When An Idea Hits You, You Jump [for joy]

Hi You All,

I’m glad you’re still here reading my blogs. I’m so thankful and happy about that.

As you’ve been with me for a while, you know that this summer I experienced what we might call burnout, or the feelings of being a little tired from all that has occurred over the last several years with my writing and the promotion of my writing. Since 2012, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m not complaining at all. It’s all been wonderful and crazy and fun. It’s been non-stop high energy as I’ve turned out three fiction books and a textbook all within the span of five years while still working as a full-time professor, teaching and advising, raising my kids, and trying to have some sort of meaningful friendships and relationships with my family.

In other words, I needed to decompress and become inspired again.

Whew.

I did that. And it was awesome. I completely turned my brain off for a while.

Daily-Affirmation-for-positive-attitude-I-look-at-the-sunny-side-of-everythingSince I’ve bounced back, and my creativity is returning, I’ve been toying with the sequel to Inn Significant, seeing if it’s really what I want to be writing. While it’s been something that I’ve been doing progressively, but at a snail’s pace, I’m still not sure if I will ever publish this “thing.”

But then, out of the blue, a story idea came to me. It happened during a peaceful moment when my mind was clear and I was completely relaxed. I let the idea sit there for a while and start to take hold without moving too much on it. It kept coming back and getting bigger. I was starting to “see” my main character, what her situation is, and where the story might be set. I called my mother—my biggest supporter in the world—and we hashed it out.

I think I may have my next book idea.

I just may have it.

And it makes me want to jump with joy.

So hang tight…thanks for the support…and please don’t count me out.

Something may be brewing.

iris-gumption
Feeling a little bit like Iris today.

***

cropped-image1-19.jpgStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Proving a Little Point, Sharing Chapter 5 of Inn Significant’s sequel, and Encouraging You to Go For It

Writers write, at least that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

I’m up to over 16,000 words for the Sequel to Inn Significant during #NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing month.

I still have a L-O-N-G way to go, but what I hope I’ve inspired you to do this November is to believe that writing a novel is possible, even with a full time job, a family, extracurricular activities, popping in a workout now and then, and socializing with friends. You have to make the time for it, but I’m proof that it can be done.

Hear me clearly — it can be done, people.

You may not complete a whole novel in the month of NOVEMBER (I certainly won’t), but you can make some great headway on a project.

We shouldn’t expect a project of 50,000 words minimum to be completed the way we want it in four weeks; however, we can guide that project along to help propel it on its way to greatness. I truly believe that anything we write can have meaning and can be great in its own way if we put the time, love and energy into it that it needs. November is a good month to nurture your writing and get it rolling along.

Today, as I’ve been doing since the beginning of  the month, I’m sharing Chapter 5 of the sequel to Inn Significant. I still love the characters and especially the setting. It’s fun to continue to create these characters the way that I see them…and the way I think my readers would want to see them.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving; I’m thankful for your support and kindness with regard to my writing. And so without further delay, here’s what Chapter 5 might sound like.

Thanks you all.

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C H A P T E R   F I V E

of the Sequel to Inn Significant

Sylvia arrived right on time. It was her first day working at the Inn, and Colette was showing her the ropes in the kitchen. When I walked through the kitchen doors at seven-thirty in the morning, the place smelled like bacon and sausage and batter. I knew they had been cooking for at least a half an hour, as breakfast was being served.

Sylvia’s smile could light up a room. She was in her mid-fifties, but looked a lot younger. She was a little taller than I was with olive skin and bright white teeth; her pretty hair had golden highlights that framed her face. This was her first day on the job, but we all had helped her move into her place the week before, so we were able to spend a couple of hours with her then. She had cracked open a cooler full of beer and wine, and threw burgers on the grill for all of us as a thank you. Her welcoming style made us feel right at home with her, and I believe the reverse was true. She and Colette were making jokes and puns behind closed doors, and I placed the remaining food and drinks on the buffet table in the dining room.

In the dining room, tables of guests dined and chatted over food and morning coffee. The Inn was full, and this was the last group of guests before the wedding guests began to arrive in two days. We were in full swing and had tons of work to do over the course of the next seventy-two hours.

“Okay, girls, I’m off to begin the preparations with Eva. We will see you later. Sylvia’s got this and she’s in control. What a great hire, Milly. Love her already,” Colette said, giving my arm a squeeze.

“I know,” I said, winking at Sylvia. “She’s going to fit in here perfectly.”

Colette took off her apron, grabbed a napkin, and dabbed her forehead. It was hot in the kitchen sometimes, even when the air conditioning was blasting. I turned on the stainless steel fan in the corner of the room to provide some circulation. She collected her purse and opened the door.

“I’ll be back at three to help with afternoon tea, although I don’t think she needs any guidance from me,” Colette said.

“Yes, I do need you. I need you to walk me through this and the etiquette of it. I’m not familiar with any of that!”

“Ok, then. See you at three.”

After Colette walked out the door, Sylvia and I began to clean up the kitchen. Colette was one of those chefs that made food and cleaned up along the way. She hated when things would pile in the sink, so there was only a little bit to handle besides the plates and dishes that were in the dining room. I started collecting clearing the tables and bringing them in to be washed.

“I love this place,” Sylvia said.

“Me, too. I love it as well,” I said.

“I mean, I love the Inn—I do—but I love this town, too. I love Oxford.”

“I know. Me, too!”

“I almost can’t believe I’m here. Years ago, I was perusing a magazine, when I came upon an article about Oxford. There were pictures of the town—of the market, the ice cream place, and the Oxford Ferry. Kids were laughing and eating ice cream and I remembered reading the piece and thinking ‘someday I’m going to live there.’ It was always in the back of my mind.”

“The power of reading, I suppose,” I said.

“Speaking of reading, did you ever read the Harry Potter series?” Sylvia asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “I did.”

“You know how in the books the wand chooses the wizard?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I think this town chooses us.”

I leaned back on the counter and crossed my arms looking at Sylvia as she dried the last of the pans. It was a profound statement for someone to make after only being in Oxford for just under two weeks. It had taken me a months to come to this mystical realization myself, but Sylvia had figured it out immediately. I surmised there was a depth to Sylvia that would be good for me, and she inspired me and made me want to know more about her and the journey she took to get here.

*

Sometimes the stars do align, and I meant that literally.

John was standing on a very tall ladder and hanging the silver glitter stars and string lights from the side beams in the barn for Carolanne and Tim’s wedding that was just two days away. I was helping to direct him so they would be at the same level. When my mother and I met with Carolanne and Tim and asked her what she wanted the theme of the wedding to be, she had used the word “magical.” The problem was that magical to one personal could mean a completely different thing to another. When we pressed her, she was more specific. She had read the book The Night Circus and wanted that feeling in her own wedding–twinkling, mystical, magical, and memorable. I got a copy of the book and read it after our discussion to garner an idea what she was talking about, and when I was finished reading it, I sketched out some ideas which Carolanne loved. I knew exactly what she meant.

Now that the chandeliers were hung, they added a sense magic already, but the glitter stars and string lights were going to finish off that feeling. Additionally, we needed to hang the backdrop that I’d been working on for weeks—it was a silver, sequined backdrop with a multitude of lights hanging vertically from the top in front of the backdrop. It reminded me of a fairy tale. That particular showpiece would illuminate the head table, and John was going to install it later today.

Carolanne and Tim had decided that, provided the weather was good, they would have their stand-up cocktail hour outside on the lawn, and then move into the barn when it was time for dinner and dancing. John had built two rustic looking portable bars that had wheels that would be placed on either side of the patio where the doors opened. Additionally, we had purchased ten high-top wood tables that we would arrange around the lawn. John and I had gone shopping one rainy afternoon and bought and restored a collection of various antique chairs and settees in all shapes and sizes that we would arrange on the lawn for those who couldn’t stand for the entire hour.

The forecast called for sunshine and temperatures in the low eighties through Monday. We were in luck.

For all intents and purposes, the stars had aligned for our first wedding reception to take place, and I for one, was thrilled about that.

When John hung the final star, we stood back to admire our work. It was lunchtime, and the sun was beating down on us and the barn. It was difficult to see just how much those stars would twinkle at night.

“We’re going to have to come back later and see what it looks like—maybe after I hang the backdrop.”

“That sounds good. I’m going to set the tables in the meantime so that all we’ll need are the centerpieces which are coming from the florist.”

“Good. I’m hungry,” John said. “Let’s get something to eat.”

We decided to take a quick break and walk to the Oxford Market for some deli sandwiches. One of the things John and I had talked about was that it’s important to step away from our work now and then, clear our heads, and then get back to work. Hence the kayak, relaxing on John’s boat Plane to Sea, taking quick walks in town or quick spins on our bikes, or grabbing a book and sitting in the harbor or at the park. We had started creating our own space away from the premises because it helped us stay fresh.

We took our sandwiches to the park, and ate in the shade under the trees, looking at the water.

“Every time I come here, I think about what Nana wrote in her journal,” I said. It had become even easier to talk to John about anything—Nana, Ferio, our family, my tentative nature, and even Gil sometimes.

“What in particular?” he asked.

“This is where she and my grandfather went on their first date a couple of years after Ferio’s death when they were fixed up by their friends,” I said. “They came to the park, and I guess, the rest, they say, is history. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that date, I suppose. Set the whole chain of events in motion for our family.”

“Lucky for us,” he said.

“I like to think so,” I replied.

*

Since Gil’s death, I’d only seen his parents twice: once at his funeral and once when I was clearing out the house to move to Oxford and had invited them to come to Washington. I thought they might want some of his personal belongings. They lived in Bath, a quirky small town on the water in North Carolina, where Gil had grown up, and they both worked as teachers at Beaufort County Community College. Gil’s dad was also a member of the town’s board, and worked to promote a sense of spirit there. They had checked on me weekly after Gil’s death, and as he was their only child, I sensed two broken hearts that might never recover, just as I was concerned that my own never might never come back to life. I think they found it difficult to talk to me because I just reminded them of Gil, which I totally understood because everything reminded me of him. Ever since Gil and I first started dating in college, we were a package deal, and rarely did Gil visit his parents without me. They were sweet people, but tragedy has a way of either bringing people together fully or putting distance between them. I think we were on the latter side of that equation.

That was until I got the letter from the Post Office on our walk back from the park. Oxford residents have to pick up their mail at the Post Office; there is no mail delivery, so John and I made it a point to pick up today’s batch. I was sorting through the stack of bills when I noticed a pink envelope addressed to me: Ms. Emilia Foster from Ms. Gretchen Foster.

“What’s that?” John asked.

“It’s a card from Gil’s mom,” I said.

I ripped it open, my heart beating a little stronger than it had moments ago. On the front there was a little bluebird sitting on a perch, and it said: Just a note to keep in touch and say you’re thought about so much. I opened to read what she had written inside the blank card and read it aloud to John.

Dearest Emilia,

I hope this letter finds you well. Dale and I think of you often, though you wouldn’t know it by our lack of effort to keep in touch. We are writing today because we wanted to express how sorry we are for not staying connected to you. As you are well aware, Gil’s death was a shock to all of us, and I suppose some people cope with loss better than others. Since it happened, we still deal with sadness, and some days are better than others. However, we fear that we neglected you in our grieving process. Please accept our apologies.

You are so dear to us, and losing Gil was the worst thing imaginable for a mother (and father), as I’m sure you feel the same way as a spouse.

I’ve had your address tucked away since I last saw you, and am sorry it’s been a year since I’ve called to chat. I hope you are still enjoying being at the Inn and are finding a new life for yourself.

There is a possibility Dale and I will be in the area in September, as we are planning on attending the wedding of my husband’s best friend’s daughter in Ocean City, Maryland. If it is convenient for you, we were thinking we might stop by for a night and catch up.

Gil loved you very much. I hope you know that and will always keep that in your heart.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Gretchen

I looked up at John to see his reaction. “Well, that was very nice,” he said. “Sounds like they cared about you a lot.”

“I think so,” I said. “But she’s right, we have lost touch, though it’s not entirely their fault. I sort of let it slip away, too.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it just made me sad. All we did was talk about Gil and the pain we all felt. It’s like we ran out of things to talk about after a while that weren’t depressing.”

“I get it,” he said. “But it probably would be nice to see them, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I said. “Although how will I tell them about us?”

“We’ll figure it out,” John said. “I’m pretty confident they didn’t expect you to be single for the rest of your life.”

“It’s still awkward,” I said.

—END CHAPTER FIVE, AND I’M STILL GOING…HOPE TO BRING YOU A FULL NOVEL SOON—

Copyright / Stephanie Verni / 2017 – All Rights Reserved

Giving Thanks To You

Yes, it’s that time of the year.

Time to be thankful for people and blessings.

As it’s officially Thanksgiving holiday break for me, I’d like to take a moment to thank you, the readers and supporters of Steph’s Scribe. If it weren’t for readers, we bloggers wouldn’t be doing what we do. From the days when we wrote in journals and didn’t have the vehicle to share our thoughts or ideas, it’s wonderful to have that access through this platform; I’m thankful for the opportunity and take my responsibility of writing for you seriously. It’s an outlet for me, I take great pride in it, and I never want to let anyone down. I’m always open to input and suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line on the blog or at my email, stephanie.verni@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading my Steph’s Scribe, my books, and offering me encouragement throughout the year.

I’m very thankful to know you here.

Thank you, readers!

* * *

Stephanie Verni | Author, Blogger & Professor — Visit my Amazon page for more information about my three contemporary fiction novels and textbook on Event Planning.

 

 

Chapter 3 (Rough) of The Sequel to Inn Significant

Once again, in the spirit of National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo), I am sharing what I’m working on thus far. Today’s chapter represents 3,093 words, so I’m at about 7,000 words so far, which, quite frankly, is a little behind the 8-ball for this point in November. But, we do what we can.

Here’s Chapter 3 of what may be the Sequel to Inn Significant. It’s rough, and still being built, but at least it illustrates how you build your characters…and storyline…one word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter at a time.

Keep writing, you guys!

FullSizeRender-21C H A P T E R   T H R E E

of the sequel to

I N N   S I G N I F I C AN T

 

READ THE PREVIOUS TWO CHAPTERS HERE.

“Come on—let me see it!” I said to John after we ate dinner on the water, drank one too many glasses of wine, walked back, and were inside his cottage. For some reason, I didn’t want to stay in our house alone that night. I wanted to be with him in his cottage, snuggled up close to him, my head on his chest listening to his heartbeat. I’d grown to love being on the Inn’s property, and sometimes just being down the street felt too far.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he said. “I told you! You don’t get to see it until the wedding!”

“Well, the wedding is nine days from now.”

“No, Love. You don’t get to see it until our wedding. Not Carolanne and Tim’s wedding.”

“Damn. I thought I could trick you,” I said, feigning a pout. He’d kept a painting in the corner of the room with a drape over it and forbade me from uncovering it. He was working on something, and I knew it was off limits. Besides, what bride-to-be would want to ruin a surprise? Still, it was fun to bait him.

“You’re good with a couple of glasses of wine in you,” he said smiling broadly as he walked toward me and put his arms around me. I returned the gesture and embraced him. He pressed his body against mine.

“Are you saying I’m only good when I’ve had some drinks?” The scent of him awakened my senses. I’d gotten to the point recently where I could allow myself to not just feel frisky without guilt, but to be frisky without guilt. I was making progress.

“No, but you’re much less uptight after a couple of Pinot Grigios.”

“Uptight! You think I’m uptight?” I was smiling back at him. I knew he was right. One hundred percent right, but it was fun to play along with this flirtatious game with a person I almost scared away as my internal battle raged on for far longer than necessary.

“Care to prove me wrong,” he teased.

He kissed me then, and what happened afterward solidified that I was not, indeed, uptight, but rather a woman who still had the power to love and the ability to show it.

*

Aesthetically, we knew we wanted everything inside to be white. The barn ceiling had been white washed to show just a little bit of the natural wood, and the walls were painted a bright white. We had strung the twinkle lights on the sides with help from John, who painstakingly made sure they were perfectly spaced out and aligned properly. The tables and chairs had arrived as well, and yesterday, we set them all out on the floor to get a feel for how they would be arranged with enough room for the dance floor. My two favorite aspects of the barn were the enormous amount of windows we had built into the structure, along with the sliding barn doors which added such a great deal of character to the place.

“Morning, Milly!” Ernie, the electrician and Yacht Club sailing champ, said as he approached me, massive, metal toolbox in hand. I was clearing the potted plants out of the barn and moving them back into place on the patio so Ernie could hang the chandeliers. He said the job would most likely take him two full days, even with his crew. “This place is gonna be gorgeous,” he said. “It is already!”

“I think the chandeliers will be the finishing touch, though, Ernie. Your bit of magic should do the trick.”

“Lord knows how much your mother loves chandeliers,” he said with a wink. He had installed them all in the Inn when she first renovated the place. “Where the heck is Colette? She promised me her Oxford-famous quiche this morning.”

“Well, then, let’s get you fed before you risk your life playing with live wires and climbing on very tall ladders today,” I said.

Ernie placed his toolbox inside the barn, and we walked up the path to the Inn. Colette had kept her promise, and was pulling a quiche out of the oven as we entered the kitchen area. “I could smell it from the barn,” Ernie teased, giving Colette a peck on the cheek. The two were old friends, and Ernie and Colette’s husband were best friends.

“I only made it for you, Ernie, because I knew you’d be working all day in the barn, and I didn’t want you to faint from hunger knowing Gwen’s out of town,” Colette said. “When does she get back?”

“Monday,” Ernie said. “I just drove back last night, and she’ll stay another week with Belle. I don’t know if they understand what life’s gonna be like with twins. God bless ‘em.” 

His daughter and her husband had just brought two twin girls home from the hospital, and Ernie and Gwen had gone to Richmond to help out.
Colette placed the food in front of Ernie with a napkin, fork, knife, and a big glass of orange juice. “I really wish they would move back to Maryland. It would be a lot easier for Gwen and me to help out. I know Gwen would love that.”

“Are they trying to move home?”

“No talk of it yet, but we’re trying to put that bug in their ears, especially since Gwen’s husband’s family lives on the West Coast.”

“Well, maybe they will. Fingers crossed.”

John came through the door then, cleaned up from his yard work, and gave me a hug. I sniffed his neck. He’d worn the after shave I love. “I see Colette’s got you covered, right Ernie?”

“More than covered,” Ernie said. “I’m in heaven. And I’ve got to finish this before all the other guys decide they want to invade Colette’s kitchen.”

“Not just my kitchen for much longer, Ernie. I’ve got a new role now.”

“It will always be your kitchen, Colette,” I said. “No one could ever replace you. And, by the way, I think your value increased over the last year. Now you have three kitchens to boast about.”

“Yes, but now you’ve got Sylvia in the mornings. You can tease her now,” she said with a wink.

Sylvia was our new morning breakfast cook who would be starting next Monday. She had recently moved to Oxford after an unbearable divorce, and was set on making the town her home. She’d bought a small cottage in town, and had worked as a chef at restaurant in Vermont for ten years before she moved to Pennsylvania. We loved her from the day we met her; her honest, self-deprecating sense of humor, her vulnerability, and her warm smile were attributes that we admired. She was moving into her rental this week, and was anxious to get started as soon as possible.

Colette, with encouragement from my family and John, accepted the responsibility of being in charge of food and wedding cakes for all events on site. After brainstorming, we decided it was best to invest in and create a side catering company called Inn Love Catering, an arm of Inn Significant, with Colette at the helm. Karen, our former part-time assistant, was Colette’s first hire. Karen would be the organizer, bookkeeper, salesperson, and catering coordinator along with Colette on site, and Colette would be the catering manager and creator of all dishes and food for our events. She was in the process of hiring two additional catering assistants, as well, and Karen was almost done recruiting her wait staff for the weddings. As the kitchen at the Inn was not large enough to prepare all the food for weddings of up to 120 people, we leased a store across the way on S. Main Street and set it up as our catering hub. We also built a smaller kitchen in the back of the barn to be used for the day-of events. The last year and a half had certainly been a busy one, and I was thankful for the projects that kept me moving ahead.

I felt my phone ring in my pocket, and I excused myself to step outside.

“Milly Foster,” I said, as I did not recognize the number.

“Well, hello, Inn-ovator,” the voice said, emphasizing the word “inn.” He referred to me this way, and he said it in a kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger voice like The Terminator, and no matter how many times he said it, the imitation always made me laugh.

“I didn’t recognize the strange number that popped up,” I said. “I didn’t know it was you.”

“Well, no, of course not, which is why I’m calling you from a land line. A land line, Milly. I can’t remember the last time I held a regular old phone in my hands. I’m having flashbacks to my teenage years when I would stretch the cord into the closet to talk to one of my girlfriends.”

“What the heck happened?” I asked.

“Lost the damn thing in the ocean. I’m an idiot. When I get back to the States, I have to get a new phone. I’ll be back tomorrow—flight leaves later today. How are you? How’s John?”

“We’re both good, but not as good as you are in Europe. How’s Palma?”

“Glorious. Got a great article out of it, but I’m ready to be home. How’s the barn coming? Is it done? I heard you guys got hammered by some violent tropical storm.”

“Yes. Didn’t care for it at all,” I said. “And the barn’s almost done. Ernie’s here to hang the chandeliers today, so after that, I think it’s smooth sailing.”

“Please don’t mention boats or water. That’s what got me into this mess. At least I didn’t lose my passport.”

I laughed. He always knew how to make me chuckle and look at life in a much lighter way. I knew he was good for me. Whereas I had the propensity to see things in terms of gloom and doom, Miles looked at life jokingly, optimistically. Very little phased him. 

Everything with Miles was fun—at least that’s the way he made it for me, which was why our friendship continued to be one of the best parts of my new life. He’d also become my part-time writing partner, as we were working on a project together on the side.

“Don’t tell me you were having wild sex on the boat with some exotic and stunning Spanish maiden and your phone went flying into the ocean, Miles.”

“Okay. I won’t tell you that,” he said. “But I would be lying.”

“Miles Channing! You devil!”

“I like to think so,” he said with a laugh.

I hung up with Miles and walked the stone path to the office. There were a lot of odds and ends that needed tackling before we were responsible for the happiness of a bride and groom on their wedding day. I could feel my adrenaline begin to kick in as I knew my “to do” list was growing exponentially.

*

In the morning, I left John’s cottage the same time he did when he went for his morning run. I had left my bike there the night before, and needed to go home to shower before the day’s events began. This was my morning routine at least once a week, as it was our decision not to live together until we said “I do,” and because I still had a little bit of convincing left to do to make sure John knew all was well with me and with us.

It was a good thing I went home as early as I did, because Eva Bramble was walking that morning and had a way of making me look at things with fresh eyes. She was just passing my house as I put the kickstand down. She was wearing her white jogging suit with a matching visor and some very new, bright pink Nike sneakers along with her Fannie pack around we waist. Her lips were adorned with coral lipstick, a shade she loved and wore whenever I saw her. I’d been able to get to know Eva ever since that day I stopped by her house and she gave me the shoebox of things that belonged to my grandmother because she had offered to help Colette out as a part-time worker at the catering shop. Apparently, Eva was one heck of a baker, and since partnering with Colette, seemed to have quite a few recipes up her sleeve that she baked for the Inn. Now she would help bake some of these goodies in the S. Main shop where all the food preparation for our events would take place—in addition to making some of the pre-baked goods for the Inn. I think Eva was just delighted to be a part of the excitement, and we were thrilled to have her.

“Good morning, Eva!” I called to her as she was rounding the corner.

“Good morning, Milly,” she said back as she approached. “How are things with the barn?”

“I can’t wait for you to see it. Are you stopping by later? Ernie installed all the chandeliers yesterday. It’s absolutely stunning.”

“Marvelous!” she said, clapping her hands. “Have you and John set your date yet?”

“We are close, Eva. Very close.”

“I’m sure your wedding will be gorgeous! And you’ll have everything down like clockwork by then. Remember—I’m happy to help any way I can when that time comes.”

“I’ve made a mental note,” I said. “How’s Richard feeling?”

“As ornery as ever,” she said. “Why do you think I’m out walking and will then lock myself into the catering shop? He’s so frustrated with the physical therapy and recovery. Knee replacement is not fun! That’s why I vowed to keep myself in shape after I saw him go through all this.”

“Poor thing,” I said. “It must kill him that he can’t play golf right now. What can we do for him?”

“Maybe we can get him out of the house later and he can come see the barn and sit by the water at the Inn.”

“I’ll have John come get him—would that be okay?”

“Perfect,” she said. “How about during tea time?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said.

“How’s your place coming along?” she asked.

“Oh, Eva,” I sighed. “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling it yet.”

I don’t know why it was so easy to be completely frank with this woman. I felt like I could tell her anything and she would never judge me—not one bit.

“You know I love decorating and design,” she said, “mind if I take a look?”
“Not at all,” I said.

We walked up the pathway and I opened the door. It was the norm in our town not to lock our doors. Keys were left under mats, in garden adornments, or nowhere at all, just the door left unlocked. The place felt barren, as there was little furniture inside it. The house was still a work in progress. It was charming on the outside, but it had needed some rehabbing on the inside. Sometimes John and I spent the late weekend hours working on projects. We couldn’t do it all, especially the kitchen, so we hired a contractor to remove old cabinets and countertops and install new ones. It was coming along, and what was once dark on the interior had been brightened up with lots of white paint and new windows along the back of the house to let the sun stream through the windows. The original, wide-plank, pine floors were my favorite, and once they were revitalized, they were stunning. One bathroom—the one in the master—had been gutted and rebuilt prior to my purchase of the place, but we’d kept the old claw-foot tub. Now John and I were just making some cosmetic changes to it.

Eva looked around, and I could tell she was summing up the living area and kitchen. “It’s odd, Eva. Even though I’ve owned it for a year and John and I have spent a lot of time in it, it still doesn’t feel quite like home. In a strange way, I miss my little cottage on the property. Well, it was never mine, anyway; it always belonged to my parents, but I think I so desperately needed that time and space that I think of it fondly. I also learned a great lesson about living in it, and that is, I don’t need a lot of space or a big house for something to feel like home. The cottage was cozy and charming and intimate, and this feels sort of big and vacant.”

Eva moved over to me and put her arm around me. “You and your mother have created a beautiful Inn and barn—just translate that loveliness into a place here that makes you happy. Do things that make you happy inside, allow yourself to express what you love, and it will start to feel like yours.”

“That sounds wonderful, but I also need to make it feel like John’s home too.”

“That you can do,” she said. “John’s artwork could be prominent on the walls; photographs you’ve taken could be displayed. Buy some cute signs from one of the stores in St. Michaels, and have fun looking at some of the great antiques stores in Easton. You’ve got this. I think maybe you are just afraid?”

“Afraid? Of what?”

“Of making another commitment and allowing yourself to be vulnerable again.”

She was right. About all of it. Fear lurked in every dark corner of my mind. It made me unreasonable. It made me terrified. I’d lost one husband, and I didn’t want it to happen to me again. Allowing yourself to love again takes great courage, and I seemed to have about as much courage as the Cowardly Lion did in the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.

It was sad, actually, to look around my place—this house that I purchased. There were hardly any decorations on the walls, and I had refused to retrieve my old furniture and other belongings from the storage unit, so it was downright barren. At that moment, I decided that I needed to donate those things. I think the bottom line was that I didn’t want them any longer. They didn’t belong in this house.

They didn’t belong in a place where a new beginning was about to happen.

I needed to start over.

Now.

—END CHAPTER THREE—

COPYRIGHT 2017 | STEPHANIE VERNI | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

How Pieces of You and People You Know End Up in Your Characters

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Luckily, for some people I know, I don’t write a lot of villains into my novels. As I do in real life, I try to not let nasty, uncaring, judgmental, ridiculously competitive and fake people seep into my world too often. However, in the short stories I write, I let them in because I don’t have to deal with them for too long, as short stories are just that—short. However, writers have to allow what we learn about people to grace the pages of our stories and illuminate our characters; these sketches of folks should glide into our stories seamlessly. As well, the same is true with the goodness and quirkiness and loveliness of people.

For example, in my recent novel Inn Significant, I texted my friend Charles and told him that Miles was based on him and my husband—kind of a conglomeration of the two. He had no idea, and was flattered by the depiction of Miles in the book. There are people in real life who can bring liveliness and charisma and charm to the characters you are writing—so let that unfold as the characters are made up of characteristics that you see in people.

As for us as writers, how much of ourselves do we let into our stories? I have a wild imagination, so I tend to consider the character and what he or she likes and what would make them that way. For example, in Inn Signficiant, the main character is Milly, and she narrates the book. How much of Milly is in me? Well, let’s see. We both love living near the water. We both are writers and like to read. We both love cruiser bikes, though hers is pink and mine is seafoam green. We both love our families. We both know what true love feels like. We both know what heartbreak feels like. We both value a pretty simple life. We both have a sense of humor.

What we don’t share is that she has felt tragedy, as she has lost her husband in a horrific accident, and goes through a bout of depression. And while I haven’t felt loss like Milly (thankfully), I can imagine its intensity, devastation, and profoundness. I also understand what feeling depressed is like, as I bumped up against that a few years ago during a trying time in my life, and one in which I learned a few lessons about good friendships vs. yucky ones.

As writers, we have to allow these things we know and understand to help develop our characters. We do allow bits of ourselves to show up in our characters, and if it’s not a bit of us, then it’s a collection of bits of others that we know, have interacted with, have been friends with, or maybe even have had a falling out with along the way.

The main point to writing character is to believe that they are real, and then make others believe that they are real. Make them so authentic that people completely understand them. That’s not to say that the characters might not drive readers crazy at times or make them shake their heads and say “what?,” but we need to put realism into our writing.

Plot is wonderful, but people have to be able to identify with the characters.

Years ago, I read the book The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbaugh. I read this book because I was writing Baseball Girl, and I wanted to read as much baseball fiction as I could before I published anything. While Harbaugh’s writing is absolutely beautiful—a true work of literary splendor—the characters were, to me, wholly unbelievable. I couldn’t relate to any of them, and truthfully, only finished the book because I was so deep in at that point, that I needed to see how it ended. But I didn’t enjoy it that much, if I’m being truthful. I desperately wanted to connect with any one of the five main characters in the story. I wanted to find some of their actions redeemable, and yet, I came up just feeling this way about it: meh.

My goal is not to have anyone say meh about my characters. I keep that in the back of my mind the entire time I’m writing.

So don’t leave yourself out of the equation when writing strong, memorable, and relatable characters. You have the potential to bring so much to the story.

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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.

 

 

A 5-Star Review for Inn Significant from Readers’ Favorite

First, the review:

https://readersfavorite.com/images/5star-shiny-web.pngReviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite

“Inn Significant: A Novel by Stephanie Lynn Verni is a beautiful story that looks at the heart of depression. Milly Foster lost the will to live the moment she learned about her husband’s tragic death. And that was two years ago. Asking her to look after their business while they are away to help a friend in a startup bed and breakfast in Ireland, her parents couldn’t imagine what this would do to her. While at the inn, Milly’s colleague, John, discovers a diary   to her grandma. Read on to find out how an old journey changes everything in the life of a woman who is just as ready for the grave as a corpse, sending her on a personal odyssey to find answers to her own pain.

At the beginning of the story, we meet the protagonist, a grief-stricken woman who has just learned about the death of her husband. Only one thought occupies her mind: “I don’t want the paramedics. I don’t want my mother. I want Gil!” The drama, the emotional intensity of the story is evidenced by the opening pages and readers who love emotionally charged stories will be gripped by the heart from the very start. Stephanie Lynn Verni’s writing is exceptional and I enjoyed the way it captures the powerful emotions, especially those of the protagonist. Milly’s journey towards healing is realistic, one that readers can connect with easily. What made this story stand out for me was the depth of the characters and the gorgeous writing. It was hard for me to let Milly alone, even if I found her headstrong and stubborn from the start. As the story progresses, she learns to shift her gaze onto reality and matures far more quickly than I could have imagined. Inn Significant: A Novel is entertaining, inspiring, and outright delightful, one of the stories I won’t hesitate to recommend to readers seeking a fun read.”

 

***

Yesterday, I received a powerful, 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite for my latest book, Inn Significant. Readers’ Favorite is a contest I have entered my three books in, and you may recall Beneath the Mimosa Tree received a Bronze Medal in Miami for it, and Baseball Girl received an Honorable Mention Award. While the awards won’t be named until September 1, 2017, this review is the best that I’ve received on any of my books, and I wanted to share it with you today. It is also posted on my Amazon page where you can purchase all of my books.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you why I do this and why this is important to me. As a kid, I used to sit at school and write short stories and then come home and finish them. My favorite class in high school by far was Creative Writing. I wrote poetry (mostly really mushy stuff that I shared with boys and probably shouldn’t have), and I always thought somewhere in the back of my mind that I would write a book.

Being an independent author is one of the most rewarding and hardest things I have ever done. It’s rewarding because I am doing exactly what I wanted to be doing as a teenager—telling stories on paper. It’s the hardest thing because having to promote my books constantly to get my name out there is a daunting task, and one that someone only with nerves of steel should be doing.

Admittedly, I don’t always have nerves of steel, but I keep on doing my thing because that’s what I have to do to hope someone will pick up my book and read it. There’s a lot of competition out there, and I know people are selective. Therefore, I am truly appreciative when you stop what you’re doing and read what I’ve written. It means so much to me, and I thank all of you who have read Inn Significant or any of my other books.

If you haven’t, maybe, just maybe this review will inspire you.

I know it has inspired me to keep on writing…

to keep on doing my thing.

 

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.

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Chapter 1 of the Sequel to Inn Significant

I’m not saying I’m going to do this. Making a commitment to writing another book may be too much for me right now, but the other day, I could “hear” Milly’s voice in my head, so I sat down and wrote.

Maybe I’m not done with her yet. Maybe I’m not done with her story and the story of the Inn.

What follows is what came right from my head to my fingertips as I typed, and is what could potentially be the beginning of a sequel. I’ve never written a sequel before, and the notion of it scares me a little because there’s a lot of pressure to do the first book justice. Nevertheless, I’ve heard what some of you have said…that there’s still more story there…and I’m toying with it.

To those of you who have read Inn Significant, I’d love feedback. I need it.

I’m not sure if this is what’s next on my writing horizon or not…but I would appreciate any input you may have.

We shall see, my friends. We shall see.

By the way, the inspiration for how the barn looks comes from this barn, the White Sparrow Barn in Texas. It’s stunning.

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Photo credit: The White Sparrow Barn, Texas

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 ago, 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 looking so violent. The Chesapeake Bay was thrashing even more than the river, and pictures of flooded downtown Annapolis had made the news highlights 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 does not mess around. When she has something to say, she tends to say it in a big way, just to make sure we’re all paying attention, and we are quickly reminded that we must respect her authority.

I stood on the porch of Inn Significant in my rainboots and blue raincoat and watched as Oxford got pummeled. My mother was inside making a huge pot of soup for all of us 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 approaching.

While the renovation on our new place was being done, John had remained living on the grounds in his cottage on my parents’ property. Truthfully, we were enjoying a little bit of courtship before our own wedding, which was set for later in the year.

I looked down and touched the diamond he had given me after we had fully 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 any money. 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 can get used to hearing for the rest of your life.

A bolt of lightening 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 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.

–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.

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Answering the Question: How Many Books Have You Sold?

How many books have you sold?

It’s the question people like to ask me about my recently released novel entitled Inn Significant. It seems to be the question people have on their minds as the marker that indicates how successful the book has been thus far.

The funny thing is, I liken the question to someone asking me about my age, how much I make, or how robust my sex life is.

Sometimes we are focused too much on the results and not on the process. At least that’s what my husband and I try to teach our kids. The most important aspect revolves around the process that helps us achieve our goals; the results are often secondary (and yes, at times, can be quite important).

As for Inn Significant, I didn’t set out to write a bestseller. That thought is not based in reality; I like to think more realistically. When I began writing the novel, I set out to start the process, see the process through, and complete a project. A writing project. Do you know how many people start something and never finish it? My goal is always to complete it. Writing has been in my blood since I was about 13 years old. I feel compelled to tell stories, and I’m more concerned with the process of that storytelling journey than I am with the results of that journey.

Moreover, I find myself echoing the sentiments of writer Elizabeth Gilbert when she says, “…if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).” Well said, Ms. Gilbert.

If you have the creative inspiration to redecorate a room, you do it, don’t you? If you have the urge to build a spectacular garden with a fountain in your back yard, you take it on, right? If you sit at a blank canvas and paint something that moves you, you don’t tell your inspiration to run away and hide, do you?

No, you don’t; nor do I. If I have the inspiration—if it happens to bless me with a story I think I can piece together in a meaningful way—I write it. Why would I tell my creativity to take a flying leap?

As for book sales, I do my best to try to promote the book, talk up the book, market the book, and sell the book where I can. Just this week, I entered two independent author book contests, and I’m about to enter more. I sent my book off to people who may be able to help promote it. I mailed out press releases. I was booked to talk at a library and a book signing is in the works at a bookstore. I do what I can.

But this is not why I write.

I write, once again, to quote Elizabeth Gilbert, because of this one, main reason: “…at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir—something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 11.07.47 AMTo put it simply, I just like to be able to say that I welcomed inspiration and “I did it.”

I also love the fact that my kids see their mom be fearless about putting her creativity out there.

That’s a process worth teaching.

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15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

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Campus Book Talk Tonight and Some Monday Inspiration

BaseballGirlFinalCoverwithAwardsI’m excited to talk to students tonight about the self-publishing world. Faculty in the Halls, a program at Stevenson University, has asked me to speak to students about the path of publishing your own book. As I’ve published two novels this way, I’m excited to share my knowledge of the growing arm of publishing, how you can make this work for you, and the pros and cons of doing it on your own. I’ll be talking about both Beneath the Mimosa Tree and Baseball Girl, and I hope to inspire some folks to give it a whirl. It’s by no means easy, but it is something that, given enough drive and determination, you can do it.

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Also, as it is an absolutely stunning Monday morning here in Maryland, and I’m feeling inspired by the rebirth of spring, I thought I’d share some of my favorite inspirational quotes to get you through this week–and rejoice in all that the rest of spring and summer have in store for you.

Do you have any big plans coming up this year? What do you plan to do that you have always wanted to do? Are you expecting to travel soon? If so, where? What inspires you? Begin to write these things down and allow yourself to look forward to things ahead, while also remembering to enjoy this very moment right now.

There is much to be inspired by, and much we can do to inspire others.

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The Witch’s Memories | Friday Fiction

 

WitchThe Witch gathered up her things—the cauldron, the potion mixer, the wide-brimmed hat—and stepped over the woman she had just put into a deep sleep. The Witch left the woman lying on her back on the carpet, her form in an unattractive spread eagle position in her yoga attire, a bit of her belly flopping out of the waist of her pants. The truth of the matter was, the sleeping woman used to be her friend. Not any longer, however. The Witch did not care for her at all. It had finally come to that. The woman could never be trusted, and The Witch had been used for the last time.

Many years. For many long years she had been her friend. Funny how people use you when they know they can get something from you, The Witch thought. It’s interesting how when people needed a potion to help make their kid well or a cocktail to ensure a memorable party took place or be included in all events The Witch planned (and yet ignore the concept of reciprocity), The Witch was always the first one they would call. But when times were challenging for her—when The Witch had problems of her own and needed a friend—her friend could not be found.

Because, you see, that’s the thing about being a witch. Everyone wants to point her finger at you. Someone has to be the fall guy and everyone needs someone to blame. It’s been this way for centuries—witches always took the blame, whether that blame was warranted or not. Human nature has shown us over and over again that people enjoy watching others go down. Moreover, they often secretly wish and hope for it. They genuinely make their minds up about you before they actually know anything of your situation, and it’s mostly hearsay. Gossips and uncaring folks tend to judge first instead of asking if perhaps they could help in any way.

How misunderstood we are as a group, The Witch thought as she placed her paraphernalia in the two baskets of her bike and began pedaling for home. It was getting dark, and The Witch contemplated how there are not enough hours in the day to count how much good she had done. Whatever. It didn’t matter because it was the mistakes she had made in her own life that seemed to constantly be under a microscope, scrutinized and uncharitably condemned. It was always the way. The expression “seek first to understand” was never a concept others grasped with regard to witches, and quite frankly, she was tired of making an effort and getting none in return. It didn’t matter how kindhearted or welcoming she could be; witches would always continue to be the scapegoat because folks are unwilling to either take the blame or share the blame. Why do you think Elphaba got the reputation she did in ‘Wicked’?

She wondered whether the woman—when she awoke in only a few minutes, the most potent part of the potion having worn off by then—would have any recollection of what had transpired. There had been little struggle with the woman, and because she liked a good cocktail, she had gulped it down in two sips. The Witch had followed the spell explicitly—it was the one her mother had passed down to her from her own mother. The potion would merely remove all recollections the woman had of ever knowing and interacting with The Witch on any and all levels. No significant or lasting harm was done at all—just a mere vanishing act any magician was capable of executing. No memories of The Witch would remain in her reservoir when she awoke. She simply wouldn’t remember anything at all had ever passed between them.

WitchQuoteAs she analyzed this situation, it made The Witch angrier. How wonderful it would be for that woman to never remember their friendship, yet The Witch, with her sharp intellect, keen memory, and kind heart, still had to endure all the pain of it. Hurtful memories. The Witch considered lingering memories the most dreadful evil of all—a constant, excruciating reminder of whatever one wishes not to be reminded of in the first place. A penance of sorts.

By the time The Witch had parked her bike, she had come to the conclusion that she was ready. Finally. This time she wouldn’t chicken out. She walked into her studio and began to mix things furiously. There was a maniacal frenzy to the way she was churning the mixture, her eyes darting back and forth, her sensibilities heightened. The cauldron began to bubble, and the smell of rosemary, tea leaves, pine needles, pumpkin seeds, and peppermint filled the air. The scent pervaded The Witch’s nostrils and invigorated her. Then, briefly, she paused, leaning her head over the boiling cauldron, the steam enveloping her face, and she allowed herself to breathe it all in. She turned and filled a test tube with the boiling liquid to the top. She sat herself on the floor next to a pillow and drank it.

Within moments, she slid down, slumping on the pillow, the test tube landing safely on the edge of it. The Witch fell asleep for what felt like days, months, years. When she awoke to the morning sunlight streaming across her face, the birds rambunctiously chirping outside, and a lawnmower purring in the distance, The Witch sat up and yawned.

She stretched her legs and had the overwhelming urge to hop on her bike and ride into town for some coffee. The problem was, she just couldn’t remember where she parked it.

—Stephanie Verni, 2015

Withdrawal and The Staircase

StaircaseToday I decided that I would write a little something. I haven’t written anything creatively in a while, and it’s sort of getting to me. I’m going through withdrawal and I don’t want to go through withdrawal. I want to write something, and while I am far too busy to spend time writing what will be my next novel, I will tackle some short fiction, or what some deem Flash Fiction.

Here’s the prompt that I got from the 3 a.m. Ephiphany written by Brian Kiteley. It’s my “go to” book of prompts I use when I want to write a little something but need a push. The beauty of prompts is that it could potentially turn into a longer story—either a short story or a novel, even. One never knows where it will go. So, I’m ready to begin.

The Scenario: Write a story that starts with one of the sentences from the list below. This should be your opening sentence. 400 words. Go.

The sentence I chose from the list is as follows:

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs before she saw him.

This sentence has to be my first line. Where will I take it?

Let’s find out.

* * *

The Staircase

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs before she saw him. He could tell it was her by the shadow of her profile that reflected off the wall, her silhouette animated, floating upward as it bounced with her gestures, a result of the large, crystal chandelier that hung as a statement piece just above the middle landing over the polished, white marble floors. The scent of cinnamon combined with the freshness of the greenery wrapped with twinkle lights that decorated the banisters filled the air as Christmas music floated to the ceiling. He had not seen her in many months; at least, they had not come face-to-face. There were times he would position himself in the public library at the largest window in the fiction section just to catch a glimpse of her as she strode by on her way to work. She never knew he was there—just as she had no idea now.

When the shadow turned, he was still standing, gaping, his eyes lurking upward because he did not have the strength this time to walk away. She was only about fifteen feet from him, and that strong Vodka tonic—two tall ones to be exact—might have been enough for him to finally have the courage to say something to her, or at least to remain standing in the spot until she descended the staircase.

For a moment, the lights flickered—three quick flicks—and the music skipped a few notes as the wind outside roared. There was a subtle gasp from the guests at the party when the room darkened that one last time, but they persevered and illuminated the room just as she had begun her descent. He was still looking up.

By the time her foot reached the fourth step, she saw him. She reached for the rail with her right hand, and she paused on the stairs. Their eyes froze, locked in place, neither one daring enough to look away. He felt a pain shoot across both eyes and then ricochet into his chest. He wondered if she could see, actually see, what heartbreak looked like. Her dress sparkled from the lights, from the chandelier. Her lips were red and warm and moist. Her left hand found its way to her chin, yet she remained motionless, peering down the staircase, expressionless at first, but then—he could swear he saw it…he knew he saw it—the very corners of her mouth began to curve upwards, and he believed he witnessed the slightest twinkle in her eye.

* * *

Suggestions for Helping Kids (and Adults) Enjoy Reading

booksI’ve been teaching now since 1993 when I instructed that first course in public speaking. Over the years, I’ve moved from teaching public speaking into teaching writing and other communication courses. Over this period of time, I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in the amount of outside reading done by students (I’ve also noticed, as have my colleagues, that textbook reading has decreased as well, as too many students rely on the course Powerpoints). Admittedly, we have a lot of distractions today—cell phones, social media, cable television, sports and social commitments, and family life—all of which contribute to having less time to “sit down and enjoy a good book.”

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that reading lights up brain activity because it asks readers to put ourselves in the shoes of our characters, which, in turn, tends to make us more empathic people. Being able to understand how others may feel is at the core of reading; we learn to understand and ask questions, and this process allows us to learn more about ourselves as people. Would we do the same thing as that character? Would we have acted in that manner? As we read, we wonder…we are curious…and that exercise leads to being a person who can empathize with others.

The bottom line: it’s important to read. And it’s important to get our younger kids and students, reading, as well.

When I asked my feature writing students why they don’t read outside of class, one answer was because there was difficulty finding anything to read of value. Another answer was that there just isn’t time for it. And yet another was a lack of enjoyment that comes from it.

So, how can we, as parents and teachers, foster a love of reading with our children and students and with others in our lives? I have a few suggestions that may help as we move forward to tackle this meaningful endeavor.

  1. READ ALONG WITH YOUR CHILD/STUDENT — With younger kids and students, a good idea is to read along with them. This does not necessarily mean you must sit and read the books out loud with them (although with the little ones, this is imperative). It suggests that you read the same book the student is reading, almost as one does in a book club, which would enable you to have discussions about the book with your child. I did this last year with my son; we both read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and we had wonderful discussions about Nazi Germany, the main characters, death as the narrator, and more. This tactic works well and it opens all of us up to reading a variety of stories that we may not otherwise have read.
  2. SET AN EXAMPLE — Instead of turning on the television at night, curl up on the sofa with a good book. Fall is coming, and it’s a good time to decompress and read some of those novels or professional guidance books you’ve wanted to read. Demonstrating a love of reading yourself will set a positive example for your children.
  3. SELECT A BOOK THAT IS ALSO A MOVIE — One thing children and students love to do is to draw comparisons. Let them read the book, and then promise them that you’ll see the movie or get it OnDemand or from Red Box. Being able to see differences in the work (from book to film) engages students and allows them to think critically and analyze both works. This is also fun to do with book clubs.
  4. FIND A GENRE THAT WORKS FOR THEM — What we like to read isn’t always what a child or student might like to read. Take time to visit the library or Barnes & Noble and get suggestions from educated and passionate librarians or employees who are there to help. Be open to recommendations, and be sure to tell the librarian what types of stories usually capture your child’s or student’s attention.
  5. START SMALL — I can see it in students’ eyes when a particular piece of work I ask them to read feels overwhelming or daunting. Start small. Novels and stories come in all different lengths. Choose one that your child or student can complete easily and does not have to labor through to finish. They will get a sense of satisfaction from reading the book from cover to cover.
  6. PICK A SERIES — Lots of readers today enjoy getting caught up in a series like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Mature readers enjoy reading a series, too. Find one that might win over your reader and may keep them wanting to know more about the characters and what their fates may be.
  7. GET TO KNOW THE AUTHOR — Many times, readers feel connected when they know a little bit about the person who wrote the story. Do a little homework. Watch the author talk about his or her book on YouTube. Read the author’s biography on his or her website. Feeling something for the author or hearing a personal story about why he or she wrote the book in the first place may pique curiosity.

With any luck, any or all of these suggestions might be helpful and can potentially encourage reading. Good readers often become good writers. They dissect books and learn technique, style, and story construction. Reading opens our minds to wonderful new worlds and implores us to use our imaginations.

Lots of good comes from reading. Let’s continue to encourage our children and students to allow themselves to get swept away into a good book.

Once they do, with any luck, there may be no turning back.

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To see a list of BOOKS I’VE ENJOYED, CLICK HERE.