Amtrak Offers Some Writers a Free Ride

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When most people think of a writers residence, idyllic, nurturing settings immediately spring to mind: A cabin in the woods. A quiet house by a lake. But what about a 44-hour train ride?

New York writer Jessica Gross was the first person to try out Amtrak's new writers residency program. She rode the Lake Shore Limited from New York to Chicago and back and wrote about the experience for the Paris Review Daily. 

After the writer Alexander Chee mentioned in an interview how much he liked writing on trains and wished Amtrak offered a writer's residency, several other writers, including Gross, chimed in on Twitter that they also wanted a Amtrak residency. Amtrak responded and offered Gross the chance to be their first participant. 

"I drafted the essay about my journey on the way there and outlined an essay on the way home," Gross said.

Gross says she didn't feel pressure to write nice things about Amtrak, despite the fact they gave her a free ride.

"The essay itself was more of a meditation on train travel, myself, writing as a discipline and craft and my own past, so the fact it was Amtrak was kind of incidental. It wasn't a reported piece and it wasn't about Amtrak," Gross said. 

She spoke to WNYC's Amy Eddings.