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Meet Lisa Johnson of Anali’s Next Amendment

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Johnson.

Lisa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
One of my earliest memories is being in my kindergarten or first grade classroom, very happily writing in my journal and anticipating snack time. That’s still me now! From way back then, I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t know how.

Many years passed, and I still didn’t know how to be “a writer” in the way that I was defining being a writer. In college, I majored in psychology, because how people think has always intrigued me. After college, I ended up being an investigator for two state agencies. I was working with many lawyers and started thinking about law school. It seemed like I needed a graduate degree to move forward and I figured that somehow I could use my law degree as a writer. I thought about this for many years and kept talking myself out of it until I could no longer talk myself out of it.

As I was about to turn 30, I decided to make the jump. I quit work and went back to school full-time. After graduating and passing the bar exam, I’ve worked as an attorney in a few different capacities. At one point, I was working for a software company as a tax counsel. I researched sales tax and loved it! Any type of research feels very creative to me. Even tax!

I had the opportunity to write articles for the company newsletter and then for outside publications as well. That type of freestyle writing felt so good that I wanted to find more ways to do it. Also, at work I noticed other tax counsels getting their master’s in tax. Law may be the only field where you get your doctorate degree first, then get your master’s to specialize second. I knew that I would not be doing that.

At the same time, I found my first paying freelance writing gig. I wrote book reviews for a bar association publication. It was so fun! I found new books that would be of interest to attorneys in the New England area and wrote about them. I received a lot of positive feedback about my reviews and an especially heartfelt and appreciative email from a very famous attorney.

I clearly remember getting my first check — holding it in my hand and looking at it. I wondered, “So am I a writer now because I got paid for it?” I had been writing before for fun without pay and also when it was a part of my lawyer job. But I didn’t have the writer title with pay, so somehow it didn’t feel real. Now that I had the title and pay, I realized that I had been a writer all along. A random check didn’t magically change who I was already.

The software company that I worked at had many rounds of layoffs and I eventually ended up being part of one of them. Because I still needed money to live, I started doing work as a contract attorney, which means doing temporary legal projects. I still do this now at several Boston area law firms. Because I have a very flexible schedule, it makes it easier to pursue my creative endeavors as well.

In 2006, I started blogging. Way back then, blogs were new and considered a bit sketchy, so I used an alias. But then I started getting all sorts of writing opportunities that I wanted to link to on my blog, so I started using my real name too. Since I love food, I often write about it. At a blogging event, people introduced me as a food blogger. I had never thought of myself as a food blogger, but it made sense. Things come full circle!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The journey has definitely not been a smooth road. More like Boston cobblestone streets. You have to be careful, because if you walk too fast or the wrong way, you might fall or twist your ankle!

The creative work that I do brings me great joy. But it feels kind of random sometimes and I wonder, “What is this? Why am I doing it? Does anyone care?” But then I’ll get some positive feedback and feel great again. I started listening to podcasts about creativity and entrepreneurs and realized that many people feel like this. It’s part of the process. We just have to go with the flow if it feels right and take the next step.

While I do make money doing my creative work, so far, it has not been enough to live on. I still work full-time as an attorney and have to balance my time doing creative work. I have so many ideas and things that I’d like to do, but there isn’t enough time to do it all. It can feel quite frustrating at times. So, I have to pace myself. When one legal project ends, and there is time before the next one starts, sometimes I have time to do more creative work. Otherwise it’s just nights and weekends.

My blog is called Anali’s Next Amendment. – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Because I started getting money from different sources for my writing, blogging and some photography, I realized that I had accidentally started a small business. In order to get things more organized for tax purposes, I set up a DBA as a sole proprietor, so I could open a business checking account. For my business name, Kate + Ida Creations, I took the names of my paternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother, who were both very entrepreneurial.

As an attorney, freelance writer and blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to write and speak about legal and tax issues impacting food bloggers specifically and small business owners in general. I’ve written about so many topics that fascinate me, including the tiny house movement and how the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) generally does not include siblings.

Free Yoga Boston started as an offshoot of my blog. I noticed lots of free yoga classes being offered in the Boston area, but they were hard to keep track of and nobody listed all of them by day. I waited years for someone to do a list, but it never happened. So I did it myself! I hate when things are disorganized!

I am behind posting the summer list of free yoga classes, because I haven’t had the time to put it together yet. Hopefully it will go up very soon. I also post free yoga classes and yoga related articles on the Free Yoga Boston Facebook Page.

There’s also a Free Yoga Boston Instagram, but I don’t post there very often. There is a Free Yoga Boston newsletter that I email as I can, with the most recent “goal” being every couple of weeks. Last year, for the first time, I gave a Free Yoga Boston survey and recently compiled and published the results. It was so interesting reading peoples’ answers and getting a better idea of what people look for in a yoga class and how they feel about the classes that they have taken.

Also, I have an interview series called “You Pick Six” where I interview Boston and New England area people about their work, what inspires them and their favorite foods. Some of them are well-known, like Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and WCVB news anchor Maria Stephanos. Others are lesser known, but just as interesting!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It’s hard to say just one thing, but I felt very proud and happy to have my pet project published in The Atlantic. The article is called “Am I Not My Brother’s Keeper?”

My brother has intellectual and physical disabilities. I’m his medical guardian and often go with him to doctors’ appointments and generally am very involved in his health care. As are many siblings with similar family situations.

I noticed that siblings weren’t listed as family under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when I went to take time off. It seemed like a mistake. Because how could siblings not be considered family? Siblings are some of our closest relatives. I thought I was missing something.

So I started researching and then would put it aside. Then research some more and put it aside. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was an important issue that more people should be talking about. So I started doing more research and interviewing people. I pitched the story to The Atlantic and the editor liked the idea, so I went forward with my research and they published my article.

I still think this is an important issue and a gap in the law that needs to be corrected. Some states have added siblings, but overall the federal law still does not consider siblings family.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Lisa Johnson

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