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

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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On Life

A Good Book Will Never Let You Down

theshoemaker'swifeI’m about to finish Adriana Trigiani’s touching and inspiring novel entitled The Shoemaker’s Wife. I’ve enjoyed reading this sweeping story of Italian immigrants loosely based on the history of the author’s own grandparents. From the mountains of the Italian Alps to New York City to a small town in Minnesota, the characters and sights covered in this novel will allow you to become a part of a different time and place when the world was a different place, America was growing, and World War I loomed. The truth of the matter is this: a good book will never let you down.

As I’ve become older, wiser, and more finicky about how I spend my free time, I find getting lost in a good book some of the best therapy around. My knowledge about various topics has grown immensely by reading the works of others, and I don’t just mean as a writer. Sure, as a writer, we learn things from other writers such as technique, style, tone, and scope of work, but we also learn about people, places, and things.

Reading allows us to be entertained, to escape, and to challenge ourselves. It requires us to tap into our own imaginations as we read the words the writer put on the page. I keep trying to tell my students to pick up some of the classics that they might otherwise not read because they think the work may be too difficult. However, upon closer inspection, my students have found Dickens and Austen fun to read. They tell me they are glad I pushed them to pick up a book they may not have chosen for themselves.

When you spend time with a good book, it becomes etched in your mind. You may not remember every detail of it or all the things that happened along the way after you are through, but you will be left with an impression, insight, and new information that you did not have prior to making the commitment to it.

When I find an author I love, I try to read everything she or he has written; however, the worst part comes when you realize that you HAVE read all that he or she has written and start to twiddle your thumbs until the next one is released. Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is this: a good book is one to cherish and love, recommend, and encourage others to read.

I am probably going to cry when I finish The Shoemaker’s Wife. It will be as if I am saying farewell to my own Italian family as I kiss them goodbye.

Schilpario Italy
Schilpario, Italy. One of the settings in The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani.  Photo credit: sell-arts.com
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New York City during World War I. Photo credit: oldmagazinearticles.com. Ciro, one of the characters in the novel, leaves his NYC to become a soldier.

 

 

 

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.

Event Planning Text

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.

& ... more., About Creative Writing, Advertising, Creativity

It’s All About Love

BBGirlAd
Yet another marketing piece I’ve created: an ad to help promote Baseball Girl.

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One of the things I’ve had to come to grips with lately is that if you have created something that is independently yours, whether it’s in the role of author of a book, director of an indie film, or maker of lovely art, you will always be working, always promoting. Additionally, you have to believe that you are your own brand and must act as the innovator, marketer, branding expert, and salesperson of the work you have created.

That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one mere person who probably can’t afford to do this craft without another full-time job or source of other income.

So those of us in this arena must learn to be our own best marketers and promoters, similar to P.T. Barnum, that harmless deceiver of the circus all those many years ago. “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing!” he mused.

P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver
P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver

He also said, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

The truth of the matter is, once you’ve created something that took you years to finish, you actually do want someone to enjoy it, read it, watch it, love it. The problem arises with promotion—how do we get someone to read our work, see our film, admire our art? And furthermore, how do we hope those people will spread the news?

When I launched Beneath the Mimosa Tree three years ago, I found myself rather on the ball. I wrote press releases, sent the book out to local media, made phone calls, donated complimentary copies, and promoted the hell out of it on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and this lovely blog. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly busier, both at work (and writing a textbook) and with my family, especially my children who are involved in many sports and activities. There are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much time I can devote to spreading the word about Baseball Girl.

You probably feel the same way if you are similarly an independent artist. It’s exhausting. I sometimes scratch my head and ask myself why I do this? Why this hobby of mine so important? Why I want people to read my work and like my stories?

P.T. Barnum was also known to have said, “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.”

I think he may be right.

I can’t explain my need to do what I do and exhaust myself in the process except to say that both my novels were my expressions and they were made with love.

So in the end, I suppose it is all about love.

About Creative Writing

Preparing to Launch! A Personal Letter to Readers.

What'sComingDear Readers,

I don’t often go on and on about all the different responsibilities an independent author has to tackle on a daily basis, but none is greater than getting your books ready for that “big release.” I can see the finish line. I am almost there.

In addition to the release of my almost three-year project “Baseball Girl,” a novel about a woman’s experience with loss, love, and relationships while working in the baseball big leagues, which is (very) loosely based on my own experiences, I’ve also been writing and putting together a collection of short stories and poetry. I’m shooting to have both on the market in February. The covers for each are above.

I am but one person. Even though the word that goes before author—independent—appears to be a lonely one, it is not an independent journey at all. There are so many people you rely on for input and editing, from family and friends, to those who are willing to help you out when you pose a question on social media. I’m so thankful that people are interested and helpful, and for the most part, are encouraging and want to see you succeed.

While it’s not time to toast with a glass of Champagne yet, it will be soon. Until then, I’ll continue to prepare these ships for launch.

Lots of love and have a great weekend,

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About Creative Writing, Books & Flim

My Latest Author Crush

Markus ZusakMarkus Zusak is attractive, intelligent, in touch with human nature, deeply evocative with his use of language, and has had me thinking about the story he wrote for a good, solid week now. In fact, I know I will never forget it.

I’d call that an author crush.

I can’t get Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Ilsa, Max, and Rudy out of my mind, not to mention Frau and Michael Holtzapfel. The images he left me with are vivid and haunting, and “The Book Thief” is one of my all-time favorite stories I have read.

Perhaps Zusak’s best choice in writing this WWII novel about foster-child Liesel Meminger was allowing the story to be narrated by Death. Don’t be put off by this thought if you haven’t read the book yet. Death is a brilliant narrator, bordering on having feelings, despite the job he has to do, and attempts to understand human behavior all throughout the novel. His observations and insights enthrall readers, as he leaves us mesmerized, stunned, and feeling melancholy about the atrocities man commits toward other men. Hearing Death tell stories about Hitler, Nazi Germany, life on Himmel Street during that time, and love as observed between children and adults is Zusak’s strength. Moreover, I liked Death a great deal after reading the novel; I would not be afraid to meet the likes of him in a dark alley.The Book Thief

Furthermore, Zusak’s colorful storytelling (and I mean that, literally, as you will see if you read it) and his command of the English language make this book one you’ll have no desire to put down. While the subject matter itself is certainly emotional to read at times and leaves you scratching your head as you consider World War II didn’t happen all that long ago (not to mention allow yourself to think about what is happening in our world right now and what people do to each other), Zusak brings a lightheartedness to the novel that is greatly appreciated. I am in awe of the intricate weaving of plot and extraordinary development of character, and while this novel has received contemporary acclaim, I am certain it will go down one day as a “classic” piece of literature.

I’m so glad I took the time to read this wonderful, creative, enlightening, memorable piece of work. It takes a special person to write a story that both breaks your heart and offers you hope.

Carry on, Mr. Zusak. I can’t wait for your next story.

Below, please find a wonderful interview with Zusak. And to writers who write: listen carefully to the last part of his interview and continue to do your thing and write.

Books & Flim, Posts About Baseball

Baseball Girl “Teaser” Video

Happy New Year, all!

I’m getting all of my marketing materials together as I prepare my novel for publication in early 2015. So, here is the 30-second “teaser” for the novel which I’m planning on publishing when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

As always, thanks for your support.

About Creative Writing, Books & Flim

Are You in the Shallow End or Deep End with Your Summer Reading?

Summer Reading* * * * * *

Come on, be honest. What the heck is on your reading list this summer? Will you finally get around to reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” on your Kindle or will you be attacking a Dickens classic? Are you wading in the shallow end with the updated version of “Kardashian Konfidential” or knee deep in “Unbroken” or a novel with some philosophical insights?

What is your beach read this summer?

Let us know. We want to hear what you’re recommending…unless, of course, you’re too embarrassed to share…  😉

About Creative Writing, Beneath the Mimosa Tree & Publicity

Happy 99 Cent Anniversary!

BTMTNEWCOVER3-17.indd
Beneath the Mimosa Tree was a Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for 2013 and also received the Bronze medal—tops in its category—in the annual Readers’ Favorite Contest. Click here to go to Amazon.com for the .99 cent deal.

Good morning, friends!

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the publication of “Beneath the Mimosa Tree.” I know, I know…this is OLD news. Yes, that may be true. But for me, it never will be old news. I won’t ever forget the way may hand shook as I hit the “publish” button and sent it off to Kindle. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and off it went for Kindle to review my files for publication. At approximately 11 p.m., I received an email from Amazon saying, “Congratulations! Your book is now available for download.”

I was the book’s first customer.

I downloaded it immediately to my Kindle because I had to see if it all looked okay. It did.

Now, two years later, as I am writing the final pages of my second novel (tentatively entitled “Baseball Girl”), I’m still proud of that first book. I always will be.

In honor of the 2nd Anniversary of its publication, I’ve slashed the Kindle price for purchase. For a few days, it will be available for .99 cents. Click here or on the image to go to Amazon Kindle.DSC_0135

To my true supporters and friends who have recommended the book to others, I can’t thank you enough. Little independent novels like this thrive on word-of-mouth, social media, and one friend passing it along to another.

And tonight, ironically, I’m visiting a book club in Towson, where they selected my book as this month’s read. I’m excited to stop by and say hello.

So, thanks again, everyone.

🙂

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Here are a couple of new reviews from Amazon, followed by a description of the book.

— It takes place in Annapolis which is very near my home so I could easily picture the surroundings. The author did a good job of developing the main and supporting characters in a way that way that had everyone suffering the consequences of their choices.

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— I really loved this book — very sweet. I really enjoyed this as a leisurely read. I highly recommend it.
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— I don’t know where to start with “Beneath the Mimosa Tree.” As a male college student, this was the first book I’ve read in years outside the classroom, purely for pleasure. Admittedly, I got about half-way through and I put the book down for a couple of weeks because life was a little busy. But then, as I was having lunch earlier this week on a beautiful day in Manhattan, I decided I was going to finish BTMT.

I made the right decision and in the last 3 or 4 days, I finished the second-half of the book. I found myself captivated with the story and its multiple moving parts, especially the difference of tone between Michael and Annabelle. The back-and-forth of the story kept me so interested that I finished the book latter half in 2 train rides and lunch breaks. And I don’t want to give away the ending, but trust me, I visualized the last ~20 or so pages of the book as if it were straight in a movie.

I’m not a book expert… especially not in this genre, but I connected with this book on a couple levels as not only am I an Italian-American from New York (who has experienced the large holiday gatherings and knows what a real cannoli tastes like) but I’m also a sucker for a great story!

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BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE. I picked up the Bronze Medal last weekend in Miami at the Readers Favorite Awards Ceremony.
BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE. I had so much fun meeting other authors in Miami at the Readers Favorite Awards Ceremony.

ABOUT BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE

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.

About Creative Writing, Beneath the Mimosa Tree & Publicity

Just For Today, I’m Feeling A Little Like Elizabeth Gilbert

BTMTJamaica

* * *

Here’s the thing: Today, I am feeling a little like Elizabeth Gilbert.

I admire Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and the current hit The Signature of All Things) tremendously and had the privilege of hearing her speak as well when she was a keynote for Stevenson’s Speaker Series a few years. She’s a great inspiration, and her piece on TED about creativity is one of my all-time favorites. My classes can attest to this, because I make them watch it every semester.

Gilbert regularly posts photos of her book in lovely settings from all over the world. Readers send them to her. It’s a very sweet and cool thing to see people loving your work so much that they feel compelled to share it with you. I always get a kick out of seeing what Gilbert will post next.

Today, when I received this photo on my Facebook page from Jen of Beneath the Mimosa Tree hanging out with a mimosa drink looking exotic on a beach, I felt the same way. She took this photo in Jamaica, and I’m glad my novel made it into her hands as well as on foreign soil. This may be a first. This little independent novel is feeling quite ecstatic today.

Thanks, Jen, for making my day.

* * *

Incidentally, Beneath the Mimosa Tree makes a great Valentine’s Gift for your loved one. Told in alternating voices of Michael and Annabelle, this story focuses on love, romance, and forgiveness. On Amazon in paperback for $8.99, for Kindle and Nook for $3.99.

 

On Life

Pride and Prejudice: Which One and Why?

This is my favorite book of all time.

P&PBookIt’s my mother’s copy, which she lent to me and will never get back.

I love that it cost 45 cents.

I love that it has my mother’s original highlights in it. She studied English and Literature, and I do pay attention to the notations when I read it.bookopen

Nothing today costs 45 cents, not even a postage stamp (that will cost you 46 cents)…but perhaps you could get a piece of candy or solitary nail.

So the question then becomes, which of the two films of note would you select as your favorite depiction of “Pride & Prejudice”?

I’ve heard arguments for both, and I do have my choices for different reasons, which I will not yet reveal.

P&PMovies

But Austen fans usually have something to say. So, what say you?

Is Colin Firth your Mr. Darcy of choice, or is it Matthew Macfadyen? Which Elizabeth do you find yourself identifying with most, Keira Knightly’s Elizabeth or Jennifer Ehle’s version? And which Mr. Collins makes your skin crawl and makes you laugh at the same time?

It’s the best story…and if you take the time to read it and then watch the films, you can understand Ms. Austen’s fantastic handle on people, culture, manners, romance, and the sense of the period.

And let’s not forget her amazing sense of humor.

AustenPrayer