Well, it has happened — and much sooner than expected. Less than a month ago, writers Zach Seward and Jessica Gross made a passing comment on Twitter expressing their desire for Amtrak to start offering residencies for writers, and after a couple of test runs and ironing out of details, the railroad service is now accepting applications into their #AmtrakResidency program! What does a residency entail? A long distance roundtrip ride on one of Amtrak’s many trains for the sole purpose of writing — for free! That’s it. Sound like a dream come true? Once you learn the details, you’ll find that, yes, indeed it is.
Sometimes, everyday life can stagnate your imagination — writing at the same desk, seeing the same scenery, experiencing the same stuff you have been for years. Sometimes, you just need an injection of something new. If you’re a writer struggling to get your story out of your head and onto the page, nabbing an Amtrak residency for writers could be the catalyst that finally moves your vision.
Now that Amtrak’s residency is an official program (as of March 8th), we can share with you all the details that have been made available, including how to apply (no more floating a random request to Amtrak on Twitter). So, here’s the deal:
First of all — it’s free! Amtrak is accepting to 24 writers into the program that will send them on one of their long-distance trains to work on their respective projects.Residencies will last anywhere from 2 to 5 days (special projects can make exceptions), and routes will be determined based on what’s available. Writers will ride on board a private sleeper car during their trip, which is accommodated with a bed, desk, and outlets.
One of the big questions posted in the beginning was what kinds of writers would be eligible, but Amtrak has stated on their website that, “A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.” So, you don’t need to necessarily be a professional/famous/successful writer, but you will need to be 18 years or older, a US resident of the one of the 48 contiguous states (they are unfortunately not taking applications from residents of Alaska or Hawaii), provide a writing sample that is 10 pages or less in length (it doesn’t have to have been published), and have a Twitter account.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. The current program will last March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. For more information on the residency, check out the program’s website. Also, be sure to read the Official Terms carefully.
So, if you’re just itching to finally get that screenplay on paper, maybe a change of scenery and a little adventure will help you do it. Apply for the #AmtrakResidency program here.