Many writers are excited to sit on a train, shit in a moving closet, and eat microwavable food. I can understand the appeal of having quiet-time for consecutive days, looking through a window at a flashing landscape. We want to escape our daily physical space so badly, but also remain in a chair, so the Amtrak residency seems ideal for many. Here are eight other writer residencies if you’re not down with Amtrak but are looking for something different:
1) Waste Management: The WM residency allows a writer to live the life of a sanitation worker for “one week minimum, one month maximum.” Participants will ride on the back on a variety of garbage trucks while assisting full-time workers in daily residential and commercial waste removal. A promotional video for the WM residency shows a frail and worrisome Joan Didion clinging to the rear right of a massive green garbage truck. As the video progresses and she scribbles notes under black arcs of tossed garbage bags and naps in the passenger seat surrounded by a cave of trash, Didion eases into a blissful routine. The video ends with a smiling Didion standing back on the rear of the truck, her thin hair blowing in an orange evening breeze as the truck rounds a sharp corner of a pristine gated community. The gears of the garbage truck awkwardly shift, Didion bounces a little, and as the truck disappears to a dark and groaning dot, Didion lets her body hang to the far side, only one hand holding onto the truck, arm extended, her other hand a triumphant fist floating over the pavement. The WM residency claims “dirty living, cleaner prose.”
2) Fuck Who You Hate: FWYH is a private non-profit literary organization that pairs writers inside a large sex cube who have previous argued, fought, or publically acknowledged distain for each other. Potential applicants should submit a portfolio including three separate pieces of writing, one letter of recommendation, and a list of the top three writers they hate. Matches are approved by a board of directors who meet twice a year at the site (undisclosed, probably Ohio) of the sex cube. The residency believes that fucking another writer you hate “breaks down the walls of negativity and allows both writers to find a path of clarity to acceptance, resulting in stronger literary work.” Once the pair fucks inside the sex cube they are immediately led down their own corridor, a kind of black and narrow hallway with small flashing lights above, that leads to an attached writing room full of bright light, offering all amenities (think high-end hotel living) a writer might need. The trial test for FWUH paired Colson Whitehead with Richard Ford. Since the residency Ford has publically alluded, a sort of running joke he finds unbearably funny, to the spitting incident several times, stating, “But I won’t give too many details on which incident.” Upcoming residencies include the following: Jennifer Egan and Jennifer Weiner(April), Dale Peck and Rick Moody(May), Jonathan Franzen and Oprah (Fourth of July only).
3) Fage Yogurt/Cabot Butter Residency: Accepted writers into the residency are tube-fed nothing but Fage Greek Yogurt while sitting in a bathtub of slowly melting Cabot butter.
4) Single Black Mothers: The SBM residency (six months) exposes privileged white men to the lives of single black mother’s who have lived and suffered through experiences and not their imaginations. Tom Wolfe, an early test subject, entered a fugue state barely three weeks into the residency while living with Jennifer Harvey of South Indiana Avenue, Chicago, and her three children in a studio apartment. At the conclusion of the residency Wolfe stated he found the lives of Jennifer Harvey and her children to be “truly inspiring” then retreated back to his upper west side Manhattan apartment and back into his dream world. Applicants should be prepared to move and live in a city not their own. The residency claims that Wolfe’s experience was typical (trying to write while caring for three children, grocery shop, cook meals, do laundry, clean the apartment, work two minimum wage jobs, and complete a wide variety of soul sucking and exhausting menial daily tasks) but his reaction, to immediately fall back into the comfort of a white male patriarchy that allows him to never experience, think, or feel, or even seriously consider the lives of Jennifer Harvey, are not typical. SBM offers residencies to up to fifty writers every year and opened in 2011. To date no one has applied.
5) Burger King Residency: Accepted writers into the residency live inside a Burger King where they are deemed “King Writer” and write on a throne made of mashed together chicken tenders and shift supervisor tears.
6) Vivid Video: Vivid Video offers residencies of various lengths (one week to three months) throughout the year in sunny Los Angeles. The residency prides itself on a loose and flexible schedule where accepted writers get to write, sleep, and eat on the set of porn shoots. “Writers sleep in the same beds where porn stars fuck,” says Marc Costello, the director of the residency. “Where else can a writer be exposed to beautiful girls fucking and food catered by Jersey Mike’s?” Writers are required to assist in the making of films on a for-need basis. “The idea here is simple,” says porn star James Deen, a strong advocate of the residency and recruiter of writers like Steve Erickson, Aimee Bender, all who have benefited from the residency. “Today’s mainstream presses are publishing flat, boring, and uninspiring prose,” says Deen. “Vivid Video aims to push writers into new, never experienced before situations, resulting in boundary pushing fiction at the indie and mainstream level.”
7) Don DeLillo Starbucks Twitter Residency: Accepted writers are forced to read all their tweets to Don DeLillo at Starbucks.
8) The Humane Society: Accepted writers are allowed to chose a kennel of their desire and live in a cage. Writers in residence share a near identical experience with dogs and cats in neighboring cages. If at any time the writer in residence is adopted, they have the option to leave and live with the adopting person or family up to four years or terminate the residency. Philip Roth, who entered into the residency in 2011, and was adopted by the Smith family of Cambridge Massachusetts, hasn’t been heard from since. The residency boasts that dozens of writers have benefited from the secluded and private space of an animal cage where there is nothing to do but shit yourself and write. “It’s a writer’s dream space,” says Joan Crumb, director of the residency. “I understand the Amtrak residency and it’s benefits, but there are still too many distractions. For a writer to get back to his primal, animal roots is transcendental.”