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Rider's Residency: Amtrak Offers Free Long-Distance Train Rides to Writers

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All aboard, writers.
For writers, there are few spaces more motivating, focusing and inspirational than a window seat on a train.

Walt Disney came up with Mickey Mouse on a train. Same thing with J.K. Rowling, who says Harry Potter popped into her head fully formed on a crowded car.

And now 24 writers will get a special chance to find their own inspiration on the tracks.

Amtrak announced last weekend a new program giving writers a free round-trip, long-distance ticket so they can write and "watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration." Amtrak's selected writers will get a private sleeper car, desk, bed and a window so they can "work on their craft in an inspiring environment," according to Amtrak.

See also: Report: Amtrak Has Lost $834 Million on Food Over Ten Years

Excitement spread quickly among writers in St. Louis, which is connected on the Texas Eagle route, running from Chicago to Los Angeles deep through the heart of the Lone Star State:

Amtrak's definition of a writer seems purposefully broad. Writers don't need to be published to apply, says Julia Quinn, Amtrak's social media director, especially since "the differences between a journalist, a published author, a blogger -- those lines are continually blurred by the Internet."

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Writers seriously love trains.
Amtrak launched the new program just a few weeks after seeing a tweet from Jessica Gross, a New York City-based writer, who said she wanted a writer's residency on a train. Amtrak sent her on a test-run to Chicago and back, and Gross said the train's strict schedule, calming movement and the company of strangers created a "wonderful" environment for writing.

"I don't know what this says about the connection between writing and sleeping, but both seem to benefit from the steady movement of the train," Gross says. "There's something comforting and meditative about it...It's that kind of deep thinking that the train is particularly good for, and that can be more difficult to achieve in the interstices of busy day-to-day life."

Amtrak is accepting applications on a rolling basis.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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21 comments
Shane Bowen
Shane Bowen

I am. The details I read said they do NOT claim any rights to work completed on the train.

Sarah Hayes
Sarah Hayes

They want exclusive rights to whatever you write on their train. n o p e.

Tim Howell
Tim Howell

Also- how come none of the amtak trains that go in/out of st Louis look like the one pictured above? The only ones I see are 30 years old,

Jason Patrylo
Jason Patrylo

Fine Print! Do they own the rights to whatever you wrote or do you?

Mark Sullivan
Mark Sullivan

In all seriousness, I rode the rails from Norfolk, VA to St Louis, MO. What an amazing trip. Bus from Norfolk to Newport News, boarded the train to Washington DC, passing through Colonial Virginia into Richmond, then on to DC. Boarded the Capital Limited from Washington DC to Chicago in a Sleepette, passing through Northern Virginia, and West Virginia. Enjoyed a glass of wine in the Observation Car as we passed through Harpers Ferry WV, Enjoyed the inclusive meal in the dining car, and watched the screnery from the observation car after eating diner. The porter turned down the bed at the tim eyou request, and a beautiful sleep, then to wake up in the morning, have a shower and an inclusive breakfast as we arrived in Chicago by 9AM. Then after spending the day in Chicago on to St Louis. I have driven this in the past, and felt the dirt and grime build up, the exhaustion of being on the interstates. I will have to admit riding the train is a more civilized way to travel, and so much more enjoyable

Benya Krik
Benya Krik

Max Schramel Lucy Swan Joe Eichner

Kyle DB
Kyle DB

Does it come with a 3 course meal, a ska vinyl, and a pair of nut hugging corduroy jeans? Also a hardback copy of Dreams of my Father.

Lori Franke
Lori Franke

Not so sure about Amtrak's strict schedule....I know a group of four traveling who had tickets for STL to Chicago on Tuesday, 3/4, departure time 7:55 am with expected arrival at about 1:42 pm. First it was delayed 2 hours, and then it finally left at 11 am. They did not arrive in Chicago until 7:00 pm :/

Howard Scott Howes
Howard Scott Howes

could be interesting to see usa site on the road sound clanking of the tracks

DoucheMcGee
DoucheMcGee topcommenter

Since i won 2 RFT haiku contests, I guess that makes me a writer.

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