Checking on Your Homework

by Virginia Parker Staat

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.      ~ John Muir (journal fragment, c. 1871)

During the 2014 RMOWP conference, Continue reading Checking on Your Homework

Like Candy on My Tongue

by Virginia Parker Staat

“What crazies we writers are, our heads full of language like buckets of minnows standing in the moonlight on a dock.”

 ~ Flannery O’Connor

Last week, while rummaging for adjectives in my word box, I came across a list that I had written when we lived in Mexico. The list was titled, Words Like Candy on My Tongue. It contained words like palomino, chrysanthemum, and soliloquy.

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Murdering Lola

By Virginia Parker Staat

“The way human beings describe and explain the behavior of other animals is limited by the language they use to talk about things in general. By engaging in anthropomorphism – using human terms to explain animals’ emotions or feelings – humans make other animals’ worlds accessible to themselves.”

     ~ Michael Bekof, Animal Consciousness and Science Matter

We have recently become beekeepers. Last month we purchased a colony of bees and placed the hive in our friends’ pasture. The four of us plan to work the bees together and share the harvest of honey. An Italian queen, christened Lola by my dear friend, leads our bee colony. Why an Italian queen? We are told that Italian queens are less aggressive and more productive, making them perfect queens for new beekeepers. My beekeeping instructor at the apiary where we purchased the hive, however, insists that we need to re-queen with a mite-resistant Russian queen within the next six months. Of course, that means murdering Lola.

Continue reading Murdering Lola

When Creativity Goes Flat

Article and photo by Virginia Parker Staat

“Writer’s block doesn’t exist… lack of imagination does.”      ~ Cyrese Covelli

Last month a first-grade friend of mine in Colorado sent me her version of Flat Stanley. For those of you who don’t know Flat Stanley, he is a children’s book character who was squashed by a bulletin board and lived to tell the tale. When he wanted to go on a trip, his parents folded him up, stuffed him in an envelope, and mailed him to California. Jeff Brown was the creative genius behind Flat Stanley. In the words of today’s culture, the experiment went viral. Continue reading When Creativity Goes Flat

Writing Like a Texas Winter

By Virginia Parker Staat

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first time or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

~Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

As I write this, it is early December. Vibrant fall colors have arrived in South Texas. Sweet gum trees, bathed in red, shimmer and tremble in the chill of a north wind. Cloaked in deep rust, bald cypress sway, their feathery foliage dancing across sidewalks. Oak and sycamore revel in a myriad of yellows, golds, and oranges. It is a glorious autumn day, indeed. It feels as if a day like this whispers secrets about the coming winter. Continue reading Writing Like a Texas Winter

Less Than Five Percent

By Virginia Parker Staat

“I want to see the thirst inside the syllables. I want to touch the fire in the sound: I want to feel the darkness of the cry. I want words as rough as virgin rocks.” – Pablo Neruda, Verb

Passive verbs continue to haunt many writers. They remain terribly easy to write yet offer so little to our stories. Years ago one of my professors gave me a rule that I still use today. He insisted that good writing should contain less than five percent passive verbs. He believed this fervently. If he was in a particularly foul mood, he returned graded papers with each passive verb circled in red ink. Continue reading Less Than Five Percent

Formatting Your Manuscript

by Virginia Parker Staat

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
– Gustave Flaubert

Often a writer’s greatest challenge is to find the perfect enticement that will draw an editor to pick their manuscript from the slush pile and read it. Surprisingly, how a writer formats their manuscript can play a major role. A poorly formatted manuscript too often quickly ends up in the accompanying self-addressed and stamped return envelope. Continue reading Formatting Your Manuscript