The Short [and Official] Version
Erika Janik is a freelance writer and the executive producer of “Wisconsin Life” at Wisconsin Public Radio. She is the author of Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine, Apple: A Global History, Madison: A History of a Model City, A Short History of Wisconsin, and Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past.
Her work has appeared in Smithsonian, The Atlantic, Salon, Slate, Midwest Living, Mental Floss, Edible Milwaukee, On Wisconsin, and The Onion, among others.
Originally from Redmond, Washington, Erika now knows more about Wisconsin history than she ever thought possible. She has a BA in history from Linfield College (2002), an MA in American history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2004), and an MA in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2006).
The Long And More Honest Version
Writing was never my plan. But history was, even as I briefly dallied with thoughts of other majors in college (chemistry and political science among them), somehow oblivious to the overwhelming evidence that history was my passion. Like: family vacations to historic sites and museums that I never dreaded but in fact helped plan and instigate; history books stacked at my side amidst the torn wrapping paper and bows of Christmas; a list of potential college courses that all began with “history of…”
Finally coming to my senses, I majored in history and went straight to graduate school in Wisconsin to study colonial American women’s history. I was going to be a history professor.
But then… something happened. I loved reading and talking about history, doing research, and writing papers, but I found that I couldn’t sit in the archives alone day after day with no to tell about all the amazing things I’d found or read that day. I also couldn’t stay focused on my grad school niche (a cardinal grad school sin) – there were so many interesting people and time periods and events! On top of that, I was also working part-time at the Wisconsin Historical Society writing historical essays and articles for the website that people were actually reading and responding to with emails telling me of some connection they had made or some new information they had discovered because of something I had written. I couldn’t believe it.
And so I changed course, and here we are, give or take a few bumps in the road.