Megan Stielstra Is A Powerhouse Of Modern Storytelling

Megan Stielstra Is A Powerhouse Of Modern Storytelling

“I shook like crazy and I was terrified, but I didn’t get back down.”
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During the winter of 2015, I met author Megan Stielstra for the first time. She was conducting a master class and giving a reading at my high school, Interlochen Arts — a school I’d just started earlier that year.

I was still scared of everything around me, while also experiencing my first ever real winter, and in walks the woman who would become one of my biggest motivators to write essays of my own one day. While I admit every artist that walked through Interlochen’s front gates found a way to amaze me, few have left me so simultaneously inspired and astonished as Megan did.

I took down furious notes while she was talking, answering questions, and throughout her reading later that night. I left with a pad of poorly written quotes and a lot of chicken scratch, but there was one that felt so important I typed it out and made it my phone background for the next year.

I believe the world can be changed by a story just like mine was changed by a song.

Before Interlochen, before meeting Megan, I don’t think I fully recognized the power art can have in society.

The way it can make you rethink, reimagine, and reevaluate all that is precious in your own life. The way it can make you want to help the world. As a current college student studying psychology and writing I find myself tasked with these questions every day - how can I write a story that’s going to help people?

How can I create a story that will change a life? How can I tell my own truth?



Megan returned to Interlochen the next winter to conduct another class, this time forcing all of us students to really consider our own stories and our own lives. She told us to stand in a line - age 1 at the beginning and continuing linearly up until the age you were at that time. She said to stand at the age you were when everything changed.

Where a switch was flipped, where something bad happened, where something good happened. The age you were during the thing that shaped who you are today.

And then we wrote an essay about it. Ten drafts later, this was the essay that convinced me I had to tell my own stories.

Stielstra is the author of two essay collections, "Once I Was Cool" and "The Wrong Way to Save Your Life," the latter of which was just released earlier this month.

I bought it the day it was released, leaving my day job and immediately heading to the bookstore where I sent the employee on a manhunt for their most recent deliveries where I knew the book would be. Twenty minutes later I walked out with Megan’s second work, another book that undoubtedly shaped the writer I’m trying so hard to become.

She teaches how to be resilient, brave, scared, and strong all at once. She shows me that long distance friendships are possible. In the turbulence of today’s political eruption, she shows me how to react. How to check my own privilege. How to explain what’s happening to a child, how to learn from it and keep pushing forward.

I have countless favorite quotes by Megan, but it would be unfair to you to say them all here. You need to pick up her books and read them yourselves. Feel what she is feeling as these words come out of her and onto the page. My quotations won’t do them justice. Trust me, they’re more than worth your time.

Many times in my nonfiction career I’ve doubted the worth of my own writing. But during that winter in 2015 Megan said something that stuck with me, “Everything comes out of you for a reason. You have to be open to not being so precious with it all.”

So I’m not anymore. I’m writing essays and publishing them everywhere I can. I’m hungry for a collection, a book deal, or even just a new story.

“I shook like crazy and I was terrified, but I didn’t get back down." These are words that I’ve come to live by.

I can’t get back down. Because my stories, all of our stories, are too important for us to keep to ourselves. We have to react.

I know I just said I wouldn’t go on to quote her essays, but I think it’s fitting to end it on this. Megan taught me how to live, how to live hard, and how to feel everything as deeply as possible. Because that’s where the art comes from. That’s how you tell your stories.

These are the final lines of F, one of my favorite essays in her most recent collection.

There’s only me, on the edge of life.

The whole world is spread out before me.

God, what if?


Links to purchase Once I Was Cool and The Wrong Way To Save Your Life

Cover Image Credit: allwrite-already.com

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50 Quotes from the Best Vines

If you're picturing the vines in your head, you're doing it right
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In 2017 we had to say goodbye to one of the best websites to ever roam the internet: Vine. In case you have been living under a rock since 2013, Vine was -(sad face)- a website and app that took the internet and the app store by storm in Winter 2013. It contained 6-second videos that were mostly comedy- but there were other genres including music, sports, cool tricks and different trends. Vine stars would get together and plan out a vine and film it till they got it right.

It was owned by Twitter and it was shut down because of so many reasons; the viners were leaving and making money from Youtube, there was simply no money in it and Twitter wanted us to suffer.

There's been a ton of threads on Twitter of everyone's favorite vines so I thought I'd jump in and share some of my favorites. So without further ado, here are some quotes of vines that most vine fanatics would know.

1. "AHH...Stahhp. I coulda dropped mah croissant"

2. "Nate how are those chicken strips?" "F%#K YA CHICKEN STRIPS.....F%#K ya chicken strips!"

3. "Road work ahead? Uh Yea, I sure hope it does"

4. "Happy Crimus...." "It's crismun..." "Merry crisis" "Merry chrysler"

5. "...Hi Welcome to Chili's"

6. "HoW dO yOu kNoW wHaT's gOoD fOr mE?" "THAT'S MY OPINIONNN!!!.."

7."Welcome to Bible Study. We're all children of Jesus... Kumbaya my looordd"

8. Hi my name's Trey, I have a basketball game tomorrow. Well I'm a point guard, I got shoe game..."

9. "It's a avocadooo...thanks"

10. "Yo how much money do you have?" "69 cents" "AYE you know what that means?" "I don't have enough money for chicken nuggets"

11. "Hurricane Katrina? More like Hurricane Tortilla."

12. "Hey Tara you want some?" "This b*%th empty. YEET!"

13. "Get to Del Taco. They got a new thing called Freesha-- Free-- Freeshavaca do"

14. "Mothertrucker dude that hurt like a buttcheek on a stick"

15. "Two brooss chillin in a hot tub 5 feet apart cuz they're not gay"

16. "Jared can you read number 23 for the class?" "No I cannot.... What up I'm Jared, I'm 19 and I never f#@%in learned how to read."

17. "Not to be racist or anything but Asian people SSUUGHHH"

18. 18. "I wanna be a cowboy baby... I wanna be a cowboy baby"

19. "Hey, I'm lesbian" "I thought you were American"

20. "I spilled lipstick in your Valentino bag" "you spilled- whaghwhha- lipstick in my Valentino White bag?"

21. "What's better than this? Guys bein dudes"

22. "How'd you get these bumps? ya got eggzma?" "I got what?" "You got eggzma?"

23. "WHAT ARE THOSEEEEE?" "THEY are my crocs!"

24. "Can I get a waffle? Can I please get a waffle?"

25. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAVEN!" "I can't sweem"

26. "Say Coloradoo" "I'M A GIRAFFE!!"

27. "How much did you pay for that taco?" Aight yo you know this boys got his free tacoo"

28. *Birds chirping* "Tweekle Tweekle"

29. "Girl, you're thicker than a bowl of oatmeal"

30. "I brought you Frankincense" "Thank you" "I brought you Myrrh" "Thank you" "Mur-dur" "huh...Judas..no"

31. "Sleep? I don't know about sleep...it's summertime" "You ain't go to bed?" "Oh she caught me"

32. "All I wanna tell you is school's not important... Be whatever you wanna be. If you wanna be a dog...RUFF. You know?"33. "Oh I like ya accent where you from?" "I'm Liberian" "Oh, my bad *whispering* I like your accent..."

34. "Next Please" "Hello" "Sir, this is a mug shot" "A mug shot? I don't even drink coffee"


35. "Hey did you happen to go to class last week?" "I have never missed a class"

36. "Go ahead and introduce yourselves" "My name is Michael with a B and I've been afraid of insects my entire-" "Stop, stop, stop. Where?" "Hmm?" "Where's the B?" "There's a bee?"

37. "There's only one thing worse than a rapist...Boom" "A child" "No"

38. "Later mom. What's up me and my boys are going to see Uncle Kracker...GIVE ME MY HAT BACK JORDAN! DO YOU WANNA SEE UNCLE KRACKER OR NO?


39. "Dad look, it's the good kush." This is the dollar store, how good can it be?"

40. "Zach stop...Zach stop...You're gonna get in trouble. Zach"

41. "CHRIS! Is that a weed? "No this is a crayon-" I'm calling the police" *puts 911 into microwave* "911 what's your emergency"

42. "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? "

43. *Blowing vape on table* * cameraman blows it away* "ADAM"

44. "Would you like the spider in your hand?" "Yea" "Say please" "Please" *puts spider in hand* *screams*

45. "Oh hi, thanks for checking in I'm still a piece of garrbaagge"

46. *girl blows vape* "...WoW"

47. *running* "...Daddy?" "Do I look like-?"

48. *Pours water onto girl's face" "Hello?"

49. "Wait oh yes wait a minute Mr. Postman" "HaaaAHH"

50. "...And they were roommates" "Mah God they were roommates"


I could literally go on forever because I just reference vines on a daily basis. Rest in peace Vine

Cover Image Credit: Vine

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This Is What You Can Learn About Blame From An Inmate On Death Row

Go out, accept your responsibility, and make your lot better than you found it. And stop whining.

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While the number of murder series available on Netflix may seem mildly worrisome at first glance, such shows have captivated a range of audiences worldwide. I for one have also been a big proponent of crime/mystery/murder docuseries and docudramas, so I was immediately drawn in by Netflix's recent addition I AM A KILLER. Yes, it is in all caps.

The drama of an all-caps-title is rightfully given as it tells the stories of inmates on death row—both from the perspective of the inmate and others involved with their life and/or trial.

While many inmates interviewed attempt to dismiss the accusations afforded them with "It's a blur" or "You have to understand, it wasn't my idea," even more surprising is the degree of accountability many maintain.

The first episode opens on James Robertson, an inmate who after decades in prison purposefully murdered his cellmate (who he claims was a pedophile) in order to be put on death row. As this premeditated murder proved futile in his attempt for the death sentence, he took it to court where he eventually was given capital punishment.

After growing up in a broken home with drug abusing parents, Robertson found himself in and out of state penitentiaries from a very young age. After decades of prison it appeared he would never find himself free again.

Chilling as his interviews were, the viewer can't help but sympathize with Robertson to a certain extent as he appears calm, charismatic, and all-accepting.

Toward the end of the episode, Robertson muses on how he's come to accept his fate. The simple answer? Blame. He no longer blames anyone but himself:

"I was bitter when I was always blaming everybody else for... the way my life turned out and stuff. But I stopped doing that. And as a matter of principle, I gotta—I got to face the music.

I got to man up. I don't like hearing other people whine or talk about blaming the world and everything for all their problems. Life ain't always fair. People always saying, talking about how unfair the world is and stuff, ain't nobody ever said life was meant to be fair, ain't nobody up, up on a cloud wearing a robe and cane...saying 'I'm gonna make everything fair.' They, they ain't like that, man. You know? People just gotta accept that, man. You know? You're always trying to make the world...a better place, you know...ain't nothing perfect."

Although perhaps poorly worded, I found it pretty incredible to hear someone charged with capital murder, awaiting their turn to be executed, so calmly elucidate on blame. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, there's something refreshing about hearing a murderer admit his responsibility, rather than find a scapegoat for his past decisions.

Today it appears no one wants to assume onus for anything. There's is a constant game of "he said," "she did," "I don't know," etc… There has become a lack of responsibility in our society that needs to be addressed, whether it be big or small.

I think back on the times I've attempted to place the blame elsewhere, and the times I've owned up to my actions. The latter has always left me feeling better about myself than the prior.

Rightfully accepting one's share in the blame has become an attribute so few adults, young and old, posses in today's society. This bleeds into other necessary aspects such as the ability to apologize and sympathize. So many people complain about life being unfair, blaming everyone and everything but themselves. The fact of the matter is, whining won't change a damn thing, action will.

If someone who committed a heinous crime can accept the blame, why can't you accept your own? As Robertson points out, life isn't always fair, so who are you to curse the world? Go out, accept your responsibility, and make your lot better than you found it.

Pride and respect can be found in one's own acceptance, regardless the magnitude.

As for James Robertson, when asked "How do you want to be remembered?" he replied "Somebody that always speaks the truth."

It would appear we can all learn a little bit about responsibility from this man sentenced to death.

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