There comes a point in The Writer's life when they must look themselves in the mirror and ask, "Am I a buzzard, or a hawk, or a popinjay, or am I a bloody owl?" But maybe The Writer is none of those things—maybe The Writer was actually a well-ventilated business class train car the whole time. If you think you may fall into the latter category, then Amtrak has got quite the offer for you.
Starting today, you can now apply for Amtrak's all-new free writer's residency program. "#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment," they write on their website. "Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability."
Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program, starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015; residences will last 2-5 days, and all applications should be in by March 31st. The only requirement they say is a "passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration," but you'll have to include a writing sample, and you better have some sort of Twitter presence ("extensive social media connections"). It's unclear whether food will be included, but The Wire's Sara Morrison writes that she traveled in an Amtrak sleeper car last year and "meals were included as part of the ticket. A ticket that I, like an idiot, paid for. If only I had known!"
You can read all about how the residency program went from a throwaway comment in Alexander Chee’s interview in Pen America (“I still like a train best for [writing]. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers”) and was turned into reality here. Jessica Gross, one of the first people to tweet about the idea, was given the opportunity to try it out on a "test run," and wrote about her experience for The Paris Review.
You can apply for the residency here.