A Little Milestone

A Little Milestone: I finished editing the short stories today for The Postcard and Other Short Stories and Poetry. It is almost done being formatted. This project–a couple of years in the making–contains 22 short stories I’ve written over a span of time. I have so much love for this collection for these particular reasons: they remind me of fragments of people I’ve met along the way in my life; they remind me to take the time to tell a story the way you think it should be told; and they remind me to never stop going for your dreams even when it takes baby steps and months or years to get there.

Thanks for keeping up with me as I tackled another writing journey. I got so much love for you all.

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You Can Control Whether You Quit or Persevere

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Last night, we had to have the hard conversation with our daughter about possibly quitting something she’s involved in. She didn’t really want to quit, she just wanted to alter the way in which she does it. We talked it through, and we all came to the conclusion that persevering is the optimal course of action.

If you’ve never watched the Markus Zusak Ted Talk, author of The Book Thief, then you are really missing something. He quotes writer Samuel Beckett in his talk, and offers his own perspective. It’s worth watching. The famous Beckett quote is this:

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Try again. Fail better.

These are words we can truly live by. If something’s not working, we must alter the course, but stay the course, that’s what’s most important. Keep working at it. Let your frustrations and failures help you march on toward completion—toward finding satisfaction in it all.

Last summer, I found myself at a low point with book publishing and promotion. I was not at all frustrated with writing and the writing process, but rather with the time one must spend promoting his or her work as an independent author. It’s not all fun and games. It can be exhausting, but it comes with the territory, I’m afraid.

However, I took a little break from it, went on vacation, spent time with my family. I put things into proper perspective, and I came out better for it. I’m continuing on my writing journey and self-publishing journey as we speak, and I feel so happy about it. I’m working on a collection of short stories and it’s changed my focus and brought joy to my life.

I stayed the course. Persevered.

You can do the same.

We all can.

Sometimes, you just need to adjust the perspective, and when you do, it makes persevering feel like it’s what you always should have done in the first place.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and 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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

Why You Should Always Follow Your Dreams

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The Story

Yesterday afternoon, I sat with my parents on their porch overlooking their spotless, inviting pool and their gardens that are in full bloom. It was just the three of us, and we got on the topic of graduation and what kids are studying in college, especially as my own son is off to college as a freshman in the fall.

I admitted that I had no idea what I wanted to study when I went to college. I just knew that I was supposed to go to the university and make something of myself. What that exactly was, I had no idea.

“Did you have any idea at all what you wanted to study in college?” my mom asked me.

I did, sort of, but I didn’t take that path. At least not right away. I had a dream, but I didn’t believe it was worth pursuing.

The Truth

Thirty-five years later, I admitted the truth to them as we sat there having lunch.

“I remember sitting in Ms. Sheppard’s History of Maryland class, listening to her talk, but toying with a short story I was writing in my notebook. I remember thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to write something worth publishing.’ That was the only thought I had. I didn’t really know how I was going to get there, I just knew that writing was a goal of mine and it’s what I wanted to do at some point in my life.”

So, I went to college. I went to Towson University and lived on campus.

I did not become an English major. Instead, I was a Business Administration major who earned a “D” in her accounting class. I knew that major wasn’t for me right away.

Taking matters into my own hands, I marched to the Registrar’s office and changed my major to Mass Communication. I learned about radio, television, and journalism; I took courses in public relations and communication, and I felt more at home. I also secured a job at The Baltimore Orioles in the Public Relations department, and that job propelled me a 13-year career with the ballclub.

I still wanted to write.

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I got my first master’s degree back at Towson University in Professional Writing and was promoted to the Director of Publishing at the Orioles.

I was writing. I was editing. I was doing exactly what I thought I might do when I was dreaming back in Mrs. Sheppard’s class. But deep inside, I longed to write fiction.

Simultaneously, I began to teach at a local community college. I left the Orioles and had children and continued to teach. Teaching became a passion of mine, and after my children were in school all day, I was able to move from an adjunct position at Stevenson University to a full-time faculty position in Business Communication. I was primarily teaching writing courses.

However, securing that full-time position warranted that I go back to school.

I earned an MFA in Creative Writing with the support of my husband, a subject I had loved since high school when I took it with Mrs. Susek. I loved every minute of that program at National University.

I had to write a book as my thesis.

I wrote my first piece of publishable fiction, a novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and it will always be special to me.

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It took me a while to follow my dreams, but thanks to Mrs. Sheppard, for all her encouragement as a student in that history class, and Mrs. Susek, for all of her inspiration in Creative Writing, I finally chased that dream as a middle-aged adult. Now, I write on the side and I teach full-time, inspired by people I had along the way. I honestly have the best of both worlds. With three fiction books to my name and one textbook on Event Planning, I’m busy putting together a collection of short stories that started my passion for writing in the first place.

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The Lesson

My point of telling you this story is this: no matter your age, don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. You can go for it at any time. Graduating seniors in high school can start chasing that dream in college, in a trade, or through a work path. Graduating college students can get right on it by choosing a job that suits them, returning for a master’s degree, or going down an entrepreneurial track if that suits them. Middle-aged people like me can do it, too, if you have the support of those who love you around you to help make it happen. Do not be afraid.

Follow your dreams, people. Work hard to make it a reality. Invest in yourself and what you want to do in the future. I took a circuitous route, but you can go more directly. It’s entirely up to you.

 

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Wednesday Wardrobe & The Blue Angels: The Petite Professor

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The Amazing Blue Angels flying over Annapolis, Maryland. All photos by Stephanie Verni.

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For those of us who live in the Annapolis area, today’s a big day. Huge. It should be declared a holiday in Anne Arundel County where the Naval Academy is situated on the grounds of Annapolis in the city because the Blue Angels fly as part of graduation week. All of us, whether we know someone at the Academy or not, benefit from this wonderful tradition.

My clever mother booked us at the Severn Inn, which sits on the Severn River across from the Naval Academy, for the second year in a row. Our table was on the deck of the restaurant with a clear view of the river, the perfect vantage point to see the Blue Angels fly. I brought my Nikon with my super-duper zoom lens and strived to take some good photos to share with you. (Mind you, they travel at 400 miles per hour, and I am an amateur photographer, so I did my best)!

I also wore a new dress (yes, Wednesday Wardrobe | The Petite Professor segment will continue to run this summer on Wednesdays for fun), and I’m sharing what I wore here with you. My daughter and her friend also looked cute in their sundresses, and I’m posting their outfits as well.

If you have followed my blog for a bit, you know that I’m an author and that my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree is set in Annapolis. I did my best to pay homage to our beautiful city, a place where I grew up and spent tons of time with family and friends. The actual neighborhood where Michael and Annabelle, the two main characters live, is the neighborhood adjacent to and up the hill from the Severn Inn. (I’m sentimental about my hometown; what can I say?)

The skills of the pilots who fly the Blue Angels marvel me every single time I see these planes fly. The precision of their flight patterns and their tricks delight all of us who put this day on our calendars year after year after year.

I hope you enjoy the photos I took today, and I hope you had a great Hump Day!

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Our group today!
Stylish high schoolers!
My husband and me.
Wednesday Wardrobe | The Petite Professor. Dress from Marshall’s, Calvin Klein shoes. Sunglasses by Panama Jack.

Playing With Book Covers For An Upcoming Collection

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I’ve started the editing process for my upcoming book entitled, The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. So far, I’ve organized the stories and made a comprehensive list of what will be included and what is getting pitched. It looks like the book will feature 15 longer short stories, 25 pieces of flash fiction, and about 20 poems. Along with the organization comes the idea of what the cover of the book might look like. As a visual person, I need to have this in my head as I work toward completion. For me, the whole creative process of putting a collection together encompasses so much—the storytelling is at the forefront, but the book packaging is so vital as well. When you are in the business of independent publishing and act as your own curator, designer, and editor, it takes time to comb through each short story and decide if it is worthy of your readers. (You all put a lot of pressure on us to deliver good stuff, and we take making you happy as a reader as the most important aspect of our writing!) Then, of course, it takes time to make it visually pleasing.

I’ve organized myself so that I will work on one story a day, at least to get myself going and not slow down this process. I’ll read each story as a reader, and then I’ll start attacking it as an editor/reviser. It’s sort of fun to look at things you’ve written a while ago and then immerse yourself in it again, but this time with a more intense approach to getting the story just right.

Below are four possible cover ideas that I have so far. If you have any input on which is floating your boat the most, please comment below to let me hear your opinions.

Have a great Monday, you all. If you need me, I’ll be right here…editing.

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Become A Writer, They Said.

This one got me giggling.

As I sat in my office this morning looking at all the short stories I am planning to include in my upcoming collection, I started to panic. The same thoughts go through my head as I start gearing up for publication. It sort of goes like the above meme as well as like this one below.

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We love to second guess everything we write. And worse than that, when a short story we wrote was written a while ago, we are so tempted to go in and change it. A lot of it.

Mostly what I’ll be doing is fixing things — making them better for the collection. I’ll edit, add, delete, embellish, extend, and then I’ll wonder if I did anything right at all.

That’s the way it goes as a writer.

We have confidence, and we lack confidence. It’s a never-ending cycle.

But we go through this oddly pleasurable torture for the love of writing, because we can’t imagine not doing it.

Even if everything we write isn’t just so perfect.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and 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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

What I’m Working On: My Summer Writing Projects

ThePostcardCoverTwo weeks remain until the close of the Spring 2018 semester. It’s been a very hectic, but productive one, and I’m eager to hear some final student presentations, read final papers, and complete the final curriculum of the year.

I may take a few days off afterwards to smell the roses, go for a road trip, see the Blue Angels, and stroll around Annapolis and some Eastern Shore towns with my Nikon in hand—one of my favorite things to do.

But I’m also looking forward to completing the writing and editing of my short story collection, tentatively titled THE POSTCARD and OTHER SHORT STORIES and POEMS. As some of you know who follow me, I’ve been talking about this for a while, but writing textbooks, teaching, and writing novels in between has delayed this project. I’ll be including the original short story I wrote called CONTELLI’S MIMOSA, a sad short story that ended up becoming my first novel, BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE (although the novel turned around and had a much, much happier ending). I’ve also got some of my FICTOGRAPHY pieces that have been turned into longer stories, and three new stories I’m editing for the collection along with one other that’s in the works. I’m hoping to have this collection completed and on the market by August. I’m excited to share these with you.

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Annapolis: On the Chesapeake Bay.

I’ll also be reconnecting with Milly, John, Miles, and the rest of the crew in Oxford as I see where a possible sequel to INN SIGNIFICANT takes me.

Wish me luck, my friends.

All I need is a bit of encouragement and some good, strong coffee to get me through.

🙂

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Wednesday Wardrobe – The Floral Maxi Dress

AdamireI’m getting spring fever, you guys.

I want to wear pretty things that feel like summertime. I’m ready to be in flip flops, flouncy dresses, big hats, and sunglasses.

So today, I’m featuring a dress from Express that I got at a consignment store–in perfect condition. There’s a lot to be said for quality consignment stores. I pop into our local shop a couple of times a month just to see what great finds may be waiting just for me.

I shop everywhere, though. Nordstrom. Ann Taylor Loft. Kohl’s. Target. Macy’s. Boden. Sundance. I’m all over the place, because I like to try different things.

So here’s one of two maxi dresses I’ve picked up so far this season–I’ll be wearing them both all summer and on our two vacations.

The hat is from Marshall’s.

Orange mules are from DSW by Kelly & Katie.

Sunglasses are Foster Grant.

Summer. We are waiting.


Book Club Visits Benefit Authors – Truly.

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The lovely women of last week’s Book Club in Chartwell, Severna Park.

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a local book club meeting, and I had the opportunity to mingle with readers of my novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, the first of three novels I have written and published.

From the book club side, the benefits of having an author attend your book talk is that you get some “behind the scenes” information about the book, its inception, back story, and inspirations from the author. Authors are typically willing to answer questions and provide additional insight into their books.

I enjoyed meeting the women in last week’s book club, and had a great time interacting with them. They asked great questions and were interested in learning about the writing process.

From an author’s perspective, book clubs offer us the chance to pick our readers’ brains a little, too, because hearing directly from readers is the best way to do research, think about adjustments for the future, and hear ideas for potential novels. If you can get your pulse on what they like to read, it can be most beneficial. I tell my own writing students that when I write something—especially a novel—I picture my readers in my head, I know what they are looking for in a book, and I try not to disappoint them.

I’d love to be a part of your book club — just reach out, and I’ll do my best to be there either in person or virtually. It means a lot to us as writers—we LOVE to meet our readers.
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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and 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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

The Real People Who Have Inspired Some of My Characters

pexels-photo-320266.jpegI was reading a fellow writer’s blog today, and he wrote a post about people who have inspired him along the way: both those who have encouraged him to write and those who have inspired the characters he has written. It was enlightening to read his thoughts, so I decided to share what has inspired some of my own characters in my novels.

We’ll start with three today, one from each book.

VIVI IN BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE

Some of you may know that the character of Vivi in Beneath the Mimosa Tree was inspired by my own grandmother, Eleanor, who passed away when I was in my twenties. I had a great relationship with her and admired her, and I wished she’d been around longer so that I could have developed a more adult relationship with her. Her passing left me with some regrets—that I didn’t do more with her and talk to her more often and that I didn’t capture as much of our family’s history as I would have liked. The character of Vivi is very much like my grandmother: she is wise, has her granddaughter Annabelle’s  best interest at heart, and believes that she may know what’s best for her even though Annabelle may not. They have a close and loving relationship, and I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of fabulous relationships with our grandparents. Those can be quite influential in our lives.

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My brother and me with Poppy and Nanny, my mom’s parents. Vivi is loosely based on my grandmother.

JOE CLARKSON IN BASEBALL GIRL

When my father (who is alive and well, by the way, unlike Frankie’s father in Baseball Girl) asked me if the character of Joe Clarkson was based on former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson, I had to chuckle. The truth is, that character was a combination of many baseball players I had met along the way when I worked for the Baltimore Orioles. (Looks wise, I kind of had former ballplayer Paul O’Neil of the New York Yankees pictured in my head when writing Clarkson’s physical description). Having spent time in public relations, community relations, and publishing for the ballclub, I encountered a mix of personalities, and it’s much more fun when writing fiction to create your characters by pulling from traits of many different people. What was most important to me about writing Clarkson’s character was to make him likable, as so many ballplayers can be, especially as they are often seen through more of a public than private lens. Clarkson was charming, funny, romantic, confident, and self-absorbed to a degree. Did he love Frankie? Maybe, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.

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New York Yankee player Paul O’Neil was the inspiration for Joe Clarkson’s looks (not personality). People ask me who Clarkson is most like. I honestly have no idea. He’s kind of a collection of people I met along the way working in professional baseball all rolled into one. Photo credit: New York Daily News.

MILES IN INN SIGNIFICANT

Much like Father John in Baseball Girl, Miles Channing is my favorite character in Inn Significant—I definitely had a lot of fun writing him. My husband always cracks up when I mention this character’s name, telling me he sounds like a cheesy soap opera character from the 1980s. While there may be some truth to that, Miles Channing was always Miles Channing, no matter how many times people told me to reconsider his name. I was not to be deterred in naming that character: I loved that name, and have a perfect mental picture of what Miles Channing looks like in my head. He is absolutely charming, funny, witty, aloof, caring, and smart, and yet there are things Miles keeps hidden from everyone. He has been hurt by a wife who left him, and has become a playboy to keep from being hurt again. The main female character in this novel, Milly, figures him out eventually, but never falls in love with him. They are always good friends, and that’s how I wanted it to be. I have a few good male friends who have never been romantic interests of mine (nor on their part, have I been one of theirs), and yet we have a strong bond. This is what I wanted for Milly. She needed a nice guy in her life—one she was not in danger of falling in love with. Sometimes those relationships can be so wonderfully beneficial and therapeutic.

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Some of my best guy friends are people I worked with at the Orioles. I got good material from working there and from hearing their stories.

That’s it for now. This was fun and sort of cathartic for me to examine post-writing. I may do another post like this soon.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and 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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

7 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing

pexels-photo-948888.jpegWriting well is vitally important in any field you consider for your profession. Some people claim they are not good writers, but in order to be successful, you must be able to write well, and so it is something that you should continually work to improve. As writing is a craft, it’s an incredibly important communication skill.

For 18 years, I’ve been a faculty member in the Department of Business Communication at Stevenson University where writing is one of our core fields of study. Writing meaningful, well-written material shows care, knowledge, and the capacity to put thoughts into words. Being able to clearly articulate ourselves is an asset to any company. Anything poorly written reflects on you. Carelessly proofed work, grammatical and punctuation errors, and weakly built sentences and paragraphs can lead to a lack of clarity and show a lack of pride in one’s work.

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In order to help you better prepare written documents, here are a few things to keep in mind while you develop and fine-tune your business writing.

  1. Always proof your emails and work CAREFULLY before you send them. Careless typos, mistakes, and ill-crafted verbiage will not reflect well on you as an employee and/or someone who wishes to grow with the company or in his career. Be sure to take the time to review what you’ve written. One suggestion for beginning writers is to craft the prose in a Word document to proof it and then paste it into the email when it has been fully checked. You should also print it and read it NOT on a screen, where editing copy can be easier. Additionally, add the recipients of the email last to avoid sending it to the wrong people or sending it too soon.
  2. Know your audience. For every single piece of writing you do, you must know your intended audience. Know as much about them as possible, thereby writing information that pertains specifically to that audience. Imagine yourself as the reader of what is received and ask yourself questions that could best be answered in that email, document, proposal, or whatever piece of collateral you are writing.
  3. Organize your work. One thing that distracts readers from good comprehension of materials is when work is all over the place. Organize your writing by topics, time, situations, suggestions—whatever—and stick with it. Don’t make your audience have to work to understand what you have written by bouncing from one topic to another. Stay organized and focused on each aspect of the content.
  4. An informal, inviting tone is always helpful to writing, but always remember this is writing created for business. You can certainly adjust the tone, but be cognizant of who will eventually read it, and write for that audience. If the situation calls for a more casual style of writing, feel free to implement it, but don’t go too far. Stick with language that is pertinent to the subject and audience at hand.
  5. Try not to use too much jargon and leave the trite expressions behind. Write with facts, statistics, and strong information to keep the writing pertinent and viable. Leave behind the flowery language for novels and creative fiction and nonfiction, advertising, and other creative outlets, and write strong content using minimal adjectives and adverbs.
  6. Keep your audience’s time in mind and edit your work—people do not have a lot of time to sift through business documents. If you keep your audience in mind with all documents you produce, you will write in a concise way so that you do not waste their precious time searching for clues within your documents. Instead, you will eliminate unnecessary information. As Strunk & White recommend, “Omit needless words.”
  7. Conclude well, and know what you are asking the audience to do. Whether you are asking your audience to take action, consider a proposal, become involved in the company, stay informed, attend a function, understand a new process or program, or approve a new budget, whatever it is, conclude with the proposed action in mind. Don’t leave your audience guessing. It is your job to tell them what you want to tell them and ask for what you need.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and 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. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

Don’t Have Money To Spend This Valentine’s Day? Take A Cue From St. Valentine and Write A Letter

First, a little historical perspective…

St. Valentine lived during the time of Claudius the Cruel in Rome. Under his rule, Claudius was not fond of men who would not join his military leagues due to their devotion to their wives and families. Therefore, Claudius banned marriages and engagements in Rome. However, Valentine defied the emperor and continued to perform marriage rituals for people in love in secret.

When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing, he ordered him put to death. The sentence was carried out on February 14.

While in jail and prior to his death, Valentine wrote a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become a friend. At the end of the letter, he wrote, “From Your Valentine.”

Hence, why we call love notes and letters during this time Valentines.

After his death, Valentine was named a saint, and we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Second, get out your pen and paper if your wallet is dry…

There is nothing more sentimental, sweet, and loving than writing a heartfelt love letter to your Valentine or someone you love or someone who has changed your life or helped you along the way.

It’s not difficult to write a letter, it just takes a few moments of your time.

LetterHere are some ideas for writing that letter:

  • Share what they mean to you
  • Recount a meaningful, funny, or sentimental story you’ve shared
  • Tell them what you’re looking forward to in the future
  • Write from the heart, in your language, using your words
  • Pick pretty stationery or a card that suits your relationship
  • Plan to do something together that doesn’t cost anything and put it in writing. Some examples could include the following: taking a walk, strolling a museum, going on a hike, sitting by the river together with a book, watching a movie or your favorite show on television, attending a poetry reading at a local bookstore–anything that the two of you can do that does not cost money

Remember, your Valentine loves YOU not your money (or lack thereof), so do what you can do, and put your heartfelt words on paper.

They will love you even more for it.

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Stephanie 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.