Nancy Kress was born Nancy Anne Koningisor in Buffalo, New York. She grew up in East Aurora, New York, then a sleepy upstate town given to cows and apples, where she spent most of her childhood either reading or playing in the woods. She went to college at State University of New York at Plattsburgh, earning a degree in elementary education, which she put to use for the next four years teaching the fourth grade. She liked this.
In 1973 she left teaching and moved to Rochester to marry Michael Joseph Kress, an insurance agent. They had two sons, Kevin Michael Kress and Brian Stephen Kress, and divorced in 1984. It was while Nancy was pregnant with Brian that she started writing fiction. She had never planned on becoming a writer, but staying at home full-time with infants left her time to experiment. She was not good at embroidery or quilting, her previous choices, and so became a writer. Her first story, the eminently forgettable “The Earth Dwellers,” appeared in GALAXY in 1976. Her first novel, THE PRINCE OF MORNING BELLS, appeared in 1981 from Pocket Books.
In 1984, Nancy went to work for Stanton & Hucko, an advertising agency that has since been bought by Young & Rubicam. She wrote corporate copy for the next six years, writing fiction part time, raising her children, and occasionally teaching at State University of New York at Brockport, where she had earned an M.S. in education (1977) and an M.A. in English (1979). In 1990 she went full-time as an SF writer. The first thing she wrote in this new status was the novella version of “Beggars in Spain.”
Although she began by writing fantasy, Nancy currently writes science fiction, often about genetic engineering. She teaches regularly at summer conferences such as Clarion West and Taos Toolbox. For sixteen years, she was the “Fiction” columnist for WRITER’S DIGEST magazine, and has written three books about writing (see bibliography).
She is the author of twenty-seven novels, three books on writing, four short story collections, and over a hundred works of short fiction. Her fiction has won six Nebulas (for “Out of All Them Bright Stars,” “Beggars in Spain,” “The Flowers of Aulit Prison,” “Fountain of Age,” “After the Fall, Before the Fall, and During the Fall,” and “Yesterday’s Kin”), two Hugos (for “Beggars in Spain” and “The Erdmann Nexus”), a Sturgeon (for “The Flowers of Aulit Prison”), and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for PROBABILITY SPACE). Her work has been translated into Swedish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Polish, Croatian, Korean, Lithuanian, Chinese, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, and Klingon, none of which she can read.
In 1998, Nancy married fellow SF writer Charles Sheffield, who died in 2002 of brain cancer. In 2011 she married writer Jack Skillingstead. They live in Seattle with Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.