In May 1995 a trio of writers in Spartanburg, SC, began to talk in a downtown coffee shop about how they could help preserve a sense of place in their rapidly changing Southern city. What their community needed, they said, was a literary identity. Modeling their organization after the Depression-era Federal Writers Project, they chose the name Hub City because it invoked Spartanburg's past as a 19th century railroad center and challenged them to make their hometown a center for literary arts.
Twenty-two years later, the organization they created—the Hub City Writers Project— has published more than 700 writers in 80 books, renovated two historic downtown buildings, and given away more than $30,000 in scholarships to emerging writers. It has sold some 180,000 Hub City Press books, provided creative writing instruction to hundreds in the Carolinas and beyond, and hosted lively book launch events in unlikely locales, including an abandoned train station, a river bank, and a concert hall. Hub City has won South Carolina’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for the Arts, the SC Governor’s Award for the Humanities, and 18 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards.
From its beginning, Hub City’s focus has been place-based literature. The organization was shepherded in its early days by Wofford College poet John Lane, journalists Betsy Teter and Gary Henderson, and photographer/graphic designer Mark Olencki; gradually the organization broadened its scope by creating a 15-member board of directors and attracting the financial support of hundreds of South Carolina residents and businesses.
Today Hub City’s bookselling operations help fund a successful summer writers conference, writing prizes, a national residency program, summer camps, donations of thousands of books to local schools, regular creative writing workshops and dozens of readings annually. Among the writers who have come to Spartanburg to lead workshops are Wiley Cash, Ruta Sepetys, Elizabeth Berg, Jill McCorkle, Fred Chappell, Nikky Finney, Megan Mayhew Bergman, and Joshilyn Jackson, among many others.
Hub City also has made broader contributions to the arts scene in Spartanburg. It has commissioned public art, hosted a four-day environmental arts festival, produced concerts, and was the driving force behind the Spartanburg Music Trail, which was installed in downtown Spartanburg in January 2011. In 2005 Hub City gave birth to the alternative arts initiative, HUB-BUB.COM.
In 2010 Hub City led a $300,000 renovation of the ground floor of the 90-year-old Masonic Temple in downtown Spartanburg for a non-profit independent bookstore, offices of the Hub City Press, a coffee bar, and a bakery. With a staff of seven, Hub City has become one of the most substantial literary arts organizations in the nation.