Thursday, February 11, 2010
Every journey starts with a single step, right? So here's my first step toward completing those lifebooks for Ro and Ree. I've gathered resources and tips and made the initial print/layout decisions—wahoo! Now I'm no lifebook expert (seriously, I'm about as far as you could get from one, and will probably do a million things that cause angst among the real experts), but I've done a bunch of research, am determined to make regular progress on these valuable books, and am happy to share experiences along the way in case it helps anyone else. Alrighty then, here's my take on this project so far: TIPS 1. Just start! Stop obsessing about what it's going to look like, where to start, and exactly how you're going to layout the pages. Some people, many people in fact, write a whole lifebook without "designing" one single page. Ok, that stuff might not seem important to some, but it makes a control-freak like me feel a little better and gives me a kick in the butt to just close my eyes and leap. 2. Words first (a personal decision): Based on #1 (and knowing my extreme tendency to procrastinate by playing with graphics and photos for hours without doing a lick of writing), I've decided to start with simple lifebooks created on my computer in Microsoft Word. I'll figure out the photos I want for each page, but I'm not going to worry about graphics, embellishments, photo placements/treatments, or anything fancy for this first round. I'm going to print the pages out myself, and put them in three-ring binders. This will let me test things out with the girls, fix things that aren't working, and not get hung up on making the lifebooks look or sound perfect right out of the gate. Once I'm reasonably happy with them, I'll load everything into Picaboo (one of the online photobook companies) and take the final step of tackling the nitty-gritty layouts and printing some nice, beautiful books. If you don't obsess over graphics and whatnot like I do, just ignore this tip and do everything at once (words + design). 3. Don't Strive for Perfection: You don't have to make everything perfect or include every single thing you could possibly think about. There are some basic things you want to include in your lifebook, and you probably have that information at your fingertips: your child’s birth and birthplace, her birthparents, the reason she was placed for adoption, orphanage/foster care, how your family was formed (the adoption process), the day you met, and how she now fits into your family. Any additional information from there is a bonus. So relax, and start with the basics. 4. It's *Her* Lifebook: A lifebook is your child's story. It should be written for her, owned by her, and told from her point of view. Make sure this is the story of your child, not the story of your adoption experience. As one example, the lifebook really, really needs to start with your child's birth, not with your desire to have a family. Also, don't be afraid to get your child involved in the process—one easy way is by incorporating her handwriting or illustrations in parts of the lifebook. 5. Don't Make Things Up: The lifebook should be truthful, based on fact and not assumption. RESOURCES Books/Guides: • Beth O'Malley's LifeBooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child (I ordered a used version from Amazon, and really like the sample pages included in the book) • Kay Graap's Lifebook Writing Guide Online Lifebook Groups: • Asialifebooks.org: a members-only forum you can join that helps through the whole writing/assembling process (I joined this one and the wealth of info is kind of staggering; I particularly appreciate the information about how to approach the really hard topics) • Chinadigitalscrapbooks.com: a members-only forum that helps with the graphics side and also has many examples Sites Where You Can Create a Photobook: • Blurb • iPhoto: Mac only • Kodak Gallery • Picaboo: this is the one I'm going to use because I like that you can use any photo as a page background and I like the one-click ability to add embellishments like thumbtacks/brads/tape/accents/etc. to the corners of your photographs • Shutterfly • Smilebooks • Snapfish Scrapbooking Supplies/Templates/or Graphics: • Bright Jade quick pages: based on the outline provided in Kay Graap's lifebook writing guide • Scrap and Tell: this site also has some example layouts • Digital-scrapbook-kits.com: digital scrapbooking kits about Asia • My Story Lifebooks: a complete Shutterfly lifebook template that you can upload to Shutterfly and customize • Note: I would love to add to this section, so if you have a fave source for graphics or supplies, please let me know. Companies Who Will Write and Illustrate a Lifebook for You: • Dream Kidz • Little Lotus Creations • My Story Lifebooks HOMEWORK (Heh heh) Now there are two pieces of homework this week (for anyone who wants to power through this lifebook project along with me). • Review the resources and make a decision about how you want to proceed. Do you want to do a simple printout in a 3-ring binder, do an online digital book, handmake a paper scrapbook, or hire a company to interview you and then make the lifebook for you? Play around with a few of the options and sites to see if they really do what you want. • Join any lifebook groups that interest you, grab any books you might need, and read through the material—get familiar with their recommendations. Start an "idea list" and jot down any ideas that appeal to you. In the meantime, I'm going to be looking at a few more sample lifebooks and working on a final (well, really semifinal, oh the wishywashyness) content outline. After that, I'll tackle 2-3 spreads at a time. If you've already made the initial design/resource decisions and are ready to start working on your content outline, here are some sample outlines to spark those creative juices. I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions about these outlines, or see some more of your lifebooks (my email address is in the sidebar if you feel like sharing). SAMPLE OUTLINE #1 (from the Beth O'Malley workbook): Your birthdate Birthplace and chinese name Before you were born, you grew in a special place Birthmother/father Reasons for adoption China Finding place Orphanage What we were doing in the meantime Referral day Flying to China Meeting you First day together Flying home/arriving home SAMPLE OUTLINE #2: This is the story of you Your birthdate Chinese zodiac (your birth year and other family members' birth years) China (many of our favorite things come from China) Where were you born? Birthparents Who do you look like? Reason for adoption Orphanage Your name Foster family Your city What the CCAA did to find you a family Our petition to the CCAA Referral day Traveling to China Family day Your new name (american, chinese, last name) Official paperwork China experience Our promise Cheers, and thankyouthankyouthankyou to everyone who is helping with this project. I'm unclenching and breathing easier now that I'm not alone with this. And when (notice that I said "when" not "if") I do something lifebook-related that you think is the most idiotic thing ever, let me know, but please be kind because I really do have good intentions and tender feelings.