Book review: 88 by Alva

“we’re supposed to throw ourselves out there, take risks! but never ever show any kind of pain or sense of failure if things don’t turn out the way we hope they will.”

There was a statistic in the news last year stating that 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book. Iceland is a country for book lovers although only a very small percentage of those published are then translated into English. It’s probably no wonder that many people interested in Iceland turn to bloggers to find out more about daily life and their thoughts on current events. Iceland Eyes was a hugely influential blog for me. Maria has covered just about every aspect of Iceland you can think during the many years she has been blogging. In recent years it’s been interesting to see through her blog and other social media that she has become more introspective in her writing and interested in more mystical topics. I was really excited when she announced she would have a book out. 88 was written under the name Alva to deliberately make it more artistic and less completely “her”.

88 is actually quite hard to review as I feel like it’s a very personal book. Maria gave 88herself a timeline of 88 days to write this book in. Because of this, the book is reflective of her daily life and thoughts during this period, dipping in and out of life events and coming back to include Iceland’s natural surroundings. Writing without an idea of the overall outcome as you don’t know what will happen during those days is an interesting concept. Having read her blog I had several moments where I “recognised” what she was talking about and knew more of the wider context, and it was interesting to read about the same events in a different format. Having said that, there is an element of fiction as this is not a diary and you should not assume that everything in this book happened at all, or specifically to Maria.

This book has a style that you could either love or hate, it’s non-linear and almost reads like a poem in places. It means you could just read a few random pages without feeling that you’ve missed out  by not reading it in order. It is full of emotion and I would imagine it was pretty cathartic to write. Maria is a natural writer and proven she can adapt her writing style, and be a creative writer as well as she can cover factual topics.

You can buy this book in the Mál og Menning bookstore on Laugavegur in Reykjavík, via Blurb (UK link here but should take you to your local website) or download via iTunes.



11 Iceland/Nordic blogs I like

These are some of my favourite bloggers from 2013. They all feature Icelandic or Nordic content either some or most of the time This isn’t to say that I don’t read and love other blogs, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to introduce readers to some other Iceland and Nordic-related bloggers. I know 11 is an odd number but I couldn’t cut any of them out!

I’ve done them in alphabetical order so as not to play favourites:

Alles Ist Gut – She and I seem to have followed each other around Iceland for the last couple of years. Reading her posts reminds me of my own holidays.

An Icelandic Adventure – Frida moved to Iceland to be with her Icelandic boyfriend. It’s been fun reading about her journey.

Flippism is the Key – Professor Batty has kept this blog going for 10 years – what an inspiration. He has written about many aspects of Iceland and his visits there.

Iceland, Defrosted – Edward has written a book about Iceland by the same name and also writes for the Iceland Review. Another Iceland obsessive!

Iceland Eyes – Maria writes the blog I used to read for years before starting my own. Always insightful, I learned a lot about Iceland from her.

Otto’s Son – Jon has Icelandic/Norwegian heritage and has had some great trips to both places.  He also has Norwegian horses and a whole array of wildlife in his back yard!

Parkers in Iceland – Ethna and Chris’s adventures in Selfoss. A good expat perspective.

Storyteller Girl – Grace is a great writer who features amongst other things some interesting Nordic music that you may not have heard of. She also visited Iceland for the first time in 2013.

The Iceland Experience – Goedele has been volunteering in Iceland for the last year.

Vicki the Viking – Vicki made the move to Iceland all the way from Australia and now runs a successful guesthouse.

Worldly Scandifriend – Aidan writes about all things Nordic and is a linguist extraordinaire.

What I’ve learned in two years of blogging

The blog is two years old today. I KNOW. This was just supposed to be a bit of fun that no one was ever going to read. If you told me it would still be going in 2013 I’d have been very impressed. And weirdly, this is also my 200th post – it’s as if I planned it.

I have learned a few things along the way. None of this is rocket science but it’s the kind of thing you don’t know when you start out blogging.

1. Have a topic. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, but if you don’t have one it’s very hard to develop any kind of readership. Although your daily life is interesting to you, it’s really not interesting to read about – so you’ve got to have some kind of focus.

2. It’s ok if the topic changes.  Your readers will stay with you. And a few random posts about whatever else is going on in your life is ok too. You just can’t have a blog that’s nothing but random posts. Or at least if you do, it’s called a diary that no one wants to read.

3. Keep it going. So many blogs I have read just fizzled out. In fact most of them do. If you don’t post regularly when you start, it doesn’t become a habit, which means you don’t build a regular group of readers, which means it isn’t very interesting for you as a writer, which means you fizzle out. I made a point of posting 3 times a week for at least six months when I started – I don’t know how I did it now, but it was worth it.

4. Become high in a list of search results. Unknowingly, by following point 3, I managed to end up quite high in Google searches on Iceland. This led to more readers, which also ultimately made this become more of a travel website than I had intended originally.

5. Be kind to your fellow bloggers. They are the only ones that will bother to comment on your posts, which means a lot! Some of my most viewed posts are the least commented on, as they have been read by random people who don’t blog and don’t realise how much some input helps you as a writer.

Two years down the line the blog has a become a place for me where I can visit Iceland every day.

Random loveliness

Random loveliness

The online community means that I don’t just get to go to Iceland for a few days at a time. I can keep up with what’s going on, meet other Iceland obsessives and even feel like I’m there by looking at live webcams. I can do all this every day if I want to. If I stopped blogging now, I would lose part of this community.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me for a while and to the more casual readers for continually challenging me with your questions and helping me to learn more about Iceland in the process! Any suggestions for content are always welcome.

I’m curious about other bloggers – why do you blog, and can you sum it up in a sentence?

I’ve never reblogged a post before, but this topic is one I have been wanting to address for a while. What we write is for the public and everyone is entitled to their opinions, but how does it feel when someone starts telling you what you should write on your blog? Or when you see your ideas being copied without credit? For most of us our blogs are meant to be just a bit of fun, but ironically they feel very personal despite being out there in the public domain, which is why I think things can get heated sometimes. Anyway, Emily has written about this far more eloquently than I could and has had some really insightful comments on the subject.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one, whether you’re a blogger or not.

The Waiting

Last night I was reading one of my favorite blogs, which I don’t get around to visiting too often because it’s so good that I need to allot at least an hour to just to catch up. With 10,000+ active followers, it’s one of the big blogs where the comments are usually as funny and smart as the posts themselves. The blogger who runs the site admits that although she does profit a bit off the ad revenue that it generates, she has a day job that has nothing to do with the subject she writes about. The blog is mostly for her own fun.

While reading the comments on the latest post, I found one where a commentor complained that the blogger made too big a deal out of the topic of the post. The commentor criticized her (albeit rather politely) for essentially making a mountain out of a…

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Secret Santa for Bloggers

You know you’re a blogger when…

You spend more time looking for an imaginary Secret Santa present for someone you’ve never met than you did on the real Secret Santa present you had to buy for someone in the office.

Yep, some of us have got together to play online Secret Santa, a first for me. The blogger I’m “buying” for also writes quite a lot about travel and has had some fun adventures from the look of it. I would have never come across her blog if not for this project.

This has been much more fun than having to think up the cringey real-life present I’ve had to buy someone in the office and a virtual present cost me nothing! Another reason to love blogging…

Happy blogiversary to me…

“What if no one reads it?”

“What if people write mean things in the comments?”

“But are hot dogs REALLY the right topic for a first post?”

“I’ve got 10 views now! Oh, how many of those are just me clicking on things?”

Clearly, I had a lot of worries when I started blogging.

Hard as it is for me to imagine, the blog is a year old today. Back when I started I never would have thought I’d keep it going this long, but I under-estimated the fun of blogging, and getting to know so many of you through your own blogs. I love that every blog has its own little community and a different feeling when you virtually “walk” into it. All of my initial worries became completely irrelevant…

So, a big thank you to all of my readers for your support. I’ve loved seeing some of you getting excited about your first trip to Iceland, and then hearing about your experience when you return. Some bloggers have hooked me in just through great writing, and I hope that I have picked up some tips from you along the way.

A few things I’ve learned:

  • Some readers come and go and that’s ok.
  • I’ve stopped being obsessed with stats – they go up and down for no real reason!
  • Write about whatever you feel like writing about and don’t get too tied down to your “topic” if you have one.
  • The only people who comment are other bloggers, because they understand that it’s helpful to get something back from your audience.

Going forward, I’d like to keep the blog interesting by trying different things – guest posts and giveaways have been my first ideas borrowed from other blogs that seem to work well. If I’m going to dream big, I’d love to be paid to do something Iceland-related for a living! You never know…

To close, I leave you with a link to my most popular post from the last year, on “10 Good Reasons to Live in Iceland” – I wouldn’t say it was the best post but it must have hit the search engines in all the right places. My second most popular post was “Icelandic Girls Rock!” which was a perfectly innocent post from me about music but I found there are a worrying amount of people searching for Icelandic girls out there…

Here’s to another year of blogging!

Blast from the past

Well, I’ve got a busy few days ahead of me. They involve carbo-loading, trying on all my running outfits, charging my watch, watching the course video AGAIN, panicking, buying lots of treats for afterwards…yes, the time has finally come to run my first marathon this weekend! I feel much better this week and well rested and am now actually looking forward to seeing what I can do with all that training.

In my absence I am going to give you some homework. I am shamelessly “borrowing” this idea from my friend Jacqueline at Mature Student Hanging in There.

When you discover a new blog, it’s very hard to actually go back and read every single post (this is what makes me wish you could buy a magazine of your favourite blogs sometimes, but that’s another story). So here is a chance for me and all of you to share two posts that we think everyone should read. These could be what you think are your best posts, or your most commented on, those that best sum up your blog, most likes or whatever other criteria you like!

Looking back on my posts, I found it quite hard to pick two. For me, some of my first posts are my most memorable because it was so hard to write them and I had no audience yet. I also like some of my photo posts because they bring back particular memories.

I decided to go with two posts from December that I really enjoyed writing. At the time I didn’t know that I would visit in February and knock off a couple from the bucket list.

My Icelandic bucket list

My Iceland 2011

Please share your links below so that my extremely talented audience and I can enjoy some of your old posts! Thank you! Next time you hear from me, I will be a marathoner…

What makes a good blog post for you? Are there some types of posts you enjoy writing more than others? Does it matter if a post gets no comments – does it influence what you write about?