Writing To You Today from a Convention in Pittsburgh

The inaugural group of students in the design center course at Stevenson University, now formally known as THE MILL at STEVENSON UNIVERSITY.

Happy Friday afternoon! I have time for a quick blog post today, as I am at the annual Eastern Communication Association Convention (ECA) in Pittsburgh, PA. My colleague, Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus has spent the last year and a half planning this event, and my other colleague, Chip Rouse, and I are on the planning committee with her. We were fortunate enough to bring 8 students with us from Stevenson University, and those students were members of last fall’s course, formerly known as Design Center, which acted as an integrated marketing communication agency. Additionally, we were tasked last fall with branding the name of the center, and it is now formally called The Mill at Stevenson University, and ECA was one of our two clients.


We worked to help plan this convention–and it’s been a great experience for the students. At a communication convention of teachers, faculty, and scholars, along with folks who work in the field of communication, we learn a lot from each other. It’s the best place to garner ideas for teaching. Our students are here at the event as ECA ambassadors, and it’s wonderful to see them help host an event and be able to dissect what it takes to create a 5-day event with approximately 800 attendees. Likewise, they are being exposed to other communication majors at universities who are here as well. So you can see, this is a tremendous opportunity for experiential learning.

As for me, I always come away from this convention with one major takeaway: it makes me want to become a better teacher. No matter how good you are at something, there is always room for improvement, and I love hearing different tactics other faculty use at their institutions when they teach certain courses. It’s a great reminder to continue to be innovative and creative with classroom curriculum, and to always know that you have to be a lifelong learner. I pride myself on this idea of never getting too comfortable, always being curious, and being open to new ways to engage students and foster learning.

I’ll be coming home with a notebook full of strategies and ideas I’ll incorporate into my courses for the fall semester. There’s still one more full day that remains tomorrow, but we’ve worked hard, and tonight our group will be having dinner together at restaurant with a view of the city where we can eat a relaxing meal and have some laughs.

Presenting on a panel with fellow professors from Stevenson and other universities.

9 Schmoozing Techniques for Networking


In the world of business communication, we do a lot of schmoozing. It’s not a bad word; it’s not taboo—it’s what we do. We have to know how to mingle with finesse. It’s the art of schmoozing, and I think Urban Dictionary defines it best as: Talk that is business oriented, designed to both provide and solicit personal information but avoids overt pitching. Most often an artifact of ‘networking.’

So there you have it.

Now, how do you execute the schmooze like a pro?

I’ve done enough schmoozing over the years to offer a few pointers, especially for recent graduates, soon-to-be graduates, or those coming back in the game or switching careers. Overall, these would be my top nine recommendations…

  1. Have a firm handshake (but not too hard) and look people in the eyes. Staying engaged during the few minutes that you converse can make a big impression.
  2. Stay abreast of current news and issues so that should someone make a comment about world or national events, you are up on the issues. With today’s access to Twitter (most of my students say they get their news their first and then click to read stories) and online news site, you can scan the headlines and continue reading stories that may be conversation starters.
  3. Don’t be too serious. When you are schmoozing at functions, meet-and-greets, business mixers, or any type of events, be sure not to talk solely about business. Sometimes the last thing people want to talk about at functions involve actual business issues. The most important thing is to be likeable.
  4. Be genuine. No one likes a phony. You don’t need to try too hard. Just be yourself. People typically like the real thing.
  5. Remember people’s names. One of the great tricks to remembering people’s names is, after you have been introduced, say the person’s name back to them. For example, the person may put out his hand for a shake and say, “Hi, I’m Bob.” You reply, “Hi Bob, nice to meet you. I’m Brian.” This is a good habit to get into and may help you remember people when you are meeting many new faces in one setting. Also, try to zone in on one thing you might have in common–it can help you remember people after the event is done.
  6. Don’t be too pushy. If you have a card, you can offer it. “May I give you my card in case you need anything?” Or, if you’d like to get that person’s card, ask in the same manner. “May I get a business card from you?” This is not the time to pitch too hard.
  7. Be positive. Don’t use the opportunity to meet new people as a therapy session to dump on your current employer, job, or rank. No one likes to mingle with Debbie Downer. Stay upbeat and light. Not too much heaviness.
  8. Ask people questions. Don’t monopolize the conversation, and be sure to pick people’s brains about various subjects. Stay curious–you’ll learn a lot more that way.
  9. Keep conversations brief and try not to linger too long. One of the great things about an event worthy of schmoozing is that you want to talk to as many people as possible. Making connections—sometimes lasting ones that can turn into meaningful jobs or friendships—is the goal, after all.


Flash Fiction from a Writing Prompt


In the classes I teach at Stevenson University, students know that I have the propensity to use writing prompts in class to get them writing creatively and telling little stories. Their purpose? Simply to practice writing.

Often, when I have the inclination to write something but am in-between novels, I use writing prompts a lot. There are three main reasons to use a writing prompt:

  1. It gets you writing (as stated above) and thinking creatively.
  2. It gets you thinking in way you may not have been thinking when you started staring at the blinking cursor and allows you to take a writing journey.
  3. It can turn into something wonderful.

Years ago, I wrote a prompt that I loved so much, I used portions of it in my first novel. You can click here to see that particular piece writing if you would like.

I like the idea of someone giving me an idea to write about because it pushes me, just as those I give the students push them. It’s also fun to see where students take the prompts. For example, Student X might take the story one way, Student Y might take it another way, and Student Z might take it in an entirely different direction. That’s the beauty of prompts and of writing: we imagine things differently, and sharing that journey is exciting.

A website I use to garner writing prompts comes from Writing Exercises UK.

Today, I got the first line for the prompt from that site, and I’m going to share what I did with it. It’s totally rough, because that’s what writing prompts should be. They are a launching pad to see if you want to explore it further when you are done.

I hope you take the time utilize writing prompts to see where your creativity may take you.

Enjoy the writing journey.

The first line generator gave me this first line:

There was a legend about the well in the garden…

Here’s the story.
There was a legend about the well in the garden. Groundskeepers said the well held a secret to the old home and its matron, Cynthia LaMontagne, who lived on the property for all 100 years of her life. Born on the second floor to her own mother, Cynthia inherited the home upon her parents’ deaths and raised all eight of her own children on the property. The secret of the well was not a pretty one, and it reflected a haunting tale that left me searching for answers after spending time on the grounds of the old estate, set in the hills of France.
You see, I was not personally acquainted with Cynthia LaMontagne until she was eighty, and I was a college graduate back in 1998, the youngest of three children of Cynthia’s son, Martin, who had met an American woman, my mother, and moved to the United States in his early thirties. My father and his mother spoke only rarely and upon occasions when it was mandatory. However, it had been promised to me for ten years that upon my college graduation and at my grandmother’s urging that I would get to spend a month with her on the large estate in France so that I could see a little bit of Europe before I began a career in advertising in New York City.
I did not speak French, which would make conversations with Cynthia challenging, but my father had very nicely hired a local French woman who was bilingual as a translator to help with that. Despite turning eighty the summer I visited, she didn’t look much like eighty at all. She was a thin woman, with a strong nose and inset blue eyes. Her hair was white, but long, and she wore it in a bun on the top of her hair.
When I first arrived to Vue Sur Le Jardin, I was in awe of the expansive balcony on the second floor with vistas of the gardens—wildflowers everywhere—and of course, a small vineyard on the left side of the property. The house itself was not massive, but the grounds were. New York City has its skyscrapers and glittery skyline, but the view from that balcony was one to be envied.
“Bien?” my grandmother asked, smiling, seeing me taking in the scenery. It was an awkward initial greeting, hugging each other gently, the two of us having never met in person.
On that first day, the translator had not yet arrived, and so Cynthia and I were content with lots of smiling and gesturing. Thankfully, the next morning, Helen arrived to take over on day two and to help me communicate with Cynthia. We sipped our coffees on the veranda, and she seemed like a nice person.
“Aimeriez-vous vous promener dans les jardins pour que je puisse vous connaître?” Helen asked. I looked at her squarely.
“I’m sorry, Madamoiselle. Would you like to stroll that gardens so that I may get to know you?” she asked in very broken English.
“Yes,” I said.
We began our descent to the main lawn, a rolling hill, with trees atop blowing in the wind. We came upon the wishing well, covered in ivy, wildflowers growing in all directions around it.
“C’est charmant,” I said, trying to practice my French so as to not disappoint.
“Yes,” Helen said. “It is charming, but there is a story, you see. One we don’t speak of.”
I looked at her puzzled. It always felt like something had been missing from my father’s stories, and there were not many. When I asked about his youth, he always dismissed them as good, with little elaboration. It was apparent standing among these gardens that I knew nothing about my father’s younger days. How could he not have told me all about the estate of Vue Sur Le Jardin?
“But you have to tell me. I’ve come all this way to understand my father’s upbringing and get to know my own grandmother who I’ve only just met in person yesterday.”
“I cannot speak it,” Helen said.
“But you must now,” I said.
Helen looked away with fear. Something had rattled her very core, as we stood among the beauty, a picturesque paradise annointed with flowers and stone paths highlighted by an abundance of sunlight.
“Your father’s sister, you see,” Helen said pointing to the well.
“My father’s sister is in the well?”
“I’m afraid the sad story is that your father’s sister was pushed and died in the well…”
To be continued…maybe.purple-grapes-vineyard-napa-valley-napa-vineyard-39351.jpeg

Wednesday Wardrobe – The Floral Maxi Dress

AdamireI’m getting spring fever, you guys.

I want to wear pretty things that feel like summertime. I’m ready to be in flip flops, flouncy dresses, big hats, and sunglasses.

So today, I’m featuring a dress from Express that I got at a consignment store–in perfect condition. There’s a lot to be said for quality consignment stores. I pop into our local shop a couple of times a month just to see what great finds may be waiting just for me.

I shop everywhere, though. Nordstrom. Ann Taylor Loft. Kohl’s. Target. Macy’s. Boden. Sundance. I’m all over the place, because I like to try different things.

So here’s one of two maxi dresses I’ve picked up so far this season–I’ll be wearing them both all summer and on our two vacations.

The hat is from Marshall’s.

Orange mules are from DSW by Kelly & Katie.

Sunglasses are Foster Grant.

Summer. We are waiting.

Book Club Visits Benefit Authors – Truly.

The lovely women of last week’s Book Club in Chartwell, Severna Park.


Last week I had the pleasure of attending a local book club meeting, and I had the opportunity to mingle with readers of my novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, the first of three novels I have written and published.

From the book club side, the benefits of having an author attend your book talk is that you get some “behind the scenes” information about the book, its inception, back story, and inspirations from the author. Authors are typically willing to answer questions and provide additional insight into their books.

I enjoyed meeting the women in last week’s book club, and had a great time interacting with them. They asked great questions and were interested in learning about the writing process.

From an author’s perspective, book clubs offer us the chance to pick our readers’ brains a little, too, because hearing directly from readers is the best way to do research, think about adjustments for the future, and hear ideas for potential novels. If you can get your pulse on what they like to read, it can be most beneficial. I tell my own writing students that when I write something—especially a novel—I picture my readers in my head, I know what they are looking for in a book, and I try not to disappoint them.

I’d love to be a part of your book club — just reach out, and I’ll do my best to be there either in person or virtually. It means a lot to us as writers—we LOVE to meet our readers.
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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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

Writing About The Great Depression

pexels-photo-934079.jpegIt probably all started when my father-in-law told my kids that the only toys he had to play with when he was little were an “old boot” and a stick and rocks that he turned into street baseball in Jersey City as a kid. There was no money for toys or extra things. Times were tight. It was not easy.

For years I had the story of Inn Significant in my head. I knew I wanted it to be about a woman who has to find her way in the world after a devastating loss, and I knew I wanted to call the book Inn Significant, because I wanted her to take over the running of the family inn.

I had two things to figure out quickly: (1) Where would I set the novel? and (2) What aspects of this “new life” at an inn will help her recover?

The answer to number 1 didn’t come as quickly as I would have hoped. In fact, I had every intention of setting the novel in Annapolis, as I did with Beneath the Mimosa Tree. However, upon reflection (and walking around downtown trying to find that perfect “spot” for the setting), I kept coming up empty handed. I’m a very “visual” writer—I need to “see” the place where my characters will live and breathe. I take tons of photographs and use them to guide my description in some cases (not all, sometimes I rely upon my imagination). Anyway, I called my mother one morning and asked her to come to Oxford, Maryland, with me on the Eastern Shore. She did, and as soon as I saw the Sandaway Inn is perched upon the Tred Avon River, I knew I had it. Milly’s character had a home, and I began writing feverishly, completing that novel in one summer.


The answer to number 2 took years to form. I knew I wanted Milly to have struggles and even battle some depression, but I didn’t have the hook until that summer as well. The idea of Milly becoming aware of an old journal from the Depression era (1929-1939) that is found in the basement of the inn grabbed hold. It was just the hook I needed to complete the plot line of the story.

Honestly, I’ve always had some sort of fascination with this time period—from understanding the economics of the time to people’s real struggles to the clothing worn—and I’ve wanted to learn more about it. I spent time doing research on those years, and I wanted the journal to sound authentic, as if it really could have been written during that time period. I researched books, fashions and clothing, the way people spoke, the way people wrote, how the Depression affected folks, industries that failed or teetered and those that continued, and so much more. I enjoyed reading real stories from that era, and appreciate people who lived through it.

I’ve had fun writing three different types of books: Beneath the Mimosa Tree, written in in alternating he said/she said perspectives; Baseball Girl, which is full of reflections and is told in both third and first person; and Inn Significant, told in first person with the journals from the Depression era becoming a significant part of the story. A fan of period pieces on television and historical fiction, I can honestly say that I enjoyed folding The Great Depression into this modern-day novel, and I look forward to delving into historical fiction in the future.



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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.


Attending Book Talks as an Author: One of My Favorite Things To Do

One of the things I love best about being an author is receiving an invitation to attend a book club discussion. As a “people person” in every sense of the word, I enjoy the time I get to meet new folks, talk about reading and writing, and swap book suggestions for reading with others.

Tonight, I’ll be attending a local book club gathering, and I’m excited for it. The book they chose of mine is my first, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, which is set in our backyard of Annapolis, Maryland. Because some of the women are from this area or are familiar with downtown Annapolis and its surrounding area, I’m excited to hear their thoughts about the setting.

In this novel, told from the alternating points of view of Annabelle Marco and Michael Contelli, readers hear two sides of what happened to their relationship, with the ultimate theme of the novel being that of finding forgiveness. Can two people forgive each other after 10 years have passed? That’s what we’ll discuss.

As a writer who relishes the opportunity to interact with readers, I look forward to hearing these ladies’ thoughts—and I file them away as I begin to work on new projects. When I attend a book talk of a fellow writer, I’m always interested to hear about the back story of a project, hear the history of the characters and their development (and wonder who those characters are really based on, as I wrote about in a recent blog post), and learn about the research the writer did to write that particular novel.

Beneath the Mimosa Tree at G&R

As a self-published author, networking in person, as well as online as I do constantly with Steph’s Scribe, helps me reach audiences I might not normally reach. Seeing the faces of people at book clubs reminds me of who my readers are—and it gives me the opportunity to THANK THEM for selecting my book as their choice of the month. There are so many great works out there for book clubs to choose from that I consider it a tremendous honor when then choose mine.

BookSigningG&SIf you are interested in reading any of my books and having me participate in your book club, you can contact me directly below in the comments, or you can email me at stephanie.verni@gmail.com. I have Skyped and FaceTimed into book clubs, visited book clubs, and called into book clubs all over the place. Feel free to reach out and I’ll be happy to check my availability.

It would be my honor to be there either virtually or in person.



BTMT Worldbookday


The Petite Professor -Wednesday Wardrobe

AdamireI think we are all yearning for spring at this point. Although Maryland is technically below the Mason-Dixon line, I can tell you having lived here my entire life, that spring really doesn’t get going until late April, if we’re lucky. So in this neck of the woods, we are still wearing warmer clothes, though we yearn to feel the warmth of the sunshine on our bodies.

Today, I defied the weather gods (it was cold this morning), ditched my tall boots, and wore a navy blue dress with shoulders exposed. What the heck, right? A little cold never hurt anyone. And this dress is so comfy.

Luckily, we are moving into the 70s over the next several days. It will feel like the tropics compared to this long winter season.

I may finally be able to move into some spring colors, but for now, here’s a casual outfit I love wearing. This top from White House Black Market is one of my favorites.

Sorry for the short post, but I’ve got a lot on my plate today. Hope your HUMP DAY is a great one.

I’ll do a better job with the Wednesday fashion post next week.

Take care—


The Real People Who Have Inspired Some of My Characters

pexels-photo-320266.jpegI was reading a fellow writer’s blog today, and he wrote a post about people who have inspired him along the way: both those who have encouraged him to write and those who have inspired the characters he has written. It was enlightening to read his thoughts, so I decided to share what has inspired some of my own characters in my novels.

We’ll start with three today, one from each book.


Some of you may know that the character of Vivi in Beneath the Mimosa Tree was inspired by my own grandmother, Eleanor, who passed away when I was in my twenties. I had a great relationship with her and admired her, and I wished she’d been around longer so that I could have developed a more adult relationship with her. Her passing left me with some regrets—that I didn’t do more with her and talk to her more often and that I didn’t capture as much of our family’s history as I would have liked. The character of Vivi is very much like my grandmother: she is wise, has her granddaughter Annabelle’s  best interest at heart, and believes that she may know what’s best for her even though Annabelle may not. They have a close and loving relationship, and I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of fabulous relationships with our grandparents. Those can be quite influential in our lives.

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My brother and me with Poppy and Nanny, my mom’s parents. Vivi is loosely based on my grandmother.


When my father (who is alive and well, by the way, unlike Frankie’s father in Baseball Girl) asked me if the character of Joe Clarkson was based on former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson, I had to chuckle. The truth is, that character was a combination of many baseball players I had met along the way when I worked for the Baltimore Orioles. (Looks wise, I kind of had former ballplayer Paul O’Neil of the New York Yankees pictured in my head when writing Clarkson’s physical description). Having spent time in public relations, community relations, and publishing for the ballclub, I encountered a mix of personalities, and it’s much more fun when writing fiction to create your characters by pulling from traits of many different people. What was most important to me about writing Clarkson’s character was to make him likable, as so many ballplayers can be, especially as they are often seen through more of a public than private lens. Clarkson was charming, funny, romantic, confident, and self-absorbed to a degree. Did he love Frankie? Maybe, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.

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New York Yankee player Paul O’Neil was the inspiration for Joe Clarkson’s looks (not personality). People ask me who Clarkson is most like. I honestly have no idea. He’s kind of a collection of people I met along the way working in professional baseball all rolled into one. Photo credit: New York Daily News.


Much like Father John in Baseball Girl, Miles Channing is my favorite character in Inn Significant—I definitely had a lot of fun writing him. My husband always cracks up when I mention this character’s name, telling me he sounds like a cheesy soap opera character from the 1980s. While there may be some truth to that, Miles Channing was always Miles Channing, no matter how many times people told me to reconsider his name. I was not to be deterred in naming that character: I loved that name, and have a perfect mental picture of what Miles Channing looks like in my head. He is absolutely charming, funny, witty, aloof, caring, and smart, and yet there are things Miles keeps hidden from everyone. He has been hurt by a wife who left him, and has become a playboy to keep from being hurt again. The main female character in this novel, Milly, figures him out eventually, but never falls in love with him. They are always good friends, and that’s how I wanted it to be. I have a few good male friends who have never been romantic interests of mine (nor on their part, have I been one of theirs), and yet we have a strong bond. This is what I wanted for Milly. She needed a nice guy in her life—one she was not in danger of falling in love with. Sometimes those relationships can be so wonderfully beneficial and therapeutic.

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Some of my best guy friends are people I worked with at the Orioles. I got good material from working there and from hearing their stories.

That’s it for now. This was fun and sort of cathartic for me to examine post-writing. I may do another post like this soon.


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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.


7 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing

pexels-photo-948888.jpegWriting well is vitally important in any field you consider for your profession. Some people claim they are not good writers, but in order to be successful, you must be able to write well, and so it is something that you should continually work to improve. As writing is a craft, it’s an incredibly important communication skill.

For 18 years, I’ve been a faculty member in the Department of Business Communication at Stevenson University where writing is one of our core fields of study. Writing meaningful, well-written material shows care, knowledge, and the capacity to put thoughts into words. Being able to clearly articulate ourselves is an asset to any company. Anything poorly written reflects on you. Carelessly proofed work, grammatical and punctuation errors, and weakly built sentences and paragraphs can lead to a lack of clarity and show a lack of pride in one’s work.


In order to help you better prepare written documents, here are a few things to keep in mind while you develop and fine-tune your business writing.

  1. Always proof your emails and work CAREFULLY before you send them. Careless typos, mistakes, and ill-crafted verbiage will not reflect well on you as an employee and/or someone who wishes to grow with the company or in his career. Be sure to take the time to review what you’ve written. One suggestion for beginning writers is to craft the prose in a Word document to proof it and then paste it into the email when it has been fully checked. You should also print it and read it NOT on a screen, where editing copy can be easier. Additionally, add the recipients of the email last to avoid sending it to the wrong people or sending it too soon.
  2. Know your audience. For every single piece of writing you do, you must know your intended audience. Know as much about them as possible, thereby writing information that pertains specifically to that audience. Imagine yourself as the reader of what is received and ask yourself questions that could best be answered in that email, document, proposal, or whatever piece of collateral you are writing.
  3. Organize your work. One thing that distracts readers from good comprehension of materials is when work is all over the place. Organize your writing by topics, time, situations, suggestions—whatever—and stick with it. Don’t make your audience have to work to understand what you have written by bouncing from one topic to another. Stay organized and focused on each aspect of the content.
  4. An informal, inviting tone is always helpful to writing, but always remember this is writing created for business. You can certainly adjust the tone, but be cognizant of who will eventually read it, and write for that audience. If the situation calls for a more casual style of writing, feel free to implement it, but don’t go too far. Stick with language that is pertinent to the subject and audience at hand.
  5. Try not to use too much jargon and leave the trite expressions behind. Write with facts, statistics, and strong information to keep the writing pertinent and viable. Leave behind the flowery language for novels and creative fiction and nonfiction, advertising, and other creative outlets, and write strong content using minimal adjectives and adverbs.
  6. Keep your audience’s time in mind and edit your work—people do not have a lot of time to sift through business documents. If you keep your audience in mind with all documents you produce, you will write in a concise way so that you do not waste their precious time searching for clues within your documents. Instead, you will eliminate unnecessary information. As Strunk & White recommend, “Omit needless words.”
  7. Conclude well, and know what you are asking the audience to do. Whether you are asking your audience to take action, consider a proposal, become involved in the company, stay informed, attend a function, understand a new process or program, or approve a new budget, whatever it is, conclude with the proposed action in mind. Don’t leave your audience guessing. It is your job to tell them what you want to tell them and ask for what you need.



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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

Friday Fiction: Dr. DeCarlo’s Patient

pexels-photo-263402.jpegHappy Friday, readers!

I’ve been working on some additional short stories that I’ll be adding to my collection I’m putting together for a summer release.

For years, I’ve been envious of Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the novel Twilight. Apparently, the story goes that she dreamed it and turned it into a novel. How does she get so lucky to have a story come into her subconscious like that, I’ve wondered. What a stroke of brilliance.

Well, it finally happened to me the other night. This story was a dream, as if I were watching it on the big screen. I woke up the next morning and wrote it, sent it off to my friend Elizabeth who gave it a blessing, spruced it up a little, and I’m sharing it today.

It’s a WIP (work in progress), so there is still more to be done, but as I am never too afraid to show my writing or talk about the process of writing, I thought I’d post it today for Friday Fiction.

Here’s my newest short story, Dr. DeCarlo’s Patient (and yes, his name was actually in my dream).



DR. DeCARLO’S PATIENT (copyright April 6, 2018 | Stephanie Verni

Dr. DeCarlo checks into the hospital at four o’clock in the afternoon. By seven that night, he has seen numerous patients with injuries and ailments ranging from an elderly woman who has fallen and broken her hip to a child with an asthmatic reaction to a teenager who has been hit in the face with a baseball by a batter during a local high school game. On any given day, Dr. DeCarlo sees to patients, caring for them all the same way: with a direct, warm approach and comprehensive analysis to try to heal their traumas that have brought them to the emergency room at all hours of the day or night.

At exactly ten thirty-five, Dr. DeCarlo runs his fingers through his dark hair and scratches his chin. His skin is tanned from playing golf, a benefit of living in the south, his one recreational activity he plays frequently that relaxes and revives him. It’s by far his favorite de-stressor from work, and he squeezes in a round or two of at least 9-holes a couple of days a week. A car accident victim is arriving in the ambulance and his associate gives him a head’s up having heard the ambulance call. He finishes up with the woman who has broken her hip as she is being prepped for surgery with another doctor—the poor lady, scared to death and worried—and begins his walk to where he will meet the accident victim. He needs a cup of coffee, but it must wait. His back is tired from bending over for the majority of the afternoon, and he is burdened by the fact that he must return Sophia’s call, which popped up on his cellphone over three hours ago. Dialing her number doesn’t interest him at all, but he knows it’s something he will eventually have to do.

The woman being wheeled out of the ambulance is semi-conscious, and he sees her face is bruised, her nose bleeding. There’s a gash over her left eye. Her hand is wrapped in gauze to stop the bleeding and she’s moaning slightly; a little wet tear slides down her unaffected cheek. He reads the quick report—she was hit on the driver’s side by what appears to have been an intoxicated driver. Glass shattered. The car was totaled. The paramedics report that she may have broken ribs and other parts, and they found her fainted in the vehicle upon their arrival. Dr. DeCarlo looks at his patient and begins to examine her in a hurried manner, the nurses quickly dulling her pain at his order. He reads the name on her chart so that he can call her by name, a habit some of his other colleagues do not do so well. He remembers the tip his father, a doctor himself, had given him years ago: patients are people, not numbers. They are people with emotions and pain, sadness and worry. They are often scared. Dr. DeCarlo prides himself that he regards his patients as individuals, and it’s been one of his long-standing doctor goals: to remember their names. It is something he regularly works to do with each face he meets.

As the patient begins to feel the effects of the pain medication, he reaches for her hand—the one not bandaged—and speaks gently to her. “You will be okay, Emelie. We’re going to take care of you.”

Her eyes close, and she drifts off. Dr. DeCarlo begins to get to work.


Emelie awakens hours later to a nurse telling her to drink some Ginger Ale. The nurse is trying to bring her to full consciousness, and she slowly begins to focus her eyes to see her surroundings. She is not dead. At least she doesn’t think so. She is alive and surrounded by people in hospital garbs, the smell of formaldehyde taking over her senses. She sees her bandaged left arm and looks down to see her left leg in a cast. Her chest hurts; it aches to breathe. The thought of drinking anything at this very moment is not appealing.

“Let’s see if we can begin to get you hydrated,” the nurse with the big breasts says as she leans over her. “We want to get you off the IV if we can.” It takes a few minutes for her to come around, and at the nurse’s urging, she takes some sips from a straw.

“Which hospital am I in?” she asks.

Just then, a man walks through the door in a white coat. He looks familiar. The nurse greets him, and he says hello back to her. They seem to know each other. The doctor’s face is friendly, and he looks at Emelie and begins to speak.

“Good morning, Emelie,” he says kindly. “I’m Dr. DeCarlo, and I worked to stabilize you last night. How are you feeling?”

“Like I’ve been hit by a car,” Emelie says, knowing full well what she is saying, the corners of her mouth turning into a little bit of a smile.

The doctor is pleased by her response and smiles at her. “I see you have a good sense of humor,” he replies. “I don’t often get that after an accident, but you seem to know what happened.”

She nods. His presence is comforting.

“Then, you can probably guess by the looks of things that your your arm is broken and that your leg is fractured. Your face was scratched by the shattered glass, with one cut above the left eye, and you have a couple of broken ribs. You fainted in the car and went into a bit of shock, but we’ve taken good care of you since you arrived, and you’re getting stabilized. The good news is there’s no broken nose despite that it was bleeding a little when you arrived. You’re actually looking very well despite it all. The nurses have done their jobs.”

“And you, I would guess,” Emelie says. She offers a slight grin, giving him the best she can under the circumstances. There is something about his demeanor and the sound of his voice that is so pleasing. She is grateful for him and to him—and she feels the need to express it.

“I cannot thank you enough, Doctor. I appreciate all the great care you all have given me. Thank you for what you did.”

The nurse excuses herself from the room to get some additional supplies while Dr. DeCarlo continues to stand next to Emelie.

“Is there anything we can get you to make you more comfortable? Is there someone we can contact for you?”

Emelie shakes her head from side to side. “No,” she says, “I will just wait to get discharged. How many days will I be here?”

“Probably just overnight again. Most likely, you will be released tomorrow in the afternoon, but someone will need to take you home.”

“Right,” Emelie says.


It’s six in the morning, and Dr. DeCarlo’s shift ended at midnight, but things were hectic, and he stayed on to help the overflow. It’s one of the perks of being an unwed doctor—no one is waiting for him to come home. His hours are his own.

The nurse re-enters the room with some food and a few supplies. She will need to help Emelie to the bathroom once the catheter comes out. Not to embarrass the patient, the nurse speaks gently to Dr. DeCarlo.

“I’ll just need to help her out in a minute. You have been here far longer than you ought to have been, Dr. DeCarlo. How sweet of you. You should have punched out hours ago.”

The doctor’s face brightens a little, showcasing a little bit of redness on the cheeks. “Of course, of course. I just wanted to make sure our patient was okay,” he says, looking at Emelie.

“A little broken physically,” Emelie says, “but I think my spirit will be fine. I’m sorry for passing out. I don’t have a high level of tolerance for pain or blood. Do the police know who hit me?”

“They do. She was identified and charged, and walked away from it amazingly unharmed. Apparently, she had a little too much fun at the local bar, it would seem,” the nurse says. Dr. DeCarlo continues to look at Emelie. There is something about her that compels him to be standing here talking to her. There’s something about her face—those eyes—the cheekbones that are scratched up a bit. The sense of humor and humility. The nurse begins to shoo him away and he feels the phone vibrate in his pocket. He still hasn’t called Sophia back.

“I guess I must be on my way to let Nurse Shay take care of you. I’ll check back to check on you later.”

Nurse Shay shoots him a look of surprise, for in her five years working with Dr. DeCarlo, she has never seen him go the extra mile for patients as he has with this one. To be sure, he is a kind and caring emergency doctor, but there’s something different about the way he’s treating this case, and she furrows her brow with puzzlement.

Meanwhile, he can hear Emelie say sweetly as he exits the door to her room, “Thank you.”



Dr. DeCarlo heads to the locker room to collect his things. He is not due back until later tonight. As he places his coat on the hook of his locker and closes the door to it, he feels his phone vibrate again in his pocket. He grabs it and looks at the screen, sees her name again, and realizes that he really should clean his screen that’s full of fingerprints.

He exits the locker room, thinks about Emelie and wonders how she’s doing and why he’s thinking about her so much, and runs into Dr. Hickson, who is on call at the emergency room during the day. They share a passing greeting, and Dr. DeCarlo says he will see her later when he returns.

He walks outside into the warm morning sunshine, the blue sky cloudless, and sees her standing on the curb. He gingerly walks over to her.

“Hello, Sophia,” he says. At eight in the morning, she is coiffed and poised for action, and looks more like she is ready to go to a club than to go to her law office. Her severely highlighted blonde hair is piled on top of her head, her red lipstick never out of place.

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve called you?” she demands.

“Yes,” he says. “I believe it was 12.”

“That sounds about right. So why haven’t you called me back?” she says indignantly.

“I was working.”

“In the past, you’ve found time to call me while you’re working. What’s going on, Hugh?”

“This isn’t the place to have this discussion, Sophia. I’m on hospital grounds.”

“I know that. So am I.”

“Yes, but you don’t work here. I don’t discuss personal matters at work.”

“What matters?”

He places his sunglasses on his face, the sun’s brightness blinding his eyes as it rises over the hospital’s facade. He looks at her. It is safer to have this uncomfortable and inevitable conversation from behind dark shades.

“This isn’t working for me, Sophia. I don’t want to be in this relationship, especially when it doesn’t feel right.”

“Doesn’t feel right? What’s not right about it? I’m a professional. You’re a professional. We have the same circle of friends. We both want the same things out of life. How does this not feel right?”

“Call me crazy, but I just think there should be something more than a convenient group of friends and ambition as the factors that would bind us together. I’m sorry, Sophia. I just don’t want to be in this relationship any longer.”

“It was hardly a relationship to begin with,” she snips. “I’ve been the one driving the thing from the beginning. Your heart was never in it.”

“And perhaps that’s been the problem all along,” he says. “This hasn’t been a two-way street. You deserve better.”

“You’re absolutely right I deserve better! Look at me! I’m a catch! And you’re just too ignorant to see it,” she says, turning on her heels as she begins to take long strides toward her silver, convertible BMW, her shoes clicking on the asphalt. Dr. DeCarlo can’t help but chuckle at her silly antics, as he’s witnessed them before, and whispers a soft ‘bye-bye’ as she climbs into her car. He hears his mother’s voice in his head, the one that always offered reasoning during times when decisions must be made—you will know when you’ve found the right person, Hugh. You will feel it in here, she would say, patting the area on his chest where his heart is. He should have known better than to waste his time on something that never felt right. He certainly has never experienced anything like what his mother refers to as a “magical feeling” when meeting the person who may be a potential companion for life. It’s not that he didn’t want a life-long partner, he did, it’s just that no one had ever felt right before. He should never have allowed Eddie to set him up with Sophia in the first place. Set-ups never worked for him. Not in all of his thirty-eight years.


At eleven-thirty that night, Emelie is wide awake. She slept most of the day, as she tried to remember how the accident happened. Could she have prevented being hit by that woman? Could five more seconds of acceleration have avoided the crash? She’s beaten herself up all day about it, and now she stares at the television from her hospital bed as she watches The Jimmy Fallon Show, the volume turned down low.

Nurse Shay left hours ago, and Nurse Jones who is on duty now helped her clean herself up, offered her a brush, and helped her put her long, dark hair in a long ponytail. Nurse Jones also refreshed her water and helped her get to the bathroom about an hour ago, and is now making her way along the corridor to visit patients. The thought of returning to her apartment without any help is giving Emelie anxiety. The thought of being without a car is doubling that anxiety. There will be calls to the insurance company to sort out in addition to needing a car to get to work. She’s learned to become much more independent since Evan left, but she is worried about dealing with the effects of the car accident alone and contemplates calling her mother to see if she can come and stay with her for a while. What an inconvenience to her mother who lives all the way across the country. She hated the idea of doing that to her.


When Emelie first came to Atlanta last year, she came because of Evan. They met after graduate school—he working in sales, she finding employment as a teacher—and lived together for many years in Washington state. When Evan’s company transferred him back to his home state of Georgia, he jumped at the opportunity, and Emelie followed at his urging. Emelie found a teaching job locally, and Evan loved his new surroundings and environment, and especially loved his new assistant, Shannon. In a matter of months, he loved her more than he loved Emelie. So when the good doctor asked her earlier if there was anyone to call, the answer was an emphatic “no,” as there was no family or good friends local for her, only her teacher acquaintances from school that she hadn’t known for very long.

In her dreamlike state, half paying attention to Jimmy Fallon and half thinking about her present, unfortunate situation, she hears a knock on the door, and the door pushes open.

“Emelie?” the pleasant male voice says. She recognizes it right away as the Doctor’s.

“Hi,” she says. He is wearing his white coat again, and it shows off his deep tan and dark eyes. He walks closer and looks at her. “I wanted to see how you are doing before I begin my shift.”

“That’s very sweet of you,” she says. “I’m okay. Unable to sleep.”

“We can help you with that if you need some rest,” he says.

“No, thank you,” she says. “I slept most of the day. I’m just thinking and mindlessly watching the television.”

“That’s a good word for it–mindless,” he smirks, taking a peek at the television. “If I didn’t have to work, I would challenge you to game of Scrabble or cards.”

“It might be kind of a challenge to hold cards in my hands or shuffle,” she said.

He grinned.

“What can we get you?”

“I’m good, thank you. Honestly, the care here has been top-notch. Thank you for checking up on me.”

They both look at each other for a second, and the doctor slides over the guest chair to sit beside her.

“I hope you don’t think this is too forward of me, because trust me, what I’m about to say is completely out of character for me, especially when it comes to my patients, but I was wondering, seeing as how you seem to be without a car, if you need a ride home when you are discharged, it’s my day off and I’d be happy to help you get home.” Dr. DeCarlo has officially surprised himself by saying these words. She must think he’s weird … or worse, creepy. He hasn’t been able to shake her from his mind ever since he cared for her last night, but truly, what is he thinking? Does he have some sort of fever? Emelie is a patient, for God’s sake.

And then he hears his mother’s words echo in his head—you will feel it in here. There is something undeniable going on, at least from his perspective. Something extraordinary is happening to him, and he feels awkward, as it takes what seems like an eternity before Emelie responds to his offer.

“Do you cook, too?” she replies, smiling.


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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.


The Petite Professor: First Installment—The Clothes Junkie + Love Your Body


I’ve always been a clothes junkie.


I remember saving my money as a kid for Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey, where there was no sales tax on clothing, and my mother and grandmother would patiently take me shopping—for hours. I’d pile up some things to bring back to Maryland, and it was one of the highlights of our regular trips (besides seeing family, of course!)


The habit started then, and it hasn’t stopped all these years later.

Twelve years ago, I decided I wanted to be Stacy London of What Not To Wear and became a certified fashion consultant. A part-time job I did for a few years until I became a full-time professor, I helped women shop for clothes and dissected their closets. We built new wardrobes or altered existing ones. One particular woman had just given birth to twins and was re-entering the workforce, and her size had changed. In one morning and with $500, we built her a new business wardrobe. She hugged and kissed me, thrilled that she had the beginnings of a brand new collection that took into account her adjusted size. She looked fantastic. And I was thrilled to have helped her.

It’s not the most flattering photo of either of us, but here’s Stacy London and me at the Believe in Tomorrow fundraiser in Baltimore from a few years ago. She liked my dress.

Finding your own sort of style is important, and wearing clothes that make you feel good should be the priority when shopping, while also trying to find clothes that suit your body type.

In fashion workshops I developed, I talked about body type a lot, because the cut of the clothes can definitely help your body type, build, and height. As a petite person, I have to watch that clothes don’t overwhelm me, that prints are not too large, that ruffles are in proportion, and that I pay attention to my curves and work with them, not against them. (I curse them sometimes, too, but I have to remember, they can be my friends).


Be patient with yourself—love yourself—and believe that you can look smashing with a little effort. I know this to be true having shopped with many women over the years and having helped people who thought they were hopeless or distraught about their weight or shape realize, in fact, that they were downright gorgeous, and that perhaps they were just not wearing the right colors or cut of clothes.

It’s all about proportion in the end; and remember, all shapes and sizes are beautiful.

And that’s what’s kicking off this first installment of The Petite Professor. I hope you will  enjoy this weekly segment.


Navy Blue Dress: Ann Taylor Loft; Boots: Nine West; Briefcase: Lulu’s.