Monday, February 10, 2020

Three Website Layout Tools

As I've been redesigning the website for Aww, Feathers! I've run into what can be one of the most intimidating and finicky parts of coding a website: layout. It seems like it should be simple, but it rarely is. Somehow, some graphic or text container always seems to be out of place or misaligned.

Fortunately, this go around I had a few extra tools in my webdev toolbelt. I'm sharing them with you in case you or someone you know ever has need of them.

W3.CSS is a CSS library created by the online web dev education site, W3 Schools. It's free to use and specifically purposed for quickly putting together websites that are responsive and consistent across different devices. As the name implies the library is pure CSS and the different effects are achieved simply by applying one or more of the provided CSS classes to a web element. You can learn more about it at

If you want a little more control over how multiple elements are aligned and positioned in relation to one another, you may try using the layout scheme called Flexbox. It allows you to position elements without having to resort to floating elements or absolute positioning. One downside is that there are a lot of settings and options to know and memorize, some of which are very similar and easy to confuse one with another. Fortunately, one excellent resource for learning all the in's and out's of Flexbox is available for free online. Even better, it's formatted like a game that makes it fun to learn and easy to conceptualize. It's called Flexbox Zombies, and you can take the course at

An alternative to Flexbox is CSS Grid. While Flexbox treats web elements like  a line of items, CSS Grid treats them like items in a grid. The two can accomplish very similar results: both are able to control the direction, spacing, and alignment of a collection of elements. However, once mastered, CSS Grid seems to be the best way to control the overall layout of a site, especially one with a lot of content to arrange just right. It's also simpler and more intuitive. There is also a learning game for mastering CSS Grid made by the same developer who did Flexbox Zombies. This one isn't free, but if you enjoy the former, I consider this one to be well worth it! You can find it at

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Story You Most Have to Tell

Years ago I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Coventionn. One of the panels I went to had a number of hosts who had worked in young adult fantasy novels. One of them said something that I remember more than anything else that was said that night, and it's stuck with me ever since. Unfortunately I don't remember exactly who it was who said it, but if memory serves he was the illustrator for either the 13th Reality or the Leven Thumps series.

He said, "Tell the story you most need to tell."

It was simple, and not very specific. But it just made me think about the intentionality of the storytelling process. Any one of us could tell any number of stories for any number of reasons. We might tell one story because we think it sounds fun, another because we think it will be popular, and another because we think it will sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. But which is the story we most need to tell?

At the time, I was already in the early stages of writing Aww, Feathers! A handful of the earliest pages had already been released. The story so far was based on a few my own experiences going to college. But asking myself what was the story I most needed to tell broadened my idea of what the comic could be.

Five years and two books later, Aww, Feathers! still draws from my personal experience, but it's also evolved into something more. My vision is for it to explore diversity. Not just diversity of appearance, but also a more nuanced look at diversity of experience and background, and how all these things come together to influence who we are.

I have every intention of keeping the heart and humor that readers of Aww, Feathers! have come to love. But I'm glad I took the time to develop a more deliberate approach to storytelling.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Ditch Resolutions. Set Habits.

The new year often brings hope and excitement. But it also brings one thing that many dread...

New Year's Resolutions.

What is it about these lofty goals for the coming year that has caused them to become such a parody of themselves? Any conversation about them is inevitably followed by some quip about how they'll all be broken by February. Goal setting is good, but the data suggests these resolutions rarely help us accomplish our goals.

The trouble with New Year's resolutions is they're too distant, too vague, too rigid, and too intractable. That's why I finally decided to not set any resolutions this year.

I know, I know. I'll give you a moment to peel yourself off the ceiling.

Instead of resolutions, I've chosen some daily habits to work on. They're actionable, meaning they're directly within my control to accomplish each day. They're specific so I know for sure whether or not I've accomplished them each day. They're flexible; if I decide I've mastered one habit or that a different one would serve me better, I can change it. And they're renewable. I know I'm not going to be perfect, but if I miss a day that doesn't mean I've failed. I can try again the very next day (instead of counting the entire year as a loss).

Each person's daily habits should reflect the change they'd most like to see in themselves. But if you're curious, I'm happy to share the five daily habits I've chosen to start the year with:

  • Draw every day for at least ten minutes, but more when possible.

  • Write every day, again for at least ten minutes.
  • Organize or cleanup for ten minutes per day. That could mean my home, my office, or my digital life (email, etc.).
  • Limit added sugars to 24 grams or fewer per day. I have a serious sweet tooth, but I know I feel better when I eat better. (I will allow myself one free day per week though. Let's not get too crazy!)
  • Write in my journal every day and reflect on what went well, what wasn't so good, and what I'm grateful for.

  • There are dozens of other things I'd like to work on, but for now I'm sticking with just a few. As these habits become automatic, I'll swap them out for something else. Some of them may seem really small or easy, but that's by design. It means I have no excuse! And the funny thing about baby steps is once you take one step, it's easier to take another.

    The important thing is that these small habits serve a much larger purpose, one of which is to deliver high quality content to my audience. I invite you to follow along with me and join the community where you can an exclusive, up close look at my own journey as well as the stories I produce along the way.

    I'd encourage anyone to adopt a similar practice of picking a handful of daily habits they'd like to work on. Once you do, tell someone and track your progress. Don't stress if you don't do as well as you hope at first. You'll get better the more you keep at it!

    Your buddy Lark believes in you!