Somerville-Based Author Will Write and Ride the Rails Thanks to Amtrak

susan piverSusan Piver will participate in Amtrak's second residency program for writers.

Susan Piver is no stranger to traveling by Amtrak. For many years, when she lived in New York City and her husband lived up here, she’d take the train just about every weekend to come visit.

And she got a lot of work done on those journeys.

“I just did so much writing on the train,” says Piver, a Somerville-based author and Buddhist teacher. “I really, really loved the train … there’s something very peaceful about it.”

So as soon as she saw that the rail company was kicking off a second installment of its Residency for Writers program, which gives authors the chance to take a long-distance train and work on their books, she jumped at the chance to fill out an application.

At first, Piver says she assumed she hadn’t gotten one of the positions. Months went by, and she didn’t hear from anyone. In fact, she almost forgot about her application entirely. But last month, the author of books including Start Here Now and How Not to be Afraid of Your Own Life got a call and learned that she was one of the 24 writers selected to participate.

As a Buddhist teacher and student of Buddhism for more than 20 years, Piver says her writing career actually began somewhat unexpectedly. She wrote a few self-help books, and one, The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do,” became a New York Times bestseller. “The more I practiced Buddhism, the most I saw how relevant it was to my relationship, and my job and my everyday live,” she explains. “I gradually turned to writing more about those things.”

In addition to writing and teaching meditation retreats, Piver founded a “global mindfulness community” called the Open Heart Project, where she offers online meditation and mindfulness training for free online. “That has just grown way beyond what I ever thought,” Piven laughs. She now has an online membership of more than 20,000 people. “That’s become a full-time job—and an awesome job.”

Piver isn’t sure exactly where she’ll travel with her roundtrip ticket, but she thinks she’d like to go to Chicago and L.A. on the Southwest Chief line. What she is pretty sure about is the book that will keep her busy on her journey. “I’ve really been wanting to write a book about Buddhism and relationships,” Piver says. “That’s hard to sort of get started on in the midst of everyday life, so I’m really counting on that time out of time to dive into it. I’m super excited.”

But while she’ll be happy to get away for a bit, she doesn’t have any designs on leaving our fair city for good.

“I love Somerville,” she laughs. “I’m so happy to be a resident of Somerville. It’s the only place I’d want to live in Greater Boston.”