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Q&A with author of 100 Things to Do in Madison Before You Die

Former managing editor pens must-do book

Madison isn't a huge city, but there's more than enough to see, do and experience in this town to come up with a quintessential bucket list. Katie Vaughn wrote the book on Madison's bucket list—no, really—she's the author of the newly published 100 Things To Do in Madison Before You Die. A former managing editor of Madison Magazine, Vaughn spoke with us to tell us a little more about the book and what it was like working on it. 

First off, what made you want to write this book?

The publisher, Reedy Press, has worked with writers around the country on “100 Things” travel guides on more than 50 cities. When I learned about the opportunity to write one about Madison, I jumped at the chance. I love this city, and anything that might inspire someone to explore it or see new sides of it really appeals to me.

You mention it in your preface that it was difficult to narrow this work down to only 100 things. How long did it take to get to a definitive list?

Yes, it was a great problem to have! As anyone who’s lived here or visited knows, there are so many things to experience. Whittling the list down to just 100 things was an ongoing challenge; I kept altering the list as I wrote, and I snuck in as many roundups as I could to get more places in. My goal was to call out quintessential Madison experiences while also highlighting some hidden gems.

What experiences helped prep you to put together a book like this?

Well, working at Madison Magazine for eight years was probably the best preparation. When I was on the editorial team, I got to cover the city’s arts and entertainment scene heavily, and also write about travel, food, neighborhoods and more. Also, growing up in the Madison area and spending my undergraduate years at UW-Madison gave me a solid foundation and showed me that the city constantly opens itself up in new ways.

Did you visit many of the places you mention? Have any favorites?

I had been to most of the places before over the years, but I did circle back to a few to refresh my memories. What surprised me in working on this book is the sheer number of things that are “musts” in Madison. The Dane County Farmers’ Market, Concerts on the Square, the Memorial Union Terrace—the list goes on, and many have been around for decades. That they continue to be so popular, that they hold up year after year, strikes me as a pretty cool testament of their quality and of visitors’ enthusiasm for them.

Was there anything new you learned about Madison in the process?

I’d forgotten how many activities are free in our city. From museums like the Chazen and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to the Henry Vilas Zoo to an almost endless array of festivals and outdoor concerts, you can have a seriously good time without spending a lot of money.

You’re an author now. How exciting is that?

It’s been a great experience. Also, in scheduling some book events—at Hazel General Store, Revel, Toot +Kate’s, University Book Store and Madison’s Central Downtown Business Improvement District—I’ve been blown away by how generous, creative and collaborative local business owners are.

Will there be another book authored by Katie Vaughn in the future?

That would be fun! There’s certainly enough great material here in Madison for more books. What I’d love is to do a deeper dive into some of the segments represented in “100 Things to Do in Madison.” One could literally write entire books on the city’s restaurants or arts scene, or on activities geared toward kids or based on each season. Or maybe I’ll just go out and enjoy all those things on their own. 

Meet Vaughn around town at one of her book signings (there's one scheduled 2-4 p.m. on April 8 at Hazel General Store on Williamson Street, and she'll also be downtown at Revel 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday April 15). To purchase the book online, visit Amazon by clicking here. For more information, visit Vaughn's Facebook page here

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