Queen E puts on a Team Iceland uniform

As you may or may not know, Iceland is playing some unprecedented football in the EuroCup right around now. They tied with Portugal and Hungary in their first two games, and then beat Austria in the most recent one.

On Monday, they meet England.

In light of this, the advertising agency PIPAR/TBWA is having a bit of a good-natured sparring match with its sister agency in London. It started with this:

To which the London agency responded with this:

… And which was quickly rebuffed by the Reykjavík office:

Hehehehe. We approve. (The royal “we” of course).

On the Icelandic prime minister and his wife’s offshore activities

I expect that, by now, many of you have heard about the scandal rocking Icelandic politics, that of our Prime Minister’s wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir, having an offshore company registered in Tortola – a notorious tax haven. Something that the PM, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, conveniently neglected to mention to us, the serfs of this land, despite having had to declare any conflict of interest he might have when he took office.

SDG

Allegedly said company and its accompanying bank account were created as a depository for Anna Sigurlaug’s family inheritance at the behest of an advisor at Landsbanki bank. Her father sold the Icelandic Toyota dealership a few years ago and made a sh*tload of dosh off the sale, part of which he passed on to her, making her into Iceland’s youngest billionaire. The account was initially registered to both the PM and his wife, but when they decided to marry in 2010 they decided it would be more prudent to create a pre-nup and “separate their finances”. At which the PM supposedly sold his share in the company to his wife for a dollar.

Seems legit.

Now, the PM’s wife apparently did not just wake up one day and think “this would be a good day to tell the Icelandic nation about my offshore company”. Nope – the monumental announcement seems to have been instigated by questions Anna Sigurlaug received from an investigative journalist, Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson, who is currently working with investigative journos and media from several countries on exposing assets that world leaders and other influential people have stashed away in tax havens. Anna Sigurlaug did not mention this fact in her announcement – which, incidentally, was in the form of a Facebook status. It only came to light later.

So, what exactly are the implications of this?

You may want to get comfortable, maybe grab a drink … because this is gonna take a while.

You see, what also surfaced in the wake of this new information is that Anna Sigurlaug is a creditor of the collapsed Icelandic banks. Let me explain. When the Icelandic economic meltdown occurred in 2008, the three commercial banks operating in Iceland were nationalised, and subsequently made insolvent. For reasons that I won’t get into here, many foreign parties, including hedge funds, had large deposits in the banks. One of those parties was Anna Sigurlaug, via her offshore company. She had registered claims in the bankrupt estate in the amount of nearly half a billion Icelandic krónur (just over USD 4 million).

Now, just before the banks were made insolvent – indeed, as soon as the government saw that the Icelandic economy was about to tank along with the banks – they implemented emergency measures. These measures included capital controls, which meant that no one could take Icelandic krónur out of the country. The country essentially went into economic lockdown. Had they not done that, the króna would have become worthless within a few days and the Icelandic state would have been bankrupt. Those capital controls are still in place, the reason being that if they were suddenly removed, all the creditors of the collapsed banks would demand their money – and we would have the same situation as in 2008, with the króna plummeting in value with subsequent hyperinflation at best, insolvency at worst.

So this situation with the króna and the capital controls and everything is a major, major headache for Icelandic authorities – irrespective of which party they belong to. They will eventually have to be lifted, but how to do it? That’s the billion króna question.

Which brings me to the current government and their election promises before the last elections. When the PM was campaigning, his main election promise, and indeed THE promise that single-handedly led to his Progressive Party getting elected, was that he would offer debt relief to homeowners whose mortgages had skyrocketed in the meltdown. When questioned as to where the funds for this would come from (the cost was estimated at ISK 300 billion) his response was that he would negotiate a deal with the creditors of the collapsed banks, which he called hrægammasjóðir – “vulture funds” – a derogatory Icelandic term for hedge funds. He would let them take their money out of the country if they paid a hefty tax, which would offset the damage to the króna AND finance the debt relief package.

To many of us this sounded like wishful thinking at best, since the vulture funds had not even been asked if they agreed to this scheme – but whatever, lots of people bought into it, and the Progressive Party won the elections. Within weeks they had fulfilled, not their main election promise, not the one that had propelled them into office, but a scheme that removed taxes on the elite – most notably the fishing moguls, who are Iceland’s version of Megacorp Inc.

The negotiations with the vulture funds, on the other hand, appeared to have been forgotten – or at least sent down to the very very bottom of the list of priorities.

Then, just when everyone had nearly given up hope on the debt relief package, the PM announced that it was, indeed, forthcoming. Albeit with slight amendments. No negotiations had been entered into with the vultures, in the end – but not to worry! The plebs would get their debt relief, only it was a much smaller package than envisioned (ISK 80 billion) and it would be funded by … um, well … the taxpayers. Including the people who did not own homes and would not be getting any debt relief. Including the young people of this country. Including the old and infirm. But the promise was fulfilled! – And the government proceeded to congratulate itself profusely on its fantastic successes in the field of debt relief.

Okay. Now back to the vultures. They haven’t gone away, of course. They’re still hovering around going bitch better have my money. And the government still needs to negotiate a deal with them so they don’t ruin our fragile little economy with its dud of a currency when they withdraw their funds. Of course in these negotiations it is the government’s job to land the best deal possible on behalf of its clients, who are the Icelandic people. And the government is led by the Prime Minister. And also Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson (more on him momentarily).

But wait! It now turns out that THE PRIME MINISTER’S WIFE IS A VULTURE!

That means that our PM is negotiating with his wife. For a deal that would, if all was done correctly, minimise her profits (and, we have to assume, his – since they live in the same household) and maximize the profits of the Icelandic people.

SDG vultures

Hmmm. Does that by any chance make him … incompetent?

“Hell no!” screams the PM. “Hell no!” scream his Progressive Party cronies. “Hell YES!” scream the Icelandic people.

Whereas the Independence Party, with Bjarni Ben at the helm, remains curiously quiet. So quiet, indeed, that we begin to have creeping doubts. Particularly in light of the fact that BB seemed so very reluctant, a while back, for Icelandic tax authorities to pony up funds for a certain list sold by anonymous hackers and bought by several governments around the world, that would reveal which Icelanders had funds in tax havens. Particularly in light of the fact that he had introduced a bill in parliament that would grant amnesty to tax evaders if they came clean and paid up. After all, the Independence Party is no slouch when it comes to corrupt political practices – you might say they wrote the best-practice manual.

And so, two days ago our suspicions were confirmed. The data from the aforementioned investigations is beginning to trickle in and lo and behold, Bjarni Ben is one of two IP cabinet ministers who has an offshore bank account – the other being Ólöf Nordal, minister of the interior.

Now, if you don’t think this is outrageous enough, consider this: the PP and IP have consistently refused to even discuss the possibility of Iceland joining the European Union and thereby adopting a new currency. (Yes yes I know, EU membership is a bad deal yada yada, I’m not going to get into that here, it’s a whole other discussion.) They have agitated tirelessly for Iceland keeping the króna, extolling its virtues ad nauseum. But the sad fact is that the króna benefits only the elite, and keeps the rest of us in an economic straitjacket. And now we see that this country’s leaders clearly do not have any more faith in the króna economy than we do – in fact they operate with their assets outside the Icelandic economy, in a different currency! They don’t have to live in the lockdown with the rest of us – they can successfully invest and grow their wealth outside of this country. All the while continuing to live here and use the services paid for by the plebs of this country, and hammering on about how wonderful it is that we have the króna.

People, seriously. It’s enough to drive you to distraction. We have corrupt practices by these clowns being exposed daily – in fact it has become so overwhelming that most of us feel completely powerless. And no amount of protesting, no amount of indignation, seem to change anything. But this is big. The vast majority of the Icelandic people have no trust in this government any more. They have a year more in office, and it horrifies me to think what damage they can inflict in that one year.

SDG BB

Incidentally, this whole matter is wide-reaching and complex, and here I have tried to give a broad overview. I have not even begun to talk about how the PM refused to speak to the media after the scandal broke, and then hand-picked those media outlets that he knew would not ask any tough questions – including Iceland’s Útvarp Saga radio station, where the Donald Trump-supporters of Iceland hang out. So, feel free to add your thoughts, addendums, offshoots etc. in the comments.

A demonstration is planned for Monday at 5 pm. The outrage is palpable. We shall see what transpires.

[pics found here, here and here]

Black Friday comes to Iceland

Yesterday I was off on one of my book drop (distribution) runs around town, and along the way decided to stop off at a particular store to check out a piece of furniture we’ve been thinking of purchasing.

I had a couple of questions about it, so approached a sales lady who was working nearby. We had a brief discussion, and then she said to me in a lowered voice:

“Just wanted to let you know, though, if you’re thinking of buying this today, you should wait until tomorrow.”

I looked at her, puzzled.

“Because of that Black Friday thing.”

“Ah,” I said.

Black Friday in Iceland

 

Now, I knew what she meant, because I’m a citizen of the Internet. I have seen the adverts, and (more pointedly) the insane videos of people trampling each other as they rush to be the first in line for some super-duper, only-on-this-day-and-never-again offer. I knew it, even though she said it in Icelandic, and that the phrase “svartur föstudagur” has no specific cultural relevance in Icelandic as yet – except as a direct translation of the English-language term.

She continued, in the same hushed voice: “And if you’re thinking of buying [that particular item] then you should get here before we open at 11.”

“… Before?”

“Yes. You know, you should line up. Be one of the first in.”

As I walked away, I thought two things. One, that it was nice of her to tell me this. She was clearly breaking some store code by alerting me to the fact that the item would be heavily discounted the following day. Two … do we Icelanders really have to adopt this ridiculous tradition from the Americans? I mean, we don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving for God’s sake. Do we really need to have the nation conditioned to start blindly rushing after this like a well-trained hamster?

Ugh.

I’ll say this, though: If the Gods of Capitalism want a good candidate for their Black Friday Training Program, they picked the right one. Because the Icelanders are complete and utter suckers for this obscene type of marketing.

Oh, and that item I was looking at? A big ad in one of the papers today proclaimed that the first five through the door get 30 percent off.

Did I line up?

NO.

In abundance

Last night I was lying in bed and flipping through the Yule catalogue from the Kringlan mall, as you do.

FullSizeRenderEPI: Whatcha reading?

ME: The Kringlan catalogue. Very exciting.

EPI: Ah, ok. See anything you like?

ME: So far, no. I’m hoping I’ll find something, though, so I can put it on my list. I’m kind of stuck for ideas.

There was a moment, in which I pondered the absurdity of this situation.

Then …

EPI: It’s kind of crazy when we have to flip through a brochure searching for stuff to ask someone to give us for Christmas.

Why has this never occurred to me before? Why have I always considered a scenario like this totally normal?

Today is when people in the USA celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m going to be grateful for the fact that I have everything I need – in abundance.

Repose

A few days ago I noticed that my Ficus Benjamina had started to sprout tender new leaves.

Ficus BenjaminaIt always happens around this time, and it never ceases to amaze me that during the darkest time of the year here in Iceland, when daylight is considered a luxury, these brand-new shoots of life should spring forth. Just when you would think their natural tendency was to go into hibernation mode and just … shut down.

And then I am reminded that humans, too, renew ourselves during times of repose.

Once I thought that, in order to grow, I had to work relentlessly to make it happen. I thought that if I wasn’t putting in the effort then nothing would change. I wouldn’t change. And I wanted desperately to change because I had an awful malaise on the inside.

I worked and worked, fought and fought, struggled and struggled. And amazingly, I didn’t get very far. All that effort I was putting in, and things still weren’t turning out the way I wanted them to. So I tried harder, but all that did was make me feel worse. I was exhausted, spiritually, mentally and physically (all that emotional upheaval took its toll on my body, too).

Then someone suggested I stop. Just … STOP. Stop trying so hard.

That was really hard. I had no idea how to do it. I knew how to drive myself, but I had no idea how to rest. How to let myself be. But I started to learn. Slowly, gradually, I opened my mind to new things, and new solutions.

And amazing things happened. I realized that by letting go of the thought that only I could make things happen … they happened. All I needed to do was stop. To rest. I needed repose.

And in that repose, I started to grow.

 

On the exodus from Iceland

You’ve seen the Internet memes, and possibly also Paul Krugman’s enthusiastic columns proclaiming Iceland the poster child of economic recovery. Having in 2008 suffered the biggest banking collapse in history relative to its economic size, Iceland has now bounced back in spectacular fashion, with steady economic growth, virtually no unemployment, and only nominal inflation. On top of all that, the tourist industry is booming, and the building cranes are back. Time to party like it’s 2007! … Right?

TF-FIA_1469_1024But lo! According to new figures from Statistics Iceland we are looking at mass emigration of Icelanders this year. A total of 3,120 people moved away in the first nine months of 2015, offset by 1,990 people moving back, resulting in net emigration of 1,130. This figure has only been higher in five other years in recent history, three of which were the years immediately following the economic meltdown. The others were in 1970, after the herring stocks collapsed, and in 1995 following a recession in the early 1990s.

Weird, right? Because if things are so great – as the current government is constantly telling us – why are all those people leaving?

Independent media outlet Kjarninn recently did a fine analysis of the exodus in an editorial, breaking it down into three main causes:

1. Young, educated Icelanders have nowhere to work

Young Icelanders generally have a high level of education, but here in Iceland there are few suitable jobs for them. Most of the jobs that have been created in the last few years are in construction, the service industries, or tourism – work that does not necessarily require a high level of education. Part of the reason is that the business environment in Iceland is hostile to companies that want to compete in international markets. Most leave the country, or establish subsidiaries or work stations overseas, where conditions are more favourable. Consequently we are experiencing a serious brain drain in this country.

2. Young Icelanders have nowhere to live

Traditionally the Icelandic rental market has been very small, since most people own their own properties. Finding a rental apartment to rent has been difficult at the best of times, and at the moment it is a nightmare. The boom in tourism has meant a proliferation of Airbnb rentals that a) take rental properties off the regular market and b) push up the prices of rentals that remain.

As for purchasing your own flat, that has become increasingly difficult as well. Assuming that young people are able to find an apartment to rent, these rents are so astronomical that they eat up the bulk of their salaries, meaning they cannot save for a down payment on a mortgage. And anyway, who wants to take out an Icelandic mortgage? Our mortgages are indexed to inflation, which means that the principal just keeps going up and up. People make monthly payments for years but never form any equity in their home or pay down the mortgage, as it just keeps increasing. It is a crazy system, and one that young people understandably reject. Add to this the fact that a real estate bubble has pushed prices up so high that it is incredibly difficult to save for a down payment on a flat (in addition to the aforementioned problem of saving while renting).

The result? Since 2005 there has been a 60% increase in people 25-34 old who live with their parents. They have nowhere else to go – except abroad.

3. Young people are disillusioned with Icelandic politics

The current government administration serves the interests and needs of Iceland’s elite and does very little to help out young people. Educational opportunities have been restricted. The Icelandic krona, the root of so many evils, including the housing/mortgage crisis, is used to subsidise the commercial interests of the wealthy, primarily those who are exporting fish. (Not coincidentally they are the main backers of the current administration.) Consequently the government has no interest in ditching the krona – a move that might make young people to want to stay, as it could begin to create the sorts of economic conditions that would utilise their education and help them buy their own homes.

EPI and I have four daughters between us, and two of them now live abroad. I would not be surprised if the other two left in the next couple of years. And much as I wish it were not so, I cannot blame them one bit. There is nothing for them here.

[photo found here]

A page retires, a page is born

Earlier this month I announced that I was going to retire my Iceland Weather Report Facebook page. It so happened that the announcement came in the wake of a post that had attracted racist, hateful comments from a bunch of people who apparently were at their wits end because several thousand Icelanders wanted to help Syrian refugees whose children were drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

I’m not even going to try to describe what sorts of feelings and thoughts arose in me when I read some of those comments. Suffice it to say that I felt sick, and also shocked to think that I had, with my page, potentially been feeding those people’s fascist wet dream of Iceland as some sort of uncontaminated Aryan paradise. Also, I had been engaging in jovial online banter with them for weeks or months or years, all the time having no clue about their true nature. It creeped me out bigtime.

And so, I decided to stop updating the page, and posted a status to that effect. Over 100 people have now left comments asking me to reconsider, telling me how much they will miss the page, how much it has meant to them, and so on.

I am touched. Really. And also a little surprised, because I really had no idea.

However: the haters were not my only reason for retiring the page. They were certainly the thing that pushed me over the edge and helped me to make up my mind, but the fact is that I had been considering the idea for a long time. I was sort of done with the IWR page. But – full disclosure – I was also afraid to let it go. I had built up this following, this pleasant rapport with a lot of people … and was I just going to abandon all that?

I knew I didn’t want to leave social media entirely, but where to go, what to do?

tiny-move-9

Marketing folks like to talk about “branding”.  I dislike the term, but I get the logic. I feel like the IWR “brand” has run its course. My career these days is about my books, and I would like to be associated with them, rather than with a blog that I stopped updating years ago. I would like my social media presence to reflect more of who I am, what I believe, and what I am doing, rather than being confined and restricted by the place I live.

So I have decided to make the leap from the IWR to (gulp!) an author page. A page that not only has my full name on it, but also a label: WRITER. It’s kind of scary. Having a page – as opposed to a profile – with my name on it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. ALDA SIGMUNDSDÓTTIR: WRITER feels – ugh! – pretentious. Self-important.

So why not just use my personal profile as my Facebook presence, and do away with a page entirely? I have given this a lot of thought, and I don’t think I can make it work. On my personal Facebook profile, most of my friends are Icelandic. I express myself very differently to that group of people than I do to the group that has followed me on the IWR page, or who know me from my books. For one thing, I use Icelandic a lot. For another, my posts are frequently comments on things that are happening within Iceland, and that everyone in Iceland knows about. As such they don’t require context, and don’t make a lot of sense to the people in the non-Icelandic group. In the past when I have posted about Icelandic affairs, be it on the blog or the FB page, I have tried to provide context because that is what is needed. But starting to do that on my FB profile now just feels wrong. And anyway, I like having a place to discuss Icelandic affairs with those “in the know” without having to explain things.

And so (after that loooong preamble) I want to say that I hope you will join me on my new page. I don’t exactly know how it will develop, but I do know it will vary slightly in nature from the IWR page – although maybe not that much. After all, I am Icelandic, I live in Iceland, I care about Icelandic affairs, and many of my posts will naturally reflect that. On the other hand, I want to have the freedom to share other stuff, as well. Profound stuff. Goofy stuff. Non-Iceland stuff.

See you there.

[Pic: Almost Glamping]

Ps. of course you can also follow me on my personal FB profile if you want. And on Twitter. I’m on Twitter too. And Instagram!

A brief treatise on the Icelanders and their elf beliefs

I’m sure you have heard the stories: Icelanders believe in elves, won’t build anything without first checking whether there are elves living on the site, go around knocking on boulders to say hello to the elves, make whole entire maps of elf colonies, and blah-de-blah.

The international media loves to chew on this stuff, and the Icelandic tourist industry loves to feed it to them.

Well, I’m here to tell you: it’s a crock of poo.

07.09.rockface

“But!” I hear you say breathlessly. “There was this study that showed that Icelanders most definitely do believe in elves. I read about it in Vanity Fair [or insert name of other sophisticated media outlet here].”

Sure, ok. I will grant that there was a study. And allegedly, in this study, some amazingly high proportion of respondents said they believed in elves. However, and this is important: nobody ever tells you how the question was worded. The question was not: “Do you believe in elves?” The question was: “Would you be prepared to absolutely rule out the existence of elves?”

And some really high proportion said that they would absolutely not be prepared to rule out the existence of elves. Because, well, we don’t know, right? I mean, if I was asked “Would you absolutely rule out that the Kardashian family is a pack of zombies?” I would probably answer, “No, I would not absolutely rule it out”. Because what the hell do I know about zombies and the way they might choose to infiltrate mainstream media? Not a thing.

That doesn’t mean I believe that zombies are real, though. (In fact, what it probably means is that I have no freaking idea what makes the Kardashians and their vapid prattle so incredibly appealing … but that’s not the point.)

And please don’t get me started on those few Icelandic folks who run “elf schools” or offer elf tours to hapless tourists, who are led around the elf grounds and told where the elves live, where they go to church, where they do their grocery shopping, where they work out, and where they do whatever “elves” get up to in their daily lives. Sometimes the guides have conversations with elves which the poor tourists don’t see because THEY’RE NOT FREAKING THERE.

Run a poll asking, “Do you think the people who offer elf tours to tourists are weirdos who may or may not believe in elves but definitely believe in making money off tourists”, and I’m willing to bet that at least ninety-four percent of Icelanders would offer a resounding yes. If they were asked why they thought that, they’d probably say: “Because there is no such thing as elves”.

Yes, there have been instances of roads being diverted around some big boulder or other because they were allegedly “elf rocks”. However, that was done not because people actually believed elves lived in those rocks, but out of respect for the mythology of the rock in that particular location.

And, there is no fundamental difference between the terms “elves” and “hidden people”. In Icelandic folklore they are basically the same phenomenon, and the terms are used pretty much interchangeably. Still, to me the term “elves” conjures up thoughts of diminutive green-clad persons with pointy hats. This is vastly different from the elves, or hidden people, of Icelandic lore, who were almost always tall, regal, self-possessed, and a lot better looking than the snivelling mortals all around them. Naturally. After all, what else would you expect from creatures that can knead old people into infants?

Alda’s latest book is The Little Book of the Hidden People, which is all about the Icelanders and their elf beliefs.

The above passage is taken from Alda’s book The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days. It has been slightly edited for length and relevance.

Announcing some changes, plus a newsletter

Dear all! Since late last year I have been reflecting and ruminating on my career and the way I have been running things, and have decided that I want to make some changes. Nothing dramatic – just some subtle shifts that may add up to something bigger in the long run.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 18.15.29I’ve started by launching a newsletter that I’ll be releasing on a monthly basis. The idea is that it will be focused on my books, writing and publishing activities, which I am very passionate about and that are taking up an increasing amount of my time. Subscribers to my newsletter will get book news first, and will also get deals on any new releases. I’ll also share some fun and fascinating things that I’ve found on the internet over the course of the month, and talk about some things that are happening in my neck of the woods here in Iceland.

The newsletter will offer a more personal account of myself and my life than I currently share on social media. I do foresee that it will change and get more polished with time as I delve into it more and get a sense of what belongs there and what doesn’t. I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time and am really excited to be finally taking the plunge.

I would love for you to sign up for the newsletter – it will be separate from the blog posts I share here, so if you are subscribed to blog updates it does not mean that you will automatically receive the newsletter. To sign up click here, or use the form on the right at the top of the sidebar. If you want to see a sample newsletter, you can check out January’s offering here.

Also, I’m thinking that I want to start using this particular forum more for sharing bits and pieces throughout the month – whatever I happen to be interested in or passionate about. Mind you, I say that with some trepidation because my intentions to inject power into my blogging activities have tended to fall flat in the past – honourable as they were at the time. But we shall see. In any case, consider yourselves warned, hehe.

In any case, I am pretty sure that my days of ranting on The Iceland Weather Report have finally come to a close. I want to move on to other types of writing, something that is more rewarding for me personally, and I am grateful to have the option to do that here.

2014: My Year in Review

It’s that time of year again!

NYE2

NIGHTMARE OF THE YEAR

Anything to do with Icelandic politics. It has been one blow after another after another to those of us who believe in honesty and integrity and keeping promises and sticking up for those who need it most. The government has worked diligently to erode the infrastructure of Icelandic society and appears to be succeeding spectacularly. At the close of the year, Icelandic doctors are still on strike in protest of their working conditions and wages, while the Progressive Party (the one in power) has no problem creating new ministerial positions for their own people, and appointed a new Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources on the last day of the year. Judging by what we have seen of her so far, she will be doing Icelandic nature no favours. Like someone remarked on Facebook: “When will we wake up from this nightmare?” Alas, I fear that won’t happen for another two-and-a-half years.

CORK-POPPER OF THE YEAR

My graduation from university. Three years ago I set out to finish my undergraduate degree which, for various reasons I had never finished. At the time I was interested in a job that required me to have a degree, and being rather pissed off at being forced through the social-conformity pressure cooker that was academia, I set out to do the easiest degree possible. My choice was “English”, and I didn’t expect to actually get into it very much, but somewhere along the way I actually started to enjoy the process and decided to alter my course by doing a minor in Ethnology. I also happened to lose interest in the job, which I essentially only wanted because it would allow me time to write. Long story short,  I now have a BA in English, with a minor in Ethnology and am devoting myself to what I wanted to be doing all along: WRITING.

PUBLISHING MOGUL OF THE YEAR

Apropos. I published a book this year, sort of a follow-up to my Little Book of the Icelanders, but about the Icelanders in the Old Days. Due to a rather serious breach-of-trust between myself and the publisher of the first Little Book, I decided to go indie on this one (plus I am a huge enthusiast of indie publishing, as per last year’s review). It was a sh*tload of work and required me to do stuff that a regular publisher has people in several departments taking care of (writing, marketing, producing, distributing, accounting, fielding queries, negotiating with translators, etc.) but boy, it has been amazingly rewarding and fun. I worked with a brilliant illustrator and a wonderful designer (my husband, hehe), had the book printed in Poland and shipped to me here in Iceland. I then hit the road with stacks of boxes in the back of my car, first driving around the West Fjords with my husband, then the Ring Road with my daughter, meeting retailers and distributing the book. It was a fantastic experience, I got to meet some amazing people and generally had a fabulous time. I have just signed deals to have the book translated into French and German, plus I’ve got another book ready to launch this spring. Also, there has been lots of interest in translations of my first Little Book, and it will soon appear in Czech and Polish in addition to the French and German already out, and possibly some other languages as well. Unraveled is also currently being translated into Spanish, although we still don’t know what will happen with that. All this being said, as the administration is becoming correspondingly more complicated, I’m now working on finding someone to take on the distribution and accounting for me so I can devote myself to what I really wanted to be doing all along: WRITING.

PROUD MAMA AND STEPMAMA OF THE YEAR

I’m so proud of my daughter and stepdaughters, who are all forging ahead with gusto in their respective professions, and working to create the life they want for themselves. My eldest stepdaughter, Ásthildur, moved to Sweden in March with her partner and their two little boys, to do her specialization as an MD in family medicine. My middle stepdaughter, Ólöf, began the year working as a teacher but got head-hunted by Iceland’s hottest start-up Plain Vanilla (maker of QuizUp) last summer and is doing brilliant work for them. My youngest stepdaughter, Ragnheiður, beat out literally hundreds of applicants from all over the world to be one of eight people accepted into the production programme at the prestigious National Film and Television School in London. And my daughter, Aldís, continued to grow and develop as a performer at Iceland’s National Theatre School, regularly putting me in awe of her talent and surprising me with facets of her character that I had never seen before. Not to mention that she landed one of Iceland’s most coveted jobs, being one of around 100 people hired as an Icelandair flight attendant for which about 1,200 people applied.

GRATITUDE OF THE YEAR

Is for all the people who supported my writing career this year and purchased one of my books, reviewed one or more of my books, acted as beta readers for my new book, donated to my Indiegogo fundraising campaign, sent me messages saying how much they liked my book(s), offered to translate my books, joined the conversation on Facebook, encouraged others to join the conversation on Facebook, tweeted about my books, retweeted my tweets and generally helped me along on my journey. I feel so blessed.

And on that note … HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE and may all your dreams and wishes come true in 2015!