Kathy-jo Wargin is the bestselling author of more than fifty books for adults and children. With more than 1.2 million copies sold, she writes across genres and age-groups, and has earned national recognition for award–winning titles such as Michigan’s Official State Children’s Book The Legend of Sleeping Bear, the International Reading Association’s Children's Choice Award Winner The Legend of the Loon, the Bank Street College of Education Best Book Listee The Voyageur’s Paddle, the IRA Teacher's Choice Award Winner Win One for the Gipper, and many more.
Her newest series, The Orchard Bay Novels for adults, takes place in a fictional town nestled in the lovely Door Peninsula of Wisconsin.
Kathy-jo (nee Nelson) grew up in the beautiful and pristine northern woods of northeastern Minnesota, in an area known to most as the "iron range." She was born in 1964 in the town of Tower, which is not far from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Canada. Her father was a native of Tower, her mother was born and raised in nearby Aurora, Minnesota. After living in both of those small towns as a young child, her family moved to the nearby town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
It was amidst this beautiful though often harsh natural setting of the north that she fell in love with storytelling. As young as the age of four, she would sit on a stool at Marttila Drug or the Tower Bakery and listen to folks tell stories. “These were the perfect places for a little girl who loved stories. They were always filled with hard-working people – most of whom were from generational families native to northern Minnesota or immigrants who came from Scandinavia, Finland, Croatia, Serbia, Italy, and more. The iron range was well-known for its diverse mix of cultures and it was a place where people, for the most part, easily shared those cultures through food, work, marriage, and stories. Most folks lived there for the work the iron range offered as much as for the nature of the north woods. Many worked in the mines or for the logging companies, or they fished and trapped for their livelihood. They would talk to each other; they were friends. There was a lot of dry humor. They would tell stories or give each other a hard time and I would listen. I'm sure they barely noticed I was there. But I was. And I was listening to every word.”
Kathy-jo Wargin's first professional writing assignment came while still in college, as a freelance opportunity to write for The Duluth News Tribune. Post-college, she wrote for newspapers, magazines, ad agencies, corporations, private clients, nonprofits and book publishers. In the mid 1990's she went back to school and received a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota.
As the digital age approached, writers were given access to publishing tools and assets that were historically only accessible to large publishing houses. Wanting to evolve with the industry during this revolutionary time, she founded a small publishing house designed to empower independent authors. Once this business was established, she went on to sell the brand in 2011. However, she is proud to say it still exists today as a successful publishing entity based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region of Minnesota.
She has also been part of her husband's decades-long endeavor called The Fresh Coast Film Project and Fresh Coast Film Collection. The Great Lakes are important to both Kathy-jo and Ed, and their combined bodies of work reflect this ongoing commitment and dedication to the region.
Kathy-jo and her husband Ed lived in Michigan for many years, and now reside in Duluth, Minnesota, which is an ideal basecamp for their work in the Great Lakes region. She is a frequent guest speaker at schools, conferences, professional associations, and more. She also conducts writing and publishing workshops for children as well as adults. To her, even though she lives in one of the harshest climates of all, the winters are still never long enough and the snow is never deep enough, but the coffee is always dark enough and that is - and will always be - good enough for her.