On Life

Flash Fiction: A 500-Word Short Story About An Apology

Fellow writers–I don’t know about you, but after I’ve written a novel and it takes everything out of me, I need a break for a while. In my time of decompression, I like to stay in touch with the craft by writing short fiction. You never know where it could lead, and it keeps you thinking and telling your stories. Today’s story is about saying your sorry…to the person you need to say it to when an apology is owed. Especially a big one.

Out of the Circle

He always knew he’d be back. But when you make as many mistakes as he did, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted with open arms, or even an acknowledgment that he existed. He might as well be dead, he thought often, as once he made the decision to go, he was gone, and they all treated him as such.

Unreachable. He made sure of that. A disappearing act that was difficult to follow.

He parked the car around the corner, as it was the same car he’d driven away in seven years ago, a Ford Taurus, and he didn’t want anyone to even take note of it or realize he was back on the street. He hated the car with every fiber of his being and wished he had something sportier, but he never sold it. He figured it was a part of his penance for his inability to stay, his inability to commit. Plus, he could barely afford to eat and pay his bills.

He’d hit rock bottom, and he wasn’t really sure, even now, months later, what had been the turning point. Ten different jobs, six different residences in the last seven years, and a host of “change of address” cards made him a certifiable mess. After finally waking up and realizing that he was destroying his own life one sip at a time, he decided that it might be the right time to reach out for help.

Was it the girl he thought he could love with the raven hair who shouted at him half dressed amidst rumpled sheets and liquor bottles strewn across the room? Was it the old man he’d shared a meal with at the dump of a diner on Main Street? Was it the kid who looked at him inquisitively as he sat on the park bench eating a cheese sandwich who said, “Hey, mister, what’s wrong with you? Why do you look so sad?” He wasn’t sure what the tipping point was or how he managed to climb out of the Scotch and Rum and Vodka, but he somehow got himself into a chair surrounded by others who had the same demons plaguing them every day as well.

In that first moment, as they welcomed him into the circle and he said his name aloud and admitted his dependency and why he was there, for the first time since he could remember, he felt less alone.

Twelve months after the circle, he found himself walking up the street to his old address.  The one he shared with her, the brunette with big eyes and a sweet smile. The one with whom he ruined it all. He pulled his hat down a little in case anyone was outside who might recognize him. He’d done his homework and knew she still lived in the house, though he was not sure with whom she shared her life now.

But he was there for a reason, and he didn’t care who was there with her.

He just knew he wanted to see her. That he needed to see her.

And that he needed to say the words he’d mustered up the courage to say for the last twelve months.

His knees were shaking as he rang the doorbell, and yet he knew he had the courage to do it.

He knew he wouldn’t leave until he looked her in the eyes and was able to say he was sorry.

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

On Life

Through Books, You Can Travel

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One of my favorite aspects about reading novels is that they allow us to travel to places we may never get to experience, at least not the same way the author sees them. Books such as Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife or Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things—two books I can’t and have no desire to get out of my head—submerge us into different aspects of the world and see it through their eyes.

As another example, who reads Maeve Binchy’s novels and doesn’t want to go to Ireland? Who reads anything by Rosamunde Pilcher and doesn’t want to visit England and the villages of Cornwall?

On the flip side, as a writer myself, I welcome the opportunity to incorporate a place into my stories by offering readers the most accurate description of what that place entails. When I do my research, I take a lot of notes. I also take a lot of photographs to jog my memory when I begin to write and tell my stories. For my latest novel that is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland—particularly in the towns of Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton—I spent a lot of time exploring and writing impressions, anecdotes, and talking to people. Getting things right, and using places that actually exist as the storyline unfurls is important to me and offers readers that realistic feel. I take writing about places as seriously as I do developing my characters. In fact, I think of the places as characters in the story.

Additionally, I instruct a  Special Topics course at my university in Travel Writing, and I implore students to document their travels as it makes their writing come alive. Taking the time to recount what you’ve learned, seen, and experienced allows you to bring everything to life. Travel journals are awesome, and I love them, but any piece of paper will do.

If you read either my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree that I set in Annapolis, Maryland or Inn Significant, my latest novel that I set on the Eastern Shore, I would love to hear your feedback.

Did I get the places right? Could you “see” them as you were reading? And, did you travel there via the novel?

I surely hope I succeeded.

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

 

 

On Life

Celebrating 6 Years of Blogging with “The Best of” Steph’s Scribe

* * *

We all say it.

Time flies.

Before you know it, my kids will be done with high school and college and I’ll be retired, sitting alongside my husband on a beach somewhere sipping something with an umbrella in it and attempting to play golf.

Well, that’s the dream, at least.

Yesterday marked six (6) years of blogging. Six years. It kind of blew me away this morning, but it reminds us what a love for something and a little discipline can do for us. At the minimum, I blog one day a week; most weeks, I blog twice. It’s not always easy coming up with things to write about, but the bottom line is, we do. As bloggers, we always have something in mind that makes us think or that we want to share with others.

As such, to commemorate these past six years, I decided to pull together the posts that get the most hits as sort of a “Best Of” celebration.

Thank you for following, commenting, and sharing Steph’s Scribe with others. I can’t wait to see what the next six years have in store.

BLOGGING has become part of who I am. I cannot imagine my life without it now.

Best of Steph’s Scribe

Birth – The Very First Post on Steph’s Scribe

A Little Game of No Repeat Fashion

Most Attractive Names

How Pinterest Helped with Our Home Renovation

Inn Significant Released

Beneath the Mimosa Tree Wins Readers’ Favorite Award

Instructions for Writing a Love Letter

Lessons from “The Holiday” and James Cameron

Political Opinion Posts and Friends

You Can’t Get There From Here

Learning from Conflict and Experiences & Oprah

Don’t Bring Negativity to My Doorstep

Baseball

Travel

Storytelling

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

 

 

On Life

Bridges of Madison County Author Dies: A Tribute

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The year was 1992. I picked up a copy of best-selling author Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County and couldn’t put it down. I knew it was a love story, and I was riveted. Like many other readers, I was intrigued by Francesca and Robert Kincaid’s 4-day, intense love story set among the landscape of rural farmland in Iowa. Kincaid is a photographer, out to shoot the covered bridges in the area; Francesca is an Italian war-bride whose husband and two children go off to the state fair for the weekend. When Kincaid stops to ask Francesca for directions, a whirlwind affair begins that changes forever the lives of these two souls.

Image result for covered bridges featured in bridges of madison county

While literary snobs panned this novel, claiming, as the New York Times writes, that the characters were “unconvincing, the sentiments sappy and the writing overripe,” I found the novel charming, sad, relatable, and refreshing. It’s a stark reminder of the choices we make in life and why we make them, despite the overwhelming passions we may feel.

Waller’s ability to paint Francesca as a dutiful wife and mother with a deep-seeded passion, along with his depiction of Kincaid’s tough-guy image with a soft and endearing heart, are at the forefront of his writing. The tenderness that ensues makes you both like the characters and feel sorry for them all the way to the end when you understand Francesca’s request she makes to her own children when they learn the truth.

Another reason why I regard this book so fondly is because I was nearing the end of earning my first master’s degree in professional writing and was taking a class in writing short fiction. Waller’s style is one I admired and tried to imitate; he may have written in dramatic fashion, but he knew how to tug at a reader’s emotions. He is definitely someone who influenced me as a writer.

Waller was 52 when he wrote The Bridges of Madison County, yet another reason to admire the man. After years as a business professor, he got the idea of the story after visiting the covered bridges in Iowa and, as a musician who had written a song about a woman named Francesca, brought the two notions together into his novel. The rest, they say, is history.

The Bridges of Madison County was a best-seller for three years, outselling Gone with the Wind. Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the film version along with Meryl Streep in 1995. Mr. Waller died on March 10 at the age of 77 of multiple myeloma.


15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

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On Life

Writing Prompt Challenge

So, last night I posed a writing challenge to see who wanted to try and write a short piece of flash fiction (300-400 words) around a prompt. I posted three. I got no takers. But I did it.

Image may contain: text

Image may contain: text

I chose the third. I love writing prompts because they force you to immerse yourself in a scene, setting, or situation right away. They force you to be creative, and to use your creative juices in the best possible way. The challenge was to write approximately 300-400 words.

Here’s my result of Prompt #3.

The Young King

The young King’s hair was a rumpled mess, his clothes strewn across the floor, his crown askew and hanging off of the chair. The lingering smell of liquor plagued the room as the gold goblet next to his bed sat empty. He had banished everyone from the castle after an evening of dancing and celebrating at two in the morning—rather earlier than his typical four o’clock dismissal. It was nearly eleven, and the sun had risen high in the sky, the morning dew long dissipated from the lawn.

His mother had married his father, the former King, when she was younger than he was now. She had not been pleased with his antics last night. She publicly reprimanded him in front of a few of the guests, and he in turn, had caused a scene. He was twenty-three, and he had become King two years prior upon his father’s passing. She blamed him for the current state of affairs in the Kingdom, for his lack of leadership and foresight, and for his relentless pursuit of young women. She had fought him privately, but last night she could no longer hold her tongue, and she had, in his estimation, embarrassed him beyond reproach.

She stood looking at him now, he squinting at her through the hazel eyes that so often had reminded her of her dear, departed husband. The blinding sunlight, which she had allowed to stream into the room after pulling open the heavy curtains, was causing him to sit up in bed and acknowledge her presence.

“There were vial words said between us last night, most of which, I would like not to remember or repeat,” she said in a tone he fully recognized as one in which you do not offer a response. She was his mother, after all, and while he was by all means a man, she would always be his most trusted advisor and confidante. He felt a sense of regret at what he must have said last evening, but he offered no reply at present. “It’s your choice,” she shrugged. “You can continue with your worthless life, or you can become someone who matters.”

With that, she turned on her heels and began the walk toward the gilded double doors that shielded and separated his room from the rest of the castle. He was not one to apologize freely as his pride and defensive demeanor almost always got in the way of salvaging his relations, but as she crossed the threshold, she heard him call, “Mother—“

Flash Fiction | Stephanie Verni | 410 words


15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

On Life

Do You Make Notes and Scribble in Your Books? I Do. With Pleasure.

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Do You Make Notes and Scribble in Your Books? I Do. With Pleasure.

As a writer, reader, and educator, I am always reading. I read constantly. I am rarely without a magazine, book, or academic article. Often, I am reading a book or two simultaneously, whether they are nonfiction or fiction. Sometimes I am also writing at the same time. People often ask me if I write in books that I own. They ask me if I make notes in them, scribble words, highlight passages, and otherwise put my own markings on the sacred pages.

The answer to all these questions is—yes.

I do not find it sacrilegious to write in books in this manner, unless of course, you plan on lending them to many friends after you have read them. In that case, your notes may not make sense and may interfere with their enjoyment of the work. Readers make connections with the printed word and find meaning among the pages that heightens their understanding of the messages or passages or insight. The highest compliment one can get as a writer is if someone quotes back to you what you wrote or posts the passage in an article or blog. If this happens, you should consider yourself lucky because that means that someone connected with the material (or perhaps, disagreed with the material) on such a level that it became ingrained in his memory.

I typically have a highlighter and pencil in my hands, armed to make notes when I am reading good stuff. This simple act furthers my engagement in the text. When students read books or printed works for comprehension, they can often be found highlighting passages and segments. It helps bolster students’ comprehension and furthers the involvement in the work.

Sticky tabs on my new novel.
Sticky tabs on my new novel.

I love my books, and cherish many of them. The ones I love most are filled with underlines, highlights, and words in the margins that spark or recap ideas. I also do this sometimes when reading one of my book club books, so I can refer to those passages that left impressions on me. Another idea is to use sticky tabs to mark the pages if you are intent to not damage the book with your own scribbles.

There have been studies conducted in academia recently that show a direct correlation between handwritten note taking and success in college, and that students who take notes on computers do not retain the information in the same way that those who hand write their notes do.

If you are so inclined, I encourage you to write in your books as they become a part of you.

My mother's copy of Pride and Prejudice.
My mother’s copy of Pride and Prejudice.

I love that I have my mother’s copy of Pride and Prejudice with her notes in it. I also picture Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient writing and collecting things in his book and journal.

It’s just a very cool idea.

Image result for ralph fiennes the english patient writing in notebook

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

On Life

Book Promotion for Inn Significant

It’s looking like my new novel will be available in two weeks. I am down to the last few changes, and soon, my friends, it will be in your hands. I wish the process could be a quicker one (for all of us, believe me!), but producing a novel takes time, especially when you write, edit, design, and market it yourself. That’s why it’s called independent or/or self-publishing. We are jack of all trades when it comes to this hobby.

So today, I’m sharing a promo piece I put together for the book that I’ll be using to help promote it. I got the idea from an advertisement for a grand opening of a flower shop and bakery, and I liked it so much, I thought I’d attempt to produce one that had a feeling of nostalgia. Part of Inn Significant takes place during the Great Depression, so I wanted to invoke a feeling of then and now by using a black and white promo piece.

As always, I’ll keep you posted. And as I try to remember to say every time I get to this point, thank you so much for your continued support and encouragement of my writing projects. I really appreciate it.

🙂

inn-significant-flier-2

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

Handling the Insecurities of Publishing A Novel

bookpromopic-1

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It’s a challenging endeavor. I’ve done it twice now with fiction, and twice with nonfiction books. And I’m about to do it again when I release my latest, third fictional novel.

There will always be anxieties that manifest themselves into insecurities about putting our work out there. The tendency to feel nervous about it is normal. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into our stories, and we hope people will appreciate that time and energy regarding our work, too.

But there are no guarantees. Some people will love it, some will think it’s just okay, and some will downright dislike it.

It’s the way of the world, people. We all can’t like everything.

Nevertheless, I have to quell my fears. I’m more nervous about this book than I have been about the other two simply because it is my third. And as a natural course of progression and as someone who puts undue pressure on herself, I hope this one will be received as well, if not better than, the previous two I’ve written. “Whether you think you’re brilliant or think you’re a loser, just make whatever you need to make and toss it out there,” Elizabeth Gilbert tells us in Big Magic. “And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.” It’s great in theory, but tough to put into practice.

However, I think it’s important to adhere to this advice when you are making any kind of art.

Gilbert further goes on to say this:

“If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go and make their own f—ing art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

oprahandjorowling

Recently, I watched the Oprah one-hour interview with J.K. Rowling that was filmed during Oprah’s last year of her show. I have to admit, I’m sort of obsessed with this interview. In it, we hear Jo Rowling tell stories of the backlash she took from writing Harry Potter, from those who thought writing about Black Magic was horrible for children, and from those who think children’s imaginations should be limited. It made me further understand what someone told me months ago, and honestly, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. She said,

People are entitled to their own opinions, but that doesn’t make them right.

And so, I’ve decided that despite my nervousness about reaction to my own storytelling, it’s what I have always wanted to do, and so I do it. I’ve always had this passion deep down inside of me. Ever since I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to write and tell stories. So all I can offer readers is my authentic self as I tell these stories that brew in my head. That’s what I’ve got.

As Gilbert says, “Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart. Share what you want to share. If it’s authentic enough, believe me—it will feel original.”

And so it goes.

Originally yours,

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

 

On Life

Friday Fiction: A Haunting One and A Romance

Creative fiction writers out there tend to dabble in flash fiction, which, quite simply is short form writing. It’s just like writing a short story, but even shorter. I practice writing short, short stories often, as they help writers tell a narrative within a minimum word count. I have my students engage in writing prompts, too. They are a great place to get an idea going to see where it may lead you. Of all of the pieces of short fiction I’ve written, the two below are my favorites because I think there’s potential for a longer story to grow out of each of these, whether it’s a short story or a novel.  The first is a ghost story (I never write ghost stories, so that one surprised me), and the second is the beginning of an interesting story that involves love and a fortune teller. I hope you enjoy them. Have a great Friday, all, and let me know what you think about these two that I picked and whether you think they are worth tackling in longer form.

If you’re looking for an update about my upcoming novel, I’m almost done editing. Looking forward to getting in your hands shortly!

Story #1 : AFTER I WAS DEAD

Photo credit: Daily Mail

A F T E R   I   W A S   D E A D

The enduring span of lifelessness is enough to drive me mad, as if I wasn’t driven half as mad when I lived in this ramshackle of a cottage. The cobwebs in the corners seem to have lingered for years, and yet, I haven’t been gone that long. The chandelier is full of heavy dust, the curtains look as if they may disintegrate into nothing, and the rug is almost unrecognizable, as it is covered in soot and dust and grime. It angers me that no one has cared properly for this place—this place I tended to daily. I’ve become bored with waiting, and so I decide to visit the larger home on which the cottage is set—the Hamlin Mansion.

After I was dead, I set out to let people know the truth about what happened that wintry Friday evening when the wind whipped and the trees were bent with snow. No one ever suspected that someone could have murdered me on the grounds of Hamlin Mansion, just five steps from the front door of the cottage. Why would someone want the governess dead? I could hear the roars from the folks in the town…she must have fallen and hit her head…the winds must have caught up with her and she did not see the tree limb…it was an accident of happenstance. I grew weary of hearing the townspeople make excuses for my death. It was covered up so well, I have to give him credit. There was little to no bloodshed, you see, so he was lucky in that regard. He struck me in just the right place, and where he became luckier still was that the snow piled so high that Mother Nature neatly disguised his tracks. All for the better for him, you see.

Light as feather, I can walk through walls now, something I only dreamed of doing when I was alive. I find my way to his room in the mansion, to the seemingly unlikely murderer, a boy of just sixteen, with demon eyes and glossy, albino hair. He is still unlike any other person I have—had—ever met in my lifetime. There was always something ruthless and unsettling about his looks as well as his manners. In this he is frighteningly unique. I dare say, he has no remorse about anything he does or says. He is an unlikely offspring to the lovely husband and wife who own Hamlin Mansion, Greta and Theodore Hamlin. This child of theirs is a sad outcome of what should have been proper breeding.

He sits in the corner of the room reading by lamplight, though the room is dingy and unkempt. He is permitted to treat his belongings and his part of the home with a complete disregard, and that is perhaps one of the final straws where I was concerned. As his governess, I did not accept his lazy ways, his cruel retributions, his off-putting mannerisms. It was my mistake that I stood up to him…questioned him…demanded that his studies be turned into me before the snowstorm hit…and reported his questionable behavior several times prior to my demise to the Mistress of the house.

I glide toward him. His water glass is next to the lamp on the table, and I focus with all of my might and lift it, then tilt it ever so gently, so that the full glass fills his lap with water. He screams. He stands up and begins to frantically wipe the water off of himself. He stares at the empty glass on the floor. I’m going to have fun with him, I think. Again, I concentrate and will the glass to float in the air and place it firmly in its place back on the table.

His face goes whiter than it ever has been, and his hair stands on end. He is a most unattractive creature.

“Who are you?” he shouts into the air, a frightful, frantic question piercing the silence.

I try to yell, but realize I make no sound.

But there is a quill pen on the table, and his book remains there as well.

I use all the power I have inside of me to open the book, grab the quill, and start to write. Much to my pleasant surprise, the ink is showing up on the page.

“You killed me,” I wrote.

He begins to hyperventilate, and I stand by and watch. The little brat. The little brat who got away with murder.

This could entertain me for days upon end, I think.

Story #2: THE FORTUNE TELLER

“That boy loves you,” the old woman next door calls to me as she sees Nick peel away in his black BMW. She is sitting on her stoop in the 98 degree weather, her dyed red hair in old-fashioned rollers, her socks gathered at her heels in her slip-ons. The look on her face indicates that she wants me to engage in further conversation. We have been friendly since we’ve lived next to each other in the row homes of Baltimore, but have never had a long, in-depth conversation.

“He may, but he’s leaving,” I say.

“Probably for the best,” she replies.

I’ve lived beside this odd-looking woman for almost a year, and she pretty much keeps to herself. She knows nothing of my personal life. Her name’s Mable, and I’ve heard others on the block refer to her as “the palm reader,” though she has no official business. I don’t believe in fortune tellers and have never engaged in any sort of it.

“Come here,” she says. “I’ll show you.”

For curiosity’s sake, I walk down the steps from where I am, and climb the four steps to meet her on her stoop. I’m tempted to see what she knows, trying not to let the tears fall in front of her. Her appearance alone warrants concern; there seems to be a twitch in her eye, and she’s wearing more mascara than a runway model. It looks uneven and gloppy. Her coral-colored lipstick goes beyond the outlines of her lips. It is difficult to take her seriously.

She stretches out her hand and asks for my palm. I extend my hand and turn my palm over for her to see.

PalmreadingShe examines it. “There is a lot of passion, here,” she’s pointing to the line that runs up across my palm in a curve where the line ends at the base of my fingertips. “There’s a great deal of love for that boy.”

I nod.

“However, you will not see him again after today,” she says.

I feel a lump build in my throat.

She continues to look at my hand. “You have a good career, but you’re not quite sure if you want to stay in it. You’re thinking of uprooting yourself and moving someplace far away.”

I get a little chill up my spine. I’ve had this particular thought on and off for the past month, and I’ve told no one. Not even Nick. Not my own parents, or my best friend, Ava.

She focuses on one particular line on my hand, tracing it with her fingertip for what feels like hours, studying it with concerned eyes. She looks puzzled.

“Interesting,” she says.

“What?” I ask, now confused.

“You will travel. You will go where you’ve considered going, and you will be happy.”

“Without Nick,” I say, more as a statement than a question.

“Yes,” she says. “There will be passion again, but only if you go.”

Nick and I have been together for a year. However, I can’t be with him long term, nor should we ever have been together. Nick is unhappily married. He lives apart from his wife, but they are not formally divorced. Nor are there any plans for them to be so. The passion with which Mable speaks is true; it currently exists, but it is a sick, twisted, unhealthy passion, and it has become the ruin of me.

Three weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity to work for my friend’s father’s business in Rome. I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and have seriously contemplated accepting it.

I scoff at the idea of leaving for a moment, and then I stop. She sees my face, and gives me a crooked, quirky smile.

Mable is offbeat, eccentric, ridiculously dressed, and the oddest person I’ve ever talked to, but something tells me to listen. Something makes me take her seriously.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

7 Meaningful Takeaways from 2016

Hello Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers,

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of the year again—a time to reflect on the past year and see if there were any takeaways and lessons learned from the last 365 days. In my college classes, I always have students write a final reflection that permits them the opportunity to critically analyze what they have learned over the course of the semester. I figured I’d do the same about what I’ve learned in 2016.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-4-37-37-pm#1: Your Health Is Everything

This past summer, I made a commitment to becoming healthier all around. This included diet, exercise, and my own personal health. Setting these goals allowed me to lose weight, feel better about myself, and engage in activities that were beneficial to my well-being. In addition to dropping nearly 30 pounds, I stayed committed to regular exercise and fitness. (I won’t lie: I think I ate a few too many holiday cookies, but we’re all entitled to a splurge now and then, right?). Additionally, I stayed focused on things that make me happy personally: writing, reading and fashion. These three hobbies of mine make me happy–and we’re all entitled to some personal indulgence now and then. (A day at the spa doesn’t hurt, either).

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#2: Really, Your Health is Everything: Don’t Ignore A Medical Issue

While I never made this public here on the blog or on social media, my students and colleagues who saw me regularly were aware that for the months of November through December, I wore a heart monitor for 30 days. After experiencing racing heartbeats and the feeling of my heart skipping beats, I took myself to my general doctor who then sent me off to a cardiologist. I had two EKGs, a heart sonogram, and wore the heart monitor that had a node and wire below my breast, above my other breast, and then the monitor that had to attach to my clothing. (I teased that I looked like Britney Spears wired up for her concert; all I needed was the microphone). There wasn’t a way to hide it, really. Plus, the thing made a high-pitched noise like Rudolph’s nose when my heart skipped beats. While I was terrified as to what the cardiologist might find, during those 30 days, I learned to appreciate my health more than I ever had before. I continued to exercise (though not as strenuously as I had previously), and I was determined to keep myself healthy when the monitor went away. Luckily for me, what I learned after the study is that I am prone to an extra heartbeat that can be set off by a lack of potassium, magnesium, electrolytes, and stress. When I hugged my cardiologist after hearing the good news, I likened my extra heartbeat to having extra love to give.

Well, at least that’s the way I’ve chosen to look at it.

Nevertheless, this episode taught me never to take things for granted, and that taking care of ourselves should always be a top priority.

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#3: Don’t Say NO To Travel

I saw California: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley and San Francisco. I almost didn’t go on this trip with my husband. I’m so glad I did. It was lovely–I absolutely loved it. As well, our family traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, where we did a lot of things, but primarily, we made memories.

That’s why you can’t say no to it. It’s not something you can purchase and give to someone–it’s experiential, and it’s something you should do as it bonds you and brings you together in more ways than one.

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#4: If The Shoe Fits, Buy It

I know material things shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all, but I’ve come to a conclusion in my middle-age years: if you find something you love and it will make you happy, buy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, music, a ticket to the theatre, movie, or sporting event, a purse you’ve saved for, or a diamond necklace—if it makes you happy and you can afford it without going into debt, get it. We only live one short life, so we might as well make ourselves happy.

#5: Make Time For Your Friends

This one’s a tough topic for me because I’m feeling like many of my friendships have changed and morphed over the years, and I blame a lot of that on social media and our busy family lives. My opinion is that because we are connected on social media 24-7, we think we are having meaningful relationships with people we used to talk on the phone with our go out with regularly. However, the truth is, these friendships have lost their special qualities when we think we can stay connected just through Facebook or Instagram. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to reach out more to friends the old-fashioned way–by calling them, inviting them to dinner, or by mailing them a handwritten letter. Reconnecting with our friends in the old way is what makes these friendships last…not posting and viewing each others’ photos on Facebook at the expense of spending time with one another.

Image result for what's your superpower#6: Inspire Others With Your Superpower

Whatever your amazing talent or gift is, you should consider sharing it with others in order to inspire them. For example, I received a lovely letter (mailed to my house, by the way!) from a student who told me I inspired her in many ways: to write, to pursue writing as a career, and maybe even to getting a master’s degree and teaching someday. I was tickled pink by this letter and will treasure it always; it made me realize that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing—teaching. That is my superpower. What’s yours? How can you inspire and encourage others? When you answer this question, I challenge you to do it. You will feel wonderful as you begin to help others find their way.

inn-significant-cover-verni#7: Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Doing Something You Love

In a few weeks, I’ll be putting out my latest novel entitled Inn Significant. I’ve worked on it all year, and I am almost ready to let it go. Let me tell you something you probably already know: putting something out into the universe leaves you very vulnerable. It’s not an easy thing to do, and you must have the strength and gumption to do it. Do you think I second-guess my characters, plot, and story line? Of course I do. Do you think I worry that people won’t like it? That would be a ‘yes.’ However, we cannot let these self-doubts and worry consume us. I love to write. I love to tell stories. I know my type of story isn’t for everybody, but guess what? That’s okay.

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If you love what you do, you must be confident in that love for it. Nobody wants to put out a bad product…we do it for the love of what it is. So, I am encouraging you to not let FEAR decide whether or not you get to do what you love. YOU get to do that.

That’s it folks. I hope some of these ring true for you as well. Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year filled with blessings. I’ll see you in 2017.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

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On Life

Friday Fiction | She Said, I Know What It’s Like To Be Dead

Ebenezer Scrooge

If you love the classic story of A Christmas Carol featuring Ebenezer Scrooge like I do, I hope you’ll be amused by today’s Friday Fiction.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I posted a short piece of fiction. I haven’t written flash fiction is so long. Today, I’ve attempted to write a short fictional story using a prompt from Brian Kiteley’s book, The 3 A.M. Epiphany. If you are a writer, and you don’t have Brian’s book, you should get it along with the sequel, The 4 A.M. Epiphany; they both contain writing prompts to get you thinking—and writing.

I worked hard this summer to finish my third novel, and I hope to have that out to you in January. In the meantime, Kiteley asks us to simply start the beginning of the piece with the following words that he pulled from lyrics written by Lennon and McCartney: She said, I know what it’s like to be dead. Here we go, as I beg Dickens for forgiveness, and allow Ebenezer Scrooge to say it like it is…from his perspective and not that of a narrator.

SHE SAID, I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE DEAD

She said, “I know what it’s like to be dead.”

She scared the Dickens out of me when the clock struck one, and I cowered under the covers. She was a frail looking thing, and I wondered what exactly her last meal had consisted of before she arrived at her current state. I thought about what I had eaten earlier: methinks it was a bowl of broth with a bit of bad beef in it. Marley had screamed at me at the top of his lungs when I questioned the integrity of his ghostliness, as I defiantly blamed his apparition on what I had previously consumed. However, seeing this petite, white-haired woman made me wonder just how long dead she was. She stood there staring at me, motionless, as her white garb gently floated around her body.

“What is it like to be dead?” I asked, hearing the words echo in my bedroom chamber.

“You tell me, Ebenezer,” she said. “It seems that something inside of you has been dead for some time.”

I had no idea what she meant, as the last time I checked, I had been very much alive. I took immediate offense to her statement.

“And how is it that you are abreast of my current disposition, Madame?” I retorted.

“Death does have some benefits, Ebenezer. Your behavior has indicated much to me over the years. And you didn’t always have such a miserly and miserable approach to life.”

I felt this apparition’s presence as an annoyingly bothersome invasion of my privacy, like a wart that wouldn’t go away. The last time I had a woman in my bedroom had been many years ago, before my sciatic nerve became an issue, and I can assure you things didn’t go too well. Prior to that, I had lost my one true love, Isabelle, because I apparently worked too much trying to make the perfect life for the two of us. She was ungrateful for my dedication to the future we had planned together, and mentioned on too many occasions that I was ignoring her and her needs. I struggled to find truth in this statement. Hadn’t she liked the fur muff I had given her? The angel brooch? The plethora of books to fill her shelves? How many more material things does a woman need, and how could I have devoted more time to her when I had to keep the counting house afloat? Truthfully, I hadn’t had too much luck with women, and I was assuming the same was going to be true tonight. I’d forever sworn them off and vowed to live in solitude. Hence, my particular vexation at what I was dealing with presently.

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“So—do you have a name?” I asked.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“That seems way too formal for this uncomfortable moment of familiarity and intimacy, wouldn’t you agree? You don’t have another name?”

“In life, my friends called me Eunice.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Why?”

“Well, that wouldn’t have been a name I wanted to be called in life,” I said.

“I beg your forgiveness, but Ebenezer isn’t that much better.”

“I like it fine,” I said, “though most people just refer to me as ‘Scrooge.'”

She scratched at her brow. She seemed a bit unnerved by my candor. I wasn’t often one to mince words. I’d always appreciated a direct approach in all of my interpersonal relationships, no matter how brutal it might come across, like when I scolded Bob Cratchit earlier for wanting to leave early on Christmas Eve, or when my nephew Fred begged me to come for Christmas dinner. What’s wrong with wanting to spend my only day off during the month of December alone?  I’ve got a stack of books to catch up on and I’d heard from reliable sources that Fred’s wife’s cooking left many leaving her dinner parties either still hungry or sick.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but is there a point to you continuing to float above my bed? Marley said you have something important to show me.”

“Yes, Ebenezer. I was sent here on the matter of your redemption,” she said.

“So, what you’re saying is that I have no choice in this matter. I must go with you, relive my past, and see how I could have improved?”

“That’s correct,” she said.

“That sucks,” I said. “Who really wants to go back and relive every single detail of a life lived? Most of it will be utterly mundane, with good and bad bits thrown in for excitement. It’s going to be so depressing.”

“One could approach it that way, or one could look at it as an opportunity to see that change is possible and that one really has had a wonderful life.”

“Ah, Eunice, I believe you are confusing two classic stories.”

“You are quite right, Ebenezer. Now do shut up and take my hand and let’s get this over with.”

***

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

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On Life

The Friday Random Thoughts Roundup

I haven’t been blogging much lately, and I’m feeling badly about it. I’ve been incredibly busy with two kids in high school, teaching at the university, volunteering for things, and serving on committees, in addition to actually trying to fit my new mentality of health and fitness into my daily regime. I wish I could write an insightful, meaningful post right now, but all I have time for is a quick roundup of random thoughts and things I want to share with you.

So here it goes…

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  1. I finally got around to watching the movie Me Before You last weekend which was based on the book by JoJo Moyes. I always say the book is better than the movie in almost every instance, and this will be no different. However, I will tell you that the movie did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the book and offered a clear understanding of the novel. I think that the cast was perfect. I loved both of the main characters who were portrayed by Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. There was good chemistry between them, and if I were the author of the book and I watched the film, I’d be pretty pleased that the director didn’t take too many liberties with my original story. Grab a tissue and watch it if you haven’t already. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. (And I’m saying this as someone who LOVED that book and would put it on a list of favorites).
  2. If you’re ever on a tight timetable to arrive somewhere by car, you will inevitably get  stuck behind every law-abiding citizen who prides himself on doing the actual speed limit. Yesterday, en route to a few engagements, every single time I got behind the wheel, I found myself behind the slowest drivers on the planet.
  3. I’ve been exercising regularly now since the end of May. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and feel better. It’s amazing what a little self-discipline and determination can do for you.
  4. Yesterday, during a lecture in Feature Writing, we all decided that we were going to be word artists. If you think of writing as an art, and consider yourself someone who is crafting prose on the page, thinking about it in the same way an artist thinks about brush strokes is helpful. We should always care what goes into our writing and not be bashful about taking things out. Artists don’t leave things in that shouldn’t be there. We are word artists. I love that.artist
  5. Every time I get together with my Fabulous Friday Travel Writing Class it makes me want to go somewhere, experience it, and write about it. I love writing fiction, but can you imagine how fantabulous it would be to write about travel for a living? Um, yes, I’ll have a slice of that pie and a ticket to anywhere. (This by no means is suggesting that I don’t love my job as a professor; I consider it the best profession in the world. Travel writing might be a close second, or novel writing, or designing clothes…)
  6. As I’m combing through the novel I wrote this summer and making my final edits, I’m always amazed by two things: (1) How much I change as I edit, and (2) How what I’ve written always changes me. That’s the thing about writing: it’s often transformational. My new book should be ready by late October.
  7. I love this quote: I’VE THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING AWAY AS AN ADULT MORE THAN I EVER DID AS A KID. Remember when summer days were spent outside and nights were spent catching fireflies? Remember thinking summer was long and exciting? Remember watching Little House on the Prairie and The Love Boat? If you do, you’re most likely from my era of childhood, when our primary responsibility was to enjoy ourselves. Nowadays, we’ve got grown up responsibilities. I hope the kids of today try to enjoy their childhoods. There’s no need to grow up so fast.

Really.

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xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Feel free to connect on Instagram @stephverni or on Twitter @stephverni.

 

 

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