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Archive for the ‘tips & tricks’ Category

5 ideas: a 60th birthday book

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

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Big life milestones like birthdays are a perfect time to reflect and honor someone. And of course, we think books are the perfect way to do it! We call these our Milestone Books – they celebrate a special life milestone.

Here are some of our favorite ideas for a really special 60th birthday book. Or a 40th, 50th, 70th, 80th, 90th…you name it. But my very first book was for my mom’s 60th, so I have a special love for 60th birthday books.

Here are our top 5 ideas for a 60th birthday book:

1. Chapters of your Life – Our favorite approach; this is such a great way to tell someone’s life story with photos. We create a table of contents based on the chapters of someone’s life. For example – childhood, school years, dating + marriage, family life, career, friendships, travel. The photos are then organized into the different chapters, and often we’ll add a short bio at the beginning.

2. List of 60 – This is perfect for incorporating lots of contributors into the book (kids, grandkids, friends, family, etc). Make a collective list of 60 – 60 Reasons We Love You, 60 Funny Stories About You, 60 Life Lessons, or come up with your own list. Then add 30-40 great photos.

3. Thoughts From Friends + Family – Ask friends and family to write a note to the person you’re honoring. It’s always so touching to read what others have to say about you. Organize the notes into a logical order (i.e., spouse and kids first) then add some photos. With this approach, we always prefer formatting the text ourselves (instead of using any handwritten notes) so it’s visually consistent. We also have our proofreader review the text for spelling and formatting consistency.

4. Encyclopedia – We’re working on a 30th birthday book right now with this theme. It’s a light-hearted approach and I think it’s working so well. It’s the complete guide to So-And-So, from A to Z. Pick a word for each letter of the alphabet and add a short, witty description or story. (i.e.: I is for Italy – Adores all things Italian.) We’re using a combination of custom illustrations and photographs.

5. Interview Them – This is a great approach when it becomes more important to capture someone’s memories to share with younger generations. Put together a list of questions or use one of our lists (here is our life story interview and family history interview). Then ask the person to write their answers, or schedule an in-person interview. Add photos. (I’m sounding like a recipe!)

Let me know if you have other great ideas to share! And of course, let me know if you’d like to make a 60th (or other) birthday book for someone you love.

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a beginning and an end

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

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I am just finishing up a book with Ricca about her grandparent’s lives, and I want to share an important takeaway from the project.

When we first discussed the book, one of the most overwhelming pieces of the project for Ricca was thinking about when to end the book. Should she go until current day and include all the young great grandkids? Should she stop at her own generation? Or her mom’s generation? Should she include spouses?

It sounds like a small detail, but it’s actually quite important to have a solid and clear ending to a book. Her grandparents had 3 girls – one of which was Ricca’s mom. Eventually we decided to end the book with the weddings of each girl. This created a clean, consistent ending for the book and kept the focus on the older stories and photos – which is exactly what Ricca wanted. And as soon as we made that decision the book became so much more doable. It just sort of fell into place.

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10 ways to start your own memoir

Monday, December 1st, 2008

life is good! 

My mom sent me this link to Oprah’s site over the weekend. It has a great article on how to write your own memoir.

The hardest part to writing any memoir is, of course, getting started. What I loved about this article was the 10 writing exercises to help you get started. They are all 2-page exercises, intended to jog your memory and just get the words flowing.

What I’ve found working on books is that once you’re engaged in the project and writing and gathering the material, it is so much easier to complete it. (The same is true for me designing it…once I get started and know where I’m heading, the design just flows.) So exercises like these can be invaluable to get you going.

The 10 “getting started” exercises:

1. Write two pages of something you can’t deny.
2. Write two pages of what got left behind.
3. Write two pages of something you wrote or did that you no longer understand.
4. Write two pages of apologizing for something you didn’t do.
5. Write two pages about a physical characteristic you are proud to have inherited or passed on.
6. Write two pages of what you had to have.
7. Write two pages of humiliating exposure.
8. Write two pages about a time when you felt compassion unexpectedly.
9. Write two pages of what you have too much of.
10. Write two pages of when you knew you were in trouble.

Let me know if you’d like to talk about starting your own memoir, or helping your parent or grandparent get started with theirs. I’d love to help!

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5 tips to collecting memories

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

lunch at the farm beach 

Have you ever tried to ask a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle about their memories of the past and come up empty? I definitely have. It usually goes something like this:

ME: “Can you tell me about So-And-So?”
THEM: “Well, what do you want to know?”
ME: “Um, anything…everything…whatever you can remember.” (figuring I don’t know what I don’t know, right?)
THEM: “So-And-So was a really great person.” (or something general like that)
ME: Disappointed, because I was hoping for more and I clearly did have an idea what I wanted to know.

If you can relate to this interaction – or simply want to avoid one like it! – read on. These are some tips I’ve learned while helping people collect memories for their family stories.

5 Tips to Collecting Memories:

1. It’s hard to get someone started talking. Be sensitive. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s a bit overwhelming at first to be asked something so sweeping like, “What do you remember about your mom?” You remember lots of things, but where do you start? What’s most important? What does this person really want to hear about? And very likely there are emotions wrapped up in the questions, too.

2. Start with specific questions geared toward fact-finding. Narrow the questions a bit, keep them aimed at fact-finding (not memories just yet) and get ready to ask a few in a row to get them talking. “Where did your mom grow up?” “Did your mom have siblings?” “Did your mom go to school?” “How did your mom meet your dad?” “Did your mom ever have a job outside the home?” “Did your mom have hobbies?” “Who were your mom’s closest friends?” You get the idea.

3. Gradually work in questions aimed at collecting memories, referencing any facts you just learned. “Do you remember your mom getting you ready for school?” “Do you remember any advice your mom gave you?” “What was it like to have a mom with a job outside the home?” “What was your favorite thing your mom cooked for you?” “Did your mom ever teach you any of her hobbies?” “Was your mom strict with you and your siblings?” “Do you remember any of her favorite outfits?”

4. Ask probing follow-up questions. You’ll find that each memory triggers another. Probe a bit further if you think there’s more to an answer. “Oh really, tell me why?” “What made you feel that way?” “Tell me more about that.” “Did you like that or not? And why?”

5. Use props. Sometimes it is very helpful to have a photograph, a book, a quilt, a piece of artwork – anything to trigger a memory or a story. Sometimes this could be a person too, like a sibling who may have shared memories. If someone is in their own home, this can be even easier – just look around and ask questions about their surroundings.

If you reach the point where sentences are starting with “I remember one time when….”, then congratulations! You have reached memory-collecting nirvana. At this point it might be harder to stop the conversation than it was to get it started!! (A good problem!)

Do you have any additional thoughts and tips from your own experiences collecting memories? I’d love to hear things that have worked well for you, things that haven’t worked at all, and any questions, of course!

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5 tips: turn your box of photos into a book!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

my box of old photos 

I just had such a fun meeting with my neighbor Judie and her cousin Maureen about their upcoming book project: their grandparent’s story.

Judie and Maureen are at what I call the ‘concept stage’ for their book. I love talking to people at this stage! They have a general idea of the story they want to tell, they have gobs of stuff from their boxes of photos and memorabilia, they still feel like they are missing a ton, and they are (quite naturally) feeling very overwhelmed.

So, here is what I told them. These are my tips for anyone who suffers from what I call the Box Problem (boxes of photos and no clue what to do with them!) and is ready to start on a book.

5 Tips For Turning Your Box of Photos Into a Book:

1. Pick one clear story. You can’t cram the whole box into a single book – an especially tempting approach for first time bookmakers. No one will want to read the book and you’ll feel scatterbrained putting it together.

examples of a good story: Mom’s Memoirs, Grandparent’s Story, Story of a Family Farm, One Branch of Family, Love Letters, Your Child’s School Photos, Your Family’s Santa Pictures, Celebration of 90 Years of Life, etc.

examples of a bad story: combining any of the above, mixing many branches of a family, mixing too much family history when telling a family member’s story

2. Create a table of contents. Totally essential. This will be your don’t-leave-home-without-it roadmap for the entire book project. It will help you organize images, gather your thoughts, and write your story.

3. Get help scanning the images. Unless you are a whiz with scanning, this can be an overwhelming task. We now offer a great scanning price – around 250 images for $100! Even if you’re not ready to start on your book we’d be happy to get your images ready for you. Email if you’re interested.

4. Pick a meaningful deadline. And I mean meaningful. Otherwise it won’t stick. Birthday, Anniversary, Christmas, Family Reunion. If you have a reason to finish the book, you will.

5. Accept that you will never be fully “finished.” You won’t find that one photo, that one family name, or the map of that one town in Sweden where Grandpa grew up. But it won’t matter. With few exceptions, my clients hand off resources to me and say things like “I’m sorry it’s not more organized” or “If I just had one more week…” or “I feel like I’m missing something.” But when they see their book designed, they are blown away. What looks rough and incomplete in a text document turns beautiful and priceless in a book form.

Books are magical that way.

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