ScrapMoir How To #24: My Own Scrapbook Memoir — A Book of Treasures

by Bettyann Schmidt on February 10, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #69 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

by Bettyann Schmidt


For Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also.~Matthew 6:21

My treasure is the lifetime of memories I’ve created. And, most definitely, a huge chunk of my heart is in that book of treasures.

How My Scrapbook Memoir Was Born

I first started scrapbooking in 1999 with two pictures of my Dad and one of me as a little girl. The Creative Memories hostess said to bring five or six recent photos, but I guess I’m a rule breaker, and I work backwards a lot.

I felt such joy at creating that scrapbook page I could hardly take my eyes off it. I took it home and dug up and out every picture stored in our big, two-story home. From the basement to the attic. Under beds, in kitchen drawers and closets. They were everywhere, including three of those sticky magnetic albums. My husband Gary helped me get some of the yellowed images of my children out of those cheap albums. I lost a few, and that hurt.

But I had brought home — from the scrapbook class — a beautiful, silver gray, bookcloth, twelve-inch album to work in, and I fastened that first page into the front. There was no turning back. I was born for this.

I created album after album. Now 23 scrapbook albums line the built-in bookshelves of my craft and writing space. Twenty-three books filled with memories from long ago to the present. And I had the greatest time of my life creating them. The making of the scrapbooks are memories in and of themselves. When I try to describe what happens to you as you create photo scrapbooks, I can’t put it into exact words. One has to simply start and experience it to really “get it.”

I wrote stories in my scrapbooks from the beginning. Pictures without stories are only pictures. Lots of people I taught didn’t like writing and didn’t want to start. The most they’d do is write a date and maybe something like, “Brandon’s Birthday Party.” I was able to teach some, however, that their photos had stories, and when they saw that they could do the writing, that fact alone changed them.

If it’s true that the eyes are the windows of the soul, I saw lights come on in their souls.

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

With stories in my scrapbooks, my whole past came to life. Where I grew up, my school days, my teen years. Everything. I wanted to know more. I wanted to write about my ancestors too. Who they were, where they came from. I remembered old stories I heard as a child. I took it a step further and signed up on Imagine my surprise and delight when I found my great great grandparents in Baden, Germany.

Shortly after that discovery, I joined a couple of memoir groups on the Internet. I had stories to tell. One of the sites I landed on was Story Circle Network, where I met Kendra Bonnet and Matilda Butler, the two ladies who run this site, Women’s Memoirs. They asked me if I’d like to write a blog about combining scrapbooking and memoir. “ScrapMoir” is the name they chose. I loved the idea and said yes. Since this is my 69th post, I guess the rest is history.

As I began crafting “vignettes” for my blog posts, I learned the technique of writing stand-alone, little scenes that are just part of the whole story. I also, about that same time, read the book Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton, and realized I was doing what the author instructed. Choosing shimmering images taken from my life. Not that “shimmer” should be taken to mean all good things that happened, but rather that they stand out. They shimmer so you’ll see them.

The Shimmering Ones in Order

I didn’t have photos of exactly where my ancestors lived when they first made it to Cincinnati, though from census records I know the general area, so I obtained pictures from the Internet. Some of these you must get permission to use; some you will have to pay for; some are free for you to use. I give credit in my writing to the site I find them on, even if they are free. I wanted to use these old photos to show how my ancestors lived.


Cincinnati, 1840. By Yahoo Images

I also have some antique prints of Cincinnati from the 1800s that I bought at auction here in Tennessee. Not one else bid on them, and I got all eleven of them, two in frames, for ten dollars. This was before I’d discovered scrapbooking, and now I know exactly what I’ll do with those old prints besides hanging one of the framed ones on my dining room wall.

Since I had most all of my photos, certainly all of the old ones, in albums, it was not complicated to begin my memoir. I simply went to that first album I created with the photos of me and my father on the beginning page and lifted those photos, copied them, and typed the text on the computer in Photoshop and printed out 8-1/2 by 11-inch pages. Perfect for keeping in a separate album in page protectors or a binder. I will have these pages copied and bound into a book when I’m finished and give copies to my family members.  

For the memoir, I’m not strictly adhering to the whimsical style I’ve used in some of the album layouts. A lot of the pages will be simply photos and text.

Memoir 2

The second page of my Scrapbook Memoir, a story about me being born while my father was in the army, in Hawaii, in 1942.

That doesn’t mean I won’t keep some of the creative scrapbooking techniques I love so much, especially in those later parts of my life. I think in this way my personality will be added to the book.

Grandpa's Farm

The above just-a-bit-whimsical layout tells a story in my own handwriting, which adds a personal touch to the scrapbook memoir.  Just think of seeing something with your Mom’s writing, like an old birthday card or a cookbook where she wrote in the margins. 

Memoir is Simply the Best

Something I touch on when I write or teach about scrapbooking is choosing the best of what’s available. “Simply the Best.” This means you won’t use every photo or memory you have. It’s not necessary to tell your story. Pick the best, and the ones that bring out your best stories. The best slices of your life.

Anna Maria

The above photo and layout mean a great deal to me, probably more than any other destination to which I’ve traveled. It’s because of the circumstances surrounding that trip. And the absolute beauty of the place that took my breath away. Add those facts together and it qualifies as “simply the best.” It will tell an important part of my life story, and part of my story is that this photo was published in an online journal.

A Book of Treasures

I had to know where I was going with my project after I’d spent time with my pictures, organizing them, choosing the best ones, re-living old memories. I had to have the end in sight. It didn’t happen overnight. Once you decide, however, that you want to create your own lifewriting project, think of what form you want it to take. What is the message you want to leave? For me, it’s gathering my treasures together, the lives of the people I love, the places I’ve gone, the things I’ve done in my lifetime, where I came from, the thoughts that I think. What I value the most.

What is your own end in sight? What are your treasures? Do you want to create your own book to keep them all together?

My upcoming free ebook will teach you more about creating your own lifestory in a “ScrapMoir” style. I’ll be sure to let you know when it is available.

Bettyann Schmidt
Be sure to join me on my blog and click to “follow” to receive a free e-book in a few weeks:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee Cassese February 14, 2011 at

Bettyann–I love this. I have been a scrapbooker for years and am eternally grateful to my accidental discovery of the craft. I didn’t start making albums till my sons were adults but they were delighted when I showed them each their own scrapbook. You would have thought I’d given them a million dollars.
I have written many life stories and a childhood memoir, but use limited journaling in my scrabook pages. this piece of yours prompts me to do just that.
I did include some scrapbook layouts interwoven through my childhood memoir, so maybe I am on the right track–or write track.
Will connect with you on your blog soon

Bettyann Schmidt June 16, 2011 at

Hi, Renee! I always love to meet a fellow scrapper!! We are so blessed to have embraced this art. I don’t call scrapbooking a “craft,” because it’s just so much more than that. We tell stories. That’s so far from being a craft.

Glad you stopped by and shared. I’m impressed–a childhood memoir? I would be done with mine already if it wasn’t for the wide view I’ve taken with this family history project. I do guess my photo album scrapbooks have chronicled my childhood memoir, though. Thanks again. Hope to “see” you again!

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