Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #25: One Day at a Time

There are many wonderful ways to document your holidays, but if you're short on time, why mince words? Try a calendar approach, documenting each day with a single phrase, line, or description that documents an event (trimming the tree), expresses a sentiment (gratitude, joy), documents a memory (making snow angels), or records an observation (shorter days, longer nights). It's definitely a can-do, no-stress project.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #24: Part: Whole

Who says that journaling needs to be in complete sentences and paragraphs, a cohesive, unified block plunked down on a page? This time around, challenge yourself to "dissect" a photo into various parts, using a common theme or thread in your writing to unify the whole:

In this layout, I pointed out my sweet (but stubborn) pup's features, explaining what each one was for in her day-to-day life. The "unifier" is kind of a punchline in each section of text -- I mention how, despite these functioning parts, she doesn't use any of them to actually listen to us with any regularity. :) She's her own woman.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #23: Like a Prayer

Today I attended a prayer service celebrating the life and legacy of Father Damien, who will shortly become Saint Damien. One of the most beautiful parts of the service was the responsorial psalm, in which verses are sung and a refrain is repeated after each verse.

This led me to wonder whether the approach would work on a scrapbook page, and I think it will.

In the "verses," expand upon a chosen theme, but keep bringing the writing back to a single repeated line, the "refrain." Each time the line is repeated, it will become even more meaningful. Tell a story, express your feelings, celebrate someone, give thanks or praise. Whatever you choose to say, lift it up and set it free on your page.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #22: I Vow

In honor of my mother's upcoming nuptials, this challenge is all about the promises we make. These are the promises that change our lives and give those lives focus. These could be wedding vows, vows to be a good parent, vows to accomplish a long-time goal, or vows to kick a nasty habit. Whatever your vows may be, put them in writing. Make it official.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #21: Commit It to Memory

This week's challenge is based on an assignment that my eighth graders are working on this week. Inspired by Langston Hughes's poem "Aunt Sue's Stories," they are retelling family stories that they would like to continue to pass down through the generations. Some students are writing stories, while others have chosen to compose narrative poems.

Each day this week, we have heard stories about births and adoptions, escapes from war-torn countries and immigration to new countries, arranged marriages and romantic elopements, and moments that tore families apart and pulled them together. I've been amazed and overwhelmed to discover which stories these young people have identified as truly valuable, stories that they will no doubt share with their own children someday.

As storytellers and memory keepers, we are responsible for finding ways to ensure that our family histories survive. The oral tradition is one way of doing this, but by recording these stories in our scrapbooks, we "commit" them to memory.

This time around, our challenge is to find a way to document a story that you hope each generation of your family will remember. It is a chance for us to remember (and I know I've used this before) "what it would impoverish us to forget," as Frost once said

Even if you don't have a photo, tell the story. If you feel the need to include a photo, consider taking a photo of something symbolic -- something or someone that represents the story that you are documenting.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wordplay Challenge #20: Take My Word For It

Because it talks about someone rather than to someone, writing from a third person point of view (she/he/it) can be distancing. This time around, our challenge is to make a connection. Use a combination of first person (I/we) and second person (you) pronouns, and share your own perspectives with the subject of your layout.

In the layout below, I addressed my journaling to my cousin Shelly, who just graduated from college and is about to embark on her nursing career. As a teacher, I am also in a service-oriented vocation, and so I shared what my experiences have taught me, making a connection between my vocation and hers.

The patterned paper reinforces the message, and vice-versa. I love text paper for this reason -- when it's well-chosen, it functions beautifully as subtext, extending the theme of the layout.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 19: The Big But

There's much to be said about the power of word choice and its effect on our writing. However, this week's challenge is not about show-stopping, descriptive, or evocative words. It's about a three-letter word that we tend to overlook -- a word that, despite seeming visually insignificant, is more than a little blip in a sentence. It has the power to make meaning, to show contrast, to change the trajectory of an idea.


Yes, but. The conjunction "but" is a tiny word that can pack some power, if used with intention in your journaling.

Consider a page that expresses your fears, doubts, or misgivings, and then think about what the addition of "but" could do to some of those sentences:

"Since I was a child, I have had a fear of deep water, but that is slowly changing."
"These days, I am a worrier, but I wasn't always that way."

The use of "but", in introducing contrast, invites the writer to elaborate further. In a page that documents change or the desire for change, the word "but" is a tiny key that open doors, releasing more words in the process.

You can also use the idea behind the conjunction "but" without using "but" at all. Transitions such as "despite," "however," "although," "nevertheless," and "regardless" can establish contrast as well.

Try jotting down a few sentences, experimenting with these words. Aim for statements that are true, and perhaps the idea for your next scrapbook page or mini-album will be the result of this "wordplay."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 18: Pater Familias

What do you want to remember about your father?  

As someone who no longer celebrates Father's Day with her father, this day is sometimes more reflective for me than celebratory.  Still, my father's story is tied to my own story.  This week's challenge is to try to capture in words (and pictures, if you have them) your relationship with your father, for better or worse.  

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 17: In Other('s) Words

Sometimes it takes another's words to get your own words flowing. Quotations always make for easy journaling "substitutes" on layouts. However, remember that while quotations may serve as a stand-in for your sentiments, they cannot replace your own voice.

This week's challenge is to use a quote as a springboard for your own journaling.

For instance, consider the following:

"Life is the flower to which love is the honey." -- Victor Hugo

While this eloquent analogy is beautiful on its own, it also invites you to reflect on the "honey" in your life, and capture the sweetness of a special relationship.

So this week, take that quote a step further. Put it in context. Elaborate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bad Girls Kits: Journal Moment

Journal Moment with Jill
May 2009

In Defense of Journaling

We tell stories because, in order to cope with the present and to face the future, we have to create the past, both as time and space, through narrating it.

-- W.F.H. Nicolaisen

Robert Frost described his chosen form of expression, poetry, as “a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget.” The same can be said of any form of expression that seeks to unite words and images, emotions and memories. The “scraps” of memory that exist in our albums come together page by page, moment by moment. They document a story that has neither a beginning nor an ending; it is a chapter in time, a story among stories.

Imagine, however, a moment suspended in time within a photograph, visually present, but voiceless. If you do not tell the story or seek the words to release this moment from the “frame” that contains it, who will? Are the patterned papers and accents that surround your photo enough to help someone who does not share the memory to infer its meaning? How do the pages of your albums share who you are, who and what you love, all that you value? Do they present a realistic or idealistic view of your world? How do they give voice to experience? How do you “frame” memory within your pages?

Writer Angela Carter once claimed, “As the past becomes more and more unlike the present…more and more we need to know who we were in greater and greater detail in order to be able to surmise what we might be.” Even if you create your layouts for you, with no audience in mind, know that memory is unreliable. You may create for the “you” of today, but what will make these pages meaningful for the “you” of tomorrow? Words. The power of your voice. A belief that you have something to say, a story to tell…even if no one is listening…yet.

Sometimes those words can be difficult to find, and many of us add journaling on our layouts – if indeed, we ever add it – as an afterthought. While there is nothing wrong with relegating journaling to the end of one’s creative process, it is important that journaling be given the same respect and care that went into composing and editing the photos, selecting and arranging the papers and accents, using special techniques, and designing the page itself. Adding words just for the sake of adding words isn’t the point. Choose your words. Make them count. Make them meaningful.

How exactly does one do this?

The answer really is simple: you need to care about what you say. If you don’t feel connected to the words that you commit to paper, then revise, revise, revise.

There are several strategies for bridging the journaling “gap” – the distance between images and words.

- Embrace a writing process. You are less likely to be dissatisfied with your journaling if you don’t write “blind”. Just as you “compose” a layout, compose your journaling as well. Don’t underestimate the power of drafting and revising. I usually “unload” on computer or in a notebook (and sometimes on a piece of scrap paper), getting out all of the thoughts in my head. I look back at what I’ve written, searching for a few key phrases, words, or themes that catch my attention. I then try a new approach, using what I noticed from the first try as a springboard for another draft. By the second or third draft, my journaling is much more focused and cohesive – and much more powerful. Fear of “messing up” can cripple us, but there is no “messing up” if you give yourself room to be messy in draft form, and then clean it up later. I often compose on a computer, and then write directly on the layout by hand, as I did with this layout:


- Link the content of your journaling to the image itself, and/or to the elements on your layout. Build on a recurring theme. Try to share something that isn’t understood by simply looking at the photo. For instance, in the layout below, I could have just labeled the photo, "Rob and Jill" and added the date. However, the journaling that I added is about what is happening between "Rob and Jill," about the changes that are occurring, and the way that I am feeling about taking a leap. The idea of "taking a leap" led me to use a metaphor in my journaling.


- Write with a specific person in mind. This has drastic effects on the tone of your writing. Even if the page is not intended for a particular person, using the second person pronoun, “you,” establishes a greater degree of intimacy on the page. It will also push you to make word choices that more fully express the emotion that you feel toward this person. You can even write to yourself.

- Avoid clichés. A cliché is an overused expression. While you may think that it says all that you need to say, it often does not; it does not speak to the specificity of experience. You are an individual, and your memories and emotions do not deserve to be documented in generic phrasings. In a first draft, clichés often appear. As you revise, try to identify them and rephrase them using more precise language. If you absolutely can’t avoid using a cliché, at least try to follow up with a few sentences or phrases that elaborate on what you mean. In a layout that I made for my mom, "I Love You, Mom," I knew that the title might come across as somewhat...predictable. The journaling clarifies that title; while other people may say "I love you, Mom" comfortably and easily all the time, I sometimes struggle with it...and I don't want things to be that way.


- If you do save journaling for last, and you are having trouble generating ideas, walk away from a layout for an hour, an afternoon, a day, or more. Spend some time thinking about what you have created, and let the connections germinate in your mind. Whether you realize or not, at this time, you will be composing a mental “draft”, reflecting on the meaningful connections to what you have created and how you want to express those connections using your voice.

Do you have other strategies for establishing meaningful connections between words and images on your layouts? If so, please share!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 16: The Mother Lode

Today is Mother's Day -- which means that it is the perfect opportunity to create a page about your mother, your identity as a mother (if you are one), your views on motherhood and parenting, or a "mother" that you admire.

As you compose your journaling, try to get to the heart of the matter. It can be difficult to write about motherhood, since so many intense emotions are involved. Try freewriting if you feel overwhelmed by words, and then work on eliminating words that distract from the heart of your message.
You may find the use of repetition helpful, in that it will ground you in a kind of rhythm, a pattern, that will make your journaling more cohesive and meaningful. On the first page, I repeated words ("so") and syntax ("you are here, you are home, you are mine"). On the second page, I repeated the word "or" and used a listing approach.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 15: Mission Statement

Every day at school we recite a mission statement.
It's all about what we strive to do and be as as school.
This week's challenge is to write a personal mission statement.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 14: Feelings First

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

-- e.e. cummings

This week "feeling is first".
Grab a photo.
Write down three emotions that come to mind.
Put each emotion into a sentence, filling those sentences with words that capture your feelings in their rawest form. Don't worry about paying "attention to the syntax of things" -- just let it out.

Then scrap it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Perfect Spoonful

I finished the layout that I mentioned in yesterday's post. Now I'm really (really) needing some ice cream. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 13: Sensory Language

I'm currently working on a page about my favorite ice cream flavors, mint chocolate chip and very berry strawberry. I need to have one scoop of each in the same cup, so that a little of strawberry mixes with a little bit of mint and chocolate, forming the perfect spoonful. It's weird, I know, but it's just the way I like it. As I prepare to write the journaling for this page, I'll challenge myself to appeal to sight, taste, and touch.

This week's challenge is to use language to show, not tell. Describe a person, a place, an activity, or any subject, really, drawing upon your five senses to make your language as vivid as possible. Rather than say that something "smells good," share what you smell. Rather than say that something "tastes delicious," share what you taste. Rather than use words such as "pretty" or "beautiful," explain what you see. Be detailed. Be specific.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 12: You Had to Be There

This week's challenge is to gather up all of the inside jokes, nicknames, memorable events, and the miscellany that define one of the special relationships in your life. I used this approach on a layout that I made about my friend Angie back in 2007. Here' s a close-up of the journaling on this page. I'm planning to put this approach to good use in one of my upcoming layouts.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 11: What You See

This week's challenge is to document your surroundings -- no place too big or small, too neat or messy, too cramped or comfortable. Take it all in and jot down what you see. Capture the details that stand out to you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sorry about the delay...

It's been crazy around here lately. I'll try to update this weekend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 10: Top Ten

Today I've been thinking a lot about lists, as you can see in this post. This week's challenge is to journal in list form -- but not just any list. This list should build to a point. Whether you count down or count up, use your list to say what you want or need to say.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 9: Old Business

It's March, which means that spring will soon be here, as will the whole spirit of spring cleaning. Before we look ahead to the new, though, it's time to acknowledge the old. This week, take care of some "old business":

something unresolved
something for which you are still seeking closure
something that revisits you in dreams
something that comes back to bite you in the butt every so often
something that needs to be put back into its box
some story left unfinished

You get the idea. The challenge this week isn't necessarily to resolve the unresolved or to give up the ghost, but to put the old business back on the table and address it directly. It's time.

Catching Up

I've been swamped lately, but I haven't forgotten these challenges! Although I plan to go back and make full-scale layouts later for the last two prompts, I touched on both in a mini-album that I made with the March Bad Girls kit.

I talked about my page-tapping habit (Wordplay 7, "That Thing You Do") and...

I actually photographed my foot (ugh) and wrote about why it is that I never paint my toenails (Wordplay 8, "Body Bio").

I've still got more ideas mulling around inside my head for these two challenges, so I know I'll be revisiting them soon!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 8: Body Part Bio

This week, choose one of your body parts -- the more interesting the relationship, the better -- and tell its story. What have your eyes seen? Why do your ears hang low? Does your belly button enjoy being an outie? Why do your legs feel loved only when they're wearing jeans?

This one should be interesting...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 7: That Thing You Do

That thing you do: you know what it is.
You know why you do it.
You know how other people react to it.
Do tell.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Now that my cold and cough are under control, I'm finally getting some scrapping action once again. It's about time!
This is my "imperfect" page documenting my "Imperfect" love poem.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 6: Love Poem

This week I challenged the students in my LIT 2000 class to compose a love poem without using cliches. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be a great Wordplay challenge for this week, too. So there you go -- time to channel the poet within, and attempt to put into words the very thing that is often very difficult to put into words. Find the words to say it, without giving in to the temptation to use cliches. You can find my attempt here.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Due to a cold that's been kicking my butt for the past two days, I've only just finished my self-portrait for Wordplay #4. I started with the journaling, pulling together fragments from my "poem a day" journal.

There were so many variations, I decided to pull them all together on a single page and call the page "Compendium."

(Sorry! Out for publication -- be back soon.)

I loved the pink and gray combo in this month's Jenni Bowlin kit. Everything just clicked.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 5: Listen to Yourself

Record five of the most authentically "you" words, phrases, or statements (whether uttered aloud or in the privacy of your own head) that you make over the course of the next week.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 4: Self-Portrait

Often, our layouts begin with photos and end with journaling. This week, we're flipping that process, and starting with words. The task: a self-portrait. Before you go in search of a photo of yourself, capture your self-portrait in words. Whether you approach this in list form, though a poem, or in prose, consider how you are "posing" and "composing" yourself in writing. Through your own eyes, in your own hand, who are you?

Move It or Lose It!

Here's my page for the last challenge. My "pep talk" is about our upcoming move, trying to sort through my anxieties and to focus on the positive.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Better Late Than Later

It's been CRAZY around here lately, so I JUST got around to finishing my page for the second challenge. Sadly, it took a storm warning and a cancelled school day to get me there!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 3: Pep Talk

Give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself what you've been needing to hear. Make yourself listen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wordplay Challenge 2: Behind the Music

Your current playlist reflects not just where you are right now in your life, but who you are right now in your life. Fight the temptation to just list those songs on a layout and proclaim your journaling finished. This week we're getting lyrical.

Spend the next few days listening to and collecting lyrics, focusing on the language in the songs that you love. Jot down the lyrics that speak to you, that stay with you, the ones that prevent you from hearing anything further in a song because you're still caught in that "wow" moment. Then, figure out why these lyrics have this effect on you. Work to find a way to capture in words why these lyrics resound long after the song is over.

Here are a few of the lyrics that have been in my head lately:

You're my favourite moment

You're my Saturday.
-- Goldfrapp, "Number 1"

Sure, there are so many compliments one can direct at one's beloved, but nothing says true love like being called someone's "Saturday". Every time I hear this lyric, I think of my husband with a silly grin on my face. Every single time.

our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds
-- Death Cab for Cute, "What Sarah Said"
The song always stops for me after these words. These lyrics not only contain an amazing metaphor, they also have a tendency to make me both wistful and hyperobservant.

If you're married to the idea of using a photo on your layout, then think about taking a pic of a radio or your iPod, or take a screen shot of your playlist on your computer. You could also -- eek! -- use a photo of yourself, since this is about you and your musical "identity."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Fortunate Sentence

Who knew that one sentence could be so challenging? My sentence morphed quite a bit in the process, but I like what finally emerged after tweaking words along the way. Some of its variants included "you will perceive far more than your eyes can see" and "you will discover your vision when you look beyond what eyes can see." I'm still liking the latter one, but I think the one that I finally went with is more concise. Plus, I love the alliterative v-v-vuh partnering of "vision" and "view."

I just realized that this is my first page of 2009 -- definitely a hopeful beginning!