ScrapMoir How To #12: Words for Memoirs and Scrapbooking

by Bettyann Schmidt on April 15, 2010

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #33 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

By Bettyann Schmidt

Do you use words that you remember people saying, maybe your children, the words of your siblings when you were a kid? Your grandchildren?

Have you written them and/or saved them? Do you have a file where they’re stored?  Words, like memories, have a way of wafting away in the wind.

Can you match photos with your words collection?

Language Used & Abused

My children, and now my grandchildren, have given me words that make me laugh out loud, to cherish forever, to inspire happy moments—and even sad moments. I own words that people outside my family have left me. For instance, this past week I remembered the Notre Dame nun, principal of our high school, who once said, “Miss Dean, you are as brass as nails.” I never thought nails were brass, so I told her so. That definitely was not a good idea.

My German grandmother pronounced certain words funny. At least I thought so. Instead of pretzels, she said, “bretzels.” She also ended some sentences with “don’t you know.” As in, “She was a beautiful woman, don’t you know.” I don’t use question marks with those sentences because they were not really questions. Those words took the place of “you see.”

My mother said “fiddlesticks” when I was young. “Oh, fiddlesticks, I forgot to turn off the oven.”

My father—I love this one—when I would ask him where he was going, liked to say, “To Mike’s below Jake’s to get a belly ache.” Turns out there were two saloons downtown on Main Street. One was Mike’s and the other Jake’s.

Dad also said, “For crying out loud.” On several occasions he said, “Bettyann, for crying out loud, your handwriting looks like chicken scratching.”  That was before I figured out how to copy his beautiful penmanship.

In Cincinnati, we said, “Yous.” This is the equivalent to “Y’all” in the south where I now live. Mom on the phone: “Hon, are yous coming up this weekend?”

Now, some people, who are not from Cincinnati, pronounce this “use” as in “Did you make good use of your breadmaker?” Rhymes with juice.  But the correct pronunciation rhymes with booze: “I use my crockpot a lot in the winter.”  My Mom also called everyone “hon,” short for honey, no matter how old they were.

When I was a court reporter, I ran into language that gave me pause when creating the transcript. Try making this into common English. “He got aholta me and slung me across the room.”  Translation in my own words: “He got hold of me…”

Even the attorneys had their words: “When did y’all buy y’all’s home?” I promise this was said aloud in the courtroom.   What I did with it: “When did you all buy your home?”  Verbatim reporters we were, but there are just some instances where good judgment rules. The attorneys and judges expected it.

Use it Before You Lose it

The above prelude out of the way, let’s focus on the words in your memory bank and how to use them to tell your stories.  Your characters, your family and friends, come to life when you recite the words they’ve said.  In order to do this, we have to keep track of those sayings and quotes.  Even without photos, you can make a reader “know” the person you’re writing about if you use his or her own original words just as they were uttered.  Unlike court transcripts, it is not best to clean them up.  Using unadorned, real words is characteristic of great writers, Mark Twain for instance.  More recently, I gobbled up The Help, written by Kathryn Stockett in two days.  Rick Bragg is one of my favorite authors because he tells it like it was.

I use notebooks and journals to record words, but recently I’ve started using index cards filed along with my photos.  This permits more inspired family history writing in my scrapabooks or memoir.  In either case, however you choose to save your words, it’s a good idea to write them in stories sooner rather than later, while you’re still amused by or inspired by the person and their words.

The things we say are important too, just like our characters.  My aunts and Grandma told me about the cute and funny things I did and said when I was a little girl. For instance, I’d mimic songs I heard on the radio. Yes, this was before television. In the layout below, I’ve used an old photo of myself about that time period which pretty much shows my character.  Some of you may remember the song.

  Pistol Packin' Mama""

Another example of someone repeating famous words, song lyrics or lines from a movie, happened when my husband Gary cracked up everyone in the room at our wedding.

the knife - Page 001

These kinds of stories are fun to put together. I love looking back in my scrapbook albums, and my album layouts are what I draw from when writing memoir.  This is a great way to get started for those of you who don’t really know where to begin.  You have to start writing.  You simply have to start.  That’s the first rule.  Just start.  Scrapbook albums are perfect for starting and will lead to unleashing your story.  The “inner critic” is also not as rampant because your brain tells you that you are having fun putting these pictures and stories together. I never considered writing memoir until I began scrapbooking.  Nor did I consider searching my family history because I never thought there was anything or anyone in my ancestry important enough in the great scheme of worldwide events. 

I love bringing my grandchildren to life on the page.  This is easy and so rewarding.  Imagine someday their own children and grandchildren flipping through albums I’ve created and getting to know their parents and grandparents in a unique way. I have been doing this so long, I can’t imagine anyone not doing the same. I’ve been rewarded more than I can put into words. This next one features my highly precocious grandson, Jonathon, who is now an adult.  As I say in my layout journaling, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a funnier expression on a baby. This was probably taken after an apple juice binge.  He used to yell, “Apple J-0-0-0-0-0-s,” with every energy cell in his plump little body.  Hilarious.  But the story itself about “No ADHD in Heaven” tells you a lot about this child.  He was a thinker.  His mind explored everything in his universe. Jon asked if I thought Jeff would have Down syndrome in heaven, and I asked him what he thought.  He answered, “I don’t think he will, and I don’t think I’ll have ADHD either.”  Amazing.

 sm12 - Page 001


Precious.  That’s the only word I can place on this memory.  I remember my astonishment at this little kid’s deep, impacting words. 

What You Can Do

Try going through your photos and remembering some funny, outrageous, sad, or unbelievable words said by the person. Then adhere your photo(s) to a clean page with or without colored or designed paper and decorative flourishes.  Then use the words you chose to make a title for your page.  Last, write by hand or print out a story to go along with your title.  Put your page into a book.  A 3-ring binder or an album with protectors, or glue it to a page in a journal or notebook.  Then do the same thing with more photos and memorable words.  It’s as simple as that. 

Look up quotations on the net or in books and use them for jogging your writing. I do this on a regular basis.  Use a dictionary.  Pick a word that describes the person in your photo.  Copy the definition onto your page.  A common decorative tool is to use a copier to take a picture of the dictionary page and highlight the word you’re using.  You can use the copy as background paper on your page as well.  Create a journal box out of an index card or cardstock and if you make a mistake in your writing, just toss it, or turn it over and write on the other side.  

I hope I’ve given you some helpful tips on creating lifetime memories and that you can use what I’ve given you to begin writing about what matters in your life if you haven’t done that already.  Try using this post as a tool to help write your memoir or create scrapbook albums.


In case you’re wondering, I’m currently using Creative Memories’ Storybook Creator software for my digital scrapbooking because it’s quick and easy.  If you want to find out more about this tool, you can click my link below.  And please leave a comment below.  I always appreciate them.

My Creative Memories Page

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