Tag Archives: talking to strangers

Writing (riding) on the train

Have you heard by now that Amtrak is considering a residency on its trains for writers? You can read a bit more about it here. It sounds like so much fun to me. To ride on the train, talk to people, hear their stories. Write about the people, the places, the train itself. Take photos. Spin the stories and photos together.

Then I wonder, will this work for most writers? Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Many of them are introverts who come alive in the written world but are mute when faced with people who want to chat. Would the writer in residency just sit and write at his/her laptop? Would passengers watch this or would they just be aware that a writer was onboard? Would the writer be an observer and do the actual writing upon arrival at their destination? Lots of interesting possibilities.

I have been thinking about a train trip to Oregon, along the Coast Starlight route. I have heard from friends that it can be quite long, with unexpected delays along the line. One friend who took it all the way to Seattle and then back to Fresno had to get on a bus for part of the trip due to the track being flooded or torn up for repairs after a flooding. I forget all the details except that it took her an extra day to get back. That wouldn’t be bad if you had no schedule to meet, no appointments to keep. Much like my current life.

When on  a train, plane, bus, or trolley car, I am the person who sits down next to you and attempts to strike up a conversation. Some of you absolutely hate this. If rebuffed, I usually shut up and just sit quietly. Many, though, enjoy engaging in a conversation. I’m also the person who will tell you MY story if you are reluctant to share your own. Today, on Cowbird, I read the story of a man who took a bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. On the bus, at the front, was an elderly man who was of interest to the writer, and the story had the old gent as the main character, but the writer never engaged the man in conversation. I thought that was just too sad. I would have sat down, right beside the elderly gentleman, and learned his story, first hand.