5 Reasons Why a Writer Should Move to Vancouver
And Healthcare Isn't Even One of Them
Recently, while working at a coffee shop in my Brooklyn neighborhood, my thoughts wandered to a café on the opposite side of the continent: I pictured giant, snow-tipped mountains towering above metallic buildings, the crisp citrus scent of pine mingling with the Pacific Ocean air… Though to many, Brooklyn can seem like the epicenter of the literary world—and it’s hard to deny the romantic lure of a city as iconic as New York—I still can’t help think back to the places I used to call home.
To be sure, there is no such thing as a perfect city, but there are many overlooked cities that are ideal temporary or long-term bases for writers. And in hindsight, though I left it in search of new frontiers, I am finally able to appreciate that Vancouver is one such place. Beyond close proximity to newspaper headquarters and publishing houses, Canada’s west coast capital has a lot to recommend it to a writer, not the least of which is proximity to nature, an ongoing cultural boom, and the lovely, mellow climate.
Be Part of an Up-and-Coming Scene
Unlike New York—which is oversaturated with writers and artists who seem to believe the city confers success by just living here—Vancouver has never boasted a particularly crowded literary scene. In recent years, though, the city has seen a resurgence of art and writing that makes it a burgeoning CanLit (Canadian literature) hub… as can actually be seen on this interactive map that highlights much of Vancouver’s bookish history, from Margaret Atwood to Douglas Coupland. Additionally, literary festivals, such as Vancouver Writers’ Fest and Growing Room, are helping to further expand the Canadian literary scene as a whole. And though bookstores have always been important cultural centers in Vancouver, nascent spaces like The Paper Hound are prioritizing literary discussion, learning, and community.
Beautiful Scenery Will Help Your Writer’s Block
Sandwiched between the stunning North Shore Mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver has long been considered one of the most visually stunning cities in North America. In addition to accessible healthcare, good infrastructure, and plentiful cultural institutions, Vancouver’s environment is a crucial reason why it has been routinely ranked among the most livable cities in the world.
Unlike New York City, where one needs to travel hours by subway, train, or car to the nearest trailhead, Vancouver is overrun with hiking trails, beaches, and parks—it’s one of few places in the world with such a large and accessible range of outdoor activities. And while hiking or walking amongst evergreens or visiting waterfalls are certainly ideal ways to shrug off writer’s block, Vancouver’s beauty is visible from essentially anywhere in the city; often, you don’t have to travel at all to catch a glimpse of it.
A Growing Small-Press Scene
In 2015, three of the finalists for Canada’s top fiction award came from independent presses—across the country, publishers and writers alike are hailing the coming of a so-called “golden age” of independent publishing. This movement is clearly happening in Vancouver which, like other Canadian cities, is filled with micro and indie presses: Anvil Press, Talonbooks, and many more.
Beyond an uptick in independent publishing, it’s worth noting that Canada has different cultural attitudes towards the arts than the United States. The Canadian government has long designated funds to support Canadian-owned publishing companies, and, as of last year, Canada’s new prime minister pledged nearly $1.5 billion over the next five years to Canada’s cultural infrastructure. Furthermore, because many Canadian agents treat the US as a home territory, expat writers can work with Canadian literary agents, regardless of their status.
It’s Always Raining So You Have to Write
At first, rain might not sound like the most convincing reason to visit or move somewhere. But for writers, inclement weather can provide a perfect reason to stay inside while you work hard on your current project.
In contrast to other areas of Canada and the Eastern United States, Vancouver enjoys very mild winters with hardly any snow. Because it rarely reaches temperatures cold enough for substantial snowfall, Vancouver’s winter months do see a considerable amount of rain, keeping British Columbia’s temperate rainforest lush and green year-round. And for me, there’s nothing like spending rainy days curled up at home writing.
Great Libraries and a Clothing Optional Beach
In addition to its beauty and prospering arts and cultural scenes, Vancouver is home to the most important research institution in western Canada: The University of British Columbia (UBC). The university boasts a renowned Creative Writing program, a deep connection to Canadian literary history, and is home to eleven diverse libraries, each with a unique ambiance and collection.
Beyond its history and facilities, the UBC campus is absolutely breathtaking. Situated on a verdant peninsula jutting westward into the Pacific Ocean, UBC is a perfect place to spend the day writing. The campus itself is easily accessible—whether by car or using Vancouver’s outstanding public transport system—and is an ideal environment to get work done, visit the many parks and botanical gardens on campus, and maybe even catch a stunning sunset at UBC’s clothing-optional beach.