Tuesday, February 25, 2014
All Aboard The Next Amtrak!
Remember WH Auden’s ‘This is the Night Mail’ written in 1936 about that expectant train journey set to the rhyme of the train,(the video is well worth a listen if you are unfamiliar). Or those wonderful and informative 1960s broadcasts of the long lost British railways told by the poet John Betjeman, in the way he only could and of which some can still be enjoyed today on YouTube?
Writers have long been drawn to the railways and today we read that US operator Amtrak has started to offer "writers’ residencies" to authors on its long round-trip rides.
It all started when New York based writer Jessica Gross tweeted that she wished for an Amtrak-sponsored writing experience and received a response from Amtrak that they liked the idea. Next thing the round trip to Chicago was arranged and Gross started to write. Gross travelled for free with Amtrak with them only asking that she tweeted occasionally while she was travelling and do an interview for the company's blog at the end of her journey. Since the news broke Amtrak has been seen an "overwhelming demand" from writers interested in the program and now is intent on turning this into a regular operation.
Let us leave the many questions of cost, who is a writer and how the process will work, for Amtrak to solve and today just applaud them for thinking outside their box and helping writers. Perhaps an adventurous publisher may join with Amtrak to help their writers.
Trains more than any other form of transport lend themselves to creativity. It may not be possible on those crowded commuter journeys but is possible on longer quieter ones. Poets and writers have long been drawn to the rails and initiatives such as this can leads to another ‘Night Train’ to rival Auden, then it will be a small price to pay and a journey worth taking.