For Donna Lewis, an attorney with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of General Counsel (OGC), two things have always come naturally: justice and jokes. And now, with the Washington Post Writers Group's syndication of her semi-autobiographical comic strip "Reply-All", Lewis' sense of humor will grace the pages of newspapers nationwide starting today.
Loosely based on Lewis' life, "Reply-All" highlights the up's and down's of a successful career woman navigating the modern world. While her personality and experiences shape the comic, there is one element of Lewis' life that "Reply-All" readers will never see: references to her day job. Lewis made sure to clear her comic strip with the Department's Ethics office and will continue to keep her two careers separate, joking that she is "not allowed to be funny at work."
A graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, Lewis worked as a litigator in the private sector for 15 years before feeling compelled to join DHS following the attacks of September 11, 2001. "I really, really wanted to do my part in the response to 9/11, " Lewis says, "Living in Washington, it just affected everybody in my life."
Lewis takes great pride in her work with the Department, which as she puts it, involves a lot of work on behalf of the American people that the public rarely sees. "The people I work with, we work so hard. Honestly, I really wish the public could see how hard everybody here works. How hard we work for them."
Through all of that hard work, Lewis has always had a flair for the written word, and in 2006, parlayed her writing abilities into comedy. Lewis was a natural in the world of stand-up and improv and was named a 'Funniest Feds' semi-finalist in 2007. "While doing stand-up comedy, I was writing tons of material. But with standup, you only get a few minutes," Lewis explains.
Her extra material finally found a voice during the middle of a snowstorm when Lewis, volunteering on a project with a few others who braved the cold, passed the day's slow periods by doodling cartoons in her notebook. The doodles soon morphed into full-blown cartoons - captioned by jokes born from Lewis' writing - and "Reply-All" was born.
Those initial doodles were a hit with Lewis' friends and family, and before long she was scanning and e-mailing cartoons daily, eventually starting a website and developing a strong social media following on Facebook and Twitter. Starting today, "Reply-All" will be seen in about a dozen newspapers nationwide, including The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the Charlotte Observer.
Lewis is thrilled about this new path for her comic strip, and hopes to continue publishing "Reply- All" in as many newspapers as she can. She thanks her family for their continued support of both her comic strip and the important work she does at DHS.
"My father travels a lot - and he kind of boasts to me that he says thank you to every TSA employee at the airport. Honestly, my family is just so proud of the Department." says Lewis, expressing similar sentiments. "I'm the biggest advocate for the Department."