Inspired by comments made by author Alexander Chee, the residency was announced in February, offering writers with a free round-trip, long-distance train trip with a sleeping compartment equipped with a desk, free meals and access to the observation car -- all designed to inspire creativity through rail travel.
Amtrak began accepting applications in March, and received more than 16,000 responses. The recipients were ultimately chosen by a panel of four judges: Chee; Joe McHugh, Amtrak's vice president of government affairs and corporate communications; Samuel Nicholson, an editor at Random House; and Amy Stolls, director of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Willingham, who brings his multiple Eisner Award-winning series to a close early next year, is joined in the residency program by bloggers, poets, journalists and novelists -- among them, film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, Chang and Eng author Darin Strauss, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe author Chris Taylor, and NPR contributor and Superman: The Unauthorized Biography author Glen Weldon.
Beginning in October, about two writers each month will travel on pre-selected trains, with all of Amtrak's 15 long-distance routes ultimately being covered.