Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award: Applications now accepted!

Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award: Applications now accepted!

The Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award offers talented writers in need of financial support an opportunity to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavík, Iceland in April, 2018.

Who can apply

Anyone who is aged 18 or over on April 11, 2018 is eligible to apply. The winning candidate(s) must demonstrate that s/he does not have the financial means to attend the conference without this award.* Candidates do not need to be professional writers, but should be serious about the craft and interested in developing their skills and contacts. Their writing interests should fit well with the faculty for the 2018 retreat (i.e. literary fiction, non-fiction, memoir). For example, if you are primarily a poet, you should be clear in your application about why attending workshops that focus on literary fiction and non-fiction will be beneficial to you.

Family members of the judges and those who have already attended the IWR are not eligible to apply.*

What does it cover?

Entrants can apply for either full or partial funding. Full funding covers all participation in the Iceland Writers Retreat, as detailed on our website (including accommodation). The scholarship also includes round-trip flights to Iceland.

Partial funding covers the participant fee only, and neither accommodation nor round trip flights.

Please ensure that you apply for the most suitable category for you, as if you apply for full funding you are very unlikely to be considered for a partial award. (Note that last year we had many more applications for full funding than partial funding.)

The award does not include airport transfers, travel insurance, travel visas (if applicable)**, other incidentals or meals not listed in the itinerary, or the Relax & Write extension.

How will the recipients be chosen?

The recipients will be chosen based primarily on two factors: a) The potential s/he demonstrates (or has demonstrated) as a writer and b) his/her need for financial support to be able to attend. We will also evaluate based on the other questions in the application, though, so make sure to tell us about yourself and why you think you’d be the perfect match for the Iceland Writers Retreat.

The applicant should also be available for media interviews before and during the Retreat, and be able to explain how s/he would help to share their experience with others after the fact. This may include being asked to prepare a short report on their experience to be published on the IWR website.

Applications will be reviewed by a group of IWR alumni. The final decision on the award recipient will be made by the IWR Founding Directors.

Deadline for applications: Tuesday, 31 October, 2017. Midnight, PST. Click here to apply. We will announce the recipients on 4 December, 2017. 

*If this financial stipulation does not apply to you, or if you have already attended the IWR, please consider entering our writing competition, which is open to all. We will provide details of this event on our website soon. It will open in early October.

**Please note that we are not responsible for issuing travel visas and cannot guarantee that one will be issued for you. However, we would provide all the required supporting letters and our past recipients who have required visas have had no problem being issued with one. 

Reykjavik pond ©RomanGerasymenko

General Tips for applying:

We receive a very large number of applications for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. To increase your chances of being selected, please follow the application instructions very carefully.

  • Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • It is not possible to make changes to your application once it has been submitted; you will receive email confirmation that your application has been received.
  • Level of funding: We receive far more applications for full funding than partial funding, but you need to show that you are unable to afford even the cost of flights to Iceland and accommodation while in the country. Note that you are very unlikely to be considered for partial funding if you have applied for full funding.
  • Your background: We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and with all levels of writing experience. However, we are more likely to rank applications highly from people who have not had the opportunity to attend many other writing retreats. The quality of your writing is what is most important, whether you are just starting out, have been working for a while, or are at a mid- or post-career break.
  • Why do you want to attend? We all love Iceland. And we all love writing. If you are applying simply to get an opportunity to visit Iceland you are unlikely to be granted an award. Tell us why this particular event and this particular faculty have captured your interest. Show us that you have done some research about the Iceland Writers Retreat. Note especially that our workshops in 2018 focus primarily on literary fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. While we have all kinds of writers attend our event, and all of them get something out of it, if you are e.g. primarily a poet or a playwright, please be sure to explain exactly what you will get from workshops that focus on a different genre.
  • Writing samples: Note that the maximum length for each writing sample is 1000 words. We will not consider applications that have longer writing samples.
  • Why you need financial assistance: This is one of the most difficult yet important factors to consider for this award. Please be as honest as you can with us in explaining why this event is beyond your means without support. Your answer to the question about applying for additional funding is also important. We know that some countries offer support to writers who attend conferences, and we’d like to see if you have taken any initiative in terms of thinking broadly for ways in which you can attend.
  • How will you share your experience with others? We want many people to know about the Iceland Writers Retreat. How will you help us get the word out if you are awarded a scholarship? We know that social media is very popular. Do you have other, more original ideas too?
  • References: References should be by people who are familiar with your writing and are not family members. Applications without appropriate references will not be considered.

About the Iceland Writers Retreat

Held for the first time in April 2014, the Iceland Writers Retreat is an event comprised of a series of small-group writing workshops and cultural tours designed to introduce participants to Iceland’s rich literary heritage. Faculty in 2018 include Hilton Als, Hallgrímur Helgason, Priya Basil, Susan Shreve, Terry Fallis, and Gwendoline Riley. The Iceland Writers Retreat was named one of the world’s best writers’ retreats by the Sydney Morning Herald, and one of the top 10 “Events to travel for in 2014” by Four Seasons Magazine.

About the IWR Alumni Award

This is the third time the IWR Alumni Award has been granted. It is so named because it has been funded by former IWR participants. We are extremely grateful for their generosity.

Iceland Writers Retreat 074 © Roman Gerasymenko

The 2017 recipients of the Award were (from left) Akvile Buitvydaite, Victor Yang, Peter Ngila, and Nathan Ramsden.

Q & A with Peter Ngila, Alumni Award Recipient

Q & A with Peter Ngila, Alumni Award Recipient

Peter Ngila is one of the four recipients of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. It will provide financial support for him to attend the Retreat in April 2017. The Award recipients are determined by merit and financial need, and the Award is funded by IWR Alumni.

Peter’s Bio:

Peter Ngila is a Kenyan writer. He graduated from Mount Kenya University in August, 2015, where he was studying journalism. His short fiction has appeared on magazines and journals in Kenya and beyond including Jalada Africa, Prachya Review, Brittle Paper, Lawino among others, and got anthologised in Ebedi Review. Peter has attended Writivism Creative Writing workshops in Kenya and Tanzania, and has taken part in The Writivism Mentoring Process. He also attended the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Migrations Flow Workshop in Nairobi. Peter has a number of manuscripts, including a short story collection, and a novella. He will go to Ebedi Writers Residency in Nigeria in January 2017 to complete work on a novel.


What are you most looking forward to about the Retreat?

PN: I am most looking forward to the writing workshops, because I am always out to improve my writing career, and also share with and learn from fellow attendees. And yes, to visit Iceland, and meet Nadifa Mohammed!


What do you find inspiring?

PN: My writing is usually inspired by what happens every day. I love meeting new people and seeing new places. I am one of those people who are shameless enough to eavesdrop at your phone call, and later turn the conversation around in my mind.


How do you overcome writer’s block?

PN: I don’t believe in writer’s block that much. I think one cannot produce all the time, because you will have to read other writers to improve your writing. And rewriting and editing is also part of writing, and so these to me may not happen the same time with writing, as long as they are integral parts of the writing process.  And yes, when you are not in the mood to write, rewrite or edit, you should sit back and enjoy life. But again, that shouldn’t encourage laziness, so most of the time I usually push myself by sitting down all day, and having the previously desired word count by evening no matter what, then take a shower and go out walking; that’s how to keep fit.


How has writing influenced your life?

PN: Well, writing has impacted my writing in many ways. It has enabled me to open up my life (because all those secrets I thought were too dark or even interesting to share with the world are part of research and they tend to come out fictionalized in my writing). Writing has also taken me places, from writing workshops to festivals in and outside my country, Kenya. (And yes, I am going to Iceland, the first time actually to fly out of Africa)! My writing has also enabled me to communicate better because I am not the best verbal communicator.


Peter is very excited and thankful for the opportunity to attend the Retreat. In a final comment, he cites eagerness to learn, persistence, and patience as the tools anybody can use to achieve their dreams.

Q & A with Akvile Buitvydaite, Alumni Award Recipient

Q & A with Akvile Buitvydaite, Alumni Award Recipient

Akvile Buitvydaite is one of the four recipients of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. It will provide partial financial support for her to attend the Retreat in April 2017. The Award recipients are determined by merit and financial need, and the Award is funded by IWR Alumni.

Akvile’s Bio:

After exploring many countries on her solitary travels, she finally settled down in Copenhagen. She grew up in a small town in Lithuania and the variety of places that she has visited have given her an opportunity to treasure the diversity of this world. Akvile has been teaching for several years and at the moment is taking a degree in English and Cultural Studies. Writing has always played a role as a very intimate and personal expression of her solitude; lately she has become more explicit about it and received many encouraging responses. Akvile wants her writing to tackle the questions of social justice and to evoke emotional understanding of a human life. She is really looking forward to meeting all the people at the Iceland Writers Retreat, share and learn together and just let the beauty of Icelandic nature capture our minds.


What are you most looking forward to about the Retreat?

AB: Honestly, I am really overwhelmed by the choice of workshops and possibilities to learn from great authors and other participants. I imagine the retreat as an opportunity not only to create a space with like-minded people, but as well to learn more about the ways to create a literary work, establish narrative structures or to depict novel characters. This is all very new to me, therefore I’ve got plenty of questions and considerations and I am looking forward to sharing them with the others.


What do you find inspiring?

AB: I’m mostly interested in the lives of ordinary people. Often when I am sitting on a bus or train, I try to imagine the stories of the fellow passengers. I love being in the city that is crowded and solitary space at the same time and I believe that every human life is really fragile. This thought works as a driving force for me. Still, I have discovered that imagination and inspiration play a small role in the process of writing, because the rest requires discipline, effort and work. There are periods when I am really struggling to produce anything, because my writing expectations and reality do not correspond with each other. Then I feel the need to get out from my routine and spend some time in nature where I can sort of go back to my senses and find that inner flow. Essentially, literature and music are the cornerstones for my own writing—when I am into a novel or listening to an album it triggers a certain emotional response in me and then I embody this into a poem or a fictional work. There have been several novels that left a huge impact on me and I am still touched by the power that words might entail and their ability to awaken one’s senses.


How has writing influenced your life?

AB: Until very recently, I’ve pictured writing as my personal expression only and I have been rather quiet about it, so many people around me didn’t even know that I have this sort of ‘hobby’.  One of those days, while sitting on the train and staring at strangers, I got this incredible wish to write a novel and slowly it led into a plot, a main character and the whole story line that is inhabited in my head every day since. It is still very fresh to me so I am finding it difficult to grasp its effects on mine or anyone else’s life. However, I consider language as a way of restricting or emancipating people since many of our experiences are bounded within the linguistic frame.  Therefore, I see writing as a way to give a voice to people and I hope that I will succeed in transforming my ideas, values and world views into a fictional narrative.


In a final comment, Akvile expresses her excitement to attend the Retreat and optimism for the changes it might bring.

Q & A with Nathan Ramsden, Alumni Award Recipient

Q & A with Nathan Ramsden, Alumni Award Recipient

Nathan Ramsden is one of the four recipients of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. It will provide financial support for him to attend the Retreat in April 2017. The Award recipients are determined by merit and financial need, and the Award is funded by IWR Alumni.

Nathan’s Bio:

He lives in West Yorkshire, UK. He writes mostly short fiction based on mythology and folktale, though he has also published one novel called Nothing’s Oblong, and is currently working on a translation of the long medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Other influences include J L Borges and Angela Carter.

Nathan taught English for several years before choosing to focus on writing and to set up a small press. In his spare time he loves baking, bookbinding, and making music with synthesizers and an old jazz bass.

Although he enjoys reading and translating Icelandic, this will be Nathan’s first trip to Iceland; he hopes to improve his spoken language as well as see some of the country and stock up on a few more books.


What are you most looking forward to about the Retreat?

NR: Pretty much everything, really. I’ve never been to Iceland before, but since having studied some of its medieval literature, and having learned some of the language, I’ve wanted to spend time there and explore the spaces and their histories, and the ways in which the land and the stories generate each other. From a writing point of view, I’m looking forward to having somewhere new feed into my ideas for various projects, and I’m excited to see where Iceland will take my work. It’s also going to be good to meet other writers, to swap stories, to discuss books and writing, and to perhaps make friends. I’m guessing I’ll need more than one trip to do it all but I can’t think of a better way to start than the Retreat.

 What do you find inspiring?

NR: Inspiration is a tough one. It can come from anything, anywhere, anyone, and at any time. I keep a notebook with me whenever I leave the house, and it sits by my bed at night. Sometimes I’ll come across a word that will be enough to kick-start an idea; sometimes a whole historical episode will suggest a story, a re-telling, a re-imagination. Often, the seeds of a piece are small, but the things that grow from them seem to feed into each other, and they have to catch together in the right ways for a piece to truly develop. A lot of the time, that comes with a great deal of hard work. Trial and error is the only way to see what will happen. When it doesn’t go well, try again.

How has writing influenced your life?

NR: Life and writing are not separate things – writing is a part of life, and helps make life what it is, while life shapes writing in return. For a long time, making stories was simply a way to entertain myself, or to process and play with things that were happening in my world. Eventually stories became an end in themselves, and I became interested in how they work on a more technical level. Being a writer has given me a different kind of understanding of the ways in which writing works – I come to books and the study of books with a writer’s mind, a writer’s skill set, a writer’s sensibility for the processes that generate those objects we think of as stories. I think that’s quite a different position to be in to a strictly academic one, or to the general reader. My academic studies are feeding into my life in other ways that are no longer university-based, but being a writer first has created the platform upon which I place everything else for consideration. It’s a kind of blend of the critical, the creative, and a joy at making leaps into strangeness and getting things wrong; it’s a balance of tight control and complete freedom.

As a final comment, Nathan expresses his gratitude toward those who made this opportunity possible.

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