by Kiersten Hallie Krum
A woman in period dress stands on a train platform. Smoke wreathes around her as the wheezing locomotive pulls into the station. The woman breathes a sigh of relief. This is how she’ll escape. This is the train that will give her freedom. This is the train that will take her on an adventure. This is the train that returns her beloved.
There is deep romance to be found in trains. Trains take you where cars fear to tread, high up into the mountains or winding around rivers and gorges or out into what wilderness can still be found in this world. Trains allow you to explore those last bits of wild majesty.
A train is a powerful beast of transport. Not the baffling physics of air travel (how does a thing that big get that high in the air?) or the aggravations of cars (why do people insist on going under the speed limit in the left-hand lane?!) or the dodgy environs of a lumbering bus (please don’t sit next to me), but the wheeze and clang of a force with which to be reckoned.
Travel today has long since lost the romance of the journey. It’s become too difficult to navigate. These days, we tend to focus on getting to our destination in the fastest and cheapest manner possible. We’ve lost the ability to enjoy the journey itself.
But there’s a romantic rhythm to the swing and swirl of a train carriage as though you’re constantly in a dance to find your balance. Trains are infused with thrills and passion. Murder. Mayhem. Romance. Trains have hosted them all in novels and TV shows and movies. They carry the mystery of the unknown, the idea that anything can happen on the long push to a destination. Trains give you the luxury of not having to think about the particulars of travel so your mind can wander and dream. Rest.
What better place to write than on a train? Cut off from the rest of the world, lost amongst the netherland beyond civilization, in a world of one’s own, it’s the perfect environment in which any writer is sure to flourish.
Last week, news broke of a pilot program quietly tested by Amtrak that offered free “writer’s residencies” — long, round-trip journeys during which writers…write. Amtrak has since confirmed its plans to make the program official and long-term by offering writers trips on its network routes for the sole purpose of writing (suspect the “free” part will likely change, however.)
What is writing but a long journey into the unknown? Pairing that metaphorical trip with an actual journey seems the kind of no-brainer genius waiting to happen along the lines of shellacking peanut butter and jelly on two slices of bread and slapping them together. Or Nutella.
How did this all come about? Twitter. Yes, my social media baby has done it again, connecting the right people at the right time to create something fabulous. Author Jessica Gross tweeted the idea to Amtrak who responded with an offer to test out her theory on a New York to Chicago round trip. Kudos to Amtrak’s social media manager, Julia Quinn, (no relation to the bestselling romance writer) for swiftly moving to make the idea a reality.
Now particulars for future rides are still to be fleshed out, but given the overwhelming social media response to this news, Amtrak will not lack for applicants once they roll out their full schedule. Romance writers alone are sure to queue up for the experience. I find it hard to imagine a more inspiring environment; I could finish one book and get off at the end of the journey with ideas for five more. Plot bunnies abound!
Do you enjoy train travel? Would you take the trip to write in residence?
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