The Writer-in-Residence is back! Following a hiatus due to COVID-19, the role of Writer-in-Residence on the Interisland Ferry resumed again in January 2024. Orcas Island writer and artist Debra Lee Babcock will fill the post for nine months, writing while the ferry courses between San Juan Island, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw.
“I’m ecstatic and grateful,” Babcock said when notified she’d been selected for the position.
In her application, Babcock explained she has a long-overdue, unfinished book project she’s recently returned to that she intends to complete in the coming year.
Lopez Island resident Iris Graville developed the residency and served as the first WIR in 2018 (visit her blog from her term at www.writingtheinterisland.org.). During her tenure, she drafted essays for Writer in a Life Vest: Essays from the Salish Sea, published by Homebound Publications in 2022.
The second WIR, from 2019-2020, was San Juan Island writer and documentary film producer, Liz Smith. Although Smith’s term was limited a bit by the COVID pandemic, she used her ferry time working on the feature film documentary, YOUTH v GOV. More re-cently, she produced and wrote an episode of PBS “Changing Seas” about kelp in the Salish Sea. It features a WSF ferry in the second shot of the episode; you can watch it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3kyMtv-iIA.
The new WIR brings a diverse background to her writing. Babcock has been weaving performing, literary, healing and fine arts together for more than 40 years. In addition to writing, she’s a painter, teacher of Intentional Creativity, member of the San Juan Makers Guild and the Orcas Island Studio Tour and a producing board member of the Orcas Island Lit Fest.
Babcock hopes to ride and write once or twice a week for her tenure. She expects the beauty of the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea, will inspire her.
“But the literal rising and falling of seasons, cycles, tides, as well as our sometimes crazy and unpredictable ferry schedule,” she says, “will offer a valuable backdrop for exploring the themes of my memoir in progress.”