Writers Abroad Magazine 6 May 2017 - Page 34

WRITERS ABROAD MAGAZINE: THE THIRD SPACE My focus was on fiction and I chose workshops that reflected this. I went to one with British author, Chris Cleave, called ‘How to Write Real People’ and another with Bret Anthony Johnston on writing character. Both were excellent. There were many other topics however. David Lebovitz gave a class on writing a cookbook, Nadifa Mohamed’s workshops were on music and literature and family narratives while others had sessions on beginnings or problem solving or historical research. Chatting with other people after the sessions it sounds as if all the workshops were well received. Whilst the main reason for joining the retreat is obviously the workshops, the organisers had made sure that there were plenty of other things to do while visitors were there. Included in the package was a day trip out. For some this was the golden circle tour taking in a geothermal area of bubbling hot springs and a geyser. I went on the literary Borgarfjordur tour which included a visit to the home and workplace of Halldor Laxness, Iceland’s literature Nobel laureate, Hvalfjordur Fjord where allied troops were stationed in the Second World War and to Deildartunguhver, a powerful hot spring where our guide boiled eggs in water straight out of the ground. There was no shortage of evening activities either. We had a welcome reception at the President’s official residence and he gave a very amusing speech and read a poem. Another evening we were welcomed at the town hall and reminded that in 2011 Reykjavik was designated UNESCO City of Literature — the first non-English speaking city to be so recognised. The hotel ran a story-telling evening where a local actress gave readings from different Icelandic works including the sagas, a Laxness novel and a lovely children’s story about giants being turned to stone in sunlight and creating many of the mountains that dot the country. A literary walk around Reykjavik stopping at various places of interest with readings from older and contemporary Icelandic writers was fascinating and entertaining. Whilst I can perhaps leave the sagas to those really interested in the literary history of Iceland, I did discover several new authors whose pieces I enjoyed enough to look up again in the future. All in all I had a great time and the retreat was a fabulous experience. I’ve come away with some good pointers to use in my writing, new friends, new authors to explore and a love of the Icelandic people who were warm and humorous. This retreat might not be for everyone. It left very little time for writing, but then who could concentrate when there is a new country to explore and so many people to talk to? Since I spend my writing time in isolation it was a great communicating experience for me. I’ve only been to the Iceland Writers Retreat but if you are interested in attending one I suggest you choose carefully and think about what you want to get out of it so that you book the type of retreat you want. I would also advise booking early as workshops with individual authors fill up early. For more information visit this website. 33 | MAY 2017