Friday, December 14, 2007

Final post

I'm writing this on my last day as editor of Lögberg-Heimskringla, just to say goodbye and to add a photo that many people have asked me to publish in L-H. That fact that it's a photo of my daughter in no way influences my decision...

Little Fiona Kristjana was born during the first day of the Icelandic National League Convention this year in Winnipeg, April 27. It was an exciting and long night for Bronwen and me — in fact we thought the baby would be born on the 26th but it didn't work out that way. Anyway, for the rest of the weekend, I went back and forth between the Fort Garry Hotel where the convention was in full swing so I could cover it for L-H (and moderate a discussion panel I had put together) and the St. Boniface Hospital, where Fiona had been born and Bronwen was recuperating. Some people at the convention started calling Fiona (as yet unnamed) "the INL baby." About 300 people every day were asking what we were going to name her.

Anyway, Fiona has grown up bright and healthy so far, and for Hallowe'en, Bronwen and I decided to have a little fun with the Nordic side of Fiona's heritage. Fiona seemed to get a kick out of it too, if the photo is anything to go by. Maybe next year we can take inspiration for a costume from Bronwen's Celtic/Scottish background...

Anyway, it has been an honour to serve as editor of L-H. I won't belabour the history (and if you're a subscriber, you've heard this from me already). I hope you enjoy this "parting shot."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Running out of room

I don't know why I started doing it years ago, but at whatever publication I work for, I keep a copy of every issue I've worked on in a stack underneath my desk (or beside it). It's mainly because I'm too lazy to get up and walk to the other room where they are all stacked in piles per issue — when I want to see how something was designed or when an article appeared, I want to flip through the issue ASAP. Also I have a tendency to walk into another room for the express purpose of something or other but by the time I get there my thoughts have moved on and I can't remember why I needed to go into the room in the first place.

The only problem is that after a while, even at a newspaper that only publishes twice a month, the papers begin to pile up. You can see here what might seem a modest pile of Lögberg-Heimskringlas — but it actually represents every issue (except one) that I worked on as designer or editor since coming back to L-H in February 2004.

I know many subscribers have piles of back issues much more impressive than these — I've seen them! I wonder why they are keeping them, if not as a reference for what we should or shouldn't put into the next issue. Anybody out there have a theory?

P.S. (added at 4:09) in case anyone is wondering why the papers on top seem whiter than those on the bottom, it's not just because the ones on the bottom are older and have started to yellow (this pile has almost never seen sunlight). We switched from printing with The Daily Graphic to The Prolific Group in January 2006, and printed the newspaper on better paper. That's why there's a clean break in the colour of the papers.

Change is in the wind

It's been announced in Lögberg-Heimskringla and a notice was posted in the Winnipeg Free Press, but in case you don't read either of those excellent publications, I'll add here that I will be stepping down as editor of L-H later this month. It has been a great experience and I've gotten to know many in the Icelandic community, from all over North America, as well as try a few new things with the newspaper.

In case you know of anyone who might be interested in applying, L-H is currently accepting applications for the position of Managing Editor. The job posting is as follws:

NOW HIRING: Writer/Editor

Growing ethnic newspaper seeks full-time Managing Editor. Duties include writing editorials and articles, editing,  managing the daily operations of the newspaper and working with the other four staff members to produce two issues per month. Knowledge of Icelandic culture and community an asset. Apply in writing by December 5 to:

Attn: Audrey Kwasnica
100-283 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB
R3B 2B5

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's on the shelf (recently)

If you're a mystery fan (and I wouldn't say I am... I mainly know Sherlock Holmes and the Cadfael books), you should browse through what's coming out of Iceland these days. Arnaldur Indriðason's series about police detective Erlendur (Voices, Jar City, and many others) have been winning over readers in translation, and now there is Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, a civil engineer who wrote Last Rituals, a mystery that delves into Iceland's history of witch hunts.

When I studied Icelandic history I was surprised to find that most of the people persecuted for witchcraft in that country were men, not women. I seem to recall it had something to do with the fact that witches were not permitted to own property, so if you got your neighbour accused of witchcraft you might just snag his land as well.

Anyway, Last Rituals is a great read. If you have been reading Björk Bjarnadóttir's folklore column in Lögberg-Heimskringla, some of the bizarre and morbid Icelandic folk beliefs the novel turns up won't come as a complete surprise...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What's on the spindle

The Weakerthans rock. If you haven't heard them, or have but don't have their new album "Reunion Tour," check it out. This band just keeps getting better, and probably scores highest on writing Songs That Are Just True of any group I've heard.

Also, if you like great punk/rock songs with a lot of attitude, search out the debut EP by The Papsmears, "Love Chords." These women can really play.

I've added a new menu to this blog called "Playlist" ... I'll list links to bands mentioned here, so you can check them out.

P.S. "Spindle" for all you young folks out there means the thing that holds a record on the turntable. Yes, even in high school, I bought records instead of tapes sometimes because I thought they sounded better. And I refused to pay an extra five bucks for the CD version. Still, I'm glad I did not become a music fan in the eight-track era... that's about as great a format as RealAudio.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Are you a Lögberg or a Heimskringla?

Over the years I've worked at L-H, I've noticed that some long-time readers still associate with the original newspapers — some have said to me, "We only got the Heimskringla" or "We were a Lögberg family." When L-H had its first website in 1999,, we heard from a few people about how we were ignoring the Heimskringla. And when we launched the Heimskringla 120 Club in 2006 as a fundraising drive within the Future Fund, we heard from people who wondered why we were excluding Lögberg.

While I don't intend to explicate those past decisions here, I thought I'd mention that you can now put Lögberg or Heimskringla on your computer desktop, with some new desktop wallpapers our designer Lesley has come up with. (And yes, there are L–H desktops too...)

Visit our website and go to the "Get Icelandic" page. The desktop wallpapers are free to download, in a variety of sizes. We will be adding more as Lesley creates them.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The joys of proofreading

For anyone who thinks proofreading takes only a few minutes, I submit the following: The Lögberg-Heimskringla Future Fund Capital Campaign donor wall.

What you see in the photo are the second set of proofs from John Henry Creations, who are building the permanent donor recognition wall which will list all donors to the Future Fund campaign, and the people donors wished to honour. At last count this was something like 1200 names AT LEAST — an overwhelming show of support for L-H from the Icelandic community.

Karen and I proofed the donor matrix every time we published donors' names in the newspaper, and made corrections based on phone calls, e-mails and letters from donors. We also pulled out all the original donor cards and checked our matrix against every donation when we sent the final matrix to John Henry. Karen also called many of the donors to doublecheck things that seemed "not quite right." Then the whole matrix had to be set at John Henry, and we received proofs of the panels for the donor wall.

We went through all of those names again and checked them against our master list.

After we noted corrections to be made, we asked John Henry Creations for another set of "final" proofs — just to be sure we hadn't missed anything. After looking at multiple spellings of Kristjanson, Kristjansson, Kristjánsson (and many other common Icelandic names), we knew we'd have to go over everything at least one more time.

This was many hours of work... Karen has gone over the whole matrix and noted corrections to be made, now I am doing the same.

We still plan to have a donor wall unveiling at the L-H office before Christmas.

Who we are

The staff of Lögberg-Heimskringla.

From left: Karen Bowman, Administrative Assistant; Audrey Juve Kwasnica, Business Manager; Catherine Lambertsen McConnell, Advertising and Marketing Manager; Lesley Nakonechny, Layout Editor; and David Jón Fuller, Managing Editor.

This photo was taken by Linda Bjarnason of Calgary, AB, the Monday after the Icelandic National League Convention.

Blogging versus editorials

I used to scorn the idea of writing a blog, since I write an editorial for L-H every two weeks and sometimes it's difficult enough to figure out what to write for that. I looked to my predecessors in the editor's chair, three of whom I worked with.

In backwards chronological order... Steinþór Guðbjartsson used to write about miscellaneous items, whether it be Icelandic communities he had visited, the collaborative Gimli Diet and Exercise Program, changing seasons and even airport security.

Lillian Vilborg Macpherson often wrote editorials based on memories — stories from her life, or about people she'd known, touching on subjects such as prejudice, holidays and places she had lived.

Gunnur Isfeld usually preferred not to write formal editorials, and I can see why... sometimes after putting the whole newspaper together you sometimes don't have anything else to say!

Still, a blog is more informal even than the "person-to-person" tone of an L-H editorial. Maybe I can interest you in tales of budget planning, ad campaigns, rustling up new ways to cover all things Icelandic that haven't been tried in the 121 years this newspaper has been publishing —

Wait, where are you going? This is exciting stuff!

First post...

Well: this venerable ethnic newspaper has arrived in the 21st-century blogosphere. Welcome to Blögberg-Heimskringla, surely the most cumbersome, and yet strangely alluring, name since two Icelandic newspapers amalgamated in 1959.

I'll explain this now and then try to set up an FAQ, since I know many people will wonder why the long name for this blog.

Okay. In short, when the Icelanders began emigrating to North America in the 19th century, they brought with them their love of reading. The first Icelandic settlers were actually converts to the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints, principally from the Westmann Islands, and they were directed to settle in Spanish Fork, UT, beginning in 1855. A later, and quite separate, emigration followed to Canada and the United States in the 1870s, with many Icelanders homesteading in Manitoba and North Dakota. (For all you hard-core Icelandic descendants reading this, yes, I know I am glossing over settlements in other places).

There were a number of attempts to begin publishing an Icelandic newspaper — Framfari ("Progress") began in 1877 and lasted until 1880. Another publication was Leifur, which lasted from 1884 to 1886.

However, in September 1886, Heimskringla (named after the famous work by Snorri Sturluson; roughly translated, the title means "the ring around the world") began publishing in Winnipeg, MB. In perhaps true Icelandic fashion, one of the founders decided he could not work with the others, and in January 1888 he founded Lögberg (named after the "law rock" of Iceland's parliament, the oldest in the world).

Both newspapers published in Icelandic out of Winnipeg, reaching Icelandic immigrants across North America. Heimskringla was seen as the more Conservative (politically) and Unitarian newspaper, where as Lögberg was Liberal and Lutheran.

After decades of rivalry, they amalgamated in order to keep publishing in 1959 — which is why the newspaper is now called "Lögberg-Heimskringla."

I called this blog "Blögberg-Heimskringla" just for fun.