Amy Goldman Koss

Amy Goldman Koss

Photo by Sonya Sones

Kid-hood: Detroit

I assumed that when I grew up I'd get some miserable job and would only get to do anything interesting in my wee bits of free time.

My dad's life was like that. He hated his job as a jukebox man but he played violin, painted spooky pictures, and built boats and furniture on the weekends. He and my uncle even built a harpsichord from scratch -- an original Goldman!

My mom had a day gig teaching, but sang in Yiddish choirs and acted in local theater on the side. Maybe that's why I was a lousy student and never prepared much for adulthood. That is, I went to lots and lots of college, but never graduated, and I had many jobs, but no career.

My brother, who is now a mediator (but also a writer and a musician) is two years older than I am and my girlfriends all had crushes on him. He and I are close now but we disagree about almost all our childhood memories. For example, I distinctly recall the guilt and thrill of pushing him off the roof of our red garden shed. My finger tips remember the feel of his sweaty T-shirt and the umph behind my shove. He, however, swears that he fell by himself and that never in my life was I anywhere near the shed's roof because I was (and still am) terrified of heights. Maybe he's right and I've just been writing fiction for longer than I thought!

My best friend lived two doors down. We spent every possible moment together playing elaborate games of pretend and fighting and making up. Other than the time spent with her, my impression of myself is as a daydreamy, socially invisible type kid -- but I may have made that up, too. Memory is tricky and gets trickier and trickier the older I get!

Schools I dropped out of:
Southfield Lathrup High School, Lansing Community College, Wayne State University

Post Kid-hood:

As a semi-adult, I moved here and there - Lansing, Boston, Stuart, Florida - working odd jobs, taking random college classes, getting married and divorced and married again. Somewhere in there I began submitting my drawings and writings to newspapers and literary magazines, earning countless humiliating, letter-bomb rejections.

Eventually, however, my stuff found its way into print. Hooray! Then, when my first picture book got published, I was totally hooked. I spent the next few years writing and illustrating picture books in verse until I started having babies and got so fat my hand could barely hold my drawing pens.

I took a few years off to change diapers and push strollers then began my rejection collection all over again. I was finally yanked out of the slush pile by a brilliant editor who suggested that I try writing novels. And that's what I've been doing ever since.


I now live in Southern California with my husband who is a TV news producer. We have two fabulously weird kids, a big black dog, a miniature rabbit, two turtles, a 12 year old goldfish, and two weekend rats.


I have a pretty little studio out back where my dog and rabbit and I work in spurts -- all day and night sometimes, and not at all others.

I also teach writing although just between you and me, I'm pretty sure it can't really be taught. After all these books and years the writing process remains a complete mystery to me, even as I'm up to my eyebrows in it. Maybe that's why writer's block is so devastating... because there are no breadcrumbs to follow back to the path.

The only thing I can say for sure is that when the writing is going well, it's a wonderful buzz -- like no other. And when it's going badly or isn't going at all, the accompanying feeling is total gloom and despair. That said, there is absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing for a living and I know I am very, very lucky!

PEN Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Writing Fellowship

2013 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship

Winner: Amy Goldman Koss, The Intake Office

The PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, established in 2001, provides a writer with a measure of financial sustenance in order to make possible an extended period of time to complete a book-length work-in-progress. The fellowship is supported by an endowment fund established by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and confers a prize of $5,000 on the honoree.

2013 Judges: Deborah Heiligman, Angela Johnson, and Julie Anne Peters
From the Judges' Citation: "From page one you know you are somewhere else, someplace other: The Intake Office. "There are three kinds of people in this world, Solids, Floats, and Cate." This is an inside joke between best friends Bea and Quinn, intake officers at the check-in point for teens who have died. There are hundreds of conversations going on at once, and each officer has a specialty: jumpers, gunshot wounds, farm accidents. "The newly dead," Bea thought, "are truly pathetic." The afterlife, as Koss imagines it, seems to be a life itself. Or is it? When Quinn disappears, Bea’s quest for her becomes a journey through the afterlife and her inner life as well. She discovers how much she has forgotten, and with the help of a new friend, a boy, discovers a mosaic under a dirty floor. Hidden beauty. With humor and a deft hand, Amy Koss takes her fully realized characters through an original and poignant story, one that we look forward to reading - in this life!"

SCBWI -- Society of Children's book writers and Illustrators
CAN -- Children's Authors Network
CLC -- Children's Literature Council of Southern California
California Readers
FOL -- Friends of the Glendale Public Library, Board Member
FOCAL -- Friends of Children and Literature
Authors Guild

Email me at

Contact my agent Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt

 BioBooksContact   articles   Home