THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: How Iceland Writers Retreat Began


The way I remember it, I stood leaning against a cocktail table at the US Ambassador’s residence in Reykjavik. I’d come for a reception in honor of something creative. I can’t remember what it was for anymore, but I do remember admiring the creative types: an extremely tall, posh woman visiting from New York, a youngish woman in purple tights in charge of some arts group in Iceland, a man with oversized glasses I wanted to meet. Perhaps the reception was in honor of RIFF, the Reykjavik Film Festival or Design March, the design festival. Whatever it was for, I’d found myself at this tall cocktail table standing next to a dear friend, Eliza Reid, and I recall we were talking about how the reception and festival were inspiring.

I’d recently returned from a writer’s conference in the US and had spent the previous week reinvigorated, taking my laptop to coffee shops and picturesque spots around Reykjavik to work furiously on revising my novel with the hopes of getting it ready to sell to a publisher.  Thinking of the writer’s conference and looking around the room, I asked Eliza off-handedly, “Why isn’t there a writing conference or retreat here? Iceland would be the perfect place for it.”

The way I remember it, Eliza’s eyes widened and she grinned. “It is! We should start one!”

“Okay,” I agreed, not really thinking much of it.

We talked a bit more about the zillions of things we could do to make it great, but I didn’t really think we’d try to pull it off. But then, I hadn’t really thought about with whom I was talking.

Eliza Reid is a force of nature and when she puts her mind to something, she puts the full might of her energy and smarts into it. I think of her as the go-to writer for anything in English in Iceland. She has her own company that provides freelance writing and editing and some event management. We’d been introduced before I even came to Iceland and through emails and then calls, she was instantly my go-to person for all other questions related to life in Iceland as well. Pretty soon after I arrived, she offered me a chance to work on some freelance writing projects with her. When she was too busy to take on a client, she’d outsource to me. I’d loved working with her, not just because she’s super intelligent but because she’s organized, well-spoken, creative, friendly—you know, the whole package.  I should have known this Oxford-educated, former university class president lady would not have just let an idea as good as this slip away.

The following day, she called to rattle off a list of people we had to talk to if we wanted to get the Iceland Writers Retreat off the ground. I’ll never underestimate Eliza again. We immediately got to work on a business plan, a budget and a road show around Iceland where we garnered support from Icelandair and Icelandair Hotels, government and non-governmental agencies, embassies, and creative leaders around Reykjavik.

Since that day, nine months ago now, we’ve both been working at full speed to bring Iceland Writers Retreat to life. The first event is April 9-13, 2014 in Reykjavik. To read more about exactly what it is, how to participate, who is coming to lead the workshops, and why it is going to be amazing, visit our site, We hope you’ll join us!


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About ericajgreen

Writer/Editor living in Reykjavik, Iceland
This entry was posted in creative writing, Iceland, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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