Book Review: Scrap Everything

140007153401_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v57220874_ Scrap Everything, by Leslie Gould; 320 pages.
Reviewed by Angie Pedersen

“’It feels like everyone else is living their perfectly normal lives while we’re in survival mode, for who knows how long.’ Rebekah hesitated. ‘Patrick said…that he felt God had forgotten us.’

"…‘It’s hard for me to leave this up to God. I wanted my plan to be his plan.’ Rebekah paused. The truth was that she no longer had a plan, no layout in mind, no outfits to match the specially chosen designer paper, no arrangements to create a perfect album.”

How often have you felt something like this – like everyone else’s lives are “normal”, and you can barely keep your head above water? Like if everyone just paid attention and listened to you, everything would work out fine. And how often does that happen? Yeah, I have no idea what “normal” looks like, either, and I have a hard time letting things just "happen".

These comments sum up one of the central themes of Leslie Gould’s new novel, Scrap Everything. Much of the storyline deals with change, and how different people view it and cope with it. It’s a story of faith, of learning to let go of what you cannot control, and learning to accept help from others. It’s remarkable how hard a lesson this can be. Perhaps that’s why this particular message hit home for me.

Scrap Everything is the story of two very different women, and their families – how they become involved in each other’s lives, and how they struggle to give and accept help in times of need.

Elise Shelton is an army wife with two teenage sons. With her husband’s retirement from active duty, she and her family move to her husband’s hometown, a small town in Oregon. She is not excited by the idea of living in “the best little town in the world”, and is relieved by the knowledge that it’s only temporary. In ten months, they plan to move on to Seattle. Which is more than fine with her. She has no intention of settling into life in the small town, and no intention of getting involved.

“Involved” could be Rebekah Graham’s middle name. She throws herself whole-heartedly into every project, whether it’s scrapbooking, meeting new people, or her home life. We see evidence of her obsessive nature in her thoughts of getting a part-time job or maybe opening a business. A month later, she opens a scrapbooking store.

It's at the scrapbooking store that the two characters meet. At the suggestion of her husband, Elise grudgingly attends the introductory workshop at the store. Elise immediately nicknames Rebekah "Miss Perky", mentally describing her as speaking "in italics and exclamation points…" Rebekah welcomes her into the store, and essentially into the lives of the other women gathered there. After chatting with her a bit, Rebekah impulsively invites Elise to come horseback riding at her ranch that weekend, even though she thinks Elise seems "awfully pretentious". She mentally compares Elise to the "popular girls" in middle school. On this note, they begin their relationship.

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A Piece of the Scrapbooking Pie

Found this quote on The Quotations Page.

There's this big pie in show business, and you physically can't eat the whole pie. If you give everybody a slice of pie, you will still have more than enough. The real trick is not to try to get the whole pie, but to keep the biggest slice.

Jay Leno

Of course, I immediately thought of the scrapbooking industry, rather than show business.  I've thought a LOT about just how big the "scrapbooking pie" is -- who already has the pieces, whose pieces are biggest, how I can make my piece bigger (without being greedy), and are there any pieces left?

There's a lot of uncertainty -- newcomers, mergers and acquisitions, closings...  I don't believe there's a "magic formula" for staying power.  Several companies who I believed had staying power have already closed, and others have grown larger than I ever would have imagined.  My own book series has been an example for both -- becoming more popular than I would have dreamed, and also struggling to maintain momentum among the hundreds of other scrapbooking idea books out there (and still to come).

What are your thoughts on the "scrapbooking pie"?

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Scrapbooking Careers: A Wish List

As editor of Scrapbooking Industry News, I try to keep up on the latest mergers and acquisitions, as well as comings and goings of various positions within manufacturers' staffs.  I've noticed quite a bit of both in the past year alone.  Because I've been involved in the scrapbooking industry for over six years, I even know many of the people personally.  Several people (I won't be a name-dropper here) have joined magazines as Contributing Editors; independent designers have gone on to become product designers for manufacturers; others are being approached by "outside" companies wishing to edge into new markets.

As I watch (and report on) all this happening, I have to wonder...where is my place in all this?  For the past five years, I have sort of forged my own path.  I started my website, started offering font downloads, wrote my book, created discussion lists, wrote another book, taught classes, wrote another book, and basically established my own little world.  I'm ready to share that world now, and I'd like to expand it.  And I'm open to discussion.  There are so many possibilities.

I'd love to join a magazine as a Contributing Editor.  I have both the writing and editing experience, as well as a deep understanding of branding, which we have seen is crucial for magazines.  I don't need to be a big "name" for a magazine (though a mag would be wise to piggyback off what I've already built) -- I just want to write and contribute and brainstorm and create.

I'd love to join a manufacturer's marketing team.  Brainstorming how to position a company in front of their target audience, and then making it happen.  And I am absolutely JAZZED about the idea of breaking into new Web 2.0 territory in this arena.  Blogs, podcasts, videocasts, social media bookmarking -- man, I would get my geek on and get some company really noticed!

I would love to join a manufacturer's team as book editor/coordinator.  Most of the larger manufacturers realize that idea books help move product by helping the consumer visualize how to use each product.  I have three best-selling idea books under my belt -- I wrote them all myself, secured all the artwork, coordinated the shipping of the artwork to and from the publisher, and got everything returned to the contributors, safely and in a timely manner.  So I can write, edit, coordinate, and administrate.  A manufacturer would be wise to capitalize on this experience.

I would love to just blog for a company, whether that's a manufacturer, magazine, web community, or whatever.  I'd be their blogger-for-hire, covering company news, press releases, trade shows, and basically whatever they want blogged.  Podcasting would be a natural fit with this, too, of course.  I miss podcasting already, and would love to get back into it as a part of a job description.

Is all this pie-in-the-sky, well-yeah-sure-of-course-that-would-be-nice?  I don't think so.  I think there is room for each of these types of positions in the industry, and I think there's room for ME to fill one of the positions.  And one thing I've learned in the past few years -- if you don't ask, you don't get.  I can't tell you the number of times I've seen someone move up the ranks, or land some cool gig, and I wonder, why didn't they ask me?  Then I realize, 'they' probably didn't even know I was interested or available. 

I once talked with a Hall of Fame'r at a trade show, and asked if she was teaching many classes.  She said she hardly ever taught classes.  I was shocked; I figured her every weekend would be booked, traveling cross-country.  We figured out that everyone must have assumed that, because no one was even asking her to teach.  So there she was, a Hall of Fame'r, available but not working.  (NOT at all the case, now, thankfully for her!)

So here I am, sayin' it now -- I AM interested, and I AM available.  I do currently work full time (bet most of you didn't know that, didja?), but I want to put my skills, experience, and enthusiasm to good use in THIS industry.  I LOVE scrapbooking.  I BELIEVE in scrapbooking.  I am PASSIONATE about scrapbooking, and all that it stands for.  And I can contribute many good things. 

Whatcha got for me?  ;)

My thoughts on "Journal the Hurts; Scrapbook the Highs"

I just posted an article by Joanna Campbell Slan titled, "Journal the Hurts; Scrapbook the Highs".  It's an article that has stayed with me for years now -- if you'll notice the copyright at the end of the piece, it reads 2001.  (That's practically a lifetime in scrapbook industry years!) 

In my classes, I continue to reference this article.  It expressed succinctly a key point I try to stress -- that scrapbooking about challenges can be rewarding and healing, but it doesn't have to include every last sordid detail of each experience.  When I first read it, I immediately appreciated how Joanna was able to put those thoughts into words.

Unfortunately, even though I mentioned the concept in my classes, I had no where to point students so they could read the article on their own.  The article was originally (and exclusively, I believe) posted at Graceful Bee, a now-defunct online scrapbooking magazine (may she rest in peace -- GB was a pioneer in online scrapbooking magazines, truly innovative and groundbreaking).  Since the GB archives are gone, so too was Joanna's article.

So I recently bucked up my courage to email her and ask if I could reprint it here on my blog, so I could use the permalink in my class handouts.  Joanna graciously agreed.  Yea!

As I said, the article sums up most of my thoughts on scrapbooking and journaling about challenging topics, whether sad times, regretable times, bitter times, hateful times, traumatic times, times of betrayal, times of deep loss, or a multitude of other "negative" emotions or situations.  Poor health, death, school bullies, depression, natural disasters, divorce, the loss of a close friendship -- none of us are immune to these kinds of life events.  The question often comes to me (and Joanna, obviously) -- how do I scrapbook the 'hard times'?  Should I even scrapbook them?

Both Joanna and I seem to agree -- yes, you can definitely scrapbook about life's challenges.  Do you have to?  No.  Can you?  Yes.  It's a personal decision.

For example, divorces (or just past relationships) are often hard to handle in scrapbooks, but still valuable...

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The Book of Me/The Me Book

OK, true colors time here.  Real me.

Autumn Leaves has released its most recent idea book, titled, "The Me Book", "a successful look at ways to create layouts all about you". Contributors include Cathy Blackstone, Jen Lessinger, Leslie Lightfoot, Lisa Russo, Veronica Ponce, Renee Camacho, Jennifer McGuire, Carrie Colbert Batt, Tina Barriscale, Desiree McClellan, Elsie Flannigan, and Margie Scherschligt.  Said contributors have also started the Me blog, "to encourage and continue the 'ME' movement". Carrie Colbert Batt linked to the blog in her blog recently.

[It took some digging, but I finally found the first official post to the blog here: kids-check.]

I'm very torn about this book and about the buzz it will no doubt generate.  Autumn Leaves carries great promotional power, and is just generally 'sexy' (in an advertising sense), so no doubt the book will do well.  Not to mention the talent represented by the design team.  Sure-fire best-seller, no question in my mind. 

Based on past AL books, and past examples from those artists, I already know the content will be very insightful and inspiring. 

The part I'm torn about...I already wrote - in 2002.  Over four years ago.  With this new book coming out, with the rather similar title of "The Me Book", it's really hard not to feel like a has-been.

Continue reading "The Book of Me/The Me Book" »

The State of the Scrapbooking Union

Fascinating discussion going on in the Pub (the Publications board) at Two Peas.  At the time of this post, the discussion is 5 pages long and counting. 

In the original post, Sharyn (aka "Torm") presented three "facts" (excerpted, a bit out of context, below):

Fact: When people ask how they can climb the ladder to success some have been coached to comment on big name blogs and praise their layouts as a way to be seen. This is a fact. People have been told this. It boggles my mind. This is how to achieve success??? This alone breeds ‘look at me’ and jealousy as one is taken under someone’s wing and someone else is not and people compete for attention. This is not the way to true success – but, it has worked for some.

Fact: Entitlement. There are a huge percentage of published scrapbookers who have a feeling of entitlement. To their credit, this is a feeling that has been bred and taught. But it’s eating the industry alive. The numbers of self-proclaimed entitled persons that go booth to booth at CHA, or that email distributors asking for product is so great now that the manufacturers as a whole are wondering how to go back in time and put a stop to this practice.

Fact: There are more and more and more contests than I ever remember.  Competition while it can be fun at times…we are now drowning in it. The negativity and bad feelings come as we continually feel badly for those that lose over and over again. We carry their loss…and it drains us all. We also feel elated for those that won..but in the end, it’s all draining. We are flooded with it now.

The bottom line tho is…do we like what the industry is becoming. And if not…how can we get back what was? What do we really want from it all?  My inbox tells me that not too many people like the direction that it’s heading.

But me? I’m in it for a creative outlet first, friends – 2nd, publication 3rd. Cuz in the end…it’s the first 2 that have lasting value and rewards.

But the other stuff...that's the reality.  That's what everyone should be aware of...

Well.  People on the business side of the scrapbooking industry do have an entirely different view of the hobby than the general consumer.  I kow I have become more jaded about a lot of things, wary of "opportunities", and the reality of becoming "famous".  Those are the things that immediately come to mind for me when I consider what's "wrong" with this industry.

Sharyn does bring up good points, and others obviously agree (evinced by the 5 pages of discussion, which also boiled over onto the Pink Martini board).  I think the two main issues -- entitlement/donations and contests/cult of celebrity -- are definitely concerns that deeply affect the industry, and those wanting to get into the industry. 

The first "fact" Sharyn brought up, about the commenting on blogs...that seems more of a symptom than a real problem to me.  She said that " some [people] have been coached to comment on big name blogs and a way to be seen".  This is actually a standard response for a technique to build traffic to one's blog/website.  Blog evangelists like Andy Wibbels, Darren Rouse, and "The Blog Squad" all offer that advice (as such, so do I, in my blog consulting).  But here's the key distinction: if you go to a blog that addresses a similar niche (scrapbooking, in our case), leaving a comment accompanied by your URL can lead that blog's readers to visit your site.  True.  But generally, the readers will follow your link only if you leave RELEVANT and INSIGHTFUL comments on that blog.  Generally, if you read the comments on a blog post, you don't follow the URL for a commenter who says, "Wow, great idea."  You follow the URL for someone who says, "That's a great idea.  I like it because it applies to me [this way]", or if they describe how they put the idea into effect, or if they offer another idea -- generally just contributing more to the conversation that just "me, too".  Then, when the readers click over to that URL, that blog must also offer relevant and insightful content that gives people a reason to come back.  If "wanna-be" designers comment on the "A-list" scrap-blogs as a means to get noticed, they must provide relevant and useful content on their own blogs/websites for the "notice" to stick.  So, really, if people are posting "me, too" comments on "A-list celebrity" blogs, then don't have blog content to back up their talent or to indicate their interest in becoming a designer, the entire practice is a waste of time.  So I guess part of the issue, as with any type of self-promotion, comes down to intention -- what's the intent behind the technique?  Are you promoting yourself in a sleazy-used-car-salesman way, riding-someone's-coattails-to-success, with nothing to back it up?  Or are you making honest comments on blogs, offering additional perspectives and insights, as well as posting other useful content on your end?

This post is long enough for now -- I'll post my thoughts on Facts Two and Three later this week.  (Something to look forward to, I'm sure!)

Comments on Sale Of Scrapbooking Magazines

Interesting comments RE Primedia's 'exploration' of selling off its crafting mag titles, on the Scrapbooking & How blog:

Primedia's exploration of the divestiture of its crafts unit is creating a stir.   The Mad Cropper worries "what could happen to my favourite mags -- Simple Scrapbooks and Creating Keepsakes."   Others might wonder if this could be the death knell for their favorite titles.   I'm here to tell you there is nothing to be concerned about.

Dave then goes into the business history of Primedia, and concludes the entry with:

The sale of Primedia's craft business segment is simply a part of the overall breaking apart of the company.   There is nothing in particular to be concerned with regarding the sale of Simple Scrapbooks, Creating Keepsakes, Craftrends or any other of these businesses.   It cannot fall into a worse organization.   Whoever acquires these publications will most likely manage them better than Primedia did.   The track record of businesses which leave Primedia is pretty good.

Interesting insights that I haven't read as a part of the news stories related on Yahoo and Bizwire.  Dave doesn't list any sources for his info, but it sounds plausible.  Any thoughts?

2006 - The "Me" Year for Scrapbooking?

Posted on Michelle's Scrapability blog...  She asks, Is 2006 - The "Me" Year for Scrapbooking?

Angie Pedersen may see all her dreams come true this year. Everyone is thinking "Me" lately. Being the author of The Book of Me, you sometimes wonder whether she might resent seeing so many other scrapbooking teachers take hold of the theme and move with it - but Angie instead just appears to enjoy seeing the movement take hold over the last few years. But, as for 2006, I believe that this may well become the single biggest Me year in scrapbooking that any of us have yet witnessed.

She goes on to provide several examples of why she thinks this may be a trend for the new year.  I responded in her comments, and share my comments here:

I've started a reply to this post several times, not completely sure how to respond. But each of my attempts started out with a big, heartfelt, mushy-gushy THANKS to you. I can't tell you want it means to me that you started, and ended, this entry by mentioning me. I value your support of my efforts so much. Thank you.

You always have such an eye for trends -- both current and upcoming. I think you're 'spot on' with this one, too. BoM-type topics have been growing as class and product fodder in the past few years, but it really is exploding right now. It blows me away. I also think your connection of these classes to the 80's Me generation idea is really interesting -- I never would have made that connection.

You wrote, "you sometimes wonder whether [Angie] might resent seeing so many other scrapbooking teachers take hold of the theme and move with it - but Angie instead just appears to enjoy seeing the movement take hold over the last few years." That is the answer I gave you in that interview, and for the most part it is still true. I wouldn't have written Book of Me if I didn't want the idea, the core philosophy to move forward. Do I sometimes feel like Not-One-of-the-Popular-Girls because others have run with it, and are quite successful with it, with no mention of me as the "founder"? Yeah, honestly, yeah, sometimes I do. It's hard not to feel like a "has-been" sometimes.

But I'm a big girl, and can step back and see the Big Picture (scrapbooking pun intended!) The bottom line is that people, women especially, are seeing their worth, and actively preserving a record of their worth. And they're enjoying the process. I know I had a part in that, even if most of the masses don't, anymore. I know that I spoke my piece, and I was heard. That's what BoM is all about.

Thanks for this post, Michelle.  You continue to ROCK.

What do *you* think?

Book of Me Backstory

backstory: the history behind the situation existant at the start of the main story

I was talking with someone about Book of Me recently, and she asked me (basically) why I wrote it.  This really belongs on a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) because it's probably the question I get most often.  And I realized that, even with all the interviews I've done over the past several years, I haven't really "gone public" with how the book really came to be.

My publisher Elaine always rolls her eyes and gives me a bit of a shove when I give my usual answer -- I started working on a Book of Me scrapbook in 2001, and in the process, shared it with friends at crops.  They told me they had never done a page about themselves. As I was gathering resources to work on my own album, I decided to put it all together in one place and write a book. I researched the book proposal process and sent one out to several publishers.  That is how it happened, but a very condensed version of the story.  My publisher Elaine doesn't think my Reader's Digest version of why I wrote the book really does the real 'backstory' justice.'s the Real Story.

This backstory could have the subtitle, How A 30-Year-Old Mother of Two Saved Her Own Life With Scrapbooking, because that's basically what happened.

After staying home with my children for six years, I began to have an identity crisis. Or what I now refer to as an “anti-identity crisis”. I felt like my life could be summed up in my roles of wife and mother. That’s all there was to me. Period. 

Do you ever feel that way? Like you’ve lost track of who you were “before”, and who you are now?

As I went about my days, I found myself thinking about all the tasks and chores and errands I did. I wondered if there was anything special about the fact that I was doing them. I felt like we could hire someone to do the dishes and the laundry and the cooking and running errands, and I wouldn’t even be missed. I felt like I had failed to make a mark, and I could easily be replaced. I even thought about taking my own life.

I can vividly remember one night, laying in bed, crying uncontrollably, and thinking about going to the store to buy sleeping pills.  But I couldn't stop crying long enough to go get them (and didn't figure they'd sell sleeping pills to a hysterical, crying woman, anyway).  It's strange now to think that not being able to stop crying may have saved my life.

But instead of ending my life, I decided to scrap it. 

Instead of abandoning my husband and two kids, and taking myself out of their lives, I decided to share myself with them more fully.  I decided to give them the gift only I could give -- My stories.

I started working on a scrapbook about myself.  It became a tool to showcase what made me unique, and all that I valued about my life.  And it quite literally saved my life.  Because right there in front of me, created by my own hand, was proof that my life was worth living, remembering, and celebrating.

As I showed this album to my friends, I saw that they were almost startled -- so many of my friends had never thought of doing a page about themselves, let alone actually done one.  Just like me, they were also absent from their own albums. 

As much as I enjoyed the process of creating my Book of Me, and when I recognized how healing the process had been for me, I realized other scrappers might be searching for ways to create such a book for themselves.  I wanted to help them by providing a roadmap for them to follow, compiling all the resources I had drawn on. 

I became absolutely passionate about helping other women tell their stories -- about helping them not feel replaceable, helping them not feel invisible in their own lives.  I didn't want other women to feel the same emptiness, the same hopelessness, the same feeling of being lonely even surrounded by loved ones.  I wanted to help them work through that -- not just past it, but THROUGH it.  And if you've attended any of my classes, you'll know that passion is still there, and that I care deeply about the stories of each of my students -- because their stories are much the same as mine, and I see myself in them.

So, this book was born

And now you know the Real Story. 

I bet you have a Real Story, too.