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.

 

 

& ... more., On Life

When Are You The Happiest? Part One

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I think that we can all confirm the obvious—we work a lot. Here, in the United States, we work many, many hours, whether those hours are at work, outside work, in the classroom, outside the classroom, attending meetings and conferences, or attending other notable business-related practices as needed, when needed. I never realized how much we worked—truly—until I sat on the edge of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, on the River Arno with my husband. We had purchased fresh Prosciutto, mozzarella, olives, roasted red peppers, and bread, and made ourselves a little picnic as we watched people close up shops for the afternoon siesta. I believe the words I said that day went something like this: “What the hell are we doing wrong? We work too much.”

In those days, I was working in baseball, and I spent as many as 80 hours a week promoting the game in Baltimore with the Orioles. The crazy thing was that I loved my job. I loved it so much that it didn’t feel like work. At all.

That was, until we went to Italy.

Since then, my perception on life has changed a great deal. My husband and I did not have children at the time of our work/life epiphany on the Arno, and now we have two who are in high school. Soon, my son will be off to college. Time flies, my friends, and we need to make sure we are leaving room to be the happiest we can be. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? That we have to “pencil in” time to be happy?

Which leads me to my question: When are YOU the happiest?

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I have an app on my phone that I refuse to delete. It’s the Universal Studios app (and if you are on your way to Orlando, you may want to use this app—it tells you exactly how long the wait is for each attraction at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.) My kids think it’s funny that I have kept the app on my phone two months after our trip. Maybe it’s a little nutty, but I like to periodically check (in moments of pure boredom) to see how long the wait is at my favorite rides. It’s funny, but it harkens back to that idea of being happy. We were all truly happy in Florida at that park. We had fun. We had together time. We enjoyed each other’s company and made memories. And my husband and I did not think about work. We were on vacation. We “penciled it in.”

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Think about the times you have enjoyed the simple splendor of just being with those you love. Maybe it wasn’t during a vacation; maybe it was watching the Super Bowl, making cookies, or sitting by the pool in the summer. Maybe it was giving birth (if that’s so, more power to you; I love my kids, but the process of delivery…whoa…another story)…or celebrating a family milestone. Whatever it is, you are remembering the moment because it made you feel happy.

What I find, personally, when I ask myself this question, is that my happiness is often tied to being completely and unequivocally relaxed. We tend to be the happiest when there are no worries hijacking our brains.

My happiest moments have been spent with family, on vacation, being together, doing things that make life interesting and special, whether that was in the Outer Banks, Napa, Florida, Ocean City, Bethany Beach, Aruba, London, or Italy. Sometimes it may even be right there in our own back yards.

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I yearn for more of that. We all do.

Happiness may not be tied to a place, really, though some places are simply spectacular. More often, happiness is tied to the people we were with when we were at that place, at that time, surrounded by love.

Think about it. Can you answer?

When are you the happiest?

It’s not a trick question.

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

 

 

 

 

On Life

Writing About Places in Fiction – Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Inn Significant

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As a writer, it’s important to research the places you may feature in your writing. I spent a ton of time walking around Annapolis, Maryland, for my first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and I did the same with the novel I launched yesterday, Inn Significant. It’s part of the fun, really. As my students in travel writing class can attest from last semester, it’s envigorating to write about a place, but there’s a trick. You have to allow yourself to be completely immersed in the place. Your writing won’t be as vibrant if you’re just a spectator. You have to become one with the place…become a local while you are there and learn what you can from observation, conversation, and getting involved.

The main character in my novel, Milly Foster, has been summoned by her parents to run their Inn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Oxford out of desperation—a desperate attempt to help their daughter move past the tragic death of her beloved husband. It’s a last-ditch effort to bring her back to life.

I wanted to set the story in a small and picturesque town, so my mother and I spent time there, and I went back a couple of other times to just walk the streets and talk to people.

Come on–how great is that type of research? It’s simply the best.

I gave it my all to make this work of fiction feel realistic, and I wanted to stay as true to the setting and feel of Oxford as possible. There are also jaunts to neighboring towns St. Michaels and Easton.

To help you visualize the place if you have not been, I thought I’d share some of the photographs I took this summer as I did that dastardly and taxing (ha ha) research.

I hope you enjoy Inn Significant, and as well, this little photo-essay of the places the characters visit in the novel. I’m looking forward to going back for a visit very soon.

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 (paperback version should be available later tonight).

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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.

 

About the Inn Significant: A Novel

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her late grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.

OXFORD, MARYLAND

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EASTON, MARYLAND

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ST. MICHAELS, MARYLAND

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