Write A House wants to give homes to writers in Detroit

WAH is working on renovating homes in Detroit to give to emerging writers. If authors stay in the houses for two years, they get the deed.

Carlos Osorio/AP
The city of Detroit is the site of Write A House.

Many organizations provide temporary homes for authors through writers’ residency programs or other options.

But the program Write A House wants to give homes to writers permanently.

Write A House is based in Detroit, where an infamously large number of houses is now vacant. The program has obtained three homes and has paired with the nonprofit organization Young Detroit Builders to make them livable. Applications to live in the first house are now open. If an author applies and is accepted to the program by a panel that includes former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins (hopefuls should be US citizens, 18 or over, have been published before, and must qualify as low-income), they get the house. Writers will pay for taxes and insurance. If they stay there two years, they receive the deed to the house.

Applications to live in the first house will be accepted until June 21 and a shortlist of 10 finalists will be announced in August. The organization hopes to have a winner in September.

Those who write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry can apply.

"Writing quality is the most important part of the application, but judges will also look for the ability of applicants to contribute to the neighborhood and the wider literary culture of Detroit," the organization writes.

Authors are also required to make inexpensive improvements to the inside of the house (Write A House’s website notes that residents would be responsible for painting walls and finding furniture) and be a part of the organization’s literary readings as well as participating in the writing of the WAH blog. 

Co-founder Toby Barlow says it’s all about revitalizing the Motor City.

“It’s fun to be here and be a part of those things that are re-emerging,” he said of the city in an interview with the New York Times. “There are just a wealth of things that don’t exist in Detroit – and should.”

WAH raised almost $30,500 through the website Indiegogo and is currently continuing fundraising on the site Fundly. Whatever money is raised through Fundly will most likely be matched by a grant.

Barlow said the organization’s goal is to renovate three or four houses a year.

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