Thomas E. Kennedy, July 2014, Vienna, Int. Short Story Conf.

Thomas E. Kennedy has published hundreds of essays, stories, and interviews, as well as almost forty books. The third and fourth novels in his  Copenhagen Quartet are Kerrigan in Copenhagen (2013) and Beneath the Neon Egg (2014).  His work has been honored with a Dan Turrèll Award, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry  Prize, and a National Magazine Award for the essay, and many other awards.  His background includes a B.A. in Language and Literature and an M.F.A in Writing from Vermont College, leading to critical acclaim from the likes of The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and he has been cited many times for excellence in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories volumes. A New York City native, Kennedy has lived for decades in Denmark and teaches and frequently tours in the United States.

What role does truth play in your writing?

If you mean, do I bend reality in CNF – yes, I do. I change names and identities to protect the guilty and the innocent. And I leave out interesting but unessential things and change geography and chronology in the interest of getting to the point. But I don’t use composites or change essential facts. I don’t change a sin or the crime of death and birth. I don’t change the essence of deed or dialogue.

How does honesty in storytelling translate to your character?

I couldn’t meet my eyes in the mirror if I were dishonest in some essential way in storytelling. In CNF – also in fiction – you have to be more honest than in life.

How do you determine something is worth writing about?

The question is backwards. You write about it first and then determine its worth. You don’t know what you want to say until you’ve said it.

What do you find most challenging about writing the truth?

Knowing it.

What advice do you give to aspiring creative nonfiction writers and where did you learn that tip?

Accept the flow of your words. Don’t be overcritical of your language or you will find yourself blocked. There’s time enough to revise. I learned that from years of trying.