Publishing two more family memoirs with Lulu

It’s been a busy couple months with a lot happening but I managed to produce two (short) family-only memoirs! They both turned out beautifully through Lulu.com. I have several older blog posts about using Lulu but Lulu has changed some since then. I use Lulu for these family-only books because I can still (so far) upload a .pdf file made from a Word document rather than one made with Adobe InDesign publishing software as most printers require. I have an article in my blog’s Resources section about formatting in Word to look as professional as possible. With Lulu you do not have to order a minimum of 25 copies and Lulu will ship copies directly to your relatives who do not live near you. Of course I choose the option NOT to publish for commercial sales else Lulu would send the book to Amazon. It is not cost effective to use Lulu as a go-between, not to mention selling to the public requires professional formatting and cover design or you look like an amateur – don’t let anything betray you!

Lulu also has cover templates, not many choices anymore—especially no font choice for the title and no title placement choice—but they work for simple covers. For one memoir I uploaded one of my photos to fill the entire cover, picking an image where Lulu’s no-choice title placement would work okay. For the other cover I had to use (free) Canva to make a 8.5×11 cover with a background and inserting a small photo that would show up underneath where Lulu would stick the title. Of course you can hire someone to format your manuscript and design a nice cover to upload to Lulu, but for my casual family-only books all that expense of professional work is not necessary.

One of the books I put together and published was my father-in-law’s stories and his genealogy. He did not have many stories but I wanted to save them as his history and legacy, and with very old family photos and genealogy they made a nice 8.5×11 booklet. We only needed ten copies. I had them printed in premium black & white so those really old photos would show up nice and clear. I took cell camera photos of the old print photos and had to use the free photo editing program with MSOffice to remove the spots and small discolorations and fix lighting as best able.

The other book was a mini memoir of my first (and likely only) trip to Japan with my sister and our daughters. That trip was back in 2015 and, haha, I’m still recovering from the exhausting challenge. But, I saw everything on my big bucket list except for Ueno Park and certain Kyoto temples. The trip was almost two weeks long and each day was a story of mishaps. Since we took just one tour and stayed in Airbnb “apatos” we were on-your-own tourists in a land of language we couldn’t read or speak—except for me a little after a limited time of lessons. Fortunately I took brief notes and had kept an itinerary that we mostly followed and that was enough, along with copious photos, to jog my memory. Shockingly, my family members were no help in remembering much, so good thing I wrote this travel memoir for us.

I made copies of My Crazy Trip to Japan for me and my fellow travelers (so four copies, and one .pdf emailed to my world-travele niece who has not settled anywhere). I used premium color—the color photos I thought would turn out fine using regular color printing did not turn out fine. Always order one proof copy to check! My dad found out about the book and wanted one so Lulu shipped one to him. He called me halfway through reading to tell me how much he was loving it, and he loved my writing style. I posted about this on Facebook and included a photo of a fortune cookie message I’ve saved. I got plenty of requests to read the book! A future project may be to scrub identifying personal family details out and upload an ebook to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon).

Note: Your perfect trip (or life) is not so interesting as a trip (and life) of foibles, mishaps, and troubles. It’s the imperfections and struggles that make you human, interesting, and relatable, so don’t be afraid to write about them.

PS: Japan really is an amazing country to visit!

Posted in capturing memories, family vacation, grandparents, heritage, lifewriting, publishing, storytelling | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

On a Roll with Katie and Disablity Pride Month

July is Disability Pride Month and USA Today appropriately had an article called “10 inspiring self-help books about illness and disability.” It’s impossible for people without difficult, chronic health issues to understand what it’s like to live with one or more of these issues daily. Most of us feel disabled just to have a bad headache for a day. And while it is not necessary to fully understand what others struggle through, complete ignorance and lack of empathy does not help us be decent people considerate of others or help us be accommodating at work or play.

Not everyone with disabilities has a conspicuous physical problem. People dealing with chronic, disabling illness or episodes of being dis-abled often appear completely healthy because they are having (or pretending to have) a good day. During times when COVID is rampant, “freedom-loving” people who tell others to just stay home appear to be completely ignorant of the great many people out there who are not perfectly healthy and abled, or are caregivers, and also need to go to work and do other normal out-of-home behaviors to survive.

Especially if you know someone dealing with chronic pain or mobility problems and/or want to create an accommodating environment for public space, workplace, or even a friendly visit to your home, you may want to read a memoir about the daily issues faced. One of these memoirs is “On a Roll: How It Feels to Be On Wheels” by Katie Rodriguez Banister, who became a quadriplegic at age 25.

Katie Rodriguez Banister is a local friend, an author, a woman of many talents. She is an educator on disability awareness who speaks to school audiences, advises businesses and public entities, and empowers others coping with daily struggles. She is a huge inspiration to all who know her. Her On a Roll memoir candidly tells about the impact of the tragic accident and how she survived mentally then and every day since. Reading it put my own annoying health issues in perspective and I saw the real Katie’s struggles and frustrations beneath her cheerful demeanor and feisty personality evident throughout the book. No sob story, rather an awareness story. Katie is an impressive fighter and her wisdom on how to live through tough times is a light for all.

Learn about Katie through her website, Access-4-All. On a Roll, and Katie’s children’s and poetry books, can be found on Amazon.

Posted in book reviews, book talk, inspiration, overcoming | Tagged | Leave a comment

Organizing all those old photos

I’ve finally finished digitizing all the good photos I took during our year living in the UK, back before digital cameras existed. That means I took hi-resolution photos of the print photos using my cell phone. I put the images in order by timeframe, by assigning them numbers and sometimes tacking on letters to indicate a batch that should stay together, like for a batch taken at one place. I added very short descriptions and dates. 020A Oxford Mar 19, 020B Oxford market, 020C St. Marys Oxford, 021 Hampton Court Mar 27, etc. Then I made a Word doc with a short paragraph of explanation of why we were in the UK, where we lived, common places visited (parks). Following, I listed the photo numbers with a little more explanation. THEN, I typed a ten-page mini-memoir. How did I do this now for way back in the year 1994?!

My memory is not that great. I had help from the first calendar planner I ever kept. Yes, the print kind because cell phones weren’t invented yet. (But I still use paper hanging calendars and paper planners.) Thank goodness I decided to keep a planner while we were in the UK. The photos brought back wonderful memories, but the planner functioned as a kind of journal, with brief entries telling daily life details, where we went and with whom, who was visiting. I could follow the route we took through Wales and with the help of Google Maps I found the name of the trail that led to a rocky beach. I found the date my friend and I went to see Maya Angelou and got our books signed. I learned the name of the village we went to one night to see Guy Fawkes burn on a huge bonfire after being carted down cobblestoned streets, accompanied by torch-bearing townsfolks—positively medieval!

I have a box full of these planners and I want to go through them to remember special times, who visited, where we went. I did save the film negatives of our UK year and put them back in their box, one of two filled with negatives and photos that did not make it into albums. I was shocked at how many film envelopes per year I had. Who takes that many pictures?! Me, that’s who.

Dolbadarn Castle ruins in Wales
Guy Fawkes’ straw head at the top aflame
Oh my gosh!
Posted in capturing memories, journal, memories, photos | Leave a comment