interview with jessica le: student, artist, poet, blogger, youtuber, gamedev
Tell me a bit about yourself--you as a college student, artist, poetry enjoyer (and Naruto enjoyer?), and person-on-the-Internet.
I'm a 22-year old business student in Canada! At the moment I'm particularly interested in tech ethics, human-centered design, and how tech intersects with our reading, writing, and neighbourhoods. I periodically get obsessed with a different medium for storytelling every few months — music, game dev, film, painting, dance, and most recently, poetry, which is interesting, because I think that interest has stabilized a little. I've been into it for about two years now!
And hahaha I would love to talk about Naruto! Or maybe manga in general. And growing up on the internet. I think these things affected my storytelling and project work a LOT. I love manga and comics. I think visual storytelling is SO interesting. They come together so beautifully and I love how selective artists have to be with what angles, frames, etc. I still read a ton of manga every year because they inspire me a lot. As an influence, I feel like it makes its way into my work because I'm always thinking about how stuff looks, what angles are doing for the mood, etc. Kind of hard to articulate, but yeah! And for the internet, language moves so fast and rules get broken all the time, so that inspires me to throw things around in my poetry. And to be silly, to tell jokes with serious writing.
wait, who am i talking to again? on inspiration...
What, or who, would you say are your biggest inspirations, now and in the past?
In a messy, incomplete little list: Ocean Vuong, Anne Carson, Ross Gay, Nintendo DS games, PSP games, conversations with friends, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, sci-fi movies and books, my family, The 1975, Wild Rivers, Hozier, Alicia Keys, Outkast, Yotsuba&!, Krista Tippett, Roald Dahl...those are a couple :)
go back on Tumblr as a platform...
As a fellow Tumblr user, what is your opinion on the platform? How does it compare to using other social media? What makes it fun? Frustrating? Exciting?
I basically grew up on the platform and spent like, all my teenage years on it. I would say it's the platform I spend the most time on by far — I've started to really distance myself from Instagram, Facebook, things with algorithm-based feeds instead of the chronological feed that Tumblr still has. It's fun because it's anonymous and it has character — the tag system for conversations is like muttering to yourself in your house but people can hear it, reblogs are funny, stuff doesn't work a lot, and there's an overall culture on the website that I think is totally missing from other platforms. Also, I just really like long-form text. I think a lot of large social media networks don't have that capability. It's frustrating, though, because it doesn't work as intuitively as these other platforms. As for exciting, I'd say their willingness to experiment with different forms of monetization is promising. I hope to be able to continue using the platform without worrying about ads and the data tracking that TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc. have become famous for.
go back on comics and drawing...
You post a lot of really fun comics to your blog, with subjects ranging from productivity/self care advice to everyday life experiences. How did you come up with the little bunny persona you use for them? And what prompts you to make your comics--like, how do you decide what's important (or perhaps urgent?) enough to draw out and send into the world?
I think I was just doodling one day and thought that the bunny was really easy to draw, and neutral enough that I could express myself through it. I sometimes feel embarrassed about writing things down in my journal even though no one will see it, but when I can talk through this kind of dumb-looking rabbit I feel less bad about it. For comics, I don't know! I actually think I don't put much thought into them or urgency. They're more like, what is on my mind in this current moment that I feel like I'm not quite able to talk about in a nuanced way or with only words? I'll make a comic about it so I can at least try to draw it out.
go back on playlists...
I really love your specific playlists! One of my favorites is "closing credits"; some songs really do have that end-of-movie vibe to them (and if I could humbly suggest a song to add, it would be Allie X's "Learning in Public"!). To get into link-making, curating playlists does require a sort of intuition for what songs fit and flow into one another (one might say they feel *linked* together...!), and I think you're quite good at it. Could you speak to that experience a bit?
Thank you!! It makes me so excited that you like the playlists, and I have absolutely added your song rec into closing credits. For my playlists I usually have a narrative in mind for them, and so I think about whether or not specific songs fit into that narrative mostly by visualizing like, a scene from that narrative, and whether or not the song suits that narrative. I always think about what the playlist looks like, if that makes sense. i.e., if this were a scene in a movie, how would I soundtrack it? I also think having a bit of a background in music helps me to understand genres and general vibes, which makes sorting a little easier!
go back on Notion...
I've noticed you're an avid advocate of Notion; some of your posts detail how to get the best use out of the platform, and I've used one of your templates in the past when I was first getting the hang of it. How does it compare to using more popular productivity apps like Google Calendar? I've personally always liked how malleable it is, and how disconnected it feels from the rest of the Internet.
I love looking at apps. Something I like to do in my free time is just browse the Google Play Store, which I have since learned from a friend is a strange thing to do. But I just love looking at what tools and games people are making. I think it's so fun! So I've definitely tried my fair share of applications and tools. That same friend is the one who introduced me to Notion — it took me a long time to get over the learning curve, but I just really liked how I was able to shape things based on whatever my needs were, because they were always changing, which meant I could never stick to a program for long. So I really like it! I also think they do a lot of things well with design, which made me excited to continue using it.
go back on Twine...
Beyond running an entertaining and helpful Tumblr blog, you're also a game developer on, with a particular fondness for using Twine. How did you get into using the software? What are its benefits and drawbacks? Do you think your projects could only exist in Twine, or would you try another framework in the future?
I love Twine! I was always really obsessed with choose-your-own-adventure games and books when I was younger, so I think it was a natural exploration of that interest. I loved being able to make little choices when I played DS games. I always thought it was close to magic, but now that I'm a little older I think just that feeling of actively participating in art is the exciting part. In that way it's not that much different from looking at a painting or reading a book, but the participation part is explicit. Which is cool.
For Twine in particular, I think it's very accessible because it's free! And anyone can make text-based adventures. You don't need to know how to develop much. I'd say it's also constrained by the text medium, because a lot of beautiful games are based on visual mechanics. But I also don't think that's a bad thing. Most books and poems are constrained by being words only and they still have a huge capacity to move people.
I would love to try new platforms! I love visual art and music. I'd love to be able to do something with that, but at the moment I don't think I have the skills to do that, which is why Twine has been a great way for me to explore games without being really, really time intensive.
go back on CYOA games (and poetry??!!)...
Twine makes great use of links--and you use this to your advantage by making choose-your-own-adventure games. What is the writing process like for these kinds of narratives? And, especially, how do you write your CYOA poetry?
It's pretty on the spot! At most, I'll have an idea of what the point of a scene is, or a concept I'd like toflesh out (i.e. 'the now we've named' came from me wanting to imagine what making coffee would be like in a text-based game), and I have a super messy OneNote where I just write down all my ideas and sort them afterward, kind of like sticky notes. But a lot of the writing is free writing, and then I'll go back and edit things so that stuff makes sense. The thing about writing games is that stuff has to make sense most of the time, which makes it fun but also tedious, sometimes. I think in circles a lot. Testing out if links work forces me to reread a lot, so it's nice that the bug-fixing process lines up with the writing / editing process.
My CYOA poetry is really freeform, but I usually always have a narrative in mind so I can start to think about what directions stuff can go in, when it circles around, when stuff changes permanently. A lot of it is playing, which is fun. It's like, not committing, exactly — when I write a more traditional poem, I have to ask myself, where is this going? Did I get there? But with CYOA poetry, I can go one way, and then come back and say, never mind. What if I went this way instead? And all those possibilities can coexist. I write pretty much everything in OneNote, though, so I can move things around and look at how they visually link together.
go back on worldbuilding and voice...
Your writing is so lovely; it's sensory, it's witty, the dialogue feels so natural (!!!), and everything is extremely imaginative. I'm always tempted to say your poetry is my favorite, but I think it's actually "the now we've named", which I've probably played like ten times by now. How do you come up with these worlds? Do the people come first, or the environment, or the feeling? How do you get into the voices for each of them? Do you have a favorite character, or maybe one that was the most fun to write?
Thank you! What a lovely thing to read. And I'm so happy you liked "the now we've named"! That one was really fun to make. It was a spinoff of this funny space opera thing I wrote in high school about an AI in space, which is the first thing I made on For these, I got the idea for the world first, then the people. It kept coming back to the environment, though, because I was thinking a lot about how these people might be different from us if they grew up in like, space. But I get the most excited about writing the characters because they're still people and they still behave like people. Also I love to write their dialogue.
For their different voices, I think writing poetry helps me think about the kind of 'vibe' I'm trying to construct when a character is saying something. How does their voice sound? What are their vibes? I think about how they would sound in a digital chatroom a lot, for example, because in chatrooms the only thing you really have are words. There's no gestures or expressions so a lot more has to be expressible through text. I think about that a lot for these Twine dialogues because there's no image the player can rely on, and I tend to put stretches of dialogue without other description because I think it's really fun.
I think the most fun character to write was probably Yves, the AI! I liked thinking about a machine being smug and a little silly.
go back on favorite projects...
Do you have a favorite project of yours that you'd like to talk more about? Or anything you're excited to write in the future?
I'm not sure I have a favourite project — I tend to forget about them pretty quickly once I finish them because in my head I'm like, that's done. Closure! And by then I usually start getting excited about some new project. But maybe if I had to pinpoint one I'd say I had a lot of fun making my Twine projects. I love to write a little bit of humour in stuff. I think that humour still makes its way into my poetry and other writing, but with games I feel a lot of freedom in being silly and making fun.
go back on
Sorry to bring it back to social media, but have you ever tried If so, how does it compare to Tumblr? We had to use it for this class and I feel like they're really similar, but I'd love to hear your perspective on it.
I've actually never tried, but I think I've seen it around here and there! Looking a little closer at the concept, though, it kind of reminds me of Obsidian, which I recently started using and am personally obsessed with. It's free and stored entirely locally on your computer, and runs on these links you put between pages. It's like a Twine game for my life!!
go back on poetry compilations...
How do you feel about poetry/media compilations on Tumblr? And do you have a favorite one you'd like to share?
I'm kind of torn about them! On one hand I love them because I love looking at the connection between these beautiful works that people have found. It's like critical reading in bite sized pieces. And I love how they're often multidisciplinary - paintings & writing & people's text posts & a screencap of a movie. On the other hand I think sometimes they take out the most beautiful part of the experience of reading which is like, you need a lot of context in order to appreciate and experience what is being said. So these fragments make it hard to do that. But I really do like them. A favourite: maybe this one about friendship!
go back final thoughts?
Finally, do you have any wisdom you'd like to impart on my classmates? Any projects to promote? Friends' blogs to shout out? Or just something interesting/funny you've heard recently?
Thank you for these lovely questions! I really appreciated going back and thinking about stuff I've worked on.
I don't think I have much wisdom to impart at the moment … but I did recently publish my first poetry chapbook a few months ago with Anstruther Press! You can check it out on Anstruther Press' website — they have published some beautiful lovely poets.
go back to the beginning.