Like a Shuttered-Up Scrapbook Store

Yesterday I had to run in to my favorite scrapbook store, Pebbles in My Pocket. Actually, I can’t even say “favorite” anymore, because it’s the only scrapbook store left in Utah County. I’ve shopped there since February of 1996, when I was a freshly-made stay-at-home mom. My friend Chris and I went to a scrapbooking class together one Friday night at Pebbles, and that was it: I was hooked. And while there’ve been many other scrapbook stores in my area, I’ve always shopped the most there.

Today while I was shopping, the owner of the store stopped to chat with me. She asked if I was working on anything—having scanned many of my layouts for me, for my Big Picture Classes workshops, she knows I've sort of been "in the industry.” We chatted for a bit about how things have changed in the scrapbooking world. No more magazines. Hardly any local scrapbook stores or people going to crops anymore. Even some of the largest on-line sites have shut down. She asked me what design teams I’m on, and was surprised when I told her that I’m on none. I tried to explain why, but it seemed like too long of a story. Even though the reason started right there in her very own store.

Amy Sorensen based on WCS sketch
A recent favorite scrapbook layout, just for fun.

That night when I started scrapbooking, I made a layout about Haley petting one of my friend’s dogs. And while I it was fun to pick out that cute puppy-paw-print patterned paper, what I was really excited about was going home and writing down the story. I asked the crop leader’s permission to not write it during the crop, because I knew it would be a long story and I thought I could fit it on better if I printed the journaling at home instead of writing it by hand. (She hadn’t ever had that idea, which only illustrates just how long I’ve been scrapping!)

For me, it’s always been about writing our lives’ stories. The embellishments and papers and alphabet stickers and everything else you can buy to use on a scrapbook layout feed the part of my creativity that wishes it were artistic but really isn’t. Layout design, clever use of supplies, and hand-drawn anything are not my scrapbooking forte, nor are they my motivation (much as I love them). My motivation was always, and continues to be, the fact that scrapbooking gives me an excuse for writing about the people I love the most, in a format where it might be seen and appreciated somewhere down the line.

But that doesn’t sell a whole lot of scrapbook supplies, which is the point of being on a design team. I don't think I'd be a great fit in that role, because my motivation is to show how to use words well on layouts, not product. Plus, I'm fairly picky about what products I'll actually use​ on my layouts. I don't, for example, use chipboard or flair or enamel dots. I avoid thickness or bumpiness, but I would have to use whatever, were I on a design team.

The store owner then asked me why I wasn’t teaching for Big Picture anymore. And…another long story. The last class I taught at Big Picture, my Textuality class in 2013, is one of my favorites. I taught it as a re-run, but as it had been quite a while since the last time it had run, I nearly completely overhauled all of the visuals. I made almost forty new layouts and revised a chunk of the text, plus created the concepts for four new videos. All in less than a month. It was a ton​ of work, and I spent quite a bit on new supplies. There were lots of late nights and feeding my family easy meals and not a few fast-food dinners. Perhaps most difficult, there were some things said about me during this rush of preparation that did not make me feel like what I was contributing was valuable, or that I, myself, was worth the time being put into my class. The last part that entirely broke me, however, was that there weren't a lot of students who signed up, so in the end and after all that work, I barely made enough to cover what I'd spent on new supplies.

I finished up that class highly conflicted.

On one hand, I loved writing classes. I loved sharing my knowledge of and enthusiasm for scrapbooking in a space that wasn't bound by the need to sell supplies. What I was selling was story-telling and writing techniques, translated into the scrapbooking world. Sure, supplies matter. But for me, the stories matter so much more, and when I was creating and teaching classes, I could explore how to do that with other scrapbookers.

Creating class content was one of the most rewarding experiences of my creative life.

On the other hand, I'm not sure the time and expense I put into my classes was worth the return. Of course I never expected to become wealthy teaching about scrapbooking. But the hours I put into class creation, divided by how much I made, ended up being far less than minimum wage. Plus, so few students signing up for my class sort of dented my confidence; I was left feeling like the things that are important to me are not valuable. Toss in Distracted Mom and the problems that caused with my family, and I didn't see how I could continue on.

I did start some tentative plans for a class with another Big Picture Classes instructor. But it just never quite came together, and the other class I had an idea for just doesn't seem to fit into the current scrapbooking climate. In fact, maybe that's the problem: I'm not sure that I fit into the current scrapbooking climate. My layouts continue to be story-based, but if you look at galleries or scrapbook blogs, the majority of shared layouts are product-based. I'm not interested in Project Life. I have zero interest in signing up for monthly kit clubs.

I don't know that I have a place in this industry anymore. (If I ever did really have a "place." I'm hardly well-known.)

This fall, Big Picture Classes was sold to Studio Calico, and in the transition, some of the classes were carried over to the new platform. None of them, unfortunately, were mine. This was pretty devastating to me, as it so very clearly spelled out just how not-well-known I am, and how, yes, what I thought was important really, really wasn't. It banged up my already-dented confidence.

So, here I am. I've been a writer for Simple Scrapbooks. I've been a teacher for Big Picture Classes. (I'll continue writing for Write. Click. Scrapbook. for as long as they'll keep me around.) But I currently have zero scrapbooker-y work and no ambitions to find any. Is it too dramatic to say I am a scrapbooking has-been? Maybe it's more clear to say I feel like a shuttered-up scrapbook store.

This isn't a pity party, though. Of course, I wish I had been more successful, both so I could better provide for my family and so I didn't have this little sadness with me. But sometimes you have to let go of an ambition. I love scrapbooking and I will probably always do it. But my days of trying to supplement my income with it are over. (Unless some other possibility opened up—I'm just not expecting it to do so.) I'm trying to focus all of my efforts on writing, and I'm excited for what might come of it. But it is, definitely, the end of an era for me, and with that ending is sadness and this strange sort of regret. Sense of failure, really. Like I let writing itself down, but hopefully that's not exactly right. Hopefully I just was in the wrong little niche, and will someday (soon!) find the place where I feel like I (and my ideas) matter. Where I'm supposed to thrive.


A little tiny graphic novel.

A little bit of drama over my printer eating the perfectly-misted cardstock I’d carefully dried under books for two days.

Lots of late nights spent happily playing with my favorite scrapbooking products.

35+ new layouts.

A bajillion ideas discovered in the flurry of creativity that a deadline brings on.

All of that, plus letter stickers!

One of my favorite Big Picture Classes Workshops, Textuality, is about to start up again.

Unlike my other BPC workshops, this one isn’t about writing. Well, there might be just a tiny bit of writerly advice thrown in. But mostly it’s about supplies. Text-based supplies to be more specific.

It’s like an ode to letter stickers.

A paean to fonts.

An homage to quotations, a tribute to titles, an accolade to cool journaling formats.

I loved putting the course materials together. And I’ll be secretly happy dancing every day I teach the class.

I hope you’ll join me in learning how to get all those alpha products out of your stash and onto your layouts!

My Crazy Tuesday (and how it benefits you)

Yesterday I:

Got up, made lunches, got kids off to school, went to Nathan's school for his schedule-planning meeting, took Haley's lunch money in, went to Walmart (where I learned the hard way to NEVER go to Walmart on a Tuesday, as it is double coupon day...I didn't even have one little tiny coupon), went to Old Navy, went to B+N, went to Archiver's, raced home to put everything away, scarfed some toast for lunch, went to work (where I got to sit in on a writing workshop hosted by Terry Tempest Williams which shall merit its very own post), came home and picked up Kendell, went to dinner with some of his work friends, went back to the library to get my copy of Refuge signed by T.T. Williams, went to Hobby Lobby to get some cardstock (my contribution to Kaleb's Valentine's Day party tomorrow), picked up In 'n Out for the kids, dropped the food off and then did some Valentunes order pick ups for Haley, came home and got everyone in bed, started a load of laundry, worked on a scrapbooking deadline, hung up the damp clothes, finished Kaleb's Valentine's Day box, and then (finally! and at a very late hour!) went to bed.

Which is sort of how all of my days have gone lately. And which is why I'm oh-so-late at actually sitting down to tell you about this BP class that you can win a seat in:

BPC Grammer image collage
Angie Lucas (the instructor) is one of my favorite people in the scrapbooking world, because she's smart and funny and creative and she cares about words. And please: don't get caught up in the S word. You would like this class if you're a blogger, too. Or if you write in a journal. There's no rule that says you have to get all cutesty on me! Here is the info about the class:

Who's teaching this class? Hi, I'm Angie Lucas, word nerd extraordinaire, and I'll be your Grammar-Free Journaling instructor.
Is "grammar-free journaling" a thing, or did Angie Lucas make it up? Okay, okay, I made it up. The idea is to tell truly compelling stories in creative new formats using the fewest words possible—and to stress less about paragraph flow, sentence structure, transitions, and the rules of writing. What does Angie Lucas have against grammar? Absolutely nothing! I'm willing to bet that I love grammar even more than you do. But just in case you don't like it, I'll show you 12 useful strategies for skipping the grammar altogether.
Who is this "Angie Lucas" anyway? I'm the new Editorial Director at Big Picture Classes, a professional writer and editor since 1998, the founder of Ella Publishing Co., the former managing editor at Simple Scrapbooks magazine, and an average pianist (which is not at all relevant to this workshop).

Just leave me a comment telling me how your Tuesday went, and I'll draw a winner in the morning.

Which is good because the class starts tomorrow!

the Big Idea Festival

Whenever I tell anyone that I teach online scrapbooking classes, the response is certain to fall into one of two camps:

  1. The "that's cool" response: "how fun!" or "I bet you love that" or "it's awesome you can do something you love" or even "how do I sign up?"
  2. The "people actually pay for that response: "uhhhhhhh" or "that's really weird" or <insert confused face> or, yes, even "people actually pay for that?"

(Obviously the first response is my favorite.)

I think I sometimes forget that the scrapbooking world really is its own little universe, complete with stars and unique systems.  There are webcasts and videos and chat rooms and message boards and e-books; there is even rumored to be a slam blog for mocking scrapbookers of the celebrity sort (I haven't actually seen it). (Yes, there are also scrapbook celebrities.) Online classes have started becoming more popular and commonplace as magazines (Making Memories, BH&G, and my beloved Simple Scrapbooks) have ceased publication.

I can't imagine that online courses are unique to the scrapbooking world. Whether or not that's true, though, and despite its potential for weirdness, an online scrapbooking class is just really fun. Big Picture Classes, while not the only source for classes, is of course my favorite. You learn stuff about your hobby and you meet other scrapbookers (online, of course...but aren't we past that stigma yet?), you get inspired. Being a wordie, I've chosen to focus all of my classes on journaling and words, but you can take a course on almost anything you can imagine.

Enter the Big Idea Festival.


This is something we've done at Big Picture Classes for a long time—a free course. One summer we focused on a layout and a project made with the same supplies by 12 different teachers, so you could be inspired to use products in a bunch of different ways. One summer we focused on color. Last year we focused on words, which of course I loved, but I think I'm most excited for this year's class.

For 2012, each teacher (seven you can see on the website and seven who are mysteries!) focused on a big idea. Some thought, process, philosophy, experience, idea, or project that is important to her right now. Notice I didn't say anything specific about scrapbooking—these big ideas don't necessarily focus on photos or words or pretty pink embellishments, although some of them do. (Mine has almost nothing to do with my favorite hobby, in fact!)

Which makes this the perfect class for you to sign up for if you're in response group#2 when it comes to online courses. It's the perfect chance to see what they're like because A---it's free! and B---you don't even have to love scrapbooking to love the ideas you'll come away with.

Sign up for it here! If nothing else, it's your chance to see me on video, which I know is an experience you've been dying to have!
01 amy

on Textuality

This Thursday, October 6, I have a new class starting at Big Picture. It's called Textuality. Here are the top ten questions I get asked about this class, which I'm sharing just in case you happened to ask me one of these questions and I spaced emailing you back. Note: I NEVER space emailing someone back on purpose. Usually I just think I've replied, I'm certain I have, and then I realize with horror two weeks later that, no, I only thought I replied.


Top Ten Textuality questions:

1. Why should I take this class?    Because it will help you look at your scrapbooking supplies in a new light. It will help you get more of your supplies onto your layouts (where they belong, in my opinion!). It will give you new answers to the perennial "how should I embellish this layout?" question. And because it will be a fun four weeks!

2. What kind of word is "textuality" anyway?    It really is a real word. Literary theorists use it to describe the qualities a piece of text has that make it a piece of text. I chose it as the title for my class because all the learning in the class revolves around ways making text in any scrappy form (journaling, words, titles, letters, alphabet supplies) visually interesting. In fact, it was that word itself that sparked the class.

3. Is there any writing involved?     Only whatever journaling you bring to the class. Unlike my Write Now! class, Textuality does NOT discuss writing techniques, except for one that's really more a part of the designing of layouts than the writing of journaling. There aren't any daily writing prompts either. So, less writing than in Write Now!, much less, in fact.

4. How much work is involved?     Each week you'll receive two entirely optional challenges via email. These relate directly to the information in that week's handout. The first is called "dig into your drawers" and challenges you to use some of your alphabet supplies. The second is called "use what you've learned" and challenges you to use a new skill on a layout.

5. Is this a "project" class?     Not really. You won't have, say, a finished mini album by the end of the class. If you do all of the challenges, you'll have eight completed layouts at the end. Rather than a project, the class teaches processes and concepts for using text in unique ways. At the end of the class, you'll have a myriad of new ways to approach your layouts.

6. Is this class only for people who've been scrapping for a long time?     Not at all! I think any scrapper could take it, beginner or oldie. If you ARE a beginner, you'll be happy to know that there are lots of step-by-step instructions. If you're an oldie (like me!), you'll rediscover—and use—some of your old, beloved supplies.

7. The description mentions using just your word processor...I don't need Photoshop or something fancy?     No. Word is all you'll need. While there are tons of cool things you can do with text in Photoshop, I wanted to keep this class as non-technical as possible. The majority of the lessons about word processing involve typesetting details—making your journaling look good, in other words. The majority if the techniques involve using your supplies instead of your keyboard.

8. Is this a class for digi scrappers?      All of the supplies I use are traditional ones. The lessons do focus on using traditional supplies. This is not because I think traditional scrapping is better than digital scrapping—I don't! For me, however, one of scrapping's appeals is its kinesthetic happiness. I, personally, enjoy the texture, the mess, the pressure of scissors through paper more than I enjoy using my computer, so that is why my class focuses less on the digital aspect. That said, though, nearly every single technique would translate to digital supplies and approaches. You'd just use, say, digital chipboard instead of temporal chipboard.

9. What sort of supplies will I need?     My scrapping philosophy in a nutshell is this: new stuff isn't better than old stuff. (If you want to read a few detailed explanations, try here or here.) One of the main goals of the class is to encourage you to use your stuff—to not let it pile up in ignored and neglected corners while you're off buying the next new thing. So, the supplies you'll need are the supplies you already have: alphabet anything. Specifically, there are sections on alphabet stickers, chipboard, rub ons, stamps, and papers; journaling cards and stickers; word embellishments; supplies that aren't word- or letter-based used in a textual way.

10. Did you know there's a movie called Textuality?      Why, yes, I did! I haven't seen it, but I can say that about 99% of recent movies. I'm not sure why I hardly go to the movies anymore, especially now that I have two built-in babysitters. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that at least one person on the set of that movie has heard of my class. They totally stole my idea! ;)

So! If you're interested, make sure to sign up soon. It starts on Thursday! And, if you have any more questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I'll answer you. I totally won't space it!

Big Idea Festival

One of my favorite parts of working for Big Picture Classes is the summer class we do every year. It's always something new and unusual and fun—and FREE! This year is no exception:


If you're new to scrapping, or if you've been scrapping forever, this little class is something you will love! Each of the teachers focuses on one word each day (my word is cherish) and shares a layout and some scrapperly advice. Plus, if you sign up (you just have to create your account, put the Big Idea Festival 2011 into your cart, and check out—no credit card required since it's FREE!), you'll get to see a video of me talking about things like thesauruses and babies and dictionaries, AND you'll catch a glimpse of my messy scrapbooking closet and revisit my long hair.

Who wouldn't want to see that?

The workshop starts tomorrow, August 15, so hurry and get registered! If you sign up, let me know how it goes for you!

Write Now!

Next Thursday, on August 4, my Big Picture Classes workshop, Write Now!, starts up again. This class is perhaps my favorite class I teach at Big Picture, and here's why:

I think all scrapbook layouts deserve some journaling. That isn't an altogether popular point of view; for plenty of scrapbookers, the journaling part is sheer, frustrating drudgery. Or something that just never gets done but then makes the guilt flare up. That's one reason I wrote the class: to help scrappers feel confident about their journaling and to enjoy the process.

But I also think that if you're going to write some journaling—or any sort of writing, really; you could easily apply the techniques in Write Now! to your blog or your private journal or that personal memoir you've always wanted to write—you might as well write it well. The cool thing is that it doesn't have to take a long time to write it well. That's why the class's subtitle is "A Speedy Journaling Workshop." It teaches you how to write well and how to do it quickly.

Also, it's my favorite class because I deep-down, to-the-tips-of-my (blistered and toenail-less) toes believe that everyone can write well. Yeah, sure: not all of us can write good novels, or poems, or short stories. Not everyone has it in themselves to be the next great and famous Writer. But we can all write about our lives and our kids' and friends' and pets' lives with authenticity and significance. It takes a combination of things: knowledge (the techniques that writers use to make their texts come alive), confidence (which comes with practice and with never getting out of the habit of practice), and desire. Write Now! will help you with the first two. The desire part has to come from you.

Here's what I mean by that. This morning, I did notwant to do my scheduled 7 mile run. My back hurt and my right foot has been having this weird, inexplicable pain. (I even had an x-ray to make sure it wasn't a stress fracture. Which it isn't.) But when Kaleb asked me why I wasn't in my running clothes, I knew I had to put them on and put in my miles anyway. After I'd finished, when I was walking up my driveway, one of my neighbors stopped to chat with me. She told me she admired me for running, and that she wasn't sure how I did it, because running is hard for her to do. Her comments added to my post-run exhilaration, but I also had to chuckle a bit, thinking about how hard it was for me just to put my shoes on and get out the door.

Writing good journaling is exactly like that. It seems like it's too hard to do and that only a few people can do it. But if you do it every day, it becomes easier. With running you learn stuff like pacing and building endurance and avoiding injuries and maintaining glycogen levels and stretching just the right amount; those things help the seemingly-hard process of running become easier. With writing, you learn stuff like sentence structure and word choice and organization, silencing your internal editor and being brave on paper and filtering out the fluff to get to the real; those things help the seemingly-magical process of writing strong journaling become easier.

Doesn't matter, honestly, if you love journaling or hate it, this class will help you. If you have the desire, everything else will start making perfect sense! And, as a happy little perk, there's a give away on Thursday, July 28 at write. click. scrapbook. for a free seat in the class. Click over and leave a comment to enter!

Gift of Words: The Impossible Gift

This year, when my mom asks me what I want for Christmas, I know exactly what I'm going to say: divinity. I've tried to make it before and it turned out dismally. But it tastes like Christmas to me, and she makes it well.

The gift I really want from my mother, though, is something impossible. I'd like an old, yellowed sheet of notepaper, torn from a notebook so the edges still dangle a bit. On it: the details of my birth, written the day I was born. I'd like to know both the story of the delivery and the way she felt, welcoming a third girl. Something my dad said, or my sisters, or my grandma.

This is an impossible gift because she didn't write that note. I'm not criticizing her—she's not a wordy kind of person, and I don't think people did that back then anyway. But I still wish she could give it to me.

Those kinds of desires are the motivation behind my Gift of Words Class at Big Picture Classes. I think that more people than you know wish for words—your words—and the class does that. It helps you write the things that might go unsaid (because, let's face it, it's easier to write some things than say them).

Check it out! It starts tomorrow!

Sixth Day of Thanksgiving: Scrapbooking

Way back when I was pregnant with Haley (that's been sixteen years ago, mind you!), I was working at WordPerfect. My friend and coworker, Teresa, invited me to a party she was hosting and since I was all about being supportive, I went. It was a Creative Memories party, and from the second the consultant started showing us layouts, I was hooked on the idea of scrapbooking. I didn't buy anything that night—the expense of getting started seemed overwhelming—but I did start planning how I would write about and photograph this new baby of mine.

It grew from that moment, my delight with scrapbooking. I went through the binder stage, and then the CM stage, and now I use CTMH albums. I went through design stages: figuring out how to make cool letters, reading books about visual triangles and balance, trying every. single. technique discussed in Creating Keepsakes magazine; realizing I could do it my own way. I went through the I-must-get-published craziness, collecting CK's silent rejections but finding my niche at Simple Scrapbooks and then at Big Picture. I recognized my shortcoming: my layouts aren't really about scrapbooking, per se. They're not about paper and ribbon and stamping and punching and all the stuff, even though I buy and use and love the stuff. They are, in the end, only about the story, and no one can sell anything based on that. (Translation: I am comfortable with my limited publications and confident in knowing I continue to stay true to my own vision.)

But whatever the phase, here is the truth: I am still, sixteen years later, deeply and thoroughly in love with scrapbooking. My sisters and my mom all think I'm weird. You shouldn't get me started on how Kendell feels about it, and I'm pretty sure even my very own daughter thinks I'm overly obsessed. My friends who used to scrapbook with me no longer scrap at all; my scrapping-and-emailing friends of newer vintage don't, either. In fact, I'm the only person I know in person who still does it on a regular basis. Part of this is simple stubbornness: I've bought all this stuff! I can't give up my hobby because what would I do with all the stuff? But it's more than just the stuff; I keep on loving scrapbooking because it is a space for telling stories, for pushing my children's experiences into the future so they will remember and so that someone in the future will know.

Yesterday, I visited my dad for the annual Thanksgiving dinner at his care center. My mom and niece and sister were there, and later (because he forgot), my uncle Monte also came. Becky told him that she would like to sit down with him and ask him about our grandpa Curtis (his and my dad's dad), because Dad never talked about his childhood. Monte told us a bit about our grandpa's funeral, and Becky asked if he had any pictures. He sighed, and shook his head, and a small sorrow welled up in me for all those lost photographs. For all the stories that are lost with them, too. Monte can tell us some of the words of the stories, but when you have pictures paired with words? That is when personal history comes alive. Maybe it will be decades before anyone changes from thinking I'm weird to thinking I was right in persevering with the scrapbooking thing. But one day, someone will want a story and an image; I will be able to give it to them, and that is reason enough to be grateful for scrapbooking.

But there's also this: sometimes I get to influence others, too. So I'm also grateful that I've gotten to be a part of Big Picture Classes since nearly the beginning. I really, really love the philosophy behind BP, because it jives so thoroughly with my own ideas. I still get a happy little thrill when a class of mine starts (like this one); I still happy dance at the thought of helping other scrappers. BP is celebrating its fifth birthday this week, and I got to make a little happy-birthday video. Dare I confess that my compassion for the contestants on ANTM has grown by leaps and bounds? Talking to a camera is hard work, and I don't do it very well, so if you'd like your daily laugh, you should check it out.

Or you could just tell me (because I'm curious): how do YOU feel about scrapbooking?

Don't Miss It! (it's FREE!)

Next month, this is starting up at Big Picture Scrapbooking:


The free summer class, The Big Idea Festival. It lasts all month. Every few days, you'll get three more ideas for using a scrapbooking kit from Cocoa Daisy.

And, lest ye be startled by that word—kit—here's a confession: before I made my projects for this class, I had never worked with a kit before. They always seemed a bit extravagant to me. Plus I like shopping for supplies! But I discovered that kits are great for pushing you out of your comfort zone. They encourage you to think in different directions because you are, in a sense, following the thought patterns and design inspiration of whoever put the kit together.

Plus, hello? This kit was full of orange supplies. Have I ever told you how much I love orange scrapping supplies?

At any rate, this class is FREE! There will be prizes and give aways in addition to all that inspiration. You can see more details and sign up here.There are some awesome scrapbookers involved and I'm certain you'll end the month with tons of new ideas. Happy scrapping!