What It Feels Like to Finish Writing a Novel

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Well, friends, I’m coming down the home stretch. By next week, my novel will be written, if it does not happen sooner than that. People have asked me this question: what does it feel like to finish a novel?

As this will be the third one I have published, it feels a little like saying goodbye.

What I mean by that is you live and breathe the characters and their situations for so long, that when you’re done writing their story, their story is over, and you have to say farewell.

The creative process of actually building and telling the story is my absolute favorite part of novel writing. Rewriting, reworking, and all the marketing are certainly not my favorite aspects. As you develop your work of fiction, you are permitted to live vicariously through your characters and the plot; you imagine their paths, conversations, and hardships, and you allow them to develop and change for your reader. There is never a point in my writing when I don’t think about the reader. The reader is always at the forefront of my mind with regard to this craft. I never want to disappoint, and if I do, I promise you, it is not intentional.

As I begin to write the final two chapters of this book, knowing full well how it will proceed and how it will end, a sense of melancholy comes along with it.

I’m still on track for a September delivery, and I intend to keep my promise.

And so, in the end, when people ask me what it feels like to finish a novel, I can only respond this way: it feels as if another part of you is set free, which is wonderful, but it also feels a great deal like saying goodbye to something you love.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

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Summer is Great, But Autumn is My Favorite

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I’ve already begun to look at the fall fashion trends, and two days ago I bought two new pairs of boots at the outlets in Queenstown, Maryland. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not wishing summer away or anything, but Fall has always been my favorite season.

As someone who is not a huge fan of humidity, I look forward to the autumn air that’s cool and crisp in the mornings. I love watching the leaves change colors. And, I love the look of fall clothing. Boots are my absolute favorite. I pretty much wear them from October 1 all the way through April (especially last year when April, and even May, were stunningly cool).

Elle magazine has posted its take on the Fall 2016 trends, which I’ve linked to here. Simply click to see what that publication is predicting. Some of it looks pretty fantastic—and romantic.

Some of my favorite fashion inspiration photos are below, and my singular goal again this year is to diversify my bland fall and winter wardrobe and add more color to it. Care to join me?

Photo credit: blog.boden.com
Photo credit: blog.boden.com

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Photo credit: Bodenusa.com
Photo credit: Bodenusa.com
Photo credit: Anthropologie.com
Photo credit: Anthropologie.com

Back at Camden Yards, Pangs of Nostalgia and Thankfulness

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This morning I took a ride to Camden Yards. It was surreal—like going back in time to the commute I did for many years from 1992 through 1998 when I was a full-time employee of the ballclub. (Prior to that, beginning in 1985, I commuted to old Memorial Stadium). I had to pick up something from our friend Mark at the Orioles offices for my son’s birthday. On my drive in, as I am often capable of doing, I became nostalgic remembering old times. I also got to thinking about how that job of working for the Orioles completely transformed my life. And I don’t write that lightly. It seriously did transform my life as I’ve written about several times before here on the blog.

What it also did was to inform my current job—that of professor of business communication at Stevenson University. Being able to talk about my experiences working in several different departments, including public relations, community relations, publishing, and Orioles productions gave me such a foundation of knowledge, that today, when I am in the classroom, I still use work experiences to illustrate points we learn in the textbooks we read. That added working knowledge I bring to the table helps me be a better teacher. Additionally, since I love to tell stories, it also gives me a lot of fodder; and trust me, I don’t hold back. Sharing the good experiences along with the bad helps my students understand concepts and theories they are studying. And finally, that job working in baseball also helped inform my writing of Baseball Girl, the fictional novel I published last year about life working in professional baseball, which of course, was loosely based on my own life and experiences working in the sport.

My year working for The Baltimore Sun was not an easy one, but I certainly learned a lot from it. The two years following that when I owned and operated my own consulting business taught me even more about responsibility and ownership and making the client happy. And many of those clients I worked with because I had connections to them from my days at the Orioles.

I don’t know if it’s because there’s been a lot of turmoil in the world and country lately or because I see a lot of vitriolic hate and vehement opinions on world and political events on Facebook (of which I will take no part in; you will never see me talk politics either here on the blog or on my Facebook page, because, truthfully, no one wants my opinion, and likewise, I don’t care to hear anyone else’s either), but I woke up feeling nothing but thankful this morning. I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve worked hard to make a difference in each career in which I’ve had the opportunity to engage. My work experiences have helped inform my teaching, and I’ll forever be grateful for those teachable moments that help me provide my own teachable moments to our wonderful students.

And that’s today’s bit of Monday Morning Nostalgia, brought to you by a sentimental, sappy fool.:-)

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

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Why We Love “Follow Your Dream” Stories

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Last night, while on vacation in Hilton Head, our waiter, Michael, still with a heavy accent originally from Queens, NY, told us how he came to live on the island. “I was working in construction, and in 1991, Hilton Head was booming. After vacationing here, I packed up my stuff, moved, and did pretty well here. And, I’m still here all these years later.”

We all love these types of stories—stories of people who just decide to follow their dream. A former student of mine, Jen, just recently decided to make a move to Florida. She got a job and has left Maryland for the Sunshine State. Another former student of mine, Shane, packed up his car, Steve, and headed for California. You have to give them credit. They can visualize what they want to do and where they want to be.

We admire these types of people who just follow an impulse, dream, idea and just do it. So often we say, “When this happens, I’ll do it…” or “When I get older,” but really, the time is now, as these folks have proven is the case.

I remember reading a story in a magazine years ago about a husband and wife who were both important, high-earning Wall Street executives. They both quit their jobs, moved to a sea town in New Jersey, and opened a small store. This story has always stuck with me; they found a cute house, fixed it up, and lived happily ever after in their small town.

When you consider the rat-race of life sometimes, simplifying seems quite appealing. But the ultimate endeavor for us all is to follow our dreams, even if some people may not see or understand our own personal goals and how they relate to our dreams. If we’re lucky, like the couple I mentioned above, our dreams may coincide.

We love “follow your dreams” stories because we all wish we had the courage or the means to do it. They are our dreams, after all.

 

 

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Savannah in Pictures

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Savannah City Hall

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Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Yes, Savannah in June and July is H-O-T. To my fellow Marylanders: the humidity in our area ain’t nothing compared to the humidity in the South. It blows ours away. If your hair is anything like mine, you can count on it being out of control during a summer tour of Savannah, Georgia. In fact, one hair stylist, upon seeing the condition of my hair, recommended that I get a Brazilian blowout.

Speaking of tours, we thoroughly enjoyed our two-hour walking tour with Savannah Dan. He’s theatrical and full of knowledge about the history of his city. You’ll learn all about the squares, the ghosts of Savannah, and why The Olde Pink House is pink (yes, there’s a story there). We enjoyed a tour of the Owens-Thomas House with a lovely docent from the U.K.

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Savannah Dan

The highlight of our daughter’s visit to Savannah was playing the piano in the piano bar at The Olde Pink House. In between the pianist’s sets, my daughter was invited to play the piano—and she received a big applause from the crowd and lots of encouragement from the musicians in the place. It was a real thrill for her, and one she won’t soon forget.

As far as the food goes, you will not be disappointed. Savannah was ranked one of the Top 17 cities for food by Zagat in 2015. You won’t want to miss out on some good old fashioned cheesy shrimp and grits, and Leopold’s Ice Cream was ranked in the Top 5 in the world by the Tribune Media Service.

The streets are charming, as you will see in my photographs. If you enjoy touring tree-lined streets with Spanish moss, a beautiful, historic waterfront, and picturesque park squares filled with American history, Savannah just may be your next destination.

I’ll stop writing now and just show you SAVANNAH IN PICTURES.

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Update on Novel #3 And Words of Encouragement

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I’ve been working on my third novel this summer, and have been having so much fun doing the research and writing of this one. It’s different from the previous two, but it’s an idea that’s been in my head for several years. Finally, it is all coming together.

UPDATES

  • Currently, I have 42,000+ words written–This novel will probably top out at around 55,000 words to 60,000 words and will be about the same length as Beneath the Mimosa Tree (novel #1).
  • People have asked me how I write, what my writing process is, and if I outline my novel. I do not make outlines (nor am I a list maker, much to my husband’s dismay). While I am a little Type A where my professional life is concerned as a professor, as a creative writer, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. I let the characters and plot grow organically, and I always keep in the back of my mind this thought: “What would I want as a reader?” I often do a sketch of each character, including what they like, how they look, what their favorite things are, what they collect, etc. I usually write down anything that helps mold the characters so I know them intimately.
  • Additionally, I do a lot of editing as I go along. I write a chapter, and then the next morning, I go back through it and edit it. By editing each chapter as I go, I catch mistakes, make any vocabulary changes or awkward sentence changes necessary. When the novel is completely finished, I go through it several times, first as a reader, and then as an editor (many times), and then finally, again, as a reader. This is the hardest part of the job, but setting aside time for it is key.DSC_0143
  • I have decided to once again self-publish my novel. As a control freak of my projects, I enjoy the entire process, from writing the draft and editing it to designing the cover and pages, as well as marketing it. All of these are challenges, but I relish the opportunity to show my students how things can be done if you tackle them one at a time.
  • I have already secured my ISBN number, and the front cover is designed. I am very, very excited to show this to you when it all comes together. The back cover design is in progress, but takes much less time than the cover.
  • The novel is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Oxford, one of my favorite towns. The opportunity to showcase the loveliness of the Eastern Shore and its people is at the heart of my novel.

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    This is the collection of short stories I hope to finish by year’s end.
  • I am hoping to  launch the new novel in September.
  • Fingers crossed. (Really…one never knows).
  • My other book, which I already have in progress, is a collection of short stories and poetry. I’m still working on two short stories for the publication, so I hope to finally set that into motion by the end of the year.

ENCOURAGEMENT

  • I love to write and tell stories. To those of you who think you might have a story in your head that you would like to tell, I suggest you do it. There is nothing more rewarding than writing what you love, telling stories you want to tell, and hopefully, having readers enjoy them. Keep at it, and don’t give up. As a mom with two busy (very busy) kids, a husband with a crazy work and travel schedule, and my own demanding professional life, I am proof that when you set your mind to something, you can do it. I know you can.
  • Take baby steps the first time you write something. I think the reason why projects stay incomplete is because it feels daunting. Think of it as a tennis match: if you think too far ahead, you may lose the game, and then the match. Instead, think one point at a time: just win the next point. That’s the same approach to writing a novel. Just write one chapter. Then the next. And soon, you will see, you just might starting racking up games and actually finish (and win) the match.HemingwayQuotexx |signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

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One Little Prayer

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My daughter and me, September 2015.

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When I read the reflections my students wrote at the end of last semester, I was surprised so many of them cited an article by writer Tom Junod as their favorite. It  wasn’t because Junod isn’t a fantastic technical and creative writer—he is; I find him brilliant—but rather because they were so moved by Junod’s storytelling. Can You Say…Hero? is Junod’s 1998 profile piece from Esquire about Mister Rogers. That’s right…the late Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that iconic PBS show that lasted for decades. And some of my students barely knew who he was.

The article is a glimpse into the real Fred Rogers, and he isn’t too far off from the man we saw on television. Junod crafted a masterpiece, one filled with Mister Rogers’ beliefs, love, and charity toward fellow man. He was humble beyond belief. But perhaps what moved us most of all is the ending: a single prayer Fred Rogers urges the writer to say when he is at a complete loss. The prayer consists of three words: Thank you, God.

I found myself uttering those exact words yesterday morning as tears filled my eyes. I had to hold it together when a specialist doctor who examined my daughter for something the general pediatrician discovered during a routine visit told me: “She is fine.”

Immediately, I thought of Junod’s article, the power of spirituality, and Mister Rogers, who humbled us all and made us understand so powerfully what one little prayer can do.

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To read Mr. Junod’s piece, click here. And let me know what you thought of it.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

When Someone Dies

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I’ll keep this post short and sweet because it’s Friday as well as Father’s Day weekend, and I don’t want to be glum or morose, but…

The other day, a former student of mine passed away in an unfortunate car accident. She graduated in December. Those who knew her are saddened by her death, especially at the young age of 22. When someone passes at that age, it’s unexpected, and we have to come to terms with a loss like that. And while that in itself is difficult to grasp, it is no less sad when someone older dies. No matter what age, when we love and care about someone, we always wish we had longer with them, and I’m sure my whole family would say that’s true about my grandparents. While we did have some time, we never believe it’s quite long enough.

So, as we move on from talk of death, we take with us sharp reminders–that life is precious, and we owe it to ourselves to not just say we’re going to live life to the fullest and live with gratitude, but to actually do it.

Have a safe an happy weekend, all. And Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there.

In memory of Ebi Short, July 13, 1993 – June 14, 2016

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

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Walking for Mind, Body, Spirit…AND To Improve Creativity

Approaching the golf course in our neighborhood on today's walk.
Approaching the golf course in our neighborhood on today’s walk.

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It’s 1:35 p.m. on a sunny, gorgeous Friday here in Maryland where the temps are a stunning 79 degrees, and I’ve just returned from an hour-long walk. There are no excuses when the weather is this spectacular. As someone who admittedly has not taken very good care of herself over the last few years and has put other things and other people first, I’ve committed the summer to my overall physical and mental well-being. From reading to writing to exercising daily and eating better, it’s time for me to get serious about my lifestyle.

I’m not hear to preach about your health; Weight Watchers, your doctor, and your own family do that for you. But what I can attest to is that walking helps clear the mind, especially if you walk by yourself. Doing it for one hour allows you the time to just reset your brain, reflect on things, and put some distance between you, work, family, and friends. There’s nothing wrong with a little alone time.

It’s amazing how revitalized you can feel after strutting your stuff for one hour at a good pace. I love walking in my neighborhood–there’s so much to see. Many neighbors are in the midst of home renovations, the golf course sits in the middle of the neighborhood, and the trees, flowers, and landscaping of the homes provide an excellent landscape to entertain me. There’s always something new to see.

Walking also helps boost your creativity. According to research by Stanford University in 2014, it’s proven that walking helps creativity. I do some of my best thinking when I’m walking, and I come home and incorporate things I thought about into my stories. Writers are always told to seek inspiration from outside sources, and nature is a wonderful source of just that.

If you’re not in the habit of walking, you may want to give it a try. It really does invigorate your body, spirit, and your mind.

The beautiful sky from last night's walk...and airplane headed to BWI Airport.
The beautiful sky from last night’s walk…and an airplane headed to BWI Airport.

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Day Trip to Oxford and Easton, Maryland (where my new novel is set)

DSC_0143My mom and I typically spend a day together before my kids get out of school for the summer, and today, our day trip took us to Oxford, Maryland. This trip was for fun, but it was also for another reason: we had to do a little research because my new novel takes place there. I like to use the names of real places in my settings to make the fiction feel as real as possible. Therefore, it was up to us to do some legwork so I can finish writing this novel and keep it as true to the setting and feel of Oxford as possible.

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As I have been hunkered down writing for the last couple of weeks, and as I still have much more to go, I will stop blogging and let the photographs speak to the sweetness of the places. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Oxford is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near St. Michaels and Easton. All three towns have beauty and charm all their own, and while we didn’t spend time in St. Michaels today, we did have lunch in Easton and shopped in a few of the boutiques.

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I can’t wait to finish writing this novel. I’m excited by the storyline, characters, and even the cover, which I recently designed. Now for the photos, as I get back to writing…

P.S. That’s my mom standing near the harbor area where the ferry comes in in Oxford.

OXFORD, MARYLAND

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EASTON, MARYLAND

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xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

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The Game is Always On: The Truth About Being an Indie Author

Verni BooksI don’t know about you, fellow indie authors, but there are only so many hours in the day for us to write and promote our books. However, the game is always on, and you can’t afford to slack. For me, writing is the most pleasurable and most fun part of being an independent author, just because I love the creative process so much. The marketing is by far the most challenging, and so we rely on others to help us via word-of-mouth or shares on social media.

I’m knee deep into writing my third novel, and it’s going well so far. I hope to complete this book by the end of summer. While writing projects are so much fun, we can’t let up on continuing to promote the other works we’ve crafted. It’s a struggle to juggle the sea of promotion and production.

I’ve had to become adept at social media over the years, and truthfully, sometimes I feel as if I’m failing miserably. Nevertheless, we do what we can do. We trudge forth, balancing that time to write vs. that time to market.

My advice? Though it may feel overwhelming at times (it certainly does for me), I don’t regret a single minute of the time I’ve spent on my passion. When I released Beneath the Mimosa Tree, my husband asked me what would make me happy–how many books did I want to sell? My reply was that I didn’t really have a specific number in mind, but that my overall goal was for readers to enjoy it. The same was true for Baseball Girl, which received an honorable mention in last year’s Readers’ Favorite Contest for sports fiction.

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That’s what makes me continue to write, to market, to promote, and to flounder a bit. I’ve taken to Instagram and have a lot of fun on that platform because I enjoy taking photographs; Steph’s Scribe and  Paperblog  provide bloggers with a broad audience; and the daily Facebook and Twitter posts must continue. In the end, being an independent author requires you to focus on one particular segment of the population: YOUR READERS. It’s all about those who actually read your work or intend to read your work, and who will, hopefully, enjoy it.

Marketing your books is a ton of work, but just as we become better writers, we also must strive to become better marketers.

I’m still learning.

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Our Garden Inspired by Literature

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As an avid reader and writer, the books I have read over the years have influenced me or affected me in so many different ways, it would be difficult to pinpoint each one  and just how important they have been. However, an easier aspect to address would be gardens we read about it literature, and just how much those references have influenced the garden at our home.

When we read authors such as Jane Austen, Rosamunde Pilcher, or Maeve Binchy, strolls through the garden are quite commonplace; there are often descriptions of lush gardens with colorful flowers. There is something incredibly romantic about blooming gardens, and I’ve always loved authors who incorporate descriptions of the landscape of gardens and flowers into their stories. Additionally, because yours truly is a hopeless romantic, I always dreamed of having a garden that resembles an English one, and I think we’re pretty close to achieving that goal.

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As this year marks our second year of new landscaping on the property we bought three years ago, I’ve enjoyed watching the garden spring back to life. It’s much richer than it was last year, and our landscape architect, who totally got what I wanted when I mentioned the words “English cottage garden,” nailed the fact that we wanted color blooming all season. Right now, we have purples, yellows, oranges, and even some pinks in the front garden, with more stages of blooms to come. His design ensured that we’d have pops of color from spring through the fall.

Last night’s weather gave us some interesting skies, and although we never got the severe storms the weather folks predicted, the skies grew dark for a bit, and then, the sky brightened and turned an interesting color, which I tried my best to capture with my Nikon.

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