When you think of Iowa City, Iowa several things probably come to mind. Hawkeye Sports? Yes. University of Iowa Children’s Hospital? Yes. Corn? Definitely. Literature? Probably not. It should though.
As of 2008, Iowa City is one of the 18 cities across the world that has been designated as a UNESCO City of Literature. We are the only city in the United States to earn this honor.
First, I’ll answer the obvious question of “What exactly is a City of Literature and how do you become one?” A UNESCO’s City of Literature is part of its Creative Cities Network that aims to “promote the social, economic, and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world.” One of the most important aspects of the Creative Cities Network is promoting private/public partnerships to encourage entrepreneurialism and small enterprises.
To become a city of literature, a city must meet several criteria with “a realistic action plan including specific projects, initiatives or policies to be executed in the next four years to implement the objectives of the Network.” There also has to be a large and diverse volume of work being published in the city, and several events throughout the year that are dedicated to literature.
This is my third year living in Iowa City and I can confidently say that we meet all of those criteria and more. The events held here include the recent Iowa City Book Festival. This event drew literary enthusiasts from all over the Midwest. This year Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series, gave a sold out speech at the newly completed Hancher Auditorium.
Iowa City also boasts a Literary Walk that celebrates the works of 49 different authors that have connections to the state of Iowa. Some of the featured authors include Kurt Vonnegut, William Shirer, and Bess Streeter Aldrich. This walk is beautiful on a sunny day and really helps to blend the literary history into the fabric of the city.
From an academic standpoint, the options for both aspiring and established writers are top notch. The University of Iowa has the #1 ranked creative writing program in the country, and for graduate students the MFA, offered by the Nonfiction Writing Program is also ranked as the top in the country. For the established writer, the International Writer’s Program has been connecting authors from all over the world since 1967. Throughout my college experience, I have taken workshops and lectures led by some of these authors and would highly recommend the experience.
Above all though, Iowa City offers a sense of community to authors and book lovers alike. It is easy to find someone to collaborate with or to just bounce an idea off of. There is always someone with a great book recommendation, and if all you need is a little moral support, you can certainly find it here. Going to school in a UNESCO City of Literature has definitely had a positive impact on my experience and really helped to shape my future career.
YouTube Channel: IowaCityOnly
Featured image via City of Literature