Amtrak launches writers' residency program

After receiving requests on Twitter, Amtrak has created a program in which writers will be able to ride their trains for free or a low cost, says Amtrak social media director Julia Quinn.

Mike Groll/AP
An Amtrak train travels through New York.

A cozy space with time to write – and no need to pay for that space – is many authors’ dream.

Amtrak may be on the way to providing that.

It all started when writer Alexander Chee mentioned in an interview that one of the best places to write, for him, was on a train. In the interview with Pen America, Chee said, “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.”

Writers Zach Seward and Jessica Gross tweeted a link to the article at the Amtrak Twitter account and Amtrak responded to them, writing, “We’d need a test run. You two up for a trip to Chicago and back?” 

So Gross embarked on the journey from New York, which Amtrak offered for free as long as she wrote about her trip on social media and participated in an interview conducted by the company, which was posted on the Amtrak blog.

“We loved the idea,” Amtrak staff wrote on their blog of Chee’s suggestion.

According to the Wire, Amtrak said it will make the “writers’ residency” idea a program.

Gross told the Wire that the idea seems to have caught on with others.

I’ve seen a billion tweets from other writers saying ‘I want one of these,’” she said. Amtrak social media director Julia Quinn agreed, saying that the company has experienced “overwhelming demand.”

And now Chee himself will get to experience a soothing writing experience.

“I can announce my @Amtrak writer's residency dream came true, thanks to them,” he tweeted. “Am set for a trip from NYC-Portland, OR in mid-May.”

Quinn told the Wire that if future writers residency trips aren’t free, the company wants to keep them inexpensive.

She said she doesn’t believe there will be requirements to qualify for the program – for example, needing to be a published author to participate, or only being a creative writer.

“The differences between a journalist, a published author, a blogger – those lines are continually blurred by the Internet,” she said.

What say you, readers? Would you be interested in embarking on a long train ride to get some writing done?

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