Fear that a person’s story has no value can hold any writer back.

Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

“Everyone else’s story is like finding a one-hundred-dollar bill on the ground, mine’s like finding a penny,” the boy wailed.

As a visiting writer helping 200+ seventh graders write memoirs, I blew his mind by replying, “There’s your first line!”

Two core principles inform my practice as a writer, educator, and storytelling series producer: 1) Get the story out of your head so the reader can picture you in time and space, and 2) Your slice of life is as valuable as anyone else’s in the world.


Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons is an award-winning playwright and essayist who lives in Astoria, Queens. Her recent nonfiction work has appeared in Humungus, Marie Claire, Hippocampus Magazine, and Newtown Literary, among others, and she is a Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her superhero comedy, All I Want Is One More Meanwhile… made its Midwest premiere in 2018 at Otherworld Theatre in Chicago.

After a decade supporting AP teachers and coordinators behind the scenes with the Advanced Placement Program at the College Board, she stepped back into the classroom. Now she designs and teaches writing workshops for a wide range of students, from seventh graders to senior citizens.

Kelly Jean earned her MFA in creative nonfiction from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Combining her love for theater and literature, she created No, YOU Tell It! (noyoutellit.com) a nonfiction series dedicated to performing true-life tales with a twist. As a writing instructor and No, YOU Tell It! producer, she excels at generating a room filled with warmth and levity where writers of all levels can gain a new perspective on their personal story.