Ferry writer in residence: Iris Graville

Submitted by Iris Graville

Recently, Washington State Ferries launched its first-ever “Writer-in-Residence” on the interisland route in the San Juans. Lopez author Iris Graville began her term in this new role on Aug. 1 with a half-day of writing and riding aboard the M/V Tillikum between Lopez, Shaw, Orcas and San Juan. She’ll continue over the next year as she works on an essay collection under contract with Homebound Publications.

In March, Graville approached her neighbor, retired ferry captain and Ferry Advisory Board member Ken Burtness, about her idea. “Having recently published my third book, the memoir ‘Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance,’ I was ready to embark on my next writing project,” she said. “As a 22-year resident of Lopez and a five-year commuter to Orcas, ferry crossings often afford valuable time for me to write.”

Burtness was enthusiastic about Graville’s plan to walk on to the ferry on Lopez carrying her laptop, journal and research materials and then ride, read and write along the route. He offered to connect her to WSF staff who might support the residency. For many artists, a break from usual routines inspires creativity and contributes to productivity. In 2011, Amtrak offered writers’ residencies on trains, particularly long-distance routes.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s Space Needle in 2012, Knute Berger became writer-in-residence on the Observation Deck for a book on the landmark. When the City of Seattle advertised its first writer-in-residence at the iconic Fremont Bridge, they were overwhelmed by applications. The three-month appointment of Elissa Washuta to this post coincided with the bridge’s 100th birthday in 2017. Graville explains her project goal is to create a book-length prose manuscript consisting of personal essays. “Some of the themes and content I anticipate writing about include details about the Tillikum and its route, passengers and crew; description of my ‘office’; and effects of climate change on the Salish Sea,” said. “I expect other topics will evolve throughout the course of the project.” For more information, visit www.writingtheinterisland.org.