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Book News: Amtrak Unveils Writers Picked For A Residency On The Rails

All aboard the writer's desk. Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Amtrak hide caption

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Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Amtrak

All aboard the writer's desk.

Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Amtrak

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Amtrak has announced the inaugural class of its brand-new writers residency program. Out of a crop of some 16,000 applications, the railroad service has picked just 24 writers to ride the rails on a long-distance train — and to write while they do so.

The announcement has been nearly a year in the making, taking a steady but winding route from conception to completion. The residency began as a brief wish spoken by author Alexander Chee in an interview, found support in a tweet from Jessica Gross, soon ran as a test case — and an article in The Paris Review — and finally arrived at the two-dozen applicants now chosen, partly by Chee himself, who served on the panel of judges.

The group ranges from a doctoral candidate at work on his dissertation (Korey Garibaldi) to a former spy for the CIA (Lindsay Moran), from a noted film critic (Lisa Schwarzbaum) to even a regular NPR contributor (Glen Weldon). You can see the full list of residents here.

'Do Not Underestimate This Anger': Neil Gaiman describes what it's like to arrive late to an interview with Terry Pratchett — and the simmering anger it exposed in the otherwise kindly, prolific writer. In his introduction to Pratchett's nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard, excerpted in The Guardian, Gaiman speaks of Pratchett's distinctive style:

"I suppose that, if you look quickly and are not paying attention, you might, perhaps, mistake it for jolly. But beneath any jollity there is a foundation of fury. Terry Pratchett is not one to go gentle into any night, good or otherwise."

A Break For Flash Fiction: Zimiri Yaseen has a quiet, sweet — and brief — story about a son and his stroke-stricken father, just out in Guernica. It reads: "like a giant clam taking a deep sea breath, i imagine, his fingers slowly unfurled. then i would slap at his dry palm and the fingers would close, slowly."

Slate Goes Back For Seconds: Slate and the Whiting Foundation are collaborating to give second novels a bit of a boost. Citing the disappointment or neglect that often dogs novelists' sophomore efforts, Dan Kois explains that the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List, also called "We Second That," isn't exactly another prize, so much as it is a means of encouragement and publicity: "Is this an award? No, not really. It's akin to being retweeted by your literary idol, or finding out that the classmate you have a crush on thinks you're cute. A mash note from the cosmos!"

The list of five novels will be announced Nov. 19, followed by a week of essays featuring each book in turn.