Photo: Courtesy of Amtrak.
All aboard, writers — Amtrak has plans to send you on a journey. The company recently announced its "writer's residency" program, which would allow authors the space and time to travel throughout Amtrak's rail networks. Oh, and did we mention that it won't cost a penny to said writers? Yeah, it sounds like a literary dream come true.
The Wire reports that Amtrak execs read Alexander Chee's PEN Ten article, where he proposed a writer's residency program aboard the trains, and the consequent tweets by various writers that had echoed Chee's enthusiasm. Amtrak, well, hopped on board, sending one very lucky Jessica Gross on a trip from New York City to Chicago. She recounted her experience in The Paris Review (proceed with caution — wanderlust like this is infectious). And now, Chee himself has set up his own test run, and you could be next!
Though the program is still in its infantile stages, The Wire was able to get a sense of its potential. Speaking with Amtrak's social media director, Julia Quinn, the reporter found out that the program will, in fact, cost the writers nothing. How Amtrak defines who is and isn't a writer is a murkier topic. Thanks to the Internet, what separates an author from a journalist from a blogger is trickier than ever. Which is why Amtrak is taking early applicants on a case-by-case basis, and social media is really the only way of applying right now. So, it all comes down to how bold one is. Bite the bullet, shoot Amtrak a tweet, prove yourself as a writer, and you could find yourself traversing the nation in a completely unique creative environment. This is no sabatical, however: It sounds like an immersive experience meant to get the writer more in tune with themselves, their voice, and their medium. It's more than unplugging, it's plugging back into what makes the writer tick. But, when it's free, there's no excuse not to try it out. (The Wire)