Call it the social media snowball effect. What started as a throwaway thought may send bloggers, journalists, and authors scattershot across the country on free rides, courtesy of Amtrak.
In an interview, an author named trains as his favorite place to write, fancifully remarking “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” That excerpt found its way into a tweet, which led to writer Jessica Gross playfully calling out @Amtrak to make it happen.
Then, something amazing happened: Amtrak took them seriously. Gross landed the first writers’ residency, a two-way trip from New York to Chicago and back again. Absolutely free.
Come On and Take a Free Ride
I know what you’re thinking, you cynic, you. This is just a one-time publicity stunt, a calculated PR move by Amtrak to get some buzz. Nope. Amtrak’s continuing to offer free trips to writers with plans to expand the program.
Okay, what’s the catch? Well, there are a few. First, Amtrak is focusing on individuals with a strong social media presence. Secondly, you’ll need to tweet @Amtrak a few times during your journey (pretty cheap fare, in our eyes). Finally, you’ll have to be really comfortable doing your business in a moving bathroom. Also, the residencies may not be free forever in the future, though they will be extremely cheap.
How You Can Apply
Things are pretty informal right now—there’s no official application process, with most residencies being kick-started on social media.
To throw your hat in the ring, just tweet @Amtrak, cross your fingers, and see what happens.
The program’s still in its infancy, but we’ll be monitoring this story closely. All aboard!
Photo courtesy of jpmueller99.