Meet Stephanie Danler

Meet Stephanie Danler

Stephanie Danler


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.



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



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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.
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.
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.
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.
Copies of various versions of Stephanie's book, Sweetbitter

Copies of various versions of Stephanie's book, Sweetbitter

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.
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.
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.
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.
Stephanie's favorite books

Stephanie's favorite books

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.
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 Rumors – an absolutely perfect album – and sometimes I find I’m talking out loud to Stevie Nicks.
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's favorite records

Stephanie's favorite records

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.
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.
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.
Stephanie's favorite beauty products

Stephanie's favorite beauty products

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.
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.
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.




✓ In the canyon, I go to Lily’s coffee stand at the Laurel Canyon Country Mart almost every day – that place is beyond special, I always meet someone borderline insane who has lived in the Canyon for decades.

✓ I get drinks or have meetings at the Chateau Marmont – it’s walking distance.

✓ Grabbing a plate of escargot and a glass of wine at Petite Trois is my ideal indulgence.

✓ I’m at the Hollywood Farmers' Market most Sundays – I usually have oysters for breakfast there, I go super early before it gets crazy.

domaineLA is the best wine store in Los Angeles, I tack it onto my Hollywood errands.

✓ When I’m writing all day at home, I’m between two hikes, Fryman and Runyon – I go out three times a week, sometimes to sweat, sometimes to think over a project I’m working on.