I was reading Sara Gran’s great essay about being a writer in Brooklyn that appears in today’s New York Times, and I started thinking about how great living in Ann Arbor is for a writer. And of course by “a writer” I mean me.
First, I just got back from the Kerrytown Book Festival (one of two book festivals put on in the city each year) where I had the pleasure of meeting and drinking with several cool writers. In Gran’s essay, she says Brooklyn is a horrible place for a writer to live because there are so many writers and it’s hard to be unique or make an impression. Well Ann Arbor is a great city for writers because of all the reasons Brooklyn is, without the ridiculous over abundance of famous writers.
Benefit number one has got to the be the book store factor. In addition to the three chains (including the flagship Borders store) there are several general independent book stores, many, many used book stores, and quite a few unique and specialty stores, including Aunt Agatha’s, one of the best mystery bookstores in the country. And in general, Ann Arbor is a city that respects writers and writing. The MFA program at the University of Michigan is one of the best in the country, which has something to do with it I’m sure, but there are many writers in the city who have no affiliation with the U at all.
Aside from the literary benefits of the city, the cultural and sociological benefits of the city are myriad. There are art house cinemas, professional theatres, random art galleries, and many venues for things that can only be called…Interesting. Exposure to other art and different cultures is essential to a writer and again, the U provides quite a bit of both. Once a young writer has been exposed long enough to begin crafting his own stories, there are quite a few literary magazines he can be published in without ever leaving the Ann Arbor zip codes. These of course include the Michigan Quarterly Review, Orchid, Hobart, and Current.
In addition to the current crop of Ann Arbor writers, the city has a long literary pedigree with writers as diverse as Arthur Miller, Ross Macdonald, Bob Seger, and Lawrence Kasdan having links to the city. One of the problems Gran talks about in her essay is having so many writers living in Brooklyn makes it near impossible to find new angles of the city to mine for inspiration. Ann Arbor has no such problem. In fact, the city is virtually virgin territory for writers to explore. One day I’d like to attempt my own take on the city.
Location-wise, Ann Arbor also has much to offer. It’s close to Detroit and Chicago, and more importantly, it’s a good hour drive away from Flint so pop-in visits from my parent aren’t an issue. Well I guess that isn’t really a writing asset, but this piece isn’t really about just any writer, now is it?
So there you go, lots of reasons why Ann Arbor is the perfect city for a writer. Now don’t go and ruin it by moving here.