I married a train geek. My husband has decades of history chasing trains, including a ten-year stretch where it was his primary hobby. I’ve spent many an hour in the car with him trying to find the engine on both parked trains and moving ones (chasing moving trains is super fun, I’m not gonna lie).
My husband is also a writer. A poet, specifically, with myriad poems published in national journals. He’s an amazing writer. So you can imagine when he heard about the new Writer in Residence program on Amtrak where a writer is given round trip tickets, a sleeper car with a desk, a bed, and a window he applied (and please, forgive my clear bias in this article; while I wish all 5,000 writers that have applied the best of luck, I won’t claim that I don’t want my husband chosen for this).
What you may not know is the entire concept was created thanks to writer Jessica Gross, who after reading an interview with writer Alexander Chee asked why this didn’t exist. When asked where he likes to write the best, Alexander Chee stated, “still like a train best for this kind of thing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.”
Jessica immediately tweeted about it, and Amtrak responded, offering her just that.
— Jessica Gross (@jessicagross) December 26, 2013
— Amtrak (@Amtrak) December 26, 2013
Amtrak has now formed #AmtrakResidency, which looks amazing. Admittedly, some writers view the program with skepticism; after all, this isn’t a traditional writing residency at a college. It’s really a brand ambassadorship for Amtrak, and is clearly a (highly successful) public relations campaign. Jessica Gross’s piece about her trip was published in The Paris Review, one of the world’s premier literary journals, and all kinds of people are talking about Amtrak all of a sudden.
I think the program is brilliant, frankly, and I can never resist a great born-from-social-media story. Seeing the country by train would be an amazing muse for any writer.
@Amtrak No better way than cross-country rail travel to pour yourself a tall glass of America.
— Charlie_O (@Charlie_O) February 22, 2014
Please forgive my shameless plugging of my husband. I apologize, but it’s part of our marriage contract. Not really. I just think he’s great.