For those who only look at the bigger picture, yes, New York is the publishing epicenter of the country, and a lot of people who write do live in Brooklyn. As someone who writes for a living and calls Brooklyn home, I can totally back up everything you’ve heard about thriving independent bookstores, nightly literary events, and writers crowding every coffee shop. Going out means routinely bumping into editors, agents, publicists, and other people who help get new books out into the world, and that gives you every reason to think that New York City is the only place to be if you’re a writer.
But it isn’t, and I don’t necessarily think there is one specific place that is responsible for creating literary culture, just as I don’t think there’s one where you should go to be a writer. Yet a closer look at the literary map of the 50 states reveals that even if the publishing industry writ large is situated in New York and Los Angeles, some of the most exciting things going on in American literature are taking place in the middle of the country.
“I have spent my whole life watching people leave,” writes David Giffels in his collection of essays, The Hard Way on Purpose. “This is a defining characteristic of the generation of postindustrial Midwesterners who have stayed in their hometowns.”