Detroit program gives away houses to aspiring writers

By Robynn Garfield | Posted - Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

DETROIT — For aspiring writers, sometimes the hardest part of starting a career is paying for living costs while waiting to find a publisher.

A nonprofit group in Detroit is working out a way to help up-and-coming literary artists live in a house for free while hammering out a career.

The group is called Write a House. The objective is simple: provide houses to writers, paid in full, where they can live and build careers.

“The Detroit writers and urban activists who founded the organization in 2012 did so with one goal: use vocational training to renovate vacant homes and then give these homes to writers,” organizer Toby Barlow said on the group’s website.

Houses in urban Detroit neighborhoods are renovated and then the deeds are handed over to writers who are chosen through a competitive application process.

“The homes are in emerging, active and diverse neighborhoods,” Barlow said. “It won’t be Beverly Hills, but maybe that’s OK.”

Write a House aims to build relationships in Detroit neighborhoods between writers and residents. Writers are expected to live full-time in the homes provided and become part of the community.

The homes are in emerging, active and diverse neighborhoods. It won't be Beverly Hills, but maybe that's OK.

–Toby Barlow

“Our idea supports literary arts, vocational education, neighborhood stabilization and the creation of more vibrant cities,” Barlow said.

Organizers of the group are hoping the program will inspire writers who would not otherwise be able to sustain themselves financially during the beginning years of their careers to live and work in a home they own, free of cost.

“Our mission is simple: to enliven the literary arts of Detroit by renovating homes and giving them to authors, journalists, poets, aka writers,” the group’s website states. “It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only in this case we're actually giving the writer the residence, forever.”

Writers are expected to have a few works already published and submit a career plan upon application. Music composers are not accepted into the program but are encouraged to submit poetry or prose for consideration.

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