Because of the hopping literary scene. Since 1922, aspiring authors have come to Iowa City (pop. 63,000) to enroll in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a pioneering program of fiction and poetry writing. Flannery O’Connor glided through, as did Raymond Carver and T. Coraghessan Boyle, and more recent stars like Michael Cunningham, ZZ Packer, and Adam Haslett. The town is also home to Prairie Lights, an independent bookstore and local institution; it hosts at least three major-league readings every week and broadcasts the events on public radio. This year, the store celebrates its 30-year anniversary with a line-up as ambitious as ever: Ethan Canin, Marilynne Robinson, Francine Prose, and Amy Bloom.
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