BRAVA Current Contributors



Mary Bergin

Midwest travel, regional foods, German heritage and eco-friendly destinations are of deep interest to Mary, a sometimes-prolific freelance writer and three-time Lowell Thomas Award winner. She’s a freethinker, adequate cook and Badger sports fan who shares a Madison home with longtime partner Dick Franken and their two near-perfect cats, Siena and Doolin. “Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook,” Mary’s fifth book and in its 11th printing, covers pickled mushrooms, perfect hashbrowns, pumpkin cheesecake and lots more. Mary’s most recent book, “Small-Town Wisconsin: Fun, Surprising, and Exceptional Road Trips,” was released by Globe Pequot in May 2023.


Laura Anne Bird

Mom, fundraiser, blogger and ardent reader, Laura is also a reviewer for Readers Lane. When she’s not helping people find their perfect book, she profiles local women and their literary choices in BRAVA’s “On Her Bookshelf” column. Check out what Laura is currently reading by following her on Instagram @laura_at_the_library.


Shelby Deering

Shelby is a Madison-based lifestyle writer specializing in home design, wellness, mental health, and travel, among other topics. She has contributed to Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living, Domino and more. When she’s not writing, you will find her hiking a local trail or spending time with her husband and corgi, Dolly.


Nicole C.W. Gruter

Through performance, writing and travel, Nicole C.W. Gruter, MFA, blends creativity with her fascination about how we own “stuff.” As the owner of organizing business Positive Space, she uses her expertise to help clients organize their homes.

Gruter is also an event creator and coordinator, music venue bartender and voice-over volunteer for local radio stations WVMO and WORT. Exploring Wisconsin, snowshoeing, and concerts with friends help recharge her batteries and provide her with inspiration.


Kristine Hansen

Profiling unique architecture, travel destinations and innovative culinary trends is a passion of Kristine’s. Her work has also appeared on,,, and

She’s the author of three books about Wisconsin: “Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State’s Best Creameries”; “Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets: Tours, Trails, and Attractions”; and “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin: How America’s Most Famous Architect Found Inspiration in His Home State.”

Kristine resides in Milwaukee with her husband and two Golden Retrievers.


Nikki Kallio 

Nikki is a writer who worked as a journalist for daily newspapers on both coasts before returning home to Wisconsin. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Goddard College and is a former associate editor of a business magazine. In 2023, her acclaimed short fiction collection, “Finding the Bones,” was published by Cornerstone Press. She travels as often as she can, whether it’s overseas or to a nearby state park.


Kate Lawless

Kate is a journalism and history major who is finishing up her last semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the last three years, she has written for Moda, UW-Madison’s fashion and lifestyle magazine, most recently serving as deputy editor. Aside from her magazine experience, Kate has also done nonprofit communications and legal internships which inspired her passion for working with community-based organizations. After graduation, Kate hopes to continue working in publishing and make some more progress on her mile-long reading list.



Katy Macek

Katy is a passionate Wisconsinite whose journey has allowed her to call several parts of the state home. She graduated from UW-Eau Claire and worked for the Chippewa Herald in Chippewa Falls and then the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram before moving to Madison in 2019 to tackle copywriting. A passionate storyteller, though, she found herself missing reporting. She relocated again to be the Oshkosh Northwestern’s business reporter but still enjoys telling the stories of Madison-area women.


Emily McCluhan

Through almost 20 years of freelance writing for local publications in Michigan, Montana and Wisconsin, Emily discovered a love for digging into the story behind the person. When she’s not writing or leading a team of program managers in her day job, you’ll find Emily paddleboarding, traveling, running with friends or hiking with her husky mix, Raven. @mcmadtown33

Melanie McManus

Melanie Radzicki McManus

Melanie writes from her home in Sun Prairie, where she specializes in active travel, fitness and hiking. The author of “Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail,” she has set a goal of hiking all 11 National Scenic Trails. To date, she has covered 6,500 of the trails’ combined 18,000 miles. Melanie is a five-time Lowell Thomas Award winner for her travel journalism.


Emily Mills

Emily is a freelance writer and musician based in Madison who also moonlights as a full-time communications professional for a statewide environmental non-profit. They are the former editor of Our Lives, Wisconsin’s LGBTQ magazine, and is the co-founder and producer of the Fire Ball Masquerade. She plays with local bands Little Red Wolf and Damsel Trash, and can be seen skating the flat track with Madison Roller Derby.


Annie Rosemurgy

Annie is a Madison-based freelance writer who loves to write about health, fitness, food and home. When she’s not working on a story you’ll find her cycling Dane County’s beautiful roads and trails, running through the Arboretum or swimming at Shorewood Pool. She loves to cook (and eat!) and spends months planning her neighborhood-famous summer planters. She lives with her husband, two kids, two grumpy cats and lots of books on Madison’s near West side.


Katrina Simyab

Katrina is a freelance writer and marketing professional, born and based in Madison. After working for 10 years in corporate marketing, Katrina completed her master’s degree in digital audience strategy through Arizona State University and started her own business, specializing in helping brands reach their target audiences and shine online. When she’s not tapping away at her computer, Katrina loves treasure-hunting at thrift shops, working on home renovation projects and watching films with friends.


Jessica Steinhoff

Jessica is a Madison-based author, mom, musician and culture nerd. In addition to editing the Isthmus arts section for several years, she has contributed to a variety of local and national publications.


Sue Sveum

Sue is a Madison-area freelance writer who loves writing about any topic, but especially health care and seniors. She likes spending time at home cheering on the Badgers, Packers and Cubs with her husband and golden retriever. And away from home, she enjoys relaxing in sunny Arizona, or visiting her adult children in Denver and Columbia, Missouri.


Hywania Thompson

Hywania is a freelance writer originally from the Chicago area. She enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering, traveling to Ireland and attending Andy Grammer concerts.



Katie Vaughn

Katie is a Madison-area writer specializing in art, travel, family and features topics. Katie earned degrees in journalism and art history from UW–Madison and a master’s in journalism from Stanford University and spent much of her career as a magazine editor. These days, in addition to writing and painting, Katie loves traveling, running and spending time with her family.


Candice Wagener

Candice Wagener is a regular contributor to BRAVA whose 14-year freelance career has spanned many topics, her favorites involving great food, unique places and inspiring people. A graduate of the UW J-School, she didn’t plan to settle in Wisconsin when she first moved from the Chicago area, but she fell in love and can’t think of a better place to raise her two boys.


Amanda Wegner

Amanda has worked as a writer and communications professional in the Madison area for the last 25 years. Now the communications manager for the regional wastewater utility, she also moonlights as a fitness instructor, small business owner, graduate student and sometimes doting mother to a teenage daughter. In her free time, she works with her power tools and snuggles her geriatric dog.


Hannah Wente

Hannah is a freelance writer and health communications professional based in Madison. She has worked for several nonprofits in the area, including the American Parkinson Disease Association and the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired. When she’s not gardening or baking, you can find her at an ultimate frisbee field or paddling on the nearest lake.


Marla Bergh has her portrait taken at Daybreak Studio in Madison, Wisconsin on March 15, 2019. 

Beth Skogen Photography -

Marla Bergh

Marla is a Madison-based portrait, lifestyle and commercial photographer whose work takes her across the country. She frequently shoots on location around the Midwest and works with clients in her natural light studio in downtown Madison. When not holding the camera, you can find her binge-watching Netflix and enjoying Madison’s food scene with her husband and two children.


Sunny Frantz

Sunny is a food and product photographer based in Madison where she lives on the west side with her husband, their two kids and a tiny dog. She loves the opportunity photography gives her to connect with the many wonderful businesses and entrepreneurs in Madison.


Shalicia Johnson

Shalicia is a native of Madison, Wis., and has been a photographer for BRAVA since 2017. She specializes in lifestyle portraiture and event photography. Through her boutique photography business, ArrowStar Photography (, she creates stunning heirloom wall art for her clients’ homes. @arrowstarphotography


Hillary Schave

Hillary has photographed BRAVA’s “Women to Watch” feature since 2015 and has been an invaluable contributor to the package’s creative process. Her small business, Azena Photography (, specializes in weddings, professional business portraits and boudoir out of her beautiful studio on the east side of Madison. When she is not working, she loves to escape in books, sci-fi/fantasy and the great outdoors. During the summer, her camping gear is always packed and ready to go at the door for last minute chances to spend time with her family and friends away from the city. @azenaphotography


Shanna Wolf

Shanna is a freelance photographer with a background in advertising and communications, specializing in portrait, documentary and interior photography. Her style is bright and clean and she is drawn to simple aesthetics. She loves the storytelling of still photography and being a contributor to projects that are meaningful and positive. Her personal work is focused on travel and wandering, using her camera as her sketchbook.



Julie Barber

Julie is a Wisconsin native, currently based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. She loves bringing order and purpose visually with her award-winning graphic design. Her clients range from At The Lake magazine to Marquette University. When not working, she lives an active lifestyle of traveling, running, cycling, eating great food and enjoying life near the water.