Creator Spotlight: Call Me Les
"Long-form is the way of the future, I believe. Humanity, now more than ever, is in need of connecting to and understanding one another. Stories are powerful. Use them wisely. Use them well, and change the world." -Call Me Les
Lesley Leatherdale, or "Call Me Les" as she's known on Vocal, is a model creator—plain and simple. Gravitating around her larger-than-life presence on Vocal exists a collection of creator resources and auxiliary communities; each serving to promote the same creator-first environment we strive to foster.
Les's Creator Resources and Communities:
- The Vocal Social Society - A public Facebook group dedicated to engaging encouraging, and showcasing Vocal creators and their work.
- Vocal Creators Chronicle - A free, bi-weekly magazine devoted to Vocal creators and readers. Each issue includes a column written by Les herself, the "Chat with Les" interview series.
- Countless resource articles on her author page, like "Five Reasons to Enter a Vocal Challenge," "Vocal Subscribe: The Power Is In Your Click," and "Why Vocal Is For Everyone."
What better way to support a creator like Les than with a #VocalSpotlight? The amazing Les, everyone.
On Herself, Her Background, and Interests:
I have a university education specializing in Geographic Information Science and Geology. I love maps; I collect rocks, and basically—like most Canadians—I love the 'great outdoors'. My active interests include swimming, fishing, exploring caves, and finding any excuse to use a compass. If I'm not writing or working, you'll often find me outside hiking through my city. I'd like to get into some dragon-boat racing next. Now that I'm cleared to exercise post-surgery (you can read about that here), I'm back on my rowing machine.
My job keeps me busy during working hours. I love the company I work for because it is staffed by plenty of positive people, allows me a great deal of flexibility, and most importantly, it supports my special needs: I have a learning deficit, cognitive issues similar to ADHD, and I'm bipolar. I do what I do through a lot of hard work, therapy, the right medications and a great support system. You know who you are, and I love you all very much. <3
Music is something that has always brought me a great deal of joy. I started playing the piano at 10 years old, and while I am no Tchaikovsky (my fav composer), I do alright. I play the clarinet as well, and in my younger years, I used to sing. My musical tastes span a wide range. I love opera and watch that with my dad when I can. I enjoy all things Broadway, and the most recent musical I saw live was Anastasia. I'm obsessed with the epic musical trinity that is Howard Shore, Claude-Michel Schönber & Andrew Lloyd Webber. At heart, I'm a melody gal: give me something that makes my soul feel like a marionette in a dance, and I'm happy. If you haven't noticed, I'm also an odd little duck, so, when reading my writing, you can expect some unusual expressions.
The greatest joy I've ever had in life has been tutoring children in my spare time. I've taught both ESL and math over the years, usually in the 9 through 13 age groups. Helping a child who hates school or feels like a failure change their perspective is what I do best and has been the most rewarding task I've ever completed. I know you'll all be wondering why I don't teach, and it's because I give too much. I would burn out.
Speaking of giving, I do tend to give a lot of myself to anyone and anything that crosses my path: whether that be saving baby squirrels by stuffing them in my bra until I could get to a rescue shelter (baby squirrels don't make their own body heat and this nest was placed in the garbage collection of my apartment building) or staying up into the wee hours of the morning reading and writing personal glossaries for ESL students.
Kindness is something we all possess and I try to spread as much warmth in the world as I can. I live by the motto: what we do to the least of us, defines us as people. I also try and remember that it's not what we do that we regret the most, it's what we don't do that comes back to haunt us.
I'm also a Myers Briggs INFP.
Writing is certainly something I’ve always enjoyed. In reference to getting started on Vocal, I joined for the ‘Doomsday’ challenge and then stayed for the friends and fun.
Vocal challenges, to me, have been the greatest asset to my writing career thus far. They are the equivalent of a writing class when done in tandem with social media and peer-reviewed feedback.
On Writing and Publishing Her First Children's Book:
Owl in a Towel is the first book I’ve ever published. Bringing the book from ideation to publishing has been one of the most rewarding tasks I’ve ever completed. I owe a massive debt of gratitude to my illustrator, Cheryl Woynarski.
During my childhood, authors were practically ethereal beings thanks to their ability to fill my mind and bookshelves with such a wild landscape. To dream I’d ever be good enough to join them seemed impractical, if not impossible. For the longest time, it wasn’t even on the list. So the greatest hurdle, and perhaps also misconception, is thinking no one will be interested in your work.
Fear of rejection amongst creative types runs deep. This is a primary reason I co-founded the Vocal Social Society. The advice I would give would be the same I received while in academia: seek peer-reviews. Get your work evaluated by other writers first. Build your self-esteem through sincere feedback at the same time you build your writing skillset, and your chances of becoming a published author are that much greater.
We are best described as Vocal-passionate.
The key to successful collaboration is to avoid stepping on toes. So, when the admins at VSS laid out plans, our first step was to establish a niche. Peer-reviewing is an important tool in academia and we felt it would be useful to bring this to our fellow creators. No one else was tackling it, so we simply said, “Let’s try it!” The romantic in me also likes to envision the VSS as a literary salon of days gone by.
VSS already works in tandem with some groups and we are always open to improving relationships with every group. For example, we recently partnered with Judey Kalchik and her Cooking Collaborative, a tasty and entertaining initiative. This Monday, we decided to pass our Coaching Corner Thread torch to Vocal Cafe, where the lead admin there, Caitlin McColl, is developing a read-swapping-free literary experience (yet another niche). Ultimately, as with everything in life, we are better when we move as one instead of against. No Vocal group that requests to be connected to either The Chronicle or the VSS will be turned away.
Tiny wins is a therapy concept. It is the premise that our little achievements deserve celebration, too. Like begets like, and before you know it that tiny win has snowballed into several other tiny wins and is now a feat of mastery. In VSS, uplifting each other, celebrating our successes, demonstrating new skill levels to aim for—all of these “tiny goals” lead to “tiny wins.”
As for some less than tiny wins, not one, but THREE of our members just placed in the most recent Vocal Challenges:
The Fab Five
What really sets the Vocal Social Society apart, however, is the weekly Fab Five Features. Throughout the week, Admin will be reading up a storm—both on our group and on Vocal—in search of unique voices. At the end of the week, we will highlight 5 fabulous stories and close the feeds for the entire weekend! During this time we ask that you provide feedback, reads and encouragement to these specific authors. And don’t worry! You don’t need to be perfect to be featured—that’s what a Top Story is for—no, on The Vocal Social Society we are about tiny wins.
For many, the milestones of a Top Story or a Challenge Win are writing dreams come true, symbols that you’ve achieved public acclaim; truly, they are the emotional equivalent of publishing a book for some Creators. But, it’s a massive leap to achieve. Fab 5 steps in by offering another avenue for review, a different way to shine and a stepping stone along the journey of working towards becoming a Top Story, Challenge Winner or published author. This is how we at the VSS are a ‘rock in the storm’. If a Fab 5 winner walks away feeling confident and invigorated to keep writing, then we’ve done our volunteer “job”. That’s certainly a tiny win that I celebrate, and it fuels me through all the moments when I feel I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. It’s not easy doing the Fab 5, even though I’m far from alone.
A founding member, who has recently moved on to other projects, is Oneg in the Arctic. Along with the admins, there are a suite of moderators who help sort through the threads and stories. It’s a labor of friendship.
The Vocal Creators Chronicle is a hand-curated, online magazine that is entirely free to everyone. It is populated solely with columnists and Creators from Vocal. Some of the content is created by well-known faces from VSS, but other pieces are data-mined from the Vocal archives.
Caroline Jane, one of my two co-founders, is exceptionally talented when it comes to scouting for unique finds. The end of every edition also includes a piece of entertainment to mull over through the week as you enjoy the stories. James U. Rizzi, my other co-founder, is our puzzlemaster, and his word scrambles are not to be missed! The Vocal Creators Chronicle is the perfect choice for reading material on the go, when gearing into your day, relaxing outdoors whilst getting some sun or winding down before bed. We make the content; the readers create the experience.
When it comes to benefits, allow me to reiterate that we are by Creators and for Creators, but the audience doesn’t end there. The co-founders of The Chronicle are as devoted to reading literature as we are to writing it. The “get reading again” philosophy of the founders is that reading is a pleasure everyone should enjoy regularly. Reading has fallen by the wayside, thanks to digital streaming, but it’s time for literature to make a comeback! James, Caroline and I are deeply passionate about encouraging everyone in the world to get reading again. And when I state “the world”, it’s not just lip service and good marketing lingo: our columnists and editors are, as of today, based out of 8 countries and 5 continents. Their backgrounds and ideas are each singular and diverse. The Chronicle’s motto, which stems from the last page of my new book, Owl in a Towel, is that we, humanity, are “better together”.
The key to The Vocal Creators Chronicle’s success, besides its inclusivity and “get reading” mantras, is that, thanks to Vocal, we are a safe-space to read. We are free from ads, fees and downloads, as well as free from hateful or hurtful content should readers wander into other stories, which we do hope they will.
There are many ways to get your copy of The Chronicle. To subscribe to the biweekly email update, you may visit us on our website. While there, be sure to check out the bios and faces of the Creators who will be bringing you fresh content on a regular basis. You can always skip the website and subscribe right through Vocal. We also encourage our readers to consider joining Vocal or Vocal+, so they can heart and subscribe to more content besides The Chronicle. However our readers go about it, so long as people are reading, that’s what is most important.
Columnists & Their Topics
Judey Kalchik: Food & Lifestyle
Blessing Akpan: The Annals of History
Natasja Rose: News From Down Under
Sarah St.Erth: Nature & Consciousness
Dalmy Alves: Entrepreneurship
Soleira Green: Seeking Brilliance
Rachel M.J.: What Your Brain Doesn't Tell You
Rahman Moshiur: Non-Fiction Demystified
Scott Wade MA: Music & Theatre; Business
Jonathan Sim: Movie Reviews
As for how to win a feature, the best thing to do is to come and say “Hi,” on the Vocal Social Society. Drop your work in the threads with a short message about why you wrote it.
In terms of taking a place as a member shout-out, those spaces are reserved for folks who go the extra mile to make their fellow creators feel welcomed and appreciated in the social media groups. Regarding interviews, I’m always open to hearing from those who have a special message or story to share.
On The "Chat with Les" Interview Series:
Dr. Roshdy is an all-round, remarkably talented person and it was an honor that she agreed to be my first interview.
My new series, “Chat with Les,” is exciting for several reasons.
Personally, because it is a creative project I’ve always dreamed of accomplishing, but never had the right opportunity to pursue. The Chronicle, my co-founders and Vocal have each given me the wings and the wind I needed to fly.
Professionally, I am excited about the aim of the column, which is to examine the finer points in the lives of those around us. I wish to know, and wish my readers to know, more about the daily details and inner workings of the people we meet, may meet, or may never meet. I’m particularly intrigued by the details of how they spend their time, energy and emotions. Understanding each other is the foundation for many of the great causes in the world. I can’t champion them all, but, like Dr. Roshdy states, I can make a difference by starting with one. Telling one person’s story, starting small by bringing their passions, frailty, hopes and humor into the world, is a way I can make a difference to many.
The Selection Process
The selection process is simple: be willing to be a little vulnerable and answer the established 12 (tailored) questions plus the quirky finale. My inbox is always open.
Without giving too much away, some of my personal favorites coming up include:
- Dr. Annemarie Pickersgill: a Glasgow based geoscientist whose ground-breaking research suggests that the Boltysh crater may have formed 650,000 years later than the Chicxulub impact.
- Calvin Cox: model, provocateur, and make-up artist extraordinaire.
- Breanne Patten: an unconventional mother of three who recently completed her milestone of 1000 hours outside.
- Dr. Bharat Punjabi: Lecturer at Toronto’s Asian Institute, Monk School of Global Affairs & a leading voice in the discussion on urban climate justice.
- FireProof Games (fingers-crossed)
On What Drives Her to Be a Resource on Vocal:
I’m driven to give back. Pay it forward is a way of life for many Canadians, myself included. I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to both Vocal and the many friends I’ve met since becoming a member.
Recently, I went through a single oophorectomy and ovarian mass removal (I wrote about that in: How Shark Week Saved My Life). Recovering from that, both mentally and emotionally, is one of the most difficult obstacles I’ve ever faced. I found Vocal, and my social media family, a few weeks after I returned to work. “Return” meaning, at least I was able to sit in my home office for a few hours at a time, but with as many breaks as I needed (I honestly work for the most compassionate and understanding business I’ve ever encountered). Outside of work, I had nothing to do. I couldn’t socialize, the clients I was tutoring had outgrown me and I could feel depression edging in. What started out as an affordable, fun way to start writing short stories publicly, has turned into a community and the opportunity of a lifetime.
On Her Vocal Presence Outside of Vocal Resources:
My personal presence is rather quiet I think. I enjoy writing fiction and sharing it with those that feel like reading it. SFS was the perfect set of challenges for me to get started on developing my skills in short stories. Prior to SFS, I was mainly a novel or novella gal. I had no idea shorts could be so much fun and every bit as real as a full length work. Sometimes I write odd poems—just to get them out of my head. The non-fiction challenge I liked best was Threading the Needle. Besides publishing more pay it forward resource pieces and my column, most of my future contributions to Vocal are likely to be challenge-driven. I enjoy the thrill of being given a prompt and told to create from it.
I cherish the fictions I created for SFS. Fiction offers me a way to put some of my soul into words; it lets me live alternate lives, feel things I’ll never feel and best of all, bring some friends along for the ride. A common goal for my work is to evoke imagery and emotion. The day I write something as inspiring as Sam’s speech from the movie The Two Towers, I’ll consider the goal complete. Until then, I’ll keep trying. Specifically, regarding Fruits of Labour, I had two very humble heroes help me sort through what I wanted to do in the 11th hour: James U. Rizzi & Tom Brad.
On Who/What Inspires Her to Create:
It can be anything. The sound of words when said together aloud, a landscape, event or person in my life, other works of fiction or mythology.
Professionally: Oprah! I’ve loved her as far back as I can recall. She is certainly someone in whose footsteps I hope to follow.
Personally: It’s a tie between Jen, my great-grandmother, who is my inspiration for courage, crafting, creating, and being kind, and the children I’ve taught over the years: Nikki, Emily & Stella, as well as my cousin Lexie.
On Her Heroes:
Real-life: Louisa May Alcott
Fictional: Lirael (From Garth Nix’s book by the same name)
On Her Goals as a Writer:
Short term, I have a novella, Carrie and the Curious Caticorn Caper, that’s ready and in need of a publisher; it has been suggested I expand Owl in a Towel into a series, but I haven’t committed to anything. There are a couple of other ideas my illustrator and I have tossed around.
The defining project of my writing-life in the long-term seems certain to be The Chronicle and my column. I don’t do anything half-heartedly, and I intend to invest as much of myself into this venture as possible.
On Creative Outlets Besides Writing She Enjoys:
I love to play piano; I dabble in drawing sometimes and I adore video games. Yes, video games. Many games out there are like living, breathing books and are often set to incredible soundtracks. My favorites include: Ori and the Blind Forest, Subnautica and The Room Series. I think I have enough creative outlets for now. My next adventure is likely to be travel or sports.
On How Relationships Gained on Vocal Have Impacted Her as a Creator:
Where to start. I’ve learned and changed so much, both as a person and a writer, because of my fellow Creators. All of my fellow admin at VSS are incredibly supportive and the members of VSS themselves are truly special people. I’ll end up naming every member of VSS if I start. Each of them has brought something valuable into my life, whether it be through sharing their personal Who I Am stories, their time and feedback by reading my fictions, or shooting the breeze and filling up the lonelier parts of my day. Chances are, if we’ve spoken directly over Messenger, you’re on my short list of the very best. ;)
I have some Creators I work with regularly, of course, and those should be named.
James is a quiet, generous and deeply poetic soul who knows his way with a metaphor; I aspire to write as well as he did in his SFS-Marigold entry, "The Blossomings of Marigolds." He is easily a modern-day Tolkien in the making, but far too humble to ever admit it. It’s an honor to write with him.
Caroline is my mind-twin most days; she and I like to dream big and step outside the box. I adore her SFS-Green Light entry, "Graffiti." Fortunately, Caroline, an ENFJ, has the capacity to turn my INFP dreams into reality with her structured lists and people skills. She is the very essence of leadership.
Last but not least is Tom. A creator I often edit with, Tom brings order to my chaos in more ways than I have words to explain, let alone thank him for, and all for the cost of some grammatical sweep-up. His works never cease to impress me. A recent favorite has to be "Ramblings in Hypoxia." I love this piece as the narrator walks a balance between chilling suspense and frigid beauty.
I wouldn’t be on this journey today if it weren’t for these three Creators specifically.
On How Becoming a Vocal Creator Helped to Develop Her Online Presence:
I only write for Vocal. Prior to Vocal, my online presence was restricted mainly to LinkedIn or other professional avenues and some private social media. Since joining, my social presence has exploded exponentially. I’ve met hundreds of new contacts, and through my column and The Chronicle, I expect that will hit thousands one day. At times, I count the minutes until it does!
Long-form storytelling is much more rewarding. You get to build up emotions, connect on a deeper level with your audience and paint a much clearer and more vivid picture of your message, product, experience or service. Long-form is the way of the future, I believe. Humanity, now more than ever, is in need of connecting to and understanding one another.
Stories are powerful. Use them wisely. Use them well, and change the world.
On Her Favorite Stories She's Published on Vocal:
It’s a tie between my retelling of Ariadne or my retelling of Selkies, both of which flip the tale to the other side of the coin.
Don’t think about it—first thing that comes to mind:
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Favorite Book by that author?
Favorite Vocal Poet?
Mike Singleton and his poem "Lady of the Water"
My maternal great-uncle Eugene Hamm
Favorite Poem by that poet?
Quietude from Stories and Songs, pg 34. See below*
Favorite Musical Artist?
The Two Towers because it is the bridge between the darkness of the first film into the hope that lays the groundwork of the last film. It is the best three hours to lose when feeling lost.
Cats or dogs?
Day or Night?
Favorite Day of the Week?
Saturday. Saturday mornings are hopeful. Lots of plans for the coming hours and no alarm clock!
Favorite local restaurant?
Richies in London, ON
What’s your go-to late night snack?
What are you currently binge watching?
What are you currently reading?
If you could speak a new language, what would it be and why?
Quenya (Google and infer; you won’t regret it).
Favorite story you’ve read recently on Vocal by another Creator?
James’ "Where Will You Be?";
& Caroline’s "Whatever Life Gives You..."
If you could have a theme song play when you entered the room, what would it be and why?
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Streisand because I’m strong willed, somewhat stubborn, impulsive, I march to my own song and I adore yellow roses.
For falling Flakes
Of feathery snow.
A golden burst of light,
A grey-mauve fumato-
With each tiniest
And robust twig,
Every fence post top
Is built upon
In fragile layer upon layer
Is caught in this stasis,
And, comes, being felt,
Rather than heard;
All weaving a tapestry
Of Nature’s beneficence
This early morning hour.
Thanks for chatting with us, Les! It just feels right speaking with someone who is as passionate about championing Vocal creators as we are. In just three short months on Vocal, you've managed to corral some of the highest performing, most engaging creators on the platform and create something entirely new and brilliant: the Vocal Social Society.
Keep supporting creators, keep building relationships, keep breaking new ground. This is what creating is all about—collaboration. Community.
If you're as big a fan of Les's work as we are, be sure to frequent her author page here on Vocal, as well as her Instagram, Facebook author page, and LinkedIn to stay up to date on her latest creator-centric ventures.
If you're looking for a new environment to support other creators and showcase your work, join the VSS today (like right now) and reap the early benefits of Les's vision.
Thanks again, Les!