Creative Writing, Literature,

and Marine Biology at Friday Harbor

Autumn Quarter 2014

*For information about the ENGL 581 Graduate Seminar in Friday Harbor, click here.

photograph courtesy Sierra Nelson

Study in the San Juans this Fall!

This fall, live by the sea and enroll in courses that explore the beautiful and varied marine environment at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor campus. Read, write, and explore the sea and the seashore through literature, creative writing, marine biology, and fisheries courses (12-17 credits) that take full advantage of the San Juan Island setting. What better place to read works of sea-faring literature, or to take a marine biology course where you can actually interact with the marine life you are studying? Writers, artists, scientists, and researchers have long been drawn to the sea – come and experience it for yourself while earning UW credit!

The English courses, Reading and Writing the Marine Environment (ENGL 365, 5 credits-VLPA), and an optional Creative Writing Lab/Workshop (ENGL 493, 1-5 cr) will be taught by Professor Richard Kenney, UW English Department faculty. Students who are interested in taking science courses or who need Natural World (NW) credit may also wish to register for Introduction to Marine Biology, (FISH/BIOL/OCEAN 250, 5cr), which has no required pre-requisites and will be taught by Dr. Emily Carrington from the Department of Biology; or Ichthyology, (FISH 311, 5cr) taught by Dr. Adam Summers from the Department of Fisheries.

An article about the Friday Harbor program was featured in the Spring 2012 issue of English Matters: "It’s not about the landscape, but it IS all about the landscape."

Find Poetry in Friday Harbor on Facebook.

“Stand on that hill with the soft-swept grass and the dying climbing-tree. Shut your eyes harder, and revive the feelings: blooming camaraderie, hesitance forgotten by the unprompted bond that digs deeper than personal discrepancies, shadows pale in the face of that which drew us to the fire every night: an unspoken commonality, a shared spark.” -- Libby Hsu, past participant

Open a PowerPoint presentation about the program.

photograph courtesy Kati Casto, past program participant

"If you have any inclination to write, whether it be creatively or not, this program will definitely be worth your while. You're going to spend 3 life expanding months out in the San Juan Islands memorizing poetry, writing expressively, and spending quality time with students who share the drive to learn and to live boldly in their quest for meaning. But it's not just about writing, this course will push your mind to think in new and wondrous ways in which you may never have known were possible. It will make you so much more curious about what words mean and how words convey ideas and thus shape our entire human experience. I cannot recommend this course more if you are at a place in your life where you don't know quite where to go next." -- Kimber Loudon, past participant


Friday Harbor Laboratories

Friday Harbor Photos
photo of Friday Harbor courtesy of TripAdvisor

THE FRIDAY HARBOR LABORATORIES (FHL) is the UW’s world renowned marine science research facility located on a 484-acre biological preserve on pristine San Juan Island, 75 miles northwest of Seattle, part of an archipelago that lies between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The islands of the San Juan Archipelago are generally rocky, forested, and rimmed by precipitous shores. Some are deeply cut by fjord-like inlets. The islands were strongly glaciated and have valleys with lakes, swamps, and bogs. The varied terrestrial and freshwater habitats offer a diverse flora and fauna.

Students live on-site in the FHL dorms for the whole quarter.

"A typical day is going to start off with breakfast in a wood lodge. Good food. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa always available as well as other beverages. It's really cozy and the environment is just breath-taking. You'll go to a few classes per day, interspersed with meals and games and poetry recitations at night around a campfire. Lots of free time too to explore, take the row boats to town for a brew or a movie..." --Kimber Loudon, past participant

Suggested courses for English majors and other Humanities students:

Reading and Writing the Marine Environment (5 credits: ENGL 365 or CHID 498 - VLPA)

Faculty: Professor Richard Kenney

This is a nautically-minded literature course intended for readers from all disciplinary backgrounds, engaging both creative and critical processes. Diving in: what book is an unparalleled extravagance of literary ambition and style, a firsthand observatory of sea and life at sea, a serious natural history of cetacean mammals, an apparently bottomless mirror for American philosophical self-reflection, at once a mythic quest and a white-knuckle adventure story? Or: what book would you bring, if you happened to be an island-bound castaway? You will be one, so buy Moby Dick. Together we’ll attempt to harpoon the Great Book, read for delight, and hope for wisdom in its wake. Beside the White Whale, we’ll collect, examine, and write alongside many other specimens from the literatures of the sea—contemporary and ancient, poetry and prose—to assemble a bibliography, an anthology for our pleasure, and a permanent bookshelf for the FHL library.

Note: "W" credit is available for ENGL 365 by request. Interested students should speak with the instructor on the first class day of the program.

photograph courtesy Kati Casto, past program participant

Creative Writing Lab/Workshop (1 - 5 credits: English 493)

Faculty: Professor Richard Kenney

This course is intended for those students who wish to engage in generative creative writing experiments inspired by science and literature of the sea, focus their binoculars and microscopes more carefully on the language and skills of craft, bring a more critical pressure to bear on their own work than the parent literature class may permit, and to develop conversational critical faculties in a communal setting. Previous creative writing experience is not required, curiosity and engagement a requisite.

photograph courtesy Kati Casto, past program participant

Marine Biology (5 credits: BIOL 250/OCEAN 250/FISH 250)

Faculty: Dr. Emily Carrington

This 5-credit lecture/laboratory course focuses on the incredible diversity of organisms inhabiting the marine environment. During the quarter we will take a broad tour through the plants and animals of the marine realm (plankton, seaweeds, invertebrates, fish, birds, and mammals), exploring how these organisms have adapted to life under water. Numerous field and laboratory exercises will expose students to common marine biological techniques and to the diverse marine communities common to Washington’s San Juan Islands. (Note: this course fulfills a core requirement of the Marine Biology minor for University of Washington students.) Recommendation: at least one quarter of introductory biology (more is preferable). Enrollment limited to 30 students. For additional information contact: Dr. Emily Carrington.

Ichthyology (5 credits, Fish 311)

Faculty: Dr. Adam Summers

Fish 311 is an introductory course designed to provide an overview of the wonderful world of fishes, their kinds and ways. We’ll discuss and conduct a hands-on examination of the biology and diversity of living fishes of the world—from ancient bottom-living hagfishes and lampreys to modern-day sharks, rays, and bony fishes; from the freshwaters of Amazonia and to mangrove swamps and coral reefs; and from shallow-water lakes and streams to the deepest parts of the world's oceans. For additional information contact: Dr. Adam Summers

photograph courtesy Alexia Lee, past program participant
"I am sure the feeling I had on returning from Friday Harbor is not an uncommon one. Really, it’s a two-step process.... The first step is longing: If I could live in a hut on an island and do nothing but write and talk about poems for the rest of my life, I would. The second is a romantic leap (lapse) of judgment: Well, why can’t I?” -- Emily Dhatt, past participant


How to apply: Students should apply online, via the Friday Harbor Laboratories website.

Application Deadline: Priority admission: May 15, 2014. Standard application review date: July 1, 2014. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. Applications will be accepted after July 1 if space is available. For information please contact Stacy Markman, FHL Student Coordinator.

Required Documents:

The Director of Friday Harbor Laboratories has final authority in accepting persons for the FHL instructional program. Humanities students enrolling in the Marine Biology Quarter are not required to submit letters of recommendation or a personal statement. Only the web application form and transcripts are required.

Friday Harbor Photos
photo of Friday Harbor courtesy TripAdvisor

"Friday Harbor is a spiritual place, and I don't mean that in a religious way. I often think about the experience in a sun-soaked dream kind of way - but it actually happened. How amazing is it that students get to pack up a suitcase and a backpack full of books for inspiration and have time to write? For the extroverts like myself - I did find a few of us there - and we would lean on our balcony railings while sipping coffee (unlimited amounts always available), and discuss what we were reading and why we wanted to write and our imperfect lives and dreams... My intellectual appetite was being fed, and quite intensively... Friday Harbor is a peaceful, spiritual place to find yourself, not just physically. In books, in the classroom, in the water, in the woods - I found beautiful words." - Alexia Lee, past participant


The costs for a quarter at Friday Harbor are similar to the costs for a quarter on the Seattle campus. Resident and Non-Resident tuition rates apply. Rates below are Autumn 2014 rates (expected).

Note: these costs are comprehensive: they include your room, three delicious meals per day, tuition, materials, fees, and other expenses. Your only additional costs are your ferry ride out to the island and pocket money.

Resident, Matriculated UW Undergraduates:

$4133 estimated total tuition for 15-17 credits, plus lab fees ($0-$215*), plus room and board ($2885 estimated) for an estimated net amount of: $7018-$7233 for the entire quarter.

Non-Resident Matriculated UW Undergraduates:

$10, 658 estimated total tuition for 15-17 credits, plus lab fees (same as above) and room and board (same as above) for an estimated net amount of: $13,543 - $13,758 for the entire quarter.

Non-Matriculated Students are also eligible to enroll in Friday Harbor courses. Please visit the FHL website for details.

*For more information about Friday Harbor costs and room and board information, please visit this page on the Friday Harbor Laboratories website.

Contact Information and Program Faculty:

Marine Biology Quarter and Friday Harbor Laboratories Student Services contacts:

Marine Biology Adviser, Christen Foehring; 206-543-7426; email

Stacy Markman, Friday Harbor Laboratories Student Coordinator; 206-616-0753; email

Department of English Contact:

Bridget Norquist or Jennifer Hoff, Academic Advisers; 206-543-2634; email


Richard Kenney is the author of four books of poetry: The Evolution of the Flightless Bird, Orrery, The Invention of the Zero, and The One Strand River. He teaches poetry and verse writing in the undergraduate and MFA programs at the University of Washington. He has taught the early Fall Friday Harbor Poetry Seminar since 2008, and has also been the director of the UW English Department Creative Writing in Rome Program for over ten years.

Dr. Emily Carrington completed her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at Cornell University in 1985. She received her Ph.D. in 1992 from Stanford University, where she studied the biomechanics and ecophysiology of wave-swept organisms with Mark Denny. She was a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia, working with John Gosline on the biomechanics of mussel attachment. In 1996, she became an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Rhode Island and was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 2003. She moved west in 2005 to join the Department of Biology and the Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington. email

Dr. Adam Summers earned degrees in mathematics and engineering, at Swarthmore College, but was not interested in pursuing either as a career. While teaching SCUBA in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef he met his first professional biologists. He returned home to get a masters degree in Biology at New York University and the University of Massachusetts for a Ph.D. From the beginning of his research career he attempted to capitalize on previous training as an engineer to understand the evolution of the mechanical systems of animals. While researching the mechanics of salamander walking and the jaws of a particularly unusual group of limbless amphibians called caecilians at UC Berkeley, he was approached by Pixar Studios to help them with the movie Finding Nemo. He is now the Associate Director of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. With students and collaborators he has published more than 70 articles in scientific journals on abstruse subjects including the heads of hammerhead sharks, the properties of skeletons and difficulties of eating hard prey. email

Friday Harbor Photos
photo of Friday Harbor courtesy TripAdvisor

"ůSay, you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries-stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever."
--Ishmael, Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Text and photos courtesy past participants and the Friday Harbor Laboratories website. Additional Photos courtesy

to home page
top of page