The Grand Budapest Hotel: Worth The Visit

GrandBudapestHotelI haven’t seen many films this year, and that’s a crying shame for someone who claims to be a movie buff. Life’s kept me busy, so I’m looking forward to snuggling on the couch when some of these films hit OnDemand. However, I was able to sneak in Begin Again and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I loved both of the films, and we were treated to hearing Adam Levine and Maroon 5 sing Lost Stars from Begin Again on Oscar Night. I blogged about this after I saw the film, so you can read my impressions here.

RalphFiennes

Ralph Fiennes as Gustave

However, as for The Grand Budapest Hotel, do yourself a favor and book your stay now. The film is quirky, fun, silly, goofy, and the camerawork and scenery are hilariously utilized and bring this story to life. The film takes place in the 1930s at the Grand Budapest Hotel, which is a popular resort. The concierge, Gustave H., who is played by Ralph Fiennes (if you know me well, you know I absolutely drooled over Mr. Fiennes when he starred in The English Patient), executes his role brilliantly. Gustave H’s lobby boy is named Zero, and he becomes Gustave’s protege (and friend). Gustave loves providing excellent service to the hotel’s guests, and in the opening scenes we learn he particularly enjoys sexually satisfying some of the elderly women guests at the hotel. Rather suddenly, one of Gustave’s lovers dies (played by Tilda Swinton), and Gustave finds he has inherited an invaluable painting. He then becomes the chief suspect in her murder. And so the plot thickens…

This film by director Wes Anderson is wacky, entertaining, well-written and acted, and is a sheer pleasure. I loved the lines, the costumes, the sets, the special effects, all the guest stars (including Jude Law, Adrian Brody, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray), and especially Edward Norton, an actor whose work I’ve come to admire (The Painted Veil, The Illusionist). Norton and Fiennes make the film fun. You will enjoy the ride.

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

The film won for the following:

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Milena Canonero

Best Achievement in Make up and Hairstyling: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

Best Achievement in Production Design: Adam Stockhausen (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration)

Reflections on Turning 30, 40, and—oh, God—50.

Fairytales

I remember when I was little and I looked at someone who was nearing 50 and thought—Jeez, you’re old. You will be dead soon. You are half a century.

Ten years ago when I was about to turn 40 I had a meltdown–of epic proportions. Things weren’t going too well for me at that time, but luckily, I was able to turn it around. I lost a bit of myself. I thought turning 40 was bad. And it was. The 30s had been so good to me. I loved the way I felt, had babies with my husband, and had supportive girlfriends who were experiencing the same things I was. We talked of motherhood, work, and spouses and love.

This turning 50 thing is going to be a cinch next to turning 40. I’m certain of it. Because the 40s were a time of self-reflection and growth as well. I can (sort of) look back on these past 10 years fondly.

Lots of things have brought me to this conclusion, mostly personal things I’ve been through: striving to earn an MFA in my 40s with young children (which was one of the most fulfilling things I have done educationally), publishing a novel that was in my head for 20 years, and watching my children grow into self-sufficient teens have all been gratifying during my 40s. I feel pretty good about myself these days, and I have learned the hard way not to give two rips about what other people think or say about me. I know who my friends are, have family that means the world to me, and I continue to challenge myself with projects at work, like writing a textbook for the first time with my colleagues.

I find solace with regard to aging when I consider this question: would I want to go back in time and do it all again?

I can honestly answer “no” to that one; while life hasn’t always been easy and there have been some small and big hurdles to overcome, I’ve grown and changed and grown and changed, and I don’t expect that to end during the next 10 years.

As my father said to me recently, “I’ve loved every age I’ve been.” His birthday is today, and he is 70-something. No need to go any further than that. But I remember these words he uttered, and I tend to agree with him.

While not every second of every age has been glorious, they are my years, my memories, and my experiences. They say you should not judge someone unless you have walked in their shoes. The beauty is, no one but me has walked in my shoes.

Even if the feet that will slip inside them are almost half a century.

10 Things That Baseball Idioms Have Taught Me

GloveMy second novel, Baseball Girl, has been prepped and is almost ready to make its appearance on Amazon. The main character, Francesca Milli, learns a few things from her love of baseball in the novel, as you will see if you decide to read it. And although I wrote the main character and modeled some of her experiences after my own life working in professional baseball, she is not me. Therefore, what I’ve learned from baseball may be slightly different than what Francesca learns. I thought I’d share the Top 10 things baseball idioms have taught me.

  1. Coming home means the world to me.
  2. It’s important to touch base with people you care about, and often.
  3. Being on the ball helps make you successful.
  4. If you’re going to throw someone a curve ball, be prepared for what comes afterwards.
  5. Playing hardball works sometimes, but it’s not a guarantee for success.
  6. In life, don’t expect to always bat a thousand. No one is perfect. There’s plenty of room for making mistakes.
  7. If you’re going to strike out at something, make sure it’s something you love. And then, try again.
  8. If you’ve got two strikes against you, swing anyway. You never know how far that next ball might travel.
  9. When you do hit a homerun, don’t boast, make everyone feel a part of your success, and share the joy with those you love. Those who truly love you will be happy for you.
  10. If you’re going to go to bat for someone, make sure it’s someone who is worthy, and who would likely do the same for you.
BaseballGirlFinalCover

Coming Soon!

Conquering Friggatriskaidekaphobia: The Fear of Friday the 13th

Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni:

Another Friday the 13th is upon us. Here’s a post I wrote about Friday the 13th and its superstitions.

Originally posted on Steph's Scribe:

Say it with me: “I am not afraid of Friday the 13th.”

Did you say it? If you did, you get a gold star. Well done!

If you were able to say that out loud and actually believed the words you said, you have conquered Friggatriskaidekaphobia, or the fear of Friday the 13th.

Seventeen to 20 million people in the United States are afflicted by this fear, according to a study that was conducted by the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

The number 13 has been thought to be an eerie number for centuries:  as a numeral, the number 12 has been typically thought of as a number of completeness. There weren’t 13 apostles, there were 12; there are not 13 hours on the clock, there are 12;  and there were not 13 gods of Olympus, but 12.

Bad things have happened on Fridays such…

View original 227 more words

Romantic Comedies for Valentine’s Day

Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni:

I might add a couple of new ones to this list, but there is no doubt these are my favorites. Hope you get to relax and watch one with your special person this Valentine’s Day!

Originally posted on Steph's Scribe:

***

If you don’t want to fight-fight for a reservation at a restaurant or if you happen to be spending the holiday solo, have no fear. We can laugh and giggle at some great rom-coms that have been made over the years for our viewing pleasure. They may be light and airy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a touch of sweetness to them all.

Now, I realize not everyone has the same sense of humor, nor does everyone have the same taste in romantic comedies. That said, I decided to post a list of my favorite romantic comedies—ones I either own or have bought for someone else to own for sentimental reasons (you know who you are…).

In fact, when I was putting this list together, the only clear winner for a spot at number one was “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s my absolute favorite and still makes me…

View original 737 more words

Hollywood Comes to Annapolis in March

AFF_logo-blk-loresWho said neon lights and movie premieres can only take place in Hollywood? Next month, Annapolis will play host to the third annual Annapolis Film Festival (AFF) as it brings some bling to town from March 26th through the 29th. Movie lovers will get to see some edgy and intelligent films as Annapolis showcases some of the best independent features, shorts and documentaries.

St. John’s Key Auditorium will host Opening Night with the Loews Annapolis Hotel as Festival Central and O’Callaghan’s Hotel as the main venue for Panels and Workshops; the Festival screening venues include Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, St. John’s College – Key Auditorium, Asbury United Methodist Church on West Street, St. Anne’s Parish Hall and Annapolis Elementary School.

Special showcases will include films by and about the African-American, Jewish and LGBT experience, and the Student Showcase which will feature 12 shorts. Other film topics include sailing, comedies, veterans, mental health, global politics, world cinema and conversations with surprise industry guests.

“Coffee Talks with…” is an intimate opportunity for VIP pass holders to hear behind-the-scenes talk about the business of directing, acting and producing. These breakfasts with muffins and coffee take place at Crush Winehouse, 9-10 am, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Show your support for this wonderful showcase by reserving your seats now. Annapolis Film Festival adult tickets are $12; senior and student tickets are $8. The four-day Festival Passes are currently $95 but will increase to $105 March 1. Four-day student passes are $40. All four-day passes include the Opening Night film, the After Party and unlimited films and panel discussions. One-day festival passes are available for $40.

Festival Passes can be purchased at www.annapolisfilmfestival.com. There are a limited number of passes available, once sold out, they are gone. Tickets will be available online after March 1 when the full schedule is released on the website. Visit the website for times and locations of all events. Up-to-the-minute changes in schedule can be followed on the AFF Facebook Fanpage and Twitter. For more information, subscribe to our weekly e-blast by signing up on the website.

The full-length features and documentaries (confirmed to date) in our 70 film line up are:

Narrative Features

Adventures in Comedy, directed by Tom McCaffrey. This mockumentary shows the cut-throat world of stand-up comedy and follows the struggles one comic faces as he gives his dream one last shot.

Appropriate Behavior, directed by Desiree Akhavan. Shirin struggles to become an ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual and a hip young Brooklynite. But she’s not quite Persian enough, not quite gay enough, not quite anything enough. After being dumped by her girlfriend, this endearingly superficial narcissist plots to win back her ex.

Behind Closed Doors, directed by Audrey Estrougo. Nathalie is a 30-something Parisian with a simple and joyous life. She likes her job, adores her colleagues and is about to move in with the man she loves. But one night, a lift home from a co-worker ends in a terrifying event that changes everything.

FELIX AND MEIRA_catalog image

Felix and Meira

Felix and Meira, directed by Maxime Giroux. Felix is an eccentric French Canadian, who has devoted his life to rebellion against his wealthy family. Meira is a young Hasidic mother burdened with the feeling that something essential is missing from life. A quirky love story set against the backdrop of Jewish Montreal.

Five Star, directed by Keith Miller. Gang leader, Primo, has been a member of the Bloods since the age of 12. John, a fatherless teen, grapples with entering this life while Primo decides whether to leave it all behind. Distinctions between fiction and real life are left intentionally ambiguous.

Gabriel, directed by Lou Howe. Rory Culkin delivers an electrifying performance as Gabriel, a troubled young man, convinced that reuniting with his first love will bring him the stability and happiness he craves.

Little Accidents, directed by Sarah Colangelo. A teenage boy goes missing in a small town devastated by a recent mining accident and three strangers are drawn together in a tangle of secrets, lies and collective grief.

Midnight Sun, (U.S. Premiere) directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Set amongst the ice fields of Northern Canada, a young boy defies nature to reunite an abandoned polar bear cub with its mother.

The Mystery of Happiness, directed by Daniel Burman. This romantic comedy features Santiago and Eugenio who are inseparable friends and business partners enjoying everything life has to offer. When Eugenio suddenly disappears, Santiago reluctantly engages Eugenio’s neurotic wife in the search.

Night Has Settled, directed by Steve Clark. In 1983, Oliver Nicholas (age 13) is poised to enter the precocious teenage world of first-sex, vodka and possible love in New York City. When an unexpected trauma occurs, what was supposed to be an exhilarating rite of passage becomes skewed by an incomprehensible depression, and a house of interior horrors.

Runoff, directed by Kimberly Levin. The beauty of the land cannot mask the brutality of a farm town. Matriarch Betty (Joanne Kelly, TV’s Hostages) confronts some harsh realities and meets the challenge when presented with an illegal but well-compensated job offer.

Secrets of War, directed by Dennis Botts Tuur and Lambert are best friends in a Nazi-occupied Dutch village who pass their days playing soldiers, mimicking a war that seems far removed from their everyday life. When Maartje joins their class, the young girl stands out as different from her classmates and they form a unique bond with her based on adventures, mischief and shared confidences.

Set Fire to the Stars, directed by Andy Goddard. Elijah Wood stars as the neurotic and artistic college professor John M. Brinnin who, in 1950, brings Dylan Thomas (Ceylin Jones) to New York for a now-famous tour, praying he can successfully keep his hell raising hero out of jail long enough to make it to the stage.

Wildlike, directed by Frank Hall Green. Mackenzie (age 14) flees to the Alaskan wilderness, helpless and alone, when the safety and trust of family is suddenly ripped away from her. A chance connection with a loner backpacker offers the key to her survival.

Wildlike

Wildlike

The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam. Christoph Walz, two-time Academy award winner for Django Unchained and Inglorious Bastards, stars in this movie from legendary director Terry Gilliam as an eccentric and reclusive computer genius plagued with existential angst.

Documentaries:

Above and Beyond, directed by Roberta Grossman. Just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots secretly smuggled planes out of the U.S. They trained behind the Iron Curtain and flew for Israel in its War of Independence helping turn the tide of the war. This tells about their personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.

All American High – Revisited, directed by Keva Rosenfeld. In 1984, a time of legwarmers, neon and Aqua Net, a young filmmaker sets out to document the life of a typical high school student. This honest and humorous look at 80’s teen life is told through the eyes of a visiting exchange student.

Angkor’s Children, directed by Lauren Shaw. Arising through poverty and genocide, three young Cambodian women are turning the 30 year ‘killing fields’ legacy of Cambodia on its head. Breaking from their traditional roles, a singer, a contortionist and a leader of a grassroots protest band, use their unique artistic abilities to help a fresh and exciting, albeit struggling, new culture to emerge from the ashes.

Back on Board, directed by Cheryl Furjanic is a candid glimpse into the life of four-time Olympic champion, Greg Louganis chronicling his rise from a difficult upbringing to his pioneering role as an openly gay athlete with HIV.

Burden of Peace, directed by Joey Boink follows Guatemala’s first female Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz as she battles the system, sacrificing everything to bring justice to those responsible for a devastating civil war in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred.

The Circle (Der Kreis), directed by Stefan Haupt. The Circle was a gay publication published in Zurich in the 1940s and 50s. This docudrama tells the story of Ernst Ostertag and Robi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag entertainer who enter into a lifelong romantic relationship through their involvement in the group.

Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, directed by Neal Broffman. This Mid Atlantic premiere film tells the story of how a desperate family’s search for their frail and depressed missing son explodes into a national nightmare when a single, misguided tweet in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing turns him into one of the prime bombing suspects.

Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi

Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi

In an Ideal World, directed by Noel Schwerin, follows a warden, a white separatist and a black gangbanger for seven years as they struggle to move beyond the stark reality of America’s locked down racial order.

In Country, directed by Mike Attie & Meghan O’Hara. In the Oregon woods a battle wages on as a “platoon” of hardcore Vietnam War re-enactors relive a war so many have tried to forget. A weave of verité footage, flashbacks and archival footage, the film blurs boundaries to shed light on America’s relationship with war and its veterans.

Meet The Patels, directed by Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel, is a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams … and his parents.

Mudbloods, directed by Farzad Sangari follows the resilient underdogs of the UCLA Quidditch team as they help transform Harry Potter’s fictional sport into a real-life phenomenon.

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, directed by William Gazecki. The last of the Red Hot Mamas, she captivated audiences with her bold, bawdy style and influenced many top performers, notably Bette Midler.

Red Dot on the Ocean, directed by Amy Flannery. Annapolitan Matt Rutherford’s death-defying, never-done-before, 27,000 mile, non-stop polar circumnavigation of the Americas in a scrappy 27 foot sailboat.

Shored Up, directed by Ben Kalina.Our beaches and coastline are a national treasure and a shared resource…and now they are disappearing in front of us. This film takes us to the heart of the climate change controversy where politics, economics and science collide.

Song from the Forest, directed by Michael Obert. Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio 25 years ago and followed its melody into the Central African jungle where he became part of the community. When he brings his pygmy son back to America, he realizes the globalized world is threatening the songs of the jungle.

The Special Need, directed by Carlo Zoratti. Enea is 29, autistic, and living in Italy. His search for physical love is anything but easy. His journey with his two best friends, Carlo and Alex, to find a sexual partner quickly becomes the chance for the friends to explore their own ideas of love, friendship and freedom.

Two Raging Grannies, directed by Håvard Bustnes. Touching and thought-provoking, this challenges the idea that we must continue to shop, consume, amass, and keep the economy growing. Two funny and courageous seniors visit cities and towns across the US to question everyone from the homeless to Wall Street tycoons about the sustainability of continued economic growth.

Waiting for August, directed by Teodora Mihai. Fifteen year-old Georgiana is catapulted into the role of head of the family after her mother is forced to work abroad to get by.

Retrospective

The President’s Analyst, directed by Theodor J. Flicker. Psychiatrist Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) is recruited to serve as the new analyst for the loneliest man alive, the President of the United States. The insanity of the new position (as well as his dangerous habit of talking in his sleep) provokes Schaefer to run for his life as powerful people try to get information out of him first. In 1968, this cult classic was declared by Roger Ebert to be “one of the funniest movies of the year.” There were rumors that J. Edgar Hoover forced the film from distribution because of its satirical portrayal of the CIA.

On the Fear of Change & Valentine’s Cards

When I put a call out to blog readers about what they wanted to see me write about this week, I received two good directions: blog about change and blog about Valentine’s cards. When I weighed the options, I liked them both, and since I’m heading out of town this weekend for a getaway with my girlfriends, I decided to write about both because, well, I aim to make everyone happy.

Change

The idea of change can create fear, and in some cases, an extremely real phobia called metathesiophobia; the word is derived from the Greeks and is a combination of the word “meta” which means “moving” and the word “phobos” which means change. People fear change because they feel they have no control over their lives when change comes into play. It can be debilitating and can cause people to despair.

The Harvard Business Review wrote an article about leadership and why people resist change and fear it. The reasons are pretty basic. They cite loss of control, loss of credibility, the sense of surprise, and that things aren’t the same as they used to be as some of the answers. Sometimes we go through change that is welcomed; at other times we go through change because it is necessary; and during other strange moments we go through change just because we think it will be interesting or fun.

The very clear problem with resisting change, it seems to me, is that we all know change in inevitable. Things cannot always stay the same: we call that stagnation, and being stagnant may not be the enviable place to mentally reside. Opening up your mind to what positive changes can take place can boost your feelings on the subject. It’s the old adage: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The very first thing you have to do to deal with change is accept it. Learn to be thankful for what is happening, because you cannot control it, you must live with it, and in the long run, who knows? It may end up benefitting you tremendously. If someone you love moves far away, while you won’t be able to see each other as regularly as you used to, look on the bright side! Keeping in touch with folks who live in other countries has never been so easy. With technology such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the world has become smaller because we can be connected at any time and with any place. Likewise, when you visit each other, you will most likely spend quality time together and make memories that will last a lifetime. If you’ve gone through a breakup and it didn’t have the ending you wanted, it does not mean your life is over. It means you get the chance to begin anew, perhaps even the opportunity to find someone who suits you better, understands you better, and loves you more. And if change has come into the workplace, just remember, it takes time to build and rebuild teams. If you are one of the lucky ones who has remained during a shift in leadership, hang on tightly. You’re still there! I worked for three different owners at the Orioles, and even though at times we wondered if we would still have our jobs or if the owners would bring in their own folks, we remained. There were few changes made, and we all retained our positions.

The truth is, there is no hiding from change. It happens daily. We win friends, we lose friends; we get jobs, we leave jobs; we get into one school then choose another; we fall in love, we fall out of love. At the heart of it all is the fact that change has the potential to be invigorating—it can force us out of our comfort zones and make us try new things. It can be good. No one should get too comfortable with the way things are…even things that are good can be better.

Valentines

Paper.

A card.

An envelope.

A pen.

Maybe even a red pen.

Write someone a Valentine right now.

Stop what you’re doing and write. Write what you love about them. Write what you miss about them. Write what your future holds together.

Being able to put your thoughts into words that someone can save and touch and reread is so important. You want a keepsake? Then give a keepsake.

Think about how it felt that time in kindergarten or first grade when you received that first Valentine. Sweet. Innocent. If you were lucky, you got a chocolate heart to go with it. Sometimes, you had to guess who the sender was…and that was dreamy. Candy hearts from a sweetie…what could be better?

I’ll tell you what. A card, letter, or heartfelt poem or story, that’s what. Open up your heart and let the words fall onto the paper.

Be Mine.

It’s Love.

Let’s Kiss.

Hug me.

Sweet Pea.

I adore you.

See there? I just wrote a Valentine. To whom, I’ll never tell.

Necco Candy Hearts

Necco Candy Hearts

The Worst Part About Writing

meanttobe* * *

Yes, I’m still at tonight. Working diligently on my collection right now.

However, the worst part about writing is that you get attached and stupidly emotional about the characters you create. Why? Because sometimes they are loosely based on people you know, lessons you’ve learned, the ways you have grown. You are reminded of things and times gone by. And then you read something like this that turns you into a weepy blob:

Every individual soul chooses the significant people in that life. Destiny will place you in the particular circumstance; it will dictate that you will encounter a particular person, at a certain time, place.  ~ Brian Weiss

It has happened to each of us.

That is all.

#romance #love #friendship

Preparing to Launch! A Personal Letter to Readers.

What'sComingDear Readers,

I don’t often go on and on about all the different responsibilities an independent author has to tackle on a daily basis, but none is greater than getting your books ready for that “big release.” I can see the finish line. I am almost there.

In addition to the release of my almost three-year project “Baseball Girl,” a novel about a woman’s experience with loss, love, and relationships while working in the baseball big leagues, which is (very) loosely based on my own experiences, I’ve also been writing and putting together a collection of short stories and poetry. I’m shooting to have both on the market in February. The covers for each are above.

I am but one person. Even though the word that goes before author—independent—appears to be a lonely one, it is not an independent journey at all. There are so many people you rely on for input and editing, from family and friends, to those who are willing to help you out when you pose a question on social media. I’m so thankful that people are interested and helpful, and for the most part, are encouraging and want to see you succeed.

While it’s not time to toast with a glass of Champagne yet, it will be soon. Until then, I’ll continue to prepare these ships for launch.

Lots of love and have a great weekend,

signature

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.

TimeManagement

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.

Passion

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.