Now Boarding: Amtrak Writers Residency
The wheels have begun moving on Amtrak’s plan to offer writers a rolling residency aboard their trains. On Monday the company announced that up to 24 writers, chosen from a pool of applicants, will be given a round-trip ticket on a long-distance train, including a private sleeper-car room with a bed, a desk, and electrical outlets. The trains promise the romance. The writers will have to do the rest.
The idea was born in December when the novelist Alexander Chee, in an interview with the magazine PEN America, casually mentioned his love for writing on trains, and added, jokingly, “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” When Jessica Gross, a writer in New York, echoed the sentiment on Twitter, Amtrak arranged for her to do a trial residency on the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago. She agreed. Her account of the trip, “Writing the Lake Shore Limited,” published by The Paris Review in February, grabbed the attention of The Wire, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. Soon after, Amtrak decided to turn the trial run into a full-fledged program.
Writers must fill out and submit an application posted on Amtrak’s website. Winners will be selected starting next Monday, through March 31, 2015. Residencies will be from two to five days, “with exceptions for special projects.” Routes will be determined based on availability.