5 Great Cities for Writers

Jon Fesmire |

As a working writer, I can tell you one thing: writing is lonely work. Don’t get me wrong; writing is fun and fulfilling, but it can be even better with a sense of community. If you move to the right city, you can find fellow writers, get into a critique group, or attend write ins, where you and a bunch of your writing buddies work on your projects and encourage each other.

Our roundup of great cities for writers includes salaries you can expect from local companies, but remember, as a writer, you may be able to find companies to work for remotely. Also, the writing groups listed are some of the more popular options, but you may be able to find additional opportunities.

We’ve selected the following cities based on the strength of their literary communities and other writer-friendly factors.

Washington, DC

If politics are your thing, consider looking for writing jobs in the nation’s capital. The average salary for a writer working for a publisher in Washington, DC is $70,500 a year. Washington, DC is considered the most literate city in the U.S.A., and good writers will find themselves valued. Major publishers in the area include Copper Canyon Press, C&C Publishing Company, and Mage Publishers.

While politics are always big news here, poets will find support with the writing community Split This Rock, playwrights with Story District, and fiction writers with The Inner Loop. Need to do research? You’ll be just a short distance from the world’s largest library, the Library of Congress.

The median rental price in the capital is $2,300, but if you make even the average salary for a writer in the area, you’ll be able to afford it.

Chicago, IL

Near the middle of the United States is a great Midwestern city for writers, Chicago, Illinois. Yes, certain areas of Chicago have high crime, but if you stick to the safer areas, this is an amazing place to live. The average writer’s salary is about $41,000 per year, and the average rental price is about $1700. The average home price is approximately $270,000. If you have a partner, that makes the city especially affordable.

Chicago seems tailor-made for a writer’s lifestyle. You’ll find plenty of local coffee shops, interesting book shops like Powell’s Chicago and Myopic, and the popular comic shop, Quimby’s. Want to go to writing conventions but don’t want to travel too much? Chicago has you covered, with events like The Writing Workshop of Chicago and the Chicago Writers Conference.

Seattle, WA

While Seattle may seem a bit more on the expensive side with the median rent hovering around $2,200, keep in mind that the amount writers typically earn here is also relatively high. The average salary for a writer is about $61,000 a year. You might even get to work at a publishing house like Amazon Publishing, Cune Press, or Pagan Publishing.

For writers who enjoy bundling up with coffee and a notebook, Seattle’s 220 overcast days per year and rainy weather will be a dream come true. You’ll also find some great writing groups like Bureau of Fearless Ideas and Capitol Hill Writing Meetup. Science fiction writers can look forward to Norwestcon every year, and all writers will enjoy the Seattle Writing Workshop event.

Philadelphia, PA

Want to live in a beautiful, historic city, just an hour and a half from New York City (minus the New York City prices)? Then consider Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the median price of a house is about $220,000, the average rent is about $1,600, and the average writer’s salary is $46,000.

If you’d like to work for a publisher, Philadelphia has many, including Old City Publishing and Running Press Books. Popular writing communities include Greater Philadelphia Wordshop Studio, Philadelphia Writing Project, and Spells Writing Lab.

You may even find the look of the city inspiring, with its colonial architecture and narrow streets. If you want to get out of the house to do some writing, there are plenty of unique cafes and lovely libraries to visit.

Portland, OR

If you’re looking for a city with a great, mild climate, reasonable rent averaging about $1,400 per month, and decent writer’s salaries, consider Portland, Oregon. The average writer makes about $36,000 per year at Portland companies, and the technical writer, about $56,000.

Portland has many unique publishers. These include Microcosm Publishing, Inkwater Press, and the inimitable Eraserhead Press, if you enjoy truly bizarre fiction. There are also plenty of great coffee shops and cafes to write it, including Bipartisan Cafe or Revolucion Coffee House.

If you want to feel truly inspired, take a walk in a park dedicated to one of the nation’s most celebrated children’s authors. The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden is full of statues based on her characters. When you’re ready to meet other writers, check out groups like 9 Bridges and Write Around Portland.