As some or many of you may remember, I applied earlier this year to be a part of Amtrak’s “Writer Residency” program. Finalists (of which there are apparently only 24) are provided with fully-paid accomadations on a selected route on one of their lines, and are expected to write/tweet/blog about their journey. Obviously, this is a great way for Amtrak to spread word about their service, but it’s also a great opportunity for writers who, like me, are looking to try something new and different.
In particular for me, the idea of being on a train was fascinating, as it would be a completely new experience for me. Dreams of filming the entire trip out the window and writing (or at least making great headway) on a new and interesting project filled my head as I completed the application, and I sent off the email with crossed fingers (and toes) and a hopeful heart.
Sadly, I wasn’t selected.
Dear Amtrak Residency Applicant,
On behalf of Amtrak, I’d like to thank you for submitting your application. The response from the literary community has been absolutely tremendous and we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to read so many heartfelt applications. We had over 16,100 applications and had the difficult challenge to select only 115 semi-finalists. The quality of applications was high, which made our decisions even tougher. We evaluated each applicant based on the quality and completeness of their application package, as well as the extensiveness of their social community and ability to reach online audiences with content.
After carefully reviewing all the applicant packages, I regret to inform you that your package was not selected to move forward in this year’s residency selection process.
While we cannot offer you an official residency at this time, we would like to offer you the opportunity to travel aboard our long distance service using an exclusive Amtrak Residency discount code. You may use code XXXX [not the real code] when booking tickets online only from June 17, 2014 through August 31, 2014. The 15% discount is available on all long distance trains for coach and sleeping car accomodations for travel from August 19, 2014 through April 30, 2015. You must book at least 14 days prior to travel.
We hope that this exclusive discount affords you the opportunity to experience an Amtrak long distance route and find inspiration for your writing.
We encourage you to re-apply for our residency program next year and we hope to see you onboard soon!
You may find answers to frequently asked questions about the residency program on the Amtrak blog.
Director, Social Media
All things considered, it’s a nice and polite “we’re very sorry but you’re not important enough” email. I don’t mean to sound bitter about it, truly; they’re right, after all. I don’t have the following of some of the folks who surely applied. I only have, at last count, 382 Twitter followers, 262 Facebook likes, and a handful of folks who follow this blog (thanks, everyone!). With less than 1,000 people as a potential ‘reach,’ I’m sure they have more useful people to give train travel to. I’m disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised.
I’m also still considering going on my own dime, though I’ll have to sell some books for that to happen. What about you, true believers? Anyone ever been on a train long-distance and care to talk about it?