About Iceland Writers Retreat

Win 50 percent off your delegate fee!

Win 50 percent off your delegate fee!

We are so excited to be returning to an in-person event next month that we are offering one lucky participant fifty percent off a participant fee if you register for our event by the end of March.

How it works:

Sign up to attend this year’s Iceland Writers Retreat or Iceland Readers Retreat. Make sure you have paid your fee in full by the end of March. Anyone can sign up but spaces are limited.

If you have signed up by the end of the day on March 31, we will enter your name into our draw. One participant who is randomly chosen will have 50 percent of their delegate fee refunded.

Details: If you have already signed up and paid in full, you will be automatically entered into this competition. The 50 percent off fee covers only one participant fee, not the extension or a partner fee, or any other costs. We will announce the winner at the beginning of April. The winner will be selected at random using Google’s Random Number Generator. Winner consents to having their name published on social media channels in conjunction with this offer. Only one discount will be awarded and it cannot be exchanged for anything else or deferred to a later date.

Please email iwr@icelandwritersretreat.com if you have any questions!

New book by IWR Co-Founder Eliza Reid released on Feb 8, 2022

New book by IWR Co-Founder Eliza Reid released on Feb 8, 2022

IWR Co-Founder Eliza Reid is publishing her first book in February, 2022. Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World explores why Iceland is leading the charge for gender equality.

Secrets of the Sprakkar is a fascinating window into what a more gender-equal world could look like, and why it’s worth striving for. Iceland is doing a lot to level the playing field: paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and broad support for gender equality as a core value. Reid takes us on an exploration not only around this fascinating island, but also through the triumphs and stumbles of a country as it journeys towards gender equality.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Iceland is often cited as the best place on earth to be a woman—but why?  For the past twelve years, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report has ranked Iceland number one on its list of countries closing the gap in equality between men and women. What is it about Iceland that enables its society to make such meaningful progress in this ongoing battle, from electing the world’s first female president to passing legislation specifically designed to help even the playing field at work and at home?

The answer is found in the country’s sprakkar, an ancient Icelandic word meaning extraordinary or outstanding women. Eliza Reid interviews dozens of sprakkar to tell their inspirational stories, and expertly weaves in her own experiences as an immigrant from small-town Canada. Throughout, she examines her adopted homeland’s attitude toward women: the deep-seated cultural sense of fairness, the influence of current and historical role models, and, crucially, the areas where Iceland still has room for improvement. The result is an illuminating discussion of what it means to move through the world as a woman and how the rules of society play more of a role in who we view as equal than we may realize.

Secrets of the Sprakkar is now available for pre-order wherever you like to buy your books. It has already been published in Icelandic and is forthcoming in other languages in 2022.

Everyone who visits Iceland quickly learns that the little country contains some of the world’s most extraordinary women, their lives rooted in a social and political culture that nurtures equality between men and women without ignoring the pleasures and complexities of family life.  It’s a pleasure to see that culture marked out for us through the sometimes wry but always beautifully personal and perceptive lens of the remarkable Eliza Reid.

Adam Gopnik, author and staff writer for the New Yorker

With warmth, wit, and insight, First Lady Eliza Reid explores the reasons why Iceland is one of the best places on earth for women, as well as the challenges still ahead in achieving full gender equity. Secrets of the Sprakkar is an illuminating, inspiring, and absorbing book about how a more equitable society could elevate us all.

Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild

A warm and intimate exploration of what one small country can teach the world about gender equality. Eliza Reid charts her personal journey from a Canadian farm to Iceland’s Presidential Residence and along the way proves to be the best possible guide to the historical, geographical, and cultural factors that helped women thrive and built a vibrant modern society.

Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize winning author

Charting her own love of the nation and her journey to becoming its First Lady, alongside histories of other formidable women, Eliza Reid’s Secrets of the Sprakkar sheds light on Iceland’s unique approach to gender equity—an emblematic look at what’s possible in the fight for women’s rights worldwide. A fascinating, hopeful, and inspiring read.

Esi Edugyan, two-time Giller Prize Winning author

What a world of possibilities Eliza Reid unveils in this warm and wonderful book! It made me want to pack my bags and move to Iceland.

Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums

The fact that the Icelandic language includes the word ‘sprakkar’—an ancient term that translates to mean ‘extraordinary women’––in its lexicon tells you a great deal about the country of Iceland. And in her marvelous memoir, Eliza Reid tells us a great deal more: not only about her life in Iceland, but also about gender equality in action, and the sense of purpose that all of us seek. This is a charming and necessary book.

Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Female Persuasion

Virtual IWR events in October – Watch Here

The Iceland Writers Retreat will broadcast two free, virtual events in October and you’re invited! We will post a link here to watch the live streams as they appear on Wednesday and Thursday.

Watch our panel an Introduction to Icelandic Authors below:

Watch our workshop with Neel Mukherjee and Ruth Reichl below:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020: 12 noon ET / 9 a.m. PT / 5 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. Iceland: An Introduction to Icelandic Writers. Pre-recorded in Reykjavík, this panel will feature writer, poet and former IWR faculty Gerður Kristný, crime writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir, poet and former IWR volunteer Fríða Ísberg, and writer and poet Mazen Maarouf. (Ævar Þór Benediktsson is unfortunately no longer able to attend.) It will be moderated by IWR Co-Founder Eliza Reid. Duration: One hour. Co-presented with Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature.

Registration for the event is free and here. Registration is not obligatory. The panel will be streamed on Iceland Writers Retreat’s Facebook page.

Gerður Kristný, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Fríða Ísberg, and Mazen Maarouf.

Thursday, October 15, 2020: 12 noon ET / 9 a.m. PT / 5 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. Iceland: Iceland Writers Retreat Mini Workshop and author Q&A. Memoirist, editor, and bestselling food writer Ruth Reichl (IWR faculty 2015) will discuss memoir writing and Man Booker Prize nominee Neel Mukherjee (IWR faculty 2016) will talk about point of view in fiction writing via “mini workshops”. They will also speak about their time teaching at the Iceland Writers Retreat. Viewers will have an opportunity to pose questions to the authors. Moderated by IWR Co-Founder Erica Jacobs Green. Duration: One hour.

Registration for the event is free and here. Registration is not obligatory. The workshop will be streamed via Facebook Live on the Iceland Writers Retreat Facebook page.

Ruth Reichl leads a class on memoir writing at the 2015 Iceland Writers Retreat.
Neel Mukherjee reads at the author night of the 2016 Iceland Writers Retreat.

There is no need to register in advance for the events. We’ll update this page when we have links for how to view them.

The Iceland Writers Retreat and inaugural Iceland Readers Retreat are scheduled to take place in Reykjavík from April 28 – May 2, 2021. Click here for details.

IWR & IRR Delay due to Covid-19

IWR & IRR Delay due to Covid-19

Following this week’s developments, that in Iceland now include a minimum 4-week ban on public gatherings, we have decided that the only responsible course of action for us to take is not to hold the Iceland Writers Retreat / Iceland Reader Retreat in April this year. This will come as a disappointment to many, not least to ourselves, but under the circumstances it is the best responsible and reasonable decision. 

We, will, however, try to re-schedule this event for later this year, possibly in late August or early September. (And of course aim to hold another event in April 2021.) We will announce everything via our usual channels once we have confirmed further details. 

These are interesting times, indeed, and we will get through them by sticking together and being responsible citizens. Stay healthy, wash your hands, be kind to each other, and as soon as it’s good to do so, please patronize your local businesses, cultural and otherwise! 

Faculty Amendment

Faculty Amendment

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney will be leading workshops at this year’s Iceland Writers Retreat. She replaces Maria Semple, who is unfortunately no longer able to attend. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut novel The Nest spent more than six months on the New York Times Bestseller list. The book was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s pick, a best fiction finalist for the Goodreads Choice Award and was named one of the best books of 2016 by People, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Amazon, Refinery 29 and others. The Nest has been translated into more than 27 languages and optioned for film by Amazon Studios. Her novel Good Company will be published in May of 2021. Sweeney holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons. Cynthia will be teaching the same workshops that Maria was schedule for, i.e. “Making a Scene” (workshops are full; waitlisting is available) and “Your First Five Pages” (Thurs workshop almost full).

Winner of the IWR Writing Competition

Winner of the IWR Writing Competition

We have partnered with the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel to offer one person a free spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April-May 2020.  The winner receives admission to all events for the Iceland Writers Retreat, as well as four nights accommodation at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel and we received over 400 submissions from the around the world.

This year the challenge was to submit a 350-word story, essay or poem inspired by this photo, which we’ve captioned: “Iceland: ethereal, exhilarating, sublime.” Entries were judged anonymously by two previous IWR volunteers & writers, and a representative of the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, our contest sponsors

The winner of the competition is Caroline Rannard from Australia, with her story “Postmarked Reykjavík”. Continue reading

Six Recipients of the 2020 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

Six Recipients of the 2020 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

This year is the fifth 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 29 to May 3, 2020 in Reykjavik. The winners are chosen based on both merit and financial need, and submissions were reviewed by IWR alumni volunteers. We received almost 700 applications from around the world and the quality of submissions was extremely high.

Three of our six 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:

Okechi Okeke is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in The Economist, The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story Vol 4 and elsewhere. He was shortlisted for the Black Letter Media Short Story Competition in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2019 K and L Prize for African Writing. A Fellow of Africa Young Leaders Fellowship and alumnus of Goethe Institut’s Afro Young Writing Workshop, Okechi lives in Nigeria.  

Chuck D. Smith is a journalist who has been writing about Philippine entertainment and pop culture since 2008. He has served as writer and editor for various publications such as Yahoo! Philippines, Philstar.com, Coconuts Manila, and CNN Philippines, among others. For a brief period, he worked as a publicist for TBA Studios, a Philippine film company that produced the highly acclaimed, box office hits General Luna and Goyo: The Boy General. He also writes personal essays, some of which have been published in Esquire Philippines, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and GMA News Online. He won a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award and the Ustetika Student Literary Award for his essays.

Michelle Walshe was born in England but raised in Ireland where she resides after living abroad for many years. She worked as a teacher at third level before she began writing in 2017. Her work has been published in print in the national media in Ireland and the UK and in Teachers Who Write: An Anthology, online on Writing.ie, Skelligmichael.com and Silverbirchpress.wordpress.com. She has been shortlisted in short story competitions and won a prize for flash fiction. She has won residencies, a scholarship, and bursaries to the John Hewitt Summer School, The Stinging Fly and The Bronte Parsonage. She volunteers at Roddy Doyle’s Fighting Words, an organisation promoting creative writing for children, and at literary festivals. She is working on a memoir and a children’s book. All her published work can be found on her website www.thesparklyshell.com.

Partial Award recipients:

Chelsie Bryant is an Ohio native currently living in Portland, Maine. In her spare time, she enjoys photographing her cat, har, who spells his name in lowercase because he makes the rules; he doesn’t follow them. Her work has been featured in Willow Springs, Michigan Quarterly Review, Yemassee, Passages North, Word Riot, and other places. She won the Willow Spring Fiction Prize in 2016 and holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Ohio State University.

Abak Hussain was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he still lives. A journalist by trade, he is currently the Editor of  Editorial and Op-Ed at Dhaka Tribune, a leading English language daily, where he worked since the newspaper’s inception back in 2012. He writes a weekly column — “Hard Target” — mostly on political issues. His other interest is creative writing — he has published short stories from time to time, and hopes to one day finish his novel.

 Jo McClelland Phillips was born on the shores of Lake Ontario, then migrated to the mountains of New South Wales. Her work has been published in TIME Magazine, USA Today, Fairfax Media, and Mashable along with several national and independent newspapers and magazines. She is the winner of the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award and she has been shortlisted for the Publisher Introduction Program Fellowship with Varuna, the National Writers House in NSW. Her short story, The Glass Slipper, won the Fringe Festival Award at The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, and received honourable mention in The Glass Woman Prize.

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):

  • Esther Ajari (Nigeria)
  • Luís Roberto Amabile (Brazil)
  • Talea Anderson (United States)
  • Aaina Batool (Pakistan)
  • Ashley-Elizabeth Best (Canada)
  • Nana Boateng (Ghana)
  • Avery Brooks (United States)
  • Dymphny Dronyk (Canada)
  • Elrena Evans (United States)
  • Julie Farrell (United Kingdom)
  • Eliza Gearty (United Kingdom)
  • Maria Gulina (Belarus)
  • Diane Helentjaris (United States)
  • Jessica Holliday (United Kingdom)
  • Maryam Kiyani (Pakistan)
  • Mary-Ann Leeb (United States)
  • Samantha Libby (United States)
  • Irina Lutsenko (Russia)
  • Jessica Martin (Australia)
  • Niall McArdle (Ireland)
  • Marija Peričić (Australia)
  • Cassandra Powers (United States)
  • Michelle Preen (South Africa)
  • Hani Yousuf (H. Y. Attia) (Pakistan)

An additional 39 people received “honorary mention” (these people have been informed via email).

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2020!

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2020!
We have partnered with the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel to offer one person a free spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April-May 2020.  The winner will receive admission to all events for the Iceland Writers Retreat, as well as four nights accommodation at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel.*
The deadline to submit an entry is 23:59 (GMT) Monday, December 16, 2019. There is no fee to enter. The deadline to enter this competition has now passed. We will announce the winner via our newsletter and social media on January 13, 2020.

Continue reading

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!