May 5, 2017

Creating a Book from Social Media

Floods in our parent's basement was a regular and messy occurrence during heavy storms. The water would easily reach calf level always resulting in damage. The family cedar chest held pictures and videos which we frantically laid around the house to dry and perhaps to save. A hard back book was found in the midst of the cedar chest treasures after my father's death in 1980 ... it was a previously unknown diary written by my maternal grandmother in 1938 during a period of her life when she lived with four of her children and husband in the woods in a cabin in Marquette, Michigan. This was a winter to be remembered with the heavy snow and rain around the country throughout the year. New England was hit by a category 3 hurricane, one of the worst since 1869, on September 21, 1938, destroying the home of Katharine Hepburn. Edna Olsen wrote about her experience with the winter blizzard of 1938 - equally hard and violent - in this book.  

I played with the idea of creating something lasting out of this diary: a children's book; printing out pages from the diary and sending to family; allowing it to rest and be forgotten. I kept these ideas in my heart and thoughts for many years, never forgetting.  

In 2016, I was in a class led by a life coach ... my "take" from this was a decision to have focused goals for the next year - ones that would take my full attention until completion. I played with an idea of putting Edna's diary on Facebook, page by page, date corresponding to the date in the book, and to post to all my Facebook family, including "friends". My biggest concern was: would my "friends" enjoy seeing these personal posts from an era so long removed from our memories? I thought - yes, maybe.  

My steps in preparation for this endeavor began at the end of 2016, and included:
  • Typing Edna's written words, verbatim and including her punctuation, in a Word document.
  • Deciding to put on social media's Facebook - believing this was one of the best ways to reach people, family and friends.
  • Receiving permission to "post" diary from Edna's daughter.
  • Searching my photo library for pictures to use to compliment the writing of the day.
  • Editing these pictures for clarity and presentation.
  • Inserting selected pictures into the diary entry.
  • Posted author’s poem the eve of New Year’s in preparation for the diary.
  • Began Facebook with a short synopsis on the first of January, 2017 as written in the diary.
  • Daily posts coinciding with day of month author wrote in diary. 
  • Allowed for all to see these posts. 
  • At the end of each of Edna's entry, wrote a little explanation, idea, or posed a question.
  • As time progressed, I collected comments and drew more by asking for memories.
  • Continued daily posts making sure they were written in the morning for continuity of those who followed and posted.
  • Near the conclusion of the diary began cutting and pasting posts, including friend and family comments, and inserted that day’s photo into a Word document. 
  • Made decision to center all pictures in document to give it an aesthetic appearance. 
  • Edited comments for redundancy, deleting a few, tightening up the person’s punctuation for readability trying to preserve the essence of who this Facebook person is.
Continued editing and sharpening project.The idea of creating a book out of this Facebook document occurred to me around this time. Previously, I was considering sending family the link to the Word document - but a book would give friends and family a hands-on experience and memory of Edna Olsen's diary and posts from many people. My next steps when this decision was set in
stone were:
  • Contacted the Michigan State University library for information on self publishing: formatting, size, font, cover art.
  • Saved full document on 3 sites (computer, thumb drive, passport). 
  • Met with MSU Espresso Book Machine Coordinator to share intent and set up appointment with cover designer. 
  • Brought thumb drive to appointment. 
  • Worked on-site with coordinator to format for 6 x 9 book, spacing, setting up font, paragraph breaks, picture sizes and pagination. 
  • With the coordinator's expertise designed and prepared a cover for book – front, binder, back; selected pictures to include on cover and wrote a synopsis of book. 
  • Included my logo "Barefoot Norwegian Publishing" on back cover. 
  • Selected the number of books to start with by estimating those who I thought would be interested in receiving a copy. 
  • Signed copyright page for 100 copies. 
  • Coordinator created one copy of the book for me to review, edit and/or change. 
  • Took this prototype home and scoured for any errors and submitted to coordinator. 
  • Received corrected book and cover documents from coordinator via email. 
  • Reviewed and approved. 
  • Printing of books begun and completed.
  • To make mailing less expensive purchased book mailing envelopes and invoice book from an office store rather than the Post Office.
  • Took envelope with book to Post Office for mailing amount.
  • Contacted family for interest in receiving book, wrote out invoice, included within pages of book to receive book rate
  • As orders came in, each book was mailed. 
Diary of a Cabin Dweller


  1. Wow, my hat is off to you! I like the way you have broken down your process and shared all the steps. I didn't know MSU (my alma mater)had self publishing help. I will keep that in mind for the future! I hope your family has given you rave reviews for your efforts!
    I am so glad I took that class fro Philip H. as it has REALLY helped my blogging "career". Just finished a month long challenge to post every day in April. Pulp Paper & Pigment

    1. I remember you well Linda and follow your blog, Pulp Paper & Pigment. Very interesting as to what you can create with paper products, processes, and color. I appreciate your kind words - hope other people think about publishing their own works ... it is so worth the time and effort. I took an online course with Philip through Interlochen this winter - wonderful and very helpful with the blogging. Congratulations on reaching your month long challenge of daily posts. I know that is difficult, but you did it!


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