Meet Stephanie Danler

Streetstyle Details: Sweater, Jenni Kayne ; Dress, The Odells in Silverlake ; Bag, Loeffler Randall ; Sneakers, Superga ; Sunglasses, Warby Parker
 

Stephanie Danler is a writer and the author of the National Bestseller Sweetbitter, now available in paperback from Vintage Contemporaries. She holds an MFA from The New School. After attending Kenyon College for undergrad, Stephanie moved to New York to pursue writing while supporting herself by working in the restaurant industry, an experience that inspired her debut novel. Her work has appeared in The Sewanee Review, Travel + Leisure, Vogue and The Paris Review. She currently lives in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.

ON becoming a writer

I have always been a writer, known that it was how I communicated. When I was eight I started to consciously write. I was obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe, so I wrote these gruesome, gothic, ghost stories, one in particular that got me in trouble with the nuns (yes, Catholic school). My grandmother came and picked me up from school and I thought she was going to be so angry. She asked me to read the story aloud. We were at a stoplight when I finished reading and I remember it so clearly – she said, “You are a writer. Never stop writing.” Sweetbitter is dedicated to her and my grandfather. They gave me everything I have.

On her Morning Routine

Coffee. Canyon Coffee preferably, rich with the perfect amount of acid. Pressed Juicery Greens 4. Toast. I read poetry and write by hand every morning, even if it’s just five minutes. I’ve been doing it for most of my life so it doesn’t feel like a practice at this point, just a reflex.

On where she grew up

I grew up in small beach town called Seal Beach with this run-down wooden pier and tons of locally owned businesses, a kind of magically undeveloped place on a very developed stretch of coast. I rode a gravity longboard to and from school, not a joke. 

Copies of various versions of Stephanie's book, Sweetbitter
I had a very ‘troubled’ high school transcript. I got rejected from almost every college. I had an English teacher who believed in my writing and made me apply to Kenyon College, where he had gone. It has one of the best creative writing programs in the country. They waitlisted me. I ran a furious campaign – I flew out there, interviewed twice, sent them every short story I ever wrote…I got in. It was the first confirmation I received that I was supposed to be writing. I would get the same confirmation eleven years later when I got into graduate school. I think there are often signs guiding us, pointing us towards a path, but we’re all so busy, it’s hard to pay attention.
— on finding her path

ON figuring it all out

I graduated from college with a mostly complete novel (also about New York City! Also had tons of cocaine!) and I hoped to get into publishing. I had been working in restaurants since I was 15 years old and though I had gone to a fancy private school and I was supposed to take unpaid internships or whatever my friends were doing, I also knew that I had to make money. I knew that restaurants were my preferred way of making money and giving myself a creative life. I didn’t think I would put writing to the side for seven years, or that I would go to wine school, that I would help open businesses and run restaurants. I didn’t realize the way in which I would fall into the food and wine industry and how fulfilling it would be. I suddenly had the second identity, alongside writing, and that was a restaurant person.

On the 'life or death' moment

I think every writer comes up against this kind of 'life or death' moment. I was about to turn thirty, I was about to open more business, and I thought, if I don’t do this right now it will be ten years. I applied to graduate school without telling anyone, but when I got in, I knew it was now.

oN discovering the storyline for her book

After seven years of living, sleeping, breathing restaurants, I had this despair that I wasn’t writing. I still wrote in the mornings, but I hadn’t crafted something – a short story, an essay - in a long, long time. And I had this idea I would daydream about during dinner service, a female coming of age that focused on the nebulous early twenties, when you’re free for the first time. And I had an idea that I could set it in the world I loved and knew so intimately.

Outfit Details: Top, Jenni Kayne

Outfit Details: Top, Jenni Kayne

Stephanie's favorite books

Stephanie's favorite books

ON THE BEAUTY PRODUCTS SHE USES

There are two products that I keep in threes (bedside, purse, car): Weleda’s Skin Food and Glossier’s Balm Dot Com. Obsessively moisturizing – that’s me.I moved to Aesop’s cleansing oil six months ago, and I will never go back to a soap cleanser. Even my serums are oil based – Joanna Vargas and Hourglass No 29 Primer (billed as a primer, actually a serum). My friend Ari Basile of the flower crown company Thistle and Seed mixes me a face oil (blend of argan, jojoba, calendula) that I use morning, noon, night.

on the sewanee review

The Sewanee Review relaunched with this insane Winter 2017 issue. Every detail, from the look to the content, is exciting – the cover is by Peter Mendelsund, a legend and genius in the art department at Knopf. Inside you have a little of everything (Lauren Groff, Jon Jeremiah Sullivan, Mary Jo Salter), but the debuts are thrilling – read 'Okiedoke' by Sidik Fofana. I have an essay in there ('Engrams, California') about Owens Lake and California drought and moving back to the place I was born. I’m so honored to be associated with the Review.

on her aesthetic 

My ‘aesthetic’ is inherited. I’m a gypsy, I’ve moved a lot. I have a few pieces (from the now defunct Moon River Chattel, and a reclaimed wooden farm table from Olde Good Things) but mostly I go with what’s in the space, couches left behind, art or bookshelves friends don’t want to move. When I moved into Laurel Canyon there was lime green shag carpeting in my room. Never would have thought I’d enjoy it, but now I’m obsessed with it.

Stephanie danler passerbuys

On her sPACE

Members of Fleetwood Mac lived in this house during the late 70s. It’s probably 90% of the reason I live here. I start every dinner party by playing Rumours – an absolutely perfect album – and sometimes I find I’m talking out loud to Stevie Nicks.

on SHOPPING

I don’t shop, I hate shopping, it’s been true my whole life. Thank god I am surround by stylish women I can 'borrow' from.

On her closet

My best friend Alex McKenna has a closet called ‘Narnia,’ it takes up at least its own bedroom or garage and she has storage units on both coasts. She’s what we call a collector (not allowed to say hoarder) and every piece I’ve worn for weddings, parties, photo shoots, my entire book tour comes from Narnia. Alex has been dressing me for over a decade! Tons of vintage, Reformation, Christy Dawn, Rag & Bone
I’m also obsessed with stylist Kate Brien’s personal style. She is always my goal, polished and casual. To mimic her, I go to Jenni Kayne – I collect their sweaters (the best fashion investment on the planet hands down) and the mule slides. Kate styles for Loeffler Randall – obsessed with their Lulu mules and Austin clogs and their bucket bag. And denim. Kate taught me that there’s no style in California without great denim, preferably vintage.

 

Outfit Details: Top, Jenni Kayne ; Jeans, Levi's
Stephanie danler passerbuys

on vacations & WALKING 

I plan my vacations around walks (Camino de Santiago in Spain, Lycian Way in Turkey, the Andes in Peru), but I also make a point to spend a day outside every week. This is easy in LA – I have the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains to play in. In New York my city walks were epic. I lived in Williamsburg and would walk to Union Square, then to Grand Central, then to the Met. Now I stay with my sister in Chinatown and we put on sneakers and go.

on Aperitifs & reading

I’m a firm believer in aperitifs. There’s Campari sodas or manzanilla sherry at 5pm on the dot. And reading. When people ask how I read so much, the answer is always that I don’t watch TV. I read a lot for work, but the reading at the end of the day is purely for pleasure.

on her snake ring

The snake ring that I wear on my wedding finger was my great grandmother’s. She was married and divorced three times and made this ring from all her wedding rings. It’ kinda cursed and beautiful.

on staying motivated

Finish what you start. I see so many insanely talented writers that get addicted to starting projects. The beginning is sexy. Tons of fiery, luminous potential. The middle is boring but it’s your job to get to the end. It’s only once you finish that you can hold the project that was in your head and know if you have the seeds of something solid, or if it’s garbage. I wish there was a shortcut. There isn’t.

Outfit Details: Top, Jenni Kayne

Outfit Details: Top, Jenni Kayne

Stephanie's Favorite Books

Abandon Me by Melissa Febos

Playground of My Mind by Julia Jacquette

The Sewanee Review

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

Stephanie's Favorite Records

Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

Kaputt by Destroyer

Movement by New Order

Stephanie's Favorite Places

Best Coffee: Laurel Canyon Country Mart

Best Drinks or Place to Have A Meeting:  Chateau Marmont

Best Restaurant: Petite Trois

Best Breakfast: Hollywood Farmers' Market

Best Place to Sweat: Fryman & Runyon

Best Wine Shop: DomaineLA

Stephanie's favorite movies:

8 1/2; Moonlight; Dirty Dancing; The Departed

 

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Photography by Lauren Moore