The much-anticipatedhttp://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/03/new-details-about-amtraks-writers-residency/358916/ Amtrak Writer's Residencyhttp://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/02/inside-amtraks-absolutely-awesome-plan-give-free-rides-writers/358332/is now taking applications.
Yes, the residency is officially official! Up to 24 writers will be accepted into the program, which will provide one free round-trip ticket on a long-distance train, complete with a sleeper car that has a bed and a desk and "a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration."
Neither the application http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/ nor the terms and conditions http://blog.amtrak.com/officialterms/ say that food will be provided, but I actually traveled in an Amtrak sleeper car last year and meals were included as part of the ticket. A ticket that I, like an idiot, paid for. If only I had known!
Amtrak says the "sole criteria" for selection to its residency program are "a passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration," so you don't have to be a professional and experienced writer to have a chance, though you will need provide a sample of your writing. You also have to have a Twitter account ("extensive social media connections" are desired). And you can't be a resident of Hawaii or Alaska.
While you have until March 31 to apply, it's best to do so as soon as possible, as entries as being judged on a rolling basis starting March 17. If the residency is as popular in reality as it has been on social media, you'll have a lot of competition.
Residencies will last between two and five days, though "special projects" may get more time.
Here's the application http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/. Good luck!