By Michelle Blair
After completing Christina’s WPSS class in the spring of 2008, some of the students weren’t quite ready to let go of the camaraderie and momentum we had developed; so, armed with class contact information that Christina provided, we determined to create a virtual community of support.
We experimented with weekly email check-ins, but our already overrun in-boxes became even more unwieldy. Then we tried our hand at creating a private blog, viewable only by members of our class. The process was simple and the rewards have been great. We exchange advice, editing, goals, frustrations and cheerful banter.
Several of our classmates have published in the months following Christina’s class with the encouragement and support of classmates. As the blog administrator, I opted to establish our community on Blogger, a free platform I had used in another writing class. Blogger is just one of many blog hosting websites.
You can create your own online writer’s support group in three easy steps. Start at the Blogger home page: http://www.blogger.com. Go right to the “Create a blog” button or explore their site by clicking on a topic under “Learn more.”
Step 1: After selecting “Create a blog,” the first step is to open a Google account. If you already have a Google account, click on the link at the top of the page to “sign in first,” otherwise fill in your email address, create a password, type in a display name (this will show up as your “signature” on any posts you add to the blog) and select “continue.”
Step 2: Type in a title for your blog and test URL addresses until Blogger finds one available (think creatively to avoid frustration at this step); select “continue.”
Step 3: Choose one of twelve blog layout templates; if you feel especially tech savvy, you can always customize a template later on.
The blog is ready. Now you can invite participants.
As the administrator, you need to invite authors and establish the blog as private. This allows your writer friends to post freely and know exactly who is reading their rants. Two more steps will finish this process. If you’ve just created the blog, you are in the “customize” mode (if not, look at the top right hand corner of your blog and click on “customize”). You can leave most of the default settings alone, but there are two changes to keep your blog from public eyes.
Step 4: Select the “Settings” tab, then the “Comments” sub-head. Under “Who Can Comment?” select “Registered Users.”
Step 5: Also under the “Settings” tab, choose the “Permissions” sub-head. Click “Invite” blog authors and enter the email addresses of people you’d like to participate in the blog. When someone accepts your invitation, they are automatically categorized as a blog author. Under “Blog Readers,” answer the question “Who can view this blog?” by selecting “Only blog authors.” This ensures only those who sign up can read and post to the blog.
That’s it! Your online writer’s forum is established. Enjoy the support of your fellow writer-moms in this virtual community.
[Note from Christina: This is the first story in our month-long December Sell-a-bration. If you are a former student of mine and you’d like to share a 2008 success story, please e-mail it to “writer mama at earthlink dot net.” Michelle was generous enough to share this group process (Thanks, Michelle!). She may still submit her personal 2008 success story, if she likes, to be posted later in the month.]