Submitted by Iris Graville
The table tent has been passed. Liz Smith of Friday Harbor, Washington, has assumed the role as the 2020 Writer-In-Residence on the Washington State Ferries. Just as Iris Graville, the inaugural WIR, did, Smith will ride and write on the interisland ferry regularly for one year. This unique WSF route starts and ends each day on San Juan Island with stops on Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw—but never the mainland. Smith expects it will be the perfect place to write.
Smith was selected from a dozen applicants for the volunteer position. Although she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Smith has lived and traveled far and wide, pursuing her interests in the intersection between science, culture, and the environment. She earned an undergraduate degree in Astronomy and a Master of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking. She has lived in Friday Harbor for a little over a year.
“I plan to be in the residency ‘office’ at least once a week and to set aside a specific day of the week for it,” Smith says. She’s completing the script for a documentary episode about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup for the www.pbs.org/show/changing-seas. Smith is also at work on the forthcoming feature film, www.youthvgovthefilm.com. The documentary is the story of 21 plaintiffs, now ages 12 to 23, who have sued the U.S. government for “violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, personal safety, and property through their willful actions in creating the climate crisis they [the youth] will inherit.”
Also on Smith’s writing desk are a non-fiction book about using media and film to create change in the world and a novel about a young girl finding her own power in the midst of the climate crisis. “I’m interested in fiction that’s more hopeful—people adapting to climate change; there’s not enough written about the fixing part.”
Smith has worked on research boats in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the Gulf. “I enjoy what the ferry offers in terms of both peacefulness and connectedness—” Smith wrote in her application, “— the ebb and flow that brings both quiet, reflective moments, and packs of kids and families that take over the space, in the best possible way.” Smith also believes the residency will help her writing. “With a busy professional life, I crave the structure, commitment, and lack of Wi-Fi connection so I can really focus on my writing, reading, and research. I also love being out on the water. And I love running into strangers and friends. I’m grateful for the way the ferry connects us in the islands with each other and the rest of the world.” You can follow Smith’s progress on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wsfwriters.