We are profiling some faculty and alumni leading up to the 2018 Retreat. Catherine Wayne joined us in 2014 and 2016.
Catherine is the author of the Edda Melkorka children’s series: Too Many Pets and So Many Rainbows as well as a number of specialized College text books. She lives with her husband in Merritt, British Columbia. For more information you can check out her website Global Grammas.
How did you find out about Iceland Writers Retreat originally?
My daughter, Robyn Phaedra Mitchell, has lived in Iceland for about fifteen years. She and I had been talking about writing the Edda series (based on the adventures of my Icelandic granddaughter) and she told me about the IWR. Going to the Retreat was an excuse to also visit Edda Melkorka.
Have you ever participated in a similar kind of retreat, either as faculty or as a participant? If yes, how did the experience benefit you and/or your writing?
I’ve been retired for a few years now but during my working life I both attended and led seminars on technical writing which is quite different from story writing.
What did you most look forward to about the Retreat?
Meeting with others who are as passionate about writing as I am to exchange ideas and experiences.
Did it match up to your expectations?
I think the Retreat exceeded my expectations. Talking to people from all over the world who have things to share about how they see life was quite a treat and getting to meet with very successful writers in a number of genres was inspiring for me.
What was the biggest lesson you took from the retreat? Or perhaps a piece of advice, or writing exercise that had an impact on your writing?
First, that there is no one “right” way to write. Everyone I spoke or listened to has a different process. The process I heard about that I could really relate to was Miriam Toews’ who said she thought about and suffered over her stories for ages and then just sat down and wrote them. That describes my process perfectly. I think about the story; do some research; lie awake at night figuring out the details; obsess about characters for a few weeks and then just sit down and slam out the first draft. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the process.
Second, was a writing exercise in one of the workshops that had everyone in the room contribute one word and then all the people in the room having to write a quick story using those words. It was a great demonstration that language, even if it’s not language you choose yourself, can still tell the story you want to tell.
What and/or who do you find inspiring?
I am consistently amazed at the creativity of children and I guess that’s why I like to write for children. I love listening to kids expound on their views of the world and how it works.
How has writing influenced your life?
Writing is my way of staying in touch. I think so much is lost to the ether when your message is limited to 160 characters. I still write long letters to people and send them by post. I get letters too from nieces or brothers or cousins which is something I really enjoy. I think I get this from my Mom who was a great correspondent and taught me early that if you send letters to people, you get to look forward to getting mail. I think of my stories as a way of corresponding with future generations.
What do you find to be your biggest challenge in your writing life?
Discipline. I could spend forever thinking about my stories and figuring out each and every small detail. I have to make myself sit down and actually write. Once I start, I am good for a few hours at least, but it’s getting that first word on the page that I have trouble with.
What are you working on currently and/or is there anything exciting that has happened in your writing life since the retreat?
I currently have a couple of projects on the go:
- I have been doing genealogical research about my Mom’s side of the family with the idea that I will tell a fictionalized version of that story.
- The next in the Edda series is in process. This one may end up being a cookbook. Not sure yet. We are still in the thinking, researching, and suffering stage.
Any final comments you’d like to share with our followers?
I will be forever grateful to the “Viking” who took my daughter to Iceland. If not for him, I would never have discovered this astounding little part of the world. If I was able, I would attend IWR every year because there is so much to learn and so many people to learn it from. IWR is a fabulous opportunity to meet and talk with storytellers from all over the world.