The Start of My Career as an Author: IWR interview with Alexander Weinstein

The Start of My Career as an Author: IWR interview with Alexander Weinstein

Alexander Weinstein made a number of connections at the 2016 Iceland Writers Retreat, which would bring him back to Iceland over the next three years. He returned to teach a course on fairytales, again to teach a graduate fiction course at the University of Iceland, and finally in 2019 with his family. Read on to hear about how he fell in love with Iceland and felt as if he’d found his new literary home.

Iceland Writers Retreat (IWR): When and why did you choose to attend? 

Alexander Weinstein (AW): I attended the Iceland Writers Retreat as the 2016 Writing Competition Winner. 

IWR: What were the highlights of IWR for you? 

AW: Among the many highlights was sitting together with writers from around the world every morning for breakfast (at one of the best buffets I’ve ever had) and talking about literature and fiction & returning after a day of classes and a night of exploring Reykjavik to find the sky transformed by the Northern Lights—all of us writers on the hills below gazing up in complete awe. 

IWR: What was the most unexpected thing about it?

AW: How Iceland opened its arms to me after my visit. During my time at the retreat, I ended up making a number of connections which would bring me back to Iceland over the next 3 years.  I returned in 2017 to teach a 3-week course on fairytales, in 2018 to teach a graduate fiction course at the University of Iceland, and again in 2019 with my family.  I fell completely in love with the country and it was amazing to see how the country kept calling me back—it felt like I’d found a new literary home. 

IWR: Did you have any good take-aways/tips/lessons you remember from IWR? Anything you use now when you write?

AW: Elina Hirvonen’s  class had us walk out into nature and listen to Iceland in order to capture the most minute sounds we could find.  This quality of listening—to the world, to people, to nature—has played a central role in the novel I’m presently finishing. 

IWR: Had you published a book when you attended?

AW: Winning the competition and attending the conference came at a crucial moment in my life. I’d just finished my first collection Children of the New World and was editing it in preparation for publication. Though I’d been writing at that point for nearly 20 years, this was really the start of my career as an author.

IWR: What have you published since?

AW: Children of the New World was published in 2016, and went on to great success, being chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times. My second collection, Universal Love, was published in 2020.  My short story, Saying Goodbye to Yang, is forthcoming as the film After Yang, which just premiered at Cannes. The adaptation is written and directed by Kogonada, and stars Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith, and will be released worldwide by A24 Studios in June 2022. 

IWR: Who do you think would benefit most from the IWR? 

AW: Writers seeking connections with poets and authors from around the globe & writers who would like to explore their work in one of the world’s most beautiful places (in other words, all of us!)  

IWR: What do you think is most unique or special about this event?

There is an incredible openness to the conference which allows writers to take classes in whichever genres they’re most interested in—and this cross-genre approach was deeply inspiring to my own writing.  When you add the setting of Iceland, which provides a magical atmosphere that surrounds every aspect of the event, it makes IWR a truly enchanting program.  ***

Bio: Alexander Weinstein is the author of the short story collections, Universal Love (2020) and Children of the New World. Alexander Weinstein’s fiction and interviews have appeared in Rolling StoneWorld Literature TodayBest American Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Best American Experimental Writing. He is the Director of The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and a Professor of Creative Writing at Siena Heights University.

Third Place in the IWR Writing Competition

Third Place in 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. Continue reading

Second Place in the IWR Writing Competition

Second Place in 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. Continue reading

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

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

Third Place in the 2019 Writing Contest

Third Place in the 2019 Writing Contest

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. Today we are sharing the third place story, which is “On Reynisfjara Beach” by Alyson Hilbourne of the United Kingdom.

The winner of the competition is Giacomo Roessler from Germany, with his story “Ferðin” which you can read hereThe second place entry was “Volcanoes” by Petronella Wagner of South Africa.

There are still some spaces available to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat. Click here to sign up.

Continue reading

2019 Writing Contest Runner-up

2019 Writing Contest Runner-up

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. Today we are sharing the second place story, which is “Volcanoes” from Petronella Wagner of South Africa.

The winner of the competition is Giacomo Roessler from Germany, with his story “Ferðin” which you can read hereThird place was awarded to Alyson Hilbourne in the United Kingdom, with “On Reynisfjara Beach” which we will post in the coming days.

There are still some spaces available to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat. Click here to sign up.

Continue reading

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019!

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019!
We’ve once again partnered with Iceland Travel to offer one person a free spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April 2019.  The winner will receive the Complete Package, including a free hotel stay, tours, most meals, and all workshops for the duration of the event, from 3 to 7 April, 2019.*
The deadline to submit an entry is 23:59 (GMT) Monday, December 17, 2018. There is no fee to enter.
The deadline to submit an entry has now passed. We will announce the winner on January 14, 2019.

Continue reading

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019!

Win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat 2019!
We’ve once again partnered with Iceland Travel to offer one person a free spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April 2019.  The winner will receive the Complete Package, including a free hotel stay, tours, most meals, and all workshops for the duration of the event, from 3 to 7 April, 2019.*
The deadline to submit an entry is 23:59 (GMT) Monday, December 17, 2018. There is no fee to enter. Click here to enter.

Continue reading

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