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The Periscope

Curing Ignorance Through the Lens


Free Houses for Writers: The Rise of Detroit’s Literary Community

Write A House

How one nonprofit organization plans to revitalize Detroit’s neighborhoods and literary presence.

Although rising numbers of foreclosures in Detroit are leaving neighborhoods vacant, Write A House is launching a program that will bring homeowners back to the neighborhoods and the literary arts back to the city. The organization puts a twist on the typical Writer-in-Residency programs— rather than hosting groups of writers for a few weeks at a time, Write A House is offering low-income authors a permanent and free place to live. They have purchased three houses in a diverse neighborhood near downtown Detroit and are currently renovating them with the help of Young Detroit Builders, an organization that trains youth in construction rehabilitation. Writers from all backgrounds are invited to apply for residency in the spring, with the expectation that they will complete some finishing touches on the house (such as painting and finding furniture), participate in local readings, and use the home as their primary residence upon acceptance. After two years of living in the neighborhood, the Author-in-Residence will be granted the deeds to the house.

Although the organization’s goal is to eventually build a literary colony in Detroit, founder Toby Barlow says that, at the moment, Write A House is simply supporting “literary arts, vocational education, neighborhood stabilization, and the creation of more vibrant cities.” They plan to buy, renovate, and award at least three houses each year.

Photo by Andrew Kopietz/Write A House.