Literary Spotlight: Kansas City
Located smack dab in the middle of the United States, Kansas City, Mo., is famously home to barbecue, jazz, and a whole lot of fountains. But does Kansas City have a thriving poetry scene? The short answer is yes—you just have to know where to look. To kick off the first city in our Literary Spotlight series, we’re showcasing the best places to get involved in KCMO’s writing scene.
One of the city’s most famous and photogenic bookstores, Prospero’s was founded in 1997. The shop spans three stories bursting with books and oddities. Not only is it a lovely place to shop for new books or sell your old ones, but the shop also hosts an array of events—from poetry readings and book signings to live salsa and jazz nights. Events are on hold at the moment, but we have no doubt they’ll come back in full force once it’s safe to do so.
Rainy Day Books is an area staple, as it’s been in business since 1975. Their author events are some of the best in the country, and their selection of new reads never fails to impress. The store has been nominated for National Bookseller of the Year and has even served as a case study for the University of Missouri-Kansas City on how independent businesses have adapted to compete with national and online stores.
A fairly new shop on the block (as it opened in 2019), Wise Blood Book Sellers is a resource for Kansas City’s most curious readers. The shop is located in the historic Westport neighborhood at the corner of Westport and Central—and just a stone’s throw away from the neighborhood library.
Music lovers and bookworms unite under one roof at this lovely local bookstore. Willa’s is home to an array of vintage vinyl records and rare books. The shop specializes in used and rare African-American books and first editions, but they also keep a fantastic selection of new works at the ready. In addition to their literature, Willa’s maintains a large collection of vintage jazz, blues, and soul records to explore.
Bars & Coffee Shops
If you like your literature with a side of libations, Afterword is the perfect place for you. This local gem sells books and cocktails in a cozy atmosphere. Settle into a comfy window seat with a good book, enjoy intimate conversations with close friends, or tear into one of the many board games available to patrons. Afterword is proof that a quiet night doesn’t have to be boring.
Coffee, cocktails, and plenty to read make Our Daily Nada a book nerd’s paradise. With a bright atmosphere and a full event calendar (during non-pandemic times), it’s a great spot to catch up on reading and mingle with other readers and writers. Our Daily Nada is currently on the hunt for their next brick-and-mortar home, but you can still shop their selection of books online at Bookshop.com.
This exciting spot hasn’t opened yet, but we’re too excited to keep it under wraps. Aya Coffee & Books is coming soon to Kansas City’s East Side Neighborhood. COVID-19 may have put their opening plans on hold, but the folks at AYA are still hoping to open their doors in 2021. With a strong sense of community, culture, and creativity, we’re rooting for AYA all the way.
The Writers Place promotes writers across genres, generations, and backgrounds. Poets, novelists, and storytellers are welcome to join their many workshops, readings, and programs. While their in-person events are on pause at the moment, be sure to check their calendar of events for upcoming virtual meetings.
If you’re looking for a new set of eyes and opinions on your work, this meetup group is a great chance to get feedback. Whether you’ve got a work in progress or a completed one you’d like to share, this KC writers group is sure to welcome you. The group has been meeting since 2006, and they offer a free 60 day trial for new members. After that, they ask for a $10/year fee to help cover meetup costs.
The Story Center at Mid-Continent Public Library is a friendly place for writers, performers, and filmmakers to access free workshops, resources, and a sense of community. In addition to a variety of resources at your fingertips, the library is home to Woodneath Press, the library’s award-winning publishing division. Authors are welcome to apply to be published by the press, or they can use their state-of-the-art bookbinding machine for a nominal fee.