Q & A with Grace Coberly


Grace Coberly is a high school senior from the suburbs of Chicago. She has taken creative writing courses at Brown University and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, and her work has earned a Silver and a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. When not writing poetry or fiction, she spends her free time composing choral music.

1. In what ways has Iceland informed your work?

What continues to astonish me about Icelanders is their unwavering belief in folklore. Witnessing this phenomenon firsthand impacted my reading list — which now includes a fair amount of magical realism — and opened my mind to a world of writing in which anything is possible. On a more specific note, the sheer number of thriller novels and poetry collections that come out of this one tiny country just goes to show that Iceland is a hub for creative writing.

2. What drew you to Iceland in the first place?

Twenty-five years ago, my father took a law school course on the Icelandic sagas. On a whim, he took my mother on a road trip from Reykjavík to Akureyri; since then, my entire family has claimed false Icelandic heritage and visited whenever possible. As anyone who’s seen it will agree, there’s really nothing like 11:59 pm on an Icelandic New Year’s Eve.

3. As an artist/scholar, how does travel help or hinder the creative process?

Depending on the artist, uprooting oneself can be either a distraction or a blessing. Some could argue that too much travel minimizes the ability to focus on one thing. Personally, however, I find that a change of scene can be refreshing, pulling me out of whatever creative rut I might find myself in. Traveling allows me to create things that are entirely unexpected.

4. How do you think locals view traveling artists/scholars (either in Iceland or beyond)?

I think artists tend to be very respectful compared to the average tourist. We seek to honor and interpret the history, culture, and allure of foreign places in our own individual ways. I hope that locals recognize this intention, and in a country as welcoming as Iceland, I’m sure they do.




[ Q & A ]