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Meet Liz Smith—2020 Writer-In-Residence

Replacing my table tent with one for Liz Smith, the
2020 Writer-In-Residence on the interisland ferry

The table tent has been passed. Liz Smith of Friday Harbor, WA has assumed the role as the 2020 Writer-In-Residence on the Washington State Ferries (WSF). As I did, Liz will ride and write on the interisland ferry for one year.

This unique WSF route starts and ends each day in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island with stops on Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw—but never the mainland. For me, it was the perfect place to write, and Liz expects it will be for her, too.

Liz was selected from a dozen applicants for the volunteer position. Although she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Liz 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 and has been living 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,” Liz says. She’s completing the script for a documentary episode about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup for the PBS “Changing Seas” series, and then is looking forward to focusing on several other writing projects. 

Currently, she’s at work on the forthcoming feature film, YOUTHvGOV. 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 Liz’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.” 

In her application, Liz explained her reasons for seeking the residency. “With a busy professional life,” she wrote, “I crave the structure, commitment, and lack of Wi-Fi connection so I can really focus on my writing, reading, and research. Secondly, I love the idea of promoting writing… by sharing about the residency.” One of the ways Liz will do that is on a new Facebook page for the WIR. Be sure to visit and “like” the page. The Facebook page will replace this blog. You can continue to follow my writing about the Salish Sea at

Liz has worked on research boats in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the Gulf, so it’s no surprise she had another reason for seeking the WIR position. “I LOVE riding the ferry,” she wrote. “I enjoy what the ferry offers in terms of both peacefulness and connectedness — 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. 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.”

We look forward to connecting with you, too, Liz.  Welcome aboard! 


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