Bridget Hoida On: Placing the Pages

This post originally appeared as a guest blog on A Chick Who Reads

In my book, So L.A., Magdalena, the protagonist, drives her convertible through the complicated L.A. streets and maze of intersecting freeways as though it were an incurable habit. “I like to drive,” she states on more than one occasion, her oversized sunglasses a shield against the perpetual sunshine of the Southland. “Not to anywhere in particular, because I have no place in particular to go, but I’m addicted to freeways. The 405 to the 10 to the 110 to the 101. It’s so L.A.”


On this virtual literary tour of So L.A I invite you to join Magdalena and me “stop and go”  across the pages of So L.A. and some of my favorite places in Los Angeles.


To visit Stop One: 730 N. Bedford Dr. you’ll only have to take a peek in the rearview mirror as we back down Magdalena’s driveway in Beverly Hills. When I was “shopping” for houses in which to place my novel and its main characters, 730 N. Bedford stood out to me, not only because it’s a classic Beverly flats mansion, but because it is also the former residence of Lana Turner, one of old Hollywood’s leading ladies and the site of  “The Happening.” Ask any of the kids who sell “Maps to the Stars” in Hollywood and they will tell you, “The Happening” at 730 N. Bedford is what happened when Lana Turner’s 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, stabbed Turner’s abusive boyfriend Johnny Stompanatoto death in 1958. Morbid as it seems, I needed Magdalena to live in a house that had not only experienced death (as death and tragedy are both reoccurring themes in So L.A.), but also a house inhabited by female solidarity and extraordinary bravery.

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As we make our way from the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills to Stop Two, the bazillion dollar shopping districts of L.A. proper – just a few block over and a few blocks up, totally walkable not that anyone from Beverly Hills every would—I’m going to do the unthinkable and pass right by the iconic Rodeo Drive for the lesser-known, and oh-so-lovely, Robertson Boulevard. Less conspicuous than the infamous Rodeo, Robertson is still no stranger to over-the-top luxury boutiques and insane celebrity sightings. In fact, because most tourists are still in the dark about the very existence of the extremely high-end Robertson, many celebrities prefer shopping Chanel, Odd Molly, Kitson, and Dolce on this quiet side street. And when you’re done shopping, you can indulge in a glass of wine and some warm cookies, as Magdalena frequently does in So L.A., at Stop Three: The Ivy.


Unlike the rest of Robertson, The Ivy is a place a girl goes when she wants to be seen. Often flanked by paparazzi and celebrities alike, The Ivy is an adorable restaurant with patio dining so those who can get “on the list” are seated in obvious sight of everyone walking the sidewalks that could not quite seem to manage an advanced reservation. A word of caution, however, when parking at The Ivy, be sure to use the valet so as to avoid colliding your car with a billboard, a rather unfortunate “Magdalena moment” that throws the darling of So L.A. into a spotlight almost too bright for her to handle. Good thing for lobster ravioli and Quentin, the man Magdalena meets crying on a Robertson curb who escorts her, not in a the chauffeured town car of which she is accustom, but rather in a bright yellow utility truck, to downtown L.A. where the bars are dim and the drinks are stiff.


Stop Four: Downtown Los Angeles. On a personal note, I was once told by a “well intentioned friend” never to go south of the 10 freeway or east of La Brea. Thankfully, I did not heed that advice because downtown Los Angeles (as well as south and east of downtown Los Angeles) is glorious! In So L.A. Magdalena frequents the meracdos, bars, museums, and even the public libraries of downtown L.A. In one of my favorite passages of So L.A. she actually walks from the MoCA to Japan Town (passing the courthouse and the old L.A. times building) while she counts trees that are not of the palm variety. And she does all this at dusk, in a pair of Yves Saint Laurent platform sandals! Does she blister? Absolutely. But she’d do it again in a heartbeat. (And if you’re ever in the area, I’d encourage you to walk downtown L.A. as well.)

Because of the blisters, or maybe because of all the shopping and the walking and the brief cultural tourism at the Japanese American National Museum, Stop Five: The Beverly Hills Hotel

Title: Beverly Hills Hotel, front driveway and...

Title: Beverly Hills Hotel, front driveway and entrance (copy of photograph), circa 1925 Publication:Los Angeles Times Publication date:circa 1925

is about back where we began. In So L.A., Magdalena takes up temporary residence at the Beverly Hills Hotel—mostly because she admires the huge banana leaf wallpaper and the plush pink bathrobes—but also because she finds a certain (privileged) security in “homelessness so close to home.” Like a child who runs away to the basement or a cardboard box in the garage, Magdalena really isn’t seeking an escape from her marriage, rather she is yearning to be found by her husband, Ricky. So she seeks refuge in what she thinks is the closest and most easily found location: a hotel less than three miles from her house. Sadly, or perhaps central to the plot of most any discovery, neither Ricky nor Magdalena can see what is literally right under their noses. But they learn and they try and, in typical L.A. fashion, they drive onward into the sunset.

As we motor off this virtual page I’d like to leave you with these driving tips from Magdalena, straight off the pages (and freeways) of So L.A. where she says:  “Ricky, like most Angelinos, doesn’t believe in the blinker. He maintains that by initiating the blink you actually hinder any small chance you have of actually getting over. The guy on your right, when he sees the click-click of the yellow light, will speed up and close in on the gap. But I disagree. One of the remarkable things about Los Angeles, one of those things that no one seems to talk about, is how we all do manage to get where we’re going. We slide from the fast lane (wave) to the middle lane (wave) to the slow lane (wave) to the exit ramp (blinker off), and we merge. It may not be singularly graceful or without incident, but 99.9 percent of the time we do manage to make our exits, our left turns, our way home.”

Thanks again to A Chick Who Reads for allowing me a guest spot on her fabulous blog!

Bridget Hoida On: Top Down Days

It’s hot in Southern California.

Which means everyone is talking about the weather. Spoiled as we are on the coast, we tend to complain, loudly, every time the temperature drops below 72 degrees or rises above 78.

There’s a reason our license plate frames read: Best Climate on Earth, and when mother nature denies us this boast, we get a little cranky, and more than a little vocal. Mostly because we don’t have in-home air conditioners, or if we do, we’ve forgotten how to clean an air vent, to turn them on.

In addition to living at the beach, or splashing in the pool until your toes are prunish, one way to escape the heat is to drive. Tops and windows down, we crank up the radio and blue dial the air-con and drive until the heat breaks.

In Play It As It Lays—or the best Los Angeles novel ever written as I call it—author Joan Didion drives her protagonist Maria through the heat as she takes on the iconic interchange of the L.A. freeway in brilliant and breathtaking fashion. She writes of roads and off ramps, rest stops and lane changes unlike any other writer.

In my book, So L.A., I was very much inspired by Didion’s freeway devotion. Particularly, the ways in which driving becomes a brilliantly choreographed dance, like in this passage:

Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove. She drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura. She drove it as a riverman runs a river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions, and just as a riverman feels the pull of the rapids in the lull between sleeping and waking, so Maria lay at night in the still of Beverly Hills and saw the great signs soar overhead at seventy miles an hour. Normandie 1/4 Vermont 3/4 Harbor Fwy I. Again and again she returned to an intricate stretch just south of the interchange where successful passage from the Hollywood onto the Harbor required a diagonal move across four lanes of traffic. On the afternoon she finally did it without once braking or once losing the beat on the radio she was exhilarated, and that night slept dreamlessly.”

-Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays

So, in an effort to escape the heat, I invite you to join Joanie D. and me as we hop into something convertible, our hair wrapped in brightly covered scarves that flutter in the wind. Remember to buckle up. Use your hands free device, and above all, do not forget to press your oversized sunglasses tight against your faces as I put the car in drive.

Backing out of the driveway at Joan Didion’s “suburbia house” in Brentwood Park, the one that used to harbor a garden of “mint, stephanotis and the pink magnolia,” we’ll have to navigate the city streets until we catch the 10 freeway east to the 110 to the 101 before briefly hopping back on the 10 again to exit on Temple. There, we’ll find ourselves (if, of course we find parking), on streets well walked by another Los Angeles writer I adore, John Fante.

Often hailed as the best Los Angeles book that no one has read, Fante’s Ask The Dust (1939), is situated in Bunker Hill, in the heart of downtown. Part love song to an illusive women, and part love song to the city of L.A. herself, Fante declares his devotion (and his distaste) for the city of angles in breathless lines such as these: “Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”

-John Fante, Ask The Dust

From here we can walk to the corner of Alameda and Main. I know, I know. I’ve heard the song plenty and nobody walks in L.A., but trust me, in the time it would take us to find our keys, make a left turn on a red light and repark we could walk to Alameda and back five, maybe six times, so settle up your peep-toed shoes and follow me to old Terminal Annex Post Office building where Charles Bukowski spent years sorting the mail (and his various rejection slips) before the publication of his book Post Office (1971) where he confesses: “I wanted the whole world or nothing.”

 —

Next door, at Union Station, we can buy a round-trip Metrolink ticket to El Monte, home of the imaginary sun-bleached flower fields of the El Monte Flores, a notorious carnation picking gang who wage a war against Saturn and omniscient narration in Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper (2004). And if we listen carefully, we can hear the words of Plascencia’s papered people: “She had heard that Los Angeles was the last refuge for those who had lost their civilization and were afraid of the rain.”

-Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper

 —

Off the train, we can walk back to fetch the car and end the day with a drive down Hollywood Boulevard, stopping for a drink at Musso and Frank, a place Gore Vidal said, “is like stepping into a warm bath.” Frequented by William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler and Nathanael West, the martinis never fail, and neither does Manny Aguirre, the 78-year-old bartender who is rumored to have once poured a drink for James Dean.

 —

With cocktails and dinner done, we can then turn in at the Hollywood Patio Hotel, with the “ugly maroon bedspread” where Money Brenton, the protagonist of Mary Robison’s brilliant Why Did I Ever (2002) spends her undermedicated days doctoring Hollywood scripts, while passing out beautiful zingers like: “There’s an anemic moon out there, milked over, hanging low in the low green sky. That couple in the heated pool. How do they, I wonder, figure into things?”

-Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever

 —

In the morning as we ease into rush hour traffic, remember, to put on your blinker. As Magdalena says in So L.A.:  “Ricky, like most Angelinos, doesn’t believe in the blinker. He maintains that by initiating the blink you actually hinder any small chance you have of actually getting over. The guy on your right, when he sees the click-click of the yellow light, will speed up and close in on the gap. But I disagree. One of the remarkable things about Los Angeles, one of those things that no one seems to talk about, is how we all do manage to get where we’re going. We slide from the fast lane (wave) to the middle lane (wave) to the slow lane (wave) to the exit ramp (blinker off), and we merge. It may not be singularly graceful or without incident, but 99.9 percent of the time we do manage to make our exits, our left turns, our way home.”

-Bridget Hoida, So L.A.

Bridget Hoida on: The Tall Wall

There are a lot of reasons why I adore my agent, the charming Sally van Haitsma. To begin, she’s smart. Really really smart. And by really really smart I mean smart in the way of getting obscure cultural references and understanding that some darlings cannot be killed all in the same breath. She’s also persistent. As in, she never, ever gave up on me or my book, even after we were told by the Big Six (and the little sixty) that it was, perhaps “too Hollywood insider” for anyone outside of the Hollywood set. Also of note, she cares. Which is rare when it’s true, and with Sally it’s always true. But if I had to list the best reason why I’m so smitten with Sally, I’d have to admit it’s because she’s tall.  Really, really tall. Almost as tall as she is smart and that’s why I like her.

ImageIn the first six–or sixteen– drafts of So L.A. Magdalena, the protagonist, was tall, but it was Sally who pushed me to make her taller. To make her own her tallness and to translate that tall onto the page. When you’re 23 or 36 tall is sexy, but when you’re 13 and taller than pretty much everyone in your junior high school –administration included– tall is not so delightful. In fact it’s painful. And even though I’m six feet it was Sally who had to reminded me of what it means, how it feels to be tall. Through her tallness, and her caring boldness, she pushed me back into the arms of a too-short eighth-grade-boy at the junior high dance. She made me slow dance with that short, sticky boy in my mind, the Karate Kid’s “Glory of Love” on perpetual repeat. While we brunched at Antoine’s Cafe, the two of us compared inadequate inseams and the brief but lasting horror of stirrup-pant blunders (thank god for scrunch socks and safety pins).

Which is important. Especially in Magdalena’s world where she admittedly “augmented everything” sans corneal implants. And height. And it’s important too, in today’s world of “perceived imperfections” where patience isn’t valued. Where girls (and boys) are having cosmetic surgery at 12 and 14 to “fit” the “beauty norms” of an increasingly image obsessed society. Don’t believe me? See here: The Upside of Ugly. Or consider my kid. He was born with one ear that is bigger than the other. The medical explanation is that the cartilage is missing. As his mother I was urged to fix his big ear “before the age of five.” I refused. He’s older now, way beyond five yet recently a doctor asked him, at his check up, if people bullied him about his ear and if he wanted to get it fixed? He looked at the doctor like she was crazy, held his big ear and said: “No way! This is my lucky ear.”

So what I want to say is: It takes time to grow into your face. And time to grow into your height, too. Why would anyone want to alter that? Why would anyone want to augment what inspires resilience? What gives them character? No matter how awkward or painful?

“The Tall Wall” an excerpt from So L.A. by Bridget Hoida

IN ADDITION to their supposed intuition, the Jablonowski women were also tall. At six feet I’m their crown jewel. Although I never saw it that way. What I saw was a girl hunched over at her seventh-grade dance, ignoring her grandmother’s pleas not to slouch, hoping—just for one song—that she would shrink short enough to be swirled in an awkward shuffle around the floor.

And because I towered over most of the boys in my sixth- through eleventh-grade classes, it was impossible for me to be pretty. To be pretty was to have Guess? Jeans that zipped just below your ankle, not two inches above. To be pretty was to have a spiral perm and jelly shoes and stretch pants with stirrups that actually stretched under your foot (and did not, for example, have to be cut off and pinned inside two pair of scrunch socks). To be pretty was to have your boyfriend’s name puff-painted on your pink jean jacket and an arm full of Swatches and friendship bracelets that linked you to Heathers or Valeries or Kimberlys or Kristens.

To be pretty was to be short. Shorter, at least, than the boys. Which, at fourteen, stretched out on my extra-long day bed and flipping through Vogue, didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Because when I looked at the glossy pages I didn’t see short girls. I saw stringy, awkward gazelles with spaghetti limbs draped in lace and slumped artfully across the pulpits of abandoned southern churches. I saw muted beach pictorials of barely-there bikinis and legs as long as the surfboards they perched upon. But apparently, as my mother explained while she stroked my straight hair, Real people don’t live in Vogue, Laney. They live in suburbs and neighborhoods and apartment complexes and farms. Real people have to work for a living and can’t spend all day in their underwear flipping through magazines and imagining themselves shorter.

I’m not in my underwear, I said as I slid on a pair of super-short cut-offs. And I don’t imagine myself shorter, I said as I slid the magazine under my pillow. I imagine myself tall, in a world with tall people who think that I’m pretty.

Well sounds like you’re home, my mom said as she motioned out the large bay window toward Junah and my three tall cousins bent over grapes in the field. Ready to join Tall World, because it’s crush time.

You so don’t get it, I said as I tugged an old Esprit t-shirt and ran out into the hall. You just don’t get it at all.

 —

OUTSIDE OF the land of giants that were largely male and entirely related to me by blood, the rest of the world had pegged me as Too Tall. At least for a girl. Worse yet, in their opinion, I refused to put my long legs up to any real use. I mean sure, I helped people reach top things on shelves and such, but I refused to bump, set, spike, lay-up, free throw or triple jump. Because I was neither athletic nor pretty I was left with smart, which I embraced fully and added to it—more from necessity than from desire—some flair. Let the pretty girls have their acid-washed jeans, cinch belts and China flats. I was going to be an artist. And because real paint supplies were too expensive, I took to installation and made-do with myself. I wore argyle sweaters and color-changing lipstick. I studied the fashion magazines I hid beneath my pillow and pieced together a new vision for myself. My mom was more than happy to let me take over the Singer, and with it I learned to sew sections of Junah’s old jeans into patchwork miniskirts that I adorned with safety pins and grosgrain ribbon. I was the first girl in Lodi to wear ankle socks with patent-leather pumps and, when it was cold, I pulled up mismatched leg warmers. If I couldn’t be pretty then at least I’d be striking. I’d be memorable. I’d be something more than a tall girl, tugging on the hemline of her store-bought skirt and slouching in the corner.

Bridget Hoida on: Eating Bookmarks

So L.A. was featured in the BookClub CookBook’s July newsletter as a “terrific new book for summer reading.” In the BookClub CookBook authors are asked to create a Book Club menu (yum!) for readers. This is what I recommend:

Call me old fashioned, but when I’m asked, “What pairs well with books?” My go to answer is: “Libraries, readers, and a cozy deck chair.”  So, as you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback when I was recently asked to “pair” my book with “something edible.”

 —

“Like a bookmark?” I replied, because as my mother tells it, when I was a baby, and she was speeding through a novel holding me on her lap, I devoured an entire cardboard placeholder while she made her way to the end of the chapter.

“I wondered why you were being so good,” she says in the retelling, “and then I saw the bits of bookmark in your drool.”

I love this story almost as much as I love my mother because it shows equally my early passion for literature and my mother’s unwavering commitment to raising me right, which is to say, she raised me with, among, and inside of books. She not only read to me, but she read near me and that matters almost as much now as it did then.

I’ve been told, however, one cannot live on books alone and so I offer you the following Book Club recipes inspired by So L.A. as featured in this month’s BookClub CookBook’s “Buzzing About Books!

To be paired with So L.A. (and because I know everyone likes options, I’ve given you two menu choices!)

Menu you have SO got to be kidding me

 (conforms to The Hollywood Supermodel Diet)

Gin, Up:  A tall glass of Tanqueray Ten. With a paper straw. So it looks like a Sprite.

Peanut M&Ms: A grande package of peanut M&Ms. (To be eaten one at a time on the half hour beginning with red and proceeding in rainbow order.)

Menu L.A.

 (for those among us who are happily

NOT on the Hollywood Supermodel Diet)

Spiced Cucumber Collins: Made best bar side, by the tenders of Public at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, the Spiced Cucumber Collins is crafted with Hendricks’s Gin, lime, Shishito pepper, cucumber and mint. Embellished with cucumber, cut in a half-moon, for some cool summer flair this dazzling drink brings the heat with Shishito peppers that are abSOlutely So L.A.

Salsa Bar Trifecta
Mango-Avocado Salsa
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced medium
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced medium
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 to 1 habanero chili (stem and seeds removed), minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Pico de Gallo
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, ripe but firm
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2-3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1-2 hot peppers, or to taste
  • 4-5 Key limes,
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Black Bean Salsa
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (17-ounce) package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Homeboy Tortilla Strips: Dip with Homeboy Tortilla Strips, handmade in L.A., where their motto is “Jobs not Jails,” Homeboy Industries “offers hope, training and support to formerly gang-involved and recently incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.”

Lettered Press is pleased to offer a Book Club Bundle

where Book Clubs can order discounted copies of So L.A. in bulk.

To order please visit the Lettered Press store and click on Book Club Bundle!

Magdalena On: Psychological Highlights

After Junah, my hair went dark.

They say that can happen, you know. Shock or something. But not my whole head, just a streak. Like an inverted skunk of brown tailing its way through the top left part of my yellow head. Jersi, my stylist, said on most people it usually goes white.

Well fuck me for being the exception.

He sighed, brushed a small brown strand high above my head and held it there, the ends tightly wrapped around the bristles of his brush. The rest of my hair was wet, and my shoulders and chest were covered with a silver smock. I looked at my reflection and followed the lock of brown hair upwards towards the exposed bulbs running in a straight line across the top of the mirror. There were six of them and they cast a hyper-white glaze across my face so that my skin appeared translucent. You could actually see the veins pushing blood across my forehead. It was rich. It was much too much. I looked at my lap and said, Do what you can.

Jersi looked at me, or at least the mirror image of me, and said, I’m not going to pretend that it will be easy Cupcake, but I think, although the texture’s changed, that I can bleach it out, maybe add a few psychological highlights.

That’s when I started screaming. When I couldn’t stop.

Losing Junah isn’t something I like to talk about.

So I’m not going to.

What I will say is that sometimes I wonder, if Ricky wasn’t on liquid time, if he didn’t sleep only four and a half hours a night, if I would be able to stay awake and pretend not to go crazy, pretend not to know that it’s impossible to only sleep four and a half hours a day, pretend not to care that if he isn’t sleeping here he must be sleeping somewhere, right?

But where?

And with whom?

And if he slept, say, six or seven hours like most people, would I make it? Would I be able to lie beside him night after night and hate him? Night after night in some sleek and silly nightie with my arm almost touching his thigh, with my head almost touching his chest. (If I actually touch him, he says, Mags go on your own side. Like we’re six and seven in the backseat of the station wagon and have drawn imaginary lines to mark territory. Pretend there is a chain saw running down this line, Junah would say, tracing the vinyl ribbing that ran the length of the upholstery, and if you cross it you will loose your arm. That’s how it is with Ricky, only now it’s a bed and we’re twenty-nine and thirty-four.) For eighteen months I’ve lain here, almost insane, almost ready to leave, almost ready to scream: I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you! I’m not touching… But before I can finish, Ricky’s alarm (set to New York time) sounds. If we were in New York it would be 7:30 am. But we’re not in New York. We’re in Los Angeles, or some Hollywood extension thereof. And in Los Angeles Ricky will shower and shave and dress himself up in gray slacks, a lavender shirt and paisley tie because it’s the outfit I have laid out for him. On the back of his belt I have written i love you in Mauve-a-licious nail polish. He won’t notice. It’s been there for three months.

Should I say it again?

That he doesn’t notice anything?

When he actually does notice he’s liable to shout. Then I will have to go to Bloomies and buy him a replacement. It will be something to do. Something besides trying to peel the label off a bottle of gin in one fluid, untorn piece. Something besides imagining my hangover is morning sickness. Something besides seeing Junah die, over and over and over again in the backspaces of my mind.

Excerpt from “Treatment” So L.A. by Bridget Hoida, copyright 2012

Bridget Hoida on: Writing in Bathtubs

I was asked, today, by a fabulous reporter, what my writing method is.  “Longhand, computer, cocktail napkins?” he inquired, which caused me to pause, (deep breath) because I sincerely wish I was still as sexy as the drunken scrawl of a cocktail napkin. But writing. With kids. Is something else entirely.

When I was young(er), (read: childless & broke) I lived in a fabulous one bedroom on Dohney, just off the Sunset Strip. I was shacked up with my then boyfriend (now husband) and we believed that because we lived next-door to the couple that appeared on that reality show, Temptation Island, (hosted by Marky Mark, minus the “Funky Bunch“) that we were happening. I won’t mention that only one burner worked on that thing we called a stove, because for the most part we ordered out. But I will mention that then, writing was a process. We were broke (did I mention that?) and my “desk” of choice was the defunct bathtub in our carpeted bathroom. Yeah, the bathroom had carpet. I’ll spare you the details but to say, it had a shower (on the left side) and a claw foot tub on the right. Because we had a bed, that gawd-awful stove, an olive-green refrigerator, and a view (did I mention the view?) there wasn’t much room to eat, or write, in our 550 square feet, so I holed up in the only available space: the broken bathtub. Outfitted with over-sized pillows and a cookie sheet writing desk, it was almost fashionable. When I wrote then, I had the luxury of habit. Of method.

Before kids I could make organic, free-trade lattes. Light a candle. Call a few friends long-distance. Do lunch. Take a walk on the beach. Take a nap. Light another candle, (bougainvillea this time because peony is so passe). Burn a new CD. And then write.

When you’re paying someone, hourly, to watch your kids you have no time for atmosphere or ambiance.

You sit down in a chair –with a cold cup of coffee, if you’re lucky—and you write until the babysitter reminds you she needs to go home, NOW. And even then, you try to squeak out a few more words, another page, before the kids start asking for blueberries and their ninja costumes.

Today, my habit is the back of a Target receipt in the queue of a carpool line. My method? Stolen moments.