IWR spoke with author Jeanne Blasberg about the highlights of the 2017 retreat, the workshops she took with Meg Wolitzer and Paula McLain, and how it’s important to write about what frightens us the most.
Iceland Writers Retreat (IWR): When and why did you choose to attend?
Jeanne Blasberg (JB): I chose to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat after reading a newsletter from an online literary organization. Two things struck a chord: 1) that I had always wanted to visit Iceland, and 2) The faculty was incredible. I really enjoy combining leisure travel with some greater personal endeavor, as well as getting out of my regular routine, in order to write.
IWR: What were the highlights of IWR for you?
JB: Highlights included:
* A reception with the President and First Lady of Iceland
* Exploring Reykjavik and learning more about the culture
*Writing sessions with Meg Wolitzer, Bret Anthony Johnston, and Paula McLain.
IWR: What was the most unexpected thing about IWR?
JB: Before the IWR began, my husband and I traveled about the country hiking, and taking in the inspiring geological wonders. When I arrived at the IWR, I was prepared for it to be all about the writing. However, combined with the wonderful sessions and panels there was a deep immersion into the literary history of the city and the culture as well as a lot of interaction with the local writing community. The hiking I did beforehand was really fun, but a trip to Iceland would have been pretty perfect if all you did was attend IWR and all the outings they organize as part of the retreat.
IWR: Are there any lessons you remember from IWR that you use now?
JB: Bret Anthony Johnston said he could teach us the technicalities of writing a novel in six hours, but what can’t be taught is the ability to surrender to the work and sit with it. To let the work determine the direction it needs to go in. I think of this when the competing urge to work quickly and produce a lot comes up. He also encouraged us to write about the thing that frightens us the most. I think about that challenge often.
IWR: Had you published a book when you attended?
JB: My first novel was published in May 2017 (a month after the retreat ended) and I used the free time during the IWR to work hard on some other projects I really wanted to finish before going on book tour.
IWR: What books have you published?
JB: EDEN: A Novel was published in May 2017 by She Writes Press and THE NINE was also published by She Writes Press in August 2019.
IWR: Who do you think would benefit most from IWR?
JB: IWR was an amazing experience that I have recommended to lots of people since returning. I think it is perfect for writers who appreciate rigorous instruction and want to immerse themselves in writing exercises and challenges. It is a good place to meet fellow authors, if you are working on building your writing community, and it is a great excuse to visit Iceland!!
IWR: What do you think is special about this event?
JB: IWR was unique for me in that it was a writing retreat that drew authors from English speaking countries around the world. I really did feel like I broke out of my New England bubble and was exposed to a broad talent pool as well as a refreshing range of ideas.
To find out more about author Jeanne Blasberg visit her website: https://jeanneblasberg.com/ or follow her on social.