Four Recipients of 2018 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

Four Recipients of 2018 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

This year is the third year the Iceland Writers Retreat has offered the Alumni Award. This prestigious award is funded in its entirety by generous IWR alumni and friends. It gives its recipients full or partial funding to attend the next Retreat, which will take place April 11 to 15, 2018 in Reykjavik. The winners are chosen based on both merit and financial need, and submissions were reviewed by IWR alumni volunteers. We received over 700 applications from around the world and the quality of submissions was extremely high.

Full Award recipients:

Puja Changoiwala is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, and author of the widely-acclaimed true crime book in India, ‘The Front Page Murders.’ This book, Puja’s debut work as an author, is recipient of awards and unanimous acclaim from the most reputed quarters of the country. As a journalist, Puja is a contributor to some of the most esteemed news publications in India, Europe, and North America. Her writings have featured in The Guardian, BBC, among other renowned outlets. Previously a human rights correspondent with a London-based political magazine, Puja has also worked as a senior crime correspondent with Hindustan Times, a leading Indian national daily. She has produced award-winning work, covering Mumbai’s sins, and their casualties.

Nora Shychuk is a graduate of University College Cork in Ireland, where she received an M.A. in creative writing. Her B.A., from Jacksonville University, is in Screenwriting and English. Her work has appeared in several literary journals and magazines, including The Lonely Crowd and Pact Press’ Speak and Speak Again anthology. Her short story, Separations, was shortlisted for the 2017 From The Well Short Story Competition in Ireland. Last year, Nora was a finalist for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award and couldn’t be more pleased to be one of the recipients this year. She is an assistant editor for Regal House Publishing and is currently finishing up a short story collection. She lives in New York City.

Partial Award recipients:

Fatin Abbas was born in Sudan, grew up in New York, and attended university in the UK and US. She is a graduate of the Hunter College (CUNY) MFA in Creative Writing Program, winning during her time there the Bernard Cohen Short Story Prize and the Miriam Weinberg Richter Award. Her fiction has appeared in Freeman’sThe Warwick Review, and Friction, and her non-fiction and review essays have appeared in Le Monde DiplomatiqueThe NationAfrica is a Country, and openDemocracy.net. She is a recipient of the Miles Morland Foundation Writing Scholarship, and is at work on her first novel, The Interventionists.

Julia Duin is a Seattle-based journalist who has worked as a reporter or editor for everything from the Houston Chronicle to the Washington Times. She’s also written extensively for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine for which she just came out with a nearly 6,000-word profile on President Trump’s advisor Paula White. She’s published six books, the latest being In the House of the Serpent Handler, a nonfiction work about 20-something Appalachian pentecostal serpent handlers who use Facebook to publicize their exploits. During the 2014-2015 academic year, she occupied the Snedden chair as a journalism professor at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks.

We’ll be profiling all the recipients in more detail in the coming weeks.

The other finalists for the prize were (in alphabetical order):

Jane Affleck (Canada)
Michael Agugom (Nigeria)
Luís Roberto Amabile (Brazil)
Sarah Barnes (United States)
Odette Casamayor (United States)
Efemia Chela (South Africa)
Christy Chilimigras (South Africa)
Heather Delfs (Australia)
Judith Duncan (Australia)
Jacinta Escudos (El Salvador)
Lucy Grace (UK)
Anne Hamilton (UK)
Sean Kerr (Canada)
Mary-Ann Leeb (United States)
Amy J. E. MacKenzie (United States)
Joanne McClelland-Phillips (Australia)
Dora Mortimer (UK)
Daniel Musgrave (United States)
Diego Olavarría (Mexico)
Suyi Okungbowa (Nigeria)
Ash Parsons (United States)
Carien Smith (South Africa)

An additional ten people received “honorary mention”.

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. 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.

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