Five Recipients of 2019 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

Five Recipients of 2019 Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

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:

Photo: Melissa Lukenbaugh

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



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

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 JournalThe American Journal of PoetryRambutan Literary JournalLunch TicketThe Matador Review, ColdnoonIndian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), So to Speak Journal, while non-fiction essays and reviews have been published in The WireThe Times of IndiaThe 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).

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