4 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Iceland Writers Retreat (Reason 3)

4 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Iceland Writers Retreat (Reason 3)

Reason 3: The Iceland Saga (This is mine. What’s yours?)

By Jo McClelland Phillips, Alumni Award Recipient; Photo by Roman Gerasymenko

“Why do you want to attend The Iceland Writers Retreat? We all love Iceland. And we all love writing. Tell us why this particular event has captured your interest.”

Before winning the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award at the end of 2019, I applied and answered this question four times.

I wonder if my goal of visiting Iceland got in my way the first three times, I answered this question. Because – of course, I wanted (and still want) to go to Iceland!

My love affair with the Sagas and Iceland writers really began with the Iceland Writers Retreat – as I investigated the Icelandic authors and tour locations mentioned on their website. I realised how closely this tradition reflects my own views and passion for storytelling.

That tracks because we can trace back almost all our modern-day storytelling to the Icelandic tradition.

Sometimes called the “family sagas”, they spoke of the struggles and conflicts in the early generations of Icelandic settlers. Characters like Egil were complex and full of contradictions. Later, sagas like Njáls saga focused more on storytelling than on chronicling history.

It was also through this website that I was first introduced to modern Icelandic writer Kristín Helga Gunnarsdóttir. Her focus is “telling stories that unite and create bridges between generations.” This idea really spoke to me and related to my goals when I tell a story.

My journey to Iceland parallels my journey as a parent, having applied for the first time when my daughter was 6 months old. As a writer, I predominantly teach her what she needs to know by telling her stories. These last two years, I’ve been teaching my daughter about storytelling and creating her own stories. I see how we can deeply relate to the core elements of storytelling and that even today, in our home, we aren’t that different from the ancient Icelandic saga authors.

What’s your Icelandic Saga?

Tag @IcelandWriters @JoMcClellandPhillips (IG and FB) or @JoMcClelland on Twitter and tell us your Iceland stories! And don’t forget to sign up for the 2022 Iceland Writers Retreat next April. I hope to see you there!

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