I looked in vain for LaRoue, my cruelty toward her now in me like a splinter, where it would sit for years in my helpless memory, the skin growing around; what else can memory do? It can do nothing: It pretends to eat the shrapnel of your acts, yet it cannot swallow or chew.
Some Notes on the Amtrak Residency
There are a lot of curious things about the Amtrak writing residency, from its unlikely birth on Twitter, to its combination of romantic pursuits (writing and trains!). It sounds impractical –– typically, writing residencies offer time to make substantial progress on a literary work, they don’t move you from one city to another, and you get more than one place to sit. Then again, romantic pursuits tend not to be practical, and how many writing residencies come with their own dome car and cheese plate?
Like a lot of people, I’ve been wondering what the catch would be. Today we learned what that catch was. As the writer Mike Scalise pointed out on Twitter, Paragraph 6 of the application states that the applying writer agrees to grant Amtrak a global, unlimited right to the reproduction in any form of all materials submitted with the writer’s application. Essentially, the agreement turns the applying writer into an unpaid advertising copywriter for Amtrak, who may or may not be compensated with a round-trip Amtrak ticket. (Link to Amtrak application here.)
As I write this, Amtrak is promising to revisit Paragraph 6, and the novelist Alexander Chee, who inadvertently gave birth to the program by wishing on Twitter that Amtrak would offer residencies, is acting as a public go-between, promising his Twitter followers that Amtrak will get back to residency applicants with a counter-proposal on its rights language.
Wherever those discussions lead, one thing is clear: The Amtrak residency, as currently designed, is not really a residency, in any sensible meaning of that word. It is, instead, a proposed commercial transaction between Amtrak and the writer, and should be evaluated on those terms.
Well said, Sean Carman. I have problems with clauses 5 and 6. I won’t apply for an Amtrak “residency” unless the corporation changes the terms.