Northern Wilds Magazine
Meet some of the faces behind each issue of Northern Wilds [Left to Right]: Jim Boyd, April Fredrick, Barbara Fisher, Amber Pratt, Breana Johnson, and Jessica Jacobsen Smith. | KALLI HAWKINS

Reflections on Reaching the 20th Anniversary

Meet the Northern Wilds Staff

For the past two decades, Northern Wilds magazine has captivated its readers by showcasing and connecting with the intricacies of life, the rugged scenery, the diverse culture, and the remarkable individuals inhabiting Lake Superior’s North Shore.

While the Northern Wilds staff and contributors have ebbed and flowed throughout the years, the creative vision of founders Amber Pratt and the late Shawn Perich has remained the same. In the past 20 years, the magazine has highlighted in-depth profiles of regional and outdoor news, small businesses, community events, and the dynamic arts and culture scene stretching from Duluth to Thunder Bay.

Behind the writing, beautiful photographs and drawings, and local business advertisements, is a tight-knit staff of Northern Wilds editors, graphic designers, production artists, and office managers who grease the wheels to produce a genuinely remarkable magazine that reflects the diverse voices and communities of northeastern Minnesota and Thunder Bay.

In the following few pages, we’ll meet the Northern Wilds staff, writers, and contributors, and celebrate and reflect on the significance of the magazine reaching the 20th-anniversary milestone.

Office Staff: Barbara Fisher and April Fredrick

The efficient skills of an office manager are paramount to keeping operations running smoothly. Barbara Fisher and, more recently, April Fredrick have kept the Northern Wilds team afloat by handling subscriptions, assisting the production artists, and filling in where needed to produce and publish the monthly magazine.

Fisher moved to Grand Marais two years ago to be close to family and began working for Northern Wilds shortly after. In the last two years, she said she has mainly enjoyed the camaraderie in the office and, as a relative newbie to the North Shore, learning about the area through the diverse range of stories in each monthly issue. “I’ve learned a lot of different places,” she said. Fisher is in the process of transitioning into retirement, and April Fredrick, a new staff member, has recently stepped into her position.

She wanted to join the Northern Wilds team because, “I’ve heard really good things about everyone and everything here and how it works.” Outside of her new office manager job, Fredrick is the Tofte town clerk, and like many other North Shore residents, she enjoys spending her time outdoors. When she’s not exploring one of the many trails, she said she likes to dabble in painting, drawing, and exercising her vocal cords, sometimes at her desk.

Real Estate: Leah Pratt

While Northern Wilds magazine offers a wide range of stories, profiles, and stunning photographs, the real estate section is a highly desired asset. Each month, Leah Pratt puts together a comprehensive assortment of Cook County real estate listings so readers can stay abreast of the real estate market. Regardless if readers are looking for a Lake Superior property, a home within city limits, or a remote cabin on an inland lake, the Northern Wilds real estate section is the go-to spot for the latest listings, and it wouldn’t be possible without Pratt’s expertise.

Editing/Proofing Assistant: Jim Boyd

Jim Boyd’s history with the magazine dates back to the days of Highway 61, a separate precursor of the existing Northern Wilds magazine. Although his involvement with the magazine has tapered off in recent years, he still assists Editor Breana Johnson with editing and proofing. “It’s fun for me to awaken skills I had used for a career at the Star Tribune,” Boyd said. He said he enjoys being in the office, editing copy, and suggesting monthly story ideas. The significance of Northern Wilds reaching the 20-year milestone after a difficult couple of years “reflects steadfast courage that they have gotten through that and are now looking to the future,” he said. “Bravo to Amber, Breana, and the current crew for keeping it going and looking ahead to making it stronger.”

Distribution: Jim Erickson

Many staff members and contributors’ introduction to Northern Wilds derives from co-founder Perich, and Northern Wilds distributor Jim Erickson’s story is no different. After moving to Cook County, Jim Erickson met Perich and instantly became friends. Shortly after, in July 2023, Erickson began distributing the Northern Wilds magazine to various Grand Marais locations and on the West End of Cook County. He said the monthly magazine has been his “go-to publication” for North Shore events and activities since moving to the North Shore. An added benefit of distributing the magazine each month, Erickson said, is the opportunity to be out in the community and stay in tune with county happenings.

Graphic Design: Jessica Jacobsen Smith

Another relatively new staff member to join the Northern Wilds ranks is graphic designer Jessica Jacobsen Smith. She joined the team in September 2023 and assists with the visual components, production, maps, and special projects. “I like the flexibility, but also the collaboration and seeing faces because so much has gone digital and remote,” Jacobsen Smith said. “It’s nice to be able to come to the office and talk to people face-to-face.” When she’s not in the office collaborating with the Northern Wilds team, she enjoys spending time with her family and kids.

Production Artist: Katie Viren

Katie Viren, production artist and knitting extraordinaire, has played an integral role in the success and longevity of Northern Wilds magazine. For the past 11 years, her attention to detail and creative eye has enchanted readers with her visually appealing designs, advertisements, and layouts.

Her skills came in handy when the magazine was restructured and redesigned in 2014, joining the then-separated North Shore Highway 61 publication with Northern Wilds.

In addition to her magazine tasks, Viren has also worked alongside the Northern Wilds staff to produce and publish books, an additional service the small business offers. Throughout the past decade, she has enjoyed reading the history of the many families, cultures, and landmarks along the North Shore. Some of her favorite published books are Boundary Waters Boy by Jack Blackwell, The Lake is Your Life: The Fenstads at Little Marais by Art Fenstad, and various others. “It’s been really fun to see all the different histories come out,” Viren said. “There have also been some really fun books to read.”

Viren has mostly attempted to retire from Northern Wilds in the past year and has been successful on most fronts. While she spends more time relaxing at home, crafting eclectic knitting designs, and playing video games, she still lends her time and expertise to the Northern Wilds team as needed. As Northern Wilds reaches the 20-year milestone, Viren said it’s impressive that the magazine remains such an inherent part of the North Shore community. “It’s impressive,” Viren said. “The fact that we’re still viable after 20 years, growing and growing, means we obviously fulfill a desirable niche that people like.”

Editor: Breana Johnson

The desirable niche that Northern Wilds has cornered on Lake Superior’s North Shore is partly due to the editing leadership and talent of Northern Wilds editor Breana Johnson.

For the past 13 years, Johnson has helped craft the look and feel of the monthly magazine by managing and overseeing the work of the Northern Wilds writers, photographers, and contributors. The magazine’s strength, she said, is the wide variety of stories showcased each month, ranging from the outdoors to dining, arts and culture, music, community events, and more. She said she frequently receives emails from subscribers and readers expressing their enjoyment of a particular story or the magazine’s overall monthly feel. “I’m very proud of it.”

In her early days working for the magazine, Johnson worked closely alongside Perich and appreciated the lessons and editing tips he passed down. Johnson remembers Perich always emphasizing the importance of avoiding recording the past and looking toward the future when selecting story topics. “So we’re not a newspaper in terms of reporting on what has already happened. It’s always forward.”

“Everything I know how to do, I learned from him,” Johnson said. “He taught me how to be a better writer and editor, and be more confident in all aspects.”

With Perich’s legacy ingrained in the pages of Northern Wilds, Johnson and owner Pratt have continued to grow and expand the magazine’s reach since his passing. “I see it only getting bigger,” she said. “Everybody loves it. I hear it all the time.”

As the magazine continues to evolve and grow, she said the significance of reaching the 20th anniversary is remarkable. “Thank you. We want everybody to know how much we’ve appreciated them,” Johnson said.

Publisher: Amber Pratt

From the early days of dial-up to the era of artificial intelligence, Northern Wilds owner Amber Pratt has navigated the last 20 years of the print media business with relentless devotion.

Since its inception in 2004, Northern Wilds has remained dedicated to giving readers an inside look at the numerous small-town communities and individuals along the North Shore, stretching from Duluth to Thunder Bay. For the last 20 years, founders Pratt and Perich have been unwavering in their dedication to covering and including Thunder Bay and its surrounding region. Early on, they coined the term “blur the border” and have included stories, features, events, and writers from Thunder Bay in each issue since the beginning. “We just don’t see a differentiation,” Pratt said. “They are part of the community, too.”

The values set forth by Pratt and Perich in the beginning years still remain true 20 years later. Despite the nearly one-year absence of Pratt’s business partner, she has persevered and remained determined to continue their original vision. But she admits, it hasn’t been easy at times. Fortunately, she said, “I have a wonderful staff and a really good team.”

Pratt and her talented staff have dedicated their time to growing the magazine’s readership. On average, Northern Wilds prints approximately 15,000 issues each month, depending on the time of year. “So that’s a readership of about 30,000 a month,” Pratt said. With the dynamic range of features and community-focused stories, Northern Wilds has experienced steady growth in demand each year, showing no signs of slowing down.

Pratt said the advertisers, readers, writers, and Northern Wilds staff make it all possible. “I feel blessed. Especially with the transitions of the last few years. I’m extremely grateful.”


As the Northern Wilds team adjusts to the increased growth and recent changes, Pratt has begun long-term strategic planning as the business sets its eyes on the next 20 years. With an unwavering commitment to keeping the magazine going, the future looks promising for Northern Wilds. “We’re glad that people find it so relatable and that they enjoy picking it up,” Pratt said. “And that we can be part of their life.”

Meet the Northern Wilds Writers

Rae Poynter

Rae is a writer who is happiest in the woods. Her most notable accomplishments include saving a sheep in Ireland, keeping an ever-growing menagerie of succulents alive, and writing a small handful of novels. Originally from rural Wisconsin, she lives near Grand Marais and loves helping local artists and entrepreneurs share their voices with the world.

Erin Altemus

A musher, writer, editor, and nurse, Grand Marais-based Erin Altemus is a woman of many trades. Northern Wilds readers may recognize her name as the author of the Dog Blog column, where she takes readers on a behind-the-sled look at life as a northern Minnesota musher each month. While many may know her through her mushing career and column, Altemus’ history with Northern Wilds extends far beyond her column. She began nearly a decade ago as the managing editor for the magazine, working alongside the late Shawn Perich. Reflecting on her time as editor, she said, “Working alongside him in the office will always hold a special memory.”

While she transitioned from that role years ago, she still fills in as editor when needed. Later this summer, she will step in as Breana Johnson’s temporary interim editor while Johnson is on maternity leave. Throughout the past 10 years, Altemus has been a valuable member of the Northern Wilds staff, and she commends owner Amber Pratt for navigating the challenges and remaining committed to the North Shore magazine.


“I’d like to say a special congrats to Amber. You are a strong, resilient, smart, courageous woman to stick with this dream of a business for all these years,” Altemus said. “The community is lucky to have this magazine and business.”

Kalli Hawkins

Kalli Hawkins is a writer and outdoor enthusiast who grew up in Grand Marais. She enjoys sharing her passion for history, education, and the outdoors through storytelling. When she’s not writing or scheming her next outdoor adventure, she enjoys baking, gardening, and spending time with her two pups.

Steve Fernlund

As one of Northern Wilds’ newest writers, Steve Fernlund has brought a fresh business-focused perspective to the magazine’s pages. A retired business owner and former publisher and editor for the Cook County News Herald in Grand Marais, Fernlund enjoys telling the stories of people and places in the Northwoods region. “I’m most interested in stories of regular people who chose to live or visit here,” Fernlund said. “Those stories show we all have more in common than we may realize.”

In his recent articles, he has highlighted numerous business and economic development projects, including the Boathouse Bay project in Silver Bay and, in last month’s issue, the under-construction Grand Marais City Hall and Liquor Store.


Apart from his work in Northern Wilds, Fernlund’s writing and wit shine in other North Shore publications, such as The Northshore Journal and Boreal Community Media. With his decades-long experience as a journalist, editor, and business owner, he recognizes the significant accomplishment of reaching a 20-year milestone. “Congratulations to the professionals who built and managed this vital institution that serves an international community.”

Elle Andra-Warner

As a veteran Northern Wilds writer, Elle Andra-Warner has delighted readers for two decades with her fascination with the interesting and quirky stories of northern Minnesota and Thunder Bay. As an award-winning travel journalist based across the border in Thunder Bay, Andra-Warner has an abiding curiosity for all things unusual. Her monthly column, Strange Tales, covers everything from UFO sightings to historical oddities.

Hartley Newell-Acero

Since 2021, Hartley Newell-Acero has enlightened Northern Wilds readers with her informative health and wellness lifestyle insights. “I’m eternally curious about what it means to be healthy and well,” she said. “That fascination has fueled me through decades, degrees, certifications, and changes in my life.”

As an owner of a coaching practice based in Grand Marais, Newell-Acero focuses on the various health-related topics that matter most to people in each monthly Health column, while highlighting simple methods readers can use to benefit from that information. In past articles, she has highlighted the importance of self-care, how to provide first aid to our furry loved ones, and how to walk your way to a healthier life. Although Newell-Acero has written for Northern Wilds for over three years, she said she still “gets a thrill to see my name on the Health column.” As she reflects on the significance of Northern Wilds reaching the 20-year mark, she said, “No organization stays around 20 years unless you’re doing something right. Northern Wilds does more than simply shine a light on what’s special about our area; they are one of those special parts.”

Eric Kaira (Weicht)

With an unwavering desire for adventure and paddling, Eric Kaira brings a flavorful and unique perspective to the pages of Northern Wilds. After graduating from Colgate University in New York with a degree in Philosophy, he grabbed his trusted 15-foot kayak and essential gear, and spent a summer solo circumnavigating Lake Superior. The trip eventually led him to spend more time along the North Shore of the Big Lake before moving to Grand Marais, and shortly after, he began writing for Northern Wilds. His passion for paddling and outdoor recreation, along with his zest for reading and academics, has provided Northern Wilds readers with a nice balance of outdoor and personal interest stories. Whether he is writing Along the Shore articles about the BWCAW, local North Shore artists or authors, or longer feature articles about surfing in Lake Superior, Kaira has been a welcomed Northern Wilds writing team member.

Michelle Miller

Since becoming a Northern Wilds writer, Michelle Miller, who lives in Two Harbors, has inspired readers with her love for the arts and culture of Lake Superior’s North Shore. With her background as an arts education business owner, she is drawn to the creative nature of the many individuals and organizations along the shore. Besides her Northern Wilds contributions, Miller writes a monthly arts column in the Lake County Press and volunteers as a morning show host on Two Harbors Community Radio.

Chris Pascone

With a passion for outdoor adventures with his family, Chris Pascone has a knack for covering in-depth fishing, camping, and outdoor recreation topics in Thunder Bay and northeastern Minnesota. Pascone joined the Northern Wilds team in 2021, and his attention to detail, storytelling skills, and diverse topics have been a welcomed addition to the Northern Wilds pages.


“Writing and adventuring go hand in hand, and they both drive each other,” Pascone said. Throughout the years, a few of his most memorable Northern Wilds articles are the Sleeping Giant Loppet: Thunder Bay ski tradition, Mt. Baldy: Revitalizing skiing north of Thunder Bay, Ontario Winter Games, Squeers Lake Winter Fishery, and Fort William Historical Park.

When he’s not immersed in writing for Northern Wilds and various other Minnesota publications, Pascone and his family are out in the wild, skiing, biking, canoeing, and winter camping in the Boundary Waters and beyond. His connection to the northern region runs deep. “Even though I reside in Duluth, my heart truly belongs to the wild north.”

His connection to the northern Minnesota landscape is evident in each article he contributes to Northern Wilds. “It’s an incredibly proud feeling for me every time I interview someone to say, ‘I write for Northern Wilds magazine, published in Grand Marais,’” Pascone said. “It makes me proud to contribute knowledge and story-telling about our northern region.”


As the Northern Wilds staff celebrates the 20-year milestone, Pascone said, “Thank you to Shawn Perich and Amber Graham for creating this magazine that exposes all readers to the real outdoor lifestyle of the north that we are lucky to embrace up here.”

Deane Morrison

In each Northern Wilds issue, Deane Morrison educates readers on the fascinating world of constellations and the Northern Sky. Morrison tailors her monthly Northern Sky features to the seasonality of the region’s visible stars and moon phases. Before venturing into the BWCAW or exploring the outdoors, readers frequently turn to the Northern Sky column for Morrison’s guidance in spotting new constellations or planets.

Gord Ellis

Since 2009, outdoor columnist Gord Ellis has captivated Northern Wilds readers with his in-depth knowledge and understanding of the wildlife and natural world surrounding Thunder Bay. In each issue of his Northern Trails column, he shares his stories and insights about hunting and fishing with readers. From walleye fishing to moose and whitetail hunting, Ellis features the best outdoor recreational opportunities Ontario offers.

“I’ve really enjoyed writing for the Wilds the past 15 years. It has a very keen readership who appreciate the outdoors and the north. I’m always impressed at how diverse the readers are and how closely they read each column and article. I love hearing from Northern Wilds readers and I welcome their input, thoughts, and story suggestions via my website.”

Sam Zimmerman

Sam Zimmerman, a Duluth-based painter, has brought vibrancy and artistic flair to Northern Wilds magazine’s pages since 2020 with his monthly column Following the Ancestor’s Steps. In each issue, Zimmerman showcases his latest painting featuring various Northwoods wildlife and landscapes with accompanying English and Ojibwe names. Each painting captures a particular story of his experiences outside along the North Shore. When he’s not painting, Zimmerman enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, fishing, or sketching along the shores of Gitchi Gami.

Dana Johnson

Dana Johnson, a writer for Northern Wilds who hails from Grand Marais, draws endless inspiration from the boreal forest along Lake Superior’s North Shore. Her writing centers on animals, art, nature, and outdoor recreation—a specialty that has been a fundamental aspect of her life since an early age.

Johnson began writing for Northern Wilds in the early days of the publication, but stepped away to focus on college and other opportunities. However, this last fall, she rejoined the writing team and has since enjoyed feeling closer to the local community. She said she is thrilled to be a part of the team as the magazine celebrates its 20th anniversary. “I know we all wish Shawn Perich were here to celebrate with us,” Johnson said. “The Northwoods newspaper he and Amber created together has grown into an incredible and important publication, enjoyed and appreciated by locals and visitors alike. It also wouldn’t be what it is without the amazing team of people who make it happen—there is much to be proud of!”

Naomi Yaeger

As a long-time reader of Northern Wilds, Naomi Yaeger was thrilled to join the team as a writer less than a year ago, in November 2023. Her articles highlight stories about the valuable people who contribute and are helpful community members. As a Duluth-based writer, her first few articles featured the places and people in Duluth who are making a difference in their communities. Her writing extends beyond the pages of Northern Wilds, and she frequently writes sustainability-focused columns for her United Methodist Church. She is working on a historical manuscript about living in the 1930s and 40s. Since joining the Northern Wilds crew, Yaeger said she has loved “getting to know others in the community who are passionate about family activities and the environment.”

Virginia George

As the author of the North Shore Dish column, Virginia George brings readers on a tasty journey as she explores the unique restaurant gems along the North Shore of Lake Superior. From Thunder Bay to Duluth, she highlights delicious recipes and the creative and devoted individuals, organizations, and businesses behind them. As a North Shore transplant, George has a dedicated fascination for the people and culinary world surrounding Lake Superior. When she isn’t exploring restaurant menus or savory dishes, she enjoys hiking and exploring all the North Shore offers.

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