Inspirations and opportunities are kind of like ninjas, only more skilled in the disguise department and less so with the whole lethal assassin thing. They can strike anywhere, anytime, but some places exist as a little more “at-risk” than others. Aspirant writers hoping to further their careers might be able to scratch up leads, jobs, and promotion and publishing chances in a wide number of cities, but the following just might grant them something of an edge. With so many professional positions, festivals, awards, and sites of literary significance to explore, chances are high they’ll find something to pique their budding careers.
New York City, N.Y., United States:
It’s probably the ultimate in writerly cliches, but one that nevertheless persists without fail. Literary history buffs can gnaw away at their creative blocks by exploring sites of inspiration past, like the Algonquin Hotel and the New York Public Library, or networking at the hundreds of lectures, workshops, classes, readings, and other events that always seem to be going down. And let’s not forget the annual Pulitzer Prize at Columbia University. Plus, the staggering number of agents, publishers, and independent book shops that call New York home mean plenty of professional opportunities for funding that novel you’re jotting down on the sly.
London was New York before New York was even New York. Most major publishing companies have some sort of presence here, and even smaller presses still post quite a few jobs for consideration; suffice it to say, finding an agent shouldn’t prove too difficult an undertaking, either! As one of the world’s largest hubs of international activity, Londoners encounter numerous perspectives to fuel their literary inspirations. Take these new friends on visits to Charles Dickens’ house, strolls down Baker Street, or to plays at the Globe Theatre and soak up the city’s wealth of literary history.
Matsuo Basho composed haiku amongst the Nihonbashi intellectuals in the 17th century. Yukio Mishima led his infamous revolt against the Japanese Special Defense Forces before its failure resulted in seppuku. Haruki Murakami and his wife briefly owned a Kokubunji coffee shop and jazz club, and he discovered a love of novel writing after a game at Jingu Stadium. Even beyond that, the at-once beautifully historical and awe-inspiringly modern Japanese capitol still boasts quite the literary pedigree. Like London and New York, publishers and agents alike thrive in Tokyo, and the perpetual fervor of activity always means there’s a story to find.
UNESCO declared the Icelandic capitol one of its Creative Cities of Literature in August of 2011 because of its citizenry’s devotion to the written word, which extends as far back as medieval times. Eddas and Sagas of the Norse peoples sparked this passion, and Iceland itself boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.9%. Not only that, but the government itself sponsors translation and linguistic projects and enjoys nurturing literary exchanges with cities worldwide.
October 2004 saw UNESCO bequeath the very first Creative City of Literature title onto the city that spawned some of the biggest names in the English language canon. The global organization specifically cited Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson as its most notable literary alumni, and lauds Edinburgh as the home of the prestigious Man Booker Prize. Scots hope to encourage more visitors and citizens by playing up its prodigious writerly heritage and serve as role models for other countries hoping to promote the inherent value of the written word.
Given Turkey’s unique geographic location straddling European and Asian cultures, it makes perfect sense that Istanbul enjoys quite a diverse, wealthy literary life; Divan literature once flourished here, producing some of the best surviving examples in the world. Bibliophiles flock to the annual Istanbul Tanpinar Literary Festival for an international education on past, present, and future movements as well as detailed cultural exchanges. Travel + Leisure lauds how cultural shifts have been occurring thanks to some of Istanbul’s promising young novelists, making the city a hot spot for trading ideas and nurturing sustainable change.
Every year, on June 16, the Irish celebrate Bloomsday by walking the entirety of James Joyce’s Ulysses and visiting sites relevant to his life and works. Visitors and residents with little interest in the quintessential modernist might prefer the Abbey Theatre, which served as a nerve center for the Irish Literary Revival, instead. Trinity College also calls Dublin home, and writers adore its legendary archives — not to mention the gorgeous illuminations found in Book of Kells on display! Or, should none of these options sound appealing, there’s always time to go chill with that dapper Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square. Writers here have a lush, influential history from which to pull, so inspiration shouldn’t prove too difficult to dredge up.
Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales:
For more than a decade, the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts has brought together some of the world’s greatest creatives and thinkers for 10 days of promoting and exchanging ideas regarding the disciplines one would expect from the name. In addition, scientists, historians, politicians, musicians, and other professionals take part in the festivities, illustrating how everything overlaps and interconnects. Signing up as a volunteer puts aspirant writers at the forefront of exciting new perspectives and literary experiments.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:
The second UNESCO City of Literature received its title in October of 2004, largely due to the fact that publishers based in the Australian state of Victoria stimulated the economy with $580.4 million between 2003 and 2004. Melbourne residents adore literature, and almost a third of the nation’s writer population lives there amongst the festivals, independent bookshops, publishing houses, and thriving libraries. Every May, the city plays host to the Emerging Writer’s Festival, which will obviously prove of interest to novices hoping for their first big literary break.
London may preen over its mainstream clout, but Norwich is the only city in England that can boast UNESCO City of Literature status right now. As of May 2012, actually, and this honor comes courtesy of a major campaign spearheaded by beloved author Ian McEwan. Writer’s Center Norwich is currently attempting to open up a multi-million pound Center for Writing in order to encourage the nation’s new literati to sharpen their storytelling skill sets. More importantly, though, UNESCO awarded the city because of how it so passionately provides a home for authors in exile from nations where their voices are squelched.