Anna Clark sees the future of a Literary Detroit

Last year, Anna Clark received an email from Anne Trubek, an author from Cleveland whom she had interviewed in 2010 for a blog feature. Since then, Trubek had gone on to found Rust Belt Chic Press, a small publishing house with a mission of facilitating more expansive narratives of the Rust Belt region. In 2012, Rust Belt Chic released its first book, The Cleveland Anthology, a collection of writings by Clevelanders about their city.
Trubek was looking to expand upon the success of The Cleveland Anthology by publishing similar books in other Rust Belt cities. What better place to start than Detroit, she thought? And who better to make it happen than Anna Clark?
“Anne wrote to me and said, ‘We’d love you to do a Detroit anthology,'” remembers Clark. “My first thought was, ‘Can I do this?’ Then I thought, ‘That would be awesome!’ I’m glad I said yes.”
In October of last year, a two-month-long call for submissions for A Detroit Anthologyopened. Clark personally solicited some of the stories, while others came in on their own. By March, Clark had assembled a completed manuscript containing the work of 64 contributors (writers, photographers, and an illustrator) including well-known names like Thomas Sugrue and dream hampton, as well as writers being published for the very first time.
Clark writes in her introduction to the volume, “Detroit is a city of stories. In this way, we are rich. We begin with abundance.” Leafing through the book, which was released in May, lends credence to this statement.
“There’s really a wide-ranging set of voices [in the book],” says Clark. “Some contributors are professionals while others are newbies. What’s really exciting is to see a lot of people who don’t make their living as writers with such a strong sense of story.”
Despite the diversity of contributors, Clark noticed some commonalities between pieces.
“It’s interesting to see the threads,” says Clark. “The strongest theme is the experience of neighborhoods. There are many interesting variations on that, yet it’s interesting to see how the perspectives are all connected, even people who have had radically different experiences of the city. Everybody gave so generously.”
Clark, 34, grew up in St. Joseph, Mich. and has been working as a freelance journalist in Detroit for the last seven years. She writes stories about the city and the state of Michigan for a national audience, as well as other riveting essays like this one for Pacific Standard on the history of instant replay in sports. You may have read her work in Next City, American Prospect, and the Columbia Journalism Review. In July, one of Clark’s stories, a piece on water shutoffs in Detroit, appeared in the New York Times.
“That was kind of awesome. When I saw it in print, I cried,” says Clark.
In addition to her professional writing, Clark is highly engaged in Detroit’s literary scene. She is a board member of Write A House, a group creating a permanent sort of residency program that will give away a renovated house in Detroit to a writer, and she is a founding member of Literary Detroit, an organization whose mission is to cultivate the city’s literary community.
“Literary Detroit is a group of people — all volunteers — who put on book-centered events around the city, from author readings to book swaps. We want to be a concierge for national authors to help them put on events in Detroit. We’ve heard over and over that people want to come here, but they don’t know how.”
The group brought author Roxane Gay to Detroit for a reading in May and is bringing South African novelist Lauren Beukes to the city later this year to do a reading at Write A House’s award announcement. (Beukes’s new novel Broken Monsters is set in Detroit and features a scene set in the Write A House neighborhood.)
Soon enough, Anna Clark herself may be the focus of a Literary Detroit event. She’s currently working on a book about the literary history and culture of Michigan for the History Press. It comes out April 2015.

Matthew Lewis is the managing editor of Model D, and is also a contributor to A Detroit Anthology. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjlew.

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

This story originally appeared in Urban Innovation Exchange here