Stephen Kirk wrote his first short story during his junior year at St. Lawrence University. The assignment was to turn in a fifteen-page piece by the end of the semester, but he was so excited that he gave his professor a story in excess of twenty-five pages with six weeks still to go in the term. Pleased to have such an eager student, the professor read the entire story aloud to the class, then invited comments. What followed was the shortest critique session in history. After a minute’s silence, one student raised her hand. “Nothing happens,” she said. Her classmates nodded their unanimous agreement, and that was that. Though he might make every other writing mistake, Kirk decided that he would never again bore his audience.
Two years later, as an M.F.A. student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, he wrote his second story. It appeared in the Greensboro Review and was subsequently selected by John Updike for reprinting in the Best American Short Stories series. Since then, he has writtenFirst in Flight: The Wright Brothers in North Carolina, now in its third printing, and Scribblers: Stalking the Authors of Appalachia.
Kirk has gotten to know many authors during his twenty-one years as a book editor. He has also been in the position of rejecting thousands of manuscripts, which has given him a special sympathy for struggling writers. This experience of witnessing an occasional publishing success amid an avalanche of failures gave him the idea forScribblers, in which he observes a cross section of unpublished, self-published, genre, and literary writers in a small but vigorous authors’ town made famous by the likes of Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, O. Henry, Carl Sandburg, Gail Godwin, Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan, Fred Chappell, and others.
Born in Geneva, New York, Kirk has lived for more than twenty years in North Carolina. He currently resides near Winston-Salem with his wife and two daughters.