This Writer’s Life: 2777 Francis Avenue, Part I

I will always love Los Angeles with a soulful, wistful love. It is my spiritual home. (Okay, full disclosure: along with San Francisco, New York, and Barcelona.)
But it is true that for me, there is no other light or energy on earth that feels quite the same way that Los Angeles does. When I am in L.A. I feel as if I am at the center of the universe.
I have never once flown or driven into Los Angeles without feeling a surge of excitement and energy like no other. New York City, of course, is unbelievably thrilling and I would live there in a nanosecond if I could, but for me L.A.’s energy has more of a sense of promise and potential. It’s the feeling, deep down inside, that anything could happen and that there is no other place I should be.
Although I only lived in the city of angels for about a decade, I feel like I lived several lifetimes there. Here’s a small glimpse into just one of those lives. A wonderful home I lived in with a bunch of artists, filmmakers, and writers, including one woman who hung out with Andy Warhol at his factory and one cute boy musician who would soon grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.


2777 Francis Avenue

Peering through a double dead-bolted screen door with thick bars, I caught a glimpse of a woman in a black miniskirt vigorously vacuuming the living room rug. Her long red hair swung behind her as she moved. Dark wayfarer sunglasses rested beneath a fringe of thick red bangs. A cigarette hung from one corner of her mouth. She didn’t hear my knock over the sound of the vacuum.

Every house on the block had thick bars on the windows and doors. Black spray paint littered low brick walls, marking gang territory with illegible sprawling letters and numbers. I knocked again. Finally, the red-haired vacuuming woman noticed me and unlocked the door.

“I’m Kristi. I called about the room for rent.” I was homeless and had seen the small index card tacked next to the bathroom at the Onyx. I wasn’t technically homeless, as on the streets, but I was crashing at a friend’s house for a few weeks until I found a place to rent. My car was crammed with my few meager possessions, including my bed, a black roll-up futon.

Inside, the small living room had an upright piano against one wall. A giant glass fishbowl on top of it held postcards. On the opposite wall, hung an art piece I later found out the red-haired woman’s famous father had made. It was the silhouette of a shapely woman made from spray painted silver cigarette butts.

“I’ll show you around,” said the woman without removing her dark sunglasses. She introduced herself. Her name was Bibbe Hansen. A room near the front door had a futon on the floor and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on three walls.

“This is our nonfiction library.” Bibbe said.

I began to get excited. A nonfiction library? That could only mean that there was also a fiction library. And there was. The room next door was filled with hundreds of books, some ratty paperbacks, others pristine hard covers.

I didn’t need to see the rest of the house before I was writing out a check. I moved in that weekend. It was an easy move. All I had were the few thing from my car, which were a few items less after someone busted the lock and ransacked my Dodge hatchback the week before.

In the two-story house at 2777 Francis Avenue, my large upstairs bedroom engulfed my few belongings. I put my navy blue foot locker in a tiny closet with sharp angles that reminded me of the interior of a dollhouse.  On one wall, I set up my radio, stacking CDs beside it on the floor. I propped a few of my religious-themed red candles with saints and the Virgin Mary on the window sills.

I placed my roll-up futon bed in the middle of the floor. Right near where my head would lie, against the floor on one wall, I lined up all my books — Anais Nin, Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Isak Dineson, Baudelaire, Tom Wolfe, Umberto Eco, Truman Capote, Hermann Hess, Ayn Rand, S.E. Hinton — so they would be the first things my eyes saw upon awakening. Life was good.


Stay tuned for Part II

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Book Giveaway: THE PROFESSIONALS Winner Announced






















Using a random, random generator I found online, the winner of THE PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen is Mary Strohmayer.


Congratulations and thanks to everyone for participating.

I hope to do more giveaways in the future.

Happy Sunday!



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Weekend Inspirations: C.S. Lewis Advice to a Young Writer/The Paris Review Summer Reading For High School Kids












Source:  I found this on a wonderful website, Letters of Note.  The original letter is from C.W. Lewis’ Letters to Children.

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
26 June 1956

Dear Joan–

Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

About amn’t Iaren’t I and am I not, of course there are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. “Good English” is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. Amn’t I was good 50 years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern England. Aren’t I would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I just don’t know which (if either) is good in modern Florida. Don’t take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters. Nor of logic. It is good to say “more than one passenger was hurt,” although more than one equals at least two and therefore logically the verb ought to be plural were not singular was!

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’timplement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
C.S. Lewis



IF YOU ARE STILL READING I HAVE MORE. This ran in The Paris Review yesterday:



Summer Reading;

April 13, 2012 | by Lorin Stein

Dear Paris Review,

I’m a second-semester senior in high school and currently find myself with a lot of empty time. I also have an open summer ahead with plenty of time to read books. Do you have any novel recommendations for someone about to enter college?

Our friends at n+1 devoted an entire pamphlet to the question, more or less: What We Should Have Known. Our advice is more equivocal: the main thing is to have a whole bunch of books so you can switch if you get bored.

With that caveat, and in no special order: To the LighthouseSons and LoversHoward’s End,Invisible ManBrideshead RevisitedGirl in LandscapePninRebeccaThe Crying of Lot 49,The Broom of the SystemTwo Girls, Fat and ThinPortnoy’s ComplaintWar and PeaceCrime and PunishmentThe Transit of VenusThe Death of the HeartThe Tetherballs of BougainvilleHome LandCaneAs I Lay DyingThe Sun Also RisesConfessions of a MaskThe Savage DetectivesThe Picture of Dorian Gray,Marius the EpicureanFirst LoveFirst Love and Other Sorrows, and Moby-Dick.

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Food Friday: Lemon Pasta. Meh.

I wish I could say I’ll only publish recipes on this blog that turned out. But here I sit late Thursday night and I got nothing. Not true. I got the lemon pasta recipe.

I made this dish earlier in the evening. Kids gave it the thumbs down. Husband ate it, but declined the offer to take it as a lunch on Friday, which essentially is a thumbs down. Me? Because I know about one million good pasta recipes, it’s a pass.

After that ringing endorsement, does anyone want the recipe? Ha.

Well, they can email me and I”ll send it to them.

The dish involved basil, lemon thyme leaves, oregano leaves, lemon zest, parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper, butter and spaghetti. It looks pretty.

In other news, the green beans were yummy.

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Snapshots: Capturing Minnesota

If my passion for the written word had not been so strong, I would’ve been a photographer.

I hesitate to say that remembering a line from “Lost in Translation” by Charlotte:
“I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses… taking pictures of your feet.”

These are just some random snapshots I’ve taken in Minnesota. As a California native, I’ve sworn for years that LA has the best sunsets in the world with its misty mixture of Pacific sun and smog, but I now realize that Minnesota — with its moody, tornado skies — gives LA a run for its money. If you click on my snapshots, they enlarge. xoxo K


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