Sunday, December 30, 2012

A book about Mom to Learn InDesign

Last spring, I decided to take a class in InDesign at RISD Continuing Education with Bryan Rodrigues. I loved it, and dummied up a few of the children's books I've been working on. Our big assignment was to do a book with 100 pages, so I decided on a scrapbook sort of project, and limited it by focusing it on my mom.

I had no idea how involved the project would become, or how much fun it would be to learn about my own family history, from the late 1800's to present.

In class, Bryan had us set up a book using a Blurb template. I chose a 9 x 12 size, and planned chapter layouts, formatting styles for headings, text, and captions. If you've used Adobe programs, InDesign is relatively intuitive, but there's nothing like having weekly instruction, followed by assignments to put what you've learned into practice. Bryan made it all seemed so easy!

One of my favorite pages was a montage of my mom modeling for Century Club. The pictures here span from 1976-2011... 35 years. She hasn't changed much, has she?

Mom modeling over the years

My niece helping Grandmom sort
family slides a few years back.
At home, I started by editing some of the 700 slides from our childhood that Mom had converted to digital a few years ago. I scoured the many scrapbooks I've kept over the years. During phone calls to Mom, I "slyly" asked about some of the old family stories we'd heard a million times, to make sure I had them right.

I didn't! What a surprise to hear the details of stories I thought I knew. I wrote them down, and started a hodgepodge text document.

A page in progress...
with lorem ipsum and lots of ????'s

Family photos from the 1920's
The book wasn't complete enough to give to Mom by the time my class ended, but it was chock-full of lorem ipsum (fake type used for placement) and photos that I'd scanned and formatted. By August, it felt like it was pulling together, but the text was nowhere near complete, so I made a PDF file and "gave" it to my mom for her 86th birthday.

Pictures from 1940

Happily, she was thrilled. From that time on, Mom and I collaborated on the text and captions. She searched her records for dates and details, and corrected my "gazillions" of mistakes. I collected some of her scrapbooks and photographed pages from others.

I began to turn to resources from other members of my family. My cousin, Jack Eiser, had continued the genealogy work his sister Joyce began, and I was able to access Rowe and Grant family trees on, complete with census records, birth certificates and more. (Thanks, Jack)
 I'd collected family reminisces over the years, and I pulled anecdotes from those. When Mom didn't remember details from her childhood, she called her sister and brother and gathered their memories. Not surprisingly, they often saw things through different prisms.

Photos from the 70's!
At Thanksgiving, Mom and I went through the text and trolled for missing pictures and information. My husband told me firmly that I needed to finish this never-ending project in time to have it printed for Christmas. I started working fifteen hour days, and for a few days, the project wasn't fun, with color conversions and uploading, spell checks, missing dates, and a deadline.

But then, miraculously, it was finished! One hundred pages, over 500 photographs, and a permanent record of my mom's history.

It was oh, so satisfying to see it arrive at Mom's as a hard-cover book, and to see the look on her face when she opened it at our Christmas celebration.

Of course, this project only whet my appetite for more. There are still so many photos! And there's still my dad's side of the family to explore!!!


  1. Cheryl, what an amazing accomplishment...and a beautiful gift for your mother!

  2. I'm in awe of what you've done. I only wish I had a chance to do something similar while my parents were still alive...

    Your mother must treasure this gift. And it will be a blessing for future generations, too.

  3. Cheryl, what a treasure for everyone in your family to cherish!

  4. This is so incredible, Cheryl! I would love to do something like this at some point. Just amazing!!!

  5. You are so lucky that your mom kept such a treasure trove of family photos. And she is lucky to have a daughter skilled at putting it altogether so beautifully in a book. Well done, both of you!!

  6. Cheryl, the book looks fabulous! And what a wonderful gift for your mother and everybody in your family. I Wish I could see the actual book. By now you are probably an expert at InDesign. Now I know who to call if I get stuck :o)

  7. What a great gift and project! And to be able to collaborate with your mom is special, too.
    Makes me want to improve my limited InDesign skills :-).

  8. I have seen the real thing, and the bound book is very impressive! Such an amazing undertaking. You are a wonder dear friend.