Coffee and Conversation with Kathy MacMillan

Good snowy Wednesday, friends! The holiday season is here! The time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is hands down my favorite time of year (minus the weather). There is so much for us to celebrate as writers and illustrators. Despite some recent events, we really are blessed to be living in a country where our right to have our voices heard and enact change are preciously guarded. It’s something to never take for granted nor to let slip away due to apathy or helplessness.

Today I have a nugget to fuel your gratitude: Our region now has a PAL (Published and Listed) Coordinator! The lovely Kathy MacMillan has volunteered her services and we quickly took her up on her offer.


Kathy is an American Sign Language interpreter, signing storyteller, librarian, workshop presenter, and author of storytime resource books. She writes YA fantasy that combines her geektastic love of linguistic history with her enjoyment of swoony romance. She lives with her husband and son in Owings Mills, MD.  Kathy is the founder and lead admin of the 2016 debut authors group The Sweet Sixteens (  You can find her online at

Earlier this summer, Kathy landed a two-book deal. Her debut is an as-yet untitled Young Adult Fantasy (HarperTeen, Winter 2016). In a land where writing is the sacred privilege of a few, a slave girl gets the extraordinary chance to learn the Language of the Gods when she becomes a royal tutor. But her dreams are threatened by her forbidden love for the prince, and her loyalty is tested by the Resistance, who dare her to join in the fight for her people’s freedom.

Kathy stopped by the Cyber Cafe a few days ago and sat down with Laura Bowers for a visit. Before we head off for our Thanksgiving visits or making last-minute preparations, let’s sit back and learn more about our new PAL Coordinator:

First off, what’s your favorite coffeehouse beverage?

Before noon: chai tea latte.  After noon: something decaffeinated and fruity.


And your favorite snack?



What was your favorite book as a child? 

I always loved to read, but the first book that truly lit me on fire and made me booktalk it to everyone I met was WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams.


As a teen?



And now, as an adult? 

THE QUEEN’S THIEF series by Megan Whalen Turner


(All fantasy!  Are you sensing a theme?)

Speaking of books, what is your favorite writing how-to book?

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott.  I’ve also been really taken lately with SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder; even though it’s about screenwriting, it has lots of applications for novelists.


Where’s your favorite place to work?

A little antique secretary desk in the corner of my living room.  It’s next to a window and faces away from the mess that is the rest of my house.


When did you first decide to be a writer?

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision – it’s just something I’ve always done.  I wrote a lot of tortured poetry as a teenager, and in my twenties I was heavily involved in the Harry Potter online fandom and wrote a LOT of fanfiction.  What I didn’t know at the time was that doing things like reimaging HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE from Viktor Krum’s point of view was more than just fun – it was fantastic practice for developing my own voice as a writer. I didn’t decide to pursue publication until my late twenties.

How has SCBWI helped you with your career?

I regret to say that I am a latecomer to SCBWI – I have only been a member for a couple of years, but I wish I had joined sooner, back when I was slogging through the endless cycle of submission-and-rejection.  I don’t have many people in my daily life who are interested in writing, so I really value the opportunity to interact with other writers at conferences and especially in my critique group.

If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

I would be a Broadway star.  (More likely, I would be living on ramen in a tiny apartment and doing some off-off-off-off-off Broadway show.)


I always like asking this question. You magically find a $100 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it? (Key word: frivolous!)

Pretty notebooks.  I am a sucker for pretty notebooks, no matter how many blank ones I have in my drawer.

Now, about your new position as PAL coordinator. This is a first for our region! Can you explain what duties you will be fulfilling? What are your goals? 

I am so excited to join the committee and take on this role!  As PAL Coordinator, I am responsible for developing conference programming of interest to PAL members and developing other projects to serve the needs of our PAL members.  My first action will be to reach out to PAL members with a survey to find out what our PAL members’ priorities are.  Some of the specific projects in the works for the next couple of years are:

-creating a online, easily updateable directory of PAL members willing to present to schools, libraries, camps, etc. and getting the word out about it to those venues.

-creating a database of contact information for schools, libraries, etc. for our PAL members to use.

-working with Sarah Maynard, our new Author’s Book Club event coordinator, to set our PAL members up with these events to promote their work.

-offer meaningful programming for PAL members at conferences and find ways to allow PAL members to share their knowledge and experience with our other members.

How can MD/DE/WV PAL members help you with your goals for our region?

Well, first and most importantly, I hope all PAL members will respond to the survey (which will be coming out very soon!) and give honest feedback about how I can best support them in this position.  And then I hope PAL members will come forth and attend programming, work with us to set up an ABC event, or present at a conference!

And finally, what is your favorite quote?

“A man can fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he gives up.”

Thank you, Kathy, for taking on your new role and the vision you bring to it. Best of luck with your upcoming debut!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Interviews: Authors, Member News. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Kathy MacMillan

  1. Cheryl Womack-Whye says:

    Mmm, dessert before the turkey arrives. I’m grateful for the bountiful share out.

  2. Hi Kathy,
    Nice to get to know you. You’ll be a great asset to our planning committee! Watership Down and chocolate are two of my favorite things, too.

  3. Pingback: Activities For Our Region! | As the Eraser Burns

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