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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The End Of The Semester As Told By Todd Chrisley

Because we're all a little dramatic like Todd sometimes.
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The last 3-4 weeks of every college student’s semester are always crazy hectic. We have last minute assignments, group projects, and exams all squeezed into the last few weeks before break.

Sometimes we all need a little humor, and sometimes we are all a little dramatic, so why not experience the last few weeks of the semester as told by the king of drama himself, Todd Chrisley of Chrisley Knows Best.

1. Sitting in class listening to your professor explain upcoming assignments/exams.

2. When your group project members refuse to do anything until the night before it's due or just show up the day of to present.


3. When you and your roommate try to cook with whatever few ingredients you have left in stock.

Because we definitely want to avoid going to the grocery store at the end of the semester if we can.

4. When your parents get tired of you calling them about every little inconvenience in your life.

5. Sitting down to work on assignments.


6. Your thoughts when the professor is telling you what they want from you out of an assignment.


7. When you've had about 30 mental breakdowns in 2 days.

8. Trying to search out the class for the right group members.

9. The last few days of classes where everyone and everything is getting on your nerves.

10. When your friend suggests going out but you're just done with the world.

11. This. On the daily.

12. When all you want to do is snuggle up and watch Christmas movies.


13. Studying and realizing you know nothing.


14. When your finals are over and it's finally time to go home for break.


You're finally back to your old self.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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A Step By Step Of How Your Thanksgiving Will Actually Go

Every year we think it will go differently, and yet...

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It's pre-Christmas, and it will be a day of stress, love, and wonderful food.

1. You wake up to the sounds of a parent slamming pots and pans on the counter top

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It is time. The day has begun and your mom or dad will start yelling for you any minute.

2. You finally make it downstairs and you're assigned your tasks before family arrives

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There will be the "Make this table," or the "Dust the entire house because your cousins are coming and they won't notice but your aunt sure will. Oh, and please stay out of the kitchen." You know, the usual.

3. You try to eat breakfast and lunch but honestly you can not WAIT for dinner tonight and the smells coming from the kitchen are overwhelming

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What are we celebrating again? I'm just excited to eat.

4. You rush and make your way to the grocery store at least once (maybe twice) because your parents can't leave the kitchen

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"You would think mom wouldn't forget anything for tonight, but I guess it is pretty easy to forget gravy when you're making a million other dishes," you think to yourself as you try to defend the forgetfulness.

5. You spend a few hours feeling bored as you wait for your family members to arrive because you still aren't allowed in the kitchen and you find yourself watching that one "Friends" episode to kill some time. 

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Football or "Friends"? Honestly I should ask my mom if she needs more help but I'll just keep watching this.

6. Your family finally arrives 

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It is suddenly overwhelmingly loud and you now get to talk about your life for the next few hours. Food cannot come soon enough.

7. Hours and hours seemed to go by but dinner is finally ready

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At llllaaaassssstttttttttt, my dinnnnnnneeeeerrrrrrrr will be mmmmiiiinnneeeeeeeeee!

8. You have to sit through and listen to either heated debate or six conversations at once while you eat 

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Honestly, I'll just keep quiet and enjoy these mashed potatoes for their deliciousness.

9. You get one look from your mom and suddenly your busting the whole table

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But hey, there are worse things in life. For instance, I'm not even toughing that turkey carcass I don't care what my parents say.

10. It's round two. You've been waiting for that pie all day 

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There's this cool thing called a dessert stomach where you have more room for dessert than you did five minutes ago. Isn't that great?!?

11. Your family slowly starts to leave, and the food coma starts to settle in 

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It's been a great meal, even if there was some arguing. At the end of it all, it's still been a great thanksgiving.

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