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NOLA Studiola summer flashback: Lisa Brown

Editor’s Note: Two years ago, writer and former LSU English instructor Alison Barker holed up in a pal’s un-air-conditioned Uptown New Orleans apartment to regroup during a whopper of a midlife crisis. To help her out of her rut, she started a blog, Nola Studiola; in it, every week, she posed the same five questions to a different artist. This summer, NolaVie looks back at those interviews, with excerpts from several.

Lisa Brown is a New York Times bestselling author and/or illustrator of books for children, teens and new parents, including How to Be, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, and Baby Mix Me a Drink. She draws the 3 Panel Book Review cartoon for the book section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lisa lives in San Francisco with her son and her husband, who is allegedly Lemony Snicket.

Lisa Brown pens a graphic feature called Ten In One

Lisa Brown pens a graphic feature called Ten-In-One

What makes you laugh?

My husband. Since the moment we met 20 years ago, we’ve been cracking each other up.

How do you feel when you start a new project? When are you afraid? How does it feel different from being in the midst of a project, and at the end of a finished project?

I LOVE the beginning of a new project. I love the brainstorming and the researching and the figuring out how I’m gonna approach things. And then, when I have to actually start doing it, I either freeze up in fear or wallow in the frustration of not being able to move the image in my head onto my paper. Once I’ve hit my rhythm, it’s fun again. And then when I’m finished, I’m in love with my own work for about an hour, after which time I am once again filled with self-criticism and despair.

What fruit and what vegetable each deserve a week-long celebration? Please explain.

Apples. I am a New England girl at heart even though I mostly live in San Francisco, and New England to me has always meant autumn. And autumn means falling leaves and cold apples and sweaters. I guess apples could use more than a week, come to think of it.

Brussels Sprouts. I adore them. The most delicious ones I ever ate were growing in a friend’s garden mere hours before we ate them, blanched and then roasted in olive oil. And then there’s this exquisite recipe.

Is there a time in your life you could have used a Nola Studiola (alone, in New Orleans, semi off-the-grid, unemployed)? What’s one thing you’d be sure to do if you were ensconced in my Nola Studiola?

I guess I technically have one, except for the off-the-grid aspect. That part sounds both heaven and hard. I spend way too much time online, and would surely benefit from some internet abstinence. However. I’m a little worried that I’d be too hot to move.

Here’s what I’d do: finish my graphic novel. It takes forever to do and I’m in love with it, so naturally I’ve been putting it off until everything else in the world is done. Here’s where some of the characters live in the meantime.

What would be your ideal meal to eat on a wide, deteriorating balcony overlooking misshapen live oak branches, in the middle of a hot New Orleans summertime? What time of day would you suggest partaking of this meal? (It’s low 70s in the morning and high 90s by afternoon.)

Honestly, I’m a heat wimp. I might not be able to eat a thing in that weather. So just get me some chicory-iced coffee in the morning, some homemade lemon sorbet for elevenses, and the rest of the afternoon into the evening let me partake of mint juleps.

Optional bonus question: What are your favorite and least favorite sounds? Did you ever have a job where you got to hear your favorite sound(s)?

Unfortunately for my very musically inclined family, audio input goes in one ear and out the other. I listen to music and NPR all day long while working, and often don’t hear a thing that’s been sung or said.

Nola Studiola, founded by Alison Barker, is a website curated monthly by artists and writers in residence. This fall, Nola Studiola seeks New Orleans-based curators. Email Alison at for information. Read about the inception of Nola Studiola here.


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