Details Emerging for Amtrak Writing Residency


The Amtrak Writer Residency—an impromptu marketing program conceived of over Twitter—finally seems to be taking shape. After Alexander Chee mentioned his enjoyment of writing on trains, Amtrak jumped at the chance for some positive press and announced a residency program that would pair writers with sleeper compartments on long haul routes. Despite the creation of a formal application process, details on how the recipients would be chosen were slow in coming, but now New York Magazine reveals some of those technical details:

Twenty-four “residents” will be selected on a rolling basis, beginning in the summer, and given sleeper berths for two to five days on long-distance lines during windows of low ridership, so as not to take seats away from paying customers. (There’s a reason Gross’s ride was from New York to Chicago in mid-January.) After some serious winnowing by a social-media team conscripted into second jobs as literary gatekeepers, the winners will be selected by five or so judges. Among them will probably be one book editor, a member of a literary nonprofit, someone from a literary journal, and likely Quinn’s boss, Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s VP of government affairs and corporate communications and “somewhat of a literary wonk.”

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →