Profiled: Leanne Johnson


What do you do work-wise?
I have a lot of jobs these days. My main job is making art. I am a text-based artist, which means I work with words, but I work more like a visual artist than a writer. I began teaching in 2010, and I teach publishing and editing courses at SFU and Langara. I also work as a publishing consultant, most recently, with the Banff Centre Press. Making art, teaching and consulting are often like working on a puzzle. That is what interests me. How to make something work, whether it is a story, a lesson or a business plan, curiosity drives me as well as a need to figure out the shape of things.

What is something few people know about you?
I began my academic career as a math major and English literature minor. I had wanted to be a mathematician when I grew up, but eventually, I dropped out of math. Instead, I became a English lit major. Sigh.

How did you get into publishing?
Like many English literature majors,  I wanted to work with words when I graduated. I wanted to be a writer. I worked as a copy writer, but realized I was going to go to hell if I kept that up. I ended up working for arts organizations and started editing newsletters and eventually, magazines. I kept working in the cultural publishing sector, until I realized that I needed to either go into consumer publications or select some other means (or a means) of making a living. I chose to take the master of publishing course at SFU to get my credentials to teach publishing.

Dream job?
If I could do anything, I would work full-time as an artist. Failing that I would be a full-time bird watcher.

Favourite word?
Homonym. I just like how it makes my mouth feel when I say it.

What advice would you give your students?
I tell my students to focus on what it is they want to do and then make it work. It isn’t always going to be easy. If they want to write or make art, they may need to find ways to support themselves that are not about writing or art making. Same for design or any other job. There is a lot of competition, so they have to make sure they are passionate about what they are doing. Stay focused. Work hard. Learning doesn’t stop once you graduate.


Leanne Johnson is a writer, editor and text-based artist. A former director of the Western Front and managing editor of FRONT Magazine, she now teaches magazine publishing and editing at Simon Fraser University and Langara College. Her work has appeared in books, magazines, galleries and on the web. Recent publications include Re:Reading The Riot Act (Publication Studio, 2011) and Staying Beauty (Project Space, 2013).

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