I’m a writer. I like trains. The new Amtrak writer’s residency program is made for me.
Unfortunately, it’s just available to Americans. But, still—what a great idea!
It's similar to what VIA Rail does for musicians, offering them a free ride in return for playing music along the way.
The difference is that Amtrak's program focuses on helping the writer write—not just get from one city to another as cheaply as possible.
It all started when Jessica Gross tweeted about wishing Amtrak had a program for writers. She said it would be a great way for writers who want to get away for a time of uninterrupted creativity (and window gazing).
Amtrak loved the idea. The contacted Jessica, and sent her on a free trip from New York to Chicago.
When she got back home, they asked her what she liked about writing on a train.
“I think it’s a combination of the set deadline—the end of the train ride—the calming movement, and the company of stranger,” she said.
As for advice for other writers, she said: “Don’t be too ambitious with what you plan to get done: Allow for time spent gazing out the window, letting ideas work themselves out in your mind.
"It’s that kind of deep thinking that the train is particularly good for, and that can be more difficult to achieve in the interstices of busy day-to-day life.”
Click here to find out more about the Amtrak writer’s residency program, and to fill out an application form.
Click here to read about Jessica’s Amtrak writing experience in the Paris Review.
Click here to read about a similar program on VIA Rail for musicians, which offers free rides for those who play music as they travel.