Blog to Book – a memory book for my child

08-phi_phuongIt has been almost 5.5 years since I wrote a blog which encompassed our trip to Vietnam to adopt our son, Danny.  I started a private blog a couple of days before we left and wrote it from all the hotels we stayed in, in Vietnam and then wrote one last post after we returned.

It was my first attempt at blogging and it was a last minute adventure.  Five and a half years ago, people were still adopting from Vietnam.  We met families from our agency who were waiting and somehow through word of mouth we got invited to read private and public blogs from adoptive parents as they traveled to Vietnam to adopt their child.

We were supposed to travel with another family, but our paperwork was held up by the government of Vietnam, so we didn’t get to travel with the family we were supposed to; each of our two families traveled alone.

I chose Blogger to write a blog because other blogs I had read were with Blogger.  I’m sure there was a choice, but I didn’t look into it.  I just decided a couple of days before we left to write it and then invited friends and family to read as we traveled to Vietnam to adopt a baby boy.

One of the reasons I wrote it was because I wanted to help remember those first days before and after we became a family with Danny.  And because we were not traveling with another family, all of our memories would be our own and I wanted to have something for Danny to give him when he was older.

I’m not sure why I started thinking about that blog again about a month ago.  I wondered if it was still out there.  At first I had to remember the name of the blog (I did).  And then I had to remember which email address I posted under and what the password was.  The blog was still out there but remembering the password took some doing.  I just tried a variety of passwords until I got it and there is was.  I spent a Saturday night reading the entire blog and reliving the experience.

My husband had printed the blog out on computer paper after we got back, but I decided I wanted something more permanent.  I tried doing it on a photo book program I had used before but it wasn’t really set up for so much text.  I asked a local listserve how to print a blog and everyone suggested Blurb.

So I signed up for an account with Blurb and downloaded the software onto my computer.  I was able to import my blog from blogger. (You can import from Blogger, Live Journal, Typepad and WordPress.)   I selected the size of the book, which was “Standard Portrait” 8×10″ which is suggested for blogs.  It was pretty easy to follow the directions.  I chose the basic theme but there are more than a dozen to choose from.  It imported 67 photos and put them approximately where they were in the blog.  But there was a lot of work to do before I could call this a book.

I actually spent many hours on this.  Booksmart Blurb has a pretty good editor, but it is no InDesign or other graphic design layout.  It is pretty basic.  There are three types  of pages either picture layouts, text layouts or photo spread layout.  For my book, I chose “text layout” for all of the pages.  There were more than 25 layouts for “text layout”.  I chose it because my blog was 90% text and 10% photos.  But you can choose whatever layout you want for each page.  In fact I was almost finished the book before I realized that there was “text layout” and “picture layout”.  I was trying to get one page to look like another and couldn’t figure why I couldn’t find the layout.  It turned out that one layout was “text” and another similar, but not identical was “picture”.

I made several copies and spent a lot of time doing layout.  I did not find a way to add a page break like you can in word, so words would slip from one page to the next.   Blurb did not copy over the comments from friends who made comments during the time I wrote the blog, but I cut and pasted them back in because I felt they helped recall what it was like when I was living the experience.

In the end, I decided to add an introduction and the pictures we received with our referral along with copies of emails from our adoption agency which were pertinent.  And after the last blog post, I added two pictures which were our adoption announcement and a picture of our giving and receiving ceremony (adoption ceremony) which I had photoshopped up to add names and context.

After about 2 weeks and I had not ordered a book, BookSmart sent me a coupon for 20% off my first order.  So it pays to wait awhile to make your first order.  I think I needed to order it before a certain date, but that was no problem, since I had finished the book, I just had not ordered it.

I was relatively happy with the book.  I didn’t order the upgraded paper for photos and it shows.  I was happy with the text and the paper, but the photos do not look as good as if I were to have done a photo book from Shutterfly.  I do plan on ordering one more copy of the book, but next time I will pay the premium for the photo quality paper.

My book was 56 pages long and included the original 67 photos, but then I added a couple of dozen additional photos to the book.  It cost about $50 for a hardcover book and that is after the discount.  It would have cost an extra $15 to get the photo quality paper.  I guess I will have to pay it next time.  But I paid $5 to get a pdf of the book, so I would not need another one.

Anyway, I recommend getting the photo quality paper if you have a blog with pictures you want to turn into a book.  My other regret is having chosen small picture sizes for some of the photos.  I think I may look into doing the layout a little differently and choosing larger photo sizes for the photos which were on the blog.  I’m not sure at what age my son will be interested in the words in the book. We looked at some of the pictures of his book today.

And I read the blog of an acquaintance I met at Vietnam culture camp who is visiting Vietnam this month with his 6 year old.  This is the first time they have been back after his son’s adoption.  So it all reminded me of being in Vietnam 5.5 years ago.  But what a different experience traveling with a  6 year old instead of a baby.

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