How did you find out about Iceland Writers Retreat originally?
I want to say it was in a writing group on Facebook, or perhaps from Alexander Weinstein, whose workshop I attended a few years ago. Or maybe it was both?
What were you most looking forward to about the Retreat?
Time. I have a big family, and while I am usually able to fit in little snippets of writing thanks to an extremely supportive husband, I don’t have the luxury of large chunks of uninterrupted time to reflect and let my words meander a bit. So I was most excited for that opportunity.
How has writing influenced your life?
I started off reading very young and kept going. Before I stopped to consider that I might be capable of creating, I had built up a hefty mental library of literature. My brothers and I read and re-read The Great Brain books so many times, and I think that was my first introduction to memoir, which has definitely influenced my desire to work on some myself.
What do you find to be your biggest challenge in your writing life?
Time again! Well, that and getting in my own way. I am easily distracted by new projects and often get frustrated that my first draft isn’t perfect, which is something I’ve been working against. First drafts should be somewhat terrible.
What was your favourite part of the Retreat?
Well that is a loaded question if ever there were one! Can I say all of it? The Golden Circle Tour was amazing, and I fell in love with Iceland that day. But the sessions were fantastic, and I learned so much – the writers who presented were accessible, helpful, and the one session that I mistakenly chose thinking it was another ended up being the best one I had.
Are there any exercises or bits of wisdom you heard at the Retreat that you look forward to using in your writing going forward?
In Sarah Moss’ session, we wrote about rubbish. Each person brought a piece of discarded somethingorother, from home or from our stay, and we exchanged them and wrote about what the object might be or what purpose it served. The change of perspective made for a fascinating exercise. And in Paul Yoon’s session, we dissected a really great piece of writing and worked through our understand of cliche’ and how to use it to our advantage. My little snippet from that exercise is going into my current project.
Were there any other highlights to your time in Iceland?
This sounds trite, but it was like summer camp (chillier, tho!) for grown ups, and I think that’s an experience I hadn’t fully realized I needed. I enjoy learning so much, and I miss that from being in school. Taking culinary risks was also fun, and making connections with other writers from around the world and some from my own backyard was a definite highlight.
I should also mention the Icelandic cats that wander in and out of restaurants and shops without anyone stopping them.
Is there anything else you think would be relevant to share with our followers?
The organizers of this retreat are fantastic and so helpful. I hadn’t left the country in over twenty years, and I had never left my family for this long, and their support and availability made it that much easier to do.
Jenn Morson is a writer living and working outside of Washington, D.C., along with her husband, their five children, and two cats. Her words can be found here: jennmorson.contently.com and hopefully someday within the pages of a hardcover book. Just as soon as she is allowed to sit down for five minutes.