Interview by the Young Adulting Editors
Kallie is an author and picture book editor living in Gibsons, BC. She has written numerous acclaimed books for children, including The Secret Fawn; The Lost Gift; Goodnight, Anne; and the Magical Animal Adoption Agency and Heartwood Hotel series. She has also taught writing workshops for both children and adults. Kallie grew up on the Sunshine Coast in BC, where she spent her days roaming the forests.
What made you want to be an author? Are there any writing inspirations that readers might be surprised by?
I wanted to be an author from the time I was a little girl. I “wrote” my first books when I couldn’t actually write—my mom and dad would transcribe my stories down for me. Most of my inspirations for stories come when I’m outdoors: hiking, gardening, or camping. Perhaps this is why so many of my stories are set in the woods!
Many of your books feature mythical and magical creatures. Why do you love them? Are there any mythical animals you’ve not yet included and want to explore?
Indeed, I love magical creatures. Funnily enough, those first books I “wrote” when I was five years old also feature magical, made-up creatures—like a unicorn-snail—so I suppose they were always something I loved. I even did my MACL thesis at UBC on the works of the Brothers Grimm and folklore, although not necessarily focusing on animals in folklore.
I think I love animals so much partially because I have not had much luck with pets (I’m allergic to a host of them). So, writing about animals is my way to be with them without owning any. Another reason is because animals already seem so extraordinary and almost magical to me in many ways (like how humpback whales sing and elephants cry). I’m not sure which ones—real or magical—I want to explore next.
Can you tell us about your creative writing workshops for kids? Has teaching impacted your own writing process? Has it ever given you new insights?
I have worked for many years for the Creative Writing for Children Society, a non-profit organization that hosts sessions once a week for 15 weeks; at the end, each child publishes their own book. It’s a beautiful program where the students also get to read and discuss a book every week. I’ve been teaching programs through the Society for over 10 years. I have traveled around the world, teaching camps through the program, and have met other teachers who are now some of my best friends.
I love how teaching makes me examine aspects of writing I might not otherwise. In fact, my Magical Animal Adoption Agency series came out of me “taking” my own workshop that I teach to young students. In the class, students come up with adoption ads for magical creatures. I decided to “take” my own class and create my own adoption ad for a dragon. That’s how my first chapter book series got started!
Can you share what you’re working on next?
A little! I’m working on two different chapter book series. I’ve also got a picture book series coming out about listening to nature, and another title that I’m creating with Elly Mackay, called I am a Meadow Mermaid. Elly and I just launched The Secret Fawn on February 2, 2021. So, lots on the go.
How has your experience studying in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (MACL) at UBC shaped your career? Do you have any advice for students in the program?
In so many ways, it’s hard to count. Most of all, it’s where I made my best friends, many of whom are now working in the publishing industry, or are librarians or teachers. It’s amazing. The program guided me with wonderful mentors who taught me how to be a better writer and teacher, and to learn about myself and what I wanted to do. It was during the MACL program that I wrote my first book that was eventually published. I often reminiscence on the wonderful days of the program and wish it could have lasted even longer. I’m not sure if I have any particular advice, other than to enjoy the program and the learning, and to reach out to friends and faculty if you ever have questions about career possibilities.