I’ve woken to a dull, rainy day and I’m shivering. Mostly, I hibernate in winter to write. Reading a good book under a rug on the couch is even more tempting when I’m mulling about my writing – or just plain stuck.
Is it a coincidence that most of the worlds Cities of Literature have cold climates? Does cold weather make it easier to foster an environment to write? Apart from Melbourne, Australia, there’s Edinburgh, in Scotland; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Reykjavík, Iceland; Ulyanovsk, Russia, to name a few of the twenty cities who have the honour of being called a City of Literature by UNESCO. Surely the weather is not the only criteria – after all Melbourne’s winter hardly falls to the depths of cold compared to many on the list.
Did you know that Melbourne and Iowa City were the second and third cities approved by UNESCO in 2008 after Edinburgh? So what does a city have to do to make it onto the list?
According to UNESCO a city should demonstrate the following,
- Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing
- Quality and quantity of educational programs focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary and tertiary levels
- Literature, drama and/or poetry playing an important role
- Hosting literary events and festivals promoting domestic and foreign literature;
- Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centers which preserve, promote and disseminate domestic and foreign literature
- Involvement by the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature
- Active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.
Interestingly there’s no mention of the weather.
Melbourne City of Literature has a lot to do in winter to help inspire you with a fix of literature. From large events such as the Emerging Writers Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival and Historical Novel Society of Australia Conference to the many numerous smaller festivals held in the suburbs and country towns, there is something for everyone. It’s no accident that many are held in winter and attract large numbers. It’s a wonderful indoor activity to network and learn.
The rain has stopped, the sun is out and my teacup is empty. The time has come to get off the couch and book my tickets to get my fill of inspiration. Perhaps you can too.