Member Profile: Mallory Smith


When and why did you become a member of PEN Center USA?
I’ve known about PEN Center USA for years and have long admired the way it links human rights with the written word. As a passionate advocate for social change, I hope to use my writing to foster dialogue about important issues in the healthcare, environmental, and social justice spheres. Becoming a member of PEN Center USA is a way for me to connect with others who share my mission, to learn from more experienced writers, and to firm my commitment to writing-as-activism.

What is most meaningful to you about PEN Center USA?
Writing can be a very solitary profession, in spite of the fact that connecting with other writers is one of the most inspiring and meaningful ways to make one’s writing better. PEN Center USA’s commitment to fostering a community of writers, linked by craft and content, is very powerful.

PEN Centers share a Freedom To Write mission, which means we believe that people should be able to read and write freely. What does Freedom To Write mean to you?
To me, Freedom To Write means being able to seek out and write the truth for the greater good. I’ve been blessed with the ability to write freely, and with mentors who encourage me to do so; I know not everyone is so lucky.

We live in a world where, more and more, people are finding all the ways in which we’re different, instead of recognizing all the ways we’re the same. Writing is a way to bridge gaps between people, to allow one person to experience the inner world of another. Empathy is at the core of my writing, and, I believe, at the core of the Freedom to Write mission.

What is the one book you wish you had written and why?
One book I wish I had written is The Poisonwood Bible. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s writing, and this book beautifully covers so many important issues: cultural relativism, family, morality, colonialism, justice. It had me glued to my seat, enraged, in tears, and in awe.

What is your favorite quote?
“If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”—Yeb Saño

Who would be your ideal literary dinner guest (living or dead)?
It’s a toss-up between Kurt Vonnegut and David Sedaris.

What are you working on now?
My current project is editing the memoir of the former director of Stanford’s lung transplant program. I’m also working on my own writing and blogging on the side, chronicling my path toward my own lung transplant.

Mallory Smith is a twenty-three-year-old freelance writer and editor living in San Francisco, California. Mallory graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a B.A. in Human Biology and a concentration in environmental anthropology. After graduating, Mallory wrote the text of The Gottlieb Native Garden: A California Love Story, a coffee table book about the importance of native plants, jointly produced by National Wildlife Federation and The G2 Gallery. She also spent a year ghostwriting articles about healthcare policy and bioethics for Nelson Hardiman, LLP, a healthcare law firm based in Los Angeles.