Kathryn Rishoff attended the Iceland Writers Retreat in 2015. This is her story.
I open my inbox to see an announcement from The Iceland Writers Retreat for the 2017 retreat and I smiled, thinking back to my 2015 experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and that is quite the adulation — I have had many wonderful experiences.
I learned about the retreat from a Facebook post, a daughter of an old friend posted she was going, an aspiring writer, her husband giving her the retreat as a gift. She posted her favorite author, Barbara Kingslover, was slated as one of the mentors. It was enough for me, as my husband and I were driving to Las Vegas for a legal conference he was attending, for me to send my deposit as we drove- the idea that I could take a workshop from Barbara Kingslover something I couldn’t pass up. My husband was incredulous, “You did what?” asked in a tone of exasperation. How could I possibly know this was something I wanted to do? I answered, I just knew, and anyway, what is life without spontaneous impulsive decisions?
I had no idea. I’d attended a writers conference before, an exercise in educating writers about finding an agent, the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, an evaluation of the first page of a writer’s manuscript-informative, well done, worthwhile, but nothing like what I would find in Iceland. The Iceland Writers Retreat was something quite different, a celebration of the writer, the workshops were led by outstanding authors who strove to help a writer understand the process, the way they wrote, their own paths to success, intimate, small groups that were offered an insight into greatness. We were allowed into the hearts and souls of our favorite authors. They shared their gift with practical tools to help us improve our own writing- there was no discussion of agents, or publishing and no distinction between unpublished authors and those who arrived with titles on the shelves; the overwhelming feeling of the retreat is the joy of writing, the joy of reading, the joy that is found in the written word. Competition, criticism, jealousy, insecurities, didn’t exist in this venue. It is the biggest gift the retreat could give, a validation to writers, each and every one there.
The overwhelming feeling of the retreat is the joy of writing, the joy of reading, the joy that is found in the written word.
Then there was Iceland itself, a small country in numbers, 330,000, but huge in open space and stunning beauty. Yes, it was cold, and clear, and beautiful. Reykjavik is stunning, the people open and genuine, the restaurants varied and good, the shopping filled with warmth-an array of handmade wonders. The retreat offered excursions and dinners, my favorite, a trip to The Blue Lagoon, an experience not to be missed. It was wonderful! I would say to anyone considering going, to add the extra days, take the opportunity to share in open mike night where we were given an opportunity to share our work; indulge in everything they have to offer.
Iceland is a nation that celebrate authors, celebrates the written word. No one is looked at with any derision for saying they are a writer- writers are appreciated, valued, published or not, anyone who says they are a writer is valued for taking pen to paper, fingers to a keyboard, writers are appreciated and valued. The Iceland Writers Retreat is a gift to writers that must be opened and enjoyed.
As soon as I opened my email and saw the notice of the 2017 retreat I began to plan on my 2017 adventure. I can’t wait.
August 3 addendum: Kathryn Rishoff sent us this addition that she requested be included in her story.
I have only myself to blame for my not mentioning the two best things about The Iceland Writers Retreat! I was sidetracked by all I said about the conferences, the terrific authors who mentored us in small group settings, the beauty and wonder of Iceland itself, but I forgot to mention Eliza Reid and Erica Jacobs Green, the two women who are responsible for creating the retreat!
Eliza has spent her adult life as a writer, an editor, and her background in event management surely had to come into play when creating this incredible gift to writers. There is an added bonus, when you meet Eliza you will be meeting the First Lady of Iceland, her husband Gudni Johannesson was recently elected the President!
Erica Jacobs Green has been involved in publishing for over twenty years, she’s pretty much done it all, and is currently the Vice President editorial director for National Geographic for the children’s book group, and like so many of us, she is working on a novel.
Both Eliza and Erica are passionate about writing. They are warm and caring, funny and engaging, they both are genuinely interested in everyone who attends the retreat. They foster an atmosphere of community and caring. It is clear when you meet them, the retreat is a labor of love.
How could I have said a word about the Iceland Writers Retreat without saying something about Eliza and Erica? This incredible experience simply would not exist if not for these two women.