Snowbound

I am knee deep in snow.

I know, I know. Again, right?

I wish I could tell you it was literal. I wish I could say I was lifting my red riding hood over my plaits, pulling on my thermal gloves with the leopard print cuffs, and heading down past the fish factory to Samkaup supermarket for some skyr and harðfiskur.

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But while my writing residency in a tiny Icelandic fishing village up near the Arctic Circle may be over, the inspiration I found there is making ink pour from my pen, straight into my notebook.

I’m working constantly on my novel, set in both Reykjavik and the village where I stayed, Ólafsfjörður. Elva is a half-Australian, half-Icelandic amateur taxidermist who works in a cabinet of curiosities, skinning small creatures, slipping on the ice, and hiding her growing obsession with a famous Icelandic book in the secret room of her attic apartment.

If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book, people.

So I have to finish writing it.

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In ten weeks, I’m pulling out the red riding hood, packing up my pens, and heading north again. I’m going to research the colourful nature of Icelandic slang, the smell of the fish factory, and the exquisite sound of ice crunching under my army boots. Just like my protagonist, however, this is usually heard moments before those boots slide out from under me and I hit the ground. Thirteen years of dance classes and I’ve never quite found the grace necessary to remain upright in the snow.

I’m relishing writing about the differences between Australia and Iceland. Elva has one foot in each place, and ever since my first visit to Reykjavik almost ten years ago, when I watched the sun rise over this sculpture, so have I.

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Elva sits under her skylifht waiting for the northern lights. As I write, I’m barefoot in the summer sun, nursing a beer in my back yard. Elva’s ritual before leaving the house involves a thick woollen scarf wound around her mouth; mine is a thick coat of coconut oil over my 30+ sunblock. I eat kangaroo steaks with a blue cheese salad; she tries to get the hang of harðfiskur með smjöri, thin slices of dried fish smothered with butter. She has just about the same luck with that as I did, however…which is to say, none at all.

Both lands are polar opposites, in geography and climate. I grew up with bushfire sirens that made me shudder when they rent the air. With my father a firefighter, I remember as as a child watching the ash land on my school desk, rendering me mute with fear. Icelanders have avalanche sirens that make each and every villager look up, warily eyeing the towering peaks that surround their homes.

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It’s not an easy position to be in when the land of your birth, and the land of your heart, are on opposite sides of the world.

But damn, is it glorious to write about them both, and lose yourself in your own novel.

Ten weeks and counting!

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