Jefe's House

Tag: amtrak residency

Prepare to be Judged, Judges

by on Jul.16, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

A fair question and an honest article and my honest, if not entirely fair, response…

dailydot

Why are 22 of the 24 new Amtrak writing residents white?

This year, a majority of those selected members are white, and many creatives aren’t happy about it.

Amtrak writes that “the residents offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country.” There certainly is some representation of different backgrounds—lots of women, some LGBT writers, and some disabled writers, too. However, 22 of the 24 selected are white, and there is not a single black writer…

Residency judge Jeffrey Stanley provided the Daily Dot with a little more insight into the process.  CONT’D at Daily Dot>>

PS – Here’s the full text of my response:

Hi Jaya, I can only speak for myself as an individual judge. Indeed when I saw the photos of the winners yesterday for the first time when they were announced my heart sank. As you’ve said it’s diverse in so many other ways but there are no black faces. Obviously this wasn’t done intentionally. As a judge I had no clue of an applicant’s ethnicity, appearance, or with which affinity group they identify, unless they state it in their bio, artistic statement, or any autobiographical pieces they may have included with their writing samples. Judges aren’t given specific guidelines. Speaking for myself, I was looking first and foremost at the artistic merit of the sample, then their publication history that might qualify them as a professional writer pursing a writing career in earnest and not just as a hobby, and their statement on why this residency would be beneficial to them.  Should the application be modified for future applicants and judges instructed more specifically to weigh race in the application process?  Maybe so. These are issues faced by every theatre organization with which I’ve been involved as a board member, every screenwriting contest I’ve ever judged, any college admission portfolio I’ve been asked to evaluate.  I can’t speak for Amtrak but I would suspect they’d be wide open to suggestions for best practices for how to improve the diversity of the judges as well as the applicant pool.  Feel free to shoot me any followups. Happy to talk more.

Jeff

 

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Train Roll On

by on Jul.15, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

 

Photo via Yahoo! News. The Empire Builder travels daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, and takes customers on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers.

Now it can be told. This year I served as an Amtrak Writers Residency judge after being a recipient of a residency the previous year. The winners have just been announced. Last year I believe I was the only one of 24 writers who self-identified as a playwright or screenwriter. You’ll notice that this year there are several in the mix, not that I was the sole impetus for this but I was in there swinging. Some are recognizable heavy hitters and some are early career. Overall a good mix I think. If you’re a writer and haven’t entered this thing yet–why? I urge you to do so next year. It is unique and worthy and I’d love to see it continue to grow in scope and acceptance as an incubator for new work in all media.

 

Amtrak Residency Program Selects Writers

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — During the next year, selected members of the literary community will travel on Amtrak routes that crisscross the country and spend the time working on their writing projects, providing a unique journey and workspace as part of the #AmtrakResidency program.

This is the second group of writers selected for the program, which offers a travel experience with amazing scenery, an environment that fosters engaging connections, and the ability to explore and be inspired by the diversity of landscapes America has to offer.

“We are excited to build on the success of the residency program and offer a second group of writers a creative environment to focus on the work of their choice,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak director of public relations. “Whether traveling for business or pleasure, passenger rail helps travelers avoid the frustrations and hurdles associated with other modes of transportation – continuously making Amtrak the smarter way to travel, which we are confident the writers will find inspiring.”

A diverse group of writers were selected for the residency program. About two writers per month will travel round trip on pre-selected (based on availability) trains, and cover all 15 of Amtrak’s long-distance routes.  A complete list of selected residents and bios can be found on the Amtrak blog.

Applications were reviewed by a panel representing the literary community including published writers and former Amtrak Residents Lindsay Moran and Jeffrey Stanley, Amtrak Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Joe McHugh and writer and teacher Jessica Gross.

Gross, a Manhattan-based writer, traveled on the Lake Shore Limited as a trial run of the residency program and her support spurred the launch of the formal program in March 2014. Her piece, “Writing The Lake Shore Limited” was published by the Paris Review.

“My 2014 Amtrak residency from New York to Chicago and back was peaceful, contemplative, and so fruitful for my writing,” Gross said. “I’m delighted to have played a part in sending a new crop of writers on the rails this year.”

For more information on Amtrak and the Amtrak Writer’s Residency experience, visit blog.amtrak.com or follow #AmtrakResidency.

 

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The Ghost of August Wilson

by on Mar.25, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

20150323_220621Amtrak Residency
Day 12
3/24/15

This morning while hurtling across western Pennsylvania I enjoyed my final Amtrak breakfast.  I sat next to a uniformed Amtrak police officer en route to a meeting at our final stop on the Capitol Limited, Washington, DC. From there I’ll take a two-hour ride  to Philadelphia on the Amtrak Acela Express and be home in time for dinner.

Across from us sat two elderly women from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The officer had spent 26 years on the Chicago police force before retiring into a much less stressful “second career” working for Amtrak.

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Old round house; Martinsburg, WV station

After a few minutes of instinctively probing their names, destinations, life stories, I sprung it on them that I’m a (continue reading…)

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One More Day To Gravy

by on Mar.24, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 11
3/23/15

20150323_13090920150323_085531Kali gnashed her teeth
Scraping across the sky
We scattered in her sweat
Leaped across its rivers
Looking for hard cover
Relishing the dance
Wiping out

 

 

 

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Where’s Letter Man when you need him?

A chilly, snowy, slushy day in the Windy City. Awoke to falling snow and a forecast that had increased to 3 to 6 inches.

Another 10-mile run along Lake Michigan was out of the question so I ran 10 miles on a treadmill in my hotel’s fitness room. That might seem like a desperate act but after a 2 and half days of being sedentary on a train I had to sweat out some toxins and burn off the crazy.

20150323_130641I then had a scrumptious lunch at the nearby Berghoff Restaurant, a local landmark that’s been serving German-American cuisine since 1898. (continue reading…)

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Chicago Blues

by on Mar.23, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 10
3/22/15
20150321_173559Got up with the rooster crow — or in Amtrakspeak the ear-blasting 6am breakfast call — to see off the Warren-Powells who hopped off in Osceola, IA at 7:40am. I then wrote until an early lunchtime (the last meal aboard my beloved California Zephyr before it concluded its run in Chicago) during which I met a pair of retired micro-brewers, Wendy and Don Littlefield. The better half is completing her first novel, a murder mystery that I look forward to reading.  They also hipped me to Philly Inquirer food writer Craig LaBan, whom I should have known about as I’m now a Philadelphian, but I didn’t. Now I do. We also talked about our shared appreciation for August Wilson and the fact that they’ll be seeing Two Trains Running in Chicago soon. This was the second time on this trip that August Wilson came up.

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The train station in Galesburg, IL, historically an important railroad town, boasts and antique Pullman car…

I spent my final few hours aboard the Zephyr (continue reading…)

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Deja Vu

by on Mar.22, 2015, under On the Road

Amtrak Residency
Day 9
3/21/15

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20150321_083007Haven’t I been here before? Woke up this morning shooting across Utah and worked on LITTLE ROCK for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to the call of hot breakfast and coffee wafting from the dining car. There I met a high school senior named Kira who’s interested in pursuing an acting or singing career, and also Jane, returning home from a yoga retreat.
20150321_084611In Glenwood Springs, CO the Warren-Powell family boarded my train on their way back home to Iowa and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon and part of the evening playing trivia with them and talking ghosts. (continue reading…)

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Please Look After This Bear

by on Mar.21, 2015, under On the Road, Theatre

Amtrak Residency
Day 8
3/20/15
20150320_153251I have slingshotted around San Francisco and am now hurtling back toward the East Coast, back on the California Zephyr at 9:10am this morning to cross through now-familiar terrain but staying on the opposite side of the train as much as possible to take in a different view: (continue reading…)

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After the Gold Rush

by on Mar.20, 2015, under On the Road

20150318_164818Amtrak Residency
Days 6 and 7
3/18 and 3/19/15

 

 

 

 

20150318_124147Yesterday and today were mainly traveling days.  Up refreshed by 7:30am yesterday despite the previous night’s ghostly shenanigans, I worked on LITTLE ROCK for awhile before heading to the Hot Springs Pool for one last dip before skipping town.  I had lunch at Polanka, a hole in the wall run by two Polish (continue reading…)

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Still’s Still Moving to Me

by on Mar.16, 2015, under The Truth Is In Here

Day 3
3/15/15
The Ides of March

It was many, many years ago that I began my career as a Dramatic Author; and a hard and bitter-fought beginning I can well remember that it was. I was inexperienced, shy, and foolish; without money, without influence. I knew not a single soul connected even in the most distant way with the theatrical world. I knew no one to advise me or give me a hint. For years I danced in impotent frenzy around the high strong walls that guard the city of Dramatic Art. I ran my head against the stones, I tore myself against the spiky gates, I soused myself in the dirty moat, I screamed and cursed, and blubbed. At last, I climbed over and got in… I enumerate the difficulties that beset me only to show to the struggling young besiegers of today how, with the aid of pig-headed obstinacy, sublime conceit, thick skin, and a genius for nagging and boring and worrying human people’s lives out of them, it is possible to force even so strongly guarded a portal as the stage door of the present century.
- Jerome K. Jerome, British satirical playwright, 1888

20150315_11141220150315_111743Today’s a traveling day.  I got up early and wrote for awhile, then spent the remainder of this brisk, sunny morning running 10 miles along Chicago‘s Lake Shore Drive (continue reading…)

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Waterloo Sunrise

by on Mar.15, 2015, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

I visited the most haunted place in the US and bumped into a witch. The witch bumped into a crazy writer.

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Wintry, soggy farmland near Waterloo, IN

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Capitol Limited observation car

Amtrak Residency

Day 2

3/14/15

    I got up before dawn to sit in the observatory car and work on LITTLE ROCK while watching twilight brighten gray flat farmland becoming suburbs as we pulled into Waterloo, Indiana.  Later I moved to the cafe car for breakfast and wound up sitting across from fellow passenger Mark Wyatt, a grass roots activist who runs the 2000-member strong Iowa Bicycle Coalition, on a return trip from DC where he was “lobbying Congress.”  Why didn’t he just fly there?  “I don’t enjoy flying and I’ve come to enjoy train travel. It’s easy, it’s comfortable, and I can write three grants along the way.”  He and his organization have come up with some novel ways of increasing bicycle appreciation and awareness in Iowa, including the annual bacon ride, where cyclists make stops along the way to enjoy BLTs, bacon chocolate sundaes and bacon (continue reading…)

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