Postcard Wednesday: Looking At Home

It was a warm fall day in New York and I was headed that evening to the last Friday night Mets game of the season. I had just bought some postcards at McNally Jackson, and was waiting to head uptown and meet a friend for happy hour and then ballpark fun.

The postcard is one of many New York City postcards I own. I have a wall in my apartment with New York City postcards. In my postcards box categories, I have “Places” and then I have “New York-Color” and “New York-B/W.” The city is so photogenic without even trying. Or maybe the city has mastered the art of trying-but-not-trying.

I collect New York postcards because they remind me of the city. I look for pictures that offer me a different view of New York other than the sanitized, tourist version. In those postcards I try to look at New York from another point of view. I try to learn the city and bring it with me, like a traveler who brings a postcard home. Me, I bring a piece of home so I can stay in touch with it.

I ventured downtown, to a bookstore my sister in law recommended, killing time before happy hour. I was looking to spend some time looking for postcards, as I tend to do lately. I went to NYC to get away for a while, recharge my emotional and creative energy. I couldn’t ignore what was going on in my head, but I also needed to find my way back to the things that sustain me emotionally. Self-care.

I took the 6 to Bleeker Street. I then walked to McNally Jackson and found this postcard, with a photograph by Genevieve Hafner.

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The image is black, with the words POST NO BILLS spray-painted onto a wall. Through a hole in the fence, you can see some buildings and the Empire State Building. Or is it the Chrysler? I can’t tell. I guess that shows what kind of a New Yorker I am: the kind that doesn’t live in New York.

I couldn’t stay at the bookstore to read and write. The tables were full and my iPhone battery was almost dead. I made my way to the Apple Store a few blocks west, charged my phone, and wrote a little in the clean, white, shiny, loud Apple Store until it was time to head uptown to Harlem.

Sometimes I am a tourist in my birthtown.

Scenes from a Week: The International Edition (11.3.2014-11.9.2014)

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This week I am posting more pictures than text. It’s been a whirlwind of a week, visiting the west coast of Puerto Rico, putting together the next issue of WIHE (have laptop will work), and also getting ready for NWSA 2014. But I’ve been doing my daily writing and I’ve been taking pictures.

I also have lots of thoughts about Sabana Grande, being in Puerto Rico, coming to my parents’s home and sleeping in my own bed, and renting a car. If you write a dissertation about home spaces, you don’t get to come back to the home where you grew up and not have thoughts about how home has changed. Especially because I left home when I was 18 and have only come back on vacation to what used to be my house.

But I’m leaving that one for a longer essay/musing on home.

Here are some highlights from Week One in Puerto Rico.

Throwback Tuesday

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Wednesday in Ruins

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Saturday Shadows

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Sunday Sunshine

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An Imaginary Reader

Do you, dear readers and writers, have someone in mind when you write? Does that help you write?

Thursdays are a book day. I tried to give every day of the work week a theme so I can stay focused and make progress on my different projects, even if slowly. It also helps keep my anxiety at bay. (My system has been around for only two weeks and I’ll be in Puerto Rico next week, so let’s see if I can keep it going.) Yesterday I read some pages from William Zinsser’s On Writing Well as part of book research/development. And although it’s not content-specific research, I’m trying to learn more about this overarching genre, nonfiction. So I file it under “genre research.”

Got my drink and my...oh, wait.

Got my drink and my…oh, wait.

I enjoy how clearly Zinsser wrote his book (a good example to follow) and how concise the chapters are. I’m not sure that I’m loving the book though. It’s a good reminder of what matters in writing, particularly in nonfiction, but I think I was expecting something else from it. Maybe because I’m in a frame of mind where I’m starting my book and I’m thirsty to find something that looks like what I’m hoping to do.

As I read Chapter 4 “On Style,” the following quotation stood out to me. The reason he encourages writers to write in first person is,
Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.

I used to get this question a lot as a Graduate Writing Specialist. I even wrote about it for Minority Postdoc“Writing From a Personal (Academic) Space.” I am a fan of using first person singular in my writing. But Zinsser didn’t make me think of that when I read the above passage. He made me think instead about who my ideal reader is. I wondered, who do I imagine reading my book? if this is an intimate transaction between two people, who’s on the other side? I’m still not sure of that.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of this point. I had thought of a general audience, of faceless people with wallets who pick up my jacket-less book and take it to a blank register. But I hadn’t thought about putting a face to those people. How do I even choose my mental reader? How do i choose who of my friends I’ll write it for? or am i writing it to inspire a certain person?

I want to explore some more this idea of who my reader is. I think it’s important to think about who is reading this book. Not the audience, mind you. That’s another level of thinking about the book. I’m focused more on when I write, who do I imagine reading this book? Austin Kleon said in an episode of Otherppl (my new favorite podcast) that when he writes he envisions his wife as the reader of the text. Kelly Klautz at Copyblogger talks about how inventing an imaginary person can help your writing. The author gives some specific questions to create your imaginary reader. But I like the idea of writing for a particular person. You already know their reactions, you already understand what they like.