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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
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
Mara Rutherford attended the 2015 Iceland Writers Retreat. Since then, she’s published three books and has two more under contract. This month, we spoke with Mara about IWR, her writing career, and tips she learned in Reykjavik that uses in her work today.
Iceland Writers Retreat (IWR): When and why did you choose to attend IWR?
Mara Rutherford (MA): I didn’t exactly choose to attend IWR 2015, though once I saw that Barbara Kingsolver was the on faculty, I absolutely wanted to! My husband surprised me with the trip thanks to a major hint from my twin sister. Our youngest son was just old enough for me to travel, we were between posts in the Foreign Service, and I really wanted some time to focus on writing. This was the perfect opportunity and the best surprise gift ever.
IWR: What were the highlights of IWR?
MR: The workshops were all amazing, particularly the ones led by Barbara Kingsolver, as she’s one of my very favorite authors. But the highlight was probably getting to spend so much quality time with writers – whether guest speakers or fellow attendees – and talking about this thing we’re all so passionate about. That, and taking a picture with Barbara at the top of a frozen waterfall. It’s one of my favorite memories ever!
IWR: What was the most unexpected thing about it?
MR: I didn’t expect to have so much access to the authors outside of workshops. That was such a wonderful benefit that I haven’t seen at any other conference or retreat.
IWR: Did you have any good take-aways or tips from IWR?
MR: Barbara did a workshop about theme that remains with me six years later. I’m not sure I ever really thought about theme prior to that – I was so focused on plot and character. She also said, “Revision is where art happens,” and I try to remember that when I revise (something I still don’t enjoy, even as poetic as Barbara made it out to be!).
IWR: Had you published a book when you attended?
MR: No – I had just signed with my first literary agent about six months prior.
IWR: What have you published since?
MR: My first Young Adult novel, Crown of Coral and Pearl, was published in 2019, with the sequel, Kingdom of Sea and Stone, publishing in 2020. My next book, Luminous, releases on October 5, 2021. I have two additional fantasy novels coming out in 2022 and ’23. And hopefully many more to come!
IWR: Who do you think would benefit most from the IWR?
MR: I think any writer at any level could benefit from the IWR. For new writers, you’re giving yourself permission to say, “I’m a writer,” and acknowledging that this is something you take seriously, which is so important. I often say that if you want writing to be your career, you have to treat it as such, even if you’re not getting paid (yet!). And for more experienced writers, this is a great opportunity to learn craft, network, and spend time on your own writing.
IWR: What do you think is most unique or special about this event?
MR: First off, it’s in Iceland! That in and of itself is amazing because Iceland is unlike anywhere else on earth. It’s such an inspiring place to write, with a rich literary history and so much fascinating folklore (something I personally love). Combine that with the workshops, delicious meals with authors, literary tours, and meeting great people who I’m still friends with to this day, and it makes for a truly special experience.
Thank you to Mara for sharing your time and wisdom with IWR. We’ve loved watching your career soar. Learn more about Mara at mararutherford.com or on IG: @mararutherfordwrites
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.
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.
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.
One of my favourite days at IWR is always the last one. In many ways, it’s a sad day, since I’m about to leave an experience that was full of learning, new friends, adventures, and more. But, it’s also an important day, because the participants get to attend a Q&A with all of the authors, and the conversations had up on that stage have never failed to transform the ways I view my own writing and reading habits.
In 2019, author Priya Basil said of her own reading habits: “I made a decision last year to read only women and in-translation. I think reading in translation opens up literature in a wonderful way.”
That quote really resonated with me, and made me ponder my own reading habits. I work as the Manager Editor of a literary magazine and a Publishing Assistant at a local press, so I am lucky enough to spend hours reading submitted manuscripts, pieces I’m editing, and books for review throughout each month. However, sometimes that leaves me drained when it comes to my own reading, outside of work. I went into 2020 wanting to be more intentional about my reading, including carving time into my evening before going to bed to dedicate to reading a physical book, rather than news stories on my phone or laptop. I also remembered back to Priya’s quote, and decided that for 2020 I would only read books from diverse and/or under-represented voices. This includes BIPOC authors, women, LGBTQIA2S+ folks, and work in-translation.
When Covid-19 hit, a friend reached out to me to help re-start a book club she had been part of, and I agreed, as long as the other members were open to making our reading choices in-line with my 2020 reading goals. And, happily, they were. Thus far we’ve read Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier, and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Reading diversely has helped me become a better editor, in thinking about the ways that my work can help platform interesting, new voices.
Reading diversely has also helped me become a better ally in my work to become anti-racist. We’re witnessing a historic moment in North America amidst the Black Lives Matter protests, and we are so blessed to have access to many wonderful books that can help us look at our own place amidst systemic structures. Some of the works I’ve turned to in doing this learning (and unlearning) are: How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
In thinking about the importance of celebrating diverse voices, we at IWR want to introduce a new social initiative this month: Spotlight September. We’ll be drawing attention to the books we’re reading and excited about right now, including those by past faculty members. Follow along on our blog and social media pages as we call out the work we think you should be adding to your reading lists, and feel free to suggest even more to us in the comment section!
We regret to let you know that our planned 2020 faculty member Elizabeth Wurtzel passed away on Tuesday January 7. We send our deepest sympathies to her family and friends.
We will announce a replacement instructor for Elizabeth in due course.
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!
IWR 2018 has come and gone, but as we look towards 2019 let’s revisit some highlights from this April.
Iceland Writers Retreat co-founder Eliza Reid and author, journalist, and 2016 IWR faculty-member Andrew Westoll will be presenting “The Write Stuff: How Iceland Inspires Loves of the Written Word” at Taste of Iceland Toronto.
The event will take place at 6:00 pm on November 9th at The Spoke Club (600 King St W, Toronto, ON) and is free to attend!