January's Hot Writer: Megan Stielstra
My genre: Fiction and essays.
My literary influences: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Franz Kafka, Dorothy Allison, Flannery O’Connor, Hubery Selby Jr., Margaret Atwood, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ana Castillo, Joy Harjo, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nami Mun, Tim O’Brien, Kelly Link, Joe Meno, Roxane Gay, Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Crane, Gina Frangello, Cheryl Strayed, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Matt Bell. Also: The Danger of a Single Story, a TED talk by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie, inspires and challenges me to consider the kind of writer – and reader – I’d like to be.
My favorite literary quote: “You stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting”—Ray Bradbury
My favorite book of all time: It changes a lot, based on what I’m working on. Right now it’s Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison.
I’m currently reading: The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner; White Girls, by Hilton Als; Divergent, by Veronica Roth; 2nd Story submissions for next season; and my students’ final personal essays, which are blowing me away. Look out, future.
My guilty pleasure book: Screw guilt. I think there’s something to be learned from everything we read; about craft, about the world, about ourselves.
I can’t write without: There used to be so many of these: specific types of notebooks, pens, music; wine or coffee, depending on the hour. Now, between my job(s) and my five-year-old, all I really need is time. I can’t write without the time. An hour a day?—I’ll take it. More would be great, sure, but I’ll take the hour. I’ll take it in a heartbeat.
Worst line I ever wrote: If you’re going to use your baggage as an excuse to treat people poorly then you shouldn’t have asked for my number.
Megan Stielstra’s personal essay collection, "Once I Was Cool," is forthcoming in May 2014. Her work has been included in The Best American Essays 2013, The Rumpus, PANK, Other Voices, and elsewhere, and her story collection, "Everyone Remain Calm," was a Chicago Tribune Favorite of 2011. She is the Literary Director at 2nd Story and teaches creative writing at Columbia College.