Merry Christmas to Me!

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I got to open an exciting package yesterday from Blurb (a book printing company that I highly recommend). Blurb has been having deal after great deal after great deal since Thanksgiving. I took advantage of a 40% off coupon code and printed copies of my (very rough) works-in-progress. I was amazed at how awesome my books looked when I took them out of the box. I keep picking them up and admiring them. They look so professional. I feel quite proud for having completed a project, or rather, TWO projects. Merry Christmas to me!

I hope your Christmas is joyful and book-filled.

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Building Books with Blurb

buildingblooksblurbYesterday I talked about a bookish app I love, and today I’m talking about a bookish website and software that I’d recommend: BlurbI’ve mentioned Blurb in passing in a few other posts, but I’d like to tell you more about it.

Blurb® is a self-publishing and marketing platform that unleashes the creative genius inside everyone. Blurb’s platform makes it easy to design, publish, promote, and sell professional-quality printed books and ebooks.

Blurb was founded by Eileen Gittins in 2005, and includes a team of design, Internet and media veterans who share a passion for helping people bring their stories to life. Blurb authors have created millions of books using our full suite of free book-making tools, and today a new book is created every minute. Blurb is based in San Francisco with offices in London.

writingprojectsI found Blurb in 2008 when I was looking for a way to print a professional looking copy of a story that I had written for my mom for Christmas. The Christmas Serpent was a silly story based on an inside joke in our family and I thought she would get a kick out of it. I had created illustrations using colored pencil, too, and needed a product that would support both text and images. After researching and pricing out a few different book companies, I decided to try Blurb. I was happy with the experience and the end result, so I’ve ordered from them many times in the years since.

I used Blurb to create a book for my wedding photos. I used Blurb to print a copy of a short book I wrote. I used Blurb to have a student’s work printed as a senior project. I use Blurb to make scrapbooks of my year and of special trips. Most recently, I created a scrapbook of the 30th birthday trip I took with two of my best friends this fall.  blurbalbum

There are several different ways to create your book. If you’re really skilled with a computer, you can use Adobe InDesign, Adobe Lightroom, or bring in correctly formatted PDF files. For fast and easy photo books, there is a new mobile app (although there are fewer options with your layouts and page counts when using the app). Lastly, you can download Bookwright software (for free) that allows you to use templates and as well as create your own layouts for photos and text. I use Bookwright and have found it pretty easy to use. Once your book is complete, you upload your book to Blurb and that’s when you can place your order.

Blurb has several options when it comes to printed books. You can choose a photo book in five different shapes and sizes, a trade book if you’re looking to publish a novel, magazines, and even ebooks. There are also different price points within each of these categories. For instance, you can choose to get the “free” standard paper, or choose a higher quality of paper at a cost.

Also included in the Blurb experience is the ability to sell your books. You can set a price and people can order right from the Blurb website. So if you’re an indie author, Blurb might be right up your alley. This would also be an option for photographers looking for a way to print books for their customers.   

If you’re in the market for a professionally printed book – whether with a hardcover, dust jacket, or paperback, full text, images, or a combination – you can’t go wrong with Blurb. I highly recommend checking out their website to learn more about their products and pricing. It pays to sign up for the newsletter/emails, too – they frequently send 15%, 20% and even 40% off coupons. Perhaps a personally created book is just the Christmas present for someone on your list this year.

NewBaby = No NaNo

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With a new baby set to arrive any day now, I will obviously not be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Last year was my first experience with National Novel Writing Month, and I absolutely enjoyed the experience. It was so cool to be a part of a writing community where everyone was excited about writing and supportive of one another. It was also cool to accomplish my goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month.

While I won’t be participating, I do want to offer up some helpful links to those of you who will be participating this year.

  1. NaNoWriMo homepage: If you haven’t signed up yet, or if you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo is all about, make sure you start here.
  2. Need a spark to get your imagination going? Try the Writer Igniter at the DIY MFA website. It randomly selects a character, situation, prop, and setting for you to work with.
  3. Want to publish your masterpiece once it’s finished? I’ve had great experiences with Blurb. I’ve created scrapbooks, a wedding album, and a full text novel with the website’s free, downloadable software. It looks like Blurb is amping up for NaNoWriMo too. They’ve recently added new templates for novels.

 Best wishes to all of you future novelists out there! You can do it!

Who Encouraged Your Writing?

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The founder of NaNoWriMo sent an e-mail yesterday asking writers, “Who encouraged your writing when you were a kid?” The reason for the question is because the NaNoWriMo organization is in the process of raising funds for the Young Writers Program. The e-mail caught my attention because of the question, and it got me thinking about when writing became important to me.

The first thing that came to my mind was 7th grade English class with Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith had been teaching a long time—so long, in fact, that he would sometimes distribute copies that had purple ink (mimeograph, I believe it’s called?). There was no technology in the classroom, and he still wrote everything up on a chalkboard rather than a whiteboard. We had assigned seats—alphabetical, of course—and we stayed in those seats the entire school year. While the class wasn’t very stimulating, I kind of loved it because it was easy! I sat in the back row (one of the joys of having a last name that started with a “W”) and wrote stories in a notebook while Mr. Smith talked. This is when I really started writing complete stories and got interested in putting my own ideas on to paper. While Mr. Smith himself wasn’t actively encouraging me to write, his class period did provide me with the time to write.

writingprojectsWhen it comes to more active encouragement, I think my mom was always supportive of the things that I wrote. She thought my 7th grade science lab report about a frog dissection was so funny that she sent copies to relatives! I also made her a book for Christmas when I was younger based on the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” that made her laugh so hard, she cried! In college, I made her another book based on a family inside-joke. I made it into a hard cover book using Blurb. Several other family members decided they wanted copies of it as well.

While I sometimes feel embarrassed about writing and reluctant to share it, the truth is, my family has always been supportive of my writing. Now, I just need to get brave enough to share more of it!

So who encouraged your writing?  

Laptop Woes

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Well readers, I hit a bit of a roadblock when my faithful laptop died last week.  After five years of service, it finally gave up on me.  I had been expecting it (the fan was so loud—like it was gasping for breath), but the moment when I pushed the power button and nothing happened was still a shock.  And of course, I hadn’t backed up my files in quite some time (despite my sister’s recent reminder).  Luckily, my husband and an IT guy were able to hook up the hard drive to another laptop in order to do one last back up.  That meant a lot of important files and pictures were saved.  On the other hand, I lost the blurb scrapbook I’d been working on for months.  I decided not to cry about this because at least I still have all of the pictures and I’ll be able to start over.

Once I recovered from the shock and accepted that my laptop would not be magically returning to life, I had to work on figuring out what kind of laptop to purchase to replace my old hp G60.  I was drawn to the 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combos, but wasn’t sure if the extra cost was worth it.  After online research, reading lots of reviews, and playing with different models at Best Buy, I finally settled on a Sony VAIO flip 14.  I’ve had the computer for less than 24 hours, but so far, I love it!  I’ve had to learn a lot of new tricks about using the touch screen and Windows 8, but it’s kind of exciting.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I’ll get back to the book posts as soon as I learn a bit more about my computer.  For now, I leave you with some sage advice: Learn from my mistake – Back up your computer before it’s too late!