A Web Publisher at 70? Who Knew?

Claudia Colli has been my friend for over 30 years. I met her when we bought our winter home, 4Winds, in the British Virgin Islands. She helped introduce me to Paradise, Caribbean style. She has been a very successful publisher, editor, and writer and now at 70 years old is redefining herself yet again. As a HipSilver contributor, we are honored to introduce her new blog series.

Who would have thought that at the age of 70 I would start my own website – a travel blog where I could share information on my British Virgin Islands home of many years. I write about the islands’ history, its fabulous sailing and incomparable beaches. Reaching a larger audience through a website has been unexpectedly satisfying. I have been able to introduce people from around the world to not only these islands’ but to the many flamboyant personalities, who love the BVI as much as I do.

Among my subjects has been Morgan Freeman, who for years kept his sailboat in Virgin Gorda.  Hanging out with his local friends, he soaked up the islands’ easy way of life. Then there is my favorite, Dr. Robin Tattersall, the BVI’s sailing surgeon who was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth. This accomplished and colorful surgeon put himself through medical school as an Avedon model. Close to my heart, is my recent story of interviewing the late Jimmy Buffett in 1977. Modest and personable, he was at the time, a young songwriter coming to grips with his fame. Sailing the BVI for inspiration, he made Cane Garden Bay a household name.

My evolution as a web publisher had a circuitous path. Circumstances (and love) brought me to the British Virgin Islands where I married an architect and had two children. But even though I was living on a small island, surrounded by blue ocean, and coping with the vagaries of two young children, I managed to find time to write. I wasn’t even discouraged when my youngest, still crawling, pulled out the plug on my word processor and I lost several hours of work. I worked on local tourist publications, and freelanced for newspapers and magazines abroad. It was stimulating and satisfying and got me out of the house to meet new people and research interesting topics.

My journey to writing started in childhood. An avid reader of Nancy Drew mysteries, I would write mystery stories with a young heroine (me) solving a host of crimes in my suburban neighborhood (not previously a hotbed of wrongdoing).

After joining school newspapers in junior high and high school, I decided that l wanted to be a journalist, not a fiction or mystery writer, and pursued journalism as a major in college. Once again, I volunteered for the school newspaper (its tongue and cheek motto: “All the news that fits we print” seemed appropriate for a novice writer). I loved interviewing people with interesting backgrounds or researching topics that I knew nothing about, writing it down in articles that were informative and accessible. I was hooked. 

I took this love of writing to the BVI where I was the Editor and Publisher of the BVI Welcome Guide for 30 years. When I retired from the magazine in 2017, I was sorely in need of an outlet for my writing. I had written several guidebooks on the British Virgin Islands, including one for MacMillan, the UK publishing house. It was out of print and I considered rewriting it and self-publishing, but it was an expensive option. To get a good return on my printing costs I would need to purchase many thousands of copies. I imagined my spare bedroom filled floor to ceiling with guidebooks, and then, where would I put visitors?

Publishing my guidebook online seemed a better route. Of course, other than online shopping, I knew nothing about the web. But it was the pandemic, I was housebound and like millions of other people, I had time on my hands. So, I thought: “well, I may know nothing about websites, but I do know about writing, editing and putting a print publication together. How hard can it be to publish a magazine online? The thought of starting a website was daunting, but exciting; another branch of that career path that I had begun in childhood. I was also inspired by Gail Bruce, the publisher of this HipSilver website, who successfully made her own journey into web publishing at a later age.

I wanted my website to be set apart from other BVI travel sites. I had lived in the BVI for over 40 years and I thought my experience could be an asset for travelers. Hence: “The BVI Insider” was born. I was thrilled to find that the domain – thebviinsider.com – was available. Through local contacts, I found a web designer based in the British Virgin Islands who was also housebound and looking for work during the pandemic.

I learned about Zoom, WhatsApp and Google Docs. Email, it seemed, was a communication tool of last resort – as passé as my first word processor. I had more skills under my belt, but it took me a while to get used to this new world where personal interactions are not required. My web guy was patient and guided me through the process. I gave him my design ideas and he gave me his. I sent him stories and photos to upload. We parried back and forth with ideas until it all gelled.

Once designed, the next stage of the project got underway. I learned how to update the site myself. Again, Germane was a helpful and patient teacher. It was intriguing and invigorating. I learned to upload and post stories, along with editing and resizing photos to accompany them. The next thing to learn was SEO – Search Engine Optimization, which contributes to a site’s google rankings. It’s been a slow slog, and for me, akin to learning a challenging foreign language like Chinese. But I am getting there, and the site has steadily risen in the ranks! 

It's been a great trip. I love working for myself and I love having extended what I thought I was capable of. I get to promote the BVI, and share stories of its people and places with a wider audience.

Oh yes, and there is that Jimmy Buffett story, another person who continually reinvented himself as he got older.

If you are interested in learning more about the British Virgin Islands, the many interesting people who love the BVI, along with a wealth of other information on the islands, check out: 


Click here to read Claudia's piece on Fun Places to Visit in the BVI

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