Reed Stevens


BSR Contributor Since February 24, 2010

Reed Stevens, a former Philadelphian, is the author of Treasure of Taos, winner of the National Presswomen's First Prize for fiction, and Santa Fe Dreamhouse (2009). She lives in Campbell, Calif., where she can be reached at {encode="[email protected]" title="[email protected]"}. Visit her blog, "In My Dreamhouse," at

Call me a rolling stone—I'm an East Coaster the wind blew to Santa Fe and again to northern California. But I have deep Philadelphia roots. My father was born there and his parents and my long-gone aunt, the painter Edith Stevens, are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Roots? I put them down for ten wonderful years at 2104 Brandywine Street in Spring Garden. Little did I know when I drove out of the city in 1988 that a Santa Fe stockbroker would tell me, in 1997, that she was the next to last owner of that exact same Brandywine house!

So, you can't really take the gal outta Philly, where I got a good boost to my freelance career and confidence ranting about anything and everything in the old Welcomat. NOT true it was a birdcage liner! Dan was a steady hand at the tiller even back then.

I learned to broadcast as a volunteer at the Radio Information Center for the Blind in Philadelphia and from there went to WHYY News to sound off as a local commentator. You gotta love those microphones.

Hunting for a bigger whack at glory, I wrote and produced a quirky one-hour radio drama on a Pennsylvania Humanities grant. Hired a good scriptwriter and paid the cast Equity wages, too. Because of that Equity credit, my star went on to the understudy role in Amadeus on Broadway, no less.

(Do I know where he is now? Well, the thing about rolling stones is you lose your marbles.)

Then, thanks to the strong Philadelphia culture, National Public Radio Theater bought that play, The Story of Crazy Nora, and aired it nationally. With my mellifluous voice introducing it, no less. What a hoot that was. Crazy Nora was a real, live 19th-Century street character whose portrait hangs in the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Thanks to Charlie Blockson, the well-known black bibliophile who gave his extraordinary collection to Temple University, for that lead.

Having established my fame and glory in the Northeast, I followed my cowboy heart west where I saved a wonderful old adobe on the Santa Fe River and published my first book, Treasure of Taos (1993), out of print but available second-hand at

“How do you make a small fortune in Santa Fe?†people ask.

“Start with a big one.â€

Alas, true. After the house and the horses, the cowboys and Indians, which I describe in my second book, Santa Fe Dreamhouse (2009), money got very tight, so I sold real estate. That's in the book, too.

Partner (now lassoed into being Husband) Jim Tirjan, Lehigh ‘63, grabbed a job opportunity in Silicon Valley. It took me a good year to stop pronouncing it “silicone†valley, although some of the women out here in California..

Yeah, I am very East Coast. Now I flog Dreamhouse and rant for Dan in BSR. Rant even more on my blog: If you just have to have more Reed on your screen, take a look at that.

Who knows, maybe I'll figure out how to make some groovy vids on my new Mac. Boy, that scares the hell out me now, as I compose on Windows.

This old rolling stone has probably settled down now in Campbell, California. But that's not so far from Philadelphia these days, is it?

I'd love to hear from you!

By this Author

22 results
Page 1

Consumer angst: The urge to return something

Nothing to return, or: Diary of a mad consumer

Remember the disposable society? Now we live in the returnable society. Perhaps there was a time when I just threw my purse into the car and drove off to buy something. Now I drive off to return something.

Reed Stevens

Essays 5 minute read

Requiem for the post office

Growing up, and growing old, at the Post Office

I'm probably the last citizen who will miss post offices, because I haven't seen a child put anything in the Outgoing Mail slot for years. But not long ago the post office was a vibrant community center, and picking up the mail was a genuine treat.

Reed Stevens

Essays 6 minute read
Where is Andy Warhol now that I really need him?

Mourning Campbell's Soup

There goes my childhood, or: Farewell, Campbell's Soup

People don't buy canned soup the way they used to, say the folks at Campbell's. It's neither gourmet nor heart-healthy nor organic; it's inedibly salty; and it can't be microwaved. But can haute cuisine replace the memory of a steaming bowl of hot goopy tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread?

Reed Stevens

Essays 4 minute read
Ebert: Tickling the keys of our common music.

Roger Ebert's "Life Itself'

A charmed life, with a little help from his friends

Roger Ebert's memoir reveals the film critic as a lovable fellow who never had to apply for a job, fight for a promotion, sleep with an editor or fret about money. No wonder his book made me grumpy.

Reed Stevens

Essays 5 minute read
Chastain in 'The Help': The critics drooled.

"The Help' and "The Debt': Jessica Chastain's moment

Great teeth, great hair, and, well, you know the rest

Jessica Chastain has miles to go to match the force of Helen Mirren's mature persona. Until then, here's an actress beginning to stretch herself in two good movies aimed at very different audiences. The Help. A film written and directed by Tate Taylor, from the novel by Kathryn Stockett. For Philadelphia area showtimes, click here.

Reed Stevens

Articles 5 minute read

"Seeing Gertrude Stein' in San Francisco

A feminist's question: What was Gertrude Stein really about?

Gertrude Stein wrote unreadable prose, admired Hitler, had little use for women, betrayed her fellow Jews and was unspeakably mean to her longtime companion. Yet for one reason, I forgive her everything.

Reed Stevens

Essays 5 minute read

"True Grit' gets a remake

Tweaked Grit

The arch, awkward, faux-Victorian language almost worked in the original True Grit. But if you were born in 1995 and watching the Coen brothers' sendup of the 1969 sendup, you'd have to ask: What country, what planet spawned these people?

Reed Stevens

Articles 3 minute read
For the woman who has everything, a flying car.

My Christmas shopping list

Santa darling: What a woman really needs for Christmas

It's amazing, the things I never knew I needed until the December Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue arrived in my mail. Now I'm ready to give Santa my Christmas wish list. For good girls only, of course.

Reed Stevens

Essays 5 minute read
Peace demonstration, London, 1958: This was our war.

The making of an activist, 1960 (memoir)

'Let no dog bark': An activist's education

After I joined a “Ban the Bomb” protest in college, first my parents and then my fiancé scolded me for questioning the government. I had to choose between my independence and my survival. But in the half-century since, I've learned that I don't have to sacrifice one for the other.

Reed Stevens

Essays 9 minute read
Sniffing for concealed truffles: No longer a laughing matter. (Photo: 'The Onion.')

Airport security nightmare

Fear of flying (or landing): Your Customs Service in peace and war

After a 12-hour flight from Brazil, my husband was exhausted. Next thing he knew, he was in a windowless room, being told, “Do not look down, do not speak or we will take you down.”

Reed Stevens

Essays 3 minute read
Is there no escaping this gizmo?

A cell phone adventure

Reach out and touch someone (for mature audiences only)

My cell phone was a source of constant irritation, mainly because it constantly reminded me how old and technically challenged I am. But it did open up a new world to me, although not the way you might think.

Reed Stevens

Essays 7 minute read
Do I look like someone with Alzheimer's?

My health care Catch-22

No good deed goes unpunished: Your health care system in peace and war

Like a Good Wife I worried that I might have inherited my poor mother's Alzheimer's. So I went to see a neurologist, who gave me a clean bill of health. Big mistake.

Reed Stevens

Essays 3 minute read
While giving birth, she held off an Indian attack.

My great-grandmother grows younger

Cornelia's portrait: While I grow older, she grows younger

When I was a child, my pioneer great-grandmother seemed very old and insufferably proper. Now that I'm older than she was, she looks positively youthful, and I can imagine the two of us having a nice sit-down on the sofa.

Reed Stevens

Essays 4 minute read

A writer and her audience

What makes a good book?

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone could be a writer. The problem, says recent author Reed Stevens, is that most would-be writers don't understand that writing is a two-way process.

Reed Stevens

Essays 4 minute read

One woman's quest for peace and quiet

Do I hear an urban symphony?

In Philadelphia I once heard a mockingbird sing outside my house on Brandywine Street. But only once. As my cross-country peregrinations have proven, peace and quiet are hard to find no matter where you live.

Reed Stevens

Essays 6 minute read