Crikey! It’s National Punctuation Day

By Virginia Parker Staat

 “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

I recently edited a children’s book written by a Glaswegian friend of mine (aka, a native of Glasgow, Scotland). I quickly recognized that editing his book would take a bit more effort on my part than I originally anticipated. I had forgotten about the many differences between American versus United Kingdom styles of spelling and punctuation. 

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The Doctor is IN

By Virginia Parker Staat

 “What kind of advice do you expect for only a nickel?”
~ Charles M. Schulz: Peanuts, Lucy van Pelt from her Psychiatry Booth

Lucy van Pelt didn’t have a lemonade stand in the Peanuts cartoon series. She had a psychiatry booth. From behind her rickety, wooden booth, Lucy offered her own brand of advice to whomever had a nickel. Surprisingly, Lucy can be a role model for us writers. 

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Wisdom from a Master

By Virginia Parker Staat

“Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
~ Barry Lopez

Acclaimed nature writer Barry Lopez passed away on Christmas Day, 2020. I recently read a tribute to Lopez in the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. I learned several interesting things about the man. For example, Lopez was an accomplished photographer before he became a writer. Perhaps his beginning in photography enabled him to paint those lovely landscapes into words. Lopez was a master at writing landscapes. His lyrical descriptions earned him a National Book Award and other exemplary honors.

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The Original Photo Essay

Photos & text by Virginia Parker Staat

“Visual storytelling utilizes both language and art to pass on
the essence of who we are.”  

~ Debbie Millman

It has been over a year since David and I visited Australia. One of the highlights of our journey was our trip to the Mitchell Falls rock art complex. These ochre paintings are believed to be among the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Some as old as 80,000 years.

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A Run-In with the Run-On

By Virginia Parker Staat

Punctuation is a courtesy designed to help readers to understand a story
without stumbling. ~ Lynne Truss

It was early in my college career, long ago and in a time when students learned to diagram sentences. One of my English professors challenged the class to diagram a 1,288-word sentence. It was a convoluted, rabbit-trail of a sentence, filled with countless clauses. I took the challenge… and failed miserably.

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Listen to the Music

by Virginia Parker Staat

When the lyrical muse sings, the creative pen dances. ~ Aberjhani

I am working to revive an old manuscript. The story is the retelling of a myth I found buried in the ancient Mayan Popol Vuh. It is a strange and lovely story but has remained so incomplete and unsatisfying to me that I tucked it away in a drawer for nearly twenty years. When I pulled it out of its hiding place several weeks ago, the secret to what is missing fairly exploded in my face. Quite simply, my words lack rhythm. They do not dance.

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Believing in Fairy Tales

By Virginia Parker Staat

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ Neil Gaiman

I suppose some may consider it an odd place for a nonfiction writer to begin, but for me, the fairy tale structure is the one I use most frequently. Fairy tales use a narrative structure, which lends itself well to nonfiction. I’m not talking about fairy tale formula. I can’t recall a single piece of nonfiction that includes magic beans or a pumpkin turning into a carriage. Rather, a fairy tale narrative structure uses specific building blocks to tell a story. This narrative structure determines how our plot is unveiled to our readers. 

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Sensory Perception

Text & photo by Virginia Parker Staat

Writing is like painting with words, the paper is the canvas, the pen is the brush, the words are the colors and the verbs, nouns and adjectives are the blending of the hues that add depth to the picture you are creating.  ~  Reed Abbitt Moore

baobab tree
The magnificent and wondrous baobab, or tree of life.

On our recent visit to the Kimberly region of Australia, we discovered the baobab. These trees are truly magnificent with their massive, bottle-shape trunks, spreading crowns, and finger-like branches. They only reside in the drier regions of Africa, Madagascar, and northern Australia. Known as trees of life, a single baobab can hold 120,000 liters of water in the fibrous pith of its trunk and branches. In times of drought, Bushmen poke holes in its trunk to draw out the water while animals chew on the baobab branches, using them like straws to drink. 

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Ode to a Chippendale Dancer

By Virginia Parker Staat

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining;
show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
~ Anton Chekhov

When we travel into the city, we almost always stop by our favorite Italian restaurant. It is a third-generation bistro begun in 1938 in the home where the owners raised their children. At one time it was billed as one of the top five restaurants in the world to visit. Now, with his beloved Josephine gone and Sammy in his eighties, the restaurant still has excellent fare but not the five-star quality it once boasted. 

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Happy Punctuation Day!

By Virginia Parker Staat

“In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, 
the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets overexcited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.”

~ Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

On September 24, our nation will celebrate its 16thNational Punctuation Day. Jeff Rubin founded the event in 2004 as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipses.” 

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