While I normally write about stops at historic sites, today Nerd Trips itself becomes a stop on the Writer’s Blog Tour.
I received the nomination from friend and fellow blogger Tracy Baetz, creator of the award-winning Intrepid Pup, which chronicles the travels of Tracy, her husband and their ridiculously photogenic and lovable dog Tavish.
Even though I have known Tracy for 20+ years and Tavish for more than nine (in fact, we’ve had combined Intrepid Pup/Nerd Trips), I learned quite a few things while reading Tracy’s enjoyable entry about how and what she does.
The Writer’s Blog Tour also allows me the opportunity to tell you about two other writers who have a turned an interest in history into interesting and informative blogs.
Now, on with the tour…..
What am I currently working on?
I am currently writing a post about a “Bonus Nerd Trip” to Princeton Cemetery, where famous folks ranging from Grover Cleveland to Aaron Burr are buried (when you have a history blog, you end up visiting quite a few cemeteries). The Princeton blog is the natural extension of my previous post about a trip to Sleepy Hollow, where we ran out of time and could not tour Sunnyside, home of writer Washington Irving. My brother, mother and I then decided to drive further south.
I quickly recognized the opportunity to nab another nerdy site – Princeton! I was also angling for Washington Crossing State Park where Washington and crew landed in New Jersey.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
There are history blogs that recount facts or analyze events. There are travel blogs that recount trips with recommendations on where to stay and what do to, but there are very few blogs about smaller, more obscure historical sites and the quirky things you can learn there.
In 2012, I attended the BlogHer conference. In a session with other travel bloggers, I was at first disappointed that no one had a blog like I did. Then I got excited because no one had a blog like I did!
I find that visiting the sites where famous people lived, whether it’s “presidents, poets or other historic persons,” makes history more memorable and enjoyable. You get a better sense of a person, an appreciation that can’t come through books.
I believe it is a privilege to be able to stand in the room where Abraham Lincoln worked on the Emancipation Proclamation or where Charles Dickens wrote “Great Expectations.” What an amazing opportunity to connect to history in a personal way.
Why do I write what I do?
Nerd Trips started as a hobby. Around 2001, I began a casual quest to visit presidential homes – a coworker called them “Nerd Trips.”
For years I was taking these trips and sharing amusing tales with friends, such as getting stuck at funeral at the Garfield memorial or almost being attacked by squirrels at President Hayes’s house. Every time I shared a funny story with one particular coworker, he would repeatedly respond, “You need to write a blog.” After much encouragement, I finally did. And since I work in public relations, starting the blog was also a fun way to learn more about social media.
I also have a concern that if we don’t visit these places, there’s a chance we’ll lose them. I hope my writing will encourage others to experience history “in person.” I know I am a nerd, but I truly believe learning is fun. There is a real joy in discovery, and often it’s not what you learn at the destination, it’s the fun and laughs you have along with way.
How does my writing process work?
Before I went into public relations, I was a TV news producer and I have a master’s degree in broadcast journalism, which is my way of telling you that I take notes, a lot of notes. It may be a long time before I write about a particular trip, and it’s easy to forget the details.
I do not take notes during the trip itself. I try enjoy the visit, including taking pictures. Within 48 hours of a trip, I will write down what I can remember, including facts and funny stories. I also try to debrief anyone who was on the trip with me.
I have found that it is important to get images of the historic people at the site (often taking pictures of displays, if allowed), rather than struggling to find images later. I also sometimes take pictures of display text itself so I will have easy access to the information.
Because Nerd Trips started before GPS and smart phones, I would take notes on the back of Mapquest directions. I kept these directions in inexpensive, two-pocket colored folders, which turned out to be a real asset for pictures with the Nerd Trips sign. Notes, maps and brochures from each trip are stored in a labeled folder, which I keep in chronological order of when I took the trip. (Even now that I use the phone for directions, I still take notes on the backs of papers, including reservation confirmations).
Before starting to write, I look through my notes, pictures and other collateral. Sometimes I will do additional research online.
Also, because of my broadcasting background, I read all my posts out loud. I usually overwrite then edit, edit, edit. I like to work on a post, then come back in a day or two and read it aloud again. Sometimes what I thought was interesting will seem superfluous when I read it back.
I try to find a balance between sharing information and injecting my perspective and sense of humor. Some coworkers tease me after a newspaper writer described my style as “breezy and informative.”
Continuing the Tour….
Get to know them a little better for yourself with these introductions, then look for their own interviews in the coming days.
Michelle Darnell and her husband Brett are living their dream of owning and operating a historic bed and breakfast in Virginia. Michelle started blogging about their adventures of opening and operating their business at the birthplace of President James Madison. Today she continues to share the fun with her readers as she purchases new pieces for the mansion, travels on little adventures to learn more about the history in the area or just enjoys a great restaurant with some of the best food around. Read how it all started and where they are going in their crazy and exciting journey!
Susan Kalasunas, The History Tourist:
The History Tourist is a blog about traveling to experience history. Susan says she not a historian (though she has an undergrad degree in history) but lover of history, and she’s lucky enough to live in the Washington DC area, where there’s an endless supply to feed her addiction.
The History Tourist combines travelogue, history lessons, and an occasional restaurant/hotel review (because this History Tourist has got to eat). It recounts the adventures of Susan and her family and friends, as they experience history-related sites and activities in the United States and abroad. Readers join them as they get locked in a tavern where George Washington ate, sail on a tall ship for a War of 1812 reenactment, and interview to be servants in a 19th century Chicago mansion. Susan writes her blog with the hope that, with each story, you’ll learn a bit of history, gain a bit of information for your travels, and be more than a bit entertained.