About Kirsten Koza

Professional Bio

12 Mar 2013

Kirsten Koza
Kirsten Koza:
Author, travel writer, speaker, playwright, photographer.

Kirsten’s first book, Lost in Moscow, is published by Turnstone (Canada). Her story “Chasing Tornadoes” is out now in 2013’s The Best Women’s Travel Writing (an American anthology celebrating the best travel writing of the year) and her Kyrgyzstan adventure “Mare’s Milk, Mountain Bikes, Meteors & Mammaries; a nipply night in nomad’s land” is in The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 8. Her misadventure “Easter Island: The Chilean with the Brazilian” is in Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana, the 9th book in the Travelers’ Tales best-selling humour series.

Her travel writing and photographs have been published in newspapers and magazines around the world, in publications as varied as DreamScapes travel & lifestyle magazine in Canada and The Guardian (UK), to the Iquitos Times in Peru and the Guatemala Times in Guatemala (obviously), to OUTPOST (a hardcore travel magazine) and Open Central Asia (a business and society magazine), plus she’s even made the front page of Kyrgyzstan’s national newspaper.

Kirsten Koza’s areas of expertise (dread and passion) in travel are: self propelled travel such as kayaking and mountain biking (she’s mountain biked across 20 countries); culture shock; adventure travel; tornado chasing (she drives the intercept vehicle for a renowned certified storm chaser); self-driven 4×4 adventuring (as in, show up at the airport in Peru, rent a jeep, battle Lima’s rush hour traffic against the advice of foreign embassies and head into the Andes, off the gringo path and in search of guerrillas); unusual destinations; trip partnering with strangers; exotic food; and meeting local people.

A devotee of going local when travelling, she became involved with Leap Local (a responsible tourism organization based in Cambridge, UK) in 2007 after meeting one of their co-founders in Peru and including them in an article she was writing. She was then asked to write a column for their travel news publication in 2008, judged their local guide competition, became their competition executive and initiated and ran their popular travel story competition. She was also the first magazine chief of their travel magazine, What on earth? She leapt from Leap in 2012 and has now started Writers’ Expeditions so she can share adventure and cultural immersion on roving workshops led by acclaimed authors and designed to inspire writers.

Kirsten’s play, Second Night Syndrome, was worked at Theatre Aquarius (Canada) and it premiered at the Corbett Theatre in the UK. Her second play, Meet the Creature, was workshopped and received its first public reading at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Canada) and a second public reading at Curio Theatre, in Philadelphia (USA).

She was the Artistic Director of The Red Barn Theatre (Canada’s oldest professional summer theatre) where she chose seasons, created budgets, reported to the board, hired and managed personnel, from management, publicity, tech, to directors & performers, plus negotiated with unions and agents.

She received her BA in Acting from Dalhousie University and completed the post-graduate programme at East 15 Acting School in London, England. Kirsten has taught 3rd year BA and post-grad acting at the University of East London (E-15 campus, now University of Essex).

CBC Radio Canada International: “Some writers are famous for writing love poetry—Pablo Neruda, for instance. Others, like Scott Adams, have managed to pin to the page the preposterousness of corporate America. Rohinton Mistry is known for his poignant portraits of Mumbai; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle changed the face of detective novels by creating Sherlock Holmes. But no one can describe an unfamiliar bathroom quite like Kirsten Koza.”



Full Exposure (the other bio)

12 Mar 2013

It has all been one big accident, I’m a writer by accident, a photographer by accident — wait, it started before that because right at the beginning I was a big accident.

My mom was in high school when she became pregnant with me. I was doubly disappointing for my unsuspecting teen parents because they didn’t actually even ‘do it’. I was a virgin birth — don’t get too excited — my bio dad’s sperm was fully involved. Those sperm were athletic champions and experts in orienteering. They managed to make their own way from the outside to the inside.

I started travelling before I was born when my pregnant mother boarded an airplane in Toronto and gave birth to me in Shaftesbury, Dorset, where (according to my grandma) I was supposed to be adopted by an English doctor and his wife. I enjoy fantasizing about who that Kirsten would have been — she’d have a posh accent and would have riding tack in the boot of her car. But my mother was coerced into keeping me when my Auntie Pie didn’t whisk me out the back door and instead suggested my mother hold me. Mom couldn’t let go, so, I have a Canadian accent and kayak paddles in the trunk of my car.

In 1977, when I was eleven, my grandma was attending communist propaganda meetings at the USSR Association in Toronto. One evening she entered my name in a raffle. The winning children would be sent to the Soviet Union for the summer and the USSR was picking up the tab. This is the only raffle I’ve ever won in my life. My mom and my non-bio-dad (don’t want to imagine my life without him) gleefully bundled me off with my point-and-shoot camera that came with our subscription to TIME, a travel diary, and a whopping fifty dollars for the whole summer. Just a few days into my trip — I was utterly lost in Moscow. Good thing my bio-dad’s sperm had a better sense of direction.

Back in Canada I wrote a speech that I had to deliver to the Canada USSR Association but I wasn’t allowed to say anything bad about the USSR in it, which was very challenging. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I announced this at school and was told nobody could do that, that it was impossible. So I went into the theatre instead and worked as a professional actor, a director, and then an artistic director (the person who runs a theatre).

I was teaching acting at university in the UK and on spring break flew back home to Canada to renew my passport. I had all my legal documents (British birth certificate, passport, adoption papers due to non-bio-dad, Birth Abroad Certificate, wallet, etc) in the glove box of my car. I decided on my way to the passport office that my vehicle needed an oil change. My car was stolen from the mechanic’s service bay with my identity. I couldn’t go back to England and lost my great job.

I didn’t know what to do with myself so I asked my mother if she had my diary and scrapbook of photos from my summer in the USSR. I started to write about my trip and when I reached page-fifty I realized I had a book, and then my career changed. I became the author I dreamed of being when I was a child.