Do You Make Notes and Scribble in Your Books? I Do. With Pleasure.

image

Do You Make Notes and Scribble in Your Books? I Do. With Pleasure.

As a writer, reader, and educator, I am always reading. I read constantly. I am rarely without a magazine, book, or academic article. Often, I am reading a book or two simultaneously, whether they are nonfiction or fiction. Sometimes I am also writing at the same time. People often ask me if I write in books that I own. They ask me if I make notes in them, scribble words, highlight passages, and otherwise put my own markings on the sacred pages.

The answer to all these questions is—yes.

I do not find it sacrilegious to write in books in this manner, unless of course, you plan on lending them to many friends after you have read them. In that case, your notes may not make sense and may interfere with their enjoyment of the work. Readers make connections with the printed word and find meaning among the pages that heightens their understanding of the messages or passages or insight. The highest compliment one can get as a writer is if someone quotes back to you what you wrote or posts the passage in an article or blog. If this happens, you should consider yourself lucky because that means that someone connected with the material (or perhaps, disagreed with the material) on such a level that it became ingrained in his memory.

I typically have a highlighter and pencil in my hands, armed to make notes when I am reading good stuff. This simple act furthers my engagement in the text. When students read books or printed works for comprehension, they can often be found highlighting passages and segments. It helps bolster students’ comprehension and furthers the involvement in the work.

Sticky tabs on my new novel.

Sticky tabs on my new novel.

I love my books, and cherish many of them. The ones I love most are filled with underlines, highlights, and words in the margins that spark or recap ideas. I also do this sometimes when reading one of my book club books, so I can refer to those passages that left impressions on me. Another idea is to use sticky tabs to mark the pages if you are intent to not damage the book with your own scribbles.

There have been studies conducted in academia recently that show a direct correlation between handwritten note taking and success in college, and that students who take notes on computers do not retain the information in the same way that those who hand write their notes do.

If you are so inclined, I encourage you to write in your books as they become a part of you.

My mother's copy of Pride and Prejudice.

My mother’s copy of Pride and Prejudice.

I love that I have my mother’s copy of Pride and Prejudice with her notes in it. I also picture Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient writing and collecting things in his book and journal.

It’s just a very cool idea.

Image result for ralph fiennes the english patient writing in notebook

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

A Word of Love—And Thanks—This Valentine’s Day

f8481827ab04e8ddc536d4172324a712***

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my faithful followers and supporters!

I wanted to just take a moment to thank you for being loyal, checking in periodically, and indulging me in my silly, sentimental, and inspirational writing posts. I love writing and sharing things with you, and I am incredibly excited to publish my third work of fiction in a matter of days.

innsignificantanovelInn Significant will be out NEXT WEEK, and I’ll be posting updates throughout the weekend of exactly when it will become available.

I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t be a writer if it weren’t for all of you encouraging me to continue down the path of pursing my passion for storytelling.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I hope you will stop, smell the roses (seriously), spread love, give love, receive love, and tell stories of love to those who mean the most to you.

Wishing you a love-ly day.

xx,

Stephanie

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Book Promotion for Inn Significant

It’s looking like my new novel will be available in two weeks. I am down to the last few changes, and soon, my friends, it will be in your hands. I wish the process could be a quicker one (for all of us, believe me!), but producing a novel takes time, especially when you write, edit, design, and market it yourself. That’s why it’s called independent or/or self-publishing. We are jack of all trades when it comes to this hobby.

So today, I’m sharing a promo piece I put together for the book that I’ll be using to help promote it. I got the idea from an advertisement for a grand opening of a flower shop and bakery, and I liked it so much, I thought I’d attempt to produce one that had a feeling of nostalgia. Part of Inn Significant takes place during the Great Depression, so I wanted to invoke a feeling of then and now by using a black and white promo piece.

As always, I’ll keep you posted. And as I try to remember to say every time I get to this point, thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement of my writing projects. I really appreciate it.

🙂

inn-significant-flier-2

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Sting, a Piano, And Me

12733646_10153864700223954_8316315902460198346_n

***

Years ago when I would eat lunch with some of my dearest friends in the lunchroom at Camden Yards during my time working for the Orioles, we would often play games. Sometimes we’d play a game of cards (Hearts was our favorite), sometimes we’d play word association games, and sometimes we’d play “If I could,” a game that was pretty outlandish and far-fetched, but you had to answer the question that began with those words.

One day the question was: If I could spend time with any one celebrity, who would it be and why? We’d go around the table answering the question.

My answer on that particular day was easy. If I could spend time with any one celebrity, it would be Sting, I said. All I needed was Sting, a piano, and me. I just wanted to sit and listen to him sing and play and compose. That’s it. That was the wild celebrity wish I had back in the 1990s. In fact, according to Sting’s website, he says this about his ability to write songs: “…there are no rules with songwriting. I can write a song on piano, and I can write one walking down the street or at the computer. I try to explore as many different ways to write as I can.”

You may recall that Sting was a huge heartthrob, and still is. As a teenager, I had a poster of Sting from his days in The Police hanging over my bed. Literally, every little thing he did was magic to me. (You got that reference, right?)

In 1999, a couple of years after I was married and my husband was working for a radio station in Baltimore, he called me from work with some exciting news. We were going to see Sting in concert at Constitution Hall, but I had no idea why he was calling me to say we had to leave early. What I didn’t know then was that I was in for one of the biggest treats of my life.

image1-1The two of us, along with about seven others, had been invited to attend Sting’s sound check. In that big auditorium, it was only Sting’s band and us in the room. My eyes were bugging out of my head — Sting walked out onto the stage. We sat in the seats and watched him perform several songs from his set list. Mind you, I was used to being around famous people. Working in baseball afforded me the opportunity to see and interact with many celebrities during my thirteen years there, including having President Ronald Reagan wave to me and say hello as he walked by the copier room. You get used to seeing them around when you work in sports. But this was Sting, the musician I had loved since I was a teenager. And he was singing right in front of me.

He paused and asked if anyone wanted to come up on stage with him and sing. My heart went pitter-patter and my husband urged me to go, as he long knew my affinity for Sting and his music, but I was too frightened I would scare Sting away with my voice (it’s decent, but not one worth putting a mic in front of, trust me, and my friends who have sung Karaoke with me know of what I speak). Suffice to say, I opted not to take Sting up on his offer, and instead enjoyed watching the couple of the other folks who did go up and stage and sing with him.

image2-1When the sound check was over, Sting came down from the stage and said hello to each of us. He was sweet and personable (as I expected he would be), and he chatted and sat among us in the seats. I told him my husband and I had just come back from England (“Did it rain the whole time?” he asked), that I loved his country, and he asked me where we went while we were there. We spent several minutes discussing our trip and he offered some stories of his own. When my husband asked him if he could take a photo of the two of us, he was more than happy to do so, even teasing me as we got ourselves situated. He put his arm on mine, leaned in, and said softly in my ear, “We can pretend like we’re at the movies together.” I laughed. Totally charming.

He spent about a half hour just gabbing with the group of us, signed a guitar for an auction benefitting the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and when it was time for him to leave and get ready for the concert, he shook our hands and said what a pleasure it had been to meet us. Likewise, Sting. Likewise.

I often think about how lucky I was to have met one of my favorite musicians and to have been given the opportunity to chat with him like that. Seeing him sing during the sound check reminded me of the old “Unplugged” show on MTV, except there were only a handful of us in the room, and we had the added bonus of sharing some moments of conversation with him, too.

It wasn’t just Sting, me, and a piano, but it was damn close. Pretty damn close.

__________

* Special thanks to my husband who knew he made my day with that particular meet and greet.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

Twice Bitten by La La Land, Love & Regret

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land. Photo credit: imagewire.com

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land. Photo credit: imagewire.com

Forget the singing, the dancing, the sets, the terrific, catchy music, and the fantasy of La La Land. What remains at the core of this award-winning film is character development and a love story that viewers are intentionally swept into from the opening scene of this boy-meets-girl movie romp that harkens back to old-time musical storytelling. If you haven’t seen the film yet, first of all, shame on you, and second of all, stop reading here, because I’m going to dissect the guts of the plot and meaning as opposed to an overall review. I honestly don’t want to spoil it for you, so if you haven’t watched it, close your browser now.

For those of you who are still with me, I’ve been bitten by this film twice, as I just returned from taking my 14-year-old daughter to see it. A couple of weeks ago, I saw it with my friend, Elizabeth, and we both loved it.

I may love it even more now the second time around.

Because seriously, amid the dancing and singing and suspension of reality, I fully immersed myself into this musical. The story is as old as time, but it’s told well, and the questions we are left asking ourselves when the film ends are these: What did the characters have to give up to follow their dreams? And, if they could go back in time and do something differently, would they?

And then we ask ourselves the same questions about our own choices in life.

When we reach the end, the characters are faced with seeing each other after five years have passed and they were embroiled in a windswept and intense love affair that was replete with genuine love and affection and encouragement for the other. Mia’s dream was to become a serious and successful actress; Sebastian wanted to open his own jazz club. When she finally landed a role in a film, she moved to Paris away from him at the end of the movie, and he was left to follow his own dream of starting up his club in Los Angeles.

The characters of Mia and Sebastian from La La Land.

The characters of Mia and Sebastian from La La Land.

Life changes for them both, and we accept that their relationship did not survive the distance and circumstances. Mia became a movie star, married, and had a baby with a new man we believe to be her husband. Sebastian did what he wanted and opened his club.

Moviegoers are left struggling and asking themselves at the end of the film the following: How could it be that two people who loved each other so much lost touch and did not continue their romance when so much love was involved?

Could it be that long-distance relationships just don’t work? That love cannot withstand the demands of their careers in entertainment? That there really is no such thing as a Hollywood ending? Or, perhaps, that in real life, all of these challenges come with a price, and it often takes its toll on relationships.

Even sadder, can it be that we love some people wholeheartedly and yet we know we cannot be with them or we lost our chance with them or that something else interrupted a relationship that we had with them?

While it wasn’t a Hollywood moment, I remember bumping into an old boyfriend whom I would say I had loved very much after I married. The camera didn’t stay on either of us for too long because there wasn’t a camera and we weren’t in a film, but it felt movie-like because the moment seemed to pass in slow motion, and I remember feeling the pangs of sadness that life moved on and the relationship we had shared was nothing but a memory—a thing of the past.

Some people might call that loss, growing pains, moving on, or regret.

I’m not so sure what I’d call it.

And I’m not so sure any of those words describe what the characters in La La Land felt, either. Was it regret that Mia felt at the end sitting there watching Sebastian at the piano? Or was it an acknowledgement that they had loved, but their dreams and goals were more important than the survival of their relationship?

We all make choices in life.

Their choices in the film just reminded some of us of our own, for better or for worse.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Seeing Sinatra Sing

Frank Sinatra the crooner and swinger.

Frank Sinatra, the crooner and swinger.

I think I was about 10 years old when I saw Sinatra sing. I knew it was a big deal, because my mom and dad got tickets to the show at an arena in Largo, Maryland, and our whole family went to see him. Our seats were outstanding, as we were only a couple of rows from the stage. I could see Sinatra plain as day, and though I didn’t understand at that time that I was witnessing the performance of an iconic singer, actor, and legendary entertainer, I do remember being in awe as I watched him do his thing: Sinatra knew how to light up a stage.

Today, my magazine class read and discussed the most notable profile article ever written entitled Frank Sinatra Has A Cold. Its author is Gay Talese, and he wrote the piece for Esquire without ever personally interviewing Frank Sinatra. The article spawned what was termed New Journalism, where writers took their time telling longer stories that covered a lot of bases using fictional techniques.

mi0003240732As an American whose heritage is Italian, I’m thrilled that I can say I saw Sinatra sing. I wish I’d seen him a couple of more times before he died. His collection of music permeates our house constantly. His Christmas album is a classic. My husband is a huge fan, as are his father and my parents, and there are very few weeks that go by where Sinatra—in some fashion—doesn’t croon from our stereo.

Sinatra’s voice is good, but more than that, he is a master of cadence and timing in his songs, which add to his emotional delivery and set him apart from other artists. He had charisma, dressed in suits and tuxedos, and exuded a bad-boy image mixed in with that classic Italian-American charm. The ladies loved him and men thought he was cool. His talent on the screen was impressive as well, and some of his dance numbers with Gene Kelly are legendary. His serious acting got noticed as well.

He was an all-around talent, that’s for sure. People like Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble help keep those of us who yearn for those traditional standards and swinging songs happy. I’ve seen Buble in concert, too, and he is certainly cut from the same mold as Sinatra where showmanship is concerned.

But there will only ever be one Sinatra.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Handling the Insecurities of Publishing A Novel

bookpromopic-1

***

It’s a challenging endeavor. I’ve done it twice now with fiction, and twice with nonfiction books. And I’m about to do it again when I release my latest, third fictional novel.

There will always be anxieties that manifest themselves into insecurities about putting our work out there. The tendency to feel nervous about it is normal. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into our stories, and we hope people will appreciate that time and energy regarding our work, too.

But there are no guarantees. Some people will love it, some will think it’s just okay, and some will downright dislike it.

It’s the way of the world, people. We all can’t like everything.

Nevertheless, I have to quell my fears. I’m more nervous about this book than I have been about the other two simply because it is my third. And as a natural course of progression and as someone who puts undue pressure on herself, I hope this one will be received as well, if not better than, the previous two I’ve written. “Whether you think you’re brilliant or think you’re a loser, just make whatever you need to make and toss it out there,” Elizabeth Gilbert tells us in Big Magic. “And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.” It’s great in theory, but tough to put into practice.

However, I think it’s important to adhere to this advice when you are making any kind of art.

Gilbert further goes on to say this:

“If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go and make their own f—ing art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

oprahandjorowling

Recently, I watched the Oprah one-hour interview with J.K. Rowling that was filmed during Oprah’s last year of her show. I have to admit, I’m sort of obsessed with this interview. In it, we hear Jo Rowling tell stories of the backlash she took from writing Harry Potter, from those who thought writing about Black Magic was horrible for children, and from those who think children’s imaginations should be limited. It made me further understand what someone told me months ago, and honestly, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. She said,

People are entitled to their own opinions, but that doesn’t make them right.

And so, I’ve decided that despite my nervousness about reaction to my own storytelling, it’s what I have always wanted to do, and so I do it. I’ve always had this passion deep down inside of me. Ever since I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to write and tell stories. So all I can offer readers is my authentic self as I tell these stories that brew in my head. That’s what I’ve got.

As Gilbert says, “Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart. Share what you want to share. If it’s authentic enough, believe me—it will feel original.”

And so it goes.

Originally yours,

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

 

Fashion Friday: Finding Your Style Over A Certain Age

fashionWhen I used to work as a fashion consultant, one of the biggest rules I preached was to ignore trends—to not get sucked into a fad just because it was hot, especially if it didn’t work for your body type. But that rule becomes rather difficult to adhere to when fashion changes and certain styles of clothing become appealing. For example, the straight-legged jean was something I thought I would avoid at all costs because of its tendency to make hips look larger than they are, especially for those of us who have undeniable curves. I look better in a boot cut jean that is fitted properly. All my years of hoping that the straight-legged jean would not come back in fashion was wasted, as it (a) became fashionable and trendy, and (2) because I ditched my own advice and now wear them, curves and all. The trick is to outsmart the straight-legged jean and find some balance with it…in order to keep your body in check and in proportion. I tend to wear mind tucked into tall boots, or with the right style of shoe.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-23-23-pm

Even though the straight-legged jean is in, this boot cut jean works best on my body. The cut of the leg balances out my hips, but I still wear the straight jean, as you will see below.

fullsizerender-15

This trend is popular–flutter tops. This is the one I got from Anthropologie. And notice that the straight-legged jean is tucked into my boots, which elongates the body and tricks the eye. I look taller than I am.

I think we tend to believe that as we age, we have to let go of some trends simply because we are aging. There is definitely some truth to that. However, there is also truth in this statement: it’s your life—wear whatever the hell you want if it makes you feel good about yourself. When I go into Anthropologie, I know I’m not going to be able to sport all the different kinds of clothes that are in there, but I LOVE that store, so I search for pieces that will suit me now, at my age, in order to remain trendy and stylish. I’m not trying to dress like my students, mind you (I couldn’t pull that off), but there are certainly some things I still have the gumption to try and wear. I do like to stay current.

overthekneeboots

I wasn’t sure I could pull off this trend, but I do like it a lot – Over the Knee Boots. So fun!

 

fullsizerender-19

The Cold Shoulder Trend. Very popular right now.

SATURDAY | #FROCKTOBER | Day 22 Spending the day with family, catching up on grading papers, and being a chauffeur to my children in this comfy #ootd. Top from #charmingcharlie; stretch leggings #verawang; cranberry boots by #francosarto. An old leopard bag for fun and shades on my head from #anntaylor.

Another example of the Cold Shoulder Trend from my Frocktober posts.

 

img_4652-2

Another variation of the Cold Shoulder sweater.

fullsizerender-19-copy-2

Because I’m petite, I’m always afraid of being out of proportion, but I love faux fur. This poncho has just the right amount, keeping me balanced.

#FROCKTOBER Day 27 | Singing in the rain 🎶 as only 4 days remain of my month-long fashion feature for the blog. Today's #ootd features faux fur and lace. Dress #anntaylor; faux fur vest with thin belt by #jolt; lace-up black boots by #stevemaddenluxe. Fishnet stockings. See what I mean? Somehow I always gravitate toward black clothing. Happy Almost Friday, all! 💌💌💌

Another faux fur piece…a vest with a tie around the waist to keep me in proportion. Love this piece. I wear it with dresses and jeans.

Nevertheless, the true trick to dressing well after a certain age it to always consider proportion of the clothing. Just as you must consider proportion when you are decorating your home, the same holds true when decorating your own body. It’s all about proportion.

Colors also play a huge factor in how clothing looks on you. Be sure to know if you are better in warmer tones (earthy tones such as browns, beiges, greens, yellows, oranges, etc.) or in cooler tones (often referred to as jewel tones, such as emerald green, sapphire blue, true red, black, and deep purple). If you are a cooler-toned person, you may not want to wear severe colors around your face, or, if you are a cooler-toned person and you love orange, you can wear it, but it would probably be best served on your lower half. The color of your hair, skin tone, and eyes play into what colors generally look best on you.

This is a good example of how a vibrant jewel tone can give your face some life.

This is a good example of how a vibrant jewel tone can give your face some life.

But all that is just a bunch of hogwash unless you feel good in the clothes you wear. If you need help finding out what is best for you, hire a consultant to take you shopping and do your colors. Once you learn what works best both proportionally and color-wise, you’ll never wonder again.

That’s not to say we don’t break the rules now and then. We all do. But you’ll find confidence and stay fashionable all your life if you remember this one thing:

Style is truly what you make of it; it’s about how you wear the pieces you choose, not the pieces themselves.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

If You’re Going To Call Me A Name, Let It Be This

heart-1187037_960_720I’m 5’1″.

I’ve been called short before, and a lot of other names, too, that I’d rather not recall.

Nobody’s perfect.

But now that I’m all grown up (debatable), if you are going to call me a name, let these words roll off your tongue:

That girl is a hopeless romantic.

That’s a nomenclature I hold in the highest esteem.

I find the terminology particularly flattering, for in doing my research on what it means to truly be a HOPELESS ROMANTIC, these are the findings:

  • Hopeless Romantics are NOT hopeless. Not at all. They tend to be very true, caring, and loving people.
  • They believe in passion, chivalry, and true love.
  • The are in love with love.
  • They tend to believe in fairy tales and happy endings.
  • They have most likely loved intensely at one point in their life (minimum), discovered that heart-stopping, mind-tingling love, and can’t understand why it was not returned in the same fashion.
  • They are dreamers, idealists, and sincere.
  • They expect a full return of love for their efforts and caring nature—to be loved as much as they loved. (Cue Edgar Allan Poe’s lines of poetry: “We loved with a love that was more than love.”)
  • They can be let down in the long run, even though they gave all they had to give, which might include money, love, time, housing, or belongings.
  • Hopeless Romantics give 100% all the time, and hope for the same in return.
WEDNESDAY | #FROCKTOBER Day 19 | Today's #ootd ... classics with flair from #anthropologie. #moulinettesoeurs polka dot dress with lace trim; #cidra jacket; #apt9 shoes.

Ruffles and romanticism.

My own father has told me that I think life is like living in a magazine. He’s also said, “Life isn’t like Sex and the City.” I have been known to, on occasion (okay, almost every day), wear rose-colored glasses. And I favor quite feminine clothing, preferably with ruffles and softness…also harkening back to the period of romanticism.

I will say it proudly today as I sit here editing and reworking bits of my forthcoming novel, which does, undoubtedly, have romance in it:

My name is Stephanie, and I’m a HOPELESS ROMANTIC.

Are you?

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Friday Fiction: A Haunting One and A Romance

Creative fiction writers out there tend to dabble in flash fiction, which, quite simply is short form writing. It’s just like writing a short story, but even shorter. I practice writing short, short stories often, as they help writers tell a narrative within a minimum word count. I have my students engage in writing prompts, too. They are a great place to get an idea going to see where it may lead you. Of all of the pieces of short fiction I’ve written, the two below are my favorites because I think there’s potential for a longer story to grow out of each of these, whether it’s a short story or a novel.  The first is a ghost story (I never write ghost stories, so that one surprised me), and the second is the beginning of an interesting story that involves love and a fortune teller. I hope you enjoy them. Have a great Friday, all, and let me know what you think about these two that I picked and whether you think they are worth tackling in longer form.

If you’re looking for an update about my upcoming novel, I’m almost done editing. Looking forward to getting in your hands shortly!

Story #1 : AFTER I WAS DEAD

Photo credit: Daily Mail

A F T E R   I   W A S   D E A D

The enduring span of lifelessness is enough to drive me mad, as if I wasn’t driven half as mad when I lived in this ramshackle of a cottage. The cobwebs in the corners seem to have lingered for years, and yet, I haven’t been gone that long. The chandelier is full of heavy dust, the curtains look as if they may disintegrate into nothing, and the rug is almost unrecognizable, as it is covered in soot and dust and grime. It angers me that no one has cared properly for this place—this place I tended to daily. I’ve become bored with waiting, and so I decide to visit the larger home on which the cottage is set—the Hamlin Mansion.

After I was dead, I set out to let people know the truth about what happened that wintry Friday evening when the wind whipped and the trees were bent with snow. No one ever suspected that someone could have murdered me on the grounds of Hamlin Mansion, just five steps from the front door of the cottage. Why would someone want the governess dead? I could hear the roars from the folks in the town…she must have fallen and hit her head…the winds must have caught up with her and she did not see the tree limb…it was an accident of happenstance. I grew weary of hearing the townspeople make excuses for my death. It was covered up so well, I have to give him credit. There was little to no bloodshed, you see, so he was lucky in that regard. He struck me in just the right place, and where he became luckier still was that the snow piled so high that Mother Nature neatly disguised his tracks. All for the better for him, you see.

Light as feather, I can walk through walls now, something I only dreamed of doing when I was alive. I find my way to his room in the mansion, to the seemingly unlikely murderer, a boy of just sixteen, with demon eyes and glossy, albino hair. He is still unlike any other person I have—had—ever met in my lifetime. There was always something ruthless and unsettling about his looks as well as his manners. In this he is frighteningly unique. I dare say, he has no remorse about anything he does or says. He is an unlikely offspring to the lovely husband and wife who own Hamlin Mansion, Greta and Theodore Hamlin. This child of theirs is a sad outcome of what should have been proper breeding.

He sits in the corner of the room reading by lamplight, though the room is dingy and unkempt. He is permitted to treat his belongings and his part of the home with a complete disregard, and that is perhaps one of the final straws where I was concerned. As his governess, I did not accept his lazy ways, his cruel retributions, his off-putting mannerisms. It was my mistake that I stood up to him…questioned him…demanded that his studies be turned into me before the snowstorm hit…and reported his questionable behavior several times prior to my demise to the Mistress of the house.

I glide toward him. His water glass is next to the lamp on the table, and I focus with all of my might and lift it, then tilt it ever so gently, so that the full glass fills his lap with water. He screams. He stands up and begins to frantically wipe the water off of himself. He stares at the empty glass on the floor. I’m going to have fun with him, I think. Again, I concentrate and will the glass to float in the air and place it firmly in its place back on the table.

His face goes whiter than it ever has been, and his hair stands on end. He is a most unattractive creature.

“Who are you?” he shouts into the air, a frightful, frantic question piercing the silence.

I try to yell, but realize I make no sound.

But there is a quill pen on the table, and his book remains there as well.

I use all the power I have inside of me to open the book, grab the quill, and start to write. Much to my pleasant surprise, the ink is showing up on the page.

“You killed me,” I wrote.

He begins to hyperventilate, and I stand by and watch. The little brat. The little brat who got away with murder.

This could entertain me for days upon end, I think.

Story #2: THE FORTUNE TELLER

“That boy loves you,” the old woman next door calls to me as she sees Nick peel away in his black BMW. She is sitting on her stoop in the 98 degree weather, her dyed red hair in old-fashioned rollers, her socks gathered at her heels in her slip-ons. The look on her face indicates that she wants me to engage in further conversation. We have been friendly since we’ve lived next to each other in the row homes of Baltimore, but have never had a long, in-depth conversation.

“He may, but he’s leaving,” I say.

“Probably for the best,” she replies.

I’ve lived beside this odd-looking woman for almost a year, and she pretty much keeps to herself. She knows nothing of my personal life. Her name’s Mable, and I’ve heard others on the block refer to her as “the palm reader,” though she has no official business. I don’t believe in fortune tellers and have never engaged in any sort of it.

“Come here,” she says. “I’ll show you.”

For curiosity’s sake, I walk down the steps from where I am, and climb the four steps to meet her on her stoop. I’m tempted to see what she knows, trying not to let the tears fall in front of her. Her appearance alone warrants concern; there seems to be a twitch in her eye, and she’s wearing more mascara than a runway model. It looks uneven and gloppy. Her coral-colored lipstick goes beyond the outlines of her lips. It is difficult to take her seriously.

She stretches out her hand and asks for my palm. I extend my hand and turn my palm over for her to see.

PalmreadingShe examines it. “There is a lot of passion, here,” she’s pointing to the line that runs up across my palm in a curve where the line ends at the base of my fingertips. “There’s a great deal of love for that boy.”

I nod.

“However, you will not see him again after today,” she says.

I feel a lump build in my throat.

She continues to look at my hand. “You have a good career, but you’re not quite sure if you want to stay in it. You’re thinking of uprooting yourself and moving someplace far away.”

I get a little chill up my spine. I’ve had this particular thought on and off for the past month, and I’ve told no one. Not even Nick. Not my own parents, or my best friend, Ava.

She focuses on one particular line on my hand, tracing it with her fingertip for what feels like hours, studying it with concerned eyes. She looks puzzled.

“Interesting,” she says.

“What?” I ask, now confused.

“You will travel. You will go where you’ve considered going, and you will be happy.”

“Without Nick,” I say, more as a statement than a question.

“Yes,” she says. “There will be passion again, but only if you go.”

Nick and I have been together for a year. However, I can’t be with him long term, nor should we ever have been together. Nick is unhappily married. He lives apart from his wife, but they are not formally divorced. Nor are there any plans for them to be so. The passion with which Mable speaks is true; it currently exists, but it is a sick, twisted, unhealthy passion, and it has become the ruin of me.

Three weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity to work for my friend’s father’s business in Rome. I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and have seriously contemplated accepting it.

I scoff at the idea of leaving for a moment, and then I stop. She sees my face, and gives me a crooked, quirky smile.

Mable is offbeat, eccentric, ridiculously dressed, and the oddest person I’ve ever talked to, but something tells me to listen. Something makes me take her seriously.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

7 Tips For Working From Home

working-from-home

Sometimes in the winter, I’ll take the laptop into the dining area and sit next to the large picture window to get some light.

Many people have the luxury of working from home; in our digital age where more and more work can be done via texting, emails, Skype, and phone conversations (yes, some of us still like to use the telephone), the ability to work from home offers people wonderful liberties. However, with that liberty comes our own responsibility to get the job done, without distractions. How can you set yourself up to work from home to be the most effective? Steph’s Scribe has seven quick tips to help you be as successful as possible.

1-Shower and get dressed in the morning, even if you’re not going to leave the house. Psychologically, this works great for me. If I know I have a lot to accomplish that day, even if I will never move my car from the garage, I still shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, and start my day fresh. Just doing this simple exercise in the morning helps me to know I have things to accomplish, and I approach the day as professionally as possible. This does not mean I wear a suit and high heels, but I do NOT wear sweatpants and sneakers. (Actually, I typically DO wear heels because they make my 5’1″ frame taller).

2-Set up a space that is your own. In my previous home, I set up my office upstairs, because when my children were little, I worked at night and wanted to be on the same floor as they were. I painted the walls a light blue, hung pink curtains, and, yes, I got a chandelier. I have to be inspired by a space, but I also have to know that when I go in there to work, it’s all about work. In our current home, it came with a built-in office on the first floor, so that’s where I work now. And yes, it used to have a ceiling fan, but now it has a chandelier. Again, I have to be inspired and everyone in our family knows that when someone is working in there, it is all about the work.

The office in my former home.

The office in my former home.

Our current home office.

Our current home office.

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-12-02-55-pm

3- Take breaks, but don’t stray. Sitting for long periods at a time isn’t good for you either. Be sure to take breaks. When you have your lunch, move away from the work area and eat in another room in your house; don’t be compelled to eat “at your desk.” Also, take a short walk in the middle of the day. It will clear your mind and offer you a new perspective.

4-Make a “to do” list to prioritize tasks the night before. As a writer, sometimes my “to do” list may just say “write a chapter.” As a professor, my “to do” list may say “write the syllabus” or “draft an assignment.” Years ago when I had my own consulting business as a writer and designer, I aimed to tackle the administrative work first and left the creative endeavors for the afternoon. Whatever tasks need immediate attention, write them on your list and take pleasure in crossing them off so that the first thing you do is GET STUFF DONE. This will make you feel as if your day is off to a good start and you are on your way to completing aspects of your job.

5-Set time limits for yourself when your loved ones are around. If you work from home and have a family, you may want to set up some parameters. For example, you may have to work on a Saturday. Saying, “Mom will be in the office from 8 a.m. until noon, so I’d like to plow through my work in order to spend the rest of the afternoon with you guys,” may be a great way to communicate that you have to accomplish some tasks during a specific range of time. The same could be true in the late afternoons or evenings. Sometimes, while my kids are doing their homework, I’m working on my own work or projects, so doing it together is also an option.

This is the clock I ended up buying for the porch. Fun, blue, a little girlie (but not too much), and it's deceiving in this photo. It is actually enormous.

If you have trouble keeping track of your time, get a bigger clock! I’ve got this one on my screened-in back porch where I work during the warmer months. I love working outside when I can.

6-Find music that inspires you…and play it! I’m always amazed at people who can put their ear buds in and work as music hammers away. I’m not one of these folks. However, I do enjoy background music sometimes. When I am writing and I have the house to myself, I either have to have silence or music without words, such as classical music or those relaxing CDs you can get from Target near the card aisle. The difference between working in an office or working from home is that you can play your music at your own desired level, and no one will tell you to turn it down (unless your kids tell you to do so…and that’s called irony!)

7-Enjoy your freedom. You are blessed to be able to live this type of lifestyle. Embrace it and enjoy it. You’re getting the opportunity to balance work and home life. And every once in a while, schedule a lunch date. You’ve worked for it, after all.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Yes, You Are Creative

bigmagicpbI can’t tell you how many times in my advertising and writing classes I teach at the university that I hear students tell me that they are not creative, or that they just don’t have a lot of creativity in their bones. As someone who has been teaching for over 25 years, I think I can safely say at this point that people underestimate their power to be creative, and that more often than not, they are quite capable of creating something that is better than they expected.

All they need is a push and someone to convincingly tell them that they’ve got creativity brewing inside them.

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’ve wanted to write a book about creativity for years, and in fact, have presented ideas on creativity at conferences for several years. Truthfully, it has become a big fascination of mine. Gilbert’s book is so spot on and insightful; within the text, grants us permission to be creative and put our talents to work, just in case no one else ever gave us room to do so. She carefully, humorously, and convincingly builds the argument that we, as humans, have always made things. So, if we wants to be writers, painters, or any other type of artists or inventors, why do we feel the need not to put that dream at the forefront of our endeavors? As she states on page 85, “If you’re supporting yourself financially and you’re not bothering anyone else, then you’re free to do whatever you want with your life.” She further states on page 89 that “creativity is the hallmark of our species.”

quotes-from-elizabeth-gilbert-big-magic

So why do so many people believe they are not creative? We must believe we are.

writerA writer myself, especially when I am writing fiction, I must go to that deep place of creativity often, and I have to rely on empathy to be able to feel or understand what a certain character might be going through. This kind of writing requires you to be inspired—by place, person, or thing. But we cannot even get to this place if we don’t believe we are creative. Believing we are creative is half the battle.

Bloggers understand this, too. If you are to be a consistent blogger, it requires consistent creativity to come up with article ideas and then implement them for readers. Even sitting here now, I feel as if I’m in my creative zone drafting this piece for you to read.

I highly recommend Big Magic to anyone who works in a creative field, for students who have to make things or write things in classes, for moms who have an idea to make something that will simplify life at home or with kids, and for any other folks who have a strong yearning to break out of the everyday drudgery of what they do and tackle that creative thing that will make your heart sing.

You ARE creative. We all are.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-05-18-pm

That’s me holding the draft of Inn Significant, which I wrote almost entirely on my laptop on my back porch last summer. I find a lot of inspiration when I am outside listening to nature.

 

xx |

 

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.