Literally within the past few days a tweet has turned into reality. LA times reports Amtrak starts writer’s residency after a tweet about it caught their interest. The Wire calls it Absolutely Awesome. It was Jessica Gross who got the first trip, but it was Alexander Chee who dreamed the whole thing up.
Jump for joy!
So the whole thing is happening. Twitter is abuzz over it. Every writer within a mile of a computer is asking for their turn on this wild, slow ride, train from one place to another. It’s truly one of those things that could turn Amtrak from a struggling, in debt, company into a Social Media wunderkind.
Rush hour in Yokohama, Japan
As a writer myself, I’ve dreamed of long train rides, and long pieces of writing. Dream and done. As a traveler, I’ve traced a few dotted lines across European fields on trains. Even took a 16 hour train from Mongolia to
China (just for a visa renewal) and then swiftly returned on same 16 hour train back. Traveled joyfully in Japanese commuter trains. But Amtrak leaves nothing of Joy on my memories.
But a writer’s will is to sit in a solitary space for a while, come out of it and let the world know what the product of that was. The folks on the train have no idea what’s going on. Maybe it’s some 30 something who returned to college and is finishing up a term paper. Maybe it’s a handsome model trying his lick at the old pen and paper. Or it’s a weird bearded fat man who keeps farting and giggling to himself.
This Writer’s Residency is not scalable and not conducive to meeting up. Writers want their privacy. They want a few hours alone. Not to be bumped into by a sharp elbow, or a drunk stagger. A residency on a train may be better for those who are accustomed to hostile work environments, entertaining, and talkative.
How about Amtrak send a couple of comedians on their trains. Brighten traveler’s days, and provide a few odd, weird notes about the surroundings. A quick chat with the conductor will provide a comedian with enough material to entertain for a half hour set. Sometimes he’ll just make it up as he goes. A comedian is used to performing on their feet and jabbing when needed.
Let’s make it happen Amtrak. Let’s do this thing we call awesomeness. Amtrak, I’m ready for you to turn from that stubborn old coot into a new media darling.