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I’ve had a soft spot for Detroit ever since reading Alexander C. Irvine’s superb alternate history novel The Narrows, set down on the wartime Ford golem (yes, golem) production line. So I’m glad to be able to report that Detroit has also created just about the best scheme imaginable for writers. For now, unfortunately, it only runs in Detroit. But it’s so attractive that I might even consider moving there.

write a house

And if I chose to, I could have a house to move into, for nothing. Because that’s what the scheme is about. “Write A House is a twist on the ‘Writer’s Residency’,” the Write A House site explains. “In this case, the writer is simply given the house, forever.”

Write A House, founded by “Detroit writers and urban activists” in 2012, “seeks to teach and support trade crafts and literary creativity. Our key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distressed housing in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts. In short, WAH will work to support a more vibrant literary arts community that lives at a grassroots level and helps Detroit’s neighborhoods.” Local Detroit teens get to learn basic building and carpentry skills by working on the houses, while the organization “seeks to support low-income writers by awarding at least three homes each year.”

There is an application procedure, and writers have to live in the house, which will be finished to 80 percent habitable state, for two years to be eligible to receive the title deed, so long as certain neighborhood participation and other criteria are met, but “will only be responsible for insurance costs and property tax costs.” After the two years are up, they get the house, without any further stipulation.

“Our long, long term goal involves building a literary colony in Detroit, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” says the site. At this rate, I’m boarding the next Mayflower for this particular colony.

What do you think? Is this the best thing invented for writers since the printing press? Conceivably. It’s certainly one of the most attractive literary propositions I’ve come across this year. I just hope some other, closer venue comes up with a similar scheme, before I bite the bullet and buy that ticket to Detroit.

 
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