Leslie grew up in Grayslake, Illinois, but turned to Wisconsin for college. She graduated from Carroll College in 1976 with a double major in English and theatre education. For the next 13 years, she taught high school English in Grayslake. During these years she earned an M.Ed. at National Louis University in Chicago. In 1989 she decided it was time for full-time graduate studies and moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English at Lehigh University. Her next move was to southwest Missouri where she taught a variety of literature, composition, and English education courses at College of the Ozarks. After retiring in 2017, Leslie decided to return to Wisconsin. In the spring of 2021, the opportune moment finally came and she moved to Waterford.