One of the biggest challenges for any writer is what to write about next. When I finished writing Friendship Bread, I knew there were more stories to be told from the small river town of Avalon, Illinois. Earlier drafts of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society saw a parade of characters, all wanting to meet you, the reader, and all wanting face time with me, their loyal transcriber. I was diligent in trying to capture their stories, but it soon became clear that five women in particular—Isabel, Ava, Frances and Yvonne—were meant to be the focus of this book. I also knew that I wanted to give Connie Colls, the young laundromat attendant turned tea salon manager, a chance to share her story as well.
The thread that runs throughout the book is Bettie Shelton, founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Her insistence that people take the time to scrapbook their memories may seem puzzling to some, but the truth is that scrapbooking, or memory keeping, plays a much bigger role in our lives than people may realize. Early scrapbooks, also known as commonplace books, emerged in the early 15th century and were ways for people to record personal interests, favorite quotes, letters, recipes and prayers. Author Mark Twain used to collect memorabilia from his travels and would clip articles about himself and his books and paste them into scrapbooks. Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin are known for having notebooks filled with sketches, notes, stories, and ideas. Men, as well as women, have found all sorts of ways to celebrate or remember the moments in their lives that comprise the person they have become.
So it’s no surprise that memories and memory keeping are themes you’ll find woven throughout the novel. Happy memories, hurtful memories, lost memories, memories yet to be made. The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society is about the choices we make in every moment and the consequences that follow, along with the unexpected joys that come when you least expect it. That I was able to jump off the computer and play with my own family’s photographs, a generous selection of gorgeous papers, colorful die cuts, and random embellishments, was a bonus. I was able to put together some much overdue albums of my own, journaling memories and moments I knew I didn’t want to forget.
There’s a wonderful saying by Aldous Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” New experiences and memories are waiting for us to encounter them. May we all continue to be the creator of our own lives.
Enjoy your visit to Avalon.
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