The Wire ran a piece two days ago entitled “Inside Amtrak’s (Absolutely Awesome) Plan to Give Free Rides to Writers.”
As you might expect, the response from writers (like myself) across the country was instant, voracious, and incalculably wide-ranging. Writers of every kind, stripe, and caliber are now clamoring on social media for spots, using the hashtag #AmtrakResidency (including me!). Amtrak (@Amtrak on Twitter) now has a standard response, which I’m not surprised with:
As we work on a formalized entry process, we ask that u use #AmtrakResidency to show your interest. We don’t want to miss you!
You can read the full article from The Wire above, but it basically boils down to the idea that Amtrak tried out a writer’s residency with a writer from NYC, who took a 39-hour trip (44 with delays) from NYC to Chicago in mid-winter, writing the whole way. She agreed to tweet a few times during the trip, and do an interview with the company’s blog when she returned… all for a free trip on the train (no word if meals or a bed are included). According to their site, this is about a $500 value, if the bed/meal isn’t included. Not a bad deal!
I’ve already expressed my interest on Twitter, because this is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to write about, and exactly the sort of thing I’d love to do. The only train line for Amtrak coming into Houston is the Sunset Limited, which – if I rode it the whole way west – would take me into sunny Los Angeles. That said, there’s also the connecting Texas Eagle line which would take me northwards, and from there to who knows where.
Just off the cuff, I think a trip through the American Southwest would be hugely interesting for me, and I’ve always been a big fan of the Pacific. But seeing the rolling country of the Midwest and the Great Plains would be something I could really sink my teeth into as a writer, as well. I love to travel, and I want to see as much of America as I can. A writer’s residency like this – where I see something from a different perspective than the usual folks who are just getting from place to place – is perfect for this blog, too. As it is, lately I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to travel – or much of anything, really – so I’ve not had a lot to write about, but this… to say I’d be thrilled would be an understatement. I could write a whole book about this sort of trip, include some photos and tell some stories…
Did I mention I’ve never been on a train, either? So not only would I get a unique perspective in general, but specifically from someone who’s never been on a train. Amtrak, if you’re reading this, and have made it this far, then you know I can write. So we’ve got that covered. Now it just remains to be seen whether you think a ‘train newbie’ could offer a perspective of your service that few others could. I know I’d love to share my experience and potential new-found love for train travel with as many folks as I could. I’m at your disposal for a trip!
Readers, what do you think of this idea? Cool? Not so cool? Would you do it, if offered? Let me know in the comments.