Writing Aboard the Downeaster

My little writing corner

My little writing corner

Did you see the buzz on Facebook and Twitter last week about the writing residencies that Amtrak is offering? So far only one writer (that I know of) has had this very cool opportunity. But I’d like to be next. I would love to be next!

So much so that I decided to take a test run. Two days ago I rode the Amtrak Downeaster train (runs from Brunswick, Maine, to Boston) on a seven-hour round trip ride…and I wrote along the way.

Today I’m on Writer Unboxed blogging about that trip and why I am still hoping beyond hope that I’ll be picked by Amtrak to be a future writer in residence! I hope you’ll check out Writing the Rails.

In addition to discovering that I really really REALLY want to have a real writing residency aboard Amtrak, I encountered several problems and obstacles along the way. Here’s a video I took on the bumpiest part of the trip (which was one of my biggest writing challenges).



  1. Christine M Grote says:

    How fun. I hope you succeed. Since I read your first post about this I’ve thought about taking a train trip myself. Maybe once my kids get done playing musical chairs.

  2. Shary says:

    I get motion sick on everything from airplanes to elevators, but not on trains. No idea why. I’d love to take the Surfliner but with the ocean views out the window of the double decker train, I doubt I’d get any writing done. 🙂

    • That’s so interesting about no motion sickness on trains! I only really have a problem with them when I face backwards. The Surfliner sounds amazing, and I’m pretty sure that you’ll get even less writing done if I come along on your trip 😉

  3. Julia – I hope you get selected, too! Wouldn’t that be a hoot? That brief video clip let me know — with certainty — that I wouldn’t be a good candidate. Holy Toledo — that must be what vertigo feels like!

    • Thanks for your vote, Laurie — hope you’ll put in a good word when Amtrak calls you 😉 I agree, the dizziness from the rough ride was pretty intense… sorry it was so vertiginous!

  4. I’d not heard about the writing residency onboard Amtrak. How interesting. That does look like a bumpy ride though. I guess it would improve your hand-eye coordination.

  5. Sounds fab, Julia – trains are great places to write. Loads of luck with it!

    • I think I remember you writing about your travels and writing aboard trains? It is such a special experience being on the way somewhere with the changing landscape and yet stationary within the moment with that certain cast of characters. It’s quite compelling. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. Erika Marks says:

    I LOVED everything about the post, Julia–and I was so curious to hear how the adventure fared. I suspect that if you commute regularly, a person *might* get used to the jarring stretches and find a way to write, but I have a feeling I’d be useless on a train. I love nothing more than to zone out on a train–but then again, who knows? Of course, the cast of characters you met on your travels were a wonderful side of the experience–and possibly material for future writing?;)

    Would you believe I never took that train ride all the time I lived in Maine??


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Erika! I wonder about the regular commuting too (like the environmental grad student), and if the writing and concentrating would get easier. I’ve only made the trip twice–it always seems like an inefficient way to get to Boston — but I love it so much! Thanks again for your kind words, and no doubt those characters will make it into some book some way 😉

  7. Lori P says:

    Oh man, what a fabulous way to write! I hadn’t heard about this. I sure hope you get it, Julia!
    BTW, I had lunch last week with Natalia Sylvester and we both send our love and wished you could join us. =)

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Lori! And you just MADE MY DAY!! Lucky you and Natalia to share lunch and thank you so much for sharing your sweet sentiment!! 🙂 Love back to both of you, too!

  8. I’m thinking of applying also. I love trains. My husband and I are thinking of flying out to LA, taking the Coast Starlight train to Seattle and then taking a car to Vancouver. I have a new book and will have book talks along the way. I hope to blog about the experience. So your post is an inspiration. Did writing by hand help the bumpiness?

    Thanks for following me on Twitter. I hope to stay in touch. Off to Writer Unboxed to follow your link!

  9. How cool. You are a natural. Here’s to getting your moving office soon.