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


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.





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…


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.

Meeting Guidebook Author and Travel TV Host Rick Steves

Dr. Hirshman, President of Stevenson University, introduces Rick Steves.

Today, my magazine writing students and I, along with members of the Stevenson University community, were treated to an afternoon session with guidebook author and travel television host, Rick Steves. Steves’ warm and friendly demeanor and sense of humor had the attendees listening intently as he shared his travel and work stories.

If you’re not familiar with this expert traveler, you are missing out. Steves runs a company called Rick Steves’ Europe, which has grown from a one-man operation to a thriving company with over 100 employees. In this capacity, he produces more than 50 guidebooks on European travel and is able to host a weekly hour-long radio show on NPR, write a weekly syndicated columm, and take viewers on adventures in America’s most popular travel series on PBS.

Rick Steves takes a selfie with members of my magazine writing class!
Rick Steves with his two student escorts from Magazine Writing – Christine and Tyler.

My magazine writing students were armed and ready for the interaction and had prepared a list of questions for Steves. After I was introduced to him upon his arrival, he asked if the students would have questions, to which I replied—”Lots of them!”—and showed him the list they had put together at his request. Luckily for us, he decided to start his talk by answering questions the students had assembled, which was a lot of fun.

In this Q&A session, we learned that his favorite place to travel is India and that he feels quite at home with “his people” in Norway. (I could relate, as my favorite place I’ve traveled has been Italy, as I’ve felt quite comfortable with “my own people” there. I suppose our heritage does have a lot to do with those sentiments when we travel).

Ironically, at 14, he didn’t want to travel at first, but his dad made him, and he began to fall in love with it. By 18, he was traveling on his own, and the seeds of his future were planted. It’s not all easy, according to Steves, who puts in 60 hour weeks at work. But it pays off tremendously for him, as he stated that he “loves what he does,” and we didn’t have to ask twice about it, because it was quite apparent from his talk that Steves not only loves his job, but it has become a part of him.

Perhaps the most poignant moment came when I saw the students nod after Steves said that you “must find work that you believe in; my company is mission-driven” and that mission makes him passionate about his work. He encouraged all of us to find our own passion and to go for it.

img_0860img_0859When he answered the question, “What do you do when you get writer’s block?” Steves said, “I don’t get writers block. I don’t allow it to happen. I just write.” He likened finding good stories to “catching butterflies” — that you can’t let a story get away. That you have to capture each butterfly one at a time. You must write it down, even if it is in a little notebook and transcribe it into your computer later in the day. Afterwards, you can play with what you wrote and turn it into something meaningful.

When asked how Steves was able to be so successful, he replied that it was always his intention to “generate good content” and that that is the key to success, along with work ethic and passion. If you provide superb content for folks, they will continue to seek out your advice and suggestions, and Steves believes this is what has led to his growth and ultimate success.

I’ve been teaching travel writing as part of feature writing for over ten years now; additionally, I have taught a stand-alone travel writing course, whereby the students must travel locally (in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., or Delaware) for a minimum of two days to a place, immerse themselves in the place, take 20 pages of notes, do research, and then construct a 2,500-word article about traveling to that place. Students seem to like this course a lot because it melds everything that they have learned from their degree in communication into this one class, from writing to interviewing folks to intercultural and interpersonal communication theories and practices to finding out a little bit about themselves.

For all of these reasons, it was a thrill for meet to meet a true world traveler who writes books and articles and helps guide us to learn about the world and ourselves through travel. He promotes traveling without fear, and encourages us all to get out and see the world.


This was an episode of Rick Steves’ show that we watched in class. Having been to the Cotswolds, I absolutely loved this episode.


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.

Things You Can Learn From A Sports Journalist

The Time Keeper
There’s a lot to learn from Mitch Albom.

I’ve been reading Mitch Albom books for years.

For people who say they don’t have time to read books, Mitch Albom is for you.

The sports journalist and columnist whose career took off at the Detroit Free Press became a best-selling author with Tuesdays with Morrie over 20 years ago, and continues to write touching stories for mass audiences. His novels and nonfiction are compact and easy to read, with deep messages of love, hope, loss, and recovery.

On average, his books are roughly 250 pages and are economically written. His journalistic writing style melds perfectly into the stories he concisely weaves whereby Mark Twain would be proud (“When you catch an adjective, kill it! ~ Twain). Albom’s ability to sweep us quickly into his stories the way journalists do by writing a clear and strong lead (including the who, what, where, when, why, and how of newswriting) translates into his ability to tell intriguing stories through fiction or nonfiction narrative storytelling. As an author and former magazine writer myself, I’ve identified Albom’s three main gifts that others can learn from him. They are as follows:

  1. You don’t need to tell long stories to tell a good story. All of Albom’s stories are poignant, but compact, from Tuesdays with Morrie to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, to the one I’m finally getting around to reading now, The Time Keeper.
  2. Stories can unravel quickly if you know how to get to the point. Albom’s larger stories are made up of numerous anecdotes that help us “see” the characters. Rarely, does Albom tell us anything. Good writers show readers things as opposed to telling readers things so that readers can make up their own minds. Instead, he delves into his portraits of his characters so that we understand them straightaway.
  3. Word choice and sentence composition are everything. Albom whittles down his sentences masterfully; he doesn’t mince words, and he chooses only the best ones to make up his strong sentences. In one short sentence or paragraph or scene of dialogue, he tells readers all we need to know, almost to the point where any additional information would just be fluff. Take this beautiful example into consideration from The Time Keeper:

“I made such a fool of myself,” she lamented.
“Love does not make you a fool.”
“He didn’t love me back.”
“That does not make you a fool, either.”
“Just tell me …” Her voice cracked. “When does it stop hurting?”
“Sometimes never.”
― Mitch AlbomThe Time Keeper

If you haven’t read any of Albom’s works and are striving to be a fiction or nonfiction writer, I encourage you to read some of his books. While they may not be categorized as “great literary fiction,” there are certainly benefits to reading all different types of writers. People who started as journalists have a way of being able to get to the core of storytelling well. For example, legendary writers such as Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck started out as journalists. Elizabeth Gilbert and Anna Quindlan were journalists before they were best-selling authors. The list is a long one, and we can learn from them all.

But watch Albom’s magic unravel as you read one of his books. There are techniques there worth investing your time.


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.

What Makes A Good Story?

Talking with students during this week’s artist’s exhibit at Stevenson University, we chatted about what makes a good story. From students studying film to students who are writers, some of these tips below are my favorites for inspiring beginning writers to focus and start the process and work on their craft. The infographic posted below was part of my exhibit.

Writing Is Hard

Writing is hard, as we have heard time and time again from folks such as William Zinsser to contemporary magazine writer Tom Junod (pictured below), and the one thing that rings true for all writers is that it takes work. However, these tips are some that you can think about as you start your process, especially if you are writing fiction.

Image result for tom junod

Also, READ a lot and WRITE a lot…anything, anytime. It’s about practice and it’s about bringing things together.

I hope this little tid-bit sheet proves helpful.

Let me know how your writing is coming along.

Stephanie verni


Also, today is the one-year anniversary of seeing my third novel, Inn Significant, in print for the first time. It’s an exciting process to watch your novel come full circle and to see it finally in book form. From all the positive feedback I have received, I’ve decided to publish a sequel, so hang tight. I’m working on it.

One word at a time.


It will never get old for me.


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.


Tips To Get You Started on Your Novel

When people ask me how to begin writing a novel, this is what I usually tell them, along with “believe in yourself” and “go for it.”

For an upcoming artist collaboration and exhibit scheduled at our university for this Thursday, I drafted a little infographic. This infographic includes tips about writing novels and some of the things that I’ve been taught over the years, along with what I’ve gained from the experience of writing three indie novels.

William Zinsser, in his famous book On Writing Well, says it best about writing:

“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

However, that said, there are things we can do to make writing a little less taxing. The most important things you can do as a writer are to write every day, read a lot, and practice.

It’s like everything else in life: the more you do it, the better you become.




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.

A Message in a Bottle (Or An Inbox)

Dedicated to all my fellow writers out there.


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.


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.



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.


Book Marketing & An Infographic

One of the things we independent authors have to continually do is market ourselves, our books, and what we are working on presently.


I am no pro at it, believe me, but I strive each day to work on it and learn something new. Therefore, this morning I told myself I would design a marketing piece—take a new tactic—and that piece is the infographic below that showcases each of my fiction novels with a brief description of what they are about. I’m posting it below for feedback and to hear from other indie authors about what you do. What have been your most successful PR and marketing tools for book sales?

I’d love to hear from you.

For many people, charity is a direct reflection of their own inn

When An Idea Hits You, You Jump [for joy]

Hi You All,

I’m glad you’re still here reading my blogs. I’m so thankful and happy about that.

As you’ve been with me for a while, you know that this summer I experienced what we might call burnout, or the feelings of being a little tired from all that has occurred over the last several years with my writing and the promotion of my writing. Since 2012, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m not complaining at all. It’s all been wonderful and crazy and fun. It’s been non-stop high energy as I’ve turned out three fiction books and a textbook all within the span of five years while still working as a full-time professor, teaching and advising, raising my kids, and trying to have some sort of meaningful friendships and relationships with my family.

In other words, I needed to decompress and become inspired again.


I did that. And it was awesome. I completely turned my brain off for a while.

Daily-Affirmation-for-positive-attitude-I-look-at-the-sunny-side-of-everythingSince I’ve bounced back, and my creativity is returning, I’ve been toying with the sequel to Inn Significant, seeing if it’s really what I want to be writing. While it’s been something that I’ve been doing progressively, but at a snail’s pace, I’m still not sure if I will ever publish this “thing.”

But then, out of the blue, a story idea came to me. It happened during a peaceful moment when my mind was clear and I was completely relaxed. I let the idea sit there for a while and start to take hold without moving too much on it. It kept coming back and getting bigger. I was starting to “see” my main character, what her situation is, and where the story might be set. I called my mother—my biggest supporter in the world—and we hashed it out.

I think I may have my next book idea.

I just may have it.

And it makes me want to jump with joy.

So hang tight…thanks for the support…and please don’t count me out.

Something may be brewing.

Feeling a little bit like Iris today.


cropped-image1-19.jpgStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

A Short Story From A Writing Prompt

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I’m feeling a little creative today and am in the mood to tackle something new and different. I searched for a prompt on Pinterest, and this is the one that struck my fancy. So, the way I see it, I will start my story with these words and see where it takes me. 500 words is my goal. Let’s see what happens…(I love this part of creativity…wherever will the story go?)


“This is my life now. I have climbed this hill, and now I will die upon it.”

“Shut up,” I said. “We’ve only been hiking for twenty minutes.”

I can talk to my grandmother like this because we have that sort of relationship. For the past several years, I have lived in her home following the demise of my own marriage and then sad divorce. Her home is pretty grand, and she’s done her best to keep up with it refusing to the leave the premises, a home where she has lived for past 50 years of her life. When my grandfather passed and I found myself single again, I volunteered to live with her. I won’t lie—my mother convinced me that this would be a good thing for both of us, and I can readily admit that she was right.

My grandmother is a spry thing at the age of 79. She walks with a cane by her side, but I’m certain it’s more of a tool of status rather than a tool of aid. She still has all her wits about her, especially her keen sense of humor that she can turn on like a faucet, which is quite often, actually. I stand adjacent to her watching her marvel at the landscape on this hill above her house on the sprawling grounds in upstate New York; she looks almost regal in her red and black plaid cape, her black, long leather gloves, her somewhat baggy blue jeans, and her rubber boots. Her short, silver hair blows gently in the wind, and she holds her hands up near her eyes to block the sun. She has a self-deprecating wit that marvels all the seniors at the Senior Center in town where she likes to hang out, play cards, and share her stories of life while also listening to the tales of others. Believe me, I’ve hung around this group enough to know they are all talkers. Even if folks sitting around them start to nod off, the best of the talkers just keep on talking. Their bodies may be old and withering, but their tongues—they are still sharp and nimble.

“You can’t pretend I’m going to live forever, you know,” she says to me, shouting because she’s hard of hearing.

“No one ever said that, Nana. None of us will live forever.”

“I think you think I’m always going to be around, saving your neck.”

I laugh. She always says this to make herself feel better. She knows I’ve been such a help to her, but this makes her feel good to say so.

“You’re right,” I say. “I will wither away with you when you go.”

“But what about Sal?” she says, looking at me, both hands on her cane.

“What about Sal? He’s not the guy for me. You know that.”

“No, I don’t. I know you are perfect for each other. You are afraid to live. You think if you live, I will die.”

“What the hell is all this talk about dying, Nana? All we did was go for a hike.”

“Yes, up this big frigging hill, and now I’m dying.”

“You’re not dying. You’re getting exercise.”

“Same thing to me, dear.”




Proving a Little Point, Sharing Chapter 5 of Inn Significant’s sequel, and Encouraging You to Go For It

Writers write, at least that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

I’m up to over 16,000 words for the Sequel to Inn Significant during #NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing month.

I still have a L-O-N-G way to go, but what I hope I’ve inspired you to do this November is to believe that writing a novel is possible, even with a full time job, a family, extracurricular activities, popping in a workout now and then, and socializing with friends. You have to make the time for it, but I’m proof that it can be done.

Hear me clearly — it can be done, people.

You may not complete a whole novel in the month of NOVEMBER (I certainly won’t), but you can make some great headway on a project.

We shouldn’t expect a project of 50,000 words minimum to be completed the way we want it in four weeks; however, we can guide that project along to help propel it on its way to greatness. I truly believe that anything we write can have meaning and can be great in its own way if we put the time, love and energy into it that it needs. November is a good month to nurture your writing and get it rolling along.

Today, as I’ve been doing since the beginning of  the month, I’m sharing Chapter 5 of the sequel to Inn Significant. I still love the characters and especially the setting. It’s fun to continue to create these characters the way that I see them…and the way I think my readers would want to see them.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving; I’m thankful for your support and kindness with regard to my writing. And so without further delay, here’s what Chapter 5 might sound like.

Thanks you all.

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C H A P T E R   F I V E

of the Sequel to Inn Significant

Sylvia arrived right on time. It was her first day working at the Inn, and Colette was showing her the ropes in the kitchen. When I walked through the kitchen doors at seven-thirty in the morning, the place smelled like bacon and sausage and batter. I knew they had been cooking for at least a half an hour, as breakfast was being served.

Sylvia’s smile could light up a room. She was in her mid-fifties, but looked a lot younger. She was a little taller than I was with olive skin and bright white teeth; her pretty hair had golden highlights that framed her face. This was her first day on the job, but we all had helped her move into her place the week before, so we were able to spend a couple of hours with her then. She had cracked open a cooler full of beer and wine, and threw burgers on the grill for all of us as a thank you. Her welcoming style made us feel right at home with her, and I believe the reverse was true. She and Colette were making jokes and puns behind closed doors, and I placed the remaining food and drinks on the buffet table in the dining room.

In the dining room, tables of guests dined and chatted over food and morning coffee. The Inn was full, and this was the last group of guests before the wedding guests began to arrive in two days. We were in full swing and had tons of work to do over the course of the next seventy-two hours.

“Okay, girls, I’m off to begin the preparations with Eva. We will see you later. Sylvia’s got this and she’s in control. What a great hire, Milly. Love her already,” Colette said, giving my arm a squeeze.

“I know,” I said, winking at Sylvia. “She’s going to fit in here perfectly.”

Colette took off her apron, grabbed a napkin, and dabbed her forehead. It was hot in the kitchen sometimes, even when the air conditioning was blasting. I turned on the stainless steel fan in the corner of the room to provide some circulation. She collected her purse and opened the door.

“I’ll be back at three to help with afternoon tea, although I don’t think she needs any guidance from me,” Colette said.

“Yes, I do need you. I need you to walk me through this and the etiquette of it. I’m not familiar with any of that!”

“Ok, then. See you at three.”

After Colette walked out the door, Sylvia and I began to clean up the kitchen. Colette was one of those chefs that made food and cleaned up along the way. She hated when things would pile in the sink, so there was only a little bit to handle besides the plates and dishes that were in the dining room. I started collecting clearing the tables and bringing them in to be washed.

“I love this place,” Sylvia said.

“Me, too. I love it as well,” I said.

“I mean, I love the Inn—I do—but I love this town, too. I love Oxford.”

“I know. Me, too!”

“I almost can’t believe I’m here. Years ago, I was perusing a magazine, when I came upon an article about Oxford. There were pictures of the town—of the market, the ice cream place, and the Oxford Ferry. Kids were laughing and eating ice cream and I remembered reading the piece and thinking ‘someday I’m going to live there.’ It was always in the back of my mind.”

“The power of reading, I suppose,” I said.

“Speaking of reading, did you ever read the Harry Potter series?” Sylvia asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “I did.”

“You know how in the books the wand chooses the wizard?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I think this town chooses us.”

I leaned back on the counter and crossed my arms looking at Sylvia as she dried the last of the pans. It was a profound statement for someone to make after only being in Oxford for just under two weeks. It had taken me a months to come to this mystical realization myself, but Sylvia had figured it out immediately. I surmised there was a depth to Sylvia that would be good for me, and she inspired me and made me want to know more about her and the journey she took to get here.


Sometimes the stars do align, and I meant that literally.

John was standing on a very tall ladder and hanging the silver glitter stars and string lights from the side beams in the barn for Carolanne and Tim’s wedding that was just two days away. I was helping to direct him so they would be at the same level. When my mother and I met with Carolanne and Tim and asked her what she wanted the theme of the wedding to be, she had used the word “magical.” The problem was that magical to one personal could mean a completely different thing to another. When we pressed her, she was more specific. She had read the book The Night Circus and wanted that feeling in her own wedding–twinkling, mystical, magical, and memorable. I got a copy of the book and read it after our discussion to garner an idea what she was talking about, and when I was finished reading it, I sketched out some ideas which Carolanne loved. I knew exactly what she meant.

Now that the chandeliers were hung, they added a sense magic already, but the glitter stars and string lights were going to finish off that feeling. Additionally, we needed to hang the backdrop that I’d been working on for weeks—it was a silver, sequined backdrop with a multitude of lights hanging vertically from the top in front of the backdrop. It reminded me of a fairy tale. That particular showpiece would illuminate the head table, and John was going to install it later today.

Carolanne and Tim had decided that, provided the weather was good, they would have their stand-up cocktail hour outside on the lawn, and then move into the barn when it was time for dinner and dancing. John had built two rustic looking portable bars that had wheels that would be placed on either side of the patio where the doors opened. Additionally, we had purchased ten high-top wood tables that we would arrange around the lawn. John and I had gone shopping one rainy afternoon and bought and restored a collection of various antique chairs and settees in all shapes and sizes that we would arrange on the lawn for those who couldn’t stand for the entire hour.

The forecast called for sunshine and temperatures in the low eighties through Monday. We were in luck.

For all intents and purposes, the stars had aligned for our first wedding reception to take place, and I for one, was thrilled about that.

When John hung the final star, we stood back to admire our work. It was lunchtime, and the sun was beating down on us and the barn. It was difficult to see just how much those stars would twinkle at night.

“We’re going to have to come back later and see what it looks like—maybe after I hang the backdrop.”

“That sounds good. I’m going to set the tables in the meantime so that all we’ll need are the centerpieces which are coming from the florist.”

“Good. I’m hungry,” John said. “Let’s get something to eat.”

We decided to take a quick break and walk to the Oxford Market for some deli sandwiches. One of the things John and I had talked about was that it’s important to step away from our work now and then, clear our heads, and then get back to work. Hence the kayak, relaxing on John’s boat Plane to Sea, taking quick walks in town or quick spins on our bikes, or grabbing a book and sitting in the harbor or at the park. We had started creating our own space away from the premises because it helped us stay fresh.

We took our sandwiches to the park, and ate in the shade under the trees, looking at the water.

“Every time I come here, I think about what Nana wrote in her journal,” I said. It had become even easier to talk to John about anything—Nana, Ferio, our family, my tentative nature, and even Gil sometimes.

“What in particular?” he asked.

“This is where she and my grandfather went on their first date a couple of years after Ferio’s death when they were fixed up by their friends,” I said. “They came to the park, and I guess, the rest, they say, is history. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that date, I suppose. Set the whole chain of events in motion for our family.”

“Lucky for us,” he said.

“I like to think so,” I replied.


Since Gil’s death, I’d only seen his parents twice: once at his funeral and once when I was clearing out the house to move to Oxford and had invited them to come to Washington. I thought they might want some of his personal belongings. They lived in Bath, a quirky small town on the water in North Carolina, where Gil had grown up, and they both worked as teachers at Beaufort County Community College. Gil’s dad was also a member of the town’s board, and worked to promote a sense of spirit there. They had checked on me weekly after Gil’s death, and as he was their only child, I sensed two broken hearts that might never recover, just as I was concerned that my own never might never come back to life. I think they found it difficult to talk to me because I just reminded them of Gil, which I totally understood because everything reminded me of him. Ever since Gil and I first started dating in college, we were a package deal, and rarely did Gil visit his parents without me. They were sweet people, but tragedy has a way of either bringing people together fully or putting distance between them. I think we were on the latter side of that equation.

That was until I got the letter from the Post Office on our walk back from the park. Oxford residents have to pick up their mail at the Post Office; there is no mail delivery, so John and I made it a point to pick up today’s batch. I was sorting through the stack of bills when I noticed a pink envelope addressed to me: Ms. Emilia Foster from Ms. Gretchen Foster.

“What’s that?” John asked.

“It’s a card from Gil’s mom,” I said.

I ripped it open, my heart beating a little stronger than it had moments ago. On the front there was a little bluebird sitting on a perch, and it said: Just a note to keep in touch and say you’re thought about so much. I opened to read what she had written inside the blank card and read it aloud to John.

Dearest Emilia,

I hope this letter finds you well. Dale and I think of you often, though you wouldn’t know it by our lack of effort to keep in touch. We are writing today because we wanted to express how sorry we are for not staying connected to you. As you are well aware, Gil’s death was a shock to all of us, and I suppose some people cope with loss better than others. Since it happened, we still deal with sadness, and some days are better than others. However, we fear that we neglected you in our grieving process. Please accept our apologies.

You are so dear to us, and losing Gil was the worst thing imaginable for a mother (and father), as I’m sure you feel the same way as a spouse.

I’ve had your address tucked away since I last saw you, and am sorry it’s been a year since I’ve called to chat. I hope you are still enjoying being at the Inn and are finding a new life for yourself.

There is a possibility Dale and I will be in the area in September, as we are planning on attending the wedding of my husband’s best friend’s daughter in Ocean City, Maryland. If it is convenient for you, we were thinking we might stop by for a night and catch up.

Gil loved you very much. I hope you know that and will always keep that in your heart.

Hope to hear from you soon,


I looked up at John to see his reaction. “Well, that was very nice,” he said. “Sounds like they cared about you a lot.”

“I think so,” I said. “But she’s right, we have lost touch, though it’s not entirely their fault. I sort of let it slip away, too.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it just made me sad. All we did was talk about Gil and the pain we all felt. It’s like we ran out of things to talk about after a while that weren’t depressing.”

“I get it,” he said. “But it probably would be nice to see them, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I said. “Although how will I tell them about us?”

“We’ll figure it out,” John said. “I’m pretty confident they didn’t expect you to be single for the rest of your life.”

“It’s still awkward,” I said.


Copyright / Stephanie Verni / 2017 – All Rights Reserved

Giving Thanks To You

Yes, it’s that time of the year.

Time to be thankful for people and blessings.

As it’s officially Thanksgiving holiday break for me, I’d like to take a moment to thank you, the readers and supporters of Steph’s Scribe. If it weren’t for readers, we bloggers wouldn’t be doing what we do. From the days when we wrote in journals and didn’t have the vehicle to share our thoughts or ideas, it’s wonderful to have that access through this platform; I’m thankful for the opportunity and take my responsibility of writing for you seriously. It’s an outlet for me, I take great pride in it, and I never want to let anyone down. I’m always open to input and suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line on the blog or at my email, stephanie.verni@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading my Steph’s Scribe, my books, and offering me encouragement throughout the year.

I’m very thankful to know you here.

Thank you, readers!

* * *

Stephanie Verni | Author, Blogger & Professor — Visit my Amazon page for more information about my three contemporary fiction novels and textbook on Event Planning.



What I’ve Been Up To


A room without books is like a body without a soul. – Cicero   I’m still working on my novel, but honestly, I could probably do better if I could stay up 24 hours a day.


It’s Monday, November 20, and I’m not as far along with National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo) as I would like to be. I’ve hit over 12,000 words, but if one is trying to finish a novel in four weeks, one has to do better than that.

But there’s been a slight problem. Father time has keep me busy in other areas.

Because it’s been so busy and I have not been fulfilling my obligations very well as a promoter of #nanowrimo, I believe I owe you the reasons behind why I have not held up my end of the bargain.

Let me present you with my Three Main Excuses.


Every weekend, my husband, son and I have been embarking on college visits. To date, and since the end of September, we have completed 6 visits, with only one left to go. While we are making headway, it takes away from my time writing, not to mention the hours we spend discussing college possibilities.

Lynchburg, Virginia


I have been co-teaching a new course at our university, and as such, it has taken up a great deal of my time, along with the time I spend teaching my other three courses, advising our Integrated Marketing Communication Club called ’47 House, advising students for next spring’s semester, attending lectures and promoting NaNoWriMo on campus, and just chatting with students throughout each day. Life on campus this semester has been inordinately busy, but fun. I’ve enjoyed it, but I won’t lie. Turkey break couldn’t come at a better time for me to catch up on some grading! If you’d like to hear more about the new course I’m teaching, click here.


img_5564Those who know me VERY well know that I used to sleep very little. When I was getting my MFA a few years ago, I averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Every night. I would work during the day, take care of my husband and kids, and then at about 9 p.m., I’d slip into my office where I’d work on my studies until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. Then, I’d get up and do it all again. I find I’m more tired now than I used to be, and a lot of it is probably because I get up earlier with two high school students than I used to. When they go out the door, so do I, and I’ve been at my desk much earlier than in years past. I used to write at night, often late into the evenings when I wrote my first three books, but now, forget it. I’m in bed and asleep most nights before midnight.

So, there you have it. Three main reasons why my writing is not up to its “full steam ahead approach” my other novels took.

But I’m here now.

To present you with today’s prompt.



Your favorite character (either one you have written yourself or one of your favorites from literature) meets your best friend or your favorite relative in a bar. What takes place during this conversation?


Write about a time you won something or lost something. Practice describing the scene and using your emotions and lessons to tell this story.

Visit Stevensonwritenow for more prompts from our school, Stevenson University!

Catch you later this week.

K E E P   W R I T I N G!