The Biggest Mistake Some College Students Make

As a professor, I have to constantly juggle my time, including work, writing, and family responsibilities. This was what I did yesterday: spent a few hours at the library.

As a professor, I have to constantly juggle my time, including work, writing, and family responsibilities. This was what I did yesterday: spent a few hours at the library.

One the eve of the beginning of the spring semester, I thought I’d share something that I’ve seen as the downfall of a lot of college students with regard to their academics. It’s not something earth-shattering, but it is something that is real. The good news is it’s something that can be rectified if taken seriously, and it can make their lives infinitely more manageable.

The biggest mistake some college students make is that they do not budget their time properly.

There are various reasons for the lack of time management.

  • They are living on their own for the first time and are tasting a sense of freedom they’ve never had before.
  • They are having too much fun socializing.
  • They are playing sports.
  • They are active in clubs.
  • They sleep a lot.
  • They don’t go to class, and then miss assignments.
  • They’ve never had to manage a schedule on their own.
  • They get lazy.

When it’s time for the big leagues—college or university life—students have got to learn to budget their time wisely. As someone who didn’t do too well her freshman year of college because, as my dad likes to say, “She was too busy majoring in partying,” I didn’t budget my time, but was instead, spending far too many hours…doing…other…things.

When I woke up and smelled the coffee, I had garnered a job working for the Orioles at 19. I quickly had to learn how to work and succeed at a job requiring a lot of Major League hours, as well as make it to class and find time to study. My grades went up as a result of my new-found responsibilities, I became super organized because I found a sense of purpose, and I wanted to do well in all the things I tackled. In other words, I became a better student because I was forced to budget my time. The job required a lot of time at the ballpark, and I needed to do well all around.

Students who are unable to figure out how to work, go to school, and study are going to have problems. Understanding priorities—things like telling yourself “I can’t go out Friday night because I have to get this project done”—are real decisions college students will have to make. In fact, for every class students attend, they should probably be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours reading, researching, working on papers or projects, or studying. Understanding these parameters can help students plan their work and study hours, and then what’s left over is time for them.


There are many studies that cite that being busy—active in recreational or collegiate sports and activities—can actually be a good thing for students. Sometimes, it leaves them little down time to do silly things or get into trouble.

I know. I know. You are wondering when a college kid gets to have fun? There is plenty of time for fun, believe me. There were many college weekends that I attended classes and studied all week, worked the Orioles games, and then was out at breakfast at two o’clock in the morning on a Saturday with my best friends after going to a club or working a late game. Yes. There is time to have fun, but the work has to get done first.

The best suggestion I can offer students is to live by your calendar or planner. Take copious notes in class (there are actually new reports that find students who hand-write notes are more likely to retain material than those who rely on PowerPoints or type them), pencil in all your assignment due dates, schedule hours you will spend in the library, pencil in the days you have to work or participate in sports or extra-curriculars (blocking out times), and then schedule in your time for fun. It is important to make time for friends, family, and hanging out with classmates, but what’s equally important is being a successful student overall.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments area. I’d be happy to respond in the best way I can.

What Writers Owe To Themselves

Creative JuicesWriters—Do you do some of your best thinking in the shower? Typically, my best ideas come to me at the most inopportune moments when I do not have paper and pencil handy, like when I’m commuting or observing something with a cart full of groceries or taking a walk through the neighborhood. Sometimes the creative juices flow when I’m not prepared to greet them, much in the same way a hostess of a party who is still in sweats and inappropriately dressed as her first guest rings the doorbell is not ready.

These creative juices are important, and if we are lucky, they flow directly and consistently into our writing, which led me to this morning’s thought.

What do we, as writers, owe to ourselves?

Admittedly, while it would be nice to be regarded as the Hemingway of our generation or be as prolific a writer as Nora Roberts, I think that what we owe to ourselves more than anything is to tell a story for which we feel some passion, and tell it well.

That’s it.

Tell the story, feel something for it, and tell it well. For the love of it.


The most successful authors believe in their work, are validated by what they write, and are compelled to communicate this creativity to readers. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, said, when asked about his novel, “The thing to remember is I thought nobody would read the book—a 500-page book set in Nazi Germany, the narrator is ‘Death,’ you think, how do you recommend that to your friends? I thought no one’s going to read this. I thought, well, I might as well do this exactly how I want to do it, and follow my own vision for the book, and write in exactly the style I want. That’s when it really took off. So, I think half of writing a book is just forgetting that there is even a world that exists beyond the book.” His commentary is spot on, and a good piece of advice to remember when we write.

What do readers want? Readers want to be entertained, they want to be connected to the characters, and they want to feel something for the work when they close the book.

We owe it to them to tell the best story we can.

It takes a special type of person to write—and write continually—especially when we don’t know if five people or five million people will read our work. I’ve said it a hundred times to students, to book talk attendees, and to people who ask me why I write, and my answer is always the same: because I have a story to tell, and ultimately, feel moved enough to tell it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many people pick it up, but rather that those who choose to read it enjoy it.

As recording artist Sam Smith says in his song “Money On My Mind,”

I don’t have money on my mind.

I do it for the love.

We owe that to ourselves.

5 Accessories to Help Perk Up Your Wardrobe

The months of January, February, and March can seem to drag on sometimes, especially here in the Northeast. To help get yourself out of the winter doldrums, you can exercise, eat well, spend time with friends and family, and add some accessories to perk up your wardrobe. It always makes me feel good to find a little something that can help alter the looks of what already is hanging in my closet. Here are five suggestions of things you can add now to help infuse some life and color into what you already own.


Photo credit: Charming Charlies

#1 Add a pop of color with a statement necklace. This one, from Charming Charlies, features turquoise and silver, and is so versatile. Wear it as the model is wearing it here with white lace, or let it really pop off of blacks and greys.

Photo credit:

#2 Add a colorful scarf. Do not be afraid to wear color near your face–you just need to know what colors work best for you. Do you wear jewel tones better or do more earthy tones work for you? This will depend on your skin coloring, your eye color, and your hair color.

Photo credit:

#3 Grey boots as a neutral. The best thing about grey is it is a neutral and can go with any color, including black, blue, red, pinks, greens, and tans. I just bought myself some grey suede heeled boots that do not go over the knee, but the choice is yours. Grey adds so much versatility to your wardrobe.

Michael Kors tote

Michael Kors tote

#4 Michael Kors Tote in patent leather. What’s great about this bag is its ability to be dressed up or dressed down. Depending on your outfit, this bag has the ability to act as the perfect accessory.


Photo credit:

#5 Fringefare Topper from Anthropologie. Adding a spunky topper to your outfit can dress up jeans or a skirt or black slacks…the possibilities are endless. Wear it with a statement necklace for a more dramatic look, or by itself for more funky simplicity.

Come with Me to Touch the Sky

Touch the Sky

This print is available for purchase. Click on the image and it will take you there…by balloon…

Come with me to touch the sky,

You need not travel far and wide.

I’m here, with you, wherever you go—

Though this you probably already know.

No words are needed for you and I,

We’ve said our hellos; we’ve said our goodbyes—

But on the rare chance that you can’t fly,

Just look above, and touch the sky.

I wrote this poem a while ago. Some folks despise rhyming poetry and prefer the more free-flowing style. While I enjoy that type of poetry as well, I’m a big fan of the rhyme—it’s probably all those years I was in love with Dr. Seuss as a child and the poetry courses I took in college. When you read some of the classic poetry from Keats to Shelley to Shakespeare, they were fans of the rhyme, too.

I saw this lovely artwork on Pinterest, and it made me think of my poem, so I pulled it out of the archives.

Have a lovely Friday and long weekend, everyone!

My Latest Author Crush

Markus ZusakMarkus Zusak is attractive, intelligent, in touch with human nature, deeply evocative with his use of language, and has had me thinking about the story he wrote for a good, solid week now. In fact, I know I will never forget it.

I’d call that an author crush.

I can’t get Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Ilsa, Max, and Rudy out of my mind, not to mention Frau and Michael Holtzapfel. The images he left me with are vivid and haunting, and “The Book Thief” is one of my all-time favorite stories I have read.

Perhaps Zusak’s best choice in writing this WWII novel about foster-child Liesel Meminger was allowing the story to be narrated by Death. Don’t be put off by this thought if you haven’t read the book yet. Death is a brilliant narrator, bordering on having feelings, despite the job he has to do, and attempts to understand human behavior all throughout the novel. His observations and insights enthrall readers, as he leaves us mesmerized, stunned, and feeling melancholy about the atrocities man commits toward other men. Hearing Death tell stories about Hitler, Nazi Germany, life on Himmel Street during that time, and love as observed between children and adults is Zusak’s strength. Moreover, I liked Death a great deal after reading the novel; I would not be afraid to meet the likes of him in a dark alley.The Book Thief

Furthermore, Zusak’s colorful storytelling (and I mean that, literally, as you will see if you read it) and his command of the English language make this book one you’ll have no desire to put down. While the subject matter itself is certainly emotional to read at times and leaves you scratching your head as you consider World War II didn’t happen all that long ago (not to mention allow yourself to think about what is happening in our world right now and what people do to each other), Zusak brings a lightheartedness to the novel that is greatly appreciated. I am in awe of the intricate weaving of plot and extraordinary development of character, and while this novel has received contemporary acclaim, I am certain it will go down one day as a “classic” piece of literature.

I’m so glad I took the time to read this wonderful, creative, enlightening, memorable piece of work. It takes a special person to write a story that both breaks your heart and offers you hope.

Carry on, Mr. Zusak. I can’t wait for your next story.

Below, please find a wonderful interview with Zusak. And to writers who write: listen carefully to the last part of his interview and continue to do your thing and write.

My Precious 45 RPM Records (are in the box)

The Box From My Parents

The Box From My Parents

Last night my parents dropped off a box they found while cleaning out their basement. They brought it to me, and I was surprised to see what was inside.

Obviously, if you either (a) follow my blog, or (b) know me personally, you know that I LOVE MUSIC and always have. As a kid, I would would listen to 8-track tapes, these babies pictured here on my record player, and I’d write down Casey Kasem’s Top 40 each week. Every song. Every week.

I’ve always enjoyed the pleasure of music, play the piano a little, and spend money each year to see concerts and Broadway musicals. I love everyone from Sting to Mr. Buble to Usher to Eminem to The Rolling Stones and Van Halen. I listen to classical music when I’m working and our Christmas library of songs grows each year.

These 45s remind me of how I first fell in love with music of all types. They represent my childhood. They also remind me of playing my music loudly in my room and having my parents tell me to turn it down. Ah, the memories!

But how sweet that they kept these 45s all these years for me. I will treasure them always.Old45s45coversOriolesMagic

7 Sparkly Things I Love

SparkleChristmas is over, but the holiday spirit is still in full swing. New Year’s Eve is days away, and it’s important to add a little sparkle to your life. As this saying goes, you mustn’t be afraid to sparkle brightly, dearies. Wishing you all the best for the upcoming New Year. Happy 2015 a little early.

Here are 7 sparkly things I love.

#1: Sparkly Mantles

I wanted to do something different this holiday season with my mantle. I mixed things from nature with items from Homestead Gardens and Pottery Barn. Love the sparkly result.

Sparkly Mantle

#2: Sparkly Shoes

I notice shoes, do you? These sparklers will make you want to dance all night. From Anthropologie.


#3: Sparkly Clothing

You only live once, and New Year’s Eve only happens once a year. Dare sparkle in the moonlight. This dress is from

#4: Sparkly Nails

No matter your age, a little sparkle never hurt a girl.

Sparkly nails

#5: Sparkly Bags

Why not add a little twinkle as you walk around and shop or meet friends for dinner? This one from Macy’s is purple and sparkles.


#6: Sparkly Earrings

Tiffany’s earrings are the sparkliest.


#7: Sparkly Dialogue

Dialogue in films doesn’t get much better than this classic scene in “The Holiday” among Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Cameron Diaz. Truly sparkly.

Phone Scene

Graham: And what did you say?

Iris: I asked her to hold. Can I call you back?

Graham: I can hold while you speak to her.

Iris: Really?

Graham: Find out how she is.

Iris: Okay.

[Iris switches call]

Iris: My brother wants to know how you are.

Amanda: Can you tell him I’m good and that I’m just taking Charlie for a walk in the village. Um, what’s he been up to? Did he say?

Iris: I’m not sure. Do you want me to ask him?

Amanda: Uh, sure.

Iris: Okay. Hold please.

[Iris switches call again]

Iris: I can’t believe that you have had sex with the woman staying in my house!

Amanda: [Gasps] He told you that?

Iris: Oh, my God!

Amanda: Oh, my God!

Iris: Oh, my God! I thought I was talking to Graham! Can you just hold, please? I’m terribly sorry.

[Iris switches calls again]

Iris: I can’t believe you had sex with Amanda! The one thing she asked me was, ‘Are there any men in your town?’, and I assured her that there were not. And then you meet her and immediately get into her knickers!

Amanda: Still me.

Iris: Bollocks! I must have lost him. Amanda, I am so sorry.

[Call waiting beeps]

Iris: Can I call you back?

Amanda: Sure.

Iris: Okay, bye.

When Giving Criticism…

9d35b535d9cce422f5a98bca5c74c122One of the most difficult things to do as a teacher, reviewer, friend, or critic is to provide meaningful and helpful criticism. When you offer suggestions or input into another person’s work, if you don’t like it or think it needs perfecting, you have a right to that opinion. However, there is a way to make remarks so that they do not become hurtful to someone. Society today—in the throes of social media—is way too quick in this world to judge someone harshly and say, “it stinks” or “it just doesn’t work” or “it’s not good enough.” In this season of love and charity, being kind to others does matter.

To understand my position on this, all you have to do is go on Goodreads or Amazon and read the reviews people post of other people’s work. Some are brutal an uncalled for. In fact, just earlier I was reading comments on a weatherman’s Facebook page, and people are downright brutal. Do these self-imposed “critics” not understand that people slaved away working on some of those projects? What makes them credible to write such commentary? Are they experts in the field? Do they know it took mustered-up years of hard work and courage to put something out for public consumption?Ambitions

Knowing there are critics out there doesn’t deter me; and it shouldn’t deter you either. You can’t be afraid. It’s your story, your project, or your art. It’s your blood, sweat, and tears, and guess what?

Only one person has to love it, and that person is YOU (okay, and maybe your mother).

If you’ve been harshly criticized by others, just remember that feeling when someone asks you to review something for him.

Remember to be kind.

Your words and criticism can impact a lot of dreams with one comment.





I was definitely born in the wrong era; this wicked-ass hopeless romantic loves music from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. It’s the reason why I’m such a fan of Mr. Buble. He brings back all the classic standards that I love and makes them his own…with charm and sex appeal.

“Nevertheless” has always been one of my favorite songs, written back in 1931, and I love the poetic lyrics so much. This song can make you swoon.

Perhaps this is one of the shortest post I’ve ever written because when it comes to music, all we need to do is let the song tell us a story. Maybe it’s your story, too.

So, sit back, read and “feel” the lyrics, and enjoy this snippet of Mr. Buble with the Puppini sisters.


Music by Harry Rubin/Lyrics by Bert Kalmar

Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong
Maybe I’m weak and maybe I’m strong
But nevertheless I’m in love with you Maybe I’ll win and maybe I’ll lose
And maybe I’m in for crying the blues
But nevertheless I’m in love with you

Somehow, I know at a glance
The terrible chances I’m taking
Fine at the start
Then left with a heart that is breaking

Maybe I’ll live a life of regret
And maybe I’ll give much more than I get
But nevertheless, I’m in love with you

Maybe I’ll live a life of regret
And maybe I’ll give much more than I get
But nevertheless, I’m in love with you

Booted: The True Story of A Disappointing Christmas

merry_christmas_by_deeo_elaclaire.jpgIt was Christmas Eve many years ago. My family and I were sitting around a lovely dinner table in Annapolis discussing our most disappointing Christmases ever. My mother recounted her story of when she was a little girl and how tragically disappointed she was to wake up one Christmas morning only to find there was not a pony in her back yard as she expected. Santa had apparently let her down that year and given the pony to someone else.

Try as I might, I couldn’t recall a time when I was disappointed; all my Christmases have been relatively happy ones spent with family.

My brother, on the other hand, could remember one particular Christmas that was not so merry and bright for him.

He remembered it vividly: The Christmas gifts were piled all around the room, he said. Piles here. Piles there. All with name tags, my mother placed the packages into piles. When we got too old and Santa and his elves courted other smaller children, my mother continued to make Christmas fun for us all. If I received bras and underwear in a package, she would write “To Stephanie, From Jim Palmer” (he was an Orioles pitcher who posed for Jockey underwear for years). If I got a CD, the tag would say, “To Stephanie, Love Sting.” You get the picture.

My brother’s pile was next to him, and we went around the room, the four of us, opening gifts. One at a time, we would open them. My brother recalled that I got a necklace and a pearl ring that year, and he thought how cool my gifts were; I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but this recollection stood out to him. After opening pajamas, underwear, a book, etc., he kept his eye on a package. On the rug next to him sat a very large, wrapped gift, and he was purposely saving that one to open last, surmising there was something very exciting inside of it. When it was time to open our last gifts, my brother was befuddled to find that there wasn’t actually anything remarkable at all inside that large package, but rather just a pair of green fireman’s rubber boots with yellow trim.

Rubber BootsHence, he stated, it was his most disappointing Christmas ever.

When we left the restaurant that evening, my father, mother and I went back to their house.

“Come here,” my father said to me as he opened the basement door. “I have an idea.” Something in his voice and his raised eyebrows told me he was up to no good.

We went down to the basement where my dad opened a small closet door, one that kept old things like pom-poms from my cheerleading days, old ice skates, an unused fish tank, and other assorted keepsakes.

“Do you know what’s in here?” he asked me as I heard him rustling through the back of the closet.

He promptly turned and held them up with a cheeky grin on his face. I snickered.

“Guess what he’s getting for Christmas tomorrow?”

Giggling and deeming ourselves very clever, we wrapped up said gift and placed it in my brother’s Christmas pile.

As you can probably imagine, Christmas morning came with all its normal hoopla. And as you can probably also imagine, although you are not familiar with my brother but are probably keen to human tendency, the best part of this story is that yes, history repeats itself, and my brother saved that large package once again as his last to open. I guess it’s true that old habits die hard.

The room erupted with laughter when my brother got “booted.” He held up those boots—the exact same pair he saved to open until last all those many moons ago—and we were all left holding our stomachs as we laughed hysterically. I think my father chortled the hardest, and I wasn’t too far behind him. My brother was a good sport, and he posed with those boots for the camera for one terrific shot.

While no one has received the boots in a couple of years, one never knows when they might reappear, disguised in this year’s Christmas wrappings.