Shout out to humanodon louderwords cW . I think this is a great opportunity for all/any of us (as long as you are located in the U.S.) and if you haven't heard of it, I'm glad to share it with you and I really think we should all take a chance (relatively low risk!) and try it out. Also shout-out to anyone who writes prose too, because the residency is non-genre/non-style specific. @shaxxonit@
Yeah, my Facebook feed lit up with that Amtrak thing. Good on 'em. A publicly subsidized company publicly subsidizing the arts. It's like we're in Europe, only with Bulgarian-level transport.
And if I didn't have a life and a bunch of gigs and a wife and a daughter and a deep and aspiring loathing of having my work judged by people who aren't going to pay for it, I might even apply. Like every one of my friends have. Because a week on a train car for free? Sure, sounds like fun. If we're being honest, though, there are more romantic ways to do it.
I'll say this though: The constant emphasis on residencies was the #1 reason I bailed on Writer's Digest.
You discuss "what makes a 'real' writer." I don't call myself a writer and I've optioned two screenplays and penned a handful of magazine articles. I've also not optioned seven other screenplays so the pallor of failure is everpresent (never mind that the WGAw poll results indicated most people option their eighth screenplay and I optioned my third).
I don't make my living writing. I know several people who do. They're "writers" but unless they've got a book on the NYT list or a movie in theaters they don't get taken seriously at restaurants, either. At least I have a fallback profession that sounds slightly-less made up (In this town, at least. Try telling people in Eu Claire you're a "sound mixer" and they group you in with "key grip" and "best boy electric" and "gaffer" and other such jobs they see in credits but don't understand).
I suppose a "residency" is a way to be a "real writer" but since they're almost always limited-appointment, limited-remuneration, limited-prestige competitions for limited-awareness universities out in the back of beyond, the end result is the whole concept of "residency" gets dragged down. Does paying $4k to Southern Indiana University to spend a month in their "writers in residence" program make you a writer any more than going to Rock Star Fantasy Camp makes you a musician?
Combine that with the fact that any subsidy of these residencies comes, in one way or another, out of the exorbitant tuition that's on everyone's mind. Would I rather see universities subsidize poets than fitness centers? Actually, no. The building of fitness centers creates jobs, and the occupation of fitness centers creates fitness. Subsidizing poets and writers convinces everyone in the system that poets and writers need not actually sell anything as welfare is gonna pick up the bill.
At one point I considered Clarion West. I'm friends with a guy who was instructing at the time. You'll note they don't call it a "residency" they call it a "workshop". "Workshop" I believe in. It implies you're going to learn something, you're going to do something. "Residency" implies you're going to sleep there.