We had the good fortune of connecting with Leon Bird-Conliff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leon, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
You could say creativity runs in the family. My father, Steven Conliff, was an author of some note in Ohio who gained recognition for his work in civil rights movements like the American Indian Movement. My mother, Suzan Bird-Conliff, was the illustrator on many of my father’s works. That artistic streak moved down to the next generation with my brother and I. When we were kids we’d invent elaborate stories in the backyard. Stories so elaborate we had to keep notes on character backstories and subplots. That’s where the spark for storytelling started for me, and it continued ever since. My brother, Nicholai Conliff, went on to write the vampire novel Unburied and I took my writing towards the world of tabletop gaming and comic books. Stories are what make me happy, they are both the path I want to walk and a connection to my past and my childhood. The idea of doing anything else has never occurred to me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
While I am technically an author I prefer to describe myself as a storyteller. Because story is what truly fascinates me. I’ve never had the head for technical writing. I get lost in details as if they were weeds. I prefer to get to the heart of the story: the themes that define it. In modern literature I think there’s a fear of sincerity; many writers fall into the trap of either being excessively edgy or satirical in the hopes of avoiding being labeled as “cheesy”. In my work I like to straddle that line. You can tell a serious story without being afraid to laugh at yourself from time to time. All the best stories do exactly that.
But, getting this message out into the world hasn’t always been easy. Pursuing a passion is always something of a rollercoaster. I’ve had incredible highs in my career and incredible lows. As for how I got to where I am today, Shoutout Atlanta has it right: it’s all about the other people along the way. Every strive I’ve made, every lucky break, came from someone else. I went to conventions, made friends, made an effort to reach out to people, made an effort to respond to every email. I didn’t always succeed; I, like many artists, have rather severe social anxiety, and so this social element has always been one of the hardest parts of what I do. If you keep at it, if you keep making connections, if you keep helping others, you’ll be surprised how many people will come to help you when you need it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am nothing if not a tourist. When I visit a new city I love nothing more than to hit the most iconic locations, but in this Post-COVID world I’ve learned a lot about enjoying nature and the outside world. So I’ll combine those two answers and say my two favorite spots in Atlanta are the Georgia Aquarium and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both share the natural beauty of Atlanta and are more than enough to convince me to stay for a day or two when I’m passing through on my way to Savannah or Orlando.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shoutout to the single greatest artist I know and my constant source of inspiration: Brianna Flores. While my family was critical to the development of my interest in the arts no one has stood by me longer and more fervently in my adult life than Brianna. Her drive and passion is infectious and reminds me on my darkest days that there is a reason we keep going and a reason we keep creating.
Teddy Wright IV (MANIA: The Shift and MANIA: The Light Covers) Elyse Wietstock (In Other Worlds Artwork) d20pfsrd.com Publishing (Blood & Steel: The Cavalier)