Second Place in the IWR Writing Competition

Second Place in the IWR Writing Competition

We have partnered with the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel to offer one person a free spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat in April-May 2020.  The winner receives admission to all events for the Iceland Writers Retreat, as well as four nights accommodation at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel and we received over 400 submissions from the around the world.

This year the challenge was to submit a 350-word story, essay or poem inspired by this photo, which we’ve captioned: “Iceland: ethereal, exhilarating, sublime.” Entries were judged anonymously by two previous IWR volunteers & writers, and a representative of the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, our contest sponsors. Second place went to Sean Sakamoto of the U.S. with “Words with Friends”. The winner of the competition is Caroline Rannard from Australia, with her story “Postmarked Reykjavík” and third place was awarded to Sarah Ann Winn in the U.S., with “Mist Feathered”. You can read Sean’s story below, and Caroline’s through this link. Sarah’s will be posted in the coming days.

There are still some spaces available to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat or the Iceland Readers Retreat. Click here to sign up.


Words with Friends, by Sean Sakamoto

Iceland is far to go for a first date. Unless you’re from Iceland, which I wasn’t. And neither was Noriko. My date. Or, was I her date? Either way, we’d traveled far. She from a town in the mountains of Japan. And me from a crowded block on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Like most people, we met online. We played a word game, scoring points off of each other by filling a grid with letters. In between games we chatted about the monkeys that raided the winter daikon from her garden. I told her about the man who slept on a grate on my corner. Clouds of steam warmed him in the cold mornings.

“I gave him five bucks and he told me he loved me,” I said. She was quiet for a moment. I hadn’t meant to use the word love. It was like summoning a God that neither of us was quite ready to appear. But in that awkward pause I knew it already had.

Instead of competing in the game, we started helping each other. We placed letters with vowels exposed, consonants ripe for the taking. Our games became poems with high scores for us both. We added themes to our games. Animals: boars near her town, rats in mine. Foods: the pickled plums she made, the prosciutto I bought at a nearby Italian grocery. It was evening for me, morning for her, when we ran out of themes.
“Pick one,” I said.

“Feelings,” Noriko said. In the pause that followed I felt that God appear again.

“If we tie this game, we should see each other,” I said. She typed, “ok.”

We placed our letters and the game became a ouija board, channeling both our spirits.

One letter at a time we spelled together: Ethereal.

And then, Exhilarating.

And finally, Sublime.

By the end, the score was even.

I waited, afraid she would think that I’d only been joking. Afraid she’d think that I was serious. Afraid.

“I’ve always wanted to see Iceland,” she said.

“Me too.”

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