Writer and poet Ronnie Hess grew up in New York City, attended the Lycée Français de New York and Julia Richman High School, and graduated from Hunter College, the City University of New York. She earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She began a career in broadcast journalism at Wisconsin Public Radio. In the 1980s, she was a reporter/producer for CBS News in Paris, spending nearly four years in France reporting on political, social, and cultural issues. After she returned to the Midwest, she worked for Minnesota Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio and was a freelance writer/producer for the “American Justice” series that aired on A&E. Returning to UW-Madison, she became director of communications in the Division of International Studies. During a sabbatical year, from 2004 to 2005, she taught middle school English in France.
She is the author of five poetry chapbooks with a sixth forthcoming (Kelsay Press, 2022), as well as two award-winning culinary travel guides, Eat Smart in Portugal and Eat Smart in France, from Ginkgo Press. Her poetry is also featured in several recent anthologies. Hess has contributed to many publications – national, regional and local – including Saveur, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was restaurant critic for several years for Madison Magazine and was a freelance arts critic for The Capital Times.
Until December 2011, she was a consultant to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, directing the Academy’s special events planning. She travels to France and Portugal frequently and has blogged for MyFrenchLife. Hess, until recently, was Chair of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission as well as immediate past secretary of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. She is a Board member of the Friends of Lorine Niedecker and Co-president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.
Hess was a Knight Fellow (then Professional Journalism Fellow) at Stanford University in 1978-79 and has received other journalism awards. She received a writer’s grant in June 2006 to the Vermont Studio Center.