It’s always cold this time of year, but when Megan Stielstra’s first two books quietly became available for pre-orders early in January, it got cool. Previously out of print, Stielstra’s collections Everyone Remain Calm and Once I Was Cool will now have a new home with Northwestern University Press this August. Both books are available for pre-order now.
You probably know Stielstra from her most recent collection of essays, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, which landed her numerous Best-Of nominations and praise from the likes of Roxanne Gay, Samantha Irby, and Esmé Weijun Wang. Equally enjoyable if not easily accessible is Stielstra’s first book, Everyone Remain Calm, a collection of stories that explores the lines between fantasy and reality – how we move between the two in a crazy attempt to make our lives better. In 2014, Stielstra published her second book with Curbside Splendor, a collection of insightful, compassionate, gutsy, and heartbreaking personal essays called Once I Was Cool.
Well, Curbside Splendor crashed and burned, and ECW Press only offers her first book digitally, leaving Stielstra’s fans without a way to hold her first collections in their hands. For such a beloved author with powerful books, it was only a matter of time before someone approached Stielstra with an offer to release her collections through a new press. Enter Parneshia Jones of NU Press and her plan to get Stielstra’s books back onto the shelves. Reissuing these collections is a big deal to both parties.
“Rarely do we, as writers, get to revisit our former writer selves,” Jones says. “Megan Stielstra refines her former unruly and sublime [self]. These new/old favorites add that effortless, windblown, haute couture swagger that only if you’ve lived and survived could you have such audacity to shake the trees of your past. Northwestern University Press covets these moments when we can bring a writer’s beginnings to the conversations of their now.”
Stielstra could not be more excited with the new digs. “To have my books live in the world is a joy no matter what,” she says, “but to have them in dialogue with the legacy of NUP and its visionary, huge-hearted editors and designers is a dream. It’s like coming home.”
In addition to beautiful new covers, the books will have a fresh round of edits, too. Both Jones and Stielstra acknowledge going back to the page after so much time has passed is special.
“In the age where moments and memory are finite to tweets, hashtags, and five seconds until something else catches our attention,” Jones says, “there’s something special about revisiting what got us here, before the unhinged present, that reminds us of the breath and reverie we started with.”
“It’s hard as hell,” Stielstra says of editing her work 10- and 15-years later. “Instead of going through old photos, it’s going through old feelings, my heart on paper, the girl I used to be. I want to scream across time and tell her all the things she doesn’t see, but of course, that wouldn’t be honest, to her or to the art.”
The honesty on the page is what makes Stielstra’s writing so powerful. If books are meant to change the world, these have done that, and now they get a second chance with a little bit of hindsight. Pre-order your copies of Everyone Remain Calm and Once I Was Cool today.