Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award testimonials

We are accepting applications for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award until the end of October. (Click here to apply; link is at the bottom of the page.) Anyone can apply for this award, which is granted primarily on the basis of merit and financial need.

Here’s what some previous winners had to say about their experience: 

“I nostalgically remember the Iceland Writers Retreat as the distant heaven away from home where my writing grew (and still does grow) in ways I could never have imagined, thanks to the inspiring workshops led by globally-acclaimed writers and beautiful and inspiring Iceland and the world citizenry attending the retreat.” Peter Ngila, Kenya, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2017 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the deeply inspiring culture of this retreat.” Lola Opatayo, Nigeria, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2019

Four of IWRs Alumni Award Winners
Lola Opatayo (Nigeria), Daniel Musgrave (USA), Carien Smith (South Africa), Jonaki Ray (India), Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipients 2019 (Missing: Lucy Grace, UK)

“The IWR experience was electric. It rekindled my mind, helping me to strengthen my writing as a whole. The friendly community of artists created a warm and inspiring environment, as did the stunning Icelandic landscape.” Nora Shychuk, USA, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2018

“The Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award introduced me to the international literary scene, exposed me to renown authors and connected me to a global network of publishers and writers. The award came at a crucial time in my writing career and were it not for this opportunity, I would not have had the confidence to sign with an agent or publish my first book.” Megan Ross, South Africa, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2016

“The Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award came at just the time I thought my creative writing life was a wash. But then I was transplanted into this thriving community of writers in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it felt like, hey, if Eliza and Erica think I have what it takes, maybe I do.” April Wolfe, USA, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2016

Fatin Abbas with the other Alumni Award winners
Fatin Abbas (Sudan), Nora Shychuk (USA), Michael Agugom (Nigeria), Julia Duin (USA), Puja Changoiwala (India), Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipients 2018

“‘Make catchy beginnings! Round characters! Interesting research!’- I often heard as a piece of advice for writers. But the how wasn’t explained. The workshops at IWR were not only about what to do but how to do that! The concrete methods that were suggested by the faculty at IWR are useful tools which I grab when I need to fuel my writing process.” Akvile Buitvydaite, Lithuania, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2017

“Writing is not black magic, even though it often seems as such. IWR was one of the first places where I learned tools and gained faith in this practice.” Victor Yang, USA, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient 2017

Akvile Buitvydaite (Lithuania), Victor Yang (USA), Peter Ngila (Kenya), Nathan Ramsden (UK), Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award winners 2017

“This opportunity has given me the confidence to write with more clarity and precision in that I have gained more trust in my voice as a writer.” Carien Smith, South Africa, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award 2019

Megan Ross (South Africa) and April Wolfe (USA), Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award winners 2016

Click on each recipient’s name for more information on their experience. Apply for an Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award here until October 31. Or simply sign up now to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat! 

What I Learned at the Iceland Writers Retreat

What I Learned at the Iceland Writers Retreat

Each year we offer a different collection of small-group writing workshops at the Iceland Writers Retreat. Whether seasoned authors or just beginning to test the waters, our participants return home inspired and with concrete tips to help improve their writing. 

In July, a group of 2019 participants shared the key takeaways they got from some workshops. Here are a few of them: 

  • Ivan Coyote reminded me that I could be faster and write more if I didn’t overthink it. – G.G., US
  • Louis de Bernière said to enjoy what you’re writing, even if it’s unconventional. So I’ve spent these past few months reaching inside of me and asking myself what things really interest me, and how I can tell stories from a place of acquaintance and understanding. – Lola, Nigeria, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient
  • Lina Meruane reminded me to return to the visceral, which is hard to do when you get bogged down with the profession/business side of being an author. – VS Holmes, US
  • Priya Basil had us embrace the semi-random jump cut, not worrying about transitions but allowing the subconscious to draw connections between seemingly disparate things. We did an exercise where she read one random word each five minutes and we’d write a paragraph incorporating it into a story in some way. Can be very surprising what shakes out and quite freeing during drafting. –  Daniel, US, Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient
  • Ann Hood – When writing about something hot, write about it cold. – Antoinette – Malta
  • Tessa Hadley reminded me the best way to learn writing is through reading great stories. Also, revision is the time for real creation. – Vivian – China
  • The biggest relief for me was during the closing panel when one of the questions asked to the instructors was if they wrote daily – and they were all like “Nope.” – It was assuring to me that it’s okay if I didn’t write every single day. –  Phoebe, US
  • Louis de Bernière said “Writing without the flowers makes it more powerful” – Stephanie, USA
  • Paul Yoon indicated that perfectionism can get in the way of ideas and creativity – Lisa, Canada
  • I found Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson’s class so freeing! I loved the fact that approaching things experimentally can be a true asset. It’s okay to do things differently. Maybe it will work; maybe it won’t. — Lisa, Canada

In November, we will be announcing the specific workshops on offer during the 2020 Iceland Writers Retreat.  Remember that workshop spaces are limited and fill on a first come, first served basis. Click here to register for the Iceland Writers Retreat April 29 – May 3, 2020.

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