Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

Registration is now open for the Iceland Writers Retreat. In addition to general registration, which is currently open to all, we have scholarships slots available for those with financial need. The Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award offers talented writers in need of financial support an opportunity to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavík, Iceland in April, 2024. Scholarship applications are due Oct 31, 2023 by 11:59 pm GMT.
Please read the guidelines below before completing the application. 


Who can apply?

Anyone who is aged 18 or over on April 24, 2024 is eligible to apply for an Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award (anyone is welcome to independently register and attend the event without a scholarship). The winning candidate(s) must demonstrate that they do not have the financial means to attend the conference without this award.* Candidates do not need to be professional writers, but should be serious about the craft and interested in developing their skills and contacts. Their writing interests must fit well with the faculty for the 2024 retreat (i.e. literary fiction, non-fiction, memoir).
Family members of the judges and those who have already attended the IWR are not eligible to apply.

What does it cover?

Entrants can apply for either full or partial funding. Full funding covers one participant fee, four nights accommodation at the Retreat hotel (Foss Hotel Reykjavik), and round-trip flights to Iceland.

Partial funding covers the participant fee only, and neither accommodation nor round trip flights.

(Note that there is no scholarship available for the Iceland Readers Retreat.)

Please ensure that you apply for the most suitable category for you, as if you apply for full funding you are very unlikely to be considered for a partial award. (Note that we usually have many more applications for full funding than partial funding.)

The award does not include airport transfers, travel insurance, travel visas (if applicable)**, other incidentals or meals not listed in the itinerary, or the Relax & Write extension.

How are the recipients chosen?

The recipients will be chosen based primarily on two factors:

  1. The potential they demonstrate (or has demonstrated) as a writer.
  2. Their need for financial support to be able to attend.

We will also evaluate based on the other questions in the application, though, so make sure to tell us about yourself and why you think you’d be the perfect match for the Iceland Writers Retreat. (Please don’t just tell us how you have always wanted to visit Iceland.)

The applicant should also be available for media interviews before and during the Retreat and be able to explain how they would help to share their experience with others after the fact. This may include being asked to prepare a short report on their experience to be published on the IWR website.

Applications will be reviewed by a group of IWR alumni. The final decision on the award recipient will be made by the IWR Founding Directors.

Scholarship applications are due Oct 31, 2023 before 11:59 p.m. GMT. 

**Please note that we are not responsible for issuing travel visas and cannot guarantee that one will be issued for you. However, we would provide all the required supporting letters and our past recipients who have required visas have had no problem being issued with one.

General Tips for applying:

We receive hundreds of applications for the Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award. To increase your chances of being selected, please follow the application instructions very carefully.

  • Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • It is not possible to make changes to your application once it has been submitted; you will receive email confirmation that your application has been received.
  • Level of funding: We receive far more applications for full funding than partial funding, but you need to show that you are unable to afford even the cost of flights to Iceland and accommodation while in the country. Note that you are very unlikely to be considered for partial funding if you have applied for full funding.
  • Your background: We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and with all levels of writing experience. However, we are more likely to rank applications highly from people who have not had the opportunity to attend many other writing retreats or to develop their writing in other ways. The quality of your writing is what is most important, whether you are just starting out, have been working for a while, or are at a mid- or post-career break. We encourage people of all ages (over 18) to apply.
  • Why do you want to attend? We all love Iceland. And we all love writing. If you are applying simply to get an opportunity to visit Iceland you are unlikely to be granted an award. Tell us why this particular event and this particular faculty have captured your interest. Show us that you have done some research about the Iceland Writers Retreat. Note especially that our workshops in 2024 focus primarily on literary fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. Your writing samples should also reflect this and should therefore be prose samples.
  • Writing samples: Note that the maximum length for each writing sample is 1000 words. We will not consider applications that have longer writing samples.
  • Why you need financial assistance: This is one of the most difficult yet important factors to consider for this award. Please be as honest as you can with us in explaining why this event is beyond your means without support. Your answer to the question about applying for additional funding is also important. We know that some countries offer support to writers who attend conferences, and we’d like to see if you have taken any initiative in terms of thinking broadly for ways in which you can attend.
  • How will you share your experience with others? We want many people to know about the Iceland Writers Retreat. How will you help us get the word out if you are awarded a scholarship? We know that social media is very popular. Do you have other, more original ideas too?
  • References: References should be by people who are familiar with your writing and are not family members. We give higher marks for references that have been written specifically for this event. Applications without appropriate references will not be considered. Please note that due to the number of applications we receive, we cannot accept references that have been sent separately.


Thanks to the generosity of the following friends and alum of the IWR, we are able to offer scholarships for our 2024 event.

Karen Anderson, Carol Binkowski, Akvile Buitvydaite, Eirene Chen, Elizabeth Clemants, Patrick Connolly, Brigitte Dix, Nate Drenner, Judyth Emanuel, Jeannie Entenza, Susan Evans Shaw, Randver (Randy) Fleckenstein, Amy Gavin, Erica Green, Kristin Harper, Molly Hill, Edna McNamara, Denise Morettin, Lisa Morriss-Andrews, Daniel Musgrave, Joy Nash, Rhoda Neville, Peggy Newell, Elizabeth Nunberg, Sólveig Ólafsdóttir, Rhonda Owen, Ghislaine Patthey, Elizabeth Pentland, Catherine (Cathy) Raphael, Karen Redfearn, Eliza Reid, Erika Sanders, Richard (Rick) Theiss, Kate Todd, Janine Vici Campbell, Molly Watson, Sara Winokur, and April Wolfe.

About the IWR Alumni Award

This is the sixth time the IWR Alumni Award has been granted. It is so named because it has been funded by former IWR participants. We are extremely grateful for their generosity.

If you have any questions about your application, or the alumni awards in general, please contact [email protected]

2023 Recipients

A woman in a sweater is standing in front of a bookshelf.

April Dobbins (United States / Iceland)

April Dobbins is an American writer and filmmaker based in Reykjavík, where she is studying Icelandic. She received her master’s degree in Arts in Education from Harvard University in 2022. Formerly based in Miami, Florida, April has written about arts and culture for various outlets, including Miami New Times and Sugarcane Magazine. Her film work has been supported by Sundance Institute, ITVS, Fork Films, International Documentary Association, and Firelight Media, to name a few. Her work is deeply rooted in the Black experiences of the American South, which she detailed in Home is Where the Heart of the Story Is, her first TEDx talk. For six years, she served as Director of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships at the University of Miami, where she also taught film courses in the School of Communication. She is currently at work on her first book, which is inspired by the history of Liberia.

A woman with brown hair wearing a green scarf.

Lisa Guenther (Canada)

Lisa Guenther is a novelist and farm editor based in rural northwestern Saskatchewan, Canada. In 2015, she published her first novel, Friendly Fire, with NeWest Press, and NeWest plans to release her second novel in 2024. Lisa’s fiction deals with themes such as violence, abuse, trauma and survival. She’s also interested in exploring people’s connection to the land in a modern context, both in her fiction and journalism. Lisa is also the first female editor of Canadian Cattlemen magazine, which has been in circulation since 1938.

A man in white shirt sitting down with his hands on the table.

Abak Hussain (Bangladesh. 2020 recipient)

Abak Hussain (2020 recipient) was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he still lives. A journalist by trade, he is currently the Editor of Editorial and Op-Ed at Dhaka Tribune, a leading English language daily, where he worked since the newspaper’s inception back in 2012. He writes a weekly column — “Hard Target” — mostly on political issues. His other interest is creative writing — he has published short stories from time to time, and hopes to one day finish his novel.

A man with a beard and blue shirt looking to his left.

Tochukwu Okafor (Nigeria)

Tochukwu Okafor is an MFA Fiction candidate at Emerson College and holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a 2021 – 2023 Book Project Fellow at Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop, a 2022 Ucross Foundation Fellow, a 2022 Kurt Brown Prize for Fiction winner, a 2021 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, a 2021 – 2022 GrubStreet Emerging Writer Fellow, a 2021 Gish Jen Fiction Fellow, an alumnus of the 2021 Tin House Workshop, and a 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist. His work has appeared in the 2019 Best Small Fictions, the 2018 Best of the Net, and elsewhere, and he reads for Ploughshares and copy-edits for Redivider. He has received scholarships, fellowships, grants, and residencies from the John Anson Kittredge Fund, Aspen Words, Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ragdale Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MASS MoCA), Eckerd College, Worcester Arts Council, and elsewhere. He is at work on a story collection and a novel. He lives in Worcester, MA.

A man in glasses and a jacket standing against a wall.

Okechi Okeke (Nigeria. 2020 recipient)

Okechi Okeke (2020 recipient) is a writer and teacher whose work has appeared in The Economist, The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story Vol 4 and elsewhere. He was shortlisted for the Black Letter Media Short Story Competition in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2019 K and L Prize for African Writing. A Fellow of Africa Young Leaders Fellowship and alumnus of Goethe Institut’s Afro Young Writing Workshop, Okechi lives in Nigeria.

A man standing next to a tree in the street.

Chuck D. Smith (Philippines; 2020 recipient)

Chuck D. Smith (2020 recipient) is a journalist who has been writing about Philippine entertainment and pop culture since 2008. He has served as writer and editor for various publications such as Yahoo! Philippines,, Coconuts Manila, and CNN Philippines, among others. For a brief period, he worked as a publicist for TBA Studios, a Philippine film company that produced the highly acclaimed, box office hits General Luna and Goyo: The Boy General. He also writes personal essays, some of which have been published in Esquire Philippines, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and GMA News Online. He won a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award and the Ustetika Student Literary Award for his essays.


Previous Winners:

2020 (attended in 2022): Chelsie Bryant (United States); Jo McClelland Phillips (Canada / Australia); Michelle Walshe (Ireland)

2019: Lucy Grace (UK); Daniel Musgrave (United States); Lola Opatayo (Nigeria); Jonaki Ray (India); Carien Smith (South Africa)

2018: Fatin Abbas (Sudan / United States); Michael Agugom (Nigeria); Puja Changoiwala (India); Julia Duin (United States); Nora Shychuk (United States)

2017: Akvile Buitvydaite (Lithuania / Denmark); Peter Ngila (Kenya), Nathan Ramsden (UK); Victor Yang (United States)

2016: Megan Ross (South Africa); April Wolfe (United States)