Let me begin this post by saying that this particular writing retreat is one I’ve wanted to attend since I first stumbled across it. Of course, there was always some excuse, not enough time, too expensive etc… But in October 2021 when I asked myself what conference I would really like to go to. after not being able to go to any in 2020 and 2021, I immediately knew which one I would choose. Before I could lose my nerve, I registered for it! Then suffered for months through the nail-biting roller coaster ride of whether or not I would actually be able to go. But I boarded that Iceland Air flight on April 25 with a certainty that now I would finally have an answer to my burning question “What type of writers would go all the way to Iceland for a conference?”
First off, let me tell you what a fabulous job founding directors, Eliza Reid and Erica Jacobs Green did in organizing an event like this, on top of being working mothers, during a pandemic. Not only did we learn about writing and literature, we found ourselves immersed in Icelandic culture-the people, the food, the geography, and the arts-for five days. I learned as much about sense of place as I did about characters, dialogue, and plot. It was an incredible experience and one I’ll always treasure.
Where we stayed
IWR had booked a group rate at the brand-new Reykjavik Edition on the waterfront (a working harbor) and across the street from the majestic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. You could easily walk to most of the capital city’s shops, restaurants, and attractions from there so there was no need for a car and we got lots of exercise.
My basecamp for the week was located on the fourth floor with a partial view and had everything a writer could possibly want-a table and chair, a comfortable bed, darkening shades, and an expresso machine. They are strong proponents of sustainable practices too! It was the perfect place to decompress and rehydrate after our jam-packed days and nights.
Staff members were unfailingly helpful and responsive, no matter what I needed. The Welcome Dinner held in the Banquet Room was a colorful and tasty affair of beetroot cake, lamb, and an intricate dessert, beautifully arranged and flawlessly served. I heard a rumor that the formal dining room served a phenomenal reindeer tartare as well. And I especially enjoyed my two dinners (sliders!) and drinks at the Lobby Bar. Those bartenders were the best! Interesting conversationalists and mixologists, they shared tips about life and travel in Iceland, along with a taste of the latest Edition draught beer.
This is the first five-star, luxury hotel in the capital city and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a glamorous getaway while in Iceland. There is currently construction going on in the area so I’d recommend asking for a quieter room.
Who was there?
Who wasn’t? We were rubbing elbows with people from eighteen countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Dubai, England, Malta, Scotland, the US (from California to Maine), and Canada. All of us were different ages, from diverse backgrounds, and at different stages in our writing lives and projects so it was a truly eclectic group. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed talking in-person about things like literature and techniques with other writers until I was able to do it again. Words and ideas seemed to bubble out of me like a bottle of uncorked champagne!
I’ve always found conferences to be like summer camp, a few days of intense together-time and shared memories that will never be replicated elsewhere but I do hope I’ll be able to keep in touch with some of my new friends and follow their writerly progression.
And, to answer my initial question-it turns out that the writers who were willing to journey to this particular island in the spring of 2022 are exactly the type of writers I want for my colleagues and friends. Intelligent, curious, and just plain fun!
As a quick aside, Eliza will be on an American book tour in May promoting Secrets of the Srakkar (https://www.elizareid.com/#news) Check her out!