Chicagoan author to share life story through literature

Looking at the works of others was one thing Megan Stielstra said inspired her to become an author.

Stielstra, who was recently featured on the Chicago Tribune’s “Best of 2011 Chicago Authors” list said her love of reading is what fostered her future love of writing.

Stielstra also credits her small-town upbringing.

“I grew up in a pretty small town. (There was) not a ton to do, but we always went to the library,” Stielstra said in an email.

Stielstra will be sharing some of her work with the Eastern community at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the Doudna Fine Arts Lecture Hall. This reading is a part of “Lions in Winter,” a series of literature readings that is sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities.

The event is open to all and is geared toward those who enjoy reading or writing fiction, or are interested in contemporary writing and publishing.

Stielstra said she wants students to know she was once just like them and started at the same place they are now.

“I paid for college by (bartending) and spent mornings reading books and evenings listening to crazy, exaggerated stories from customers,” Stielstra said.

Stielstra said working in a bar inspired her to write her pieces of fiction to be read aloud.

“The similarities of reading a story and hearing a story really struck me, and much of the work I do now is writing for performance,” Stielstra said. “Most of all, I hope people have a good time, and get some ideas for stories they’d like to tell themselves.”

Stielstra said she loves how reading a book can evoke the use of different senses.

“Stories make the world open up, you can see the pain and joy and unfathomable dragons that people slay every day,” Stielstra said. “I wanted to be a part of that by both sharing my own stories, and helping other people share theirs.”

Roxanne Gay, an English professor, said Stielstra was picked to be a part of the series because of her animation on stage.

“(Stielstra) was chosen because she is a consummate storyteller and dynamic performer who really knows how to engage an audience,” Gay said.

Along with reading from her new collection “Everyone Remain Calm,” Stielstra will also be sharing her experiences and giving advice to students who hope to become writers.

Stielstra said she tries to teach her students to be curious and nonjudgmental of the works of others.

“Every story we read has something to teach us about craft,” Stielstra said. “This way, when you’re stuck with your own writing, sitting at your computer like how do I write this thing, you have all sorts of tools to pull from. I don’t believe in writer’s block-figure it out. The answers are on your bookshelf.”


Amy Wywialowski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]