By KATHERINE ROSMAN
On a bleak-for-Los Angeles morning this month, Kelly Oxford — author, mother, social media activist and provocateur — sat in a coffee shop where she had never been before, tapping away texts to her mom and friends, and talking about her late dog Lou, a toy poodle who was made so popular by her Instagram feed that he has attracted his own press attention. Lou’s death has disrupted not only Ms. Oxford’s life, but also her daily routine.
“I basically got the dogs to take over for all of the stuff the kids didn’t need me to do,” she began, sipping a mocha as she reflected on the dynamic that Lou, who was a year old when he died, and her other dog, Archie, a 2-year-old sheepdog-poodle mix, have played in her family.
“Once the kids didn’t need me to help them in the bathroom and stopped asking me if I could get them water, they became annoyed with me,” she said, adding: “That’s why I love my dogs, because someone does need me to pick up their poop, someone does need me to put out their water. All these skills I spent 10 years working on, I had good use for them still.”
Before Lou died in early December after a freakish accident that broke his neck, Ms. Oxford, 39, adhered to a certain rhythm to her mornings. She would wake early with her three children, ages 15, 13 and 8, and send them off to school.
By 7 a.m., usually, she got down to work: checking texts and emails, scanning the thousands of social media mentions she receives on Twitter (where she has north of 760,000 followers) and Instagram (more than 145,000 followers) and settling in to write her latest essay/TV pilot/screenplay/tweetstorm.
By 9:30 a.m., she typically walked with a girlfriend, and with Lou, to a coffee shop near her Studio City home. She has returned to the coffee shop just once since Lou’s death. “Everyone there said, ‘Where’s Lou?’ And I cried.”
Ms. Oxford said she often felt awkward in real-life situations. But sharing on social media the joys and pitfalls of her life is a different matter. (She poured her grief over Lou’s death into many posts.) In fact, it is her online presence, which is at once domesticated and ardently feminist, that led to her current career as an in-demand writer in Hollywood. (She and her family moved to Los Angeles in 2012, from Calgary, Canada.)
Her 2013 best-selling book, “Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar,” will be followed this April with a second book of essays, “When You Find Out the World Is Against You,” and she has just finished writing “All the Way,” a coming-of-age screenplay for Sony Pictures about high school girls on a quest to lose their virginity. (Seth Rogen is a producer.) She is also working on a talk show, with Michael Sugar, who was a producer for the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” to leverage Ms. Oxford’s knack for igniting conversations among women.
Mr. Sugar contacted Ms. Oxford to broach the collaboration in the wake of the Donald Trump-Billy Bush hot-mic tape. After watching the video, she began to tweet about her own experiences with sexual abuse, adding the hashtag #NotOkay. Millions of women responded with their own stories.
Ms. Oxford deals with internet trolls and many (sometimes productive) arguments with total strangers. None of this produces anxiety, she said. But nearly everything else does. Preparing for events, not preparing for them, being in social situations, avoiding social situations, meeting with reporters — all of it.
Sitting under blankets and on cushions in a dark room at the Den Meditation studio, Ms. Oxford and Ms. Zimmer closed their eyes as Kelsey Patel, a spiritual empowerment leader and healer, asked each person to share something they wished to leave behind in 2016.
“Anxiety,” Ms. Oxford said when it was her turn. (Ms. Zimmer said, “Stress.”)
Ms. Oxford later said that she enjoyed the calming experience of the reiki circle but did not expect to feel less on edge in 2017. “It’s ingrained in me to be anxious,” she said, unconsciously touching her iPhone, which sits in a case that says “Chill Pills.”
The phone case was a gift from a friend. “I get offered free things all the time,” she said. “I haven’t had to buy clothes in like four years.”
Or jewelry. For example, she wears golden earrings shaped like arches.“McDonald’s sent to them to me on my birthday last year,” she said.
As her social media followers know, Ms. Oxford loves McDonald’s and goes there for a Filet-o-Fish sandwich and fries when she has a great or a terrible day. “I got my period in an M.R.I. machine a few months ago and I went right to McDonald’s after and was Snapchatting it,” she said.
She also wears a free nameplate necklace that says “Oprah,” another of her favorites. “She was on after school and she taught me about everything,” she said of Oprah Winfrey. “We need ‘Oprah’ back. I think it would really help.”
A few days after Lou died, Ms. Oxford received (via direct message on Instagram, naturally) an offer of an unexpected freebie: a puppy. When she asked her son if he would like a new puppy, he nodded his head and began to cry.
Calvin the Frenchie moved in with his new family on Tuesday, a day after Ms. Oxford imagined new beginnings in the reiki circle. Then she welcomed him with an Instagram post.