Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blogs and Blogging: Part Two

The last time I was here on Prairie Chicks, I talked about blogs, and the many reasons people, particularly writers, may decide to start one. Now, three weeks later, I am here again to follow up with some much more specific resources. During that time, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on blogging. It was an intensive three-day online experience, and I want to share some of it with you.

The first thing we did was to investigate a vast array of blogs to become familiar with what is currently out there in the blogosphere. I thought I had been reading quite a few, but I soon realised there were many more that would be tempting me in the future so I added them to my list of favourites. I will only mention a few that I have been looking at regularly, or intend to when I have the time, even if it is just to check on the different layouts that various writers have designed.

The types of blogs I like to visit: Some folks use a blog as an online diary, a personal journal to chronicle important events in their lives and careers. Donna Alward’s blog gives us a glimpse into her life at home with her family, as well as her writing process, and of course her publishing triumphs. Trevor Herriot’s Grass Notes gives the Saskatchewan naturalist a place to share his knowledge of the prairie grasslands and the wildlife, particularly birds, that inhabit the area. Thomas Wharton, a novelist from Edmonton, has been writing about his experience at the Festival of Words where he was a presenter on the weekend. It is interesting to get his perspective. (I was an eager attendee at numerous sessions similar to what he describes.) The online versions of newspapers include blogs that chronicle events or provide opinion pieces on travel, fashion, even pets. Check out the Star Phoenix website to find those examples -- the three blogs are way down at the bottom past the news articles.

Blogs about writing and books: There are many blogs dedicated to the world of books, writing, and publishing. They usually deal with the craft of writing, related technologies, or the promotion of books. Others deal specifically with blogging techniques, including tips on what to blog about, blogging etiquette, technical advice.

Starting a blog: I had not seriously considered creating my own blog until I received the major assignment of the workshop. Choose a platform. (Praire Chicks uses Blogger.) Create a blog. Include images (such as the owl, a photo by Saskatchewan photographer Courtney Milne, which I enjoyed adding to this post even though it has no relevance to the content!). Learn how to embed a video, post a blog or two, comment on the blogs of other workshop students. Suddenly, I could see that it might be worthwhile, even fun, to set up a blog that would reflect my interests and provide a platform for my work. So far, in my writing "career" this would be in advance of being published, but the blog itself would serve to display my commitment to the writing process.

Well, I don’t yet have a blog ready to go public, but I am working on it. I need more time to work on the layout and design, colour, images, type of font, etc. etc. But after the intensive period during the workshop when I spent at least eight hours per day, most of it online, though some time was spent offline thinking about the purpose, the title, and the tagline... I am sure that it will see the light of day at some point in the future.

In the meantime ... As I have noted, there are a lot of articles and entire blog sites devoted to blogging. I want to be thoroughly versed in the practice of blogging before I plunge in. So, feel free to check out some the sites that I will be looking at in detail as I learn more about the wonderful world of blogs and blogging (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the links will work!).

If you don’t already have a blog, have you given serious consideration in the last three weeks to starting one? Perhaps some of the links I have provided will help you make that decision. And wish me luck with my (potential) blog.


Janet said...

Great blog post on blogging, Helena! Of course, I got the extended version yesterday over lunch - the course sounds like it was just the thing for a potential blogger.

I've given thought to my own blog and maybe look at setting one up in the fall, private of course until I get it the way I want it. I'd like to tie it into a website, but I'll need The Husband's help for that.

Maybe some of our readers could suggest places to go to customize a blog. I know I've seen some great blog layouts and wondered where they got the design and how easy it was for a technically challenged blogger. I really like Rie's blog (http://rie-mcconnell.blogspot.com/) so if she comes by to comment, I hope she can share some of her secrets.

Enjoy your Tuesday, Helena!

Karyn Good said...

Hey Helena,

The course you participated in sounds like it was very enlightening. And what great links! I enjoyed Trevor Harriot's (loved the pictures of our beautiful province) and Thomas Wharton's blogs (glad he enjoyed his trip to Moose Jaw). I keep forgetting about Moose Jaw's Festival of Words, one of these times I'm going to make it there.

As for me, I'm still happy being part of a group blog. I would like a website though, maybe you can take a course on that next!

Sorry, can't help you out Janet but one of the blogs I've enjoyed visiting and think looks lovely is www.waitingforthecall.blogspot.com (?). I'll double check that and if it's different I'll correct it. Not sure if it's wordpress or blogspot.

Karyn Good said...

Okay I was wrong, it's


Janet said...

Thanks, Karyn. It looks interesting - I'll bookmark it for when I get Internet access long enough to browse.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
You have been keeping busy, haven't you? :) I hope you found inspiration at the Festival of Words.

Like I said before, I don't think I will start a blog on my own, at least not in the immediate future. I want to concentrate on what I have already set up, including my website and MySpace. I am hearing that a lot of writers are using Facebook and Twitter now, but I can't imagine being able to juggle all those balls in the air.

Janet, I'm guessing there are websites that allow you to download layouts for blogs. I know there were several for MySpace. The one I used came from Iron Spider. I'm at work so I'm not sure of the website, but maybe www.ironspider.com?


Christopher Goodwine said...

If I may add a side note, I have noticed that many people go waaay over the top with their blog layout. Many bloggers, from the unknown to the more popular, cram upwards of a dozen "boxes" or "gadgets" onto their blog pages, and sometimes even allow advertisements. This makes them very busy, unattractive, and decidedly not fun to read.

Captain Hook said...

Very informative, Helena! Sounds like that course was fascinating.

When I have a little more time, I'll check out all the blogs you linked to.

I must say that I agree with Christopher that a lot of extra nonsense on the sides gets very annoying. Even when it's interesting info, I just either skip the blog or ignore the sides.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I remember when I first decided to set up my blog, I stewed over it for a good month or two, trying to figure out a name, decide whether I wanted to make it personal, professional, mixed, etc, etc, and all those other little elements. I came up with half a dozen possible names and posted a poll on my art community... and then called it something completely different.

Shortly after I was very lucky to have one of my art-savvy friends surprise me with a custom designed banner for my blog and from there I began to fiddle with designs. I don't have something vastly original yet, as I'm working from a modified template, but I'm very pleased with the way Eventide looks, and I feel it creates exactly the right mood. My next step, whenever that finally happens, will be to attempt to match my own webpage, rather than a standard design. I haven't tackled either yet though, hehe.

Helena said...

Hi, everyone ... no I haven't totally dumped this post on you and then fled. Just about, tho. I was helping out at the community hall this morning (funeral lunch) that extended well into afternoon. I'm about to desert the ship again soon, since I just got a call about a family gathering to visit with a nephew and his family before they leave to go back to their home in Pennsylvania. Don't see them too often, so can't miss that.

Anyway, you raise good points, Janet. My workshop didn't do much about customising, except to mention that most of the platforms have some flexibility to do more than the basic. Blogger offers three different templates, if I remember correctly, and possibly other layouts can be imported in. Also a variety of options in a feature called "Adding Gadgets" that might be worth investigating. I have not looked into wordpress. I think one of my links is to a blog about choosing a platform.

I know the feeling, Jana, when you just have to draw the line somewhere, and that's why I'm not entirely sure when I'll actually make the leap to having my own blog. (It would look nice on a business card tho, wouldn't it? If I had a business card. Must do something about that before I go to Surrey!)

One idea is to combine website and blog, some do it with the blog as the front page, others provide a tab to their blog page, just like any other tab (books, contests, etc.)

This certainly does seem to be an ongoing topic. I am learning as I go, sometimes there is quite an info dump to absorb, like the workshop, but otherwise I just plod along.

Sorry my next workshops will not be dealing with websites. I will actually be doing some writing. Next week on the novel, and in August two on short stories. Have to prime the pump somehow.

Any further comments I will get back to tomorrow. Sorry I can't stick around longer today. And I'm glad you liked the blogs I mentioned. Something I think I would like to do in my own blog is to have a "do you know about so-and-so's blog?" feature. There are so many interesting people who are blogging about interesting things in interesting ways! (That repetition was for effect -- done deliberately, you know.)

Thanks for taking the time to visit today.

Suse said...

Hi Helena, that was an excellent post. It sounds like a course I would like to take sometime. I'm not sure if I will do a blog in the future or not. I like the idea of having a website with a blog link.

I agree with Jana though that there is only so much time to do things that are related to writing but are not actually THE writing.

I also agree with Christopher that some blogs AND web pages are too busy. These make me just want to run in the opposite direction instead of spending any time there.

Thanks for the links; they are excellent resources.

Enjoy your visit with your nephew and his family.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Excellent blog, Helena.

I'm another one who doesn't like everything crammed in on a blog. Sometimes I want to change my white background to something with color but then I look at others and I imagine my stuff on it and it just doesn't seem right. I have found a couple that I absolutely love but they don't fit my romance blog. LOL

I do like Hayley's title and layout though and I think it's because I see her/it as this 'otherworldly' persona so it all fits.

I guess this is as good a time as any to announce I've been invited to particpate in another group blog. I've thought about it for the past week and it just seems like something I should do. I was actually tickled pink to be invited because the email said they were inviting 12-15 writers who were 'on the verge' of being published. This being because we've all finaled in several contests so we're all kind of at the same stage in our writing journeys. Of course, my hesitancy was wondering if I could spare the extra time but when I balanced the time vs the networking this would allow, I decided I could.

One of my stipulations was that Prairie Chicks took precedence and they said they understood that. So, we'll see how it goes.

Janet said...

Congratulations, Anita. I look forward to checking out your new blog when I get settled - by then you should have it posted on your blog!

Glad to hear that The Chicks will take priority, though :)

Helena said...

Congratulations, Anita! Being invited to blog based on being "almost published" is very exciting, and of course here is also a justification for blogging because your work is out there for all to see. We know you are a terrific blogger, but so does the rest of the world, apparently.

Sorry my other commitments dragged on and I didn't get back here to look at comments sooner. We'll just blame the lazy, hazy summer ...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you, Janet and Helena. This new blog is a bit intimidating because it dwells on the effect my faith has on my writing and vice versa. Not sure I'm ready for that but I didn't have the nerve to pass up the opportunity, if you know what I mean.