Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award

General registration is now open for the Iceland Writers Retreat. In addition, we will 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 2025. We were able to offer five scholarships in 2024 thanks to the generosity of our donors. The scholarship applications will likely open in late fall once we have fundraised enough to offer spots. You can stay up to date by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter (you can join at the bottom of the page).

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Who can apply?

Anyone who is aged 18 or over on April 23, 2025, 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 2025 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 and round-trip flights to Iceland.

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

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.

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.

The deadline for the 2025 scholarship application will be announced at a later date.

**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 focused 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 1,000 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.

Contributors

Thanks to the generosity of the following friends and alum of the IWR, we were able to offer five 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 will be the seventh 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]

2024 Award Recipients

Marko Bogdanovic, is an aspiring author from Belgrade, Serbia. His writing background is versatile - from various types and genres of fiction, journalism in different media and movie reviews to advertising copywriting and blogs. Marko won two national-level awards in Serbia for his literary fiction short stories. One of them also helped him land the IWR Alumni Award.

Marko Bogdanović (Serbia)

Marko Bogdanović is an aspiring author from Belgrade, Serbia.

His writing background is versatile - from various types and genres of fiction, journalism in different media and movie reviews to advertising copywriting and blogs.

Marko won two national-level awards in Serbia for his literary fiction short stories. One of them also helped him land the IWR Alumni Award.

Sometimes he feels like a superhero concealing his secret identity - as if nobody notices that it's the same person in both roles.

During the day he is Bruce Wayne - with a 9 to 5 job in marketing - and at night he is Batman - the host of Storyline Sessions, a platform where he interviews authors from around the world and shares his thoughts on writing, as well as his work.

He is currently working on a short story collection and two novels, all wildly different and all competing for his attention.

Gina Dark is an emerging writer, established language teacher and translator, and a non-practising solicitor. Since 2020, she has been developing her writing skills through online courses in creative non-fiction, memoir, and fiction with the UK’s National Centre for Writing and Arvon, as well as in translation with the British Centre for Literary Translation.

Georgina Dark (UK / France)
 
 

Gina Dark is an emerging writer, established language teacher and translator, and a non-practising solicitor. Since 2020, she has been developing her writing skills through online courses in creative non-fiction, memoir, and fiction with the UK’s National Centre for Writing and Arvon, as well as in translation with the British Centre for Literary Translation. Currently, she lives in France with her partner and is self-employed, teaching English and Russian, and translating. Previously, she worked in London as a lawyer for the UK’s Government Legal Service, and in various roles for international organisations in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as for an advertising agency in Moscow. In addition to her legal studies with the Open University and BPP, she has a BA in Modern Languages from the University of Bristol and an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Portsmouth. In her spare time, Gina sings in a local choir, plays the violin, learns languages, and enjoys walking in the countryside.

Monica Drake is the author of two novels, including Clown Girl (Hawthorne Books) and The Stud Book (Hogarth) and a collection of linked short stories, The Folly of Loving Life (Future Tense Books). Her essays and stories have appeared in the Paris Review, the New York Times (Modern Love), Oregon Humanities Magazine, The Sun and many other publications online and in print.

Monica Drake (United States)

Monica Drake is the author of two novels, including Clown Girl (Hawthorne Books) and The Stud Book (Hogarth) and a collection of linked short stories, The Folly of Loving Life (Future Tense Books). Her essays and stories have appeared in the Paris Review, the New York Times (Modern Love), Oregon Humanities MagazineThe Sun and many other publications online and in print. She is the formerly anonymous author behind a viral essay, "Whatever Happened to___________________?" published in Longreads magazine (Whatever Happened to ______ ? - Longreads which has inspired other women writers to come forward. She writes about love, loss, feminism, culture, childbirth and most recently menopause, always with a fundamental feminist lens and an eye toward building a better world--better ways of living on this planet--together. 

Zehra Imam, is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School and a Muslim Chaplain-Intern at MIT. She is the founder of Illuminated Cities, an education organization that works with communities impacted by violence and adversity, and was an international teacher.

Zehra Imam (United States)
   

Zehra Imam is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School and a Muslim Chaplain-Intern at MIT. She is the founder of Illuminated Cities, an education organization that works with communities impacted by violence and adversity, and was an international teacher. She is writing about her experiences in Palestine as a Religion, Conflict, and Peace Institute summer intern at Harvard on Instagram @loveletterstopalestine.

Iceland Writers Retreat Alumni Award recipient Sandra Jackson-Opoku is the author of the American Library Association Black Caucus award-winning novel, The River Where Blood is Born and Hot Johnny and the Women Who Loved Him, an Essence Magazine Hardcover Fiction Bestseller.

Sandra Jackson-Opoku (United States)
   

Sandra Jackson-Opoku is the author of the American Library Association Black Caucus award-winning novel, The River Where Blood is Born and Hot Johnny and the Women Who Loved Him, an Essence Magazine Hardcover Fiction Bestseller. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic works are widely published and produced. Jackson-Opoku’s work has earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, Newcity Lit50: Who Really Books in Chicago, an Esteemed Literary Artist Award from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and other awards and honors.

Previous Winners:

2023: April Dobbins (Unites States / Iceland); Lisa Guenther (Canada); Tochukwu Okafor (Nigeria)

2020: Chelsie Bryant (United States; attended in 2022); Abak Hussain (Bangladesh; attended in 2023); Okechi Okeke (Nigeria; attended in 2023); Jo McClelland Phillips (Canada / Australia; attended in 2022); Chuck D. Smith (Philippines; attended in 2023); Michelle Walshe (Ireland; attended in 2022)

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)