Tag Archives: Esther Miller

Writing about writing blog tour

shark2 - CopyAs part of the Writing About Writing blog tour, I’d like to introduce Esther Miller and Deb Hockenberry.


Esther Miller blogs about her travels around the country and about moments that have changed her life in some way. See her blog On The Road Again.

Esther has worked professionally in special education and mental health and has had a variety of volunteer jobs. Gardening, cooking, and ham radio are among her many interests. She married and raised her family in California, then lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for nearly 14 years. She recently returned to California to be near family.


Deb Hockenberry blogs about anything “kid.” Her blogs include personal experiences as a child wanting to write, book reviews of children’s books, and author interviews. See her website Kidztales here.

Deb has always wanted to write for children since she was a child herself. She loved making up and telling stories to her siblings and the neighborhood kids. She belongs to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Deb has also taken two courses from The Institute of Children’s Literature and is taking an ongoing course in writing for children from The CBI Clubhouse. Each year, she looks forward to attending The Muse Online Writer’s Conference, or as she calls it, MuseCon.

Deb currently resides in the beautiful mountains of Central Pennsylvania. At any time of the year, these mountains are a sight to behold. In the autumn, the hillsides are dotted with red, gold, yellow, and orange. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, crocheting, music, movies, and gardening.


Filed under Blogging, Guest Writers & Bloggers

Do you write about your travels?

DSC00977I have traveled quite a bit, but have not always made a habit of writing about my experiences. Many of my travels have no documentation, just memories.

Though one trip to Maine I kept a diary and took pictures. I also kept the maps and guide books. I did the same while on a trip to Germany.

My mom traveled to Wales and England, and she kept a diary and took pictures (yes, I have the diary and the pics!). I hope to make that same trip one day.

Research with travel books

When I go to yard sales, I look for travel books and books about geography and different states and different countries. I may not be able to visit all these wonderful places, but I can sure read about them.

Small notebook

While traveling, keep a diary. Or if you have a laptop, knock out your day-to-day experiences when you get back to your hotel that evening. Write not just what you see, but how you felt.

Take photos

Photos can refresh your memories and help you better describe the people, places, architecture, scenery, colors.

Local people

Talk to the locals. Trade email addresses in case you want to contact them again.

Write about attitudes – every place you go, there are attitudes and ideas that are specific to that region, state, or country.

Ask about the history

When you chat with the locals, ask how long they have lived there, where they came from, why they are there now.

Visit cemeteries

I wish I had taken more photos at the cemetery on Chebeague Island, Maine. There were stones there that went back more than three hundred years.

Don’t do it all in a car or bus.

Can you rent a bike? Can you hike? You would be surprised how your visual perspective changes as you are pedaling or walking.

Have you considered the train?

Amtrak has a new program called Amtrak Residency for writers. I have applied, but they haven’t called me, yet. When were you last on a train? Did it inspire different thoughts and ideas?

For a different perspective on travel writing, with guests Esther Miller and Darlene Foster

Travel writing Q&A with Esther Miller DSC00990

My travel writing has been mostly a journal I kept for our family, but the long blog last year was a little more polished than that, knowing that friends and strangers would be reading it. The bottom line is that it was still a record of where we’d been and what we were experiencing. For us, “travel” equals “car travel.” Flying somewhere is simply about getting there as soon as possible. Travel is seeing what’s along the way and that involves a car or truck and usually an RV of some sort.

How do decide where to go?

The destination is usually pre-determined. Going to see grandparents has been replaced by going to see children and grandchildren. Which route to take depends on several factors:

  • When the kids were little, routes had to include places they would enjoy.
  • As they got older, they helped decide what we would see along the way.
  • Now that it’s just the two of us, the route is determined by where we haven’t been before, or the fastest route or what’s available given possible bad weather.

How do you research your intended destination?

I haven’t, since the destination is whoever it is that we want to see.

Do you start a notebook before the journey begins?

Not usually, but somehow the preparation for travel triggers the writing process in my mind. If I find myself coming up with a phrase or a feeling that I want to elaborate on later, I’ll jot it down.

How do you keep notes while traveling?

I have a small, fat notebook that fits in the center console of the truck. When I’m not driving, if something catches my attention, I’ll observe it as carefully as I can and try to describe it as I’d want to write it. Otherwise, I jot down the key words and work on it later. One example I remember: I jotted “snow outlines roads” and it became High on the ridges an otherwise hidden mountain road is outlined with the last of the early snow.

Do you take pictures?

I take some, but I’m not a good enough photographer for publishing. I didn’t post many with my blog because I couldn’t figure out how to do it for quite a while! (Posting them isn’t hard but cropping, getting the right size, all that jazz…that’s the hard part for me.)

DSC00933What sort of specific places or events do you look for at your destination(s)?

  • We have always enjoyed museums but by now we’ve been to so many that we are really hard to impress. Still, we discover some surprises every so often.
  • We’ve enjoyed factory tours…Crayola, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, Forest River RVs, can’t remember any others right now.
  • Our favorite places though are usually historical…old mills, old factories, ghost towns, old mining areas, tracking down old railroads, Indian inscriptions…

Do you talk to a lot of local people?

Yes…if we’re traveling to see family! The people we usually talk to are docents in museums or historical sites or other like-minded folks we meet along the way. Since I haven’t written about places for pay, I haven’t been out asking people what they like about their town or why they are at the festival.

What are some of the more interesting local customs you have experienced?

In British Columbia, we were on a logging road with the logger’s radio frequency posted. Our ham radio covered their frequency (we couldn’t transmit, only listen) and we heard the movements of all the trucks on all the roads in the area. We finally decoded their “lingo” and realized that one of them was coming down the same road we were and was gaining on us. We had no idea if he was hauling logs or a big hunk of equipment or what, so when he was a couple miles behind us, we found a place to pull over and let him by. Turns out it was a pickup no bigger than ours, but he was really coming down that road! A state park ranger in North Dakota was as interested in genealogy as I and it turns out we had researched some of the same areas. But his most memorable comment was that ND was basically a desert. We asked him about all that snow. His response was that the snow in ND doesn’t melt, “It just wears out.”

Esther MillerExperience Esther’s travel blog at At Home…On the Road and her current reflections – those moments that change our lives – at Moments in Time.




Travel writing Q&A with Darlene Foster london

How do you decide where to go?

I often decide to travel to places because I know someone there. For instance, I travelled to the United Arab Emirates because my good friend was working there at the time. When you know someone who lives in an interesting spot, they can show you unique places which are not often frequented by tourists. I find I get to see the real place and meet more of the locals that way. Once in England, I got a private tour of the crypt under the York Minster because a neighbour of my husband’s uncle worked there. I always chose places that are interesting and full of history.

How do you research your intended destination?

I read many books about the place and go on line to learn as much as I can before I go. I find that part of the fun.

Do you start a notebook before the journey begins? How do you keep notes while travelling?

I don’t normally start a notebook before the journey but I always bring one with me and start writing things down immediately, even at the airport. I have a special journal for each trip and love to reread them when I get home.

Do you take pictures?

I take tons of pictures. They are my best souvenir. I enjoy reviewing them when I get home and sharing them with friends and family. I often return to my travel photographs and relive those precious times. I use them as research material when I’m writing books, short stories and travel articles.

What sort of specific places or events do you look for at your destination(s)?

I look for places with a rich history, sites that tell me about the people and the place. Learning the history helps to understand the culture. I don’t typically plan my trip around special events but sometimes I luck out. While in a small town in Spain last year, we stumbled upon a religious festival which included a procession which we followed back to the church. It was an amazing and moving experience.

Do you talk to a lot of local people?

I talk to the local people as much as possible. I always ask their name and often ask what it means. It enhances the journey by getting to know the locals. They have great stories to tell and information to share.

What are some of the more interesting local customs have you experienced?

Tapas in Spain, high tea in England, outdoor music anywhere, a religious procession, wonderful markets, a baby’s christening in Madrid, to name a few.

Darlene FosterAbout Darlene – Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, Darlene dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She is a writer, an employment counselor, an ESL teacher, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, cooking, reading, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Darlene lives on the west coast of Canada with her husband Paul and their black cat Pumpkin.

Darlene Foster is the author of the exciting Amanda travel adventure series for middle readers featuring 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to interesting places. Readers from seven to seventy enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain and England. Connect with Darlene on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

A Visit With Mom, by Esther Miller

Esther Miller picnicA few years ago my aunt and I planned a reunion for the church we both grew up in. It was a small Midwestern church that has long been disbanded, but each of us knew a few people who had attended and we spread the word. We planned a picnic for the same park where we had Sunday School picnics when I was a kid.

We got there early with a couple packs of name tags, figuring fifty would be more than enough for the thirty who said they were coming. There were at least that many there already and everybody had brought food…lots of it! Eventually a hundred people showed up with tons of home cooked food, even though many of us were from out of state.

If you’ve ever attended a small church, you know that one or two families tend to dominate the church and mine was one of those. As I moved from one group to another, people kept saying “You must be Esther…you sound just like your mother.” Finally I asked Aunt Anna, “Do I really sound like Mom?” “Oh yeah, especially when you laugh!” I had long feared that I had inherited absolutely nothing from her and was almost a clone of my father, so it was nice to hear people say I sounded like Mom.

But that was amazing! You see, Mom had been dead more than 35 years already. I was 15 when we moved away and here I was with my husband and grandson. The handsome young pastor I remembered was there with his wife of 50 years. Long before he was pastor, he was the “orneriest youngster” in my mother’s Sunday School class.

Back and forth the stories went…Mom as a teacher, Mom getting married, Mom and Dad singing duets for weddings and funerals. Some stories I’d heard many times and others I’d never heard. Stories I remembered from childhood were told by adults with a different perspective. Each story brought back a piece of her that I’d lost over so many years. My husband knew no one there outside of family and had never known my parents, so they were coming to life for him as well.

Toward the end of the afternoon, an elderly lady came up to me and said, “You must be Melita’s daughter. You sound so much like her.” Her name was not at all familiar to me and she explained that she had grown up in the church but had left about the time I was born. “Your mother was my Sunday School teacher off and on as I was growing up. She impressed me so much. She always seemed so sincere, like whatever she taught us on Sunday was how she really lived. Not everybody was that way. I wondered if she really did ‘practice what she preached.’” I didn’t hesitate to reply that the one thing I most valued about my mother was her utter lack of hypocrisy. This lady told me that all her life she had tried to live as honestly as my mother had. I was amazed at the impact Mom had made on this woman whom I didn’t even know.

After talking to her, I realized that when people give of themselves to other people, those parts they give away live on in those people. For one afternoon, those parts came together and I had an unforgettable visit with my mother.


Esther MillerI’m the mother of a son and daughter, and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married 40 years. I spent my childhood in the midwest, and lived in California from high school until 2000.
We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.

Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.

I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do but they allowed me to develop skills I would not have gained in the workplace.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Grandparents’ Camp, by Esther Miller

Carefree days of summer

Remember those long, carefree days of summer filled with trips to the river or lake or ocean? The picnics (complete with ants), roller skating, bike rides, and all the things we did when we were growing up? If you’re a grandparent and retired, consider bringing back the old days for your grandchildren.


Several years ago a few couples in our community decided to invite their grandchildren to come stay with them for a week and planned activities to fill that week with old time fun. Over the years, the group has grown and shrunk, the children have all grown, and some of them are now too old to spend a week doing “kid stuff.”  “Grandparents’ Camp” has gradually become “Grandkids’ Camp.”

Planning meetings

The grandparents have all become good friends and “planning meetings,” several in spring and early summer, usually include dinner and wine and are mere excuses to get together. Our kids have some favorite activities but we try to have at least a couple of new ones each year…thus the necessity for “planning meetings.”

Tubing, fossil hunting, pool party?

We usually hold our camp the week that includes the Fourth of July, so of course a big picnic in the park wherever the fireworks are being held is de rigueur. Other favorite activities include tubing down our lazy river, fossil hunting on a nearby mountain, and at least one pool party, sometimes two. We have visited nearby caverns, a couple of museums, a small zoo, a trout pond, and always have roller skating as a rainy-day fall-back. One night is always pizza night. As older children drop out and younger children finally are old enough to participate, our activities change to accommodate the age range for that year. We have found that having completed kindergarten usually gives the children the social skills and independence needed to enjoy the group.

Oh, the drama!

For several years, there was a lady who ran a drama program for the kids each morning. On Friday the grandchildren would present their musical production for all of us before heading off to the wrap-up pool party and gutter sundae extravaganza. One year one of the grandfathers bought a length of vinyl rain gutter, cut it into short lengths, put caps on both ends of each piece, and let the kids use them to see who could build the most outrageous ice cream sundae. Pictures are taken of each masterpiece before it is devoured.

T-shirts, CDs, DVDs

Each year we have t-shirts made for all of the participants and one of the grandmothers compiles all of our pictures onto a CD (now a DVD) with music. By now, we have a closet full of t-shirts and a fist-full of video memories of summers past. One rainy day last summer, we watched all the CDs in sequence and loved the squeals of laughter as children saw themselves in years past. They decided that they are all cousins now, regardless of blood relationships.

A preview

Before planning an entire week, you may want to try a day over Christmas vacation or spring break with two or three other couples and their grandchildren. You could visit the local zoo or a kids’ museum or skating rink, then have pizza afterwards. Chances are you will find, as we have, that several adults watching a dozen children enjoying an activity is much easier than one adult having to keep track of two or three energetic siblings or cousins.


A benefit of our camp that we would never have foreseen is our knowledge of each other’s families. We barely knew each other when we began. Our friendships have developed into year-round relationships and shared interests. Several of us now volunteer at the library, others of us are in Red Hat groups together. When the inevitable grandchildren pictures are passed around, we can do more than make polite comments. These are kids we know!

Nine years

This summer was our ninth year for Grandkids’ Camp. It has taken on the trappings of a family reunion with inside jokes and great memories. For one wonderful week each summer, we’re all family.


What great activities or events do you plan for your summer-time fun? Camps? Reunions? Block parties?


Esther Miller

I’m a mother of two and grandmother of two. My husband and I have been married almost 40 years. I spent my childhood in the Midwest, and lived in California from high school through retirement. We traveled for a year and visited every state in the lower 48, then settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Professionally, I was an occupational therapist serving children in special education.

I’ve had a wild collection of volunteer jobs that nobody would have paid me to do, but they allowed me to develop skills I never would have gained in the workplace.

Interests include gardening, cooking, traveling, and amateur radio.

Connect with Esther Miller on Facebook.

Photos from Esther Miller, printed with permission.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers