Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Inkpot Interview: Jamie Kallio

Jamie Kallio is a January 2011 graduate of the MFAC program. Her book, Read On: Speculative Fiction for Teens was published in August, 2012 by Libraries Unlimited. She is a youth services librarian in suburban Chicago.

Please describe the book in under 50 words. With the explosion of interest in teen paranormal romance, reading choices need to be as diverse as the teens who read them. Designed to spark reader interest and engage teens, this guide is filled with scores of book lists for fans of science fiction, popular fantasy, and paranormal fiction. 

Would you tell us a bit about the story’s development? This project was nonfiction, so I approached it differently than I would fiction. It’s a reference material intended to help teachers, librarians, parents, and speculative fiction readers find books that go beyond Twilight and Harry Potter. First I spent a lot of time gathering resources. Then I researched the history of fantasy and speculative fiction as it pertains to YA readers and began to form the introduction. Next came all the reading and then writing all the annotations.  It was long, hard work (I began in December of 2010) but it was extremely rewarding. The biggest challenge in the rewrites was the index! Talk about needing super-sharp organizational skills! 

How did it come to the attention of its editor? It was by word-of-mouth; my previous supervisor wrote a reference book for Libraries Unlimited, and he recommended me for the Read On project. 

What research was involved? Lots and lots of reading YA fiction/fantasy/science fiction/horror.  I pored over review journals such as VOYA, School Library Journal, and Booklist, and relied heavily on a database called Novelist. 

What was your critical thesis on? My critical thesis discussed how teenagers had the mental and emotional capacity to read, understand, and enjoy complex fiction.  While researching my thesis, I kept coming across all these “rules” on how to write teen fiction, and I didn’t agree with many of them (i.e. always use 1st person; don’t include the point of view of an adult character; don’t write about extremely heavy or dark material). I realize now that my critical thesis directly informed how I wrote Read On: Spec Fiction for Teens.  My intro to the reference book is basically a condensed version of my thesis about how teens can and will read complex fiction and are currently the demographic that the publishing industry focuses on.  Very weird how it all fell together! 

What was your creative thesis? My creative thesis was my historical fiction middle grade novel. 

Did you discover and fall in love with any books while in the MFAC program? Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt. Reading that book gave me the permission to not only go ahead with my historical fiction for middle graders, but to also let loose with imagery, symbolism, and heartfelt character emotion.  

Without naming names, tell us who your first readers are (e.g., live-action writing group; online writing group; editor; agent). When do you share a piece of writing? Online writing group (of other Hamline grads!) 

Can you briefly describe your writing life? How has it changed since you graduated?  I have learned that writing is about 90% diligence and 10% talent. You can be the greatest, most creative writer in the world, but if you don’t do the work, your talent is not going to help you. You have to make appointments to write and stick to those appointments just as you would a doctor’s visit. I have more of a regular writing schedule now, and if I only get down 500 words a day, so be it. It’s still progress.  

What are you working on now? I am still working on my historical fiction middle grade novel!

What would you like to say to current or prospective students? My experience at Hamline really changed my writing for the better. The lectures, workshops, and faculty involvement helped me to go deeper in both my creative and critical work. And I met some lifelong friends!


  1. What an excellent interview! Thanks for sharing your process with us, Jamie.

  2. You had to write the index?! *faints* I don't know how you did all that in one semester, but good job!

  3. Marsha, this is an inspiring series. These Hamline grads/published writers are super. Thank you for thinking of them nd taking the time to assemble them. I've enjoyed reading each one, and look forward to more!