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

The Case for Teaching: Inspiring Students AND Inspired by Students

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One of my students wrote this piece about my blog for our campus newspaper. So cute.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting on my porch writing this post and looking at this glorious day sipping my cup of coffee from my Yeti (which keeps it INCREDIBLY hot, let me just say). In a little while, my daughter and I will head to my parents’ house and sit by their pool and spend time with my brother and his family who are visiting. My son and husband will go play golf–a ritual they’ve tried to do on one day of the weekend. I love that they do this, as my son has one year left of high school before he enters college. I love my summers; they afford me a lot of writing, reading, and family time. That’s for sure. And, they allow me time to plan for the upcoming academic year.

In less than a month, I’ll be back on campus at Stevenson University teaching classes for my 17th year there (my 24th year of teaching overall). I started teaching when a neighbor of mine, who worked at the community college, asked me if I could teach an adjunct course in public speaking. As I had a minor in speech communication and a master’s degree, I told her I could, and a year and a half later (yes, it took that long!), I taught my first course at night.

I fell in love with teaching right then and there.

I was incredibly lucky, as I already had a full-time job I loved working for the Baltimore Orioles. Now, I had a part-time job I loved, too.

When I was hired by Villa Julie in 2000, and then became a full-time faculty member in 2008 when the college changed its name to Stevenson University, I was ecstatic. Somewhere in the back of my head even as a college student myself, I knew I wanted to teach. My mother taught middle school English for 30 years, her uncle was a teacher, my uncle is a professor, two of my aunts were teachers…so you get the picture. Sometimes, honestly, a profession may just be in your blood. And sometimes a profession feels more like a passion.

I probably don’t say it enough, especially to my students, but I love working with them. And to my former students, I loved working with you all, too. I enjoy watching them grow from quiet and unsure freshmen to confident and self-assured young people ready to take on the work force. Some of their transformations are downright amazing, while others of them confidently continue on their trajectory to success. I am so proud of what they have become and what they continue to do out in the world today.

Being in the classroom with students is one of my favorite things. In my writing courses, I especially love when we have meaningful discussions and I get to hear from them about their lives or how a particular piece of writing affected them. In my advertising class, I get to see them make a final pitch—trust me when I tell you, some of those pitches would knock your socks off! In my public relations class last year, the students actually made me so proud when they executed their press conferences that I got a little choked up and teary. And this year, I’m teaching a whole new course, whereby we will function as a full-service agency. It’s going to be exciting.

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As a university professor, no two days are the same, and I don’t have to sit behind a desk all day long. I am there to inspire the students, but the truth is, half the time, they end up inspiring me. They make me want to be a better teacher each and every day.

Honestly, if you open your ears and listen to what your students have to say, it can be quite powerful. They have stories to tell and experiences to share, and they are always eager to understand what I have to impart, even when sometimes they may not fully understand the method to my madness. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time.

But it’s always worth it.

Yes, school starts in less than a month.

I can’t wait to see what this academic year brings.

 

Stephanie

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 Cup of Candor’s Dose of Inspiration – From Princess Diana & the HBO Special

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My commemorative book about Princess Diana.

*

Two nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. I don’t watch a lot of television, but that night, I watched a movie with my kids, then got caught up in another, and then, finally, landed on HBO and watched Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, the documentary about Princess Diana as told by her two sons, William and Harry.

To be clear about my affinity for this woman I must tell you a couple of things. First, I had my hair cut like her iconic hair for my own wedding. Second, she was only a few years older than I am, and she was our contemporary role model in almost every way. And third, her sense of style, candor, kindness, and humor were always appealing to me. Sadly, she lived a fairy tale that became a complete nightmare, and her death was shocking and came way too early in her life. Her life ended in a dark, Shakespearean tragedy, and the world mourned her loss—and I believe it still does. I’m still mad at the media for chasing her through that tunnel, but that’s a post for another time. Today, it’s about the inspiration Diana has left us with, even today.

What was nice about watching the documentary by her sons is that we got to hear their memories of their mother. I loved when Harry recounted her laugh—and called it infectious—and then we see her on a water ride at an amusement park going down a hill with Harry and William and see her laughing. It reminds us all that what we do with our kids and how we act will always be something they remember about us when we are no longer here.

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William talked about how, at the age of 12, Diana took him to a homeless shelter, and that that one push to go there and talk and listen to people instilled a kindness in him that he continues today by visiting often. He spoke of her ability to reach out and touch people, whether it was those in the shelter, those with AIDS, or those with an ailment or disability, Diana knew how to make people feel loved.

One of her greatest quotes is this one:

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana

I believe this is so true. It is something that I have done and try to live by in my life, and I am sure it inspires you, too. Sometimes we just help people because it’s the right thing to do—and we shouldn’t expect anything in return.

Her other fantastic quote that I wholeheartedly agree with is this one:

“When you are happy you can forgive a great deal.” – Princess Diana

220934-In-A-World-Full-Of-Kardashians-Be-Diana_1I believe this is so true, also. Sometimes you just have to rise above it, forgive, and move on, and I know this is not always easy. These words encourage me to find that place in me where forgiveness is possible. And being happy is a great place to start.

Overall, the HBO special reminds us of the power of a person. When they say someone can change the world, it’s true. Hearing the memories of Diana by her sons and people who knew her reminded me of the impact she had on people’s lives, even though her life ended much too early. Nevertheless, she continues to inspire me, along with countless others, and probably always will.

 

Stephanie

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.

 

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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Inn-spiration in Inn Significant | Photo Inspiration When Writing Description

The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI. This is sort of what I picture the dining room at Inn Signficiant would look like. No rug, though. Just hardwoods. But I love the windows and the chandelier. There are lots of chandeliers in the Inn.
The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI. This is sort of what I picture the dining room in Inn Signficiant would look like. No rug, though. Just hardwoods. But I love the windows and the chandelier. There are lots of chandeliers hanging from ceilings in Inn Significant. Wonder why?

The students in both sections of my Magazine Writing classes can tell attest to what we worked on this week: (1) writing description and detail, (2) storytelling, and (3) finding your voice in your writing. I think about these three things constantly when I write, and as you read in my previous post about being inspired by actual places, the same is true when writing description—you have to “see” in your own imagination what things look like in order to relay them properly to your readers.

I work hard at this every time I write something. I never want readers to feel as if they cannot imagine the setting themselves. It’s our responsibility as writers to leave little grey area where that is concerned.

Writers have different techniques when crafting a story, and we all go about putting it to paper in various ways. When I sit down to write, I have to be fully inspired. Sometimes that means taking copious notes; it may mean being inspired by nature; it may involve conversations I’ve had with folks; and still other times, it may involve the photographs I have taken or have researched online.

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This is the Sandaway Inn in Oxford, MD. Its property is beautiful and inspired the setting of Inn Significant.

Inn Significant takes place in lovely Oxford, Maryland. The Inn is perched upon the Tred Avon River, much the same way a real Inn is there (the Sandaway Inn); however, I took the liberty to create an Inn through what I imagined in my head, including the cottages on site where the main character lives. I used lots of photographs from research, and what follows are some of the images that inn-spired Inn Significant. 🙂 (Yes, I know I spelled inspired incorrectly there.)

If you choose to read the novel, I’ll be interested to see if what inspired me and what I wrote was similar to what you pictured in your imagination.

There’s no telling–what your imagination conjures up may be even better than what I had in my mind.

This is sort of what I picture Milly and John's cottages to look like on the grounds of Inn Significant. It's not exact, but it's pretty darn close.
This is sort of what I picture Milly and John’s cottages to look like on the grounds of Inn Significant. It’s not exact, but it’s pretty darn close. I imagine there would be more hydrangeas, lavender, and roses brightening up the landscape along with a stone walkway. Maybe even a pink bike with a basket parked out front.
There is no doubt in my head that Inn Significant's library would look like this. OMG. Gorgeous.
There is no doubt in my head that Inn Significant’s library would look like this. OMG. Gorgeous. Sorry, but once again, I have to point out the chandelier. And the books. Oh…the books.
I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that Inn Significant's foyer looks something like this.
I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that Inn Significant’s foyer would look something like this.
This might be what one of the guest rooms looks like. I described the sheer curtains and chandeliers in every room.
This might be what one of the guest rooms looks like. I described the sheer curtains and chandeliers in every room.
The place where the muffin-making takes place...and where Colette does her thing. I picture it looking similar to this.
The place where the muffin-making takes place…and where Colette does her thing. I picture it looking similar to this.
The outdoor celebration probably looked similar to this. I just love the idea of dining al fresco at an Inn on a river, don't you?
The outdoor celebration probably looked similar to this. I just love the idea of dining al fresco at an Inn on a river, don’t you?
My husband and I stayed at the Carneros Resort in Napa Valley last April. I picture Milly and John's cottages having a patio like this. Being in Napa truly inspired what the cottages in the novel looked like in the novel.
My husband and I stayed at the Carneros Resort in Napa Valley last April. I picture Milly and John’s cottages having a patio like this. Being in Napa truly inspired what the cottages in the novel looked like.
This is Two Meeting House in Charleston, SC. In my head, the exterior of the Inn looks similar to this.
This is Two Meeting House Inn in Charleston, SC. In my head, the exterior of the Inn looks like a combination of this and the two to follow.
This is the White Doe in in North Carolina. This one inspired me too. Love the flowers and white picket fence.
This is the White Doe Inn in North Carolina. This one inspired me too. Love the flowers and white picket fence. And the bike.
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This is the White Hart in Connecticut. You might say this one is inspirational, as well. Gorgeous.

I hope you enjoy Inn Significant, and as well, this little photo-essay of the places that inn-spired my writing.

To purchase via Amazon for Kindle, click here.

To purchase via Amazon in paperback, click here.

To purchase via Barnes & Noble for the Nook, click here.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

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imageStephanie 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.

 

Don’t Put Limitations on Yourself: Inspiration to Achieve the Goals You Set for Yourself

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Writer and director James Cameron (Titantic, Avatar, and the Terminator) says it best at the end of his Ted Talk on Ted.com:

Don’t put limitations on yourself; other people will do that for you.

I typically show this Ted Talk to my university feature writing students each fall after they read a piece about the iconic director. We discuss the profile article, the writing style, the use of feature techniques, and then we talk about James Cameron—as he is portrayed in the article.

You see, when you read an article about someone, it’s from that one person’s perspective. And sometimes, he or she doesn’t get all the details, facts, and nuances correct from that interview process. Nevertheless, we walk away with a portrait of James Cameron that seems rather different from the Cameron we see in the Ted Talk. (Hence, the reason why I tend to show it in class—to see two perspectives.)

But what Cameron says at the end, that we shouldn’t put limitations on ourselves because other people do that for us, is so very true. The world is competitive, and sometimes all we need to do is focus on our goals and make plans to achieve them. As soon as we begin to doubt ourselves or decide that we cannot do something, we’ve limited ourselves.

For example, this strategy doesn’t just apply to professional goals. It can apply to personal goals…little goals that you set for yourself such as improving your exercise routine, bettering your eating habits, or losing weight altogether are fully within your own control. For me it was all three. For a while now, I’ve battled weight issues as I’ve watched it go up and down, and finally, I decided to do something about it. The bottom line is this: prior to this summer, I didn’t take the time to make it a priority in my life. I put others first. I put work first. I put writing first. I compromised my own health because I didn’t think it was important enough and I thought it couldn’t be done.

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If I can do it, you can too.

As of this writing, I have lost 20 pounds this summer, and I continue to work at it. When the semester begins, I won’t stop the practices I’ve put into place that are working because it’s important to me now and I’m reaching goals. I still have more to go, and the drive to succeed has now exceeded the limitations I put on myself.

The same is true for any goal you want to accomplish. Another example I can share with you is writing my third novel, a passion I have had since I was a teenager. I wanted to complete the writing of it this summer, and the draft is done. I have moved on to the editing phase and hope to publish this contemporary romance/women’s fiction novel in the fall.

I’m sharing all of this because I know you can do it, too.

Don’t put limitations on yourself.

You owe it to yourself to set goals and achieve exactly what you want to achieve.

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Editing my novel…outside in the sun.

xx |

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

Walking for Mind, Body, Spirit…AND To Improve Creativity

Approaching the golf course in our neighborhood on today's walk.
Approaching the golf course in our neighborhood on today’s walk.

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It’s 1:35 p.m. on a sunny, gorgeous Friday here in Maryland where the temps are a stunning 79 degrees, and I’ve just returned from an hour-long walk. There are no excuses when the weather is this spectacular. As someone who admittedly has not taken very good care of herself over the last few years and has put other things and other people first, I’ve committed the summer to my overall physical and mental well-being. From reading to writing to exercising daily and eating better, it’s time for me to get serious about my lifestyle.

I’m not hear to preach about your health; Weight Watchers, your doctor, and your own family do that for you. But what I can attest to is that walking helps clear the mind, especially if you walk by yourself. Doing it for one hour allows you the time to just reset your brain, reflect on things, and put some distance between you, work, family, and friends. There’s nothing wrong with a little alone time.

It’s amazing how revitalized you can feel after strutting your stuff for one hour at a good pace. I love walking in my neighborhood–there’s so much to see. Many neighbors are in the midst of home renovations, the golf course sits in the middle of the neighborhood, and the trees, flowers, and landscaping of the homes provide an excellent landscape to entertain me. There’s always something new to see.

Walking also helps boost your creativity. According to research by Stanford University in 2014, it’s proven that walking helps creativity. I do some of my best thinking when I’m walking, and I come home and incorporate things I thought about into my stories. Writers are always told to seek inspiration from outside sources, and nature is a wonderful source of just that.

If you’re not in the habit of walking, you may want to give it a try. It really does invigorate your body, spirit, and your mind.

The beautiful sky from last night's walk...and airplane headed to BWI Airport.
The beautiful sky from last night’s walk…and an airplane headed to BWI Airport.

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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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And Then Inspiration Comes: Start Writing | Hints and Tips for Writers and Bloggers

AltStudios Inspiration

You want to write. Writing is in your blood. You bloggers know this is true. You novelists know this is true. Magazine writers, newspaper writers, nonfiction writers, script writers—it’s part of who you are; it makes up your very existence. You can’t imagine life without it.

And yet, some days it’s difficult to find inspiration.

Some weeks, it’s difficult to find inspiration.

Some years, well, you get the point.

The problem is, if it’s part of who you are, you can’t let inspiration fall by the wayside. You need constant inspiration. These little pieces of inspiration are vital to your success; they help you nurture your creative side, but that creative side yearns to be inspired.

So how do we find inspiration? When does the epiphany hit us and tell us what to do?

I wish I had a stock answer for you that would help make your life easier. I wish I could tell you that at exactly 9 p.m. your creative genius is going to wake up and tell you it has a brilliant idea for you and you will smile and shake its hand and be ready for a new adventure with your writing. But it doesn’t work that way. In fact, that’s exactly the word we are searching for: work. Inspiration takes work.

You become a seeker…someone who needs to seek out ideas and foster them and help them grow. You have a responsibility to nurture them and use your intelligence to make sense of it all.

And, fellow writers, while I may not have the answers—no one does—all I can do is share what’s been working for me lately. These few ideas have helped me get out of the weeds and blow up a project I was working on and start all over again with it.

Open Your Mind appearing behind torn brown paper.

 

  1. Don’t do negative talk. The intrapersonal communication we have going on inside our head should be positive. We do not need to bash ourselves, speak negatively internally, or question our creativity. We are supposed to be our own biggest supporters, and in doing so, tell yourself you can do it. You can write something meaningful. You will come up with something good to write about…it will come soon. I recently showed my sports communication students a Ted Talk by Brett Ledbetter called Finding Your Inner Coach. While it is geared a bit toward athletics, there are good ideas from which we can all learn. One of his ideas involves your innermost thoughts. He asks the audience to consider this: what if you’re an athlete playing in a game and your innermost thoughts scrolled across a scoreboard for everyone to see? Would they be positive thoughts or negative thoughts?  Consider this notion with your writing. If your innermost thoughts were to scroll across the top of your blog or the Paperblog site, would they be positive ones or negative ones?
  2. Find inspiration in the little things. Sometimes it’s just a phrase or sentence someone says to me; other times it’s a quote I see or the way a child holds her mother’s hand. Sometimes innocent things make me stop and wonder and yearn for simpler things. If someone tells you a story, you may be inclined to talk about it or research it for your blog or book. When I mentioned that the character I am writing in my new novel suffers from depression brought on by a traumatic event in her life, a friend of mine said she was glad I was tackling depression. We can’t deny there are stories all around us if we just open our eyes.tumblr_static_pink-typewriter-hi-res-header
  3. Let a photograph take you away. Sometimes when I see exotic photos, pictures of beautiful scenery or cities, or homes and home improvements that people post on Instagram or Pinterest, I am immediately drawn to a particular subject. Let that photograph take you places, expand your imagination, and give you wings to fly.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to feel stifled. One of the criticisms I have received regarding my blog is that it “is not focused enough”—that I don’t just write about one subject area such as writing or decorating or relationships. I have intended my blog to be more of a lifestyle blog, despite the fact that I write books. I am a teacher who teaches writing; I also have a lot of interests. If I had to teach writing during the day and then only write about writing at night, I could possibly go insane. I want to write about things I am interested in—books, movies, writing, fashion, television shows, relationships, children, etc. By expanding your creativity and subject matter base, you may feel more liberated.
  5. Find inspiration in other writer’s work. I just finished The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag. It was fun, creative, and a little magical. Presently, I am reading The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. Both of these books are well written and both authors have vivid imaginations. Reading books helps you consider your own storytelling and makes you want to write better. I am always energized after reading a book, dissecting the techniques used, and paying attention to style, diction, description and dialogue. As Jack Nicholson said in As Good As It Gets, “You make me want to be a better man.” As for me, other writers make me want to be a better writer.
  6. Put yourself in the shoes of your readers. What would entertain them? Would a short blog post do for the day, or should it be longer? What type of novel are you ready to attack next, and what type of novel do you think your best friend would want to read? Asking yourself direct questions about your reader and their demographics may help pull you toward a subject matter.Inspiration
  7. Find the prettiest or most attractive journal you can and carry it with you always. There is nothing worse than finding inspiration and not knowing what to do with it. At the very least, you should write it down. Immediately. Before you forget—before that brilliant idea your creative genius helped you think up drifts back up into the sky looking for another creative genius to pass it off to. Cultivate your ideas. Foster them. They are yours, and you owe it to yourself to act upon them.
  8. Keep up with current events, entertainment news, social media, and bestseller lists. Do your homework. What are the hottest topics? What’s trending? What seems to be most interesting to folks? Can you find an interesting story and then put your own spin on it? Can you make something that seems like old news become new again?

I hope I’ve helped a little bit. Maybe the biggest help of all is knowing we all go through it. We all have those moments where nothing is coming. And then—BOOM—the best idea comes to you and you’re off and running.

Or, you could adopt the Tina Fey attitude.

Whatever works.

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After writing a textbook for the last couple of years and promoting Baseball Girl since last March, I had to take a break from writing for a bit (besides the blog) and refocus my energy. The novel I was working on wasn't moving in the direction I wanted it to go. I paused for a long while. Today, I was inspired. It came from somewhere, and I am thankful. I wrote. I got two chapters written, and I'm loving where this story is going. Hearing from other writers is inspirational, but the real motivation for any project comes from a source that only you can hear...it comes from inside you. And it's up to you to foster and nurture it. It's not always easy to believe in yourself, but that belief is what can make you persevere. As Somerset Maugham said: If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn't matter a damn how you write.
After writing a textbook for the last couple of years and promoting Baseball Girl since last March, I had to take a break from writing for a bit (besides the blog) and refocus my energy. The novel I was working on wasn’t moving in the direction I wanted it to go. I paused for a long while. Today, I was inspired. It came from somewhere, and I am thankful. I wrote. I got two chapters written, and I’m loving where this story is going. Hearing from other writers is inspirational, but the real motivation for any project comes from a source that only you can hear…it comes from inside you. And it’s up to you to foster and nurture it.

 

 

 

Snow-Inspired Whites For Comfort and Style

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Scenes from the weekend.

After being surrounded by a blanket of approximately 30 inches of snow, the beauty of it truly is stunning. The blast of snow inspired me to create a post celebrating the color white. White is clean and fresh, even in the dead of winter. So even if you don’t want to play in it, you certainly can wear it.

Stay warm and cozy, my friends. We’ll get dug out at some point. 🙂

white winter hat
white winter hat
white snowflake nails
white snowflake nails
white jewels
white jewels
white fur gloves
white fur gloves
white jeans | white sweater
white jeans | white sweater
white coat
white coat
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white pajamas
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white sweater

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Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery

Untitled-1I blog. I Facebook. I Tweet. I Instagram. I even occasionally YouTube.

But lately, I’ve done a lot of pinning on Pinterest.

As someone who enjoys magazines–from magazines about fashion, home, travel, and writing–Pinterest is a great way to “collect” ideas electronically. Don’t get me wrong, though. I have still spent a fortune on home decorating magazines.

The house we’ve moved into is 40 years old and has been lovingly and beautifully restored on the inside. I love the character of the home.

And now what I love about Pinterest is the ability to share pretty photos and information in a setting where we can gather ideas, assess them, use them as tools to help implement ideas, and then actually put them into motion. I like the idea of “pin boards;” they work well for me.

The photos above are (1) the photo inspiration I liked from Pinterest that inspired my half bath on the main level, and photo (2) is what was implemented. While I didn’t replicate it exactly (I originally was going to use white shelving, but the trim in my house is cream colored, so it didn’t work as well), I still used the photograph as my blueprint. I opted for the wire and wood shelves because it added texture and it went well with the brown accents in the mirror and the light fixture. The walls are pink, the only pink in the house, and there is artwork that you can’t see hanging opposite the potty.

So far, Pinterest has not lead me astray, and as my mother always says, “Imitation is the most sincere from of flattery.”