Keynote Storytelling

Where do I begin?

Anyone who has been to one of my presentations knows I’m not a big fan of bullet points. I prefer to show a lot of screenshots and examples. When I do include bullet points, they are seldom the main focus of the slide.

Bullet point example

Along the way I discovered Keynote – the presentations app in Apple’s suite of office software – was a great platform for storytelling. Notice I said storytelling, not writing. Keynote is all about presentation. If you want to grab your family’s attention, your stories and Keynote can make that happen.


Many of my stories began life as a blog post. Scrivener appeared on the scene about the time I realized that my collection of “little” family stories was growing. By copying them to Scrivener, I could organize and rearrange them for any number of purposes. But, while Scrivener is quite impressive for managing writing projects, it pretty much ignored the layout side of storytelling.

sample page layout

Photos and graphics will always catch my family’s attention. I admit that I enjoy building graphical pages. The story is still the focus and the graphic elements draw the reader into the story. Today’s digital scrapbookers have been a great inspiration. There were, however, a couple of serious concerns. First, most scrapbooking apps are designed to build 12″ x 12″ layouts, and second, most scrapbooking graphics have very restrictive terms of use. These severely limited my “distribution” options.

At about the same time I realized Keynote’s layout potential. In the example above, the photo is surrounded with one of Keynote’s standard frames. The orange blossoms are actually two graphics layered over each other and the photo then tilted a bit and a shadow added. The text element was snugged in to complete the arrangement. It only took a couple of minutes to build.

Keynote also supports exporting to PDF so the finished storybook can be read on any computer or device. Since just about everybody in the family has some kind of tablet, it works out quite well.

sample screen on iPad
Sample page from PDF storybook as viewed on an iPad

When I discovered the many graphical artists on Etsy, my design issues were solved. The orange blossom graphics came from Tany Noguiera’s shop at Etsy. They are beautiful, affordable and have very flexible terms of use. I now have a growing number of graphics shops in my Etsy favorites and they are the first place I go to find the perfect design element.

Want to learn more? Click the Keynote tag in the Tag Cloud section of the sidebar to display other articles discussing Keynote.


Build Family History Books With BookWright

When you think of photo books, you think of . . . . photos. Today, photo books can include photos, scanned documents, graphic elements and even lots of text. This makes them great platforms for family historians to capture and share their family stories.

There are a number of photo book publishing services, but one stands out. Blurb is a full service publishing service offering photo book, trade book, magazine and ebook support. Like many of the self-publishing services, there is no minimum purchase required. If you only want one copy, you only buy one copy. Price is determined by the number of pages, book size and paper quality you choose. You can also sell your book through Blurb if you wish and Blurb can distribute it to other booksellers like Amazon and Apple’s iBooks too.

Blurb has a number of book-building tools too. You can choose to build your book using their Online Photo Books tool. It offers pre-designed layouts combining photos with short captions. It supports importing images from your Facebook, Flickr or Instagram account. Download their free BookWright software [Windows & Mac] to build photo books, magazines and even family histories for publishing as either print or ebooks.

This series of video tutorials provides an overview of the BookWright software and shows you how to build your own books.

Redefining the Scrapbook

a family scrapbook
Clippings in a 19th century scrapbook.

My great grandfather’s scrapbook isn’t pretty. It doesn’t look anything like today’s scrapbooks either. That doesn’t prevent it from being a family treasure. It contains pages of newspaper clippings like the ones you see here. For the most part, these are articles he wrote for various papers and publications. As you can imagine, old newsprint and 19th century glue are working a number on it so I’m working to digitize and transcribe what I can.

Today my favorite scrapbook has a domain name. Moultrie Journal is a WordPress blog using the delightfully nostalgic Button theme.

Blog post capture

The scrapbooker in me is always happy to add a little graphic drama to a post. My audience is my family who, thanks to WordPress and a bit of effort, are either getting each new post delivered to their inbox or their Facebook newsfeed. An interesting graphic and/or a catchy title helps attract their attention.

This blog scrapbook isn’t designed to last several lifetimes like my great grandfather’s has. It’s purpose is to inspire interest in family history. I want today’s family – especially the younger ones – to discover how fascinating our history is.

Southern Hospitality

There are many reasons why WordPress makes a great scrapbook. The obvious one is distribution. A blog has reach far beyond our hometown. Not only does it attract close relatives, it attracts relatives we didn’t know we had. Another reason is that it can handle all kinds of media formats. It’s just as easy to post a video as it is a photo.

But . . . what about longevity?

Most of my blog posts are written using the Ulysses writing platform [Mac – $44.99 & iOS – $19.99]. Here I can write, organize and publish my stories into any number of formats. The stories themselves are written using Markdown – a plain text standard that insures my words will survive future technologies. Ulysses can now publish drafts directly to the Medium blog platform, but not yet to WordPress. Fortunately the WordPress editor supports Markdown so it’s an easy copy/paste to move the text to the post.

Ulysses editor
Ulysses writing platform for Mac

I love my old family scrapbooks and I enjoy a good story – especially when a family member is involved. I’m also a sucker for the gorgeous digital graphic elements used by today’s scrapbookers. Unlike “normal” scrapbookers, I see the actual story as the primary focus and the graphic elements as a way to catch your eye – and your attention.

Creative Commons: Some Rights Reserved

If you look down the sidebar on any of my blogs, you will see the Creative Commons graphic. Follow the link to the license information and you will be pleasantly surprised that the license text is written in plain language. There is also a legal version of the license at the Creative Commons site and machine readable version (so search engines and web apps can identify licensed work).

While I do want credit for the works I create, I don’t mind if others use my works in their own creations. This is especially true in my family history projects. That doesn’t mean you have unlimited rights to my publications or postings or that you can claim them as your own. Creative Commons offers the flexibility to create a license that suits my needs. For example, the short name for my license is “attribution-share alike” which means you can use my stuff if your work includes credit to me and the work you create using my stuff will also be licensed to share to others. I don’t limit the number of copies you can have, keep you from giving my work to someone else or make you ask my permission to use my stuff. All I want is credit for my efforts and that you don’t try to lock my work up by including it in an “all rights reserved” copyrighted publication.

The beauty of Creative Commons is that it gives you the flexibility to determine how your work can be distributed. There are several different options you can incorporate into the license you use. Will you allow commercial use? modifications of your work? How will others attribute the work to you? At all times you retain copyright to your work.

Whether you are building an original work and including family treasures or offering scanned copies of existing photos and documents, Creative Commons gives you the opportunity to choose how those works can be used by others. Visit the Creative Commons site to learn more.

Telling Stories with Keynote and Scribd

My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages – Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.

The Scribd online library and publishing platform makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. One of my family history projects, Behind the Alligator Farm, is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version replaces the previous edition. Currently, you are looking at the second edition.

Update: Both Lulu and Smashwords support distribution to Scribd’s membership service where members can read as many books as they want for a single monthly fee. Author/publishers earn royalties for each time their book is read by a member.