Letters from Real is short fiction tumblr blog where author, Abria Mattina shares about the postcards that she mails out to anonymous readers. When I stumbled across this project I was immediately curious so I've invited Abria to share the behind the scenes scoop on this brilliant project!
What inspired you to start Letters from Real, the postcard exchange project?
It’s not an exchange project precisely. I just send postcards, but I’m not set up to receive them. Maybe in the future I’ll open a P.O. box for that purpose, but for the time being it’s just me sending out postcards to random people, written in the voice of fictional characters. I do it because I think it’s a fun and interesting way to engage with new people. I’m also a dork who thinks that snail mail is fun to send and receive.
The project itself, though, was inspired by my mother. When I was in my second year of university she started sending my postcards from a character named Henrietta Von Espy, world-traveller and Victorian countess. She kept the same character across a long series of postcards, but I like to switch it up every time. When she got sick in 2012, I sent her a postcard every day for months.
Please share your favorite postcard to date, and tell us what makes it special.
Most of the postcards I received from my mom are pasted into my journals, but here are three of the loose ones. They all come from a postcard/calendar flipbook with pictures of doors from the Scanlan Portfolio. Every story featured the person or family Henrietta Von Espy met behind that door.
Here’s one of Henrietta’s cards:
A few of us went to visit a ‘wise woman’ here named Diana, for the moon, where legend tells us all lost objects will one day be found. You can ask her about anything you’ve lost. I asked her about a doll I’d had when I was four. She said I’d left it at my grandmother’s château, and when she died, one of the women who came to prepare her claimed it and is saving it for her granddaughter. I must admit it gave me some comfort. I’d worried about that doll for years, ashamed of my carelessness.
All my best wishes, H. von E.
What’s the process involved in creating these postcards?
I live in a town with plenty of tourist spots, and therefore plenty of premade postcards, but I like to have my own printed. I source free use images from sites like Unsplash.com, mostly. I don’t print a card until I’m sure I have a story to go along with it. Sometimes I’ll draft ten postcards in a day, and sometimes I’ll go weeks without writing one, just sending cards out of my stockpile.
The key to a good postcard story, I find, is that you have to jump right to the heart of it. There’s no room for preamble or unnecessary explanation. You have very few words to set the scene, introduce the conflict, and conclude, all while giving the reader something deeper to take away from the experience. Precise language is crucial, as is the ability to strip away everything but the essential bits of storytelling. That’s why postcards may go through five or more drafts, being stripped down and honed more and more each time. It’s a challenge, but I find that once I’m on a roll it gets easier.
Once the postcard is created, I decide where it’s going to go. I like to use interesting stamps, and I’m currently sending postcards with a stamp series featuring the great storyteller Robertson Davies.
If I wish to send a postcard to a friend, what would I have to do? And is there a way that I can be involved in the project via donations, etc.?
There are ways to get involved. I accept addresses via anonymous submission on my blog (use the Ask button). You don’t have to provide a name, just mailing info, because I never put names on my postcards unless specifically requested.
I do encourage donations, especially if the address you request is outside North America, to help with expenses like postage. As little as $2.50 Canadian can cover the cost of a stamp. There is a Paypal button in the sidebar of Letters from Real if you wish to contribute in support of the project.
Meet Abria Mattina:
Over to you:
What do you think of Letters From Real? Have you sent out postcards/letters on a whim recently?
Have you heard of any similar projects? Do share! :)