Five with Megan Stielstra

Our next guest in Pilcrow's "Five with" interview series is Megan Stielstra. The first time I met her was the evening she came to read at the Fixx Reading Series, and when she asked me, with pink iPod in hand, if she could have a sound cue during her reading (sure!), then proceeded to underscore a fabulous story of her teenage self with Madonna's Like A Prayer, well, once all of those events transpired, I was pretty sold on her fabulousness. Ladies and gentlemen, Megan Stielstra:

1. What are you working on now?

I work story development for 2nd Story, an urban storytelling series set in wine bars where we craft stories the same way you'd tell them to your best friend over a glass of wine (or two or five). Some are confessional, some raunchy, some sad, and I've got all sorts of material from those shows. Right now I'm piecing them into a personal essay collection, rewriting to make the performance translate to the page.

I'm also kicking a novel around, but there's no light at the end of that tunnel. Just a big mess of What the Hell is happening here? and, frankly, I'm having a blast. I like the exploratory part of the process.

Most importantly, I've spent the past nine months building a human being. From scratch! And now that he's arrived, I'm working on navigating this new territory of being a writer and a mom.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

Inspiration. It's like there's a fire lit under my ass, and I have to rush home and get to work. You meet all these great people doing great things, and for me that translates into all sorts of ideas and plans and drive.

3. Who are your favorite small press mover/shaker types at the minute?

The obvious answer for me, living in Chicago, is Quimby's, an independent bookstore that's been a home for small press for nearly two decades. They stock everything from two dollar Xeroxed zines to fifty dollar art books, plus all sorts of graphic novels and alternative work that you can't find elsewhere. Well, maybe the internet, but I still need the tactile experience of bookstores: wandering around, reading first pages, thumbing through new pages ... Quimby's is the place to go for sure.

The guys at Featherproof are doing some great things with making publishing really accessible and fun: downloadable mini-books, rock-readings, great design. I've always been a fan of Punk Planet, the magazine and now the press (they've published two of my favorite contemporary writers: Joe Meno and Elizabeth Crane). Same goes for Other Voices, whose editor, Gina Frangello, is a big role model for me. Great writer, publisher, teacher and mom. I saw her read an S&M scene from her novel My Sister's Continent when she was eight months pregnant. Totally badass.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year who is not?

Heather Armstrong from dooce.com. I've read that blog for years and she's just a kick-ass writer. Also, I know she's got a book coming out, and while many of us use our blogs to promote our other projects, her blog is what scored her other projects. It'd be interesting to hear about that flip side.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). That's a damn good theme song for EVERYTHING.

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