Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Today on the blog we have the lovely Ksenia Anske sharing some very exciting news! Take it away Ksenia!

I have won Amtrak Residency!
Out of over 16,100 applicants only 24 writers were selected!

What? What?? Pinch me.
Here is the official blog post from Amtrak about it. And here is how it happened.
Once upon a time someone mentioned on Twitter (I know, I know, it's where I get my news) something about Amtrak starting a writer's residency program, where they pay for your ticket to some city and back, and your part is to write about it. Anything. An article, an observation, a short story, whatever. There's been excitement around it, at first. Of course. Man, people love trains! There is something about the lull in the movement, the length of the beast, the walking from one compartment to the other, the gazing out the windows, the sleeping. It's the sleeping that I love most. To the staccato of wheels, to this propulsion in the night, when it's dark out, and you look and see a blur of trees and lights and wonder what you're passing. Wonder what eyes are watching you, out of the dark. Wonder. It's like a house on wheels, only it's better than a car. A car is on the road, roads are always leading to towns, cities, places where there are people. You can walk a road. But trains! Trains like to cut through wilderness, through places where there are hardly any people at all. Yes, some roads are desolate, but not as desolate as train tracks. Stephen King comes to mind, both with his novella The Body about a boy being killed on the train tracks and 3 boys finding his body, and the demented monorail train Blaine the Mono from The Dark Tower. Something about them, right? Something. Something special.

Then the talk turned sour. People, writers, that is, started scratching their heads. They read the terms of the program on Amtrak's site. There was an uproar. People were like, hey, they will own my writing, I don't want that! You know me, though. I don't care if Amtrak will own my writing. I will write more in my life. I'm simply excited about the opportunity. I can't afford travel right now, not on trains, not on planes. Don't even have money for gas. Don't even have a car. I skimmed through terms and thought, hey, if I win, they're paying for my trip and telling people about me. That's cool enough for me.
So I thought, hell, I'll apply. I did. I applied. Here is my application.

    "It will squeeze a whole new novel into my already packed production schedule of 3-4 novels a year. Because. Because I already have an idea. A people eating train. No, better, let's have a flock of Bolshoy theater ballerinas being devoured by carriage number 5. I know, sorry, that's my brain for you. But, trust me, there will be enough wonder there mixed with bloody settees and in the end the train will end up being this gigantic tapeworm that escaped an intergalactic cockroach that... but I'm getting carried away. The thingy on the bottom right just told me I have 500 characters left but now that I typed this much it's only 368 and oh my God now it's only 336 can you believe it? See, I can't shut up, can't stop writing. Trains only accelerate that.

    I grew up on trains, trains from Moscow to Berlin, from Berlin to Warsaw and back to Moscow. Sleeper trains, inter-city trains, slow trains, fast trains, subway trains and trams, trains riddled with cockroaches and trains where passengers were served caviar. I moved from Russia to US 16 years ago and I miss trains. I have only traveled on an American train once, from Seattle to Portland and back to Seattle. It wasn't long enough to produce any kind of a story, there wasn't enough oomph, enough time to imagine parasitic roses grow out of people's heads and start eating each other. People, I mean, not roses. Anyway, put me on a train, I'll write you a whole novel. Not kidding. I write about 1,000 words an hour, ESPECIALLY when my writing space is moving. There is that lulling effect at play. Go figure, right? It's like being back in the womb or something? I claim the window seat. Thank you, and goodbye."

And I got selected as one of the 115 semi-finalists!!!
Me? They picked me? WHAT??
I'm still in shock. Still.
I plan on writing a novel while on the train. I even have a title picked out for it.
TUBE: Trans-Urban Blitz-Express
Knowing me, you could've guessed that it's a flesh-eating train. Yes, it is. Yes, I grew up with trains, all kinds of trains, metro trains, trams, passenger trains, sleeper trains (I traveled from Moscow to Berlin and back), and I both love them and am creeped out by them. In IRKADURA I compare the subway train to a tapeworm. Not this one, the TUBE, the train will be a she. Not a he, like Stephen King's Blaine the Mono. A sinister she. I have the opening for the novel already (yes, I couldn't stop my brain and had to write it down):

    She heard it breathe. The train. She could've sworn it took a slow inhale. Her toes pulsed, reminding her that they hurt from practice. She cast a glance around the compartment and continued unwrapping her left pointe shoe. The right one lay sprawled on the mauve carpet like a squished moth.
    “Bleeding again,” she sighed, carefully peeled the fabric off, and threw the stained shoe next to the first one. The carpet shifted imperceptibly, as if sniffing it.

The book will be about a troupe of Bolshoi Theatre ballerinas going on tour in US, and, well, strangely disappearing one by one in the car number 5. Or something.
This is just an idea, but I know I will write it into a book. Probably will have to shift my schedule around a bit.
Oh, you must be wondering what an Amtrak Residency is?
Well, in the course of the next 12 months I'll get to choose one of the longer train rides, like from Seattle to Chicago and back, for example, and Amtrak will pay for it. I get my own coupe, Wi-Fi, all the fancy stuff, and I can ride the train and write, watching spectacular landscapes whiz by the window, imagining myself J.K. Rowling coming up with the Harry Potter idea. Which in my case would more like buckwheat sprouting into cockchafers that grow and multiply and devour people like juicy aphids. Or some gluttonous beasts catching obstreperous victims like bugs and with pretentious nonchalance tearing them apart and slurping them in, guts and all. Lovely imagery, don't you think? Don't you like my stories?
I'm astounded you have read this far, you bloody logophile.
Well, that's it, really.

One Response so far.

  1. Thank you for interviewing me!!! XOXO

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