Train-loving writers everywhere, come rejoice with me! Why? Because Amtrak is beginning a "writers' residence" program! Does that not sound like the most awesome thing to have ever happened?
The whole thing started when Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, mentioned in an interview how much he loves writing on trains and tossed of a comment about how he wished Amtrak had a writers' residence program. Writer Jessica Gross took up the idea on Twitter and, lo and behold, Amtrak took notice and really liked the concept. They offered Gross a residency test run, which consisted of a free round-trip ticket from New York to Chicago, on the condition that she write a post for them about the experience once she arrived back and send a few tweets while traveling.
Does this not sound like the coolest thing ever?
For those of you who have never ridden a train, take it from someone who used them as her primary mode of getting home for the weekend all through college: Trains are awesome. They are just plain awesome. And the best part of trains? They are the perfect place to get work done. There's no WiFi to distract you (and if there is, it's so unreliable that it doesn't really count), there are plenty of outlets for everyone, you can move to the dining car if you need to spread out, and they probably stock whatever beverage you like to drink while working (though, admittedly, it will be overpriced). But even beyond all of this, trains offer a kind of intermediary place, somewhere away from your real life, where it becomes much easier to concentrate.
Amtrak has declared Gross's inaugural residence to be a success and they are now offering one to Alexander Chee, who has obviously accepted. And though there is no official word on what an ongoing Amtrak Writer in Residence program might look like, the good people at Amtrak seem to be serious about making it an official, ongoing program.
Needless to say, I really want one of these.
So far, Amtrak isn't sure how they'll set it up, whether or not it will remain free, which rail lines will be eligible for residencies, or how the application process will work. But the bottom line is that Amtrak residencies will almost certainly be a thing. And judging by the amount of interest the program is generating already, they will be competitive.
But you'll still pick me, right Amtrak? Right?