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Aspiring Writer? This City in Iowa Could Be Your Muse

This hot spot has the resources and support you need to turn your story ideas into riveting prose.

By Livability on May 15, 2023

Jackie Haley launched her company, Dream to Author, to help aspiring writers get published.
Jackie Haley and Mel Guanci/In2It

The Hawkeye State is known for many things, from its landscape of rolling plains and cornfields to its political caucuses, but lesser known is the number of writers who have called the state home, from Flannery O’Connor to Kurt Vonnegut to John Irving.

Vonnegut told The Gazette in a 2001 interview that his move to Iowa City in 1965 was a turning point in his career: “It was really exciting to end up where literature really meant a lot, and everybody was high as a kite on writing, and I became so, too.”

The Ames MSA offers a veritable treasure trove of resources and community assistance for aspiring wordsmiths. (Could it be a mere coincidence that Ames is located in “Story” County? Unlikely!)

Spend time in this region – you’ll quickly see that it offers more writing resources and opportunities than a community twice its size. Anyone with a little literary gumption has all the outlets they need to grow their voice, find an audience and build an impressive body of work that will take them far.

Ames Writers Collective
Ames Writers Collective

Ames Writers Collective

“Ames is a good place for writers because we have so many, and they are really supportive of one another,” says Ana McCracken, who founded the Ames Writers Collective in 2021 while studying for her MFA at Iowa State University.

McCracken realized that Ames writers craved writing classes and longed to find ways to meet other writers. Thus, the Ames Writers Collective was born.

A nonprofit organization, the Ames Writers Collective is “committed to building and uplifting communities through the art of writing and storytelling, while advancing the literary arts in Ames,” says McCracken.

The Collective offers affordable classes and opportunities for writers and authors to teach. It also helps writers to form writing groups and gather at various writing hubs in the region’s communities, such as the Ames Public Library, coffee shops like Café Diem and Morning Bell Coffee on Main Street, and Lockwood Cafe in West Ames.

They also meet at Dog-Eared Books on Main Street. “All these establishments support and encourage writers in Ames,” McCracken says.

Dream to Author

Another local writer who frequents Dog-Eared Books is Jackie Haley, a nationally recognized, award-winning author who offers training to other prospective writers through her company, Dream to Author.

“I launched Dream to Author to help aspiring writers become published, providing assistance through online training and coaching services,” Haley says.

While Dream to Author helps writers nationwide, Haley praises the writing community in the region because it encourages diversity and promotes different forms of artistic expression.

“From performing art events and art festivals to education such as writer workshops and book clubs, there are a variety of opportunities in Ames to explore and write about anything,” Haley says.

Dream to Author offers a free, 30-minute strategy session where you can ask Haley anything to help you get started on your own book.

Scratch Pad

Efforts to foster a love of writing early in life are underway at Ames High School, with its annually published literary and visual arts magazine, Scratch Pad. Part of AHS history since 1962, Scratch Pad was created to give aspiring creatives a platform to showcase their work.

Popular submissions include poetry, short stories, artwork and photography but have also included sheet music and scripts. Last year, the editorial board received 400 entries, of which only 200 were accepted.

Kate Engelkes, AHS language arts teacher, became sponsor of the program last year. She looks to renew the spirit of Scratch Pad and celebrate its vibrant history.

Plans include growing the editorial board and renewing interest with the student population. “We would love for more people to be involved to create even stronger future editions,” Engelkes says.

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