Over the last few weeks, the Internet has been buzzing over the news about Amtrak
's free writing residency; probably because it's one of the best ideas I (and many other writers) have heard in a long time.
I've already written about how much I love train travel
(briefly, I favor it over plane travel because it's so much less stressful, you get to see the beautiful places in between cities, and it's nice to be able to arrive at your destination city—and be in the middle of the city, not have to spend hours getting into town).
And nothing goes together better than writing and train travel—I think it's because it's both gently stimulating (there's always something interesting going by outside, even if it's just the light changing over a natural landscape) yet also totally relaxing. Is it because there's more seat room? That the slight rocking rhythm of the train is inherently chill? I have no idea, I just know that it works for me. I have found that studying, reading and writing on the train is a true treasure.
Novelist Alexander Chee, who wrote the original Tweet that got the idea rolling with Amtrak, told CNN
: "There's a mix of anonymity and rootlessness to being on a train that makes you feel you could be anyone, anywhere -- which turns out to be excellent ground for writing fiction."
I would say that goes for nonfiction too (I write essays and memoir and have found writing on the train to be highly productive).
Julia Quinn, Amtrak's director of social media told CNN that all this attention has been good for Amtrak, getting people to realize that riding the train is (even in you're not a writer) terribly romantic. She said, "It's been an overwhelming reception, I don't think we could ever have anticipated how quickly so many people would respond to the idea of the program, and how liberally they're endorsing it."
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