Amtrak just announced they are offering free writing residencies! It’s totally brilliant. It’s a train, but it’s quiet, with tables, plugs, and best of all, most of them are long distance ones, so you have hours upon hours of uninterrupted writing time.
The story of how Amtrak decided to make this happen is equally as fantastic as the idea itself. And just one more reason I love twitter. In an interview for PEN America, author Alexander Chee made what was probably an offhand comment: “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” in the midst of talking about his favorite places to write, which also included public libraries.
One NYC based writer, Jessica Gross, also read the interview, but unlike my reaction, which was to do nothing, she decided to tweet at Amtrak to make this writing residency thing happen. My tweet from the same day was me moaning about how Sona says I can’t wear brown trousers with a black cardigan or the universe will be destroyed. Amazingly, Amtrak responded to her tweet (nobody responded to mine. Not even Sona) and asked if she was down for a trial run. She took Amtrak on a long distance trip to Chicago and back. She wrote about the experience for the Paris Review in a post named after the journey, Writing the Lakeshore Limited.
What I really like about Amtrak’s approach to the writing residencies is that they’re not being all hoighty-toighty about what constitutes a writer, and for now at least are considering unpublished authors, journalists, bloggers, and published authors. There doesn’t seem to be much of a system in place for how writers are chosen, but it’s a nice start. This is what it says about the residency:
Amtrak Residency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will have use of a private sleeping roomette, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Onboard meals will also be offered to all residents in the dining car aboard the train.
Here’s the link to the actual residency application for the #AmtrakResidency: http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/
What do you think of the Amtrak Residency? Would you commute for 39 hours just to write?