Amtrak Offers Writing Residencies Aboard Trains

March 13, 2014

Amtrak has started offering free round-trip rides, long ones of two-to-five days in length, dedicated to writing aboard its trains. This provides writers with immense blocks of time in a unique setting specifically for the craft of writing. Jessica Gross, a writer in New York City, took the first trial residency traveling from NYC to Chicago and back. “I’m only here for the journey. Soon after I get to Chicago, I’ll board the train and come right back to New York: thirty-nine hours in transit-forty-four, with delays,” said Gross before the trip began. “And I’m here to write.”

The official residency will be offered to up to twenty-four writers. One free round-trip ticket will be given on a long-distance train. A sleeper car with bed, desk, and “window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration,” will also be provided. There is no statement on whether food is also provided. The “sole criteria for selection to this residency program is “a passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration.” A sample of writing will have to be provided, as well as proof of a current Twitter account, “extensive social media connections” preferred. The deadline for application is March 31. Entries are to be judged starting March 17 on a rolling basis. Residencies will last between two and five days. Applications are being accepted online. There seems to be no requirement for a final product. According to Quinn, “We’re not sending people on three month sabbaticals to write a novel about train travel. Amtrak intends to keep the experience ‘organic.’”

The second residency is scheduled for May and will take writer Alexander Chee from NYC to Portland, Oregon. As the program continues to develop, the candidates will be chosen on a case-by-case basis. But according to Julia Quinn, social media director for Amtrak, the candidates won’t “necessarily be published authors, or people with multiple books under their belt… the differences between a journalist, a published author, a blogger—those lines are continually blurred by the internet.”

Source: The Wire , Amtrak

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