Friday Fiction – A Short Story WIP

pexels-photo-459694.jpegFor the past three years, I’ve been dabbling in short fiction here and there, in between writing novels and working. I used to love writing short stories, even going as far back as to middle school. Now, I prefer the longer form of novel writing, but I still like to practice the short form.

The short story requires writers to tell a quick story—one where you get to know the subject and characters right away—in a minimum amount of words. This is a challenge, and it’s not easy to do.

I’m sharing today a WIP – a WORK IN PROGRESS. Part One is almost done, though not refined. I still have to write Part Two, and it’s taking me some time because I have to do a little World War II research on dates and things.

Anyway, as I’m not shy to share my process and love for writing, I thought I’d post what I have so far. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. I love the time period from the early 1900s up until the 1950s. I love big band music, that fashion from that era, and stories of World War II (and World War I). For Inn Significant, I had to research the Great Depression, and I enjoyed learning more about that time period so I could write Nana’s journals. So you’ll see, I have more work to do here.

But what the heck, I’ll share what I have so far. This will eventually go into my short story collection called The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. I hope to have that out sometime this year.



War, Books and Ladybugs (working title)

A Short Story Draft by Stephanie Verni | copyright March 2018

The day her father left, Sophie cried. She stood at the end of the dirt path, her mother inside the house refusing to see him off, too resentful of what it was doing to her family to say goodbye. As the car destined for town that would have all the men board a bus that would take them to Fort Bragg arrived, her father gave a short wave and nod to her, and she waved back, fighting back the tears as hard as she could as he hoisted his sack into the vehicle and leaned inside. That’s when the tears began to flow. At twelve, Sophie was well aware of the dangers her father could face and the possibility that he may never return home safely. Plenty of her friends back home had lost their own fathers months earlier. Because of the stories she had heard and the sadness she had seen on the faces of people she knew well, she could understand her mother’s apprehension, worry, and desperation at the thought of being left to fend for herself and her child in this world.

The other end of the dirt path sat at the stone walkway to Sophie’s grandmother’s house, a grand white home with a sprawling front porch and wooden front steps perched in the lower mountains of Lynchburg. Her grandmother had taken them in while her father fought for the liberties of others. They had given up their own home four hours away up north, the one where they had lived for years, the one Sophie had called home, and the one where she had first believed in Lady Luck.

When her father had told her the news that he was called up and headed to Fort Bragg, he relayed the news that Sophie and her mother would be moving and living with Grandma. They sat on their porch together back in Maryland, as he tried desperately to comfort her.

“It’s my duty,” he had said, trying to rationalize the idea of war and tighting to a young girl. “We have to protect what we believe is right.”

Sophie looked at him with her big blue eyes, her hair knotted from playing outside, her freckles more apparent because she was in the sun so often. She swallowed hard, knowing the decision was already made and there was no turning back.

As she reached to give her father a hug, a ladybug landed on Sophie’s shoulder, then another one on her thigh. Her dad looked at them and smiled.

“Well, Sophie-Belle, looks like you just brought us some luck.”

“There are so many more this year,” Sophie said, looking at the small red and black beetle her dad had collected into the palm of his hand.

“Perhaps I won’t be gone for long after all,” her father said.

She remembered that day now, listening to the happy sounds of birds chirping in early spring, as she walked back up to the house remembering how she said goodbye to her father right here, the dirt flying off the tires of the car, as her dad disappeared down the road, off to protect his family in a different way.

She also remembered opening the door to the house and seeing her mother standing near the window staring straight ahead, a handkerchief in her hand. It was then that Sophie began to worry, and had subsequently remained worried for two full years.


pexels-photo-454880.jpegSophie played with Casper, her uncle’s dog, and ate brunch every Sunday on the wraparound porch of her grandmother’s house. They tried desperately not to pay too much attention to news from the war. They knew her father was in Europe—in France somewhere—and that things were not going as well as they had hoped. Only three letters had arrived so far. Her uncle, Timothy, would read the letters aloud as they would gather to hear her father’s words on paper. Timothy would not be joining the fight, as he had polio, walked with a severe limp—sometimes even with a cane—despite being only twenty-one years old himself. Polio did not discriminate, and although he had a positive outlook on life most of the time, Sophie had only seen him become bitter because of his fate once or twice. For the most part, he was cheerful and supportive. Timothy and her mother, although she was years older, had a strong bond. In the heat of the summer, her uncle would take her swimming, and they would all wade in the James River, and occasionally get a ride in friend’s rowboat, where she watched fish jump and attempted to catch something with a measly stick, string, and foul piece of a chicken wing. Sophie loved listening to the sounds of the crickets as she attempted to count stars while her uncle would play his guitar and her mother would sing, her lilting, soft voice echoing in the night air. At times, Sophie found herself listening to her mother’s voice as she sang, for it sounded hollow and melancholy.

Her grandmother did her best to keep them all from dwelling on what was happening in Europe. In fact, it was her grandmother who turned off the WLVA radio broadcast one night, they’d listen to report after report and become more depressed for doing so. It had become increasingly more difficult to listen to reports about the war and Hitler and lives lost. Her hands were poised on her hips, and she uttered the words, “No more.” They all looked at her standing there in her apron, her hair tied tightly in a bun on the top of her head, the lines on her face looking just a bit deeper than they did months ago.

“I have an idea,” she said.

She told Sophie, Timothy, and Sophie’s mother to all pile into the car and snatched the keys to her vehicle. The smell of autumn was in the air, despite that it was only September. The smell of the outdoors awakened Sophie’s senses. It was dusk, and her Grandmother put the keys into the ignition and began the drive down the roads lit only by the headlights and the early moonlight.

“Where are we going, Grandma?” Sophie asked, still unsure as to what her grandmother’s great idea might be.

“You will see soon,” she said.

After several minutes, Sophie could see buildings take form in front of her, and she knew they had reached downtown Lynchburg. What was going on this evening, she wondered. Where was her grandmother taking them at this hour?

When they rounded the corner, Sophie could see a grand building with a rotunda roof rising up in front of them. It was one of Lynchburg’s landmarks, and Sophie knew it immediately. Her grandmother—very much in control of her red Packard station wagon, a veritable renegade whom Sophie always admired for her positive attitude and spunk—pulled over and parked on the street in front of the Jones Memorial Library.

“We are going to the Library, Mother?” Sophie’s mother said aloud in an incredulous tone.

“We are.”

“But what on Earth for?”

“To take our minds off the news…the war. Let me show you what’s inside.”

Sophie’s grandmother had been working for many years at the library. She was one of three main librarians there.

After struggling to get the key in the door as the library had been closed for a couple of hours, her grandmother finally gained entrance. Sophie loved the smell of the place—the smell of hardback covers and a mustiness that she couldn’t quite describe. Sophie’s grandmother turned on the dim lights, and the four of them stood in the middle and looked around. Libraries are typically a quiet place, but tonight, this one felt cathartic. There was something peaceful about it.

“Come to the back storage room,” her grandmother said, not in a whisper voice, but rather a regular talking voice. “I want to show you something.”

She opened the door to the storage room, Sophie right behind her, and they looked. There were hundreds of books scattered all over the place—on the floor, on the tables, and stacked up on chairs.

“What is all this?” Sophie asked.

“These are the books that we can no longer use,” her grandmother said. “They are either too old, falling apart, or we have so many extra copies we don’t know what to do with them. The head librarian gave us permission to get what we want first, and then we will have a little library sale and make a little extra money. So, as you can see, there are many. I will make a donation to the library, and we will have first choice, as I was approved to do so. I suggest we all pick three or four books to take home. I even cleared off a couple of shelves so we can have a begin to create our own home library. Or, we can just borrow from this library. But I want us reading and sharing—I’ve always wanted to do that. Does that sound like fun? Does it sound like something we could do to take our minds off the news reports?”

Sophie watched her mother intently, waiting to see her reply. Her mother was one to keep everything locked down deep inside and not share anything—not her feelings, her concerns, her worry, or her desire to be distracted by something. Sophie kept a keen eye on her to see how she would respond to her mother’s idea.

“I think it’s an ingenious idea, Mother,” Sophie’s mother said aloud to all of them. “I like it very much. I’d like to get lost in a good book and escape. And I’d like to get Sophie reading more.”

“Then it’s settled. If you want to purchase a few books, let’s do it. If you want to borrow some books, let’s do it. So here are the rules: we each pick three or four books we like to begin and that will make 12 books for our initial run at this thing. We can share what we are reading and how we like the books when we have dinner at night. Then, if we like the stories, we can exchange them and talk about them. But let’s sink our teeth into something other than these war stories that leave us depressed.”

And so they began to shuffle through the abundance of books in the back room. Sophie likened it to Christmas morning when they would open their presents, although there had been few the last few years. Books made a wonderful companion to the long winter’s nights that would lay before them as the weather would soon be changing, and so Sophie plowed right in, searching for just the right ones to start off with on this new reading adventure. Sophie found a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries and The Hundred Dresses; her mother decided upon Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; her grandmother scooped up The Portable Dorothy Parker and Agatha Christie’s Death Comes As The End; and her uncle spotted The Fountainhead and The Ministry of Fear.

Sophie could feel her spirits lifting as she perused the books. She liked reading, but she did not read enough, despite that her grandmother worked at the library. She was intrigued by the idea of reading and sharing; it gave her something to look forward to. Maybe she would read them all. She was turning into a young lady now, and perhaps she could attempt to read more sophisticated literature.

As they finished selecting their books, Sophie heard her mother say, “Do you think I could work here, too? Do they need any extra help?”

Sophie could not hear her grandmother’s reply, but she understood why her mother was asking. The library was certainly a place where one could get lost and forget all her problems.

They made their ride home in silence, each one of them pensive, thinking of their books, each one doing his or her best not to mention the word ‘war.’



When Sophie’s father’s letter finally arrived, it looked worn and beaten, as if it had been through a few tough passages itself. It was a Saturday morning, and the sun was rising high in the crisp November air. Sophie had read two books so far in addition to managing her own schoolwork and chores around the house. Her grandmother’s property needed a lot of upkeep, and with her grandmother working at the Library, in addition to her mother taking on a job at a factory in town, it was more important than ever for Sophie to do her part at home while others did their part elsewhere. And her uncle helped as he could, and had taken on the role of writing to soldiers as he could.

“Grandma,” Sophie said, as she ran into the kitchen, “it’s a letter from Dad.”

“Well, then you must open it and read it to me,” Grandma said, relieved that there was at least a letter in their hands.

Dearest Sophie, Addie, Mom, and Timothy,

I am writing to you from a small town in France, though I don’t think we’ll be here long enough for it to amount to anything firm and I’m not supposed to disclose our whereabouts. As you are probably getting reports from the radio, it’s not good here. We have lost a lot of men, and the fighting continues, although something inside of me is hopeful that it will not last much longer. I have heard the men talk of things happening, though I’m not sure when or where or how. Please know that I keep all of you in my heart and when I’m feeling particularly low or sad or overwhelmed by fear, I picture your faces in my head. I’m sorry that this is only the third letter you have received from me, but pen and paper are rare, and when we do find it, we all scribble things and try to get something sent back home because we know you are probably worried sick. It won’t be a long letter, but know that I love you all more than life itself, and that I will fight for us, and that I long to be home to see your smiling faces again. I will dream of hugging you all tightly,

Until then, much love,

John (or Dad)

Sophie sat and scratched her head as she looked out the window, her eyes becoming misty.

“He sounds so sad,” Sophie said.

“He just misses us tremendously,” her grandmother said.

“When he returns, we will have to lift his spirits and get him to join our reading club,” Sophie said.

“I think he’d like that very much,” Grandma said, as she turned her back to Sophie and sniffled. “He always was a good reader.”


Sophie’s mother called the meeting to order in the town’s library.

“Well, y’all, it’s the first Friday of the month, and I call this meeting to order,” her mother said, as she stood, trying to get the group that had assembled in order.

“As we have done for the last two months, we will take turns giving a two-minute overview of the book we have each read over the last few weeks. I hope everyone has finished their books.”

As word spread about the Sophie’s family’s reading club, it had quickly grown to a group of twenty. People wanted to join. The library had offered to remain open late one evening every month, as the meeting was to begin promptly at 7 p.m. after the last factory shift had ended.

“Let’s start with you, Mrs. Bates,” Sophie’s mother said, and turned the program over to Mrs. Bates, who stood by the window in the living room, held the book in her hand, and removed the kerchief from her head.

“Good evening, fellow readers,” Mrs. Bates said. “I’m here to tell you about the book I read, which I liked very much indeed and would recommend to you all. It is called Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and it’s about a woman who falls in love with a widower who owns a tremendous country estate called Manderlay, but his recent dead wife seems to haunt the place. And then there’s a woman, Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, who doesn’t much like the second wife and raised Rebecca and protects her memory. It’s a mystery, and I couldn’t stop reading it. And it’s set in Monte Carlo.” Sophie’s mother wrote the name of the book on the adjacent blackboard and gave it a check, which meant Mrs. Bates liked it.

When Mrs. Bates finished, everyone clapped. And that’s how it went for the better part of forty-five minutes as thirteen of the folks assembled shared what they were reading. Some were new members and this was their first time. Afterwards there was punch served, and Mrs. Conway brought her savory chocolate chip oatmeal cookies; Sophie talked with her friend, Beatrice, as the rest of the bunch mingled.


Sophie’s mother was wearing a blue dress and was off to work at the factory that day. Her face seemed brighter than it had been months ago. The job at the factory had helped her mood, that much Sophie could see. Her sense of humor had returned as well, and she said funny things to Sophie all the time.

It was May, and horrible, rainy, wet April was done. Sophie longed for the flowers to bloom and to feel the sunshine on her face, to wade in the river and to be done with school, and to stretch out on the grass on her favorite blanket and read a book.

Sophie’s mother kissed her on the forehead.

“Have a good day today at school, and don’t let that boy pull your hair anymore or I will have to speak to his mother.”

She winked at her daughter because she knew Johnny Doyle liked Sophie, which was why he was trying to get her attention. But Sophie wanted none of it. She was not interested in boys—well, at least not that one.


End Part One.

Part Two Next Week…


BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.


What Every Novelist Needs

Just a few thoughts…

Novelist Needs


BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Compare Yourself to a Hopeless Romantic

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 5.38.04 PM.pngDo you believe this?

This is the prompt I got handed today.


But I AM a bloody hopeless romantic, so I can’t compare myself to myself!

Look—some people know they are certain ways. For example, someone who’s a realist looks at the world through that lens—the lens of realism. He won’t allow any mushiness or extremely flowery notions seep into his pores. He just puts all his marbles into things that are real, nothing too touchy-feely, nothing too fantastical, nothing too intangible. Period. End of sentence. Have you ever tried to argue with a realist when you’re not one? You know it’s hard. Don’t ever say, “Well, but I FEEL this way.”

He might tell you feelings are not facts.

Nevertheless, I’ve found it to be a losing game.

Realists will tell hopeless romantics that they’re living in a dreamworld, in a magazine, in a fantasy land.

If you are wondering if you are a hopeless romantic, see if you have a tendency toward any of the following…

1. You can find the beauty or magical aspect of things. If you believe things will work out, that life truly is beautiful, that things come together for a reason, that we love who we love because our heart tells us to, you are a hopeless romantic.


2. You understand others and can imagine what it feels like to be them. The word for this is empathy-that we have the ability to feel empathy for others. We can comprehend what they’re going through even though it’s not happening to us. People with empathy are hopeless romantics, because they have a sense of understanding. I know plenty of people who think they are hopeless romantics, but the bottom line is, they are not. They don’t have the capacity to feel another’s pleasures or pains.


3. You are spirited and have a mad sense of passion. Passion comes in all forms…for your family, your career, your friends, your hobbies, your children, and so on. If you come wired with passion, you are, indeed, a hopeless romantic.


4. You cry not just at Hallmark movies but at Hallmark commercials. You actually become weepy.


5. You believe that love conquers all. That there is nothing that compares to love. If this is so, you are someone who loves to be in love with love.


I believe all those five things above, and I make no bones about it. Do you?

When people say to me, “Oh, you’re just a hopeless romantic!” I say, “Why, thank you!”

I need a shirt that says, “Proud Hopeless Romantic.”

You see, I would wear it proudly.


BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.


Wednesday Wisdom for Parents Based on Two Relatable Quotes


I love both of these quotes about raising kids, by far, the hardest job in the world. Each day you thank your lucky stars that you’ve been blessed with some good ones, but there’s always that parental gene that makes you want to encourage them to grow as people in a positive way in addition continuing to build strong relationships with them.

These relationships formed when they were little, but their trust and their ability to confide in you continues to grow into their teenage years. Having them trust you and your advice and decision-making is important to mutually beneficial relationships.

On the advice of both my husband and me, both of our kids secured jobs while in high school. These jobs have done wonders for their sense of responsibility. They know people count on them to do their jobs, get there on time, perform well, and rely on them to work well with others. These things help build character. We could not be happier or prouder of their ability to balance work, school, and activities, and we are hopeful this will help set them up for success as they move through life.

Likewise, the ability to keep that open dialogue with your children so that they know they can confide in you about certain things makes for special relationships that can continue to grow and flourish. We’ve had our bumpy roads for sure, but our kids know they can count on us for anything, and that the advice we give will only ever be for their benefit.

For these reasons, I’m sharing two terrific quotes today for Wednesday Wisdom about parenting…two I like a lot.

When you give your children certain life lessons, and they come and ask you for additional advice, you say to yourself, 'I've done my job,' and you'll continue to do your job. Joe Morton


Nothing like a pile of new books for the weekend!Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Talking Fashion at the Women of Resilience, Tenacity and Humility Event


Today, I had the privilege of addressing a group of leaders (some of them pictured above) at Stevenson University at the second annual professional conference for the Women of Resilience, Tenacity and Humility (W.O.R.T.H.). It was a great day of professional development for our future leaders, whereby they got career tips from networking to branding to professional dress and makeup. I facilitated five sessions about “Building a Professional Wardrobe” and we discussed work attire, body types, colors, cut and proportion when shopping for your beginning “capsule” wardrobe. These young women were excited to learn from professionals in their fields, asked great questions, and networked during the lunch break.

Certified as an EIS-fashion consultant many years ago, I got the opportunity to talk fashion (how much fun, right?) with these young people and coached them on how to assemble their first professional wardrobe. Below you will find some of the slides I presented to them. I love talking about fashion, as it’s one of my passions, and anytime I can help someone with advice, I am happy to do so! As a full-time professor, I take what I wear seriously, and try to always present a professional image (okay…sometimes I do wear jeans), but for the most part, you will find me in business or business casual clothing. These slides that are attached were some of the things we talked about today.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post your questions in the comments area, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Special thanks to Claudia and the women of W.O.R.T.H for inviting me to come speak today.

This is called a capsule “starter” wardrobe for professionals. The first nine pieces will yield 36 outfits; the professional, black dress, which I believe everyone should have in their closet, is an additional piece. Likewise, two nice pairs of shoes and a bag will start a woman on her career path. As you add to your basic starter wardrobe, make sure any piece you buy goes with at least three things in your closet. If it doesn’t, you can pass on it and move on to something else better suited to your professional wardrobe.

25 style tips(2)


Steph’s Scribe’s Style Tips


25 style tips(3)

*** Foundational Checklist for Fall/Winter Wardrobe***

Fall Wardrobe Checklist Steph's Scribe.inddSpringSummerChecklist

Business Casual Capsule – SPRING




Don’t forget to get yourself that LITTLE BLACK DRESS, appropriate for work, not going out to the club. You will want to have one of these — at least — as part of your capsule.

If you have any questions about any of this, please shoot me a comment or note. I am happy to help you get that wardrobe ready to aim and fire at your first career opportunity!

Good luck ladies, and thanks for having me today!


Nothing like a pile of new books for the weekend!Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

#Worldbookday – Help Support Indie Authors


As it is March 1st, and it is #WORLDBOOKDAY, I thought I’d share my three new promo pieces I created for today.

My fellow independent authors and I are always thinking of ways to help promote and market our books. Creating promotional book teasers, ads, and social media posts helps us in our endeavors, but guess what are the two best ways to get people to read our books?

1-Recommend them (either by word-of-mouth or on social media)


2-Write a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

As #WORLDBOOKDAY is meant to spread the love of books and promote reading, I like to think of myself as a strong ambassador of the cause. As a teacher, there is a direct correlation between how well someone writes to how well someone reads. The best readers are strong writers.

Support Independ Authors Button.indd

And as an added bonus, the best readers are often the most empathic people you can meet.

So, on WORLD BOOK DAY, let’s celebrate reading and help spread the love of books.


Stephanie Verni | Books on Amazon






baseball girl

Why I Write ‘feel good’ Novels…A Kid Off to College…and Two Queens


pexels-photo-865844.jpegYesterday, when author and television personality Rick Steves spoke to students about the passion he has for his job, he mentioned the word positivity–that he considers himself a positive person, and his approach to life is that of a positive person.

He and I are alike in that regard.

Despite a small snippet of time during my 52-years of life when I took a little bit of an Eyeore-ish turn, I like to think that I look at the world through a lens that is mostly positive. No one is perfect, however, and I have to catch myself every now and then when I feel I am slipping down a slope that is not going to be productive.

And that brings me to novel writing. I’m working on two things presently: the sequel to Inn Significant and fine-tuning my collection of short stories that I would like to release as a collection. Because there are so many things in life that can get us down and make us angry or hurt or compelled to be negative, I’ve decided that when I write fiction, I don’t want to travel down that path. Most of my stories involved people “rising above” turmoil, tragedy, or mistakes, and it’s something I enjoy sharing with readers. I have no interest in writing something upsetting or overly tragic or maddening.


Because I believe there is more good in people than there is bad; I believe that mistakes can be overcome; I believe that forgiveness does find its way into life and relationships; and I believe that love does have the power to conquer all.


I may sound a little naive where this is concerned, but I’ve seen it in people I am close to as well as heard about from acquaintances and strangers.

And that’s why I write books that will make you happy to read during Spring Break, on the beach, or just when you need a little reminder that love is, indeed, a healing spirit.



We are in the throes of deciding which university my son will attend in the fall. Let me tell you, I am just in awe of how fast times flies (hence why I am reading Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.) It’s a great book that forces you to think about time and how it is spent…and how fast it can go…and how if we’re not careful, we can spend our short time on this planet worrying about the most ridiculous things. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Albom is a terrific storyteller, and can tell a story as succinctly and beautifully as possible. I love his style.

Anyway, it’s only a matter of months before my oldest is off to college.

Eighteen years have passed in a flash.

If you have young children, cherish every moment. I was lucky enough to work part-time and stay home with my children, but I still think I missed out on some things I wish I didn’t. You will not regret the time you spend with those you love the most.



I’ve blogged about this a lot, but I want to reiterate it again. Be sure to write down your family stories and keep them someplace sacred. You will want to remember the little details and sometimes a photograph doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve written about some of the funny things my daughter has said over the years here, but I wish I had done more.

Here are a few links to those funny things Ellie has said during the years.





One final thing for today: if you haven’t watch The Crown on Netflix, you are missing a fantastic series that is based on the life of current Queen Elizabeth. Claire Foy plays Queen Elizabeth, and I adore her acting and portrayal of Elizabeth.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 2.23.04 PM
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth

Additionally, if you’re not tapped into Victoria on PBS, again, I urge you to watch this well-done show about Queen Victoria and Albert set in the Victorian era. I love Jenna Coleman in the role of Victoria. She is beautiful and perfectly suited for the role. And Rufus Sewell played the perfect Lord Melbourne.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 2.22.10 PM
Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell as Queen Victoria and Lord “M”

Until next time, then…


Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Meeting Guidebook Author and Travel TV Host Rick Steves

Dr. Hirshman, President of Stevenson University, introduces Rick Steves.

Today, my magazine writing students and I, along with members of the Stevenson University community, were treated to an afternoon session with guidebook author and travel television host, Rick Steves. Steves’ warm and friendly demeanor and sense of humor had the attendees listening intently as he shared his travel and work stories.

If you’re not familiar with this expert traveler, you are missing out. Steves runs a company called Rick Steves’ Europe, which has grown from a one-man operation to a thriving company with over 100 employees. In this capacity, he produces more than 50 guidebooks on European travel and is able to host a weekly hour-long radio show on NPR, write a weekly syndicated columm, and take viewers on adventures in America’s most popular travel series on PBS.

Rick Steves takes a selfie with members of my magazine writing class!
Rick Steves with his two student escorts from Magazine Writing – Christine and Tyler.

My magazine writing students were armed and ready for the interaction and had prepared a list of questions for Steves. After I was introduced to him upon his arrival, he asked if the students would have questions, to which I replied—”Lots of them!”—and showed him the list they had put together at his request. Luckily for us, he decided to start his talk by answering questions the students had assembled, which was a lot of fun.

In this Q&A session, we learned that his favorite place to travel is India and that he feels quite at home with “his people” in Norway. (I could relate, as my favorite place I’ve traveled has been Italy, as I’ve felt quite comfortable with “my own people” there. I suppose our heritage does have a lot to do with those sentiments when we travel).

Ironically, at 14, he didn’t want to travel at first, but his dad made him, and he began to fall in love with it. By 18, he was traveling on his own, and the seeds of his future were planted. It’s not all easy, according to Steves, who puts in 60 hour weeks at work. But it pays off tremendously for him, as he stated that he “loves what he does,” and we didn’t have to ask twice about it, because it was quite apparent from his talk that Steves not only loves his job, but it has become a part of him.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when I saw the students nod after Steves said that you “must find work that you believe in; my company is mission-driven” and that mission makes him passionate about his work. He encouraged all of us to find our own passion and to go for it.

img_0860img_0859When he answered the question, “What do you do when you get writer’s block?” Steves said, “I don’t get writers block. I don’t allow it to happen. I just write.” He likened finding good stories to “catching butterflies” — that you can’t let a story get away. That you have to capture each butterfly one at a time. You must write it down, even if it is in a little notebook and transcribe it into your computer later in the day. Afterwards, you can play with what you wrote and turn it into something meaningful.

When asked how Steves was able to be so successful, he replied that it was always his intention to “generate good content” and that that is the key to success, along with work ethic and passion. If you provide superb content for folks, they will continue to seek out your advice and suggestions, and Steves believes this is what has led to his growth and ultimate success.

I’ve been teaching travel writing as part of feature writing for over ten years now; additionally, I have taught a stand-alone travel writing course, whereby the students must travel locally (in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., or Delaware) for a minimum of two days to a place, immerse themselves in the place, take 20 pages of notes, do research, and then construct a 2,500-word article about traveling to that place. Students seem to like this course a lot because it melds everything that they have learned from their degree in communication into this one class, from writing to interviewing folks to intercultural and interpersonal communication theories and practices to finding out a little bit about themselves.

For all of these reasons, it was a thrill for meet to meet a true world traveler who writes books and articles and helps guide us to learn about the world and ourselves through travel. He promotes traveling without fear, and encourages us all to get out and see the world.


This was an episode of Rick Steves’ show that we watched in class. Having been to the Cotswolds, I absolutely loved this episode.


Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Things You Can Learn From A Sports Journalist

The Time Keeper
There’s a lot to learn from Mitch Albom.

I’ve been reading Mitch Albom books for years.

For people who say they don’t have time to read books, Mitch Albom is for you.

The sports journalist and columnist whose career took off at the Detroit Free Press became a best-selling author with Tuesdays with Morrie over 20 years ago, and continues to write touching stories for mass audiences. His novels and nonfiction are compact and easy to read, with deep messages of love, hope, loss, and recovery.

On average, his books are roughly 250 pages and are economically written. His journalistic writing style melds perfectly into the stories he concisely weaves whereby Mark Twain would be proud (“When you catch an adjective, kill it! ~ Twain). Albom’s ability to sweep us quickly into his stories the way journalists do by writing a clear and strong lead (including the who, what, where, when, why, and how of newswriting) translates into his ability to tell intriguing stories through fiction or nonfiction narrative storytelling. As an author and former magazine writer myself, I’ve identified Albom’s three main gifts that others can learn from him. They are as follows:

  1. You don’t need to tell long stories to tell a good story. All of Albom’s stories are poignant, but compact, from Tuesdays with Morrie to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, to the one I’m finally getting around to reading now, The Time Keeper.
  2. Stories can unravel quickly if you know how to get to the point. Albom’s larger stories are made up of numerous anecdotes that help us “see” the characters. Rarely, does Albom tell us anything. Good writers show readers things as opposed to telling readers things so that readers can make up their own minds. Instead, he delves into his portraits of his characters so that we understand them straightaway.
  3. Word choice and sentence composition are everything. Albom whittles down his sentences masterfully; he doesn’t mince words, and he chooses only the best ones to make up his strong sentences. In one short sentence or paragraph or scene of dialogue, he tells readers all we need to know, almost to the point where any additional information would just be fluff. Take this beautiful example into consideration from The Time Keeper:

“I made such a fool of myself,” she lamented.
“Love does not make you a fool.”
“He didn’t love me back.”
“That does not make you a fool, either.”
“Just tell me …” Her voice cracked. “When does it stop hurting?”
“Sometimes never.”
― Mitch AlbomThe Time Keeper

If you haven’t read any of Albom’s works and are striving to be a fiction or nonfiction writer, I encourage you to read some of his books. While they may not be categorized as “great literary fiction,” there are certainly benefits to reading all different types of writers. People who started as journalists have a way of being able to get to the core of storytelling well. For example, legendary writers such as Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck started out as journalists. Elizabeth Gilbert and Anna Quindlan were journalists before they were best-selling authors. The list is a long one, and we can learn from them all.

But watch Albom’s magic unravel as you read one of his books. There are techniques there worth investing your time.


Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Flirting with Style – Fashion Over 40. Or 50.

pexels-photo-336372.jpegI love Instagram. I love discovering other people and connecting with folks from all over the globe. I also love to follow fashion bloggers—to see what ideas I might come across that would suit my body type and personality.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 8.11.11 PMWell, the other day I came across someone who has definitely sparked my interest. Her name is Lyn Slater, and she’s the ACCIDENTAL ICON. You may have seen a video about her on Facebook, but if you haven’t, let me tell you what little I know about her. She attended a fashion show wearing something tremendous and people noticed her and thought she was someone famous, and her friend said to her, “You’re an accidental icon.” Hence the name of her blog: She also happens to be 64, and she’s inspired me to not dread aging, as I have found myself doing for the last 10 years. She made me look at it in a different way. She says she even has young people tell her that she’s made them not fear growing older.

I love the fact that she has always embraced her style. And owns it. At any age.

People come in all different shapes & sizes, have different clothing ideas of what works for them; and allow their personalities to shine through in their clothes.

Anyway, after considering all this, here’s my new take, and what I posted on my Instagram a few days ago.

Some people ask me why I post outfits so often. Fashion, to me, is fun. As someone who is over 50, when I was younger I always thought by the time I reached this age, that I might not care about what I wear anymore. But I still do. I still love playing dress up. Just as people like to work out to feel better, playing with fashion and what I wear makes me feel good. Of course what’s on the inside of a person is so much more important, but feeling good about yourself on the outside does matter and helps your mental state. I’m about to go do some writing in my home office, and staying in my work clothes keeps me in that “I’m working” state of mind. Anyway–bottom line: you can still have style as you age. As Coco Chanel always said, “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

Some of my latest outfits I’ve shared…

Bottom line on this Valentine’s Day: accept yourself, your age, and don’t be afraid to dress the way that makes you feel your best.


Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Don’t Have Money To Spend This Valentine’s Day? Take A Cue From St. Valentine and Write A Letter

First, a little historical perspective…

St. Valentine lived during the time of Claudius the Cruel in Rome. Under his rule, Claudius was not fond of men who would not join his military leagues due to their devotion to their wives and families. Therefore, Claudius banned marriages and engagements in Rome. However, Valentine defied the emperor and continued to perform marriage rituals for people in love in secret.

When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing, he ordered him put to death. The sentence was carried out on February 14.

While in jail and prior to his death, Valentine wrote a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become a friend. At the end of the letter, he wrote, “From Your Valentine.”

Hence, why we call love notes and letters during this time Valentines.

After his death, Valentine was named a saint, and we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Second, get out your pen and paper if your wallet is dry…

There is nothing more sentimental, sweet, and loving than writing a heartfelt love letter to your Valentine or someone you love or someone who has changed your life or helped you along the way.

It’s not difficult to write a letter, it just takes a few moments of your time.

LetterHere are some ideas for writing that letter:

  • Share what they mean to you
  • Recount a meaningful, funny, or sentimental story you’ve shared
  • Tell them what you’re looking forward to in the future
  • Write from the heart, in your language, using your words
  • Pick pretty stationery or a card that suits your relationship
  • Plan to do something together that doesn’t cost anything and put it in writing. Some examples could include the following: taking a walk, strolling a museum, going on a hike, sitting by the river together with a book, watching a movie or your favorite show on television, attending a poetry reading at a local bookstore–anything that the two of you can do that does not cost money

Remember, your Valentine loves YOU not your money (or lack thereof), so do what you can do, and put your heartfelt words on paper.

They will love you even more for it.


Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.


How My READING BOOKS Poll Stacks Up Against (pun intended) Official Polls

Let’s Talk About Books & Reading

We just completed the third week of the spring semester, and as is typical as I begin to talk about writing and reading in classes and asking students questions, I can get a little depressed when I realize how few students are reading books for pleasure these days. With so many distractions such as television, video games, socializing with friends, sports, and other commitments and activities, I decided to conduct my own informal poll on Facebook, something I had never done before.

The question I posed was this: HOW MANY BOOKS DID YOU READ IN 2017?

0-10 OR MORE THAN 11?

I received 143 responses, and the percentages are reflected in the infographic below.

Survey Findings (1)

While my poll didn’t have the same questions as the Pew Research Polls, which are broken out and are much more in-depth, I wanted to give it a try anyway. What I didn’t take into account was how many people had read zero books and kept that as a separate question. Perhaps the next poll will reflect reading zero books in a year.

My findings, however, relay some good news, at least, I think so. It shows that people are reading—some more than others for various reasons—but they seem to be reading some books throughout the year.

What made me conduct this poll?

I had read an article from The Atlantic from 2014 called The Decline of the American Book Lover about books and reading, and it prompted me to do my own informal research for this post. As someone who is a strong advocate of reading—and reading a lot of anything that interests you—I became somewhat engrossed in finding out more. Through several sites, I was able to compile the information below about books and reading from the Pew Research Institute, and I have put it together for you in an easy-to-read infographic below.

The Bad News & Good News

The bad news in the Pew Research findings was that 19% of people haven’t visited a Library (such a great resource, you guys!), and 26% of Americans are not reading at all. There was also a decline in e-reading.

The good news from my pols and their polls is that people ARE reading still…and in 2016, they preferred a physical book to reading books electronically. There’s been a 16% surge in children’s books, and on average, people are reading four books in a six-month period. The average number of books read in a year is 12.

At least, that’s what the research is trending toward today.



Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.