Countdown Craftiness

Countdown Craftiness

‘Tis the season to take a step back from the computer.

That’s right. Put down the spreads. Take one step back. Now another. Now a deep breath.

You can keep editing until every word loses meaning, or you can take Alicia Luttrell’s advice.

The yearbook adviser and librarian from Maryville Junior High in Maryville, TN, knows we all get antsy before the big holiday break.

“There’s a time when we all have to buckle down and work on yearbooks,” she said, “but there’s a time to have fun and get creative.”

Last year, Luttrell put her creativity to work.

“I had an old tabletop tree and decided to give it a new home in the yearbook room. I also had four small Herff Jones ornaments to display and wanted to create more to take home.”

Luttrell’s staff was thrilled, she said, to see art supplies.

“My students were excited when they walked in and saw glue, tinsel, clear ornaments, yearbook pages and paint brushes on the table. I love to get them working on something different. To get them away from the everyday activities of looking at spreads. Things get a little messy, and that’s okay with me.”

They made mini paper chains and decoupage ornaments from old yearbook spreads as well as “swirly” and tinsel ornaments to add color and sparkle to the tree.

She suggests, “When ornaments are ready, tie a piece of jute or other string on the cap loop and include a cute tag with students’ names. This is a way to remember students who created these ornaments.”

Take on the Christmas ornaments or make an activity of your own. It might just spark the creativity you’ve been hoping to find in the void of the computer screen.

Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Many of us have attempted to learn a foreign language at some time or another and if you’re like me, you’ve done absolutely nothing with it so you’ve lost most if not all of what you knew.

Students who join the yearbook staff are often surprised that they need to learn so many alternative meanings for such common words. For example, in yearbook terminology, a  “ghost” isn’t really scary and a “ladder” isn’t used to reach tall places. A “widow” isn’t a woman who lost her husband, a “slug” isn’t a slimy creature and a “signature” isn’t your name written in pretty cursive.

All of the terms mentioned above and a whole bunch more are actually very important to understanding everything involved in putting a yearbook together so you should plan to spend some time at the beginning of the year reviewing the terms and their meanings. You could even make it a game.

How do you go about teaching yearbook terminology to your staff? Tell us in the comments below.

Creating Order from Chaos

Creating order from chaos

Anyone who has ever visited a publications staff room knows that there is a lot of activity happening all at once; the fact that the chaos doesn’t seem to affect anyone present is the sign of a well organized staff and classroom.

Two of your highest priorities when you begin the year will be assigning staff positions and providing job descriptions to everyone on staff and organizing the room so that tools are easily found and put away after use.

Let’s start with the room itself. A quick trip to Pinterest and searching “organizing the yearbook room” or “organizing the classroom” will yield some very creative and affordable ideas like this and this just to get you started. If you’re like me and you want some additional more costly items like comfortable seating or a mini fridge to store drinks for late nights, you may want to make a big WISH LIST and post it prominently in your room for parents to see on back-to-school night. You never know when someone has an extra something that they’d be willing to donate or when someone who is really handy would be willing to build you something. My portable mail center was awesome thanks to one of my staff member’s fathers who was a carpenter.

Your staff room will become a home away from home for you and your staff so you’ll want it to be an inviting, comfortable space that functions like a productive office. Brainstorm with your staff during the first few days about things they would like to have in the room to make it just perfect.

Once you’ve got your room in order, you’ll want to provide your staff with an easy-to-use but comprehensive manual that they can reference BEFORE they come to you with a question about fonts, photography check-out instructions, design or type styles, etc. Having a good staff manual will keep you from having to answer the same question 36 times and allow the staff to be more self sufficient.

Providing direction to your staff and in your room will help control the inevitable chaos that makes a yearbook staff room come alive and allow you to maintain control over the process.

A Yearbook of Their Own

A Yearbook of Their Own

Two years ago, one of our special needs teachers came to me to ask if I would consider doing a separate yearbook for the Category B students at our school. Since I was already advising both the middle and high school yearbooks, I told her that my plate was very full and I didn’t think I would have time to do another book. Our current editor was in the room for this discussion. She asked Mrs. Angove what this would entail. She went on to explain (as only a longtime special education teacher could) how most of these students would never get a driver’s license, get married or have a family of their own. She explained that their time here at Robinson was often the best years of their life. Samantha Sturiale, our editor immediately said, “We will do it! It will be the service project for our Quill and Scroll chapter.” And, like that, the decision was made.

Since the Partners Club and class, which combines both Cat B students and mainstream students are both very active at Robinson, both groups are covered extensively in the regular yearbook. In fact, last year, both the homecoming queen and king included two Cat B students in the crowning and homecoming festivities. The additional yearbook however, is theirs alone — a special memento of their years at Robinson.

A Yearbook of Their Own

A Yearbook of Their Own

Ever since the decision was made in May, after the big book and the spring supplement are done, the Quill and Scroll members work on the “baby book” as it is known. They always design the soft cover similar to the “big book,” using the same fonts and basic design. Mrs. Angove and the other Category B teachers provide us with most of the pictures, but our photographers take some as well. The Partners class and club combines general education students with Category B students. They help us ID the photos. Quill & Scroll members write the headlines, copy and captions. When the book is delivered, the Quill & Scroll members deliver them to the students. Our administration has arranged to pay for them so every Category B student gets a book. Lots of smiles and happy kids abound. The Category B students love it when our yearbook kids sign their books. It never ceases to bring many to tears.

Snow Adversity 2016

Snow Adversity 2016

As I sit in Centreville, Virginia with literally tons of snow surrounding me and my school, I suppose I should be in panic mode about our fourth deadline looming. Will school even be open just one day this week? We are on our fourth consecutive day out as I write; most think we’ll be out the remaining three days this week.

I did send in our final copy count and the business team did submit the nameplate list before the blizzard of 2016. LESSON: When asked for information, comply ASAP.

We are 20 pages ahead. LESSON: Always submit extra pages the first two or three deadlines.

My editors have been texting and using social media to remind staffers of what must be done as soon as we return. LESSON: It is their deadline, not yours!

My rep has been supportive by sending out messages of comfort. LESSON: Trust your rep!

I have been experimenting with new recipes, knitting, reading and movie watching. The point is this: we can’t avoid what nature deals out. It is best for our collective mental health to go with the flow, bank sleep and be ready to go full force upon return. I have urged the editors and staff to clear calendars for work this coming Saturday. We will make it. Always have. Cheers

Did you have a similar experience? Tell us about it!

Home for Everyone

Home Is Everything

I joined my school’s publications department in my junior year. I started as a newspaper photographer, then joined yearbook after being elected Head Photographer (aka photography editor). At my school, newspaper (Crier) and yearbook (Paragon) are very different staffs; if Crier was Dunkin Donuts, Paragon would be Starbucks.

I was horribly nervous when I first joined the yearbook staff, I knew that most of the students had already bonded and I was afraid they wouldn’t accept me. The first few days were a bit awkward, but as the semester progressed, I became closer with the staff. We respected each other both as people and as staff members and we appreciated the skills that others brought to the table.

I believe that love, support and respect among staffers are the foundations for a good publication. With my photographers, I always make sure that they feel confident in their abilities; I celebrate beautiful work with them and I help them find what went wrong when something turned out poorly. If we have a late deadline, I’ll go out food shopping. If we win an award, we’ll throw a small party. Eventually they started calling me mom.

home for everyone

As a top editor, it’s very important to make sure all of your staff feels included and appreciated. I’ve also found that you get back what you put in. I was diagnosed with cancer in my freshman year, and this year has been a little rocky remission-wise. Whenever I’m faced with bad news, my staffers send love letters and gift bags with blankets and candles and fire mixtapes. Yearbook has become a place of warmth and comfort for both me and my staff. The staff room should feel like a second home, not just for returning members, but for all staffers.

You can share your personal yearbook stories and experiences just like Rachel. Submit a blog post here!

Submit Your Deadline Early and Enjoy a Bit of Relaxation Before the Holidays Begin


It’s December! (And also Giving Tuesday, so find ways to give back today!) It’s time to motivate one another to meet that December deadline early so you and your staff can relax and celebrate together — the deadlines you’ve met, the progress you’ve made, the family that you’ve become and of course the holidays that are upon us. What on Earth will you do with a bit of extra free time? We have an idea or two…

  1. Craft some DIY holiday goodies and distribute them to a local nursing home. Spread the good cheer!
  2. Make holiday cards and pass them out at a children’s hospital. Making a child smile will bring happiness to you, too!
  3. Go caroling as a staff at nearby elementary schools or even in the halls of your school.
  4. Create some holiday treats and pass them out to all the teachers and administrators to say thank you for understanding the crazy schedules of yearbook staffers.

Check out these adorable (and easy) crafts that you could do as a staff.


Candy Cane Reindeer: What you’ll need

  1. Candy canes
  2. Googly eyes
  3. Red puff balls for the nose
  4. Brown pipe cleaners for the antlers
  5. Glue

Directions: Using Elmer’s glue or a hot glue gun, glue on your reindeer’s eyes and nose.

Twist the brown pipe cleaner around the top of the candy cane for the reindeer’s antlers and voila… you’re done!


Minty Treat Bags: What you’ll need

  1. Plastic baggies
  2. Mints of your choice (Lifesavers, York Peppermint Patties, etc.)
  3. Paper or cardstock for the “punny” note
  4. Your choice of ribbon
  5. Puntastic phrase with the word “Mint”

Directions: Fill a small baggie with yummy mint candy of your choice. Twist and tie it up with ribbon and a “punny” note like the one in the photo. Some ideas — This treat is MINT for you, These thanks are MINT for you, We MINT to say Thank You/Happy Holidays, etc.

Spread the good cheer, relax and have fun with your staff! Happy Holidays from all of us at Herff Jones Yearbooks!


Thankful for Yearbook

Thankful for Yearbook

Being a part of yearbook is more than just snapping photos, celebratory feasts after deadlines and roaming the school halls to complete said deadlines. Surely, you are reminded often of the impact that you’re making and why your work will be meaningful, but there’s no time quite like the beginning of the holidays to really reflect on this. Festive decorations line store shelves, seasonal lattes are back again and sweater weather is creeping in. Oh, and did I mention deadlines? (Stay focused.)

I was a yearbook staffer for three years when I was in high school and to this day, I’m still thankful for that experience. I remember all the fun we had, the potluck lunches we planned, working side by side with some of my closest friends and seeing the book for the first time, among so many other things. Because of yearbook, I knew writing was what I wanted to do as a  career after college, and I definitely “blame” yearbook for helping me land my first big-girl job working as a copywriter at Herff Jones.

So, before the Thanksgiving holiday, spend some time as a staff chatting about why you’re thankful that you’re a part of this wonderful passion. Is it the friendships you’ve made? The memories you capture and share with your community? The capacity to be creative and imaginative? The skills you learn and take with you beyond your school years? There’s SO much! We at Herff Jones are thankful for your creative minds and the inspiration you send our way. And rest assured, your buyers will be thanking you for years to come for capturing all the things they’ll want to remember… things that will define this single year of their life. We think that’s truly priceless. Happy Thanksgiving!

If have a free second before you and your staff part ways for the holiday hiatus, have some fun with this Thanksgiving Yerd Lib!

JEA/NSPA Magical Moments

JEA/NSPA Magical Moments

JEA/NSPA may be over, but the magic lives on within your staff room and within YOUR yearbook. Without a doubt, JEA/NSPA’s “Media Magic” was nothing short of AWESOME. The location alone built up intense levels of excitement and magical expectations that were not only met, but exceeded. No matter where you were traveling from, the weather was perfect. After all, you can’t really beat sunny skies and mid 80’s in November.

Thursday was the official first day of the convention and Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears, as well as HJ green tote bags could be seen around nearly every corner of the trade show. They seemed to be a must-have. (If you didn’t buy ears, were you even at the convention??) And on that same note, if you didn’t grab your favorite flair from the HJ booth, are you even a yerd? Kidding, but the flair, of course, was a huge hit again. We love to see passionate yearbook photographers, designers, editors, writers, staffers and advisers get excited over yearbook flair, loads and loads of candy, good conversation and yearbook inspiration.


Our special consultants’ appointments were booked solid each day — Lynn’s first group showed up even before the trade show opened! We talked to yerds who had appointments with the consultants and they shared how excited and confident they were with the direction their books were headed. Aside from their wise advice to those schools who met with them, their sessions were also great — so much knowledge was shared and absorbed within just a few days. I attended a few sessions and witnessed top-notch photography tips from Linda Puntney, coverage expansion tips through mods by Lynn Strause and even advice for new advisers from Mountain View HS adviser, Jen Ortman. There was truly something for everyone, and it goes without saying that the convention, from my perspective, was an overwhelming success. We can’t forget to mention that three of five Best of Show trophies went to HJ schools and 20 placed. Not only that, but there were a lot of individual award winners and JEA write-off winners.

Hopefully you got to experience some of the Disney magic that surrounded us! Some of the parks had extra “magic” hours during the week that staffs and their advisers took advantage of in the days preceding or following the convention. Regardless, events like these serve to remind us all why we do what we do. It’s rare that we’re all gathered in one place to geek out about YEARBOOK, yet it’s so rewarding to see how much passion is poured into all aspects of the process, and how each of our contributions only adds to the art. It was so great to see everyone — until next time, yerds!

For National Yearbook Week, Let The Celebration Begin

The boat was hidden behind the trees that obscured a finger of the lake. That finger ran along one edge of a park, and a highway separated the park from the high school. Officially gathered as the Diner’s Club, the president and vice president of the student council, and the presidents and vice presidents of each class, would nominate a teacher once a month and treat him or her to lunch. The boat was our mode of transportation, and it would whisk us across the lake to a favorite eating spot called The Landing.

The return trip was always more interesting. The student council president would slide into skis and launch himself from the dock. He’d ski from the restaurant back to the park where he’d glide into the shore and emerge from the lake dry and ready for class. With one appreciated and slightly bewildered teacher in tow, we’d cross the highway and slip into fourth period. I’m sure the school did not know everything it had blessed, but the entire outing was done with permission. With hair tossed by a windy boat, a smile obscured the fact that some part of it still felt a little sneaky.

In the yearbook for that school year, you’ll find no picture of the boat and no story to explain the Diner’s Club adventures. You will find a picture of the members sitting around a table at The Landing. At least one of them is a tall, lanky kid that decided to run for junior class president and was very surprised when he won. A goof ball surrounded by the cool kids, he’s easy to spot in the photo; a photo that transports him back to that boat where then as now, he thoroughly enjoys the ride.


A yearbook is a special moment celebrated every time it is opened.  It is National Yearbook Week. Let’s open a few and celebrate together. If you’re inclined, please share what you find.