Katherine Marsh is an author of books for children and young adults including The Night Tourist, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery; Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, a New York Times Notable; The Door By The Staircase, a Junior Library Guild selection; and the forthcoming Nowhere Boy, which will be published in over a dozen languages. A former journalist and managing editor of The New Republic, Katherine spent three years in Brussels, Belgium with her family and flock of chickens. She now lives in Washington, DC with her husband, two children and two cats (chickens to come).
I was born in Kingston, New York, a town on the Hudson River, on the same day as Leonardo DiCaprio (we’re Scorpios). My parents, an artist/videographer and a stay-at-home mom, didn’t have much money but we always had books; Mother Goose and the Little Bear stories with Maurice Sendak’s wonderful etchings were some of my favorites.
The summer before I turned five, my parents moved to my grandmother’s house in Yonkers, New York, a suburb a half-hour by train to Grand Central Terminal. Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time listening to my grandmother’s stories about the Russian/Ukrainian bar in the East Village she had run with my late grandfather. Three out of four of my grandparents were immigrants. Two of them travelled to America alone; one was just seventeen at the time.
I went to the same public elementary school for seven years. In first grade, I started off in the lowest reading group, was small for my age, shy, and sometimes fell out of my chair. But in second grade, my teacher encouraged me to write poetry and I started to love school, especially reading and creative writing. When I was ten, my parents separated and later divorced. Books were my escape (they still are). I particularly liked survival stories such as Island of the Blue Dolphins.
In seventh grade, my parents sent me to a private school in New York City. Middle school was predictably awful: I had big blue glasses, braces, and was still so tiny that on my first day a staff member tried to send me to the elementary school. But I had a great English teacher who introduced me to weird, wonderful writers like Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, and J.D. Salinger. For my last two years of high school, I switched to a boarding school so I could study Russian. I was even able to spend a semester at a high school in the Soviet Union (yes, I am that old).
After studying English at Yale, I spent a year as a high school English teacher before becoming a journalist. My first job was at Good Housekeeping where I kept the messiest desk in the history of the magazine. (I continue to be extremely messy.) Over the next decade, I worked for Rolling Stone, The Washington City Paper, and The New Republic, where I was managing editor, editing stories about politics and world affairs.
How did I become a children’s writer? On September 11, 2001, I was living in New York City; a few months later, the grandmother who helped raise me died. I found an outlet for my grief and anxiety in writing. My first book was never published. My second book became The Night Tourist, which won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Writing is a journey. It doesn’t always work out. The only thing under your control is your own perseverance.
Besides writing, I like to read, cook for friends and family, travel, try to improve my French and Russian, ride my bike, take photos, and visit off-beat museums. Most of all, I like to spend time with my family. I met my husband on a blind date in New York City. In 2015, after thirteen years in Washington, D.C. we moved to Brussels, Belgium, an experience that inspired Nowhere Boy. We are now back in Washington, DC and are the proud parents of two bilingual children and two Belgian-American cats.