First Week at Gullkistan Artist Residency


Gullkistan Entrance

Sunday afternoon. It’s relaxing in the studio today and I am relieved. I’ve been busy writing, reading, meeting new people, and teaching at Gullkistan Center for Creativity in Laugarvatn, Iceland. Gullkistan means “chest of gold.” The Center is named after the structure in the mountain that looks like a chest (see photo; see also the art on Gullkistan’s entrance). The name is fitting for this magical place. 

Chest of Gold

Currently, I am sharing the studio space with four other artists—Anna (a visual artist from Finland), Sylvie (a visual artist from France), Sae (a Korean-American painter), and Sheila (an American nonfiction writer).

L to R: Anna, me, Sylvie, and Sae

I have been spending my days writing with the goal of revising two manuscripts and writing 31 flash fiction pieces (one for each day in August). 10 down, 21 to go. I get up early in the morning to this view from the kitchen, make coffee, and spend the day writing and reading, watching the great Hekla volcano in the distance.


Kitchen view

Hekla Volcano

Though I have enjoyed my writing and reading routine, I think the writing workshop that I led on Saturday has been the highlight so far. I regret that I didn’t take a photo of the nine lovely participants. It was a one-hour crash course on flash fiction with a short break and then two hours to write and share. Those who participated were not all Icelanders. We had several visitors from Vienna, one person who recently moved from Denmark, and one person from Norway. I was reassured that leading the workshop in English would be fine, but I could see early on that there were some language barriers. Thankfully, Jón, the person who helped me organize and advertise for the workshops, helped to translate. Everyone was so kind and creative and excited to learn about flash fiction. When it came to writing stories, we all figured it would be best for people to choose which language they would prefer to write, hopeful that with our group we would find a way to translate for each other—and we did!


From the Flash Fiction Workshop

Writing is so solitary, and even when you get a chance to publish your work with others, it feels so removed. Having the opportunity to write together and share our messy, stories-of-the-moment had a more communal feel to it which was beautiful and invigorating.  At the end of the workshop, I was asked by one of the participants to lead a similar workshop at the local school and was invited to dinner by two of the locals, so I will take that as an indicator that it was a success. I was grateful to be welcomed into this community and to meet so many wonderful people.

In the workshop, we talked about how the Icelandic word for home comes from the same root word as worldheim and heimurinn. The Icelandic poet Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir said that: “it means that everywhere is our home and it also means that we are all made of such stuff as our dreams.” 

Laugarvatn Lake