Kathy-jo Wargin
Cart 0

About Bestselling Author

Kathy-jo Wargin

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.

She is also a publisher, media entrepreneur, public speaker and workshop leader. 



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 release is The Stonegarden, a novel for adults which takes place in the fictional town of Orchard Bay, 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 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 studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota Duluth and post-college, went on to receive her 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.

A partial listing of awards.

We're proud of them all.

Great Lakes Bookseller Association Award

Cooperative Children's Book Center Awards

International Reading Association Teacher's Choice Award

Bank Street College of Education--Best Book of the Year List

Alabama Camellia Nominee Children's Choice Award

New York State Reading Association Awards

Winner, Michigan Reading Association Reader's Choice Award

Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards

Read Michigan Selection Awards

Michigan Notable Book Awards

Midwest Booksellers Association Awards

International Reading Association Children's Choice Award

Rutgers University Book of the Month Award

Minnesota Book Award Finalist

Children's Crown Gallery Awards

#1 Amazon Bestselling Category Book Award

Storytelling Awards--Stories for Adolescent Listeners Category, Winner

National Book Festivals State Selection Award


Quick Facts:

Both The Legend of Sleeping Bear and The Legend of Mackinac Island were developed into animated stories for television, and both were narrated by actor Jeff Daniels.


Kathy-jo was the first Michigan writer with the distinction of having two books designated to the Read Michigan Notable Book List in the same year.


Along with her husband, photographer Ed Wargin, they have the distinction of being the first married couple to first have a joint book and later separate books on the Michigan Notable Book List in the same year.


Her first children's book, The Legend of Sleeping Bear, is Michigan's Official State Children's Book. 



A few kind words.

Wargin’s version is a fluid retelling that even young listeners will comprehend and older readers will enjoy. Lush greens, browns, and gold colors dominate the double-page spreads with the lovely Leelinau depicted as a child just bordering on womanhood.
— Kirkus Reviews

 ..this is a well-written and beautifully illustrated piece of history.  
— Library Media Connection

...As the book continues, the creature becomes more daring, and children will delight in the antics of both the moose and its young human companion...Colorful spreads and simple rhymes will make this whimsical story a hit.
— School Library Journal

With great delicacy and sensitivity Kathy-Jo Wargin tells the tragic story of the Edmund Fitzgerald in prose, and with the poem, the “Song of the Bell” unfolding throughout the story. This is a fitting tribute to all the sailors who went down with the Fitzgerald and it is certainly a book which those who were left behind can treasure.
— Through the Looking Glass Book Reviews

 A very pretty rendering of this difficult story. 
— Kirkus Reviews

Easy to read yet thought-provoking; it is exciting but still accurate in its description of the life of Alfred Nobel.
— Ulf Larsson, PhD, Senior Curator Nobel Museum, Stockholm Sweden

George Gipp’s spirit is everywhere in this game and this book chronicles that spirit so well. Win One for the Gipper: America’s Football Hero is a timeless book for kids everywhere.
— Ara Parseghian, Legendary Notre Dame Football Coach