How do I pick a postcard?

Easy: I don’t pick just one.

Smart ass.

But really, I have trouble just buying one. Yesterday, for example, on my way to the security checkpoint to board my flight from La Guardia Airport to Houston, I walked past an NYC souvenirs stand. I walked in because I saw some MTA paraphernalia and I thought I could find something snazzy to bring home. But then I realized I was in a souvenir store and that they would most certainly have postcards. I picked one up for my friend and two for me.

See? I just can’t stop.

Last week, a Facebook friend asked me how do I pick a postcard. He’s not the first to ask, honestly. Although I love getting postcards from people no matter what the picture (I’d rather people pick out postcards that speak to them than postcards that they think would speak to me), it’s a little harder for me to articulate what I am looking for when I look for postcards. The only thing I am certain of is that I buy them for me, and if I want to send one to someone, I’ll buy two. Contrary to what you may think, I don’t send a lot of postcards.

This project has made me think closely about why I choose the postcards I choose. I doubt this will make it into the book, for I don’t think the book is going to be about my postcard collection but about postcards in general. However, it’ll be useful to articulate to you, dear readers, and to myself what is that elusive something I’m looking for when I come across postcards.

Here are a few postcards I picked up on my trip.

2014-06-17 20.11.36I’m a sucker for a quirky New York City Postcard. This one I got at a souvenir shop at La Guardia. I took it home with me because it has a map of the Interborough Rapid Transit map. Before the MTA, there was the IRT and the BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit, later known as Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit), two independent companies that later merged under the city-owned MTA.

What do I love about this postcard? The old-timey-ness. It seems like an old postcard you’re not likely to find anywhere except New York. Also, it’s about the subway, which is something my husband loves and that reminds me always of NYC. So more than aesthetics, I picked up this postcard because it speaks to me on a personal level.

Also: it’s the kind of card I want to hang up and show everybody. The equivalent of that is posting it on my blog.
2014-06-18 11.13.23This one I picked up at Argosy Books, an old and rare books and prints store in Manhattan that my sister in law told me about. When I asked an employee on the first floor if he had postcards, he said (and I paraphrase) we have old postcards but not touristy postcards. I told him that’s exactly what I was looking for. He indicated to me how to get to the second floor, where all the prints are.

My daughter sat next to me, fidgeting and doing a poor job of resisting the urge to touch everything while I thumbed through a thick stack of postcards. 3 bucks per postcard. Many of them had a landscape or a country scene of some sort. There were also several from Canada. A handful were addressed to a certain Mr. Percy Skaling from Vancouver. I wonder who this person is and why he thought to sell them. What prompts anyone to sell postcards that have already been addressed and delivered? Food for thought.

I picked up this postcard (unwritten, unaddressed) because of the pin-up girl. It seems like an unlikely picture on a postcard—send girls through the mail!—but even when I type that I wonder what I mean by “unlikely.” I guess because most of the cards I get from people have some sort of geographical picture on them. It seems people like sending a picture of a place more than a picture of a person. I tend to buy pictures of people. They’re like little, affordable portraits.

There’s also something risqué about this pin-up girl, something audacious.
2014-06-18 11.13.31This postcard of a stork I also purchased at Argosy. It was in a small binder of postcards with greetings on them. My daughter opened it (thankfully all the postcards were in plastic sleeves because they’re all over a century old) and when she opened up the page with this one in it, I made her stop so I could take it out.

I love that this postcard isn’t cheeky or sarcastic (although in my head anything can sound sarcastic—it’s a gift), but straight up forthright: is everybody happy? It’s for new parents, considering the baby and the stork. The baby is crying and the stork seems not convinced. Is everybody happy? Let’s face it: sometimes, when a newborn has appeared in your life, everybody is not happy.

Definitely not Hallmark material. So it’s definitely Liana’s Postcard Collection material.

Flying back to Texas

To my Twitter followers who clicked on the link thinking I’m back: I’m not back on Twitter yet. Sorry. But…I’m flying back home to Texas from NYC, and have many things in mind for future blog posts.

But first, quick update: I can now scratch off my bucket list crying in public on a plane. Yup, just happened. I sat down, called my husband, and the tears came out to the surface. I won’t go into it here except to say it reminded me of the NY Times article from 2011, “Look at Me, I’m Crying,” on crying in public in New York City. A great article and a quick read.

Just wondering: have you, dear reader, cried in public?

Progress Comes Slowly

It’s been 7 days since I went on my Twitter hiatus, hoping to jumpstart the book-ish research process. How are things going? They’ve been…going.

My Twitter hiatus has combined with newsletter deadlines and with two trips. So while I hoped that shutting down Twitter would mean the floodgates would open for my writing and thinking, it hasn’t been so.

But I’ve noticed that I have a lot of stray thoughts that otherwise would have ended up on Twitter and died there. I write down more than 140 characters worth of an idea. I’ll write a little more, let it sit there for a bit, and maybe turn it into something. I do feel like I get to think about my writing more (even if the deadlines have kept me from actually doing some of the work).

Yes, yes, I know, I should manage my time better so that I have time to work on the book. A little every day makes a difference. I know; that’s how I managed to finish my dissertation. But right now I’m just anxious to get some work done before I leave for NYC next week, and so I’m prioritizing.

My brain feels uncomfortable prioritizing the work I’m paid to do over the creative work that I’ve been trying to focus on (and that’s how I end up procrastinating on my work with a blog post), but I pay my bills that way. Bills have to come before the creativity at the moment. So I have to find little tasks that I can do when things like this happen. I had planned this week on reading a book and discussing it here in terms of my project, but that hasn’t happened. With the amount of writing and editing I’ve had to do this week, I don’t have the energy to jump into a book and read it and analyze it. I’m trying to recognize that and move on. Sometimes it works.

Anyway, since I’m supposed to share book research progress, I’ll write about something I considered last week. I’ve been thinking about why postcards are so much popular than letter writing, both as analog media that are sent through the mail. I considered the briefness of postcards, the price point, the visual aspect…and it made me think about how postcards are kind of like status updates (or tweets, because I’ve gone on a Twitter hiatus, right?). That led me to think about postcards as analog social media. One of my writing buddies, Liz Covart, pointed me to this book, Writing on The Wall: Social Media- The First 2000 Years. I’m hoping it gets me thinking more about postcards as a way of communicating, as (analog) social media. Where am I going with that? I don’t know. But perhaps it’s time to stray away from big research plans (very academic-minded) and follow along with ideas that seem interesting at the moment.

The other big thing I’ve done for the postcard project is that I am going to use Scrivener for it. I have finally taken the plunge! (I’m also using it for blogging, as you can see in the screenshot). I usually start brainstorming in Evernote, but I’m taking Scrivener for a test drive. Just inserting the folders for future book chapters made me feel like I’d been productive. Maybe playing with Scrivener is what I’ll do when feel like I haven’t done anything book-related.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.38.39 AMUntil my next book/life update: