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
“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
“‘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
“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
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!
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.
The deadline for submitting applications for an Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award has now passed. We will announce the recipients on December 2, 2019.
Registration is now open for the Iceland Writers Retreat. In addition to general registration, which is currently open to all, we have scholarships slots available for those with financial need. The Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award offers talented writers in need of financial support an opportunity to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavík, Iceland in April, 2020.
Please read these guidelines and click on the link at the end of this article to apply.
Who can apply
Anyone who is aged 18 or over on April 29, 2020 is eligible to apply for an Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award (anyone is welcome to independently register and attend the event without a scholarship). The winning candidate(s) must demonstrate that s/he does not have the financial means to attend the conference without this award.* Candidates do not need to be professional writers, but should be serious about the craft and interested in developing their skills and contacts. Their writing interests must fit well with the faculty for the 2020 retreat (i.e. literary fiction, non-fiction, memoir).
Family members of the judges and those who have already attended the IWR are not eligible to apply.
What does it cover?
Entrants can apply for either full or partial funding. Full funding covers one participant fee, four nights accommodation at the Retreat hotel (Radisson SAS Saga Hotel), and round-trip flights to Iceland.
Partial funding covers the participant fee only, and neither accommodation nor round trip flights.
(Note that there is no scholarship available for the Iceland Readers Retreat.)
Please ensure that you apply for the most suitable category for you, as if you apply for full funding you are very unlikely to be considered for a partial award. (Note that we usually have many more applications for full funding than partial funding.)
The award does not include airport transfers, travel insurance, travel visas (if applicable)**, other incidentals or meals not listed in the itinerary, or the Relax & Write extension.
How are the recipients chosen?
The recipients will be chosen based primarily on two factors: a) The potential s/he demonstrates (or has demonstrated) as a writer and b) his/her need for financial support to be able to attend. We will also evaluate based on the other questions in the application, though, so make sure to tell us about yourself and why you think you’d be the perfect match for the Iceland Writers Retreat. (Please don’t just tell us how you have always wanted to visit Iceland.)
The applicant should also be available for media interviews before and during the Retreat, and be able to explain how s/he would help to share their experience with others after the fact. This may include being asked to prepare a short report on their experience to be published on the IWR website.
Applications will be reviewed by a group of IWR alumni. The final decision on the award recipient will be made by the IWR Founding Directors.
Deadline for applications: Thursday, 31 October, 2019. Midnight, PST. We will announce the recipients on 2 December, 2019.
**Please note that we are not responsible for issuing travel visas and cannot guarantee that one will be issued for you. However, we would provide all the required supporting letters and our past recipients who have required visas have had no problem being issued with one.
General Tips for applying:
We receive hundreds of applications for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. To increase your chances of being selected, please follow the application instructions very carefully.
- Incomplete applications will not be considered.
- It is not possible to make changes to your application once it has been submitted; you will receive email confirmation that your application has been received.
- Level of funding: We receive far more applications for full funding than partial funding, but you need to show that you are unable to afford even the cost of flights to Iceland and accommodation while in the country. Note that you are very unlikely to be considered for partial funding if you have applied for full funding.
- Your background: We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and with all levels of writing experience. However, we are more likely to rank applications highly from people who have not had the opportunity to attend many other writing retreats or to develop their writing in other ways. The quality of your writing is what is most important, whether you are just starting out, have been working for a while, or are at a mid- or post-career break. We encourage people of all ages (over 18) to apply.
- Why do you want to attend? We all love Iceland. And we all love writing. If you are applying simply to get an opportunity to visit Iceland you are unlikely to be granted an award. Tell us why this particular event and this particular faculty have captured your interest. Show us that you have done some research about the Iceland Writers Retreat. Note especially that our workshops in 2020 focus primarily on literary fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. Your writing samples should also reflect this and should therefore be prose samples.
- Writing samples: Note that the maximum length for each writing sample is 1000 words. We will not consider applications that have longer writing samples.
- Why you need financial assistance: This is one of the most difficult yet important factors to consider for this award. Please be as honest as you can with us in explaining why this event is beyond your means without support. Your answer to the question about applying for additional funding is also important. We know that some countries offer support to writers who attend conferences, and we’d like to see if you have taken any initiative in terms of thinking broadly for ways in which you can attend.
- How will you share your experience with others? We want many people to know about the Iceland Writers Retreat. How will you help us get the word out if you are awarded a scholarship? We know that social media is very popular. Do you have other, more original ideas too?
- References: References should be by people who are familiar with your writing and are not family members. We give higher marks for references that have been written specifically for this event. Applications without appropriate references will not be considered. Please note that due to the number of applications we receive, we cannot accept references that have been sent separately.
About the Iceland Writers Retreat
Held for the first time in April 2014, the Iceland Writers Retreat is an event comprised of a series of small-group writing workshops and cultural tours designed to introduce participants to Iceland’s rich literary heritage. Faculty in 2020 include Maria Semple, Kamila Shamsie, David Chariandy, Gretchen Rubin, and Ariel Levy. The Iceland Writers Retreat was named one of the world’s best writers’ retreats by the Sydney Morning Herald, and one of the top 10 “Events to travel for in 2014” by Four Seasons Magazine.
About the IWR Alumni Award
This is the fifth time the IWR Alumni Award has been granted. It is so named because it has been funded by former IWR participants. We are extremely grateful for their generosity.
We did it — thanks to your support!
Thanks to the generosity of our wonderful alumni and friends of the Iceland Writers Retreat, we have once again achieved our goal and will be able to offer Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Awards for deserving writers to attend our event in 2020, at least one full and one partial award.
(Full funding covers all participation in the Iceland Writers Retreat, as detailed on our website, as well as accommodation and round-trip flights to Iceland. Partial funding covers the participant fee only, and neither accommodation nor round trip flights.)
Details for eligibility and how to apply for will be published from 1 September, with applications accepted until 31 October. It will be free to submit an application, but follow the instructions carefully, as incomplete submissions will not be considered. (We will post full details on how to apply on 1 September.)
The recipients will be chosen based primarily on two factors: a) The potential they demonstrate (or have demonstrated) as writers and b) Their need for financial support to be able to attend. We will also evaluate based on the other questions in the application, though, so make sure to tell us about yourself and why you think you’d be the perfect match for the Iceland Writers Retreat. (Please don’t just tell us how you have always wanted to visit Iceland.)
If you’re not eligible to apply for the scholarship, but wish to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat, you can register now. Anyone can register to attend, but spaces fill on a first come, first served basis.
A special thank you to our contributors:
Jose R. Garcia
Erica Jacobs Green
Felicia L. Mason
Martine van Bijlert
Janine Vici Campbell
*Names in bold denote individuals who contributed EUR 110 or more to the campaign.
Alexander Maksik is unfortunately no longer able to appear at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April 2019. Harvard University lecturer Paul Yoon will instead lead the same workshops that Alexander was scheduled to teach. We apologize to our participants for any inconvenience and look forward to meeting Paul.
For the fifth year in a row, we partnered with Iceland Travel to run a competition to win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat. This year’s theme was “Equality” and we received over 400 submissions from the around the world.
The winner of the competition is Giacomo Roessler from Germany, with his story “Ferðin”. Continue reading
This year is the fourth year the Iceland Writers Retreat has offered Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Awards. This prestigious award is funded in its entirety by generous IWR alumni and friends. It gives its recipients full or partial funding to attend the next Retreat, which will take place April 3 to 7, 2019 in Reykjavik. The winners are chosen based on both merit and financial need, and submissions were reviewed by IWR alumni volunteers. We received over 600 applications from around the world and the quality of submissions was extremely high.
Three of our five recipients are individuals who had applied previously for an Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. So if you applied and were not successful on this occasion, please consider applying again in future!
Full Award recipients:
Dan Musgrave was raised by animals in rural Kansas. Currently, he is one of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship’s initial cohort of Literary Fellows. He is a writer and photographer whose work most commonly focuses on the intersections of the human and animal world and his work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Sun, and Electric Literature. He is a registered member of the Osage Nation, and he holds an MFA from the University of Missouri- St Louis and an MA in Biological Anthropology from Iowa State University. For nearly seven years, he did linguistic, cognitive, and behavioral research with captive bonobos while they trained him in the art of being a better person. Dan can be found online at danmusgrave.com
Lola Opatayo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature-in-English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, and an MA in Communications and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan. She works as an editor, blogger and teaches an online creative writing class- StoryCrafting. Lola has worked as a project manager with Writer’s Studio Africa. She blogs creative writing tips, news and resources at lolaopatayo.com.
Lola’s stories are centered on female reproductive, sexual and mental health issues. Her work has appeared in Obsidian. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Carien Smith is a Johannesburg-based academic and award-winning writer in both English and Afrikaans. Carien grew up in the Eastern Cape, and is currently a contract lecturer and research associate at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg, where she has just submitted her dissertation for a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, focusing on Value Theory and the Apocalypse. She has published multiple research articles in various accredited academic journals, and has contributed to a literary theory encyclopaedia. She plans on pursuing her PhD in Climate Change Ethics and Epistemology. Her research areas include Absurdity, Value Theory, the Apocalypse, Climate Change Ethics, Epistemic Injustice, and Ecocriticism.
Carien has been a finalist for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award twice (2016, 2018), and is elated to be a recipient of this award for 2019. In 2015 she was longlisted (6 longlistees) for the PEN International New Voices Award. She has won the AdHoc Flash Fiction competition (a Bath Flash Fiction Award project) twice (2018, 2016). In 2015 she received an Afrikoon from the ATKV (Afrikaans Language and Culture Organisation) for her contribution to Afrikaans literature and the arts. In 2009 her play titled “Formalien” was longlisted for the Nagtegaal Prize (10 longlistees). She has published multiple creative fiction pieces in books (Op die spoor vanin 2017, Spreek die Woordin 2016, and Nuwe Stories 3in 2014), in newspapers, and other collaborations. Carien is also a professional member of PEN South Africa, and is currently working on finishing her debut short fiction collection, to be published by one of the top publishing houses in South Africa.
Partial Award recipients:
Lucy Grace lives in the UK and writes award winning short stories and flash fiction. In 2018 she won first prize in the Writers & Artists 2018 Yearbook Short Story award, was shortlisted in the Bridport, Fish and Reflex Awards, commended in the Brittle Star and longlisted in the international Alpine Fellowship 2018 Writing Prize. Most recently she was shortlisted for the scholarship place on the Curtis Brown novel writing course. Her work has been published in several anthologies. She is currently finishing her first novel.
Jonaki Ray was educated in India (IIT Kanpur) and the USA (UIUC), and after a brief stint as a software engineer, returned to her first love, writing. She is now a poet, editor, and writer based in New Delhi, India.
Honors for Jonaki’s writing include a 2018 Pushcart Prize nomination for fiction by Zoetic Press, and a nomination for the 2018 Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem by Oxford Brookes University Poetry Centre. She is a finalist in the 2018 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, and the winner of the 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Contest, ESL. In 2016 she was longlisted in the Writers’ HQ International Fiction Contest and the RL Poetry Award, and shortlisted in the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Contest, ESL.
Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Southword Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, Rambutan Literary Journal, Lunch Ticket, The Matador Review, Coldnoon, Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), So to Speak Journal, while non-fiction essays and reviews have been published in The Wire, The Times of India, The Telegraph India, and Down to Earth, among others.
We’ll be profiling all the recipients in more detail in the coming weeks. We would again like to thank the alumni and friends of the Iceland Writers Retreat for their generous contributions to enable us to offer these awards, as well as to the dozens of volunteers who helped to review applications.
The other finalists for the prize were (in alphabetical order):
Lavendhri Arumugam (South Africa)
Amy Barrett (United Kingdom)
K Tempest Bradford (United States)
Virginia Castiglione (Argentina)
Linda Craig (United States)
Ivan Darias Alfonso (Austria)
Margot Douaihy (United States)
Inna Eizenberg (Israel)
Natalia Elfimova (Russia)
Elrena Evans (United States)
Antonio Manuel Fraga Allegue (Spain)
Sierra Skye Gemma (Canada)
Shafika Ghani (Singapore)
Abak Hussain (Bangladesh)
Cheryl Katz (United States)
Sara Mang (Canada)
Lori Ella Miller (United States)
Dennis Mugaa (Kenya)
Lara O’Brien (United States)
Juan de Dios Sánchez Jurado (United States)
Anindita Sengupta (United States)
Kerry Sunderland (New Zealand)
Charlotte Symons (United Kingdom)
Amrita Thakkar (India)
Laura Theis (United Kingdom)
Masha Vapnitchnaia (Turkey)
Michelle Walshe (Ireland)
Hani Yousuf (Pakistan)
An additional 23 people received “honorary mention” (these people have been informed via email).