Is it ethical for commercial enterprises to fund residency programs for writers? Vauhini Vara speaks with one freelance writer about her Amtrak-sponsored trip: http://nyr.kr/1fnJnZ5
“The life of a writer can be difficult and unstable. Paychecks for freelance gigs arrive infrequently, if at all. … Some people have argued persuasively that this sort of thing is a positive development. Isn’t this a better use of corporate funds than many others? Doesn’t it bring a much-needed source of new funding to the art world?”
Photograph by Brian Snyder/Reuters.
To the above question from the New Yorker, given how little Amtrak asks in return for the trip, I’d have to answer, “who cares?”
I work full-time for a nonprofit; while I enjoy my job (it’s in marketing, another type of writing, and representing causes I care about), it’s hard for me to make enough time for my creative projects.
I’d happily take an free train trip halfway across the country, New Yorker.
I took my first trip on the Acela late last year for work, and marveled at the pace of it, even at “high speed.” Two to three hours of relative comfort, aisles to get up and stroll in, an almost luxurious quiet, even at rush hour. I wasn’t in a “quiet car” on my return trip, but at 4:30, everyone just seemed grateful to put away their phones, get away from their offices, and just… be still.
If anything, the somewhat pedestrian sights along that corridor (train tracks, highways, the briefest glimpses of Philly, Wilmington, Baltimore) made me hungry for more time, more space. Feeling the city that I find so comforting most of the time fall away, this time, would be the comfort. It’s a road trip without the wheel. With aisles. With random passengers to strike up conversations with. With the ability to cloak yourself in silence and focus as middle America races by.
And come back.
Given the chance, DC to Chicago sounds just right. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to explore. The train would cut deep through the Rust Belt, through the Illinois of Ray Bradbury’s youth, through Pittsburgh that’s busy reinventing itself, and give me the chance to wave at Michigan and Kentucky if not actually pass through either.
It’s a novel and truly great idea, Amtrak, to offer this to the dreamers. Your service runs at the right speed to feed them.