Postcarding: managing the stuff

Linda's file drawer

Linda’s file drawer

Linda's computer record

screen shot of Linda’s outgoing cards

Ina's notebook

Ina’s notebook

Martina's wall of fame

Martina’s wall of fame

Linda's postcard vase

Linda’s postcard vase

Ellen's postcard ring

Ellen’s postcard ring

Judy's chart

Judy’s chart

There are as many ways of approaching the August Poetry Postcard Fest as there are participants. In a future post, we’ll talk about some of the ways postcarders find inspiration. But in this post, we’ll look at a few ideas for organizing the “stuff” of postcarding.

If the very word organized makes you break out in hives, don’t worry: all you really need is 1) postcards, 2) pen, 3) addresses and 4) stamps. You write ’em, you mail ’em, you receive ’em. Done.

But here’s the thing: 31 outgoing and up to 31 incoming postcards plus the address list and appropriate postage stamps is a lot of stuff. Participate for more than one year and you’re into multiples of everything…

Don’t panic! It’s all doable and it’s all been done. So successfully, in fact, that about a quarter of APPF participants return year after year and find, as Linda C. says, “Writing a poem a day in August has proven to be a highlight of my year.”

Here are a few tricks that have proven useful to experienced postcarders (with special thanks to Linda C., Ina, Martina, Linda W., Ellen, and Kim):

Linda C. has designated file folders for each year she participates in APPF (see photo).

She also takes “photos, front and back, of every card I send” and names them with keywords to make them easier to find in her computer (see photo). (If you have a scanner, scans are even clearer than photos.)

More from Linda: “Once written, I transcribe the poem into a Word doc with the name of the person who will receive it.”

Ina keeps her incoming postcards in a three-ring binder (see photo).

Some postcarders dedicate a wall (see Martina’s bathroom-wall collection of every postcard she’s received since APPF 2011!) or bulletin board to incoming cards for the month. Linda W. keeps hers in a beautiful vase (see photo) on the corner of her desk. Ellen collects hers, book-style, on a metal ring (see photo).

Though most people handwrite their postcards, Kim says, “My handwriting is illegible so I have to use the computer for everything. I just keep all the poems in one new folder with the list. I also use a template for the size of poem that will fit on (most) postcards. And once I’ve finished a poem I put it into a master file that will hold them all together and in order.” (The print-out of the poem gets secured to the postcard.)

The things you want to keep track of are: the text of your postcard poems, the date each one was mailed, what was on the image side and who the card went to. You can do that in simple list form. (If you plan to submit to 56 Days, your submissions will need to be typed, so it makes sense to set up a system as you get started.)

Instead of a list, you could make a simple grid, as follows:

sample chart

Enter the names from your list down the left column, then each day after you’ve written your poem, type it into the ‘poem’ column. Add a description (or scan) of the image on the front of the card and the date mailed. Comments can be things like noting that you received a card from that person or, later, where the poem has been published (!). (See photo.)

And a few very practical suggestions:

  • Turn your list into mailing labels
  • Buy stamps ahead of time and be sure to get some international stamps
  • Use return address labels (the clear ones are great)
  • If you don’t use return address labels, be sure to write your name on the card – super frustrating not to know who wrote that wonderful poem!
  • Leave a half inch of blank space below your poem at the bottom of the message side of the card so your poem won’t get obscured by the post office bar code imprint
  • Follow the APPF guidelines on posting/sharing postcards
  • Have fun!

How do you manage your postcard “stuff”? Do you have tips for postcarders? Please leave a comment!


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2 Responses to Postcarding: managing the stuff

  1. Wow! You all are so organized! When I get the list, I check to see if any of the people were on lists of yesteryear. Just curious. I have a box with hundreds of postcards but since I discovered the print-your-own cards, I often print up my own photos. I try and relate the poems and the cards, although not exactly, often more of a mood match. I do scan my cards front and back and save them in a folder labled Postcard poetry and the year. In the outer world, I keep all the postcards in a shoebox, divided by sticking each years in a manila envelope. I think putting them up during the fest is a nice idea and may try it this year.

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