In Memoriam: Sanji Gupta – 1999 – 2015


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One late-summer, fin de siècle night, Marge woke me, holding a tiny ball of black fluff in her hands. “Can we keep him?” she asked.

He was dressed in cockleburs and fear and needed to eat for a week without stopping. How could I say no? This was how Sanji came into our lives.Sanji-4

Distracted by tins of flaked tuna and super supper, I set about combing the burrs from his tail, then, when he’d eaten his fill, I tucked him under my covers and held him close until morning. Over the years, that remained his favorite place to sleep, head beside mine on the pillow, curled up like a little teddy bear. He didn’t stay little for long.

He told us his name was Sanji, Sanji Gupta. He was a prince among cats, proud and funny, with a regal air that spoke to an ancient lineage. His paws were immense but always velvet, his silky black fur and plume of tail – never again to run afoul of cockles – made him look like a great bearcat.

Over the years, he became the benevolent leader of the brood, not only accepting of newcomers but taking an active role in their raising. When Gatsby had her kittens Parker, Carter, and Poe, Sanji was the only other cat in the house she’d allow near them. He became their surrogate papa, keeping them safe, teaching them well. 

Sanj & Cart

Sanji and Baby Carter

Thunder was the only thing he was ever afraid of. And ever since the tornado of ’03, he was the best barometer around, scurrying under my bed at the first hint of a thunderstorm, coming out again as soon as it was safe. sanji

So for almost sixteen years he was friend, companion, and inspiration. Then he suddenly got sick, aggressively so. And today I kept my promise to always take care of him, and now Sanji sits at Bast’s right paw.Sanji-3

Now he plays tag with lightning bolts and dreams he is the Panther Maharajah, ruling the forests of Chandrapur. 

Every so often, if we’re lucky. we are blessed by truly exceptional companions. And every so often, with holes in our hearts, we have to let them go. And miss them.


Sanji is missed. Terribly. 

A to Z Writing Challenge #1: A Dark & Stormy Night….


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Here is my rather Gothic take on the A-Z Challenge #1:

A dark and stormy night hung over the moor like an Elsinor arras. Boughs bent near breaking, the trees whipped and dipped in a wind-tossed tarantella. Crazy for man or beast to be out in a night like this!

Driving down a hedge-lined road, ‘crazy’ Zandra searched for refuge from the torrential downpour. Each cottage she passed was locked tight and empty, as if the inhabitants had long since fled to higher ground. Far across a field, lights flickered through unshuttered windows, beckoning.stormy night

“Granville Grange” read the carved plaque to the right of the oaken door. Her hand grasped the massive brass knocker and gave it a solid thunk. Ignoring the rain running under the collar of her jacket, she shifted back and forth, waiting – hoping – for rescue.

Just as she was about to resign herself to weathering the tempest in her car, a pale, wisp of a man opened the door.

“Killer weather we’re having,” he said, ushering her into the front hall. “Leave your coat and shoes and come dry off by the fire.” Madeira and sandwiches were set out in the parlour as if she’d been expected.

“Nights like this have a way of bringing visitors,” her host said cryptically. “Once upon a time the Grange was the only shelter to be found for miles. Pardon my manners: I’m Damien Granville.”

‘Quirky’ did not do the man justice. Rubbing his hands together, he served his guest a glass of wine then, adjusting his waistcoat, struck a Byronic pose by the mantelpiece.

“Sure must get lonely out here,” Zandra remarked, the amber potable muffling her mind like an angora tea cozy.

“Terribly,” Damien replied, “but then the winds always turn. Ubi sunt the days of quiet summer, eh? Voila! Wild and wicked,” he grinned. “Xmas in July.

“You will have this room,” he said, escorting her to a chamber more Wuthering Heights than St. Mary Mead.

Zander crumpled onto the canopied bed, eyes heavy with unbidden sleep, as he closed the door and turned the key.

The ‘A’ through ‘Z’ Writing Prompt Challenge #1 – ‘A dark and stormy night…’W


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Shawn MacKENZIE:

And another take on A-Z.

Originally posted on the secret keeper:

The ‘A’ through ‘Z’ Writing Prompt Challenge #1
22nd June 2015

a dark and stormy night

A dark and stormy night…
By Jennifer Kiley

A dark and stormy night brought out the fear in me as I was driving alone on the quiet highway, knowing all the sane people were tucked away in the warmth of their comfortable houses. But not the homeless, they are always out there somewhere searching for some place to stay. Covering their heads is always something they nervously think of and what they want the most. Darkness is always a troubling time. Everything makes them nervous. Fearing harm might come to them in the night.

Getting out of the elements is important. Health needs to be taken care of to keep them strong enough to survive. It is difficult to know how to survive when once you had a home and it was taken from you. Jobs were also taken…

View original 256 more words

The writer’s ABC exercise, with Pamela Wight


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Shawn MacKENZIE:

Great way to tap the creative juices!

Originally posted on Karen R. Sanderson's Blog:

Pam WightPamela Wight, of Rough Wighting, introduced this writing-off-the-cuff exercise at the recent Word Sharks’ Conference in Newark, DE.

And what a great exercise it is! Start with a prompt – Pamela gave us the opening, “A little while ago…” – and just keep writing. Each new sentence must start with the next letter of the alphabet.

From Pamela’s notes handed out at the conference: keep your hand moving, lose control, don’t think, don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar, and be free to write the worst junk in America.

If you have about ten minutes, I encourage you to try it.

Here are my results from this exercise (I have edited a teensy bit, just to aid in the ease of reading).

*   *   *

A little while ago, I realized that I wanted to sponsor my own writing conference. Because I need attention, or because I wanted to…

View original 220 more words

Independent Bookstore Day!


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I love bookstores. I love the smell, the sound, the welcoming pace of bookstores.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve found joy and solace roaming among the stacks, pulling up a piece of floor or cushy chair, and exploring the magic of East Egg or The Land, deciding whether or not to make friends with Thomas Convenant or the Sandman and bring them home with me.

Back in the day, of course, every little town had a bookstore – or two. Independent and distinct, they offered classics and bestsellers, dictionaries and guides to local flora and fauna. They also reflected the personal tastes of their proprietors: some might be heavy on kids’ books, some on politics or contemporary fiction. And if you wanted that obscure new book your cousin Lily mentioned at Sunday dinner, out came Books in Print and an order would be graciously placed.

As a reader, this was heaven. As a writer, my appreciation has only grown.Boulder-Bookstore_Sam-Hall

The bookstore landscape has changed over the years. First, behemoths like Barnes & Noble and their late rival, Borders, moved in. They had space and inventory and remainder bins. You didn’t have to wait a week for that special order, a marketing edge in a culture that thrives on immediate gratification. Then came e-books and the leviathan of all leviathans, Amazon.

Loud and long, the literary pundits sounded the death knell of the independent bookstore. Fortunately, over the past couple of years communities of book lovers around the country are proving pundits wrong. There is a positive resurgence of independent bookstores. That, in itself, is cause for dancing in the street!

This Saturday, May 2, 2015, is Independent Bookstore Day. Bookstores and their patrons around the country are celebrating.

Linda and Phil in front of the Bennington Bookshop

Linda and Phil in front of the Bennington Bookshop

In my own backyard, the new owners of the Bennington Bookshop, Linda Foulsham and Phil Lewis, are presenting a full day of bibliocentric fun. There will be tales for the kids, evening wine and book chat for the grown-ups. My friend and fellow author, John Goodrich, will be talking about getting published, and I have the honor of giving a reading from my books and stories – about Dragons, of course.

If you are in the area, do stop by. If far away, check out your own local bookstore. Celebrate their uniqueness. Perhaps pick up a few literary friends and bring them home.

May 2 logoSchedule of Events on May 2:

10.30am: Story time for children with Chris Gingo
11.30am: Local author – Shawn MacKenzie
2.00pm: Local historian – Joe Hall
3.00pm: Local poet – Steve Haggerty
4.00pm: Local author – John Goodrich
5.00pm – 7.00pm: Cheese and wine and book conversations


Quest IV: Happy Earth Day – Answers, Please…


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Happy Earth Day.

Ok, I know that is an autumn photo, but the Dragons insisted. I hope everyone is able to get out and walk lightly through the world, eyes wide with wonder.

On a more personal note, I want to wish a happy third birthday to the kids, Carter, Poe, and Parker. They are wonders of the first order.P1010193

And now..drum roll, please…the answers to Sunday’s literary quiz are:

  1. Alice Walker                 (p) Temple of My Familiar
  2. Anne Rice                    (d) Cry to Heaven
  3. C.S. Lewis                     (k) Out of the Silent Planet
  4. Charles Dickens            (e) Dombey & Son
  5. F.Scott Fitzgerald          (b) Babylon Revisited
  6. Henry James                (q) Washington Square
  7. Herman Melville           (g) Mardi
  8. Jane Austen                 (i) Northanger Abbey
  9. Joseph Conrad              (j) Nostromo
  10. Leo Tolstoy                  (l) Resurrection
  11. Mark Twain                  (h) Mysterious Stranger
  12. Nathaniel Hawthorne     (m) Celestial Railroad
  13. Oscar Wilde                 (n) Reluctant Giant
  14. Rudyard Kipling            (c) Captains Courageous
  15. Virginia Woolf              (f) Jacob’s Room
  16. Willa Cather                (o) Song of the Lark
  17. William Faulkner          (a) A Fable

And for extra points:


How did everyone do?

Now go out and take that walk!


Questing Beast IV: Minor Works of Major Authors


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Happy Sunday! I hope everyone’s taxes are paid and the little grey cells are well rested.

It has been a busy week and the next promises more of the same. Still, I do not wish to abandon my quixotic quest for cultural literacy entirely.

Today I offer something literary and fun. No need for math here!


Below you will find 17 well-known authors, all with prodigious bibliographies. You will also find the titles of 17 works, less well-known to some, yet each corresponding to an author. Simply match one from column A with one from column B. (Give yourselves bonus points if you can match the author to their picture above.)


  1. Alice Walker
  2. Anne Rice
  3. C. S. Lewis
  4. Charles Dickens
  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. Henry James
  7. Herman Melville
  8. Jane Austen
  9. Joseph Conrad
  10. Leo Tolstoy
  11. Mark Twain
  12. Nathaniel Hawthorne
  13. Oscar Wilde
  14. Rudyard Kipling
  15. Virginia Woolf
  16. Willa Cather
  17. William FaulknerP1010342


a)  A Fable
b)  Babylon Revisited
c)  Captains Courageous
d)  Cry to Heaven
e)  Dombey and Son
f)   Jacob’s Room
g)  Mardi: And a Voyage Thither
h)  The Mysterious Stranger
i)   Northanger Abbey
j)   Nostromo
k)  Out of the Silent Planet
l)   Resurrection
m) The Celestial Railroad
n)  The Reluctant Giant
o)  The Song of the Lark
p)  The Temple of My Familiar
q)  Washington Square

Waiting by Washington Square

Answers will be posted on Wednesday.

Have fun.

Questing Beast III: How did Everyone Do?


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I hope everyone had a delightful holiday weekend.

And I hope everyone breezed through the performing arts leg of our cultural literacy excursion.

Below are the answers, along with a few extra bits of information and visual aids, of course. To refresh your memories – goodness knows mine is shot! – the choices were:

A) Dance
B) Theatre
C) Music
D) Film

  1. Agnes de Mille             – A –  Founding member of ABT; “Rodeo,”…

    Agnes de Mille

    Agnes de Mille

  2. Alvin Ailey                   – A – Alvin Ailey Am. Dance Theatre; “Revelations,”…

    Alvin Ailey & Judith Jamison

    Alvin Ailey & Judith Jamison

  3. Bessie Smith               – C – Empress of the Blues

    Bessie Smith

    Bessie Smith

  4. Buffy Sainte-Marie       – C – Cree folksinger/songwriter

    Buffy Sainte-Marie

    Buffy Sainte-Marie

  5. Charles Mingus            – C – Jazz bassist
  6. David Gilmour             – C – Pink Floyd vocalist/guitarist

    David Gilmour

    David Gilmour

  7. Feodor Chaliapin          – C – Basso profundo; quintisential Boris Godunov
  8. François Truffaut          – D – auteur director of Jules et Jim400 Blows,...



  9. George Balanchine       – C – Choreographer, New York City Ballet
  10. George Roy Hill            – D – director, The Sting, Slaughterhouse-Five,…
  11. Harold Prince               – B – B’way director: West Side Story, Sweeney Todd,...

    Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim

    Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim

  12. Jane Campion              – D – Director, The Piano, Bright Star….
  13. Jean Rosenthal            – B – Pioneer in lighting design

    Jean Rosenthal

    Jean Rosenthal

  14. José Limón                  – A – Modern dancer/choreographer
  15. Joseph Papp                 – B – Director/ producer; founder of The Public Theatre

    Joseph Papp

    Joseph Papp

  16. Julie Taymor                – B – Director/designer, The Lion King,…
  17. Katherine Dunham      – A – Dancer/choreographer/activist

    Katherine Dunham

    Katherine Dunham

  18. Lee Strasberg              – B – Actor/teacher, Actor’s Studio & the Group Theatre

    Lee Strasberg

    Lee Strasberg

  19. Louis Malle                  – D – Director, Pretty Baby, Lacombe Lucien,...
  20. Ma Rainey                   – C – Mother of the Blues

    Ma Rainey

    Ma Rainey

  21. Marie Petipa                – A – Russian prima ballerina
  22. Merce Cunningham     – A – Dancer/choreographer, M. Cunningham Dance Co.

    Merce Cunningham

    Merce Cunningham

  23. Michael Kidd                – A – B’way choreographer, Guys & Dolls, Finian’s Rainbow,…
  24. Milos Forman              – D – Director, Hair, Amadeus, One Flew…Cuckoo’s Nest,…
  25. Nadia Boulanger          – C – Classical composer/conductor/pianist/teacher

    Nadia Boulanger

    Nadia Boulanger

  26. Patti Smith                 – C – Punk-rock icon

    Patti Smith

    Patti Smith

  27. Pedro Almodovar         – D – Director, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Volver, Talk to Her,…
  28. Peter Brook                 – B – British Director, Marat/Sade, The Mahabharata,…

    Peter Brook

    Peter Brook

  29. Philidor                       – C – Oboe virtuoso



  30. Ray Manzarek             – C – Keyboardist for The Doors
  31. Robert Altman            – D – Director, *M*A*S*H*, Nashville, Gosford Park,…

    Robert Altman

    Robert Altman

  32. Ruth St. Denis            – A – Modern-dance pioneer; Denishawn Dance School
  33. Santo Loquasto           – B – Stage design titan

    Santo Loquasto

    Santo Loquasto

  34. Savion Glover              – A – Tap dancer/choreographer

    Savion Glover

    Savion Glover

  35. Sergei Diaghilev          – A – Ballets Russes founder
  36. Susan Stroman           – B – B’way director/choreographer, The Producers,…
  37. Trevor Nunn               – B – Director, Royal Shakespeare Co., Cats, Les Miz,

    Trevor Nunn

    Trevor Nunn

  38. Tyrone Guthrie           – B – Director/founder, The Guthrie Theatre
  39. Werner Herzog            – D – New German Cinema director, Fitzcarraldo,…
    Werner Herzog & Bear

    Werner Herzog & Bear


  40. Yehudi Menuhin          – C – Violinist/conductor

Questing Beast III: The Performing Arts – Pounding the Cultural Boards


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Pete Seeger

Music, theatre, movies, dance – the performing arts intersect out lives daily. We turn on the radio, catch a matinee at the local Cineplex or on TV.


The Globe Theatre

Live dance and theatre may elude many outside of metropolitan areas, but thank goodness for PBS and cable.

So…today I give you a list of 40 people. Some familiar, some less so. They are associated with

a) Dance
b) Theatre
c) Music
d) Film


Rudolph Nureyev

Mix, match, and have fun!

  1. Agnes de Mille
  2. Alvin Ailey
  3. Bessie Smith
  4. Buffy Sainte-Marie
  5. Charles Mingus
  6. David Gilmour
  7. Feodor Chaliapin
  8. Francois Truffaut
  9. George Balanchine
  10. George Roy Hill
  11. Harold Prince
  12. Jane Campion
  13. Jean Rosenthal
  14. Jose Limon
  15. Joseph Papp
  16. Julie Taymor
  17. Katherine Dunham
  18. Lee Strasberg
  19. Louis Malle
  20. Ma Rainey


    Charlie Chaplin behind the camera

  21. Marie Petipa
  22. Merce Cunningham
  23. Michael Kidd
  24. Milos Forman
  25. Nadia Boulanger
  26. Patti Smith
  27. Pedro Almodovar
  28. Peter Brook
  29. Philidor
  30. Ray Manzarek
  31. Robert Altman
  32. Ruth St. Denis
  33. Santo Loquasto
  34. Savion Glover
  35. Sergei Diaghilev
  36. Susan Stroman
  37. Trevor Nunn
  38. Tyrone Guthrie
  39. Werner Herzog
  40. Yehudi Menuhin

Since many of us are in the midst of chocolate bunny/matzo frenzy, I wish one and all happy holidays and will post the answers on Tuesday.



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