ScrapMoir How To #6: Simple Stories

by Bettyann Schmidt on January 14, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #22 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

By Bettyann Schmidt

Recently I came across a new scrapbook program called Simple Stories, and I immediately got involved. I posted details on my blog, and  I’ve been talking about it to people because it is what I’ve always believed about writing stories. I like to read stories that are written simply, from the heart, and that’s how I like to write them. Creating scrapbooks can help you do that.

Why People Don’t Want to Write

I hear this a lot.  “I can’t write.”  Or, “I’m not creative.”  Where does this start?  In school maybe because some teachers of English took our language to a higher form of instruction than an average student could follow?  Diagrams, for instance.  I managed to understand them, but I hated that part of English class.  I loved English though and always got As, but  I saw some of my classmates begin to hate my favorite class.  And to this day I do not use sentence diagrams.  If I had to think about grammar all the time I’m writing, I’d probably never write.  And that would be a big part of my life lost.

When I taught Court Reporter English (I was a court reporter before that), I wrote a sentence on the board the first day of class. I don’t remember the sentence, but it was two words.  I told the students, “This is a sentence because it has a subject, which is a noun, and a verb.”  If there is no noun and a verb, it is not a sentence.”  These students were going to have to take raw language spoken by lawyers, judges, and litigants and put it into readable form, into a legal transcript.  I wanted it to be easy, so that part of it didn’t interfere with the parts of the job that were outrageously difficult, like keeping up the writing speed, or hearing what was being said.

Some of my students said, “I was really awful in English when I was in school; I don’t think I’ll be able to do this.”  However, we all got through it, and my students knew how to punctuate compound sentences, denote possessive tense, when to capitalize, and all of the basic nuances of our language.  We never diagramed any sentences.

When I worked as an editorial assistant at Vanderbilt University, the head of the department once commented that it was important to have “a good command of the English language.”  I loved that description so much that I’ve used it a lot since then to describe what writing entails.  You command language to work for you.  You are not afraid of it.

I’m not too descriptive when I write, probably because of this past history laid out above.  For my scrapbook simple stories, I don’t worry about it, and you shouldn’t either.  When I write for other readers, I have to put more into it and try to make my writing more descriptive, use some visual scenes, use more of those adjectives.  But my point is that everyone can write simple stories of their lives and their families’ lives.  You no longer now have the excuse of “I’m not creative.”

Scrapbook Stories

Because of scrapbooking, many have learned to write stories. Scrapbooking can teach you to write because it’s more about the imagination and memory than writing.  If you get hung up on the mechanics of writing, you won’t be able to release the story inside that wants to be told.  The stories are everywhere just waiting.

This is a story I wrote after going to Oktoberfest last September, back to my hometown of Cincinnati.

Goetta Haus

Goetta Haus

That booth brought back a memory from my childhood.  Eating goetta in the mornings for breakfast.  I didn’t elaborate too much.  I didn’t describe any exquisite taste sensations to make the reader’s taste buds react.  Not necessary for a scrapbook page your family will see or you will want to revisit later.

However,  if you are writing this for actual memoir, then you would want to treat it a little differently.  The goetta booth at Oktoberfest gave me some ideas about writing memoir. Some research will go into that, and it will be fun.

There is no reason that you can’t use scrapbooking resources to write about your pictures.  This process gives such satisfaction.

Presently, I am using free digital photo software to scrapbook, and that’s how I created the goetta page.  It’s PhotoScape, and you can download it online at  There are also many resources for free paper and embellishments online, so it’s easy to give it a try to see if you like it before going out and spending a lot for more professional products.   As I’ve said before, I like the physical scrapbooking best, but I had to teach myself digital to stay current on what I teach others.

Your Own 2010 Word

Last week, I spent some time on my blog writing about story and how I’d seen where Ali Edwards, scrapbook writer and instructor, had adopted the word “story” for 2010.  I liked it so much, I’ve adopted it too.  If you check my blog, you’ll see a link to Ali’s blog and some other links to scrapbooking sites of interest.

There are other words you could choose for yourself for the coming year to motivate you to write your stories.  Maybe “memories.”  That would make me think how I wanted to capture all of my family’s memories.  In other words, live in the present as much as I could.  Write down those funny things my grandchildren say before I forget them.  Take pictures of the changing seasons.

“Life” is another good keyword.  Story is about a life lived, yours or someone you love, or everyone you love.  I think I might do like Ali Edwards and have a necklace made with my word on a pendant.

Since I just finished organizing all of my digital photos, I found a few that are must-tell stories.  Putting your photos in order will awaken the memory process and give you the stories you need.  I’ve written here in a previous blog about how I organize my pictures, both prints and digitals, but you can just do it how it best works for you.  Very few people actually create scrapbooks or albums if they’re not organized.  Organization is usually always the first step.

I’d forgotten I’d taken this photo of the inside of my old elementary school until I was organizing all of my 2009 pictures.

St. George

St. George

The page “St. George” is about the elementary school I attended and the bowling alley my Dad managed in the basement of the school.  It was a busy place seven days a week, many leagues, and there was a bar.  I wasn’t allowed to serve the beer, but I loved helping my dad.

When I saw the old school recently, that’s the first time I’d been in the old bowling alley since I left Cincinnati.  Dad left and went to work for the University of Cincinnati, managing their bowling activities, and I guess St. George just shut the business down.  No one person could have replaced what my father did seven days a week, early in the morning and into the night.  He did everything with no helpers at all, except the pin boys.  Remember, that was before electronic pin setters.  He was constantly having to repair those old pin-setting machines.

The most important thing I learned from my dad was how to be a hard worker.

Now, that was a simple story, but a very important one for my family.  What simple stories has my article brought to your mind?

Don’t forget you can always leave me a comment in the field below or email me if you have any questions or need help.

**The digital kit I used for these layouts is “Sun Porch” from Amy Teets at

Bettyann Schmidt

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Susan January 14, 2010 at

What a great series of blogs. Thanks so much for this one. Now I’m going to read the earlier ones. I love the idea of combining photos and our stories. I certainly have bunches of both. I’m looking forward to the next one so that I can keep learning.

Bettyann Schmidt January 15, 2010 at

Thanks so much, Susan. I found out when I first started scrapbooking about 11 years ago how much I wanted to tell the stories of my photos. It just seemed fair to my family and my pictures to capture these memories. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know if you have any questions.

Rebecca G. January 15, 2010 at

Bettyann: You just opened my eyes. I thought I was doing such a good job with all my photos. I write a date and name(s) on the back of each one. Now, I realize that the stories, which still play in my head, will be lost once I am no longer here. I’m going to start writing some of the more important stories that go with these photos.

Bettyann Schmidt January 16, 2010 at

Don’t beat yourself up, Becky. You’re not alone. I do hope, though, you are using a photo pencil on the backs of those photos because eventually regular pencils bleed through. It might take years, but it does.

I became a consultant for Creative Memories, and their whole motto is “Tell The Stories.” So that’s what I did, and it came naturally. You actually get it! Pat yourself on the back. I’m no longer a CMC, but I have to continue telling people about the mission.

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