Dakota Smith, NY

Junior Writer

A poet, journalist, and cultural critic, Dakota has spent the last six years of her life writing and working in cities around the world. An empathetic interviewer and keen conversationalist, she’s written for Willamette Week, Nursing Times, and WUSSY Magazine among others. Originally from California, she’s currently based in NYC, where she reads voraciously and performs poetry. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Colorado and is currently studying for her MFA in Poetry at Randolph College.

As a Story Terrace writer, Dakota interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Older Sister

I tell people I was born in the ocean, though it’s not true in the technical sense. I was born near the ocean, and I’ve been attached ever since. I’ve lived in landlocked places, far away from the waves, the sand, and the salt—but I’ve felt them within me nonetheless. It’s true that water is associated with birth, with rebirth. Every time I swim, I feel at peace; like I am a child again.

I grew up in Southern California. I spent my first three years of life just steps from the beach. When the one-room apartment that my mother, my father, my sister and I shared became too small for our growing family to fit, we moved to the suburbs closer to the desert than the ocean. My first memory remains packing up Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head from a pile of toys, not sure what was next except that I was to become an older sister.

Our first family home had a pool. A very, very deep pool. I probably got swimmer’s ear every summer from experimenting with how long it took to touch the bottom of this enormous wonder. When my little sister was old enough to swim on her own, we would create elaborate adventure stories for our Barbie families. Ones in which there were plane crashes and car crashes, and for lighter faire, picnics and beach days. We would set up a drive-thru window for one of us to man and the other to order from. We would clench our feet together and pretend to be mermaids. We had a whole other world built within the pool. Each summer we would wait diligently until 10 A.M., when we were allowed to swim. We would stay all day, only breaking for lunch. I perfected my cannonball and practiced my breath stroke, which my swimming coach told me should be like your arms were trying to break through ice.

I’d always been a strong swimmer. I could swim for hours, loving the silence beneath the water. One day, when my younger sister was two or three, before our days spent imaginatively at the pool, we were at the end of our swimming day and dinner was ready. With a big t-shirt on, I called for my sister to come in. I saw her sitting by the spa. Before I knew it, she lost her balance and fell in. This was before she had properly learned how to swim. I dove in, blinded by the chlorine and the bubbles, and fished her out. We both gasped as we made our way out of the water. I realized—this is what being an older sister meant.

Get in touch today to work with Dakota!