“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are” --Jose Ortega Y Gassett
What do I attend to?
I live on Kodiak Island, Alaska, in a house on a cliff over the North Pacific waters of the Gulf of Alaska. The windows in my writing room, washed by hard-spray winds, stand watch over loons, coveys of sea ducks and two pairs of bald eagles who ride the cliff’s updrafts to the eaves over my head. Sometimes they are the fierce muse that I need as I sit searching for the words that belong in the next essay or book– but often, as they stand on the spire of rock stripping the guts of a salmon or a murre for their meal, I watch, still astonished, all words lost.
I live on another island as well. Every summer, since 1978, I move to Harvester Island off the west coast of Kodiak Island, where my husband and I and our 6 children are the island’s only inhabitants. Here we work in a family fishing operation, Fields’ Wild Salmon in an intensive four month season of commercial salmon fishing. We subsistence fish, hunt and gather here as well, smoking, pickling, canning and freezing salmon and halibut for the winter; making our own jellies from our island berries and growing in our garden whatever our cold short summers will allow.
It’s not enough to know our home well. Lest we think there is only one place to live or way to live it, we travel out into the world. Through the 1980’s, my husband and I traveled via expedition truck, double-decker bus, and backpack throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, S.E. Asia, and Africa. We came back changed. We did it again a few years ago, taking our kids out of school and traveling for a year throughout the U.S. and Central America. In 2018, my husband, two youngest sons and I will be traveling throughout Europe and the southern half of Africa, where I'll be speaking, teaching and doing research for my next book.
It’s a great joy to be able to speak and meet so many amazing, thoughtful people. I travel throughout North America to speak at universities, seminars, churches and retreats on matters of faith, literature, food, forgiveness, Creation Care, family relationships, and the writing life. (See link for topics) I love doing radio as well, and have appeared on hundreds of radio shows including Chris Fabry Live! Keepin’ the Faith (Illinois NPR), Family Life Radio with Dennis Rainey, Focus on the Family, Prime Time America, Prime Time Chicago.
Words and Word
I write for Christianity Today , CT Women, In Touch magazine and various other publications.
The classroom has been fertile ground for words as well. I've been teaching in undergraduate and graduate programs throughout the last 25 years, as an adjunct, as a professor, and then as a founding member of Seattle Pacific University's Master of Fine Arts program. I've been the Nick Barker writer-in-residence at Covenant College twice and teach writing workshops around the country through the Frederick Buechner Center, Writing for Your Life, and other entities.
I am the founder of the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop, bringing well-known writers (Phillip Yancey, Luci Shaw, Ann Voskamp, Bret Lott, Jeanne Murray Walker, Gina Ochsner ) to co-teach in the art, craft and faith of Writing.
Between speaking and writing, I also run a professional writing business, The Northern Pen, performing manuscript critique, mentoring and editing in all stages of creative, professional, and academic writing.
My tenth book, Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt and the Seas won Christianity Today's Book Award for Christian Living/Discipleship. Other books are these:
Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers:Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt Thomas Nelson, 2014).
The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God,
Hooked! True Stories of Obsession, Death and Love from Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Men and Women,
Parenting is Your Highest Calling...and Eight Other Myths (Waterbrook),
Surviving the Island of Grace (Thomas Dunne),
Surprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy,
Out on the Deep Blue (St. Martin’s),
The Entangling Net: Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives (Univ. of Illinois Press) and
The Water Under Fish (poetry).
Does this do it, then? Do these spheres of attention encompass a life to say what it is and what it means, why a life goes on where and as it does? Let me use someone else’s words to finish:
. . . all our stories are, in the end, one story, one vast story about being human, being together, being here. Does the story point beyond itself? Does it mean something? What is the truth of this interminable, sprawling story we all of us share? . . . Either life is holy with meaning, or life doesn’t mean a damn thing. You pay your money and you take your choice. ---Frederick Buechner
Leslie is the author/editor of ten books. Her eleventh is forthcoming from Kregel (The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength, August 2018)
Her award-winning books have been translated into German, Chinese, French, Polish, Ukrainian, Korean and Slovak and reviewed in the (London) Times Literary Supplement, The Chicago Tribune, the Utne Reader, Sports Illustrated for Women, The Portland Oregonian, The Seattle Times, Women and Health, Oregon Review, and many others.
Her essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Orion, Image: Art, Faith, Mystery, Books and Culture, Best Essays Northwest, Christianity Today, It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters, On Nature: Great Writers on the Great Outdoors, A Mile in Her Boots: Women Who Work in the Wild, America and the Sea: A Maritime History, and many others.
Her poetry has appeared in The Seattle Review, the Bellingham Review, the Northern Review, Patches of Godlight: Father Tim’s Favorite Quotes, and many more.
Cedarville University, B.A. English
University of Oregon, M.A. English
University of Oregon, M.A. Journalism
Goddard College, M.F.A. Creative Nonfiction