Uncategorized | July 19, 2016

Over at Lit Hub, Whitney Terrell has posted a very convincing piece about why writers should move to Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City is great, but have you considered its hip little sister, Columbia, Missouri? 

1. The Music Scene

Columbia is known for being aware of artists first, before they make it big. We’ve hosted Donald Glover before he became better known as Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper before his appearances on Saturday Night LiveBryson Tiller before nearly every American radio station overplayed “Don’t,” and Imagine Dragons before they were a Grammy award-winning band. KCOU 88.1 FM, a radio station run by Mizzou students, specializes in providing their listeners with a miscellany of fresh music that spans across numerous genres.Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.12.02 PM

Hitt Records, Columbia’s only independent, locally-owned record store, provides its patrons with a collection of non-mainstream music and “the popular favorites” along with gracing us with live shows. Hitt Records is just one of Columbia’s many quirky music venues that regularly host an array of talented artists from Missouri and beyond; Café Berlin doubles as the place to be for Sunday morning brunches, and The Social Room hides discreetly behind Lips and Curls, a vintage beauty parlor, (don’t worry, the weekly-changed top-secret password needed to get in is not that hard to come by once you become a local).

2. The Food

New Columbia food spots are popping up with just as many quirks as our residents. A waltz through our quaint downtown area can lead you to a number of old fashioned diners, sushi places with atmospheres that complement the popular delicacy, a donut bar specializing in funky creations, and places that serve up everything from homemade alcoholic ice-cream to Philly cheesesteak pizza.

We’re a self-supporting community. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to purchase their ingredients from local farmers, or for you to stumble past farmer’s markets supplied with Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 7.13.49 PMdairy, meat, and produce grown less than a car ride away. Columbia serves up plenty of options for those with dietary restrictions. Range Free, located in the heart of Columbia’s North Village Art District, is an allergen-free bakery and café that prides itself on conveniently serving delicious food to Mid-Missouri’s food-allergic and specialty diet population.

3. Activism

The hyper-coverage of the student-led protests that sprang up last year gave news outlets the free hand to paint Columbia, specifically Mizzou, in a violence-ridden light that differs from what life is actually like here. The protests were peaceful and brought to the surface concerns African-American students felt should be addressed, problems they felt even spanned back to 1950 when the first African-American student was accepted at Mizzou, hence the #ConcernedStudent1950 name.

Columbia is filled with an array of people not afraid to have their voices heard in order to make change, or have the resources provided to live more comfortably. There are numerous outlets that strive to meet the needs of Mizzou’s campus, including our Black Culture Center, Disability Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, Multicultural Center, Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, and Women’s Center, to name a few, and more resources available in the general Columbia area as well, such as True North and The Center Project.

4. Libraries

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 8.23.34 PMAvid readers are kept well-supplied at Columbia’s two main libraries: Ellis Library and Daniel Boone Public Library. Ellis Library is located on Mizzou’s campus and includes six branch libraries. Ellis boasts a collection of more than 3.9 million print volumes, and over 1 million ebooks with an annual budget of $18 million. Ellis library is available to students, faculty and alumni, but the general public can gain access by joining an organization known as Friends of the Library.

Daniel Boone Library is open to the public for free. The library is funded mainly by Missouri state property taxes. As of 2015, the library reported that they have 112,616 library cardholders and have 552,188 items in collection.

5. Cheap Housing

Columbia’s ambition has been to transform from a college town into a livable small city where students can graduate and stay to live, work, and play. Not only is Columbia a great place to live, it has a cost of living below the national average. And it’s beautiful here: a landscape of gently rolling plains at the edge of the Missouri River Valley.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.53.47 AMSeveral apartments are available and under construction in the downtown area, just steps away from a unique environment filled with shops and restaurants. Downtown is clean and lively; the population is friendly and progressive. Downtown isn’t the only place to live, however. Apartments and neighborhoods are distributed throughout the town, making hosing available in any part of town for practically any budget. For a small city, Columbia features a low cost of living and promising future job growth projections.

6. Coffee Shops and Downtown Columbia

Forget the mainstream and overcrowded spots like Starbucks and check out Columbia’s unique coffee scene. Places like Kaldi’s, Lakota, Cafe Poland, Coffee Zone, Fretboard and Shortwave all offer great environments to enjoy a cup of coffee, generate creative new ideas and, of course, write. For those who prefer a quiet writing environment or need some solitude to think, Kaldi’s and Lakota both offer a spacious sitting area. Lakota even has a table with dividers to make it the perfect space to block out the rest of the world and delve into your writing. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more lively, check out Fretboard Coffee, which features live music throughout the week.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, stop by Sparky’s for some homemade ice cream. With tons of unique and wacky flavors, you never have to settle for something bland. A few of Sparky’s signature flavors include honey lavender, candied bacon, banana Nutella and mandarin orange dark chocolate. A couple years ago, and timed to a thirteen-year metamorphosis, there was a new flavor: Cicada. Sparky’s is best paired with a serene walk Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 8.23.12 PMaround Peace Park, steps from TMR offices where you can clear your mind.

Donut shops like Harold’s Donuts and Strange Donuts also offer a great spot to get coffee, a peculiar yet tasty donut, and some writing accomplished. Harold’s Donuts offer donuts such as the chocolate peanut butter donut and the maple bacon. The Strange Donuts menu lists campfire donuts and blueberry cheesecake donuts. They also serve even stranger donut creations like the chicken and waffle donut.

7. Literary Happenings

But does Columbia have any literary happenings, you ask?

The Missouri Review hosts three events every year: the Editors’ Prize Reading and Reception in spring, a Summer Launch Party, and the Peden Prize reading and reception in the fall. In the winter, we hibernate. At our events, you can mingle with writers from all over and others who have an abiding interest in literature. We usually see 100 or 160 people at each. All are free and open to everyone. You can like our Facebook page to keep up with our events.

Orr Street Studios, a gallery, studio and event space in the North Village Arts District just north of downtown, hosts a bimonthly “Hearing Voices” reading series. In April, Orr Street presented a Black Poets Speak Out event hosted by Cornelius Eady, Cave Canem cofounder and professor at MU.

MU has a strong PhD program in creative writing and a well-established reading series. Recent visitors include Maggie Nelson, Colson Whitehead, Carolyn Forché, Karen Russell, Natasha Tretheway, Roxane Gay, and Lorrie Moore.

This was the inaugural year for the Unbound Book Festival, which brought to Columbia writers of national reputation like Camille Rankine, George Hodgman, and Bob Shacochis. The marquee event was a conversation between Michael Ondaatje and Mark Doty in the Missouri Theatre, whose baroque architecture was modeled on the Opera Garnier in Paris.

Poet Marc McKee hosts an intimate and fun series, The Next Weather, at Yellow Dog Bookshop. Sample here the event invitation, and just try to resist: “All you carollers of combustibles, sun-fed zeniths, erstwhilestones, you convex caves and concave vexations, you circumexistential off-ramps, you split-lip, swollen-tongued on-lamps, you apple appreciators, you water-slide architects, you kind visitations…”

Columbia also hosts two film festivals of international reputation, True/False, for documentaries, and Citizen Jane, for films made by women. We interviewed Citizen Jane filmmakers for our podcast series here, herehere, and here. You can follow us on SoundCloud for regular updates on our audio interviews and podcasts.

IMG_1854The Missouri Review Social Media Interns are Sherell Barbee, Tom Carter, Meghan Cox, and Jessica Piccone. We hope you will follow our new Instagram account, where we will post even more reasons to make Columbia home.