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Sunday, October 18, 2015


Nina Mansfield’s debut young adult mystery novel, Swimming Alone, was published this year. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E. She’s also a published and internationally produced playwright.Learn more about Nina ad her work at her website.

My Scrapbooking Evolution

Ten years ago I started to take my writing seriously. I also started to take my scrapbooking seriously.

It was my first summer off from teaching. I had two goals: finish the young adult mystery novel I had started writing and get my photographs in order.

I had dabbled with creating scrapbooks ever since my high school days. Mainly they were glorified picture albums of my ballet recitals and travels with a few mementoes sprinkled in and some handwritten captions. Nothing fancy, and looking back at them, they were rather sloppy and unimaginative.

I’m a writer; I wanted my pictures to tell a story.

I visited a local craft store, picked out just the right album, a ream of colorful scrapbooking paper, some stickers and stamps, and got started.

Scrapbooking was the perfect complement to my writing. There were only so many words that my writing brain could produce in a day. Arranging pictures on a page freed my mind to reflect on what needed to get written next. There were red herrings that needed planting and clues that needed placing. Solutions to my story would pop into my mind as my hands worked to create the perfect scrapbook page.

But just like the early draft of a novel, those first scrapbooks were rough. Sometimes I tried too hard, and the pages were cluttered. Other times, I would lay out a page and glue everything into place only to think of a better layout after it was too late. They’ve been stored away, stories to be rediscovered at some future date.

I did finish writing my novel that summer. Luckily, unlike the scrapbooks I made, the words were not glued to the page. I would end up doing quite a few major revisions before my novel was ready to send out into the world.

Eventually, I would move on to other writing projects and other scrapbooks.

And like my writing, my scrapbooks would evolve. I would streamline and simplify. I would learn to try sample layouts before gluing anything down. I would remember to collect scraps and souvenirs during my travels that would help me to make the perfect scrapbook page.

And then I entered the digital age.

It was last summer. I had just given birth to my daughter. I had also fallen woefully behind again on my scrapbooking and I was determined to remedy the situation while my newborn baby slept. I had two scrapbooks that I desperately wanted to complete from vacations I had taken the previous year with my husband: a trip to Costa Rica and a trip to Peru.

I was able to complete my Costa Rica scrapbook, but with difficulty. There were so many pictures and an infant that demanded constant attention. I had more than twice as many pictures from my Peru trip. There was no way I’d be able to cut and arrange and glue all of them while simultaneously caring for my child.

I decided to create a photo book on one of those online photo sites. I had been avoiding doing this. To me, they seemed less creative. All those scraps and souvenirs I’d collected during my travels would go to waste. But I knew if I didn’t try, those memories might forever stay locked in my computer.

With my child nursing at my breast, I was able to get started. I chose to use the site from the Costco Photo Center, mainly because I am a member, and had already uploaded my photos to the site for printing.

I could have done things the easy way: pushed a button and the site would have created a book for me. But that method would not have helped me to tell the story I wanted to tell. Plus, I had too many photographs for this to be an option. Instead, I chose custom layouts for each page. I selected the background pattern. I could rearrange the prefab layouts to my liking. I ended up arranging over 700 photographs, one by one.

I typed out my captions, and reorganized the pages and photos when it became necessary. This time, there was no glue holding me back. I had so many photographs that I found it necessary to divide them up into two albums.

Within a few weeks, I was done. The results were spectacular.

One of these days, I will return to creating traditional scrapbooks. But for now, I am putting away the scissors and glue. For now, the digital age suits me well.

Swimming Alone
The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe.)  Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: has the Sea Side Strangler struck again? 

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Angela Adams said...

I started making scrapbooks in elementary school, and I still have them. Thanks for the post.

Nina Mansfield said...

Angela, it is so fun to look through old scrapbooks, isn't it? Glad you enjoyed the post.