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.
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.