On Life

Through Books, You Can Travel

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One of my favorite aspects about reading novels is that they allow us to travel to places we may never get to experience, at least not the same way the author sees them. Books such as Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife or Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things—two books I can’t and have no desire to get out of my head—submerge us into different aspects of the world and see it through their eyes.

As another example, who reads Maeve Binchy’s novels and doesn’t want to go to Ireland? Who reads anything by Rosamunde Pilcher and doesn’t want to visit England and the villages of Cornwall?

On the flip side, as a writer myself, I welcome the opportunity to incorporate a place into my stories by offering readers the most accurate description of what that place entails. When I do my research, I take a lot of notes. I also take a lot of photographs to jog my memory when I begin to write and tell my stories. For my latest novel that is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland—particularly in the towns of Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton—I spent a lot of time exploring and writing impressions, anecdotes, and talking to people. Getting things right, and using places that actually exist as the storyline unfurls is important to me and offers readers that realistic feel. I take writing about places as seriously as I do developing my characters. In fact, I think of the places as characters in the story.

Additionally, I instruct a  Special Topics course at my university in Travel Writing, and I implore students to document their travels as it makes their writing come alive. Taking the time to recount what you’ve learned, seen, and experienced allows you to bring everything to life. Travel journals are awesome, and I love them, but any piece of paper will do.

If you read either my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree that I set in Annapolis, Maryland or Inn Significant, my latest novel that I set on the Eastern Shore, I would love to hear your feedback.

Did I get the places right? Could you “see” them as you were reading? And, did you travel there via the novel?

I surely hope I succeeded.

Stephanie 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.

 

 

On Life

Book Promotion Wrap Up Week One –Thanks for Entering To Win!

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Week one of book promotion for Inn Significant has come to an end, and I wanted to thank all 594 people who entered to win on Amazon for doing so! We had three winners this week–Thelma, Kendra, and Jessica. I hope you all enjoy Inn Significant…I really do.

I’ll be giving away some signed copies this week on my author Facebook page thanks to some good ideas from my savvy students in public relations class. So stay tuned…

I also wanted to thank the Star-Democrat newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for featuring the story about the book this week. Hopefully, some folks who either live on the Eastern Shore or love visiting Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton (like I do) will enjoy the story of Milly Foster and her life at the Inn.

If you’ve finished reading the book, you might enjoy my recap of that includes photos and places that inspired the setting of my book that I posted. Check it out and see if it’s what you imagined as you read the story.

The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI
The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI

Thanks, as always, for reading, following, and caring! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released 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.  To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.
On Life

Squeezing In One More Summer Read

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What I’m currently reading: In Defense of the Princess by Jerammy Fine.

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With only a couple of weeks remaining before the return to school and classes, do you have time to squeeze in one more book this summer?

I’m currently reading In Defense of the Princess, a nonfiction account of one woman’s affinity and respect for the princess culture. As a fan as well, I wanted to read something that wasn’t fiction since that’s my typical go-to type of book. I wanted to go out of my normal genre. So far, I’m really enjoying it.

But my favorite quote about summer reading is the following:

“Summer is a great time to expand our horizons as readers and to try something new, either a new genre, or a new author, or a new topic, or a new place to read.” -Pam Allyn

So, if you haven’t picked up something different this summer, why not do it before it ends?

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My two books, both contemporary romances, available on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.

 

xx |

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

On Life

Your Earliest Memories: What Do You Remember?

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My great grandparents: Old Pop and Nana

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I remember dearly my great grandparents. In fact, my great grandfather outlived my own grandfather, who died of Leukemia at the young age of 63. I bring this up because we were having a conversation the other day about our earliest memories—things we remember from being a kid. I have some distinct early memories as a child growing up in New Jersey before we moved to Maryland when I was five years old.

FullSizeRender-2Several of my early memories involve my mom’s parents’ house on Myrtle Avenue in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. They lived in a Cape Cod style house—an adorable little thing with a back yard full of gardens, a bocce court, grape vines, and way in the back of the yard, train tracks that ran through Cedar Grove. There was a swing my grandfather (Poppy) put up for me in the back left corner of the yard. I remember swinging on the swing. I also remember that my grandparents were going to have a party one afternoon, and my mother made me take a nap at their house before people came over. I had a piece of gum in my mouth, and I slept in one of the two bedrooms upstairs. I did fall asleep, and when I woke up, the gum was mush in my mouth. I ran to the bathroom and stood on the toilet to peek outside the window. The party was beginning, and I remember not wanting to miss it.

Perhaps that’s why I have a love of parties and entertaining.IMG_5202

I also remember wanting to wear my aunt’s high heels. I went upstairs on another occasion and tried on her shoes. As a small kid, I didn’t realize those high heels would make it difficult to walk down the stairs of my grandparents’ house. I fell down the stairs—tumbled all the way down and gave my mother a pretty awful fright.

I’m blaming my aunt for my love of high heels.

Another distinct memory I have as a child is going visit my great grandparents; their home was not too far from my grandparents’ house. Nana and Old Pop had a cukoo clock in their house that did, in fact, cukoo. I loved that thing. I remember being mesmerized by it. I also remember the smell of Nana’s house—it smelled like a combination of old house, basement, and pizza dough. I can still picture Nana in the kitchen tossing pizzas in the air. I remember it distinctly.

I’m pretty obsessed with clocks, used to have my own cukoo clock given to my by my dad’s parents, until it no longer worked, and I make my own homemade pizza now.

I also remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We were living in an apartment in Cedar Grove…I was four at the time…and we had a black and white television set. My mother woke me up very early so that I could see history take place that morning. I remember sitting on the green rug watching it unfold.

FullSizeRender-1And finally, I remember riding my bike and playing on the driveway of my grandparents’ house with the neighbor’s kid Michael. We would play together when I would go over there. He was my first friend who was a boy.

When my grandmother died and I attended her viewing, those very neighbors showed up to pay their respects. Michael wasn’t there, but the parents were. I remember being so touched that they came, seeing as how my grandmother hadn’t lived in that house for many, many years when she passed.

BTMTNEWCOVER3-17.inddAnd perhaps meeting them again was all it took to inspire me to write a story about two kids who grow up next to each other and fall in love in my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree.

These are my earliest memories from childhood. What are your earliest memories from being a kid?

 

xx |

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

 

 

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On Life

Porch Sitting & Writing, A Winning Combination

image3My summer break is finally here. As a college professor, we love our teaching, but sometimes a little down time is important. For months, people have been asking me what I’ll be doing this summer.

My answer? Reading, writing, relaxing.

There you have it in a nutshell.

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And yes, I have some things to accomplish, but they will get done on my schedule.

I’m still editing “Postcards and Other Short Stories,” and I’m writing my third novel. But the beauty is, I feel no pressure. I’m on my own timetable.

Our porch at home is my little sanctuary. I love my office, its space, and the new chandelier, but in the summertime, I like to be outside as much as possible, and so my little laptop and I venture to the table on the porch where I listen to the birds chirping, the airplanes fly overhead, and the sounds of silence while I write. It’s a great time to collect my thoughts, get creative, and let things unfold as they may.

My pile of books to read is long. I’m finishing up The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Next up: After You by JoJo Moyes.

I hope you get to indulge and enjoy some quality time that’s all yours, too. Let me know what you’re reading; I always love a good book suggestion.

In the meantime, if you need me, you can find me on the porch. I’ve got a cold glass of iced tea waiting for you.

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xx |

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

On Life

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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On Life

Springtime in Annapolis

This morning I decided to do a little research for the novel I’m working on—yes, I’m writing again, and I’ve got two chapters under my belt thus far. However, despite the fact that I’ve lived in the Annapolis area for quite a while, I wanted to take a stroll along some of the streets I don’t normally walk around when my daughter and I shop down there. We typically hit Main Street and the Annapolis Dock, get an ice cream or coffee, and wander around the shops. Today, I stayed up by St. John’s College and Maryland Avenue, popping in and out of Prince George Street, King George Street, East Street, and College Avenue. I was looking for some inspiration. When I write about something, I need to have a good image in my head of the setting–of exactly where my characters will live and breathe. With help from a lovely woman I met this morning named Jenny, who offered up some history of the area and some people with whom she thought I should meet, I’m getting really excited about this novel.

So with my Nikon in hand and the quiet streets of a weekday morning in Annapolis at my feet, I’m sharing the photographs I took from a morning’s walking tour of Annapolis…

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My first book was set in Annapolis. I guess the old adage is true: write what you know.

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Beneath the Mimosa Tree, my first novel, is set in Annapolis.
On Life

5 Sure-Fire Ways To Boost Creativity

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In the textbook I co-authored with Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse about Event Planning, we have an entire chapter dedicated to creativity. This is one of my absolute favorite topics to discuss—with friends, with fellow writers, with students, with my children, and with colleagues. Maintaining a sense of creativity is important in so many careers; in fact, there are very few careers that do not value some sort of creativity and innovation.

However, the tricky part comes in when we, as people who can often be stretched balancing work and family/friends life, find ourselves zapped of creative impulses and notions. If this describes you right now, don’t despair. It has described me countless times before as well. Luckily, your creativity will find it’s way to you in good time. It’s cyclical—it comes back around. But how can we foster it and encourage it to return?

For years, I’ve been reading articles on creativity, from one of my favorite articles called Creativity and the Role of the Leader from the Harvard Business School to writers who discuss fostering creativity. There is so much still to learn about creativity and how to nurture it and develop it, but over the years, I’ve found several things that work for me and I thought I’d share them with you today.

#1: Read a Lot

No matter what career field you find yourself in presently, you should always be reading up on innovations within your area of work. If you are a teacher, read publications, blogs, books, and websites that could offer you information and help spark your creativity. For example, just the other day, I read a fascinating article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about how to end the last few minutes of class and help students remember the key points that were made during that lecture. As a college professor, I never quite thought about ending my course in this manner; however, now that I’ve read that piece, I am keen on giving that particular tip a try. Ideas are shared everywhere, and it’s your job to tap into those readings that can help you with your creativity. As an author, I read a lot of other writers—reading their work helps me spark ideas for my own fictional writing as I observe plot, characters, dialogue, setting, and more as I delve into each particular novel I read.

Photo credit: Discover.point.edu

#2: Get Out of the House

When you are sitting at a computer or trying to create a project and things are not going the way you planned or you are staring at a blinking cursor, get your butt out of the chair and go for a walk or run, visit a museum, have lunch in a sidewalk café, stroll the aisles of a library—do whatever it takes to change the scenery. I know that frustration can sometimes get the better of me, so just moving my body away from it for a few minutes invites clarity and perspective to return and helps me continue along with my project.

#3: Brainstorm

Brainstorming started back in 1953, and the idea was coined by Alex Osborn (we have a whole section on this in our textbook). Brainstorming is a great way to start a project when you feel stuck. Putting a lot of ideas to paper, putting them on a chalkboard, writing them in your journal, or creating a mind map are all ways to begin the brainstorming process. The best part about brainstorming? At this early stage of creativity, the best part about brainstorming is that NO IDEA IS A BAD IDEA. Sometimes the craziest notions become the strongest contenders. Push yourself to facilitate some quality brainstorming—you may just come up with the most innovative idea you’ve ever had.

Photo credit: JSHA.com
Photo credit: JSHA.com

#4: Believe in Your Own Creativity

As an educator, I cannot tell you how many times I hear students say, “I’m just not that creative.” I’ve even heard people who are writers say, “I just don’t know if I can finish this thing—I’m really not that creative.” While it’s true some people are just naturally gifted with creativity, it doesn’t mean that you are not. It’s like anything else in life: if you believe you can achieve it, you probably will. Shoo those demons out of your head that tell you that you aren’t creative; ignore the comments you may hear from others; dig down deep within yourself and believe that you not only can be creative, but that you already ARE creative. This belief will carry you through any project that requires a great deal of creativity.

#5: Have Fun with Creativity

Way too often, we put pressure on ourselves that everything we create must be perfect. Good Grief—if I thought everything I created had to be perfect, I never would have published my two novels (trust me, I could still be editing Novel #1 if I didn’t finally say to myself, “It’s done. Put the sucker out there.” At some point I had to let it go.) Creativity is not an end-all-be-all. It’s a continuum, a circuitous path we must embrace. Sometimes our creativity will be at an all-time high; at other times, it may not be as stellar. But guess what? It’s all okay. We are mean to have fun with it. Keep going, keep having fun.

 

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I won’t deny that it took a ton of creativity to write these books, but as with all projects, there are highs and lows. You just have to stick with it, believe in yourself, and have fun with it. You CAN do it.

I hope these ideas help you embrace creativity, when it comes, when it doesn’t, when it’s frustrating, and when it’s amazingly stellar. We’ve all had bouts of highs and lows with our creativity.

The important thing is to persevere. Creativity is meant for you, after all.

On Life

That Magic Moment When It All Clicks—Writing A New Novel

Barbara-Kingsolver***

Here’s how this story goes…

Beneath the Mimosa Tree at G&RI published Beneath the Mimosa Tree in 2012. Baseball Girl followed three years later, and this week I am celebrating it’s one-year anniversary as it launched last March 6. At the time I began writing my first novel, I had simultaneously started writing another bit of fiction. When I had to make the choice between the two in which to fully invest my time, I picked Beneath the Mimosa Tree because it had been a story that had lodged itself in my brain for 20 years. I have no regrets about publishing it, and I always feel a sort of sentimental sweetness about that book.

BaseballGirlAfter Beneath the Mimosa Tree was published, I went back to the “other” piece of writing. Standing at about 43,000 words (which pretty much equates to almost half of a novel), I stopped writing. Something wasn’t working for me. That is when my dear friend, Julie, said to me quite frankly: “I don’t know why you don’t write a book about baseball.” You see, Julie and I worked in baseball together for many years at the Baltimore Orioles and were both directors of departments. The idea whet my appetite, and I found myself abandoning the other 43,000-word work in favor of what became Baseball Girl, a multi-layered love story about a female professional who secures a job in professional baseball in the front office of a baseball team after the loss of her father. I was thrilled to write this storyline because I could base some of the characters’ stories on real-life work experiences that my friends and I had while working in the sport while fictionalizing much of it as well. It was great fun, and I’m pleased with the result of that work.

But now, finally, all these years later, something has clicked, and I have dusted off that neglected manuscript that I put aside twice. I know exactly what I want this story to be, how I want the characters’ lives to unfold, and I feel a real sense of purpose for this project. I attribute this light bulb’s illumination to the fact that I’ve been reading a lot again for pleasure, and this breadth of exposure and interpretation has helped me form clearer ideas for the arc of the story, the depth of the characters, the humor I want to infuse into their situations, and the picturesque quality I want to bring to the storyline. I am not afraid of deleting much of what I have already written and blowing it up and starting all over again.

Ideally, this should be the life of a fearless writer–and a good editor. Get rid of shit that is not working and start all over again. And so, the job is in front of me, and I welcome it with open arms.

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As writers, sometimes we sit and wonder when the big “ah-ha” moment will come to pass. If we sweat about it too much, it may never flutter down from the creative hemisphere and grab us and shake us and say, “Um…hello! There’s a big idea here and you better grab it before it goes off searching for someone else to write it.”

 

On Life

Writing Can’t Be ‘Thin Love’

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ~ Toni Morrison

TMorrisonAuthorI admire writer Toni Morrison. She is smart, insightful, and willing to write for herself. Her books are powerful and influential…and from the heart. After sitting here reading many of her quotes, I keep coming back to the one above along with this one:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it. ~ Toni Morrison

You have to love to write in order to take an idea and watch it come to fruition. Anyone who has the fortitude to do it and publish it deserves at least a little pat on the back, don’t you think? In a couple of pieces I’ve previously published on the blog entitled “Why I Write Part I,” “Why I Write Part II,” and “Why I Write Part III,” I did my best to articulate my passion for it. As Ms. Morrison says, it ain’t thin love. Writing has got to be part of who you are and what you want to do.

I’ve taken a little time away from writing this holiday season, but I’m ready to get back to it. I’ve got a collection of short stories that I’d like to publish soon, and I’ve been working on another novel as well. With a full-time job and a busy family, it’s challenging to find the time to sit and tell a story.

But I know one is brewing, and soon, I’ll be ready to fully engage.

Those of you who are writers on the side like me, how do you balance writing, blogging, work, and your social life? I’d love to hear how you do it. That’s what a writing community is for–to share ideas.

In the meantime, I haven’t plugged my work in a while, so below are my latest books.

I’ll see you on the flip side…and let me in on your secrets.

HOT OFF THE PRESS…

E V E N T   P L A N N I N G:  C O M M U N I C A T I N G   T H E O R Y   A N D   P R A C T I C E 

by Leanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and Stephanie Verni

In this textbook, readers will learn the “why” behind the practice of event planning. Chapters include topics such as interpersonal relationships, nonverbal communication, conflict and negotiation, integrated marketing communication, and entrepreneurship. Special thanks to all our wonderful contributors who wrote case studies for each chapter. Published by Kendall Hunt Publishing, January 2016.

To learn more about the book, visit Kendall Hunt Publishing by clicking here.

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BRONZE MEDAL WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE, 2012

FINALIST, NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS, ROMANCE, 2013

B E N E A T H   T H E   M I M O S A   T R E E  by Stephanie Verni

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Annabelle Marco and Michael Contelli are both only children of Italian-Americans. Next door neighbors since they were both five years old, they both receive their parents’ constant attention and are regularly subjected to their meddlesome behavior. In high school and then in college, as their relationship moves from friendship to love, Annabelle finds herself battling her parents, his parents, and even Michael. She feels smothered by them all and seeks independence through an unplanned and unexpected decision that she comes to regret and that ultimately alters the course of her life, Michael’s life, and the lives of both of their parents.

Set in Annapolis, Maryland, New York City, and London, England, in the 1980s and 1990s, Beneath the Mimosa Tree examines both Annabelle’s and Michael’s journeys over the span of ten years as we hear their alternating voices tell the story of self-discoveries, the nature of well-meaning families, and the sense of renewal that can take place when forgiveness is permitted.

To order your copy of Beneath the Mimosa Tree, click here for Amazon  or here for Barnes & Noble.

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HONORABLE MENTION WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, SPORTS FICTION, 2015

B A S E B A L L    G I R L  by Stephanie Verni

HMAwardFrancesca Milli’s father passes away when she’s a freshman in college and nineteen years old; she is devastated and copes with his death by securing a job working for the Bay City Blackbirds, a big-league team, as she attempts to carry on their traditions and mutual love for the game of baseball. The residual effect of loving and losing her dad has made her cautious, until two men enter her life: a ballplayer and a sports writer. With the encouragement of her mother and two friends, she begins to work through her grief. A dedicated employee, she successfully navigates her career, and becomes a director in the front office. However, Francesca realizes that she can’t partition herself off from the world, and in time, understands that sometimes loving someone does involve taking a risk.

To order your copy of Baseball Girl, click here for Amazon, or here for Barnes & Noble.

On Life

The Letter in the Desk | An Excerpt | Friday Fiction

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Unfortunately, this week I am too busy to write a new Friday Fiction post. However, I thought I would share a post I discuss with my students in class. I wrote this short piece called “The Letter in the Desk” when I was working on my MFA. The prompt, again from Brian Kiteley, is from The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, which asks writers to “work with a character you’re very familiar with—someone from a novel you’ve abandoned, a series of stories, or at least a story you’ve worked hard on but have not finished. The character is waiting for someone she knows very well in something like a study or living room. The wait is long. The event these two people are go to is not pleasant. The character gets restless waiting for the friend and begins opening bureau drawers, just browsing through stuff, doing a little snooping around. The character comes upon a sealed letter, addressed to her.”

Write it.

As I was just beginning to write “Beneath the Mimosa Tree” back in 2010, and as the story had been in my head for about 20 years, I decided to write the pinnacle moment for Michael and Annabelle. The first version here is the result of the prompt; the second version is what actually made it onto the pages of my novel.

The Letter in the Desk (The Prompt Exercise)

Mr. Contelli escorted me into the library, a place I hadn’t been in years. It looked the same, though shelves that had previously been empty were now fully stacked with hardback books. I always loved this place; the way the light came streaming through the enormous picture windows that overlooked the Severn River made it a pleasant place to work. The crystal chandelier centered over the desk added a touch of femininity to a mostly masculine room. It had always been Michael’s favorite.

“Let me tell him you are here, Annabelle. I think he was just going in the shower,” Mr. Contelli said to me, trying not to feel awkward.

His dislike for me still seemed apparent, and I tried not to let that dissuade me from pursuing Michael’s forgiveness. When I had asked him yesterday at the foot of the driveway if he would attend Christmas Eve mass with me, I caught him off-guard. This had been a tradition of ours. Until yesterday, we had not spoken in ten years, and now I was standing in the library of his parents’ lovely home, about to ask him to forgive me for what I did those many years ago.

Mr. and Mrs. Contelli poked their heads in the door. “Michael will be down in ten minutes. Make yourself comfortable. We are heading out now and hope to see you there,” Mrs. Contelli said.

“Thank you. See you there.”

I heard the front door shut, then the car start.

There was a drawer in the desk where Michael used to keep all of our work—his sketches, my poetry, our letters. I wondered if it were still in there. It was always known as “Michael’s drawer,” and others were asked to keep out. I fashioned myself in the seat of the desk, and slowly opened the drawer. Deep in the back of it, behind a small box of rubber bands, staples, and Elmer’s glue, was a shallow box. I could still hear the shower water running, so I pulled it out.

It was just as I remembered it. I felt ridiculous, like an inexperienced detective or novice spy. I noticed all the letters were opened, and I started to peruse them. The first letter was from Michael to me when he had first been accepted at NYU. It read, “Dear Annabelle, Can you believe it? I am so excited. I have always wanted to live in New York. I can’t wait for you to visit!” The second one I saw was from me to him; my bad poetry was something that belonged shoved in a box in the back of a desk. It pained me to read it.

And then I came across an unopened letter addressed to me from London. There was postage on it, but it had not been mailed. My hand was shaking and I grabbed the letter opener. I gently opened it, unfolded the letter.

Dear Annabelle,

It’s been three months since you left me waiting for you at the airport and I’m still hoping you’ll explain it to me. I’m in London now. I have a job at The London Times editing copy, and am pursuing my master’s degree at The University of London. I am moving along without you, though it doesn’t feel the same. What were originally our plans are now just mine, and I feel empty and lonely without you.

I hope this letter reaches you at a time when you are able to think about what happened and can explain why you chose not to marry me. Any communication from you would be welcomed. I always assumed we meant more to each other than what has become of us.

I love you…always,

Michael

I stared at it, tears rolling down my face, ashamed, even after all this time, at what a coward I had been.

“Okay,” he said cheerfully as he opened the door. “Let’s get this Christmas Eve celebration underway. This will be interesting.”

He caught a glimpse of me standing there crying as I held the letter. I collapsed into the chair. “I’m so sorry,” I said, barely getting the words out through tears. “I’m so sorry.”

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The Final Version of The Letter in the Desk | An Excerpt from Beneath the Mimosa Tree

Mr. Contelli was wearing his coat, a red scarf wrapped around his neck, and was ready to head over to my parents’ house when he answered the door.

“Is Michael home?” I asked. I was flustered, but there was something in his eyes that told me he sympathized with me at that moment.

“Let me tell him you’re here, Annabelle. I think he was just going into the shower,” he said. He was doing his best to make me feel comfortable.

He disappeared upstairs to check and then came back down and escorted me into the library, a place I hadn’t seen in a very long time. It looked the same, minus the couch under the window; the previously empty shelves were now fully stacked with hardback books and several knickknacks. I had always loved this place in the daytime; the way the light came streaming through the enormous picture windows that overlooked the Severn River added a sense of serenity to the place. The crystal chandelier centered over the desk added a touch of femininity to a mostly masculine room. It used to be Michael’s favorite place in the house.

“He’ll be down in a few minutes. He asked if you don’t mind waiting,” he said.

“Not at all.”

“Okay,” he said, as I attempted to search for any signs that he might still hold a grudge against me. “I’m going to head over now. I’ll see you in a little while?”

“Yes, you will. Thank you very much.”

The front door shut, and I heard his footsteps marching off across the path to the party.

I stood in the room near the desk and looked around. The Contellis’ home was beautiful, I thought—much simpler than my parents’ home, but with great detail. The fireplaces were etched, the walls showcased stunning crown molding, big and thick, and the floors were worn old pine, with dings and imperfections that gave them character. It was subtle but elegant. The middle drawer in the desk once housed our personal keepsakes—Michael’s sketches, my poetry, our letters. I wondered if our items were still in there. It was always known as “Michael’s drawer,” and others were asked to “keep out.” I fashioned myself in the seat of the desk, and slowly opened the drawer. Deep in the back of it, behind a small box of rubber bands, staples, and dried up Elmer’s glue, was a shallow, old cigar box. I could still hear the murmur of shower water running, so I pulled it out.

It was just as I remembered it. The colors may have been a little faded, but it was still filled with some of our memorabilia. I felt like an intruder, but curiosity consumed me. There were charms and stickers, postcards and photographs. I noticed all the letters had been opened, and I started to peruse them. The first letter was from Michael to me when he had first been accepted at NYU. It read,

Dear Annabelle,

Can you believe it? I’m so excited. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. I can’t wait for you to visit.

—Love, Michael

 The second one I examined was from me to him; my sophomoric poetry back then was something that belonged shoved in a box in the back of a desk. It pained me to read it.

And then I came across an unopened letter addressed to me from London. There was postage on it, but it had not been mailed. I stared at it for seconds, minutes. My hands were shaking and I grabbed the letter opener. I knew it was wrong, but I gently opened it, trying to keep it as intact as possible, and unfolded the letter.

Dear Annabelle,

It’s been nearly a year since you left me distraught at the airport and I’m still hoping you’ll explain it to me. I’m in London now. I’ve been working at a newspaper in London; the position doesn’t even have a formal title. My master’s program is going well so far. I’m convinced this was a good decision. I muddle through without you, though it doesn’t feel the same. I think it would have been great to experience all of this together.

I hope this letter reaches you at a time when you’ve been able to think clearly about what happened and can explain to me why you did what you did. It hurt, Annabelle; it still does. Any communication from you would be welcome. I really want to understand. I’m still so angry, I can’t see straight, and some days I’m so mad I don’t know what to do other than to throw myself into my work. But if I did this to you, if the shoe had been on the other foot, wouldn’t you want to know why? Wouldn’t you deserve and require an explanation?

I always assumed we meant more to each other than what has become of us.

Despite it all, I love you…always,

—Michael

I stared at it, the words beginning to blur as tears rolled down my face, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty and disgusted at the way I’d hurt him. I was crying because of the love I had let go of and never had the guts to attempt to rectify. Reading his words—his thoughts—was agonizing. A lump sat in my throat, and I stood as I heard his footsteps approaching from the hallway.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he said cheerfully as he entered the room, rubbing his hands together, with a forced smile on his face. “I just needed to…”

He abruptly stopped speaking and looked at me quizzically when he saw me standing there crying, the letter in hand. I collapsed into the chair.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, barely choking the words out through tears, unable to look him in the eyes. “I’m so sorry, Michael.”

Copyright 2012 | Stephanie Verni | Beneath the Mimosa Tree

A pic of me from the day I first held the proof copy of Beneath the Mimosa Tree in my hand.
On Life

Autumn is Always a Good Time to Fall into a Story

 My first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, takes place primarily from September through New Year’s Eve. I’ve always loved the season of autumn, so I decided to set the scene in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland, my hometown. When one of my dear friends and mentors told me that Annapolis came to life on the pages and was like another character in the book, I felt like a million bucks. While the overall theme of the novel is forgiveness, my hope is that you’ll fall as much in love with Annapolis as I did so many years ago.