Published Essay: The Space Between

krista houstoun

This essay was originally published in fall 2015 issue of The Los Angeles Review.



The last time I saw him he was wearing all black. “Look for me, the man in black. Like that movie,” he chuckled. “All black.” As if I wouldn’t be able to recognize my own dad.

It had been four years since we last saw each another, with only a few phone calls scattered throughout that time. That space. We agreed to meet at a brewery in Flagstaff, Arizona, the college town I lived in. There he was, outer-space black from head to toe as promised, everything noticeably the same about him except his waist was drastically smaller and his nose—my nose—slightly bigger. He was in protest then. Of the government. Specifically, the NSA. The intelligence agency was responsible for the “complete and total demise” of his “multi-million-dollar real estate company” in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, he claimed. The Sonoran beach town had been his home ever since his second wife left him. The Sonoran beach town, the black hole that finally took him.

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This is how you soften


“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

It starts here. Every time it starts here: from an end.

Something closed, stopped, went away. Something died. It doesn’t matter what it is; it hurts.

For me, so many things died at once this year, most significantly you, when before this year, at 30 years old, not much in my life had died at all. A few family dogs, an acquaintance from high school, grandparents I didn’t know. But no one deep in my heart. You of all people know more than anyone how sheltered I was—you, the roof. As a grief virgin, it felt unfair; as if all the souls and all the galaxies were in cahoots behind my back that now was the time to collectively wither, go away, abandon—all so I could learn some great mystical lesson. All so I could be reborn. Sure, I get it. Spirit works that way: Rock-bottom is the best teacher; you can’t rise until you fall; obstacle is an invitation to bloom. But let’s not fool ourselves: before that lesson is learned and the growth grown, the withering hurts.

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The Key Building Your Own World

new world map

“If you can’t survive in this world, you had better make a world of your own.” – Jeanette Winterson

This quote has been North on my life’s compass for about a decade now, since I was first introduced to the mind-expanding works of Ms. Winterson. When I first read it I underlined it not once, as was standard, but twice—and then sprinkled stars around it. I knew I had found scripture.

As someone who often felt and at times expressed that “I wasn’t made for this world,” this quote was a warm blanket—a knowing that I wasn’t alone in an otherwise lonely world.

When I was in my mid-20s, high on the first glimpses of enlightenment, convinced I could change the world through a bumper sticker, I created a website called The Passion Project. I loved that project with my whole soul. The entire mission of the website was driven by the above quote: I was trying, through extreme measures, to make a world of my own. A lot of people in my life thought the website/idea was radical but I brushed those comments off because, hello!, I was and am and always will be radical. Radical is who I am—proudly. If you don’t know that by now, you don’t know me. Continue reading

To never have to ask for love

“Only the impossible is worth your time.” This successful author writes that in an essay and I wonder if she means it—you know, if she practices it in reality. She is a writer after all, and aren’t we are all so strong on the page?

Here in the space between the Times-New-Roman black and Word-document white I am David in this Goliath life. I am resolute and determined and everything I know is right wins; I do not resist the good things I am meant for; I easily deny the dark, the vampires, the fear. Here on this page I could live without her. Continue reading

Writing Process Blog Tour: A looksee at how I write

A couple of weeks ago my friend Chels Knorr invited me to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour and I said yes before I knew what it entailed. Write about my writing process? That’ll be quick, I quipped: “Fall in love. Break up. Write like a madwoman. Repeat.” I’m glad I didn’t let myself get away with that snarky answer and actually thought deeply about the questions–I even learned somethings about myself in the process. 

So without further ado, welcome to the inner workings of my writing mind: Continue reading

The Vienna Period: The Hope Rooms


The machine pumps like a heart in the background. An awkward double-clicking on the inhale, the sound of pressure releasing on the exhale. Click, click; psssssh. It is a sound many others have heard in similar rooms—in rooms where the common denominator is hope. The Hope Rooms, where every day is a coin toss, where things can go this way or that way and no one really knows. The rooms where life and death plea their cases.

Who is the ultimate judge?

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The Vienna Period: On being a gypsy soul

You’re approaching 30. Tick tock. You should focus on buying a house, a more reliable car – a bigger one, for the children that should come in no time. Family is the most important thing. Put your money into a 401K – read books about 401Ks and shit. Money is important. Appliance shopping is fun. Continue reading