Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Megan Stielstra  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1975 in Alma, Michigan

-- Website --
-- Megan Stielstra on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Stielstra teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.

Biographical and Professional Information

Megan Stielstra is the author of Everyone Remain Calm, a Chicago Tribune Favorite of 2011, and the Literary Director of Chicago’s 2nd Story storytelling series. She’s told stories for The Goodman, The Steppenwolf, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chicago Poetry Center, Story Week Festival of Writers, Wordstock Literary Festival, The Neo-Futurarium, Victory Gardens, Chicago Public Radio, and regularly for 2nd Story and The Paper Machete, along with all sorts of conferences and theaters and bars. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Other Voices, The Nervous Breakdown, Fresh Yarn, Pindeldyboz, Swink, Shareable, Monkeybicycle, Hypertext, Cellstories, Perigee, Annalemma, and Punk Planet, among others, and have been performed by Theatre Seven of Chicago and Bohemian Archeology in NYC. Additionally, she's worked with students of all ages at The Goodman Theatre, Lake Forest College, CCA's Center for Art and Public Life, Columbia's Center for Teaching Excellence, and 2nd Story, and has discussed her work as a storyteller and teaching artist at Associated Writing Programs, Theatre Communications Group, Young Chicago Authors, Creative Nonfiction Week, Printer's Row, Imagining America, and the National Association of Writing in Education in The United Kingdom.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Everyone Remain Calm
ISBN: 1459650190

ReadHowYouWant. 2013

'Quirky, Sedaris - style musings with unexpected theatrical trimmings.'' - Time Out Chicago These days, reality can be hard to swallow. How do we get to the end of day, let alone the end of the week? Some people drink, others get therapy, but all of us - hidden in the secret places in the backs of our minds - have fantasies. These are what we wish for, fight for, live for. Maybe yours is a pretty girl. Maybe it's a better job. Maybe its the love that'll swoop down makes everything seem okay. It's the fantasies that'll save us, but still - they're a dangerous thing. That pretty girl may not be so pretty tomorrow that perfect job may not really exist and what happens to love when you're so lost in a fantasy you can't see what's right in front of your face? The stories in Everyone Remain Calm explore the lines between fantasy and reality - how we move between the two in a crazy attempt to make our lives better. It's a hard journey - we get anxious, panicked, fearful, lost - our pulse quickens, shoulders tighten. We forget to breathe. These stories are a reminder.

Once I Was Cool: Personal Essays
ISBN: 194043002X

Curbside Splendor Publishing. 2014

In these insightful, compassionate, gutsy, and heartbreaking personal essays, Stielstra, whose essay “Channel B” was recently featured in Best American Essays 2013 edited by Cheryl Strayed, explores the messy, maddening beauty of adulthood with wit, intelligence, and biting humor.

The essays in Once I Was Cool tackle topics ranging from beating postpartum depression by stalking her neighbor, to a surprise run-in with an old lover while on ecstasy, to blowing her mortgage on a condo she bought because of Jane's Addiction. Or, said another way, they tackle life in all of its quotidian richness.

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays
ISBN: 0062429205

Harper Perennial. 2017

From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way To Save Your Life,” she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family’s goes up in flames. “Here is My Heart” sheds light on Megan’s close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she's imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra's work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.

Intellectually fierce and viscerally intimate, Megan Stielstra's voice is witty, wise, warm, and above all, achingly human.

“Stielstra is a masterful essayist.”—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger


Everyone Remain Calm

  • Chicago Tribune Favorite, 2011
  • The Wrong Way to Save Your Life

  • Starred Review, Kirkus, 2017
  • Starred Review, Booklist, 2017

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

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