By Lorna Reese
The just-published Summer 2018 edition of “SHARK REEF Literary Magazine” (sharkreef.org) is dedicated to the late Alie Smaalders, a longtime resident of Lopez. Alie was a writer and storyteller so, of course, there’s a story behind this dedication. Here’s a short version of the story taken from the introduction to the issue.
“Writers grow on the trees on Lopez,” Alie told me in our early days together in the late 1990s. It did seem true. My memory is hazy but, in my mind’s eye, I still see fellow writer Laurie Parker and me stopping on the wooden library steps after a reading by local writers. It was a dark night, and cold. Excited, one of us said, “Let’s start a writers guild.” I remember adding, “We have to talk with Alie.”
We did talk to Alie and we did form a guild. The guild flourished for several years, organizing presentations and workshops about various aspects of a writer’s life. Our most popular achievement, though, was a years-long series of Lopez Writers Read evenings at Lopez Center. Alie and I collaborated on these readings for several years, inviting writers whose work we felt would ensure our audience a good experience, too. Alie counseled the writers beforehand about how to read in front of an audience. These events garnered audiences of up to 75 people – and sometimes more. Many locals were there for every single one.
In 2000, inspired by the possibilities of the burgeoning Internet, our Guild trio decided to start a literary magazine geared towards our Lopez community of “writers growing on trees.” We invited submissions from any Lopez writer and then drafted accomplished writer and journalist, the late Leta Marshall, to create the layout. We christened our fledgling magazine “SHARK REEF” after a spot beloved by many of us on Lopez. We chose that name because it had a bit of “bite” to it.
In those early days, we’d sit around Alie’s dining room table and pore over the submissions. Alie and her husband Oscar had both been librarians, and the walls of their home were covered in shelves stuffed with books — in English and Dutch. Books spilled out onto tables, chairs and the floor, but Alie knew where every single one was shelved. We’d drink tea, munch on Dutch cookies and discuss submissions. I still miss those days.
After publishing five issues of “SHARK REEF” to local acclaim, we felt emboldened and decided to publish a paperback anthology of previously-published selections. Titled Currents and chosen by several on-island and off-island readers, this volume appeared in 2003.
When Alie died in March, dedicating the summer issue of “SHARK REEF” felt not only right but necessary. She had been a writer, friend, mentor, collaborator and even a mother figure to many of us. It also seemed appropriate to republish her essay, Twenty-One Minutes Before the Hour, from our Special Nine Eleven edition. She was already 77 when the planes flew into the twin towers and wrote a poignant essay about time passing, aging and approaching death. You can read it, and more of her work at sharkreef.org.
“SHARK REEF Literary Magazine” has been publishing since 2001, now with submissions and readers coming from across the country and around the globe. We have a new managing editor, Stephanie Barbé Hammer, from Whidbey Island and rotating co-editors for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art. We’re proud of our literary citizenship and grateful to Alie Smaalders for being there from the start.