Podcast & Prompt | #nanowrimo | Day 8

FullSizeRender-33

BGC-podcast-word

Steph’s Scribe

Podcast 5 | Best Books For Writers

My apologies in advance. I never realized how often I say the word fabulous until I listened to this PODCAST back. I’ll work on that…

But seriously, all these books are F A B U L O U S, which is why I am recommending them to writers.

WRITING PROMPT

For Fiction

Write a scene in dialogue only. Do not use any other description or narrative techniques. Just write dialogue.

For Non-fiction

Write the dialogue of a conversation you overheard and tried to piece together. Do your best to stay true to the actual words that were spoken by your characters.

Prompt & Podcast – November 6 #nanowrimo

Hello, Friends!

Today, I’ve got a PODCAST for you about WRITING CHARACTERS with my favorite tip about writing these characters. I think you’ll find it helpful if you don’t already do this.

BGC-podcast-word

Writing Character Sketches

Steph’s Scribe

TODAY’S PROMPT

Write 500 words | #nanowrimo | Choose one of the prompts below

To go along with today’s PODCAST, write one of the two prompts below.

For non-fiction writers:

Write a short biography of your best friend(s) as a character sketch. Use all the information you know about him or her, from what they look like to their characteristics to their likes and dislikes. Try to write 500 words.

For fiction writers:

Pick a character from your upcoming novel and write an in-depth character sketch. Include everything and anything you can about the character so that you can use it in the future as you construct and build your novel.

Good luck and have fun!

 

Sharing Two Chapters of the Sequel to INN SIGNFICANT #nanowrimo

So today, before I post my prompts for you and writing podcast later about characters and creating your characters, I decided I would be brave and share my first two chapters of the sequel to Inn Significant, my third novel. I’m dabbling with the idea of a sequel, so I thought I’d share what DRAFTING looks like. This is my FIRST DRAFT. I haven’t really edited much yet at all.

My approach is to just tell the story first. Editing comes later. But I know these characters pretty well at this point (though I am introducing some new ones), but for me, it’s about getting in their heads and telling their story.

Here, then, are the first two chapters of what a sequel might look like if I pursue this. And, if you’re counting words, these two chapters are roughly 4,000 words. #nanowrimo

 

 

T h e   S e q u e l   t o   I n n   S i g n i f i c a n t (maybe)

C h a p t e r   1

The wind whipped, bending the trees in half, as the storm began to wreak havoc on our small town. The river looked angry, as it tossed the white caps into the air and pummeled the shoreline. We had just spent the previous weekend planting vibrant crepe myrtles, miniature Cypress trees, and a variety of shrubs and flowers around the perimeter of our new, bright white structure with a light grey tin roof. The long, curvy, slate walkway was completed just two days prior, and the lights that lined it were supposed to be installed today.

No such luck.

We were down to the wire with our first wedding scheduled in two weeks, and the storm was certainly going to set back our timeline—by days. All of the tables and chairs were scheduled to be delivered this week, the chandeliers needed to be installed as they had arrived late from our vendor, and the remaining final touches of paint and sinks for both the men’s and women’s bathrooms were on the docket to be finished over the next seven days.

And while all this might sound a bit desperate and chaotic at the last minute, the construction had gone swimmingly. The barn had been built in record time; its soaring, vaulted ceilings and windows allowed natural light to flow inside it—and it turned out exactly as our architect, Simone, had designed it. She was instrumental in planning a venue that suited the land, matched the feel of the existing Inn, and offered a picturesque setting for weddings and other special events. The sliding doors on the river side of the barn were crafted to open fully to a covered patio with waterfront views, and they were dreamy to say the least. We had decorated the patio with potted boxwoods and cascading flowers planted in urns, which we had moved inside last night before the storm hit to preserve them.

This behemoth of a tropical storm, as it was now being referred to by weatherpersons on every news channel, was churning up a lot of debris, and I’d never witnessed the Tred Avon River looking so violent. The Chesapeake Bay was thrashing even more than the river, and pictures of flooded downtown Annapolis had made the news highlights earlier this morning. The images of the storm reminded me of what had happened to Nana’s dear Ferio as he endured that fateful hurricane so long ago. The thought of it all sent a chill up my spine, and I couldn’t help but worry about some folks who may not have taken proper precautions and made their way to safety.

Mother Nature did not mess around. When she had something to say, she tended to say it in a big way, just to make sure we were all paying attention, and we were humbly reminded that we must respect her authority.

I stood on the porch of Inn Significant in my rain boots and red raincoat and watched as Oxford was pummeled. My mother was inside making a huge pot of soup for all of us and wanted us to eat it quickly in case we lost electricity, which was certainly a possibility, but hadn’t happened yet. Despite the deluge from the sky and raindrops the size of small pancakes, it was still warm out. John and I had scurried over in our SUV, crawling at about five miles per hour, but my new house—the one I bought impetuously—was only about three quarters of a mile away. We had secured that property—the one that we would soon live in together—and decided to weather the storm at the Inn. There were no guests booked, as everyone had cancelled when the latest weather report concluded that treacherous weather was indeed imminent.

While the renovation on our new place was being done, John had remained living on the grounds in his cottage on my parents’ property. I looked down and touched the diamond he had given me after we had committed to each other and our relationship. Sometimes it felt surreal.

The ring was stunning—and much bigger than the one Gil had given me during our humble beginnings when we were very young and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. John had a lot of money saved up over the years, and he prided himself on being able to give me a ring that, as he said, “was as beautiful as I was, inside and out.”

Those are the kinds of words you could get used to hearing for the rest of your life.

A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance, and seconds later, the boom of thunder sounded and echoed across the river. I felt the porch tremble, and I must admit, I did as well. It also must have startled the seagull that was perched under a tree, for he took off flying against the torrential rain, battling the wind that offered tremendous resistance. And yet, the seagull somehow prevailed and made it safely to another perch.

I stood on the porch and watched as the river sang a much different tune today than it did on most days in our town; I wanted it all to be over.

There was something ominous about it, and I didn’t care for it at all.

*

“Emilia—soup’s ready!” I heard my mother call from inside.

My father and John were just coming down the steps, tools in hand, as they were making some minor repairs to the Inn while it was empty. A squeaky floorboard, a leaky faucet, and a screen door that was askew—those were some of the things that needed attention. John had purchased cans of paint two days prior for touch ups and repainting that needed to be done in some of the guest rooms. My mother was meticulous about the upkeep and decorating of all the guest rooms and common rooms at the Inn; likewise, my father was in-tune to scratches on the walls and handles that needed tightening. The tropical storm was keeping us from being outside, so the agenda for the day called for indoor repairs, at least until we potentially lost power.

“Our punch list is almost complete,” my dad said proudly as he took the lid off the pot of soup and inhaled as the steam tickled his nose. My mother gave him a whack, and he laughed.

“Off the goods,” she said.

I know my dad was anxious about our first booked event on-site that would take place in a couple of weeks, and he wanted to make his contributions so that things could run smoothly as we hosted our first wedding with as little drama as possible. Inn Significant’s guest rooms would be full with the immediate family and the bride and groom, and we helped book other guests at the Robert Morris House across the road and at hotels and inns in Easton and St. Michaels. The wedding—the first one we would host on the grounds—was smaller in size with only eighty guests, so we were thankful it wasn’t the full one-hundred and twenty we could seat.

“Look at those sheets of rain,” my mother said. “Are you worried we might have flooding? I hope the plants and mulch don’t wash away.”

“It looks like the storm is taking a turn and will be out of here by tonight,” my dad replied, peeking at his weather app on his phone. “I think this may be the worst of it. Just a lot of rain, but I don’t think we need to worry.”

“That’s a relief,” she said.

I was setting the table and John came up to me and gave me a little peck on the cheek.

“What were you up to?” he asked me.

“Truthfully, not much. I was watching the storm from the front porch until that bolt of lightening and crack of thunder happened, and then I worried about the safety of my friend, the seagull. Then I came back inside and dried off. There’s something eerie about how dark and gloomy it is out there—and the wind! So unbelievable!” I said.

We sat at the kitchen table—the same one that John and I used to make the muffins back when I first arrived at the Inn. So much had changed for me, and yet so little had changed, too. I realized I was full of contradictions at that moment and decided to just eat my soup and stop thinking.

Thinking too much and too deeply always got the better of me, and I’d vowed to give up too much deep thinking altogether. It had a tendency to churn up old feelings and guilt, feelings of love and regret, along with a whole host of “what ifs.” If I were to be completely honest, the hopefulness you feel when you finally realize that you have the capacity to move on with someone else is euphoric at first, but at the same time you never lose feelings for someone who was dead and gone. And that made love a uniquely complicated animal altogether. So it was best not to think too much about it and just—live.

When I mentioned these complex feelings to my mother in the strictest of confidences one night when she could tell something wasn’t right with me, she offered the best advice.

“As Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy,’ you know,” she said. “You can’t compare John to Gil. It’s simply not fair. They are both wonderful men in their own right, but to pit one against the other, that’s just not a kind thing to do. How would you feel if someone did that to you? And let us not remember: Gil is no longer with us, God rest his soul. And so you are left with a man who adores and loves you, and you must allow yourself to move on, Mills, in every sense of the word.” She was right, and I knew it.

Emotional breakdowns often caused people to do the most extraordinarily stupid things.

Of course I shouldn’t have compared John to Gil. Sometimes with an unexpected death, a degree of selective memory and knighthood went along with it. It’s human nature’s rule that we only tend to remember the wonderful and noble things about our love and our relationship when it is no longer viable. We tend not to dwell upon the bad aspects of our relationships. Nevertheless, when someone died young, it was easy to remember them so fondly as to put them on a pedestal, and unfortunately,it had the potential to hinder the building of a new, quality romantic relationship. Why? Because there remained a cruel posturing and it could be summed up with one question: How could someone else ever live up to the fond memory of a dead lover?

This was the question that left me perplexed, and incredibly inane. In the beginning of my relationship with John, as we began to acknowledge that we had a fond and growing romance, it wasn’t entirely easy for me. I still held on to baggage. And the word baggage certainly has a negative connotation. When I look back upon the events of last year and a half, I know that everything happened for a reason, albeit with a little push and strategy from my parents. I was delighted that they got involved in trying to foster a relationship between John and me. They were looking out for my best interests. And as a bonus, they adored John.

Getting close to another person again takes courage, and perhaps I didn’t fully have that courage, not to its fullest extent. I wondered if I needed more time alone—not another year spent wallowing in my misery, but another year of running the Inn, getting back to myself, writing more and finding my independence instead of forging ahead into another relationship, where always in the back of my mind was the possibility that I could lose him. To what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. All sorts of things loomed inside my head. At the time, I didn’t look at this fear as being selfish, but they were certainly grounded in fear. I found myself continually second-guessing whether or not I had completely healed.

And then John said something to me that made me wake up and snap out of it when I finally had the courage to share the feelings I was having with him, honestly and in an open manner.

“Time isn’t always the answer, Milly. Sometimes the answer is just deep down in there—either you feel it or you don’t. And if I’m not the answer that’s deep down in there, then I need you to just tell me. I’m a big boy, and I can take it. I don’t ever want to be the person you are settling for because you lost your husband. I want to be the man you love and want to share the rest of your days with from here on out as you move forward. Settling for me? That would kill me.”

And, quite frankly, hearing him say those words killed me a little.

The fear I had of allowing myself to become closer and emotionally connected to him ricocheted back to me. I regretted everything I had said and did and second-guessed. My heart knew what was right, but my head continued to play tricks on me. My life had become full again, and I couldn’t imagine John not in it.

That was when I knew for sure. I apologized, I cried, but I know I hurt John that day. We pushed back our wedding date several months because he needed to be sure I loved him the way he needed—and deserved—to be loved. Since then, I’ve spent the last six months assuring him that he had my heart. Fully.

There were things you said and did sometimes that you wished you could retract, like an unfounded and misguided story in The New York Times, and yet, just like that story, the ideas, unfortunately, already had legs and had been read and interpreted, and taking them back was not an easy endeavor.

But I was fighting my way back. And I was fighting for him.

C h a p t e r   T w o

Two days later, the sky turned a bright blue without a cloud in the sky. I was at the Inn early that morning, and John was already tending to the lawn. I straightened up the Adirondack chairs and cleaned them off with a rag. Inn guests would be arriving later that morning, the first bunch to check in after the storm.

We had ten days remaining until we hosted Inn Significant’s first wedding. The delivery truck appeared with all of our chandeliers and the electrician was on his way with a crew to do the installation. I couldn’t wait to see how the lighting would affect the ambiance of the room. My mother and I had been the interior designers, having spent countless hours researching other venues and picking and choosing aspects we liked from each of those we admired and folding them into our design. Our architect helped us incorporate those features into the structure.

John peeked his head into the office.

“I’m heading over to Home Depot to get some things to finish up the kitchen area in the barn. Do you need anything, Love?” he said. He called me Love a lot, and honestly, I adored it.

“I think I’m good for now,” I said.

“I’m off then,” he said. “And don’t forget about dinner.”

“I won’t,” I yelled back.

I opened up the website and checked to make sure there were no inquiries or questions that needed attention. I continued to blog once a week from Inn Significant, and enjoyed telling the stories of the Inn through our site. Occasionally, I’d receive comments, and I loved responding to people as they asked questions or just said they enjoyed reading the blog. I also enjoyed reading reviews people posted after they had stayed at the Inn. For the most part, they were very, very good, and we all took them seriously.

Next, I checked my emails. Carolanne, the bride who would be our first to host her wedding at the Inn sent me a quick email.

Thank you so much for always answering my questions and getting back to me so promptly, Milly. And thanks for arranging those last minute bouquets for our moms. I am so excited to host our guests at your lovely location. I can only imagine how gorgeous the barn will look. See you next week.

The next email was from someone named Marco DiBlanco. My heart skipped a beat. I opened the email.

Dear Milly,

Good morning!

We have never met, but I found your website when I was doing a search for my uncle, Ferio DiBlanco. My father passed away at the age of ninety a few years ago, and Ferio was his older and only brother. My father suffered from dementia for the last fifteen years of his life, and it was difficult to get coherent stories out of him during that time. Despite their age difference and Ferio being in America while my father stayed in Italy as a young boy during America’s depression, Ferio and my father kept in good touch and appeared to be very fond of one another. I found some letters after my father’s death that were sent from Ferio to my father, all written in Italian. When I searched online for Ferio several years ago, there was nothing that led me to anything about his life. I had almost given up doing any research at all. That was until I did another search a few days ago and miraculously found your website and your stories. I was intrigued to read about your grandmother and Ferio on your blog, as my father had mentioned Ferio’s American wife when I was younger and he told me stories about their house and Ferio’s job in Maryland. Unfortunately, my father never actually met your grandmother; he only knew of her through the letters Ferio would send home to his family. So all of this to say, I guess the Internet is truly good for some things, no? It has led me to you and to some family history.

I am sure you are surprised to read this email from me, especially in that we are not related by blood. However, we are related by wonderful circumstances. I live in Italy in Orvieto, and I own an art gallerie (or as you may write, gallery). I went to the Rhode Island School of Design and studied art, which is why my English is not so bad (and we were taught it here a little in Italy, too). Ferio was from Orvieto, as well. I am writing to you, Milly, as it is my intention to come and see the place where my Uncle Ferio lived after he left Italy and paint it. I have also read that the Eastern Shore has a vibrant community of artists, and I would like to spend some time in town. I would very much love to meet you and get to know you, as your grandmother was such a meaningful part of my uncle’s life, and I imagine he loved her very much. I feel we are connected through that relationship. As well, three years ago (and two years after the passing of my father), I lost my wife of thirty years to cancer. Sad as it is to say, from what I have read on your Inn’s blog, it seems we also share a loss of beloved spouses.

Would it be possible for me to reserve two weeks at the Inn, so that I might come and stay and meet you and take in the scenery that looks so welcoming on your website? I am not looking for anything free from you as I have the means to pay for my trip and my lodgings. Please let me know if this is possible. I am longing to come back to America for a visit and to reconnect with my family’s history.

Fondest regards,

Marco DiBlanco

Owner, Gallerie Storie Di Vita

Via Santo Stefano, 7, Orvieto, Italy

My mother popped open the door holding an enormous disco ball in her hand.

“Too much?” she asked, holding it up for me to see. Then she took a closer look at me sitting frozen behind the computer. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“I think I may have,” I said.

*

“So, wait a minute. This guy is Ferio’s nephew? He’s probably my age.”

“I don’t know how old he is, but he is definitely claiming he is Ferio’s nephew,” I said.

“This is getting really interesting,” my mother said, placing the disco ball on the floor. It tried to roll away from her, but she wasn’t having any of that. She pushed it into the corner and then sat down next to me on the white chair. “Honestly, I’m still getting used to the idea that my mother was married before and never told anyone about it. Never told me, her only daughter! Now I have to meet Ferio’s relative, having never known of Ferio before you came to the Inn and discovered our family’s little secret. I mean, who knew? The world is a small one, Emilia Foster. It’s a good thing you’re grabbing hold of it, because my head is spinning, especially after having read my own mother’s journal. Talk about it getting weirder. You better call someone at the networks and tell them the Kardashians are passe. We just might have a reality show brewing right here in Oxford.”

I loved when my mother was funny and dramatic and on top of current entertainment events. She looked at the world in almost the same way Miles did—never too far into the future and with a glint of fascination in her eye. Through all of my dark times after Gil’s death, I needed her, even when I thought I couldn’t take one more day of her trying to cheer me up with a stupid joke or a funny looking stuffed animal. And I actually felt sorry for her even when I was at my lowest, because she, unfortunately, still had the energy to deal with me.

We read through Marco’s email again together, and then looked over the bookings for the next month. We penciled Marco into a room and blocked it off for two weeks so that he could come to America and we could meet him.

He would be our adopted cousin, even if he wasn’t a cousin by blood.

We drafted our email back to Marco and offered the dates that were available for a two-week stay. We would wait for his reply.

In the meantime, there was work to be done, emails to return, a wedding to get in order, and lights that needed lighting. My mother grabbed the disco ball and headed for the door so Ernie could put it in its place. She glanced at me before she walked out, and we grinned at each other as we both shook our heads in disbelief. It was barely ten in the morning, and already, the day’s excitement was percolating. I decided that I would credit the tropical storm for churning up this strange new development that had occurred since its visit. The winds of Oxford were swirling.

I took a deep breath and continued on to the next task. My fingers started typing.

Dear Carolanne—My mother and I cannot wait to help make your wedding magical. The chandeliers are being installed today, and you will make the most beautiful inaugural bride the Inn and barn have ever seen…

—END CHAPTER TWO—

–Copyright 2017/Stephanie Verni/All Rights Reserved

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.

Prompt & Podcast – Day 3 #nanowrimo

Happy Friday afternoon!

I hope you are doing well AND doing well with your writing. As it’s Friday and the weekend is ahead of us, maybe finding some time to write won’t be as challenging for us as it is during the week.

Today’s PODCAST is about THEMES. I share with you some thoughts about themes and what I think about with regard to novel writing and my readers. I hope you’ll have a listen and let me know your thoughts.

BGC-podcast-word

Steph’s Scribe

 

Talking About Themes

***

As for today’s PROMPTS, they are below.

Have a good weekend, and keep writing.

TODAY’S PROMPTS

#nanowrimo | 400-500 words | Steph’s Scribe

FOR NON-FICTION

Write about a very vivid memory you have from your childhood. Insert as many details or bits of dialogue you can remember into the prompt without distorting the truth. Let this be written as if you are the age you were when that memory occurred.

FOR FICTION

A character works at a place and has been happily employed there for many years. However, a change in management has led to your character’s disillusionment with the company. The boss calls the character into the office to talk about some things, some of which the character was not expecting. How does this scene go?

 

 

Prompt and Podcast – Day 2 #nanowrimo

Yesterday, I published my first PODCAST. You can check it out here [Podcast 1].

Admittedly, I was pretty proud of myself. I am not too technically savvy, but I watched some YouTube videos and was able to finagle it all by my lonesome.

17630035_10155078335483954_7668816881241960001_n
With Charles in Boston in March. .

I texted my former boss, mentor, and dear friend from my days at the Orioles, Charles Steinberg, and said: “See what that internship in Orioles Productions helped me produce?”

LOL.

I had worked at the Orioles for two years when I needed an internship for credit at Towson University. I had never worked with audio or video equipment before, and Charles agreed to take me on as an intern, as he knew my work ethic from my time in public relations with the ballclub. That little stint in Orioles Productions was pretty helpful for all that has happened in my life since then, most specifically gaining a stronger understanding of storytelling from a mass media perspective (and now a social media perspective).

But alas, I digress, and I’m telling YOU a story when it’s really time for YOU to tell ME a story as it’s time for TODAY’S #NANOWRIMO WRITING PROMPT.

TODAY’S PROMPT

Write 400-500 words | #nanowrimo | Choose one of the prompts below

For non-fiction writers:

Write about a place you have been to or visited that you can’t wait to get back to as soon as possible; or, write about a place you have been to or visited that you never want to go back to ever again.

For fiction writers:

Two people meet in a place they have frequented together often. However, the relationship is strained and they picked this place to meet because it’s on neutral ground. Describe the place and write the conversation and tell the story that ensues as they reconnect in this location or spot.

BGC-podcast-word

Podcast 2: More on Finding Inspiration

Steph’s Scribe

QUESTIONS FOR THE BLOG?

I can guarantee you, I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to share my own experiences with writing, crafting fiction, writing dialogue, building characters, writing description, or whatever else you care to ask me. I’ll do my best to answer the best way I can.

Thanks for popping in, you guys!

 

My First Podcast – Inspiring You To Write

BGC-podcast-wordon Steph’s Scribe

Hi, you guys! I am very excited to share with you my very first PODCAST! With some advice from some of my super-techno-savvy students who broadcast their own podcasts, I decided that creating a podcast was something I wanted to incorporate into my blogging life.

In light of the kick-off of National Novel Writing Month and to celebrate National Author’s Day, I’m sharing my very first, 5-minute podcast with you.

Let’s embrace writing…and let’s get excited about it…together.

Steph’s Scribe FIRST PODCAST

Getting You Motivated and Ready to Write

Kicking Off National Novel Writing Month with an Exercise for You

W e l c o m e !

If you haven’t stopped by and visited my blog before, I’m so glad to see you here. I’m a professor, author, and blogger, and I have a passion for all things writing. Today is exciting, because on my campus, the Library and I have teamed up to launch National Novel Writing Month, with a kick-off today at 2 p.m. in the School of Business Library. We’ll be getting you ready to write at our event entitled STEVENSON WRITE NOW.

I’ve written three novels that I’ve self-published, mostly because I like to have a hand in every aspect of the process. I publish through Amazon, and it’s a great way to share your work without going through an agent of publisher. I have also published one academic textbook with my colleagues—an altogether different type of writing—on Event Planning through Kendall-Hunt Publishers. And now, I’m your writing cheerleader.

At Steph’s Scribe, I’ll be posting every day throughout the month of November as we tackle National Novel Writing Month. Whether I share a prompt as an exercise, offer writing tips, or share some of my own work, I’ll be writing alongside you every step of the way this month.

National Novel Writing Month has spawned many published books, but perhaps my favorite that came out of the endeavor is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. But whether you want to begin writing a novel, or you want to just practice writing, this month is for WRITERS and FUTURE WRITERS.

OUR FIRST WRITING CHALLENGE: Daily Prompt #1

As this is DAY ONE of November, I am challenging all writers out there, whether you are a…

fiction writer

non-fiction writer

poet

blogger

essayist

memoirist

dabbler in various genres

travel writer

or a new writer

…this prompt is for all of us.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE

Today’s challenge is to write 300-400 words whereby you tell a short story. Tell us anything—from fiction to non-fiction—that you would like to share.

Here are today’s rules:

  • Be creative.
  • The story should have a beginning, middle and end.
  • Write like you, not like anyone else.

If you would like to share your work, feel free to post in the comments. If not, keep your writings in a file. You never know what one of these prompts could turn into (in fact, one prompt I wrote became an integral part of my first novel; it’s so much fun to see it come to fruition).

Good luck today and KEEP WRITING.

__________________________

cropped-image1-19.jpgStephanie 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.

 

The End of #Frocktober and The Beginning of Something New

As today is Halloween and also the last day of October, it marks the end of the month of #FROCKTOBER, which I’ve been participating in on Instagram at stephverni. In order to highlight and bring awareness to OVARIAN CANCER, I posted one outfit each day for the month of October. While I’m sort of relieved it’s over, I always finish what I’ve started, and I hope I’ve raised awareness of this type of cancer, which my colleague and friend, Chris Noya, is battling. It’s never to late to contribute: visit Cancer.org (American Cancer Society) or ovarian.org (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition) to donate and help change lives.

Here are the last few shots from the month of #frocktober:

IMG_6176IMG_6210

IMG_6685

IMG_6684.JPG

NOW…ON TO SOMETHING NEW…

Tomorrow, in conjunction with the Stevenson Library, we will kick-off NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH here on campus. We are a designated writing site, so you can always feel free to come here and write and get away from any distractions you may have. The event begins at 2 p.m. in the STEVENSON LIBRARY IN THE BROWN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS. I hope to see you there.

Many popular novels began with the National Novel Writing Month challenge. Are you up for it?

Additionally, it would be really lame if I were to help kick off the month of writing, but then didn’t write.

FullSizeRender (1)

So, here’s another challenge I’m going to be involved with for the month of November: we are going to (TOGETHER) participate in this amazing writing challenge. We will share ideas, tips, writing insights, and our work throughout the month. I will be blogging EVERY DAY with regard to some aspect of writing, whether it’s sharing a writing tip, story, work in progress, or chapters of a novel.

We have to work together and encourage each other. So…writers out there…whether you are a…

BLOGGER

POET

SHORT STORY WRITER

NOVELIST

WANNA-BE NOVELIST

TRAVEL WRITER

NON-FICTION WRITER

MEMOIR WRITER

…let’s do this thing together.

You can count on me. Can I count on you?

Steph’s Scribe & National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

This morning in my two sections of feature writing on campus, I had students engage in an activity for writing DESCRIPTION. We tapped into our senses of smell, touch, and taste, and I had the students smell different items and try to describe the scents (one was from my garden, one was a spice, and two were candle scents); next, they had to touch something and describe that feeling (it was my daughter’s jar of slime, and they were pretty grossed out—it was awesome!); then, they had to take a bite of something and write about what it reminded them of by describing it through a story (it was a piece of a graham cracker). We turned the lights down low, listened to some relaxation music featuring waterfall sounds, and we wrote. I tried to get them in the frame of mind to enjoy writing, a task many of them do not enjoy. Then, they had to write about a personal experience focusing on description.

I love writing, but not everyone does.

I love writing, so I’m working on inspiring others to write, both inside the classroom and outside of it.

IMG_8281
Books that started as National Novel Writing Month projects. Amazing!

November 1 marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. Famous, well-known published authors have started their novels during this time, and whether you can actually complete the designated 50,000-word novel in four weeks, or it simply prompts you to begin writing “that story” that’s been in your head for a while, I’m going to be right here with you encouraging you EVERY DAY OF THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER. That’s my promise. Whether it’s a quick word of encouragement or a post of my latest writing to show that I practice what I preach (and maybe even post excerpts from what I’m writing as a sequel to Inn Significant, my latest work), I am going to be that voice cheering you on and saying, “You CAN do it.”

Likewise, Stevenson University has been designated as a writing space for NaNoWriMo, and we are kicking it off on November 1 in the School of Business Library at 2 p.m. I’ll be giving a very short talk on writing and getting people inspired, and the Library has created a website with prompts to encourage writing. All are welcome.

I’m excited—truly, I am. After a short bout of writer’s exhaustion having produced three novels and one textbook in the last five years, I needed a short break. But now I am energized to get back at it. In other words, my writing mojo is BACK.

IMG_8287
All three of my novels, but I’m exciting to start something new during NaNoWriMo…are you?

I hope you’ll join me for the wonderful journey we’re about to take. Getting your thoughts on paper is super therapeutic, and telling a story that’s been in your head for a long time might just be one of the best things you’ve done in a while.

I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMonth—and I hope you can create some space for yourself to write—even if it’s for only 15 or 20 minutes a day, to do what John Mayer suggests we do in his song, “Say”—

“Say what you need to say…say what you need to say.

Say what you need to say…say what you need to say.”

Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

FROCKTOBER Thus Far

We’re past the midway point with this year’s version of FROCKTOBER with a new focus on calling awareness to ovarian cancer. I learned that this endeavor began with a woman from Australia who wanted to help those who battle this form of cancer. And so this month of outfits is dedicated to helping women battle ovarian cancer, and to my friend and colleague, Chris, who is still fighting. You can make donations to the American Cancer Society or to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Here is a collection of what’s been featured on my Instagram thus far. With 10 days to go, I’ll post one more wrap up with the remaining outfits.

img_5553




Thanks for stopping by!

How I’ve STARTED WITH WHY and the times I LOST MY WHY

22406518_10155672046408954_147554291929084214_n.jpg***

Simon Sinek was able to take things we all think or have thought in the business world and world of creative leadership and make sense of it. He rationalized it all in a way that makes sense to us. I found myself nodding and giving him silent “Amens” as I read along, chapter by chapter, immersed in the question he started asking himself about successful leaders and organizations: How do they achieve the level of success? How do they begin?

They start with WHY.

As I read, I became more inspired with each story, example, and principle underscored and highlighted by Sinek. I haven’t read a book since Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR that has sparked my creative spirit, my entrepreneurial curiosity, and my desire to inspire others as much as START WITH WHY: HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION.

Sinek took this notion of starting with WHY and theorized it to help him better understand leaders. He made a Golden Circle. He examined the Law of Diffusion of Innovators and the tipping point in companies—when an idea becomes a movement— such as what happened with the iPhone. He puts WHY in plain language for all to understand; he tells stories worth listening to; and, he inserts himself into the bigger picture thinking toward the end.

So powerful is his writing that I couldn’t put the book down, and I was wondering if my students in a new creative course I am teaching felt the same way. After our class discussion only minutes ago, I can tell you that I think they took away the key points beautifullly—those most worth noting—and some were wholeheartedly inspired to always start with WHY.

22254799_162442347671614_2243760335775698453_o.jpg
The students brainstorming in our new collaborative course on campus.

As for me, I was intrigued and enamored by his connections from the second I started reading his book. During my own careers (and I do mean that, as I’ve had several), I always started with WHY. During my time at the Baltimore Orioles, believe me when I say I wasn’t getting rich there. I had a fantastic job—one that constantly inspired me—and I can tell you that what Sinek says is so true: if you are inspired by THE WORK, the money is secondary to what you are doing and the bigger picture of WHY you are doing it. When I left the Orioles and went to my next job, the WHY was much fuzzier; I went for the wrong reason–to make more money than I previously made. And while I did that, the WHY and inspiration was missing from the work. When I broached the subject of leaving that job while on vacation in London with my husband, I asked him this question: “Why can’t I do the two things I love: teach and have a writing/design business?” His answer was the best anyone could give: You can.

And so I did.

When I made the foray into full-time teaching, I knew my WHY. I had discovered it when I began as an adjunct teacher at a local community college back in 1993. I wanted to be a teacher because I was a born cheerleader—I wanted to inspire, coach, and help others with their education and prepare them for careers. I think I knew this my whole life—that this would be my chosen profession eventually—but it took me working in another profession to find out that the WHY for teaching was not to be ignored and it warranted serious consideration.

When I decided to become an author and write fictional books, I knew my WHY: I wanted to entertain and inspire others through storytelling. I chose to become a self-published author and wrote and produced three novels. I lost my WHY a little this summer when book promotion took hold and made me leery of WHY I was a writer in the first place. But then, upon being asked to give a talk about self-publishing at Stevenson University to faculty and staff, I remembered and was reconnected with my WHY. I write books because it is my PASSION, and I just LOVE the process. How many books I sell should be secondary to the task I adore so much—storytelling. And so, newly refocused, I will continue along my writing and publishing journey.

In 2013, along with my colleagues, Chip and Leeanne, we decided to write a textbook on event planning. After scouring the library and bookstores for a good text to share with our students that attached communication theory to event planning and coming up empty-handed, we decided to write our own textbook. So, what did we do?

We started with WHY and asked this question: What is the WHY behind what we do in event planning? And out of this question was born our book, EVENT PLANNING: COMMUNICATING THEORY AND PRACTICE, published by Kendall-Hunt Publishers.

McManus_et_al_9781465284471.jpg

If you adopt Simon Sinek’s approach—that anything you do that is meaningful must start with WHY—you are more likely to find some meaning in it and grow from it. In turn, you will learn from it and maybe even have great success from it. And without even realizing it, you begin to inspire others.

START WITH WHY is a book you will not soon forget, and I will recommend it to anyone who wants to be an inspirational leader, as well as to anyone who has lost his or her way and needs to be reminded of their WHY.

 

 

Every One of My Books Has Killed Me a Little More

 

 

cropped-screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-11-16-00-am.png
In 5 years, I wrote three novels and a textbook while working full-time as a professor. I think that warranted a short respite.

***

You see the title there, and maybe that’s why you clicked over to see what’s going on here.

If you did, please know I didn’t say that quote. It was said by the famous late writer, Norman Mailer. “Every one of my books has killed me a little more, ” he said.

I didn’t know the man. I’m not on par with him as a writer. I am not as prolific a writer as he was. And I certainly don’t earn my primary income as a writer as he did.

And yet, I can totally understand what he said.

As some of you who follow my blog may know, I hit a wall this summer. Exhaustion took over, and I needed a break from writing. While writing novels hasn’t killed me, the promotion of them was making me crazy. Every morning I thought to myself, “Just what do I need to do today to sell one book? How can I market my book today on social media? How can I spread the word about my novels? How can I post one more thing on social media without annoying my friends and supporters?”

img_1179These thoughts began to consume me, and I knew I had to tread lightly. Ruining friendships over book promotion is not worth it, but I needed to put a little distance between me (as a person and friend and mother and wife) and my writing and marketing. I could feel myself slipping into a sort of dark abyss and feeling quite down about things, and I didn’t want those feelings to affect me and my family.

Taking a respite from writing has been just what the doctor ordered. I am concentrating on my family, helping my son with his college applications, teaching at the university, planning a new course I am co-teaching, and exercising, something I had let slip as well.

The miraculous thing that happens when you put a little distance between you and your writing are these things called invigoration and inspiration. I find I am becoming inspired by things I’ve neglected to notice; I am invigorated by relationships I never knew I could have; and story ideas seem to be coming to me at a mile a minute.

It’s a good thing I keep a notebook. I jot down ideas that may be novel-worthy, and I’ll examine which stories I might like to tell next.

planner
I still keep a paper planner in which I jot down things, keep notes, make to-do lists, and write inspiring quotes. Still works for me as opposed to using my iPhone or Outlook calendar.
I’m not done writing novels, I’m just gearing up for something I can sink my teeth into to grab hold. The inspiration fairy, when given some room to breathe, seems to want to come to life and help out a weary writer and marketer.

And, moreover, because I do LOVE writing so much, I don’t ever want to utter the words Norman Mailer said.

I won’t ever let my creativity and need to tell stories kill me a little.

I absolutely refuse to allow that to happen.