On Life

My Obsession with Barn Weddings Continues

I designed our wedding invitations and had them printed to open like barn doors. This is a rendering of the barn where we held our wedding reception.

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DISCLAIMER: Please forgive the quality of the photos today. I took pictures through the plastic of our wedding albums. I love you all, but not enough to take them out of their sleeves and destroy my albums. The quality of the actual photographs is gorgeous. 🙂

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On November 1, 1997, my husband and I tied the knot in a small, quaint Methodist church in Arnold, Maryland (outside of Annapolis), and then held our reception in the Ulmstead Barn–a barn in my parents’ neighborhood. I’d always imagined having the reception there; there was something romantic and nostalgic about hosting our family and friends in a unique place that not everyone has access to (you can only rent the barn if you live in the neighborhood).

Asbury United Methodist Church…before the reception.

However, there was one problem: it was a functioning barn with horses on the ground floor, and on the top level, there were two rooms that could function as space for a reception. But that was it. We had to bring everything in to make it work. But I was up for the challenge, was an avid reader of Martha Stewart Weddings, and had an idea of how I could make it feel like the final scene in “White Christmas” (which my dad later told me the reception reminded him of that movie).

The barn had no air conditioning, and so we felt safe picking November 1. It rained and it was warm that day–not at all what we had expected. But nevertheless, it came together, albeit that we were all little toastier than we thought we would be.

I had visited a farm outside of York, PA, and picked all of my plants, pumpkins, gourdes, etc. which would be used as decorations for the event. My bridesmaids and I lined the stairs in bacopa plants and white lights. We strung white lights throughout the room, decorated the fireplace with fall colors, and put white linens on every table. People’s placecards were mini-pumpkins with their names on them as they entered the barn on the main level. It definitely had the feel of a rustic, fall, quaint barn wedding, and many of my huband’s relatives who were used to big, extravagant weddings in hotels in New Jersey said it was the most intimate and sweet wedding reception they had attended.

I took it as a great compliment.

The ground level of the barn where you entered through the double doors. You had to go up to the second floor to the reception rooms. We decorated the stairs and entryway with all of the fresh plants from the farm and gave them all away at the end of the night.
The cake cutting in the cocktail/dancing side of the barn.
This was the dinner side of the barn. Tables were set up with white twinkle lights and Italian food was served.
This was where we held the cocktail hour and dancing; the two rooms were connected by double doors that we left open for flow.

Today, with Pinterest and Instagram, two social media platforms that didn’t exist back then (I was tearing things out of magazines and Googling, but there wasn’t anything like those!), people can get all kinds of amazing ideas for weddings. And barn weddings seem to be quite popular. My cousin Lizzy also was married and had her reception in a barn. It was stunning.

As I have begun to draft a sequel to Inn Significant and am playing around with the idea of a barn on the site of the Inn which will hold weddings and parties, I have done a lot of research on barns and barn weddings via Pinterest and the Internet. Also having written a textbook on Event Planning (Event Planning: Communicating Theory & Practice published by Kendall-Hunt) with my colleagues and friends Chip and Leeanne, I have a lot of experience in event planning from my days working at the Baltimore Orioles doing large-scale event planning, along with masterminding my own wedding from start to finish, I think I may be able to bring realistic touches to my novel.

And so, I continue to be obsessed with barn weddings. You see, it doesn’t go away just because my own wedding happened almost 20 years ago. And now I can take that love and roll it into fictional storytelling and make it exactly how I want it.

It’s good to be a writer. 🙂

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Decorated the outside for the wedding.

Some of my current favorite barn venues for weddings include these three…

The White Sparrow Barn, Texas
Long Ridge Farm, Kentucky
The Rustic Barn at Prairie Gardens, WI

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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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.

 

Verni Books
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

Some Highlights & Appreciation

RoberUlcerThis past week began with a bang as viewers were treated to another outstanding episode of Downton Abbey. With Robert’s bloody collapse at the dinner table, we were left wondering if all will be okay in the great house in England. If you are like my family and me and are becoming sadder and sadder with each passing episode because there are only a few episodes left of this A+ show, you can become even more filled with grief because when it is over, you will no longer be able to read the wonderfully entertaining recaps written by Joe Heim at The Washington Post. Each Monday, my father, mother, and I wait patiently to hear Mr. Heim’s snarky, intelligent, insightful, and crafty review of the episode that aired the night before. Trust me when I tell you that if you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will read these recaps and laugh out loud, smile, nod, and know that Mr. Heim is a fan, despite his ability to poke fun at the show or use his own self-deprecating sense of humor to make us chuckle.

Book Launch
Speaking before our guests at the book launch for “Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.” Stevenson University, Rockland. Wednesday, February 3, 2016. From left: Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus, Stephanie Verni (yours truly), Chip Rouse, co-authors.

On Wednesday night—amid some very serious February fog—lots of supporters came to Stevenson University to support the publication of our textbook, Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice. Chip Rouse, Leeanne Bell McManus, and I hosted a celebration of the launch of the book we co-authored which was published on January 3. Students of our Event Planning course, members of 47 House, our communication club on campus, friends, family, and colleagues came out to hear us give an overview of the book. President of Stevenson University, Dr. Kevin J. Manning, offered the welcome address, and Dr. Heather Harris, Professor of Business Communication, introduced us. There was coffee and delicious cake with our book cover on the icing, and our contributors who wrote case studies were in the audience and received a thank you gift bag. The textbook was a result of two years of work, and we all were so pleased to receive so much love and support from those who were there. It was one of those nights I won’t ever forget.

Group shot Book Launch
Some of our amazing alums and students who attend the book launch.

I just want to take a moment to thank my immediate family for their constant support of my projects—whether I am getting an MFA to help my academic career, writing fiction, or co-authoring a non-fiction textbook, they are right there beside me offering words of encouragement and doing what they can to be flexible with our busy schedules. Matthew, Ellie, and Anthony—I love you all to the moon and back. I look forward to a little down-time this year and to doing a little travel with you.

twitter
So thrilled to be connected to over 7,000 amazing people who write, publish, are entrepreneurs, business leaders, inspirational speakers, and so many more. Having more fun on Twitter these days…join the fun!

To my wonderful social media followers—thanks for hanging in there with me, and thanks to all new followers on Twitter, Instagram, and to the blog. I look forward to spending more time connecting with you and getting to know you via these platforms.

I’ll be getting to work now on proofing my collection of short stories and poetry that will be available soon in paperback and for the e-reader. I put this off while I was completing other projects, but I’m ready to begin the process of editing and publishing.

I hope you all have a great week, and I’ll be back next week with some new posts.

Until then—

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BaseballGirl
Baseball Girl, my second novel. Somehow, book promotion never ends! If you haven’t read my latest novel, pick up a copy! It’s still $2.99 for the e-readers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble…With baseball season around the corner, it’s an inside glimpse into the workings of professional baseball, with a nod to love, wonderful fathers, and a love triangle. Let me know what you think. xx

 

On Life

On the Road to Event Planning

CamdenYards
Beautiful Camden Yards, where I planned many an event. Photo credit: Stephanie Verni

This week, my colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and I received page proofs of our textbook entitled “Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice” which is being published by Kendall Hunt. The year plus of work on this book has been interesting for me, to say the least. As someone who was trained in academia later in life, having worked in the field of public relations, community relations, and publications first, writing a textbook required a whole different set of skills than does writing fiction. And yet both endeavors are rewarding.

TextbookI wanted to take a moment to thank Leeanne and Chip for working with me on this project. I had not written a textbook before, and so there was definitely a learning curve for me, particularly with regard to research. Nonetheless, I persevered, and I can’t think of a better pair to work with, particularly with regard to event planning.

Those of you who know me (or have ever attended any parties I’ve thrown) probably know this was something that was a no-brainer. How could I pass up the opportunity to write about something I love doing? I’ve been called “The Cruise Director” for years by my good friends who know I am an organizer and social coordinator. During my time at the Orioles, I was blessed to have worked on several event committees that planned events for both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. Leeanne brings a tremendous amount of scholarly expertise to the table, as she has already published two textbooks and helped plan the Eastern Communication Association conference in Baltimore in 2010 (and she is about to do it again in 2016); Chip has been the department chair at Stevenson for years and also works a secondary job at a local country club during the summers planning events. The three of us brought different aspects of event planning to the table, and I’m excited about this textbook and what it potentially offers students.

Likewise, I would like to thank personally my dear friends from the community who work for a variety of organizations and handle aspects of event planning. These folks were willing to help out and write case studies for each of the chapters. Stacey Haines, Julie Wagner, Kristen Schultz, Roz Healy, and Charles Steinberg—thank you for allowing us to hear and to learn from your own experiences with event planning. Additionally, a big thank you goes to Kendall Hunt for publishing our book.

And so now we wait for the finished product to emerge. I can’t wait.

Just wrapped up two years of coordinating social events at our pool. Jen and I had a good time together as co-chairs, along with Kelly (not pictured).
Just wrapped up two years of coordinating social events at our pool. Jen and I had a good time together as co-chairs, along with Kelly (not pictured). Pictured here are a group of our co-horts, relaxed and chilling.