Interview with Badass Author Megan Stielstra
(Written/Interviewed for class at Ball State University)
Transcript of Conversation
JW: Good afternoon,
My name’s Jessica Weyrauch and I’m a student at Ball State University in central Indiana. We briefly communicated on Twitter (my handle is @jessicayrock) a while back. I’m a creative writing student taking an ‘apprentice’ course. We had to choose an author to study for the semester, and I was lucky enough to study you! I’ve had an absolute blast surrounding myself with your work.
For this class, my professor wants us to interview our authors. If you’d be willing to answer a few questions for me about writing, I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you,
MS: Hi, Jessica!
Sure, of course! Send questions my way. I’m on a gnarly deadline right now and slightly insane, so if you’re cool with that we’re all good. Like, we can put a note at the top of whatever you hand in that says, Dear [name of your professor], Jessica totally transcribed that right. I’m bonkers right now. Give her a thousand A’s. Yours, M. XOXOX
JW: Good afternoon! My deepest apologizes for taking so long to respond to you. It was been one of those weeks, unfortunately. I’m thrilled that you’re willing to answer some questions for me.
First— it’s clear that your voice is naturally conversational, more like talking to a friend than reading an essay. Have you found it challenging to write in an, arguably, nontraditional voice?
Second, in your essay “Juggle What?” you talk about how your writing process has changed since you were in your twenties. I relate a lot to this as a nearly 22 year old creative writing student. What would you/do you say to students like me about finding time to write?
Third, I’m a speech and debate coach, and I got into writing because of prose performance, my competition event in high school. I’ve consumed so much 2nd Story footage! How did live storytelling become so important to you? Do you have a difficult time proving to people that’s a worthwhile form?
Lastly, I want to ask you about obsession. Your work is so clearly driven by your obsessions be it Kafka, superheroes, Indiana Jones, music, Chicago, etc. Can you speak to the important of obsession and passion in writing?
Thank you again for communicating with me. Being an apprentice to your work this semester has truly been a meaningful experience for me.
MS: Jessica! Hi! This all looks wonderful.
Quick question: when do you need this? I want to get these answers back to you for your class, but am wondering: I’m on deadline for next week Wednesday… possible to wait ’til after that?
JW: Well, as it turns out, we have the same deadline… But— I absolutely understand if you need to wait until after your deadline. I’d still love to hear the answers to these questions, but it’s possible for me to do the assignment I was given without them (we had to make a back-up plan since we knew some writers wouldn’t respond).
MS: UGH. I’m so sorry I can’t be more thorough! I have GOT to finish this other thing…
re: your questions about voice and performance, give a peek to this: http://www.interlochenreview.org/megan-stielstra and p.s. YAY speech and debate coaching!!!
Let me see what I can do tomorrow… hang tight!
Stielstra’s Master Class
Megan Stielstra is the best friend you can turn to at any time. Her job as a story-teller is to pull you in and make you feel something, but more importantly, Stielstra wants you to carry it around and share it with others. It’s so clear through her work that writing and performing is truly a release, an expression of the creative process through which Stielstra can masterfully evoke deep emotion from the reader. Stielstra doesn’t even like to consider her nonfiction works as essays, she prefers to call them stories because she is a storyteller first and foremost.
Refusing to call her essays by their literary genre perfectly lends itself to the obscurity of her writing. “Channel B”, her essay from Best American Essays, is arguably her most essay-like work, but she couldn’t even believe that it had been chosen for such a top literary collection. Stielstra isn’t the writer that strives to be published for the fame or glory, but because she wants to start a conversation or contribute to the conversation in place. She’s passionate, political, and empathetic. These characteristics are what drew me in back in September when we chose our authors for this class, and what continues to make me a fan of her work.
The power of words is a gift that was given to Megan Stielstra. She wraps it up and puts it in the hands of whoever needs it the most. Stielstra discussing in interviews of she receives email after email from women struggling with post-partum and their families thanking her for finally putting it all into words. For someone like Stielstra, you could pay no bigger compliment to her work. Being moved by the truth and being liberated by the openness of the her writing, is the ultimate goal for Stielstra. This semester has taught me how to be honest with myself and my audience. Stielstra has taught me how to find the human core of the story, the emotions that are going to touch the reader, not just the plot points. Apprenticing myself to someone so compassionate about the world around them has made me more aware. Seeing the world through the eyes of Megan Stielstra has most importantly taught me how to teach, whether it’s teaching writing to my high schoolers or teaching my readers how to cope with their situations through my own experiences. Megan Stielstra is going to be a favorite writer of mine for a while, I imagine. The past few weeks have been vital to writing career, my future plans to teach, and my