Winner of the IWR Writing Competition

Winner of 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

The winner of the competition is Caroline Rannard from Australia, with her story “Postmarked Reykjavík”. Second place went to Sean Sakamoto of the U.S. with “Words with Friends”, and third place was awarded to Sarah Ann Winn in the U.S., with “Mist Feathered”. You can read Caroline’s story below, and we’ll publish the other two 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.


Postmarked Reykjavík, by Caroline Rannard

The flat is a monument to Iceland. Maps she cut from guidebooks stuck with Blu Tack to the walls. Shelves covered by histories of the island and translations of Icelandic authors. I am not moved by them. Kettle comes to boil. I know about Iceland.

There was a new postcard in our mailbox this morning. A mist-filled valley like smoke in a bowl. Kveðjur! The peaks of the mountain hardly surface above the pure white cloud. On its reverse she had written, Ate bread cooked in a geyser. Sublime. I pinned it to the side of the bookshelf, next to the photograph of the lights above Reykjavik. Green trails across the sea like the shadows of enormous fish. Halló! Finally saw the aurora. None of my pictures are any good, so have this one. It was ethereal. You would elska it.

Three years ago. The cards become distant, the stories saved for a colleague. Steel saucepan hisses when boiling water hits it. Skype commitments peter out. I drop a handful of orecchiette in the pot and the water catches me. Pinch of salt. I stir it with a fork. I threw away the liquorice chocolate she sent for my birthday. I know about Iceland. I will move on even if she tries to stop me.

She sent me a photograph of white-faced houses reflected in the Atlantic, told me to frame it. I never did. People want the simple life, neat little Icelandic villages and no Facebook, but I want to be in the city. The kind with a million strangers. She didn’t like the city and I didn’t like ultimatums. Grated cheese in the fridge behind a door marred by souvenir magnets. A map of the island, that funny Lutheran tower church.

I picture her, sometimes, in her village where the purple lupins grow and the days last forever. Dark, silent snow globe winters. And when the earth is dormant, delicate light in the black sky like the voice of God. The edges of the cliffs curling into the clouded valley. Of course it takes my breath away.

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