I started writing about Iceland’s volcanoes a year and a half ago, and I felt rather audacious. After all, I am not a geologist, a volcanologist, or even Icelandic. But I am drawn back to Iceland as often as I can rationalize a trip. When I am there I always spend time in the bookstores. I have looked at the books about Iceland’s volcanoes and they are either written by geologists for people who have studied geology and have a strong scientific vocabulary or they are picture books – usually capturing the latest eruption in all its glory.
When I travel, I like to have natural history books with me, so that I have a chance of identifying the birds, flowers and trees I am likely to see. This helps me understand the environment around me.
Over the years that I have visited Iceland I have found handbooks of the birds that live or visit there, and one for the many flowering plants. When I am hiking or visiting there in the warmer months, I have the books in my daypack, to resolve any questions of identification that arise.
Hiking is my favorite activity in Iceland, and it is impossible to ignore the volcanic landscape. Columnar basalt, moss covered lava, erratics, volcanic cones, bubbling mud pots, geysers – they all contribute to a fascinating landscape. When we drive through the countryside, peaks, glaciers and all variety of landmarks are pointed out: Hekla, Hengill, Krýsuvík and many more. These three are all on the list of Icelandic volcanoes. And there are stories to go with each of them!
A few years ago I realized that a book about the volcanoes that includes their stories is what I think is needed – and I could write it. I love doing research and worked for decades in jobs that required a lot of writing about technical subjects for general readers – state legislators and the public.
Winter in the Pacific Northwest is a good time to start a new writing project, and last year that is what I did. Whenever I completed a chapter I have shared it with two friends who have spent most of their lives in Iceland, Bragi in Reykjavík and Selma on her farm, not far from here.
Join a writers group! is one of the commandments for writers working toward publication. So I joined the Olympia Critique Writers Group which has many members but a core of about eight who meet most weeks to listen, read and critique each others´ work. All of my reviewers there have been helpful and enthusiastic. ‘‘This makes me want to go to Iceland!‘‘ is my favorite comment.
After reading the first few chapters, Selma asked if she could share the chapters with her Dad who was visiting from Iceland. Of course! He liked what he read, too. Selma told me that he started referring to me as The Volcano Lady. Writing this book did not seem quite so audacious after all.