to yourself: “That’s my story!” Some are funny. Some will touch you with such intensity, you will find yourself thinking about them days after you read them. They are all evidence of the fact that lakes have played a large role in our lives as Minnesotans. We are, after all, “the land of 10,000 lakes,” and most of us have a story about one of them.
Daily dose of the lakes
We released the essays one per day for 47 days. We didn’t want to deluge our readers, but we did want to keep you interested and eager for your next installment. All of the essays are now published online and available by following the links below.
Teresa Alto of Grand Rapids, MN – “Keeping Company with the Bluegills”
Bill Berg of Bovey, MN – “How Things Change”
Tim Boyle of Minneapolis, MN – “The Voice of a Lake”
Aaron Brown of Bovey, MN – “10,000 Lakes, 10,000 Dreams”
Tom Conroy of New Ulm, MN – “Swan Lake”
Nancy Crocker of Minneapolis, MN – “Voices Echo”
Lindsey Dickinson of Minneapolis, MN – “Healing on Long Lake”
Steve Downing of Grand Rapids, MN – “Cover Your Eyes”
Michael Duval of Merrifield, MN – “Beneath the Surface”
Clarke Garry of Cook, MN – “One Lake, One Brain, One Objective”
John Gengenbach of Eveleth, MN – “It’s January’s End”
Toni Gohman (Forestview Middle School – age 13) – “Fishing on Gilbert Lake”
Margaret Haapoja of Bovey, MN – “The Lure of the Lakes”
Mary Heitzman of Bloomington, MN – “Laser Ice Concert”
Jennifer Hendrickson (Forestview Middle School – age 14) – “The Fawn and the Lake”
Gary Henrickson of Fergus Falls, MN – “A Fish Story with a Moral”
James Hietala of Warba, MN – “It Happened”
Linda Hommes of Aitkin, MN – “Tranquility”
Charlie Huber of Finlayson, MN – “Changes”
Kathleen Jackson of Wahkon, MN – “Get Out!”
Amanda Johnson (Forestview Middle School – age 14) – “Rabbit Lake”
Linda Knosalla of Ogilvie, MN – “Letter to Grandchildren”
Dianne Ladd of Palisade, MN – “Big Sandy Lake”
Freya Manfred of New Richmond, WI – “Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle,” “Swimming Into Winter” and “Rain on Water”
Joy McCleary of Aitkin, MN – “Once There was Nottingham Cabin”
Dale Mulfinger of Minneapolis, MN – “In a Cove on Black Bay”
Mark Munger of Duluth, MN – “Katherine Lake”
Julie Nordstrom of Longville, MN – “Ice Fishing”
Debra Palmquist of Plymouth, MN – “Honeymoon Cottage”
Philip Palmquist of Plymouth, MN – “Backyard Pond”
Kathleen Preece of Bemidji, MN – “Passages”
Michael Rico of Winona, MN – “Lake as Balm: H2O Helps Heal the Heart"
Joy Riggs of Northfield, MN – “The Easy Girls”
Dan Roettger of Minneapolis, MN – “The Last Canvasback”
Jared Rubado (Forestview Middle School – age 13) – “Frozen Wonders”
Kayli Scammahorn (Forestview Middle School – age 13) – “Pelican Lake”
Benedict Scheuer (age 17) of Cloquet, MN – “From a Raft”
Jodi Schwen of Brainerd, MN – “Fairy Tales”
Mary Shideler of Grand Rapids, MN – “Her Many Moods”
Nick Steinmetz (age 12) of Rochester, MN – “A Little Extra Twist”
Olivia Steinmetz (age 9) of Rochester, MN – “My Magical Kingdom”
Miriam Tell of Bemidji, MN – “Upper Shores”
Hannah Von Arb of Hermantown, MN – “Solid Healing”
Ryan Votruba (Forestview Middle School – age 14) – “The Great Red Lake”
Will Weaver of Bemidji, MN – “Living with Turtles”
Brandon Wetherbee (Forestview Middle School – age 13) – “Putting in the Boat”
Kadin White (Forestview Middle School – age 13) – “Jet Skiing on Birch Lake”
Like our essayists, our four overqualified judges came from around the state: Avon, the Twin Cites, Brainerd and Grand Rapids. We thank them for their time, their positive energy, their generosity of expertise, and their flexibility in allowing us to “gather and discuss” via email.
Steve Stromme lives in Avon, Minnesota with his wife Jane and their three sons. A career teacher, he currently teaches at Albany High School and leads online writing courses for the Minnesota School of Business. He earned his B.A. degree in English from St. John’s University and his Masters Degree in English from Saint Cloud State University. His poems have appeared in Three Candles, North Stone Review, Modern Haiku, Upper Mississippi River Review, and Sidewalks.
Darby Nelson is a retired college biology teacher, having spent 35 years in the classroom. Currently, he is a freelance writer and an award-winning environmental activist. He has published a variety of magazine articles including several in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. Darby did contract writing of ancillaries and selected text material for McGraw-Hill Publishers for six years to accompany Bill Cunningham’s book, Environmental Science, a leading college text on this subject. Darby has also written a nature column for his local paper. He has completed a draft manuscript, Lake Journey, which explores the relationship between people and the lakes they love.
Donna Salli was born in Michigan to parents of full Finnish descent. She shares her “writing gene” with her sister, likely passed down from their great-grandfather who was a writer in Finland. Donna earned her B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She teaches English at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minnesota. She is an essayist and her first play was performed in Finland in translation and at Central Lakes College in both Finnish and English.
Heidi Holtan can be heard regularly on KAXE Northern Community Radio out of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. She hosts an interactive talk show called “Between You and Me,” as well as “Realgoodwords,” a program for those who read, write and appreciate the written word. The professional authors who submitted essays for the Voices for the Lakes Project have all been interviewed by Heidi on her radio show and because of that relationship, they freely gave of their talents to this project.
Thanks to everyone who supported this project and to all of the Minnesota writers who shared their essays with us.
Help bring Voices for the Lakes to a broader audience
We are currently investigating other publishing opportunities, possible filming of our writers reading their essays, as well as the promotion of a series of live reading events around the state. Do you want to help ensure more people hear these important stories about Minnesota’s lakes? Donate now to Envision Minnesota to help bring Voices for the Lakes to the people who can ensure we protect the lakes for generations to come.