Creating Your Holiday Newsletter

Etiquette purists may shudder at a mass-produced family newsletter, but in these days of friends and family spread across the country, a newsletter can be an effective way to spread cheery news. After all, how much verbiage CAN you fit on a (mass-produced) holiday card?

In this age of free downloadable templates, digital photos, and inexpensive scanners, there's no reason not to try out a little technology to turn a yearly chore into a relatively enjoyable electronic tradition.

Some Tips for a Better Family Newsletter:

Populate with Pictures.
Photos posed with Santa and/or elves are timely, but what about those other pix you've snapped through the year? Soccer practice, ballet, birthdays, friends, and relatives-it's a full year's worth of news (and photos) you're sharing.

Keep It Light.
Assuming there has been no bereavement in the immediate family, there is no need to make this a serious enterprise. Rather than focus on that D on Suzy's report card or Uncle Henry's bad business decision, use your holiday greeting to inform and encourage.

Involve the Kids.
Depending on their ages, you kids could contribute their own news, a holiday story or poem, or a drawing.

Bragging Rights (and Wrongs)
A newsletter that is an uninterrupted stream of the wonders of you and yours can be trying for some of your readers, particularly those who are going through tough times themselves. Watch that your tone doesn't condescend.

Add Recipes.
I'll bet you've got a favorite or two to share.

Celebrate Someone Special.
Is there someone in your community who has gone above and beyond for your family this year?

If You Are an Avid Gardener…
Consider sharing a packet of seeds with your friends and family.

Newsletters by Email
Save on postage by attaching your newsletter to email for your computer-savvy friends.

Your library can help supply a bit of know-how for newsletters if you feel it's needed. Here are some books and Web sites that can help you make the most of your holiday greetings:

In the Library: How to Write Articles for Newspapers and Magazines by Dawn B. Sova.
A professional journalist shows how to write hard-hitting news stories and attention-getting feature articles. Not entirely necessary for a warm, family newsletter, but if you think your writing skills could do with a bit of a polish, by all means give it a try.

The Kids' Guide to Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Save, Play with & Print Your Digital Photos by Jenni Bidner.
Tells how to take better photographs with a digital camera and defines a lot of the terms associated with them. Recommended for grades five and up.

Step-by-step Digital Photography: A Guide for Beginners by Jack and Sue Drafahl.
"Whether you are new to photography or just trying to master your first digital camera, this book provides a step-by-step path to success. Utilizing a visual approach, the authors show you exactly what you need to know -- from unpacking the camera, to loading the memory card and batteries, to taking your first shots. Once you're comfortable with the basics, you'll move on to learn techniques for maximizing your flash performance, using special exposure modes, taking close-up shots, adding photographic filters, and much more."

On the Web:Letters overflowing from a mail slot

Hewlett-Packard: Holiday Newsletters
These themed art (snowman, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.) downloads are a good choice for a simple newsletter.

Microsoft Office Online: Templates: Newsletter
Download complete layouts for multi-page newsletters for free to use in Microsoft Word.

Give the Gift of a Holiday Newsletter
"How can you turn that annual family newsletter into a gift that friends and family will want to read? Here are a few suggestions."