I Met the President. And Musselled. (In the same weekend.)

Hállo, Internet! Easter is on the way and spring is in the air this week…Or at least, it’s very bright outside, and stays that way until around 9ish now, but the weather is fluctuating wildly: it snowed yesterday, in fact. Can’t you just tell that the first day of summer is next week?

Anyway: I had a pretty awesome weekend, Internet. Or pretty awesome pre-weekend-into-weekend. Because not only did I get invited to attend a good portion of the inaugural Iceland’s Writers Retreat (I’ll be writing an article about this for The Grapevine soonish), but I also got to go musselling. These things were both entirely and incredibly awesome in two entirely and incredibly different ways. So let’s get to it, eh?

I am not going to go too far into the Writers Retreat here and now because of the aforementioned article, but to briefly recap, here are some of the more awesome things that attending the Retreat entailed:

  • On Tuesday night, a free (English-language) reading was held at the Nordic House, and all of the “featured authors” participating in the event read from either published work or, in some cases (notably that of Geraldine Brooks), works-in-progress. Some good quotes from the evening (more bullet points!):
    • “Iceland is like a disease you can’t get rid of.”
      -so says Andrew Evans, a travel guide author, author-author, and writer for National Geographic, among others
    • “I came away from Iceland with the sense that it was the kind of place where you could just hang out and play with a whale.”
      -Susan Orlean, who first came to Iceland to “meet” Keiko the Whale
  • On Thursday, following my last oral presentation in my last class of the semester (yay!), I went to a workshop entitled “The Distance Traveled: From Journalist to Novelist” lead by none other than (Pulitzer Prize winner) Geraldine Brooks. That was neat, guys.
    • Selected words of wisdom: “Don’t get yourself an MFA. Get yourself a backpack and fill it with books by people who have gotten their MFAs and then go travel.”
  • Friday was a big one: I attended two workshops (broken up by a lovely lunch): “Finding the Story” by Sara Wheeler (a travel writer who has written books about both the Arctic and the Antarctic) and “Writing Your Life” by Iain Reid who has written two “non-dramatic, non-fiction narratives/memoirs” about the roadtrip he took with his 90-something grandmother and the year he spent living back at home with his parents on a farm outside of Ottowa when he was 27. Lots of good tips and thoughts and reading suggestions from these two workshops, such as:
    • Sara: “You have to convey a meaningful experience to your reader. That sounds horrid, but you have to do it.”
    • Sara: “People starting off writing have too many ideas about art and not enough ideas about labor.”
    • Iain: “Once you start [writing your non-fiction narrative], your fidelity is to the story.”

And then, after workshops on Friday, after Geraldine Brooks complimented my boots, I went to the President’s house and had champagne. Normal day, guys.

Yes, the President hosted a short reception for the attendees of the Writer’s Retreat at his residence, Bessastaðir (which I can see across the bay from my backyard, basically). All of us were shuffled through his office at the front of the house, past the guest toilet in the hall (so surreal to see the bathroom in the president’s house, btw), past all the Kjarval paintings on the walls, and into a little solarium to shake his hand. Then we stood in a hall in which notable Icelandic authors and dignitaries alike have had elegant do’s and, we were told, played badminton, and the President gave us an entirely off-the-cuff speech about writers in Iceland. After which, no fewer than three people turned to me and said something along the lines of…”What a polished speaker!”

And then, after his speech, after our champagne glasses were filled (and re-filled, quite generously, I must say) we were given our leave to wander around the house and look at whatever we wanted. (It wasn’t like we were going through his bedroom—this was the part of the house which is open for guests, but still. No guards anywhere telling you not to touch things, no ropes around statuary. Just: go look around.)

So here are some of the photos I took while doing just that (you can see more here):

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So. That was cool, eh?

More on musselling tomorrow. For now, back to studying!



2 thoughts on “I Met the President. And Musselled. (In the same weekend.)

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