100 Postcards: A Conversation About Action with Elisabeth Egan

elisabeth egan, 100postcards

The 2016 election spurred many people to take civic action, in a way we haven’t seen in decades. Phone-banking, volunteering, marching, and writing letters were just some of the ways people made efforts to ensure their voices would matter.

One of these people is Elisabeth Egan of Montclair, New Jersey. Writer of the successful novel A Window Opens, co-host of the new hit true-crime podcast Broken Harts, and a mother to three (ages 11, 15, 17), Elisabeth chose to engage by putting pen to postcard: she drafts a postcard a day to people in politics and government voicing her concern or support of their endeavors, and documents each on Instagram @100Postcards. From the President and members of Congress to the First Lady, Elisabeth writes a new postcard every morning and in doing so offers us an inspiring example of passion in action.

We interviewed her recently…

How would you describe your level of involvement in politics before 2016? Would you have described yourself as politically active?

Before the 2016 election, I stayed informed and I voted. That was pretty much the extent of my political involvement. I did a little phone-banking and canvassing for Hillary and assumed all the on-the-fence people I spoke to were outliers, anomalies. As we now know, I was wrong.

Can you share your experiences and feelings about the night of November 8, 2016?

My kids didn’t have school on Election Day and we spent the afternoon on a food tour of Greenwich Village, where we chatted with an Australian couple who had come to New York just to witness the election of the first woman president. They were planning to go to a victory party that night and then they were heading down to DC to explore and celebrate some more. As we parted ways in the late-afternoon, the woman said, “Do you think there’s any chance she won’t…?” And I laughed. Because of course Hillary was going to win. There was no other choice, right? That night, my husband made Arkansas dip, which is apparently a Little Rock specialty, and our whole family settled in to watch the returns starting at around 7:30. One by one, my kids drifted off to bed, confused and deflated. I assured them we’d have good news in the morning. When my husband and I went to bed at around 10:30, I still held out some hope. But then I woke up around 3am, checked the New York Times home page and saw the headline: TRUMP TRIUMPHS. I immediately texted my sister. We were both crying. The hardest part was telling my then 9 year-old, the fourth grade class representative whose friends had borrowed Hillary’s slogan, I’m With Her. I’ll never forget the look on her face: disappointment mixed with shock mixed with, ‘But you said.’ That look haunts me.

What made you decide to start writing postcards? Why this act?

I’m a writer and I’m very proud of my handwriting. Postcards were the logical outlet. Also, after the Women’s March, the organizers suggested writing to elected officials. I decided to write a postcard a day. And I just didn’t stop.

Did you know when you started about how long you would continue writing postcards?

I thought I’d write for 100 days, but found I had more to say after the first 100 days were over. I did take a four-month hiatus at one point, but the massacre in Las Vegas spurred me back into action.

Did you decide to start the Instagram account at the same time [as the postcards]?

I’d written about ten postcards before I decided to start the Instagram account. I figured I’d hold myself accountable if I posted my notes every day.

Explain your process by which you decide to whom you write:

I really do one a day (or whenever the spirit moves me). I usually write a rough draft on my phone (I’ve figured out that one screen on the notes app fits the same number of words as one postcard.) I don’t plan ahead. I just go with whatever person or subject sticks with me as I’m reading the newspaper. I wake up, make coffee, and start writing. I’m never short on inspiration (unfortunately).

In addition to the postcards, are you politically active in any other ways?

For two years, I volunteered regularly for Mikie Sherrill, who flipped New Jersey’s 11th congressional district in the midterms. I knew her as a fellow mom from my kids’ school and it was amazing to watch her transform into a candidate, and then a seasoned candidate, and then a congressperson. I’ll definitely get involved in the 2020 campaign.

What has been the response to the 100postcards movement?

My friends have been incredibly supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic. My immediate family is, I think, slightly baffled about why I keep at it.

Has anyone written back in response to the postcard you sent them?

I’ve never received a response from a recipient. But I love hearing from people who follow my account; in fact, the little community is both inspiring and comforting. A complete stranger sent me a beautiful cross-stitch version of one of my postcards. Another sent me a huge batch of beautiful stamps. Lots of people send encouraging notes and direct messages. Who needs to hear from Trump?!!

Has this experience changed you or added to your life in some way?

It’s made me pay attention. I no longer just read the news or watch the news; I really absorb it in a way I never did before.

What advice would you give to others who would like to become politically active but haven’t yet?

Find a way to get involved that feels right to you. At the very least, VOTE!

Will you keep writing postcards after 2020?

The jury is out on this one. 🙂

A huge thank you to Elisabeth! Take a look at her Instagram account to see all the thoughtful, visually-impressive cards arranged. Her dedication is beyond impressive. Close-up postcard photo courtesy of Pinterest.

And what about you? Did 2016 change you in any way? How do you get involved and make your voice heard?

P.S. How do you show up? And my experiences following that day in November.

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