About the Author
Paying Homage to a Master
Interview with Michael Stephens, author of “A Different Kind of Two-Fisted, Two-Breasted Terror: Seymour Krim and Creative Nonfiction”
Michael Stephens’ essay about his old writing teacher, Seymour Krim, developed from a series of notes he was making about two separate topics: Seymour Krim, and the genre of creative nonfiction.
“These notes had been accumulating for several years in two distinct folders in my messy, crowded office. I can’t name a specific moment when I saw the two folders merging; but eventually they did.
“I wanted to write a kind of homage to old Krim,” Stephens says. Simply collecting the facts about the man would not amount to homage; so he decided the piece would have to be a literary essay.
“The essay had to have the music and energy that Krim himself wrote about good nonfiction having,” Stephens says. “It needed my own voice.
“What I hadn’t counted on was how muscular the piece would become, full of big, round paragraphs-the kind that Krim himself liked so much-and the many layers of the voice. Also, I didn’t expect that so many people would respond to the essay, and respond to it so well, too.”
In his essay about Krim, as in everything he writes, he says, voice is “at the core.” Stephens has published widely in different genres-has written books and for magazines and newspapers. After submitting his essay to Creative Nonfiction, Stephens says, his essay became even better during the editing process.
“Sometimes, I’ve found, a piece suffers by being edited to the restrictions-either of length or of style-of a magazine. But this was not the case with Creative Nonfic-tion. In fact, the piece became stronger with the editor’s suggestions.” The editor, he says, cut the piece significantly. “The piece I submitted was a bit longer than what was published,” he says.
“Nothing is ever finished with a piece of writing,” he adds. “I eventually have to let go of a piece of writing, send it off into the world, whether I think it is complete or not. It is a question of giving up perfectionism for the sake of turning out a good, sometimes a great piece of writing. That is the nature of writing.”