Playing With Book Covers For An Upcoming Collection

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

stephanie verniThe Postard-2thepostcardcoverThe Postcard & Other Short Stories & Poems

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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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.

Friday Fiction: Dr. DeCarlo’s Patient

pexels-photo-263402.jpegHappy Friday, readers!

I’ve been working on some additional short stories that I’ll be adding to my collection I’m putting together for a summer release.

For years, I’ve been envious of Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the novel Twilight. Apparently, the story goes that she dreamed it and turned it into a novel. How does she get so lucky to have a story come into her subconscious like that, I’ve wondered. What a stroke of brilliance.

Well, it finally happened to me the other night. This story was a dream, as if I were watching it on the big screen. I woke up the next morning and wrote it, sent it off to my friend Elizabeth who gave it a blessing, spruced it up a little, and I’m sharing it today.

It’s a WIP (work in progress), so there is still more to be done, but as I am never too afraid to show my writing or talk about the process of writing, I thought I’d post it today for Friday Fiction.

Here’s my newest short story, Dr. DeCarlo’s Patient (and yes, his name was actually in my dream).

***

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DR. DeCARLO’S PATIENT (copyright April 6, 2018 | Stephanie Verni

Dr. DeCarlo checks into the hospital at four o’clock in the afternoon. By seven that night, he has seen numerous patients with injuries and ailments ranging from an elderly woman who has fallen and broken her hip to a child with an asthmatic reaction to a teenager who has been hit in the face with a baseball by a batter during a local high school game. On any given day, Dr. DeCarlo sees to patients, caring for them all the same way: with a direct, warm approach and comprehensive analysis to try to heal their traumas that have brought them to the emergency room at all hours of the day or night.

At exactly ten thirty-five, Dr. DeCarlo runs his fingers through his dark hair and scratches his chin. His skin is tanned from playing golf, a benefit of living in the south, his one recreational activity he plays frequently that relaxes and revives him. It’s by far his favorite de-stressor from work, and he squeezes in a round or two of at least 9-holes a couple of days a week. A car accident victim is arriving in the ambulance and his associate gives him a head’s up having heard the ambulance call. He finishes up with the woman who has broken her hip as she is being prepped for surgery with another doctor—the poor lady, scared to death and worried—and begins his walk to where he will meet the accident victim. He needs a cup of coffee, but it must wait. His back is tired from bending over for the majority of the afternoon, and he is burdened by the fact that he must return Sophia’s call, which popped up on his cellphone over three hours ago. Dialing her number doesn’t interest him at all, but he knows it’s something he will eventually have to do.

The woman being wheeled out of the ambulance is semi-conscious, and he sees her face is bruised, her nose bleeding. There’s a gash over her left eye. Her hand is wrapped in gauze to stop the bleeding and she’s moaning slightly; a little wet tear slides down her unaffected cheek. He reads the quick report—she was hit on the driver’s side by what appears to have been an intoxicated driver. Glass shattered. The car was totaled. The paramedics report that she may have broken ribs and other parts, and they found her fainted in the vehicle upon their arrival. Dr. DeCarlo looks at his patient and begins to examine her in a hurried manner, the nurses quickly dulling her pain at his order. He reads the name on her chart so that he can call her by name, a habit some of his other colleagues do not do so well. He remembers the tip his father, a doctor himself, had given him years ago: patients are people, not numbers. They are people with emotions and pain, sadness and worry. They are often scared. Dr. DeCarlo prides himself that he regards his patients as individuals, and it’s been one of his long-standing doctor goals: to remember their names. It is something he regularly works to do with each face he meets.

As the patient begins to feel the effects of the pain medication, he reaches for her hand—the one not bandaged—and speaks gently to her. “You will be okay, Emelie. We’re going to take care of you.”

Her eyes close, and she drifts off. Dr. DeCarlo begins to get to work.

*

Emelie awakens hours later to a nurse telling her to drink some Ginger Ale. The nurse is trying to bring her to full consciousness, and she slowly begins to focus her eyes to see her surroundings. She is not dead. At least she doesn’t think so. She is alive and surrounded by people in hospital garbs, the smell of formaldehyde taking over her senses. She sees her bandaged left arm and looks down to see her left leg in a cast. Her chest hurts; it aches to breathe. The thought of drinking anything at this very moment is not appealing.

“Let’s see if we can begin to get you hydrated,” the nurse with the big breasts says as she leans over her. “We want to get you off the IV if we can.” It takes a few minutes for her to come around, and at the nurse’s urging, she takes some sips from a straw.

“Which hospital am I in?” she asks.

Just then, a man walks through the door in a white coat. He looks familiar. The nurse greets him, and he says hello back to her. They seem to know each other. The doctor’s face is friendly, and he looks at Emelie and begins to speak.

“Good morning, Emelie,” he says kindly. “I’m Dr. DeCarlo, and I worked to stabilize you last night. How are you feeling?”

“Like I’ve been hit by a car,” Emelie says, knowing full well what she is saying, the corners of her mouth turning into a little bit of a smile.

The doctor is pleased by her response and smiles at her. “I see you have a good sense of humor,” he replies. “I don’t often get that after an accident, but you seem to know what happened.”

She nods. His presence is comforting.

“Then, you can probably guess by the looks of things that your your arm is broken and that your leg is fractured. Your face was scratched by the shattered glass, with one cut above the left eye, and you have a couple of broken ribs. You fainted in the car and went into a bit of shock, but we’ve taken good care of you since you arrived, and you’re getting stabilized. The good news is there’s no broken nose despite that it was bleeding a little when you arrived. You’re actually looking very well despite it all. The nurses have done their jobs.”

“And you, I would guess,” Emelie says. She offers a slight grin, giving him the best she can under the circumstances. There is something about his demeanor and the sound of his voice that is so pleasing. She is grateful for him and to him—and she feels the need to express it.

“I cannot thank you enough, Doctor. I appreciate all the great care you all have given me. Thank you for what you did.”

The nurse excuses herself from the room to get some additional supplies while Dr. DeCarlo continues to stand next to Emelie.

“Is there anything we can get you to make you more comfortable? Is there someone we can contact for you?”

Emelie shakes her head from side to side. “No,” she says, “I will just wait to get discharged. How many days will I be here?”

“Probably just overnight again. Most likely, you will be released tomorrow in the afternoon, but someone will need to take you home.”

“Right,” Emelie says.

*

It’s six in the morning, and Dr. DeCarlo’s shift ended at midnight, but things were hectic, and he stayed on to help the overflow. It’s one of the perks of being an unwed doctor—no one is waiting for him to come home. His hours are his own.

The nurse re-enters the room with some food and a few supplies. She will need to help Emelie to the bathroom once the catheter comes out. Not to embarrass the patient, the nurse speaks gently to Dr. DeCarlo.

“I’ll just need to help her out in a minute. You have been here far longer than you ought to have been, Dr. DeCarlo. How sweet of you. You should have punched out hours ago.”

The doctor’s face brightens a little, showcasing a little bit of redness on the cheeks. “Of course, of course. I just wanted to make sure our patient was okay,” he says, looking at Emelie.

“A little broken physically,” Emelie says, “but I think my spirit will be fine. I’m sorry for passing out. I don’t have a high level of tolerance for pain or blood. Do the police know who hit me?”

“They do. She was identified and charged, and walked away from it amazingly unharmed. Apparently, she had a little too much fun at the local bar, it would seem,” the nurse says. Dr. DeCarlo continues to look at Emelie. There is something about her that compels him to be standing here talking to her. There’s something about her face—those eyes—the cheekbones that are scratched up a bit. The sense of humor and humility. The nurse begins to shoo him away and he feels the phone vibrate in his pocket. He still hasn’t called Sophia back.

“I guess I must be on my way to let Nurse Shay take care of you. I’ll check back to check on you later.”

Nurse Shay shoots him a look of surprise, for in her five years working with Dr. DeCarlo, she has never seen him go the extra mile for patients as he has with this one. To be sure, he is a kind and caring emergency doctor, but there’s something different about the way he’s treating this case, and she furrows her brow with puzzlement.

Meanwhile, he can hear Emelie say sweetly as he exits the door to her room, “Thank you.”

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*

Dr. DeCarlo heads to the locker room to collect his things. He is not due back until later tonight. As he places his coat on the hook of his locker and closes the door to it, he feels his phone vibrate again in his pocket. He grabs it and looks at the screen, sees her name again, and realizes that he really should clean his screen that’s full of fingerprints.

He exits the locker room, thinks about Emelie and wonders how she’s doing and why he’s thinking about her so much, and runs into Dr. Hickson, who is on call at the emergency room during the day. They share a passing greeting, and Dr. DeCarlo says he will see her later when he returns.

He walks outside into the warm morning sunshine, the blue sky cloudless, and sees her standing on the curb. He gingerly walks over to her.

“Hello, Sophia,” he says. At eight in the morning, she is coiffed and poised for action, and looks more like she is ready to go to a club than to go to her law office. Her severely highlighted blonde hair is piled on top of her head, her red lipstick never out of place.

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve called you?” she demands.

“Yes,” he says. “I believe it was 12.”

“That sounds about right. So why haven’t you called me back?” she says indignantly.

“I was working.”

“In the past, you’ve found time to call me while you’re working. What’s going on, Hugh?”

“This isn’t the place to have this discussion, Sophia. I’m on hospital grounds.”

“I know that. So am I.”

“Yes, but you don’t work here. I don’t discuss personal matters at work.”

“What matters?”

He places his sunglasses on his face, the sun’s brightness blinding his eyes as it rises over the hospital’s facade. He looks at her. It is safer to have this uncomfortable and inevitable conversation from behind dark shades.

“This isn’t working for me, Sophia. I don’t want to be in this relationship, especially when it doesn’t feel right.”

“Doesn’t feel right? What’s not right about it? I’m a professional. You’re a professional. We have the same circle of friends. We both want the same things out of life. How does this not feel right?”

“Call me crazy, but I just think there should be something more than a convenient group of friends and ambition as the factors that would bind us together. I’m sorry, Sophia. I just don’t want to be in this relationship any longer.”

“It was hardly a relationship to begin with,” she snips. “I’ve been the one driving the thing from the beginning. Your heart was never in it.”

“And perhaps that’s been the problem all along,” he says. “This hasn’t been a two-way street. You deserve better.”

“You’re absolutely right I deserve better! Look at me! I’m a catch! And you’re just too ignorant to see it,” she says, turning on her heels as she begins to take long strides toward her silver, convertible BMW, her shoes clicking on the asphalt. Dr. DeCarlo can’t help but chuckle at her silly antics, as he’s witnessed them before, and whispers a soft ‘bye-bye’ as she climbs into her car. He hears his mother’s voice in his head, the one that always offered reasoning during times when decisions must be made—you will know when you’ve found the right person, Hugh. You will feel it in here, she would say, patting the area on his chest where his heart is. He should have known better than to waste his time on something that never felt right. He certainly has never experienced anything like what his mother refers to as a “magical feeling” when meeting the person who may be a potential companion for life. It’s not that he didn’t want a life-long partner, he did, it’s just that no one had ever felt right before. He should never have allowed Eddie to set him up with Sophia in the first place. Set-ups never worked for him. Not in all of his thirty-eight years.

*

At eleven-thirty that night, Emelie is wide awake. She slept most of the day, as she tried to remember how the accident happened. Could she have prevented being hit by that woman? Could five more seconds of acceleration have avoided the crash? She’s beaten herself up all day about it, and now she stares at the television from her hospital bed as she watches The Jimmy Fallon Show, the volume turned down low.

Nurse Shay left hours ago, and Nurse Jones who is on duty now helped her clean herself up, offered her a brush, and helped her put her long, dark hair in a long ponytail. Nurse Jones also refreshed her water and helped her get to the bathroom about an hour ago, and is now making her way along the corridor to visit patients. The thought of returning to her apartment without any help is giving Emelie anxiety. The thought of being without a car is doubling that anxiety. There will be calls to the insurance company to sort out in addition to needing a car to get to work. She’s learned to become much more independent since Evan left, but she is worried about dealing with the effects of the car accident alone and contemplates calling her mother to see if she can come and stay with her for a while. What an inconvenience to her mother who lives all the way across the country. She hated the idea of doing that to her.

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When Emelie first came to Atlanta last year, she came because of Evan. They met after graduate school—he working in sales, she finding employment as a teacher—and lived together for many years in Washington state. When Evan’s company transferred him back to his home state of Georgia, he jumped at the opportunity, and Emelie followed at his urging. Emelie found a teaching job locally, and Evan loved his new surroundings and environment, and especially loved his new assistant, Shannon. In a matter of months, he loved her more than he loved Emelie. So when the good doctor asked her earlier if there was anyone to call, the answer was an emphatic “no,” as there was no family or good friends local for her, only her teacher acquaintances from school that she hadn’t known for very long.

In her dreamlike state, half paying attention to Jimmy Fallon and half thinking about her present, unfortunate situation, she hears a knock on the door, and the door pushes open.

“Emelie?” the pleasant male voice says. She recognizes it right away as the Doctor’s.

“Hi,” she says. He is wearing his white coat again, and it shows off his deep tan and dark eyes. He walks closer and looks at her. “I wanted to see how you are doing before I begin my shift.”

“That’s very sweet of you,” she says. “I’m okay. Unable to sleep.”

“We can help you with that if you need some rest,” he says.

“No, thank you,” she says. “I slept most of the day. I’m just thinking and mindlessly watching the television.”

“That’s a good word for it–mindless,” he smirks, taking a peek at the television. “If I didn’t have to work, I would challenge you to game of Scrabble or cards.”

“It might be kind of a challenge to hold cards in my hands or shuffle,” she said.

He grinned.

“What can we get you?”

“I’m good, thank you. Honestly, the care here has been top-notch. Thank you for checking up on me.”

They both look at each other for a second, and the doctor slides over the guest chair to sit beside her.

“I hope you don’t think this is too forward of me, because trust me, what I’m about to say is completely out of character for me, especially when it comes to my patients, but I was wondering, seeing as how you seem to be without a car, if you need a ride home when you are discharged, it’s my day off and I’d be happy to help you get home.” Dr. DeCarlo has officially surprised himself by saying these words. She must think he’s weird … or worse, creepy. He hasn’t been able to shake her from his mind ever since he cared for her last night, but truly, what is he thinking? Does he have some sort of fever? Emelie is a patient, for God’s sake.

And then he hears his mother’s words echo in his head—you will feel it in here. There is something undeniable going on, at least from his perspective. Something extraordinary is happening to him, and he feels awkward, as it takes what seems like an eternity before Emelie responds to his offer.

“Do you cook, too?” she replies, smiling.

*

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 Completed Draft of A Short Story: Sophie’s Ladybug

pexels-photo-193035.jpegAs I promised, I finished the short story I was working on for the past month. This is the first completed full draft, and I’m sure I’ll be making many tweaks to it until it is published in my collection in the Fall. I’ve read so many books in my book club over the last few years that are set during World War II, and I’m presently watching some British movies about Winston Churchill, so I thought I’d try my hand at writing something from that time period. My son is looking at Lynchburg College, so I decided to set this one in Lynchburg since we have visited that part of Virginia for college visits.

I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave me a comment or recommendation. I love getting feedback from readers, and since I am not presently in a writer’s group, I’d welcome any constructive criticism you may have.

Thanks an awful lot (as they would say in the 1940s).

Stephanie

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Sophie’s Ladybug

The day her father left, Sophie cried. She stood at the end of the dirt path, her mother inside the house refusing to see him off, too resentful of what it was doing to her family to say goodbye. As the car destined for town that would have all the men board a bus that would take them to Fort Bragg arrived, her father gave a short wave and nod to her, and she waved back, fighting back the tears as hard as she could as he hoisted his sack into the vehicle and leaned inside. That’s when the tears began to flow. At twelve, Sophie was well aware of the dangers her father could face and the possibility that he may never return home safely. Plenty of her friends back home had lost their own fathers months earlier. Because of the stories she had heard and the sadness she had seen on the faces of people she knew well, she could understand her mother’s apprehension, worry, and desperation at the thought of being left to fend for herself and her child in this world.

The other end of the dirt path sat at the stone walkway to Sophie’s grandmother’s house, a grand white home with a sprawling front porch and wooden front steps perched in the lower mountains of Lynchburg. Her grandmother had taken them in while her father fought for the liberties of others. They had given up their own home four hours away up north, the one where they had lived for years, the one Sophie had called home, and the one where she had first believed in Lady Luck.

When her father had told her the news that he was headed to Fort Bragg, he relayed the news that Sophie and her mother would be moving and living with Grandma. They sat on their porch together back in Maryland, as he tried desperately to comfort her.

“It’s my duty,” he had said, trying to rationalize the idea of war and tighting to a young girl. “We have to protect what we believe is right.”

Sophie looked at him with her big blue eyes, her hair knotted from playing outside, her freckles more apparent because she was in the sun so often. She swallowed hard, knowing the decision was already made and there was no turning back.

As she reached to give her father a hug, a ladybug landed on Sophie’s shoulder, then another one on her thigh. Her dad looked at them and smiled.

“Well, Sophie-Belle, looks like you just brought us some luck. Those things are lucky, you know.”

“There are so many more this year,” Sophie said, looking at the small red and black beetle her dad had collected into the palm of his hand.

“Perhaps I won’t be gone for long after all,” her father said.

She remembered that day now, listening to the happy sounds of birds chirping in early spring, as she walked back up to the house remembering how she said goodbye to her father right here, the dirt flying off the tires of the car, as her dad disappeared down the road, off to protect his family in a different way.

She also remembered opening the door to the house and seeing her mother standing near the window staring straight ahead, a handkerchief in her hand. It was then that Sophie began to worry, and had subsequently remained worried for two full years.

*

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Sophie played with Casper, her uncle’s dog, and ate brunch every Sunday on the wraparound porch of her grandmother’s house. They tried desperately not to pay too much attention to news from the war. They knew her father was in Europe—in France somewhere—and that things were not going as well as they had hoped. Only three letters had arrived so far. Her uncle, Timothy, would read the letters aloud as they would gather to hear her father’s words on paper. Timothy would not be joining the fight, as he had polio, walked with a severe limp—sometimes even with a cane—despite being only twenty-one years old himself. Polio did not discriminate, and although he had a positive outlook on life most of the time, Sophie had only seen him become bitter because of his fate once or twice. For the most part, he was cheerful and supportive. Timothy and her mother, although she was years older, had a strong bond. In the heat of the summer, her uncle would take her swimming, and they would all wade in the James River, and occasionally get a ride in friend’s rowboat, where she watched fish jump and attempted to catch something with a measly stick, string, and foul piece of a chicken wing. Sophie loved listening to the sounds of the crickets as she attempted to count stars while her uncle would play his guitar and her mother would sing, her lilting, soft voice echoing in the night air. At times, Sophie found herself listening to her mother’s voice as she sang, for it sounded hollow and melancholy.

Her grandmother did her best to keep them all from dwelling on what was happening in Europe. In fact, it was her grandmother who turned off the WLVA radio broadcast one night, they’d listen to report after report and become more depressed for doing so. It had become increasingly more difficult to listen to reports about the war and Hitler and lives lost. Her hands were poised on her hips, and she uttered the words, “No more.” They all looked at her standing there in her apron, her hair tied tightly in a bun on the top of her head, the lines on her face looking just a bit deeper than they did months ago.

“I have an idea,” she said.

She told Sophie, Timothy, and Sophie’s mother to all pile into the car and snatched the keys to her vehicle. The smell of autumn was in the air, despite that it was only September. The smell of the outdoors awakened Sophie’s senses. It was dusk, and her Grandmother put the keys into the ignition and began the drive down the roads lit only by the headlights and the early moonlight.

“Where are we going, Grandma?” Sophie asked, still unsure as to what her grandmother’s great idea might be.

“You will see soon,” she said.

After several minutes, Sophie could see buildings take form in front of her, and she knew they had reached downtown Lynchburg. What was going on this evening, she wondered. Where was her grandmother taking them at this hour?

When they rounded the corner, Sophie could see a building rising up in front of them. Her grandmother—very much in control of her red Packard station wagon, a veritable renegade whom Sophie always admired for her positive attitude and spunk—pulled right in front of the Jones Memorial Library.

“We are going to the Library, Mother?” Sophie’s mother said aloud in an incredulous tone.

“We are.”

“But what on Earth for?”

“To take our minds off the news…the war. Let me show you what’s inside.”

Sophie’s grandmother had been working for many years at the library. She was one of three main librarians there.

After struggling to get the key in the door as the library had been closed for a couple of hours, her grandmother finally gained entrance. Sophie loved the smell of the place—the smell of hardback covers and a mustiness that she couldn’t quite describe. Sophie’s grandmother turned on the dim lights, and the four of them stood in the middle and looked around. Libraries are typically a quiet place, but tonight, this one felt cathartic. There was something peaceful about it.

“Come to the back storage room,” her grandmother said, not in a whisper voice, but rather a regular talking voice. “I want to show you something.”

She opened the door to the storage room, Sophie right behind her, and they looked. There were hundreds of books scattered all over the place—on the floor, on the tables, and stacked up on chairs.

“What is all this?” Sophie asked.

“These are the books that we can no longer use,” her grandmother said. “They are either too old, falling apart, or we have so many extra copies we don’t know what to do with them. The head librarian gave us permission to get what we want first, and then we will have a little library sale and make a little extra money. So, as you can see, there are many. I will make a donation to the library, and we will have first choice, as I was approved to do so. I suggest we all pick three or four books to take home. I even cleared off a couple of shelves so we can have a begin to create our own home library. Or, we can just borrow from this library. But I want us reading and sharing—I’ve always wanted to do that. Does that sound like fun? Does it sound like something we could do to take our minds off the news reports?”

Sophie watched her mother intently, waiting to see her reply. Her mother was one to keep everything locked down deep inside and not share anything—not her feelings, her concerns, her worry, or her desire to be distracted by something. Sophie kept a keen eye on her to see how she would respond to her mother’s idea.

“I think it’s an ingenious idea, Mother,” Sophie’s mother said aloud to all of them. “I like it very much. I’d like to get lost in a good book and escape. And I’d like to get Sophie reading more.”

“Then it’s settled. If you want to purchase a few books, let’s do it. If you want to borrow some books, let’s do it. So here are the rules: we each pick three or four books we like to begin and that will make 12 books for our initial run at this thing. We can share what we are reading and how we like the books when we have dinner at night. Then, if we like the stories, we can exchange them and talk about them. But let’s sink our teeth into something other than these war stories that leave us depressed.”

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And so they began to shuffle through the abundance of books in the back room. Sophie likened it to Christmas morning when they would open their presents, although there had been few gifts the last few years. Books made a wonderful companion to the long winter’s nights that would lay before them as the weather would soon be changing, and so Sophie plowed right in, searching for just the right ones to start off with on this new reading adventure. Sophie found a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries and The Hundred Dresses; her mother decided upon Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; her grandmother scooped up The Portable Dorothy Parker and Agatha Christie’s Death Comes As The End; and her uncle spotted The Fountainhead and The Ministry of Fear.

Sophie could feel her spirits lifting as she perused the books. She liked reading, but she did not read enough, despite that her grandmother worked at the library. She was intrigued by the idea of reading and sharing; it gave her something to look forward to. Maybe she would read them all. She was turning into a young lady now, and perhaps she could attempt to read more sophisticated literature.

As they finished selecting their books, Sophie heard her mother say, “Do you think I could work here, too? Do they need any extra help?”

Sophie could not hear her grandmother’s reply, but she understood why her mother was asking. The library was certainly a place where one could get lost and forget all her problems.

They made their ride home in silence, each one of them pensive, thinking of their books, each one doing his or her best not to mention the word ‘war.’

*

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When Sophie’s father’s letter finally arrived, it looked worn and beaten, as if it had been through a few tough passages itself. It was a Saturday morning, and the sun was rising high in the crisp November air. Sophie had read two books so far in addition to managing her own schoolwork and chores around the house. Her grandmother’s property needed a lot of upkeep, and with her grandmother working at the Library, in addition to her mother taking on a job at a factory in town, it was more important than ever for Sophie to do her part at home while others did their part elsewhere. And her uncle helped as he could, and had taken on the role of writing to soldiers as he could.

“Grandma,” Sophie said, as she ran into the kitchen, “it’s a letter from Dad.”

“Well, then you must open it and read it to me,” Grandma said, relieved that there was at least a letter in their hands.

Dearest Sophie, Addie, Mom, and Timothy,

I am writing to you from a small town in France, though I don’t think we’ll be here long enough for it to amount to anything firm and I’m not supposed to disclose our whereabouts. As you are probably getting reports from the radio, it’s not good here. We have lost a lot of men, and the fighting continues, although something inside of me is hopeful that it will not last much longer. I have heard the men talk of things happening, though I’m not sure when or where or how. Please know that I keep all of you in my heart and when I’m feeling particularly low or sad or overwhelmed by fear, I picture your faces in my head. I’m sorry that this is only the third letter you have received from me, but pen and paper are rare, and when we do find it, we all scribble things and try to get something sent back home because we know you are probably worried sick. It won’t be a long letter, but know that I love you all more than life itself, and that I will fight for us, and that I long to be home to see your smiling faces again. I will dream of hugging you all tightly,

Until then, much love,

John (or Dad)

Sophie sat and scratched her head as she looked out the window, her eyes becoming misty.

“He sounds so sad,” Sophie said.

“He just misses us tremendously,” her grandmother said.

“When he returns, we will have to lift his spirits and get him to join our reading club,” Sophie said.

“I think he’d like that very much,” Grandma said, as she turned her back to Sophie and sniffled. “He always was a good reader.”

*

Sophie’s mother stood in front of the crowd that had gathered inside the town’s library.

“Well, y’all, it’s the first Friday of the month, and I call this meeting to order,” her mother said, as she stood, trying to get the group that had assembled in order.

“As we have done for the last two months, we will take turns giving a two-minute overview of the book we have each read over the last few weeks. I hope everyone has finished their books.”

As word spread about Sophie’s family’s reading club, it had quickly grown to a group of twenty. People wanted to join. The library had offered to remain open late one evening every month, as the meeting was to begin promptly at 7 p.m. after the last factory shift had ended.

“Let’s start with you, Mrs. Bates,” Sophie’s mother said, and turned the program over to Mrs. Bates, who stood nervously, her book in her hand, and removed the kerchief from her head.

“Good evening, fellow readers,” Mrs. Bates said. “I’m here to tell you about the book I read, which I liked very much indeed and would recommend to you all. It is called Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and it’s about a woman who falls in love with a widower who owns a tremendous country estate called Manderlay, but his recent dead wife seems to haunt the place. And then there’s a woman, Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper, who doesn’t much like the second wife and raised Rebecca and protects her memory. It’s a mystery, and I couldn’t stop reading it. And it’s set in Monte Carlo.” Sophie’s mother wrote the name of the book on the adjacent blackboard and gave it a check, which meant Mrs. Bates liked it.

When Mrs. Bates finished, everyone clapped. And that’s how it went for the better part of forty-five minutes as thirteen of the folks assembled shared what they were reading. Some were new members and this was their first time. Afterwards there was punch served, and Mrs. Conway brought her savory chocolate chip oatmeal cookies; Sophie talked with her friend, Beatrice, as the rest of the bunch mingled. Then, she and Beatrice began their hunt to gather information about the books they would put on their lists for their dads. Unfamiliar titles that men, perhaps, would like to read.

*

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Sophie’s mother was wearing a powder blue dress with her work shoes and was off to her job the factory that day. Her face seemed brighter than it had been months ago. Working at the  factory had helped her mood, that much Sophie could see. She had told Sophie that she needed “to help in any way she could” and it seemed to be making her feel better while they both waited for Sophie’s father to return. Her sense of humor had returned as well, and she said funny things to Sophie all the time.

It was May, and horrible, rainy, wet April was done. Sophie longed for the flowers to bloom and to feel the sunshine on her face, to wade in the river and to be done with school, and to stretch out on the grass on her favorite blanket and read a book.

Sophie’s mother kissed her on the forehead.

“Have a pleasant day today at school, and don’t let that boy pull your hair anymore, or I will have to speak to his mother.”

She winked at her daughter because she knew Johnny Doyle liked Sophie, which was why he was trying to get her attention. But Sophie wanted none of it. She was not interested in boys—well, at least not that one.

Her grandmother saw her off to school after her mother left. Johnny Doyle did pull her hair as they walked into the school, and Sophie kicked him in the shin. Johnny was shocked that she did this, his eyes opened wide in disbelief, and she stared at him, wondering if he would reciprocate. He did not. He simply walked away. She worried that he would tell the teacher she did this and she would get in trouble, but then she realized otherwise. He would not want to tell anyone that a girl kicked and hurt him. It would damage his pride. Truthfully, Sophie had had enough of it. This game of his had been going on for weeks.

At early recess, Sophie sat by herself under the tree in the schoolyard, and removed her latest book from her pile. She was thankful that reading kept her engrossed in other people’s stories and problems, so she could be less focused on her own. Less focused on missing her dad.

Within minutes, some cars started pulling up to the school and people were running toward it on foot. Principal Coates came running out of the school, which was an unusual sight, because Principal Coates was a bit rotund with a cherub face and Sophie had never seen him run before. His face looked more red than normal, and there was a smile that went from ear to ear. Sophie didn’t know what all the commotion was about, and then Principal Coates called the students into the main room, all of them gathered along with their teachers and the parents that had arrived.

“Children! There is great news today! Germany has surrendered, and the War in Europe is over. President Truman announced this today, but stated that we still have to win the war with Japan. It is halfway done!”

Sophie’s eyes filled with tears. Her first thoughts were of her father. Would he be coming home soon? Then, she thought of her mother. She couldn’t wait to see her her—to find out what she knew. But Germany had surrendered! She was so happy. She was so happy to hear some good news. She hugged Beatrice. Everyone. All around her, people hugged and celebrated. She didn’t know quite what it all meant or what the details would be, but she could tell from seeing the hugging and joy that this was fantastic news.

Johnny Doyle did not pull her hair on the walk home. In fact, he stayed ten steps behind her and didn’t come anywhere near her. His retreating made her feel a little badly about what she had done to him. He wasn’t so bad, really. She knew she shouldn’t have kicked him, and she probably shouldn’t have kicked him as hard as she did.

As they got near the forked road where Sophie’s house was down the road to the left and Johnny’s house was down the road to the right, she turned around to face him and stopped.

“Hey, Johnny,” she began, timidly, “I shouldn’t have kicked you. I’m sorry I did that.”

His face brightened and he looked at her. He knew he needed to be a man and apologize as well.

“I’m sorry I pulled your pigtails. I shouldn’t do that. Sorry.”

Sophie stuck out her hand to him. She was so happy about the news about Germany that she wanted to shake Johnny’s hand a make up. This was no time to be at war with anyone. Even a boy who constantly pulled your pigtails.

“Friends?” she asked.

“Friends,” he said, placing his hand in hers for the handshake. “So you think your dad will be home soon?”

“I think so,” she said. “At least that’s what I’m hoping for.”

When she opened the door to the house, she hear loud music playing from the radio and saw her grandmother was dancing around the kitchen. Sophie smiled when their eyes met, and she knew that she knew.

“You heard the wonderful news, Sophie?” her grandmother asked, approaching her to give her a big, smothering hug, kissing her on the top of her head.

“Yes.”

“We are going to town to celebrate. Everyone’s celebrating. Your mother must be beside herself by now.”

Sophie’s face hurt from smiling, as her grin felt permanently plastered and stretched across her petite, freckled face.

*

The celebration outside the factory lasted for hours and hours. People hugged and cried and laughed. Music played. They guessed when their loved ones would come home.

Sophie had never seen so much hope and love in one place.

She sat on the grass with Beatrice and watched the celebration.

“Oh,” Beatrice said, “there’s a ladybug on your shoulder. Want me to get it?”

Sophie stopped Beatrice from reaching for it.

“I’ll get it,” she said, and gingerly held the Ladybug in the palm of her hand.

The End.

copyright Stephanie Verni | 2018

From The Postcard & Other Short Stories & Poetry coming Fall 2018

 

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…

***

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.

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Rick Steves takes a selfie with members of my magazine writing class!
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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.

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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.

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

Anniversary

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.

innsignificantanovel

It will never get old for me.

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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.

 

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.

writing

 

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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.