photo of my face

Megan Stielstra is the author of Once I Was Cool and Everyone Remain Calm, and her next collection, The Wrong Way To Save Your Life, is forthcoming in 2017 from Harper Perennial. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, Poets & Writers, Guernica, Buzzfeed, PANK, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, and she recently joined The New York Times as a contributing opinion writer. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she tells stories for all sorts of theaters, festivals, and bars (many, many bars) including the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Neo-Futurarium, Museum of Contemporary Art, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill, as well as Chicago Public Radio, National Public Radio, and Radio National Australia. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.

She is represented by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff of DeFiore and Company.

Here’s a more informal bio.

Nice people have said nice things:

“Stielstra is a masterful essayist.”—Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

Stielstra’s Once I Was Cool isn’t just edgy, funny, surprising, a ricochet of wow. It’s practically actionable. The words reach out from the page. They direct us to look, to think, to ask.The Chicago Tribune

“Stielstra’s inimitable voice is a fiercely unique creation.”—Joe Meno, Hairstyles of the Damned

“She has a profound understanding of where we all go in our minds, and the unique ability to turn it into a story that sounds like your new best friend is telling it to you.”—Elizabeth Crane, We Only Know So Much

That is Stielstra’s talent: her ability to create experiences. Every narrative seemed to pick itself up off the page and turn itself into a performance before my eyes. The numerous asides, amendments, and annotations, force the reader to see and hear her work, not just read it. Ekphrasis (visual description) at its best, there is no contemporary author more vivid in description that Megan Stielstra.”The Chicagoist     

“Stielstra’s voice is so palpable, so immediate and vibrantly alive, it feels as though she’s standing right in front of you.” —Gina Frangello, A Life in Men

“Stielstra’s wonderful writing and her storytelling bravery is truly a gift for everyone who reads her.”—Kevin Sampsell, This Is Between Us

“Stielstra’s prose reads like something your friend needs to tell you RIGHT NOW, before she even takes her coat off.” The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Stielstra evokes a blizzard of emotions in her distilled drama of postpartum depression.”Booklist

“America’s next great essayist is Megan Stielstra.”—Joyland

“Stielstra—collector, curator and facilitator of so many stories—also writes beautifully and kinetically. Her work possesses a rare aural quality, no doubt the result of so much time on stage, or even in front of a classroom… in Everyone Remain Calm she gleefully tests the boundaries of the short-story form.”Time Out Chicago

Everyone Remain Calm is a daring and inventive debut. The developments that unfold in these eighteen stories are consistently imaginative and unexpected (one character has athletic rebound sex with The Incredible Hulk!).”The Collagist

“Her theatrical performances are intense, composed of a powerful cadence of speech and strong storytelling you won’t find anywhere else. Somehow she has bottled the presence of her performances and sprinkled a little bit on each story contained within Everyone Remain Calm.”CBS Chicago, Best New Chicago Books

“Stielstra has staked her career on live performance storytelling that is often emulated but never duplicated. In print and especially live, she urges the audience to come with her on adventures that can get both hysteric in pitch and absolutely still: few performers can teeter their audience between these extremes while still engaging such a personal connection. It is the story that reigns supreme, that dictates what will happen on stage. Her delivery is just one part of the show, like the musicians that back her, or the singer that swaps a story duet, or the brass band parading around her.”Chicago Literary Examiner

“A noted fiction writer whose unique, dynamic readings often include elements of live music, distancing her from the pack of her hushed, floor-gazing peers on the lit-reading circuit… Her specific brand of performance—pairing quirky Sedaris-style musings with unexpected theatrical trimmings like on-site musicians (she once used an entire New Orleans brass band)—is a text-based variation on the ‘story theater’ style used by many Chicago theater artists.”Time Out Chicago