“This is going to be an amazing week”: Iceland Writers Retreat Illustrated

“This is going to be an amazing week”: Iceland Writers Retreat Illustrated

Writer and illustrator Megan Herbert has attended the Iceland Writers Retreat three times. In addition to leading a popular free workshop on screenwriting at this year’s event, she was live drawing details from her workshops and other parts of the conference.

Here are some of the highlights. For more of Megan’s great work, follow her on Instagram or visit her website.


From Paul Murray‘s workshop, “Beginnings”:


“When the right idea comes along, it’s like falling in love.”


“If you’re writing something and every line feels like agony, you’re writing the wrong book.”


“The part of your brain responsible for inspiration can’t be forced. But it can be coaxed.”

From Carsten Jensen‘s workshop:


“You don’t want to write for the critics, the professional readers. You want to write almost heart to heart.”


“Write in the tone you would use with a friend, show them that you take them seriously. You do not condemn them, and you will tell them everything.”

From Paula McLain‘s workshop:


“We have a tendency to guard our hand. This is the moment, but I’ll save it to page 175. What if a reader never gets there because they’re asleep? Give it all away! There will be more to give away later.”


“When I started writing historical fiction, I started reading historical fiction. Your desk should be littered with books you wish you’d written.”


“Every time you write a novel, you learn that you don’t know how to write a novel.”

From Esi Edugyan:


“The best kind of writing about art combines the technical with the lyrical.”


“Really beautiful writing about music or art is abstracted. It doesn’t describe a sound, and yet, you can hear it.”


“Simile is an invitation to see things the way the writer sees it. Metaphor implies complicity, that we all see it this way.”

From the Q&A panel on the final morning:




“To a poet, a New York agent was like the Wizard of Oz.”


“Only smart people get writer’s block. Embrace it. Love it.”

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