Gravy Train: Amtrak Offers Free Rides for Writers


the journey is the inspiration.

Writers are often referred to as “starving artists,” lumped into the category with aspiring musicians, actors and so forth. And though it’s true some may struggle to collect a regular paycheck, (and many are forced to seek out other secondary forms of employment before they hit the Harry Potter lottery, here’s some good news (and hope): Amtrak has launched an official residency program for writers.

Essentially, a writer gets to take a long, round-trip ride aboard an Amtrak train dedicated solely to the purpose of writing. How did this all start, you might wonder? With a simple tweet. Writer Jessica Gross tweeted directly at Amtrak, sharing her wish for a sponsored writing experience.

Then, in true modern-day social media fashion, Amtrak responded by asking when Gross would like to do a test run and offered to set her up for a trip to Chicago and back. Before she knew it, Gross was riding the rails between New York City and Chicago, spending the entire time writing. When asked about the appeal of writing on a train by The Wire, Gross described it as a “unique environment for creative thought that takes you out of normal life.”

The Amtrak Residency for Writers program is currently accepting applications from hopefuls and up to 24 writers will be accepted into the program. If selected, each lucky writer will receive a free round-trip ticket on a long-distance train complete with a sleeper car, bed, desk and window to look out for inspiration. The sole criteria, according to Amtrak, for selection to the program are simply “a passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration.” While you don’t have to be Stephen King, you should at least have samples of writing to provide, along with a Twitter account. The program is accepting applications until the end of March, so if this train of thought (lol) sounds like one you’re dying to jump on, apply now!

But here’s my burning question: when will Princess Cruises start offering a residency cruise program for writers? While I am a huge fan of trains and the American countryside, there’s nothing that inspires me more than the idea of being surrounded by tropical islands. Hint-hint.

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