“Your stories give me hope,” she said.

 

Writer
Writer.

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“Your stories give me hope,” the woman said to me when she told me how much she liked Inn Significant. “Where do you get your inspiration?” she asked.

I told her I get my inspiration from people—mostly from people I know or I’ve loved along the way in my life.

“You are an optimist?” she asked me.

“I like to think I am,” I said.

“Well, keep writing. You give me hope for the future. Will there be a sequel to Inn Significant?”

“I’m toying with it,” I said.

“Well, stop toying and get to it. I want to see what becomes of these people.”

I guess to both of us, they are real, and not just characters. And in some way they are.

That’s a conversation I will treasure for a long time.

 

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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.

 

Why I Write ‘feel good’ Novels…A Kid Off to College…and Two Queens

WHY I WRITE ‘FEEL GOOD’ NOVELS

pexels-photo-865844.jpegYesterday, when author and television personality Rick Steves spoke to students about the passion he has for his job, he mentioned the word positivity–that he considers himself a positive person, and his approach to life is that of a positive person.

He and I are alike in that regard.

Despite a small snippet of time during my 52-years of life when I took a little bit of an Eyeore-ish turn, I like to think that I look at the world through a lens that is mostly positive. No one is perfect, however, and I have to catch myself every now and then when I feel I am slipping down a slope that is not going to be productive.

And that brings me to novel writing. I’m working on two things presently: the sequel to Inn Significant and fine-tuning my collection of short stories that I would like to release as a collection. Because there are so many things in life that can get us down and make us angry or hurt or compelled to be negative, I’ve decided that when I write fiction, I don’t want to travel down that path. Most of my stories involved people “rising above” turmoil, tragedy, or mistakes, and it’s something I enjoy sharing with readers. I have no interest in writing something upsetting or overly tragic or maddening.

Why?

Because I believe there is more good in people than there is bad; I believe that mistakes can be overcome; I believe that forgiveness does find its way into life and relationships; and I believe that love does have the power to conquer all.

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I may sound a little naive where this is concerned, but I’ve seen it in people I am close to as well as heard about from acquaintances and strangers.

And that’s why I write books that will make you happy to read during Spring Break, on the beach, or just when you need a little reminder that love is, indeed, a healing spirit.

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ODDS & ENDS

We are in the throes of deciding which university my son will attend in the fall. Let me tell you, I am just in awe of how fast times flies (hence why I am reading Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.) It’s a great book that forces you to think about time and how it is spent…and how fast it can go…and how if we’re not careful, we can spend our short time on this planet worrying about the most ridiculous things. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Albom is a terrific storyteller, and can tell a story as succinctly and beautifully as possible. I love his style.

Anyway, it’s only a matter of months before my oldest is off to college.

Eighteen years have passed in a flash.

If you have young children, cherish every moment. I was lucky enough to work part-time and stay home with my children, but I still think I missed out on some things I wish I didn’t. You will not regret the time you spend with those you love the most.

WRITE DOWN YOUR FAMILY STORIES

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I’ve blogged about this a lot, but I want to reiterate it again. Be sure to write down your family stories and keep them someplace sacred. You will want to remember the little details and sometimes a photograph doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve written about some of the funny things my daughter has said over the years here, but I wish I had done more.

Here are a few links to those funny things Ellie has said during the years.

SHENANIGANS – a story

BREAKFAST WITH MICHAEL BUBLE – a story

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY DAUGHTER

THE CROWN & VICTORIA

One final thing for today: if you haven’t watch The Crown on Netflix, you are missing a fantastic series that is based on the life of current Queen Elizabeth. Claire Foy plays Queen Elizabeth, and I adore her acting and portrayal of Elizabeth.

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Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth

Additionally, if you’re not tapped into Victoria on PBS, again, I urge you to watch this well-done show about Queen Victoria and Albert set in the Victorian era. I love Jenna Coleman in the role of Victoria. She is beautiful and perfectly suited for the role. And Rufus Sewell played the perfect Lord Melbourne.

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Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell as Queen Victoria and Lord “M”

Until next time, then…

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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 Message in a Bottle (Or An Inbox)

Dedicated to all my fellow writers out there.

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You’re tired and worked to the bone, and you’re not sure what your next move will be when a bottle washes up on shore with a message in it. The message is for you.

Stay strong, the message reads. Keep doing what you’re doing. You are doing great.

(You realize that as I’m writing this, I’m hearing The Police singing Message in a Bottle in my head.)

We tend to get a lot of inspiration from others — from those we know to those we have never met — who encourage us to persevere, to continue, to not give up. We may evaluate and reassess and figure out a way to make things work. And these little messages that can be sent via a bottle, a letter, an email, a text message, a phone call, or through face-to-face interaction remind us to not give up on the things we are passionate about, because they are worth our time.

If you’re somebody who writes books and tells stories, either as your full-time job or your part-time job, it’s a heck of an investment of both your time and brain power. You pour your whole heart and soul into writing it. As someone who has done it three times and is heading for a fourth and fifth time, I have the highest admiration for my fellow writers I’m connected with on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook who dive in and get the job done. We do it because it’s a part of who we are, but we also do it because we are simply compelled to do it.

That’s why it’s so special when we hear someone comment on our writing and storytelling.

BaseballGirlwTypewriterWhile my message didn’t come in a bottle (although, seriously, how cool would that be?), it came in my inbox on Tuesday. I was touched beyond belief, and the reader wrote to me about how she connected with my second book, Baseball Girl.

I loved writing that book so much. The story is centered around a woman who works for a professional baseball team, and was loosely based on my life working in the sport. I got to make up characters who were a combination of people I’d met in the world or sports; the setting, which was very similar to that of Baltimore and Camden Yards; scenarios that my friends or I had been through (disguising the names to protect the innocent, of course!); and a love triangle that may have had you rooting for the underdog…or big dog. All of it was fun for me.

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As for what that letter in the inbox said, it’s below, though I edited out the end of what she wrote because she discussed the resolution, and I don’t want to give anything away with regard to the plot and the outcome…

“I have always tried to find baseball books that follow girls who love baseball, but could never really find one to relate to…I was so shocked at how much I could relate to Francesca’s story. My father also gave me my passion for baseball, so it was pretty touching how many things I had in common with Francesca. Overall, I just wanted to tell you that your novel was phenomenal. I enjoyed reading it so much! I thought every twist and turn of the book was so interesting and it kept me on my toes. So thank you for creating such an amazing book, one that is not very common!” 

Receiving this sweet message from this reader also made me realize that I need to reach out to authors more often when I enjoy their work. It’s important to let people know that what they write moves you or inspires you or makes you feel connected. Or you just outright enjoyed it and it was entertaining. While I have reached out to some writers over the years, and have heard back from a few, I certainly don’t do it enough, and I promise to do better. And I thank anyone who has reached out over the years.

It means more to me than you can even imagine.

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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.

 

Old Postcards & My Book Resolution

I’m knee deep today in organizing for the spring semester, but I wanted to take a quick coffee break to show you these two gems I came across in my collection today.

I love old postcards, and as I’m getting back to the simpler things in life, and am much happier for doing so, letter writing and postcard writing are such a great way to bring back taking time to put your feelings on paper.

I loved the idea that I read that inspired a blog post a couple of years ago—every time you go on vacation, mail home a postcard to yourself (or postcards, depending on how long you’re away) and put it in your collection. You’ll be forced to write down the most important thing(s) or takeaway(s) from your trip. What people do with these collections of postcards vary. Check out a previous post I wrote for some inspiration.

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Little coffee break…

Additionally, one of my New Year’s Resolutions (besides cranking on my new novel idea, something I recently began) is to read even more than I already do. Sometimes, when I am knee deep in the semester, it’s tough for me to read and enjoy a book. However, I’m not going to let that stop me this semester. No excuses. It’s January 10, and I’ve already read two books and am into my third. I plan to take in a whole lot of good reads this year, and am hoping you will share with me some of your favorites so that I can add them to my reading list.

Thanks for letting me take a little time out from crafting syllabi. I hope you’re having a great day.

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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.

10 Factors That Influence My Storytelling

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Do you ever hop on a treadmill or drive your car and realize you have a lot of time to think? That happened to me over the weekend, and I was thinking about National Novel Writing Month and how different aspects of my life influence my storytelling. I’m sure the same is true for many of you fellow writers out there, but today I thought I’d share the Top 10 Factors That Influence My Storytelling.

1] PEOPLE

No matter where I go, live, work, play, or visit, the people I know, love, or meet for the first time influence my stories. As writers, we take qualities from people we know and love, as well as interesting tidbits from folks we meet along the way. People who share their stories are the best—for it offers a glimpse into someone else’s life.

2] PLACES

As you can probably surmise if you’ve read two of my novels, one set in Annapolis, Maryland, and the other set in Oxford, Maryland on the Eastern Shore, I like to write about places. Being able to work on describing that place so well that your readers can “see, hear, smell, taste, and touch aspects of it,” evoking all of your readers’ senses, is imperative to good writing about places. This is one of my favorite things to do. I welcome the challenge of putting someone somewhere and having readers live vicariously through the characters in their setting.

3] HEARTBREAK

As most people have experienced some type of heartbreak (or many types of heartbreak), I am no different, and I use those emotional experiences to my advantage when writing. Sometimes writing requires you to go to those dark places when things weren’t so pleasant or grief was painful. Being able to tap into those times when life wasn’t so much fun helps inform my writing and make it realistic. But I—and other writers alike—have to be willing to remember how it felt to be heartbroken.

4] LOSS

Whether we have actually experienced loss of any kind or can just imagine loss, writing about it means we have to dig deep and feel it. And it doesn’t just have to be death. I’ve experienced loss in my life that wasn’t my choosing—from friendships to breakups—and being able to recall and craft those types of instances helps mold characters and influence storytelling.

5] RELATIONSHIPS

There is no doubt that I tap into relationships that matter to me, have influenced me, or have touched me in some way. They always say people come in and out of your life for a reason; sometimes we know why and other times we are left scratching our heads wondering why that person was in our life in the first place. Nevertheless, using relationships as touchstones in our own writing will help bring it to life. I like to use aspects of my real, nonfiction relationships in all the stories I write.

6] OTHER BOOKS I’VE READ

Other books can be tremendously influential. We glean ideas from other writers, ideas about style and cadence or our storytelling, and ideas and techniques from those who do what we do. Reading all types of works helps us determine how we want to set up our stories. Many books have influenced my style of storytelling, from Rosamunde Pilcher to Charles Dickens to JoJo Moyes.

7] WHERE I WRITE

I’ve blogged about and done a PODCAST about this so many times that you are probably sick of hearing me or seeing me write about this subject. I absolutely must be inspired by the space in which I write. If I am not “feeling” my surroundings, I will not be motivated to write anything. And the worst thing that can happen is to be uninspired, sit there, and not write a thing.

8] PAST EXPERIENCES

Every past experience influences my writing. I’ve made some stupid choices in my life; likewise, I’ve also made some really good decisions as well. Being able to give your characters realistic experiences helps them seem real, so draw from your own life, experiences, and mistakes. This is a great way to write realistic characters. As no one is perfect, neither should your characters be.

9] MY IMAGINATION

When I wrote Baseball Girl, a friend of mine called me afterwards and asked me which player I dated on the Orioles. I laughed. I explained that I didn’t date any player on the team. She said, “Come on!” “No!” I told her. “I just have a really good imagination.” I had worked in baseball for a long time, and my eyes and ears had seen and heard a lot. So, I tapped into my imagination. That’s when you know you’ve got something good—when your imagination is working overtime. That’s when you’re in your groove.

10] LOVE

Finally, what would any of my books be without LOVE? I write about love, in all its forms, from family to friendships to deep romantic love. The definition of a hopeless romantic is “someone who is in love with love.” Yep. That’s me. So I write about it. It’s what makes the world turn, and it absolutely influences everything I do. I’ve loved a lot of people in my life, so why not turn that love for people into some memorable fictional characters and stories. That’s what I intend to keep doing for a very long time to come.

Podcast & Prompt | #nanowrimo | Day 8

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Steph’s Scribe

Podcast 5 | Best Books For Writers

My apologies in advance. I never realized how often I say the word fabulous until I listened to this PODCAST back. I’ll work on that…

But seriously, all these books are F A B U L O U S, which is why I am recommending them to writers.

WRITING PROMPT

For Fiction

Write a scene in dialogue only. Do not use any other description or narrative techniques. Just write dialogue.

For Non-fiction

Write the dialogue of a conversation you overheard and tried to piece together. Do your best to stay true to the actual words that were spoken by your characters.

Prompt and Podcast – Day 2 #nanowrimo

Yesterday, I published my first PODCAST. You can check it out here [Podcast 1].

Admittedly, I was pretty proud of myself. I am not too technically savvy, but I watched some YouTube videos and was able to finagle it all by my lonesome.

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With Charles in Boston in March. .

I texted my former boss, mentor, and dear friend from my days at the Orioles, Charles Steinberg, and said: “See what that internship in Orioles Productions helped me produce?”

LOL.

I had worked at the Orioles for two years when I needed an internship for credit at Towson University. I had never worked with audio or video equipment before, and Charles agreed to take me on as an intern, as he knew my work ethic from my time in public relations with the ballclub. That little stint in Orioles Productions was pretty helpful for all that has happened in my life since then, most specifically gaining a stronger understanding of storytelling from a mass media perspective (and now a social media perspective).

But alas, I digress, and I’m telling YOU a story when it’s really time for YOU to tell ME a story as it’s time for TODAY’S #NANOWRIMO WRITING PROMPT.

TODAY’S PROMPT

Write 400-500 words | #nanowrimo | Choose one of the prompts below

For non-fiction writers:

Write about a place you have been to or visited that you can’t wait to get back to as soon as possible; or, write about a place you have been to or visited that you never want to go back to ever again.

For fiction writers:

Two people meet in a place they have frequented together often. However, the relationship is strained and they picked this place to meet because it’s on neutral ground. Describe the place and write the conversation and tell the story that ensues as they reconnect in this location or spot.

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Podcast 2: More on Finding Inspiration

Steph’s Scribe

QUESTIONS FOR THE BLOG?

I can guarantee you, I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to share my own experiences with writing, crafting fiction, writing dialogue, building characters, writing description, or whatever else you care to ask me. I’ll do my best to answer the best way I can.

Thanks for popping in, you guys!

 

How I’ve STARTED WITH WHY and the times I LOST MY WHY

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Simon Sinek was able to take things we all think or have thought in the business world and world of creative leadership and make sense of it. He rationalized it all in a way that makes sense to us. I found myself nodding and giving him silent “Amens” as I read along, chapter by chapter, immersed in the question he started asking himself about successful leaders and organizations: How do they achieve the level of success? How do they begin?

They start with WHY.

As I read, I became more inspired with each story, example, and principle underscored and highlighted by Sinek. I haven’t read a book since Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR that has sparked my creative spirit, my entrepreneurial curiosity, and my desire to inspire others as much as START WITH WHY: HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION.

Sinek took this notion of starting with WHY and theorized it to help him better understand leaders. He made a Golden Circle. He examined the Law of Diffusion of Innovators and the tipping point in companies—when an idea becomes a movement— such as what happened with the iPhone. He puts WHY in plain language for all to understand; he tells stories worth listening to; and, he inserts himself into the bigger picture thinking toward the end.

So powerful is his writing that I couldn’t put the book down, and I was wondering if my students in a new creative course I am teaching felt the same way. After our class discussion only minutes ago, I can tell you that I think they took away the key points beautifullly—those most worth noting—and some were wholeheartedly inspired to always start with WHY.

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The students brainstorming in our new collaborative course on campus.

As for me, I was intrigued and enamored by his connections from the second I started reading his book. During my own careers (and I do mean that, as I’ve had several), I always started with WHY. During my time at the Baltimore Orioles, believe me when I say I wasn’t getting rich there. I had a fantastic job—one that constantly inspired me—and I can tell you that what Sinek says is so true: if you are inspired by THE WORK, the money is secondary to what you are doing and the bigger picture of WHY you are doing it. When I left the Orioles and went to my next job, the WHY was much fuzzier; I went for the wrong reason–to make more money than I previously made. And while I did that, the WHY and inspiration was missing from the work. When I broached the subject of leaving that job while on vacation in London with my husband, I asked him this question: “Why can’t I do the two things I love: teach and have a writing/design business?” His answer was the best anyone could give: You can.

And so I did.

When I made the foray into full-time teaching, I knew my WHY. I had discovered it when I began as an adjunct teacher at a local community college back in 1993. I wanted to be a teacher because I was a born cheerleader—I wanted to inspire, coach, and help others with their education and prepare them for careers. I think I knew this my whole life—that this would be my chosen profession eventually—but it took me working in another profession to find out that the WHY for teaching was not to be ignored and it warranted serious consideration.

When I decided to become an author and write fictional books, I knew my WHY: I wanted to entertain and inspire others through storytelling. I chose to become a self-published author and wrote and produced three novels. I lost my WHY a little this summer when book promotion took hold and made me leery of WHY I was a writer in the first place. But then, upon being asked to give a talk about self-publishing at Stevenson University to faculty and staff, I remembered and was reconnected with my WHY. I write books because it is my PASSION, and I just LOVE the process. How many books I sell should be secondary to the task I adore so much—storytelling. And so, newly refocused, I will continue along my writing and publishing journey.

In 2013, along with my colleagues, Chip and Leeanne, we decided to write a textbook on event planning. After scouring the library and bookstores for a good text to share with our students that attached communication theory to event planning and coming up empty-handed, we decided to write our own textbook. So, what did we do?

We started with WHY and asked this question: What is the WHY behind what we do in event planning? And out of this question was born our book, EVENT PLANNING: COMMUNICATING THEORY AND PRACTICE, published by Kendall-Hunt Publishers.

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If you adopt Simon Sinek’s approach—that anything you do that is meaningful must start with WHY—you are more likely to find some meaning in it and grow from it. In turn, you will learn from it and maybe even have great success from it. And without even realizing it, you begin to inspire others.

START WITH WHY is a book you will not soon forget, and I will recommend it to anyone who wants to be an inspirational leader, as well as to anyone who has lost his or her way and needs to be reminded of their WHY.

 

 

Every One of My Books Has Killed Me a Little More

 

 

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In 5 years, I wrote three novels and a textbook while working full-time as a professor. I think that warranted a short respite.

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You see the title there, and maybe that’s why you clicked over to see what’s going on here.

If you did, please know I didn’t say that quote. It was said by the famous late writer, Norman Mailer. “Every one of my books has killed me a little more, ” he said.

I didn’t know the man. I’m not on par with him as a writer. I am not as prolific a writer as he was. And I certainly don’t earn my primary income as a writer as he did.

And yet, I can totally understand what he said.

As some of you who follow my blog may know, I hit a wall this summer. Exhaustion took over, and I needed a break from writing. While writing novels hasn’t killed me, the promotion of them was making me crazy. Every morning I thought to myself, “Just what do I need to do today to sell one book? How can I market my book today on social media? How can I spread the word about my novels? How can I post one more thing on social media without annoying my friends and supporters?”

img_1179These thoughts began to consume me, and I knew I had to tread lightly. Ruining friendships over book promotion is not worth it, but I needed to put a little distance between me (as a person and friend and mother and wife) and my writing and marketing. I could feel myself slipping into a sort of dark abyss and feeling quite down about things, and I didn’t want those feelings to affect me and my family.

Taking a respite from writing has been just what the doctor ordered. I am concentrating on my family, helping my son with his college applications, teaching at the university, planning a new course I am co-teaching, and exercising, something I had let slip as well.

The miraculous thing that happens when you put a little distance between you and your writing are these things called invigoration and inspiration. I find I am becoming inspired by things I’ve neglected to notice; I am invigorated by relationships I never knew I could have; and story ideas seem to be coming to me at a mile a minute.

It’s a good thing I keep a notebook. I jot down ideas that may be novel-worthy, and I’ll examine which stories I might like to tell next.

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I still keep a paper planner in which I jot down things, keep notes, make to-do lists, and write inspiring quotes. Still works for me as opposed to using my iPhone or Outlook calendar.
I’m not done writing novels, I’m just gearing up for something I can sink my teeth into to grab hold. The inspiration fairy, when given some room to breathe, seems to want to come to life and help out a weary writer and marketer.

And, moreover, because I do LOVE writing so much, I don’t ever want to utter the words Norman Mailer said.

I won’t ever let my creativity and need to tell stories kill me a little.

I absolutely refuse to allow that to happen.

 

Writing A Novel – The Speech I Gave Today

Today, I had the honor and privilege of being one of several faculty speakers sharing their passions at our Fall 2017 Faculty/Staff meeting at Stevenson University. Below you will find the speech I gave, which was about writing, being an author, and self-publishing.

After all, it is one of my passions…

Photo Credit: Chip Rouse

***  Writing A Novel  ***

I consider myself pretty lucky that I get the opportunity to do two things I love on a daily basis: teach and write. I’m a proud professor here at Stevenson University and also an independent author.

I’m an independent author and write novels for two main reasons: (1) because I believe it’s my duty to show my students that I actually practice what I preach and (2) because it’s an outlet for me and I simply love storytelling.

Since 2012, I’ve self-published three fiction books: Beneath the Mimosa Tree, Baseball Girl, and Inn Significant. I also co-authored one textbook on event planning along with my colleagues Chip Rouse and Leeanne Bell McManus which was published by Kendall-Hunt.

During my 13-year career working for the Baltimore Orioles, I was quite fortunate that my love of writing converged with my career where I served as the director of publishing, was the editor of Orioles magazine, and produced and edited the special book celebrating Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak record in 1995. It was fun to tell Cal’s story.

Which brings me to the question I have for all of you. How many of you have a story in your head or finish a book and think, I could write something better than that?

If you’ve ever had this thought, and if you have a vision and can live in a make-believe world (for fiction) or tell a true story with colorful details (for nonfiction), you can write a book, too.

Today, I’m excited to share my love of novel writing and offer some advice using my own experiences to those of you who have a story swirling inside of you.

#1: First, do write your story. Just begin. My first fiction book, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, started as a short story I wrote while getting my first master’s degree. A professor of mine suggested it should become a novel. It only took me twenty years to write that novel during my MFA program in 2009.

My advice?

Don’t wait 20 years to write your story. Begin now. Just start writing.

#2: Have fun with your characters. The question I’m asked most often at book talks is: How much of the character is you, your family, or your friends? (If you only knew). That’s top secret, but it IS amazing how your friends and family are on their best behavior when they know you are writing. A tip I suggest is to make a list of each of your characters and write down all the things about them: what they like, dislike, look like, say, their dreams, the good and bad of them, etc. It definitely helps when writing.

#3: Enjoy the creativity of writing. Have fun crafting the story, the setting, and plot. Some folks like to outline, and some take a more organic approach. Research the methodology of some of your favorite writers. It’s fascinating to see how one writer’s approach differs from another’s.

#4-When writing, don’t agonize over every word. Do that later during the editing phase, which many of you already know can take longer than you think. It takes me far longer to edit a novel than it does to actually write one.

#5-It may be easier to start with something more personal. For instance, an assignment I give students in my magazine writing class is to write a chapter of their own memoir. Several students have told me that keeping their family histories alive helped them learn to enjoy writing.

#6-Self-publishing takes grit, commitment, and imagination. So why do I choose to self-publish? Because I like owning every step of the process. It sharpens all of my skills: creativity, writing, storytelling, editing, design, and then, the most challenging of all, marketing. As an independent author, it’s all on you. There’s no one to blame and all decisions are yours. It’s fiercely competitive out there, and the odds of massive success are slim. You just have to manage your own expectations.

Some writers may choose to go the agent route or connect with a small press. Do be leery of small presses that want to take your money and have you pay for the start up of your book, sometimes in the neighborhood of $5,000. My start-up costs were minimal. I paid $100 each for the ISBN number for each of my books (a total of $300), then an additional $25 per book for expanded distribution through Amazon. All total it was $375, or $125 per book. That’s it.

#7-Enlist the help of others. When your novel is done, find beta readers who will offer feedback on your draft. Join a writer’s group, either in person or online. Design your own cover or get someone to help you. Ask trustworthy people you know to edit. Chip Rouse over here and my mother, a long-time English teacher, edited my novels. Enter independent author contests. Remember: the project is yours, so you can give to it as much or as little as you like.

#8-Connect with local libraries, media, and the community. They will be good first supporters. In June, I kicked off the summer reading program in Anne Arundel County with a book talk; over the last month, I’ve attended three book clubs for Inn Significant, my latest novel, and I just attended a book signing in Oxford, MD, where the book is set. Enjoy meeting people and networking.

#9-Set up a blog and get a base of readers. Write about your writing, and get personal with your readers. It’s the best way to begin.

And finally,

#10-Remember, writing books is your love and not the way you make your living. While I would love be on the New York Times Bestseller list (who wouldn’t?), there are thousands of us out there hoping for the same thing. I have to remind myself of why I do this sometimes. The other day when I was struggling with new and innovative ways to promote my book, a friend asked me this question: He said, Do you write to sell or do you write to tell a good story?

I write to tell a good story.

If you have a love of storytelling, then just do it. Tell your story. If you make 10 people happy or thousands, remember why you do it in the first place.

Stephanie

20841993_10155523297888954_3655226197486168242_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

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Inn Significant Named Finalist in National Indie Excellence Awards

***

It’s what every writer dreams of — a little recognition for the work you slaved over for a year and a half. Just a little nod to let you know your work was not done in vain.

As I have chosen my own path of writing and publishing as an independent author, whereby I do all the work on the book myself—from writing it to editing it to designing the cover and laying it out for print and for digital media to uploading it and publishing it via my hub Mimosa Publishing—being a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards really means something to me. I am so grateful and thankful to those who read and reviewed Inn Significant at NIEA in order for it to earn a place in the contest. Thank you so much for this honor.

Two years ago, Beneath the Mimosa Tree was also a finalist in this same contest. I was tickled pink then, and I’m tickled pink now.

Being an independent author is not really all that glamorous, as you can surmise from the grunt work I just shared that we must do; there is no one else who does it for us. We get down and dirty. We have people help us edit. We write, revise, write some more, and revise some more. We spend hours on a book—and trust me, it’s not for the money. We do it for the sheer love of the craft: of writing, of storytelling, and of making those who read our books happy they picked it up.

That’s the very simple answer as to why I continue to write and be an independent author.

It’s not easy to break into the publishing world, and years ago, writers did not have the means by which to publish ourselves. Places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it easy for people like me who have the knowledge of publishing books (and magazines, as I also have the experience as editor of Orioles Magazine) and are not afraid to tackle this process. For that, I am thankful. We didn’t have this avenue 15 years ago. Just as musicians and YouTubers have independent avenues, so do we, as writers.

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The finalist medal.

To the people who actually read my books and tell me they like them, thank you. You all push me to want to tell you even better stories each time I sit down to write.

So, thank you EVERYONE. Thank you to readers of Steph’s Scribe, thank you to those who have written reviews of my books, thank you to readers of my books, and especially, today, thank you to NIEA for this recognition.

You made my weekend.

***

About 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.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

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