August Marks Back To School Season

My teaching job is always my top priority, not only because it pays my bills, but because it’s something that provides me with intrinsic rewards as well. That’s why, for the month of August, I’ll be taking the helm over at The Gloria Sirens to feature stories and content related to school, education, and learning.

Here’s a taste of what to expect:


On Not Writing and Not Feeling Guilty About It

You may have noticed things have been mighty quiet around here for a while. I haven’t been writing–and I wrote about that in a guest blog over at Sundress.

In early spring, a dear friend and I walked the cobbled, hilly roads of Seattle taking turns choosing where our feet would take us. Our booted Florida feet leveled off the pier and made the giant circumference of the Ferris wheel, our eyes gazing out at the rocky shores of Puget Sound and the shadow of Mt. Rainier. We dawdled on the mossy grass beneath the Space Needle, the squeaky twitters of hummingbirds sharp in our ears. We navigated beneath the Pike Place Market to make our sticky contribution to the Gum Wall. Our matching raincoats tucked into our bags, we explored the city and split only once inside of the conference center.

Our sightseeing resulted from our attendance to the largest conference for writers and writing programs, a familiar venue for those of us who are bound to the written word. At this conference, I prioritized my time between raiding the bookfair and attending panels on maintaining the writing-while-teaching balance.

It was nine months after I earned my MFA, and I hadn’t written anything new.

Continue reading here.

Website Revaamp

You may have noticed that I’ve made some adjustments to my blog. Due to some changes in my personal and professional life, I haven’t been able to focus solely on learning the craft of cartooning. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand the scope of my blog to include all aspects of lifelong learning, especially with respect to teaching, writing, cartooning, and editing.

I’ve also started tweeting on the same subjects, so follow me @LeslieLearns and take a look at the Twitter widget on the left to see what I’m up to!



Cutting as Cleansing

This isn’t comics, but it’s related to writing and might be considered a photo-essay of sorts.

I recently made a big change to my physical appearance, and write about it with my fellow Sirens as we all discuss our relationship with hair in posts made this Saturday.

A week ago, I cut almost twelve inches of my long, curly locks off. It wasn’t the first time I’d cut off a drastic amount of hair. The first time I parted with more than a foot of my curls was four years prior–four years almost to the day.

I sported a lighter shade of brunette back then, and decided cutting my hair was only the proper way to celebrate two huge life changes: changing my major from physics to English and dumping my boyfriend of half a decade. The idea to cut my hair was partially vindictive, as the now-ex-boyfriend loved it dearly, and I was sick of the length, the heat, and the frizziness.

When I told one of my roommates about my plan to chop my hair off, she simply pressed her lips together and let her shoulder sag. “Don’t punish yourself like that,” she said.

Read more at The Gloria Sirens.

Picky Eater — Expanded

I’ve been asked to join The Gloria Sirens, a group of brilliant and intimidating women, writing and creating brave art. I am thrilled and humbled to be included as a voice in their chorus.

For my first post, I expanded on one of my most popular works, a nonfiction comic called “Picky Eater,” originally published in Sweet: A Literary Confection, issue 4.3.

For a sneak peek on what it’s about–

I was picky. For several years, my preferred menu consisted of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. Things that were leafy or green were totally out of the question, as was any portion of food larger than my fist. And while I’ve slowly grown to expand my culinary horizons, I realized that I may not be the only picky eater in the family.

Read more here.

To 2013

As I reflect on the year that’s passed and the lack of many substantial posts on my blog, I think it may be appropriate to chronicle what’s passed in the hopes of springloading my hopes for the future.

To 2013.

2013, you were awesome. It’s been a hell of a year, and I’m thrilled I was along for the ride.

You saw me through earning my MFA. That alone should have been enough.

Yet, you added new cities to the cartography of my life. You took me to Boston and St. Augustine to present research and meet some of my favorite authors. You let me spend a month in Denver learning about publishing, hiking the Rockies, and networking with current and upcoming publishing professionals. When I got back to Florida, you made sure I had a fantastic new job waiting for me, where I’ve been able to challenge myself by utilizing all of the skills I’ve learned over my entire life. And then your surprise addition of a fixer-upper in a south Georgia marsh notified me of a peace and serenity I didn’t even realize I craved.

There were some valleys between peaks, yes; lots of stress and tears. I missed too many milestones–graduation, swearing-in, birthdays, anniversaries. I did some things I never expected to do, like willingly eating vegetables and sushi, amicably reconnecting with an ex, and spending my summer grading standardized tests. I sent out a lot of work and got a lot of rejections–proof I still have room to grow.

New words entered into the lexicon of my life: precinct, burgled, 10-51 10-42. I came to terms with the bitter sweetness of the thin blue line and what it means for me with the five-pointed star and stamped tags jingling around my neck.

And even so, 2013, you were full of invitations! To start a weekly column on comics, to become an assistant graphic narrative editor for one of my favorite lit magazines (in addition to the other editorship I hold), to spearhead the production of a chapbook, to contribute a chapter for an academic text, to submit my work to some of the best publications in my field.

There was also the joy of reacquainting myself with my love of being physical and working with my hands: hiking mountains, painting a house, dusting off the old violin, teaching myself to play ukulele, making an instrument case by hand, jumping back into photography, practicing yoga, running, and finally getting my feet wet with cosplay.

Thanks, 2013. For the books in my palms, the music in my ears, the neurons firing in my head, the moments at my fingertips, and the art in my heart. For all the new friendships, the old ones renewed, the babies born and the loved ones lost, and all the experiences and opportunities (both happy and sad) that have cultivated this year into one of my very favorites.

Cheers, 2013. Here’s to hoping 2014 is even a fraction as good as you were.

Admitting Defeat & Starting Anew

Since I’ve been kind of quiet on the blog lately, you may be able to discern that I’ve been extremely busy. I’m still getting used to my workload for my new job, and the adjustment period has been interesting. Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely love what I do. But I think I love it so much I don’t realize that I’m managing my time poorly (and spending too much time grading).

That being said, I’d had to waive the white flag of defeat. At this point, I’m unable to devote as much time as I need to on the MOOC on Comics. Hopefully they’ll offer the course again, when I’m well-adjusted enough to balance my time a little bit better.

Lately, I’m mostly been enveloping myself in getting back in touch with other forms of art I’ve had to set aside while I pursued higher education. I’ve reacquainted myself with my violin, and even helped a friend set hers up. I bought a ukulele and have been slowly teaching myself the major and minor chords. Most of my time with the ukulele has been sewing, though. I just finished making a gig bag from scratch. And now I’m in total Halloween mode.

With respect to drawing and comics, I’ve taken to sketching things I see in real life. This happened a lot during my Orientation process at my new job. Sketching and doodling helps me focus, and thankfully my colleagues knew that some people are like this and didn’t think I was rude. As a result, I sketched a lot of the speakers, and gave those sketches away.

The sketching has been really relaxing and is helping me practice more real-life drawing. Which brings me to my next endeavor:

The Sketchbook Project.

Brought to my attention by a friend and fellow artist, I immediately fell in love with the concept of getting a sketchbook and filling it with whatever I wanted–and then having that sketchbook go on and live it’s life in an Art Library. How cool is that?

My plan is just to carry the notebook around and sketch people and things that I see from day to day life. I’m trying to keep this simple, because if I get too ambitious I’ll probably bonk and have to start over. I should be getting my sketchbook in the mail in a few weeks. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.

As for my writing life, I’m still keeping up with my weekly column at The Drunken Odyssey: Gutter Space, where I write mini-reviews about webcomics and graphic novels. I’ve also been doing some research on a full-scale graphic novel I’d like to write. Part of me thinks I could use NaNoWriMo as a springboard for getting this project off the ground, and part of me realizes I may be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps.

More updates in the future, and more accountability!