After more than 16,000 applications, the much-talked about Amtrak Residency program announced today it had picked 24 writers to take long-distance routes across the country and get a chance to work on their projects on the rails.
The residents, ranging from a former clandestine agent for the CIA to a recent Broadway star, get a sleeper car, some scenery, a power outlet, and uninterrupted time to work on whatever piece of writing they choose.
We talked over email with Jen Carlson, deputy editor at Gothamist and one of the 24 selected to climb aboard.
The Wire: So, where are you headed?
Jen Carlson: I'm not quite sure yet, but my top choice is the Seattle to Los Angeles route, on the Coast Starline. At the moment, I'm just not sure how the logistics work, say, if I choose a route that is nowhere near where I live, which is Brooklyn. My second choice is New Orleans to Los Angeles, on the Sunset Limited, but that train appears not to have WiFi.
Now, I'm not worried about being without Internet in theory, but what if Train Me can't handle it? That said, having been connected to it every day for the past howeverlong, it might be nice to see what happens to me without it. Or possibly terrifying? I'm not really sure what my brain without Internet looks like anymore. But, basically, I'm ready to roll with whatever happens on that front. You know, as long as I can still Instagram.
Before you applied for the Amtrak residency, what was the longest train ride you'd been on?
I take Amtrak up to Vermont sometimes (FYI: The Vermonter has very good WiFI), and that's about a six-hour trip. And when I was little we drove down to Virginia (I think?) and put our car on an Amtrak, and went to Disney World that way. That was probably my longest train trip.
When the Amtrak residency was announced, there was some worry by writers that Amtrak could use the writing in their application for marketing purposes. Do you know if Amtrak plans to use what the 24 of you end up writing at the end your trip?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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