Reprise: Cats vs. Kittens

In honor of our adoption of two new cats, I am re-posting the blog I wrote 18 years ago when we adopted the last two. If you want more info on the newest ones, Gerty and Bob, email me at

Cats vs. Kittens

I haven’t had a kitten in 23 years. Now we have two.

My legendary cat, Maxwell Perkins, a calico Maine coon, finally gave up the day after Tony and I returned from our three-month trip. She had waited for us. 

She was one month short of her 23rd birthday, so we’ll give her 23. She was a great cat. Maxi outlasted at least three different “fathers” from my single life, all of whom had to pass her test. If she didn’t like him, she’d leave me a turd in the living room.

Maxi replaced Clement, healthy as a hawk for four years, who then gave in to feline leukemia. He was an indoor cat, but on his tombstone it should have read,

He would rather have been outside.”

Maxi never wanted to go out. She would stand at the doorway, look out, and say,

No, thank you.”

I chose her name—the name of the legendary Scribner’s editor of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald who was the subject of my thesis—before I chose her. She took to it well, sitting on my desk, munching on index cards, pens, and magazine covers. My students knew there were two answers to the question,

Who was Maxwell Perkins?” “(1) The editor of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and (2) your cat.”

Maxi waited when I went away to live in Ireland with Tony for a year; she traveled by plane when Tony and I moved here (when the flight attendant got water for her it was Evian). Maxi retired to Florida in a fur coat.

After she was gone, we weren’t sure if we’d be moving, taking a job in another city, getting a new apartment, whatever. We had a good excuse to not replace her.

Besides, if we did get a cat, his/her name would be


Using one of my creative-problem solving rules,

Do the opposite,”

I decided the replacement would be two newborns, named William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, after the founders of the Abbey Theatre, the subject of my dissertation. Time to move on from the master’s to the Ph.D. We had the names, but not the cats. Yet.

The cats in the alley came around, hopeful.

We’re not interviewing,”

I’d tell them.

Then one morning I had a vivid dream about Maxi. I woke up really thinking about her. When I opened the front door to get the newspaper, there was a kitten sitting on the front stoop. Tony said,

Is this a new promotion? A kitten with every copy?”

The kitten belonged to the new neighbor. But I knew it was time.

My friend Debbie in central Florida was on the lookout. Her vet had candidates. I e-mailed my requirements.

Two brand new kittens, William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, brother and sister. If that’s what you’ve got, we’ll come get them.”

She did, so we did.

Tony and I took a road trip. Waiting for us on Debbie’s bathroom floor were two black and grey fuzzballs, the exact opposite of Maxi, except in the cute department. 

Willie and Augusta traveled well and lived the first few days mostly in our air-conditioned bedroom (while I type, sweating, in the dining room).

Kittens are different from Maxi. They can hear. And see. And they JUMP up on the bed. And they don’t have a set place to sleep yet.

They will.

But there’s a bigger difference. Maxi was mine. When she replaced Clement I was in a long-term relationship, and I had contributed the cat. When I moved out, she came with me.

Now I’m married. These are OUR cats. Tony and I have rented apartments together, bought a car together, relocated to Florida together.

But this is big.

What if something happens to them? They are sooooooo little. What if one of us rolls over on them? What if they get sick? Half of me assumes they will last until they are 23. The other half thinks they are done for every time they fall asleep. (Gussie falls asleep face down in her food dish, snoring. Very lady-like.)

But they are here now. And they wake us up in the morning. And again in the middle of the night. And they are waiting when we come home.

Just like Maxi.

Tony, Willie and Gussie in Florida

K. Donnelly Communications’ Latest Publication: “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, Volume I–1920

K. Donnelly Communications is proud to announce the latest addition to its self-published works, the collection of postings from our sister blog, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume I–1920. Here’s the posting from the launch on February 1, 2021:

“Such Friends”:  Today!

We interrupt our usual chronicling of what was happening in the literary 1920s for news of the official publication on Amazon of the book of these blogs, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume I—1920, by your blog host, Kathleen Dixon Donnelly.

Such Friends Cover Small Final

Cover design by Lisa Thomson

This volume chronicles in over 90 vignettes the events that affected the literary world 100 years ago. It is the first in a planned series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, which focuses on the legendary writers and artists who socialized in salons in the early years of the 20th century—William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table—and also includes those who orbited around them such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ezra Pound and others.

The series “Such Friends:  The Literary 1920s” is based in part on my research for my Ph.D. in Communications from Dublin City University in Ireland. My investigations into creative writers in the early 20th century began with Manager as Muse, a case study of Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, the topic of my MBA thesis at Duquesne University in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Manager as Muse ebook cover
Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

Cover design by Jean Boles

All vignettes in this first volume, covering 1920, originally appeared on this blog. The book is formatted so that you can dip in and out, follow favorite writers, or read straight through from January 1st to December 31st.

And 1920 is just the beginning. You’ve already been reading here about what was going on in 1921. And we’ve got nine more years to go! It was quite a decade.

The book is available now in print or e-book formats from Amazon. “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume I—1920 was beautifully designed by Lisa Thomson [] and created on Amazon by Loral and Seth Pepoon of Selah Press []. And they did a great job [I’m biased].

And so far, the reviews are good!  Click here to read more.

For complimentary review copies of “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume I—1920, email me at

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Seven Things I’ve Learned by Traveling Abroad for Work

Having spent 12 weeks plus 12 days this calendar year away from home—mostly working abroad in China and the US–I decided it is time to pass along some of my wisdom:

  1. As soon as you get to your hotel room, go to the bathroom. If there is anything wrong with the plumbing, you want them to move you before you unpack, not after. This goes for every hotel—no matter how many stars.
  2. Always bring one set of crummy clothes to wear in the room. When packing, you always think of what to wear to meetings, and teaching, and nights out. But when you’re back in the room at 8 pm, with nothing to wear but your jammies, you’ll be asleep in 10 minutes. My old lady travel trousers come in handy.
  3. Never reject an HBO [or similar channel] programme until you’ve checked it out on Wikipedia [or Google if you’re not in China]. I missed out on The Danish Girl because I thought, ‘Well, that sounds boring.’ Since then, picked up Eyes in the Sky and Bastille Day. Corollary rule #1: Always trust Idris Elba. Corollary rule #2:  Best stuff is on late at night. Or weekends. Surf the dial. No matter what language. You’ll be surprised.

idris elba

Idris Elba—a sure bet

  1. You can check out schedules for HBO, etc., on line, but don’t trust them. I’m looking at you, HBO Asia. Where the heck was Curb Your Enthusiasm?!
  2. Don’t say, ‘That’s not the best paella I’ve ever had.’ Do say, ‘That’s the best paella I’ve ever had in China…’
  3. Sit in the back and look out the side window. Trust me.
  4. Never put anything important in the same pocket with your Kleenex. No matter where you are.

Anyone care to add any others?

‘What a great client!’

In this business, you don’t always get to say that.

But here at K. Donnelly Communications’ world headquarters, we’ve just finished a terrific project with a terrific team.

Through mutual friends, Jim Kwaiser, founder and owner of western Pennsylvania-based consulting firm. C.H.A.L.L.E.N.G.E.S., Inc., contacted us for help with a book he was working on, Transforming Family Businesses:  From Dysfunctional to Extraordinary.

Jim and his wife Ann have consulted with family businesses for over 60 years. Designed to provide guidelines for all types of families in business, Transforming Family Businesses, available on Amazon in print or e-versions, contains Jim’s valuable advice gained from years of experience. Real-life stories of families are used to illustrate the principles discussed in the book, and it is definitely a subject I am personally interested in, having grown up in a family business myself.

We base our philosophy on putting ‘family first,’” says Jim. “And that is the theme of the book. We have found this to be the key to move families and their businesses from dysfunctional to extraordinary. And it can be done.”

When Jim contacted us, he had already written ten or so chapters of the book; he needed help with editing, proofreading, and shaping the structure.

K. Donnelly Communications went to work!

Over a few months, thanks to email, internet, and Track Changes, drafts of the chapters went back and forth. And with each exchange we both felt that the final work was improved.

Jim found Lisa Thomson of BZ Studio near Atlanta, Georgia, who was invaluable in designing the look of the book, choosing the typefaces and adding photos. Jim completed the production process by publishing Transforming Family Businesses on Amazon through their CreateSpace service. It looks great!

TransformingFamilyBusinesses Cover (1)

Previously, K. Donnelly Communications had helped our friend Howard J. Manns, also from Pennsylvania and a great client, with his two self-published books, What the Doctor Orders, about his specialty, health care marketing, and Success and Lunacy, about his other specialty, his nutso life.

The moral of the story is that you can do it too! Have you always felt you had a book in you? Self-publishing services, like Lulu and CreateSpace, make it economical to publish yourself.

But anyone who has been through the process will give you the same advice:  Hire professional help.

You may need someone to write the book initially, but you definitely will need someone to work on the copy and form it, visually, into a viable, professional, product in print and online. You can get some ideas of costs here.

Our motto at K. Donnelly Communications is:  Yet another reason why you need a copy editor.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a publisher, get in touch. We could help you too.

Or maybe you have just published a book and want some advice on how to market it? Let’s do lunch…

Thanks, Jim!



K. Donnelly Communications—Rebooted

As of 1st February, I am officially fully retired from my post as Senior Lecturer in the Business School and School of Media in Birmingham [UK] City University.

However, I prefer to define it as a return to my free-lancing life—now known as the ‘gig’ economy—with the US Social Security Administration as my most lucrative client. And a return to BCU as a Visiting Lecturer in March.

So, as my friend Maura often posts, What have you got for me Universe?! I’m available!

Need some marketing advice on your next project? [Buy me lunch.]

Need someone to sit in your house and wait for the delivery guy? [Do you have cable?]

Need some copyediting or proofreading? #yetanotherreason #whyyouneedacopyeditor

Need a speaker for your group about my fascinating writers, and the times and places in which they lived?

Better yet, need a personal tour guide to the city homes and country homes where they ‘hung out’ together—Ireland, England, France, America?

Or do you need to trace your own Irish roots and then drive around with a local trying to meet them? Have I got a tour guide for you—right Tony Dixon?

Maybe you need someone to teach in exotic locales. Like…Pittsburgh!

Or recruit students from around the globe?

Or another creative activity that K. Donnelly Communications hasn’t even thought of yet?

I’m available!

And at reasonable rates.

We can provide samples and estimates up front, as well as glowing references. Email me at, or post a comment below.

And speaking of editors…

…My new book, Manager as Muse: Maxwell Perkins’ Work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is about legendary Scribner’s editor Max Perkins and how he motivated his writers to produce classic novels in the 1920s and 30s.

The dirty little secret is—he was a terrible copy editor. As bad a speller as Fitzgerald, his letters are riddled with mistakes. Unfortunately, this also happened with the first edition of the books he worked on with his writers. Sometimes he was in such a rush he would try to edit and proofread himself, keeping the galleys away from the Scribner staff. Bad idea.

The top Manhattan columnist of the day, FPA of the Algonquin Round Table, made the search for mistakes in Fitzgerald’s first novel, The Far Side of Paradise, into a parlour game among New Yorkers.

If you want to read more stories about Perkins and his writers, you can find information about the book on my blog, Such Friends [], and buy it at either in the US and in the UK.

And if you want a copy editor, drop me an email at!

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly
Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly



The Creativity of Non-Fiction

My fellow blogger Liz Broomfield, who publishes helpful books for small business owners and the self-employed, has been running a series on ‘Fiction, Non-fiction and Creativity.’ She did an informal survey of some writers, asking some really interesting questions, and now she’s posted my answers.

As you might guess, I am a big fan of the creative possibilities of non-fiction:

Another reason to hire a copy editor…

‘When you encounter a truly great copy editor, they are worth their weight in gold. They were, and are, a rarity.’

                             –Carmen Callil, author, founder of Virago and former publisher of Chatto & Windus.

 And a truly great copy editor would have changed that quote to ‘he is worth his weight…’

Reading through some old copies of the Guardian [don’t ask], I came across an article, ‘The Corrections,’ by Alex Clark [].

Clark takes as her starting point the scandalous version of Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom, which was published with so many typos he insisted that it be pulled from the bookstores and fixed. And this came from a mainstream publisher, in both the US and the UK.

Of course, this is not the first case of a major publishing house being less than obsessive in the copy editing and proofreading department. When Scribner’s published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, The Far Side of Paradise, in 1920, his editor Maxwell Perkins was in such a hurry to get the book out, the first edition was riddled with errors. Perkins was legendary as an editor who could find and nurture talent. But he was an even worse speller than Fitzgerald—who later recommended to Scribner’s a writer he heard about in Paris:

‘Hemmingway. He’s the real thing.’

Typos aside, Clark’s article makes some interesting points about the overall ‘decline in editing’ throughout the publishing industry. And she is talking about mainstream corporate publishers who should know better. Novelist Blake Morrison is quoted as saying,

‘There are still some brilliant editors in publishing today. But it’s harder for them to have the autonomy that, say, Maxwell Perkins enjoyed when taking on Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, let alone to spend the acres of time he did improving typescripts. The rise of marketing departments is often blamed for this…What has changed is that editors are no longer the people expected to identify and nurture a young talent. That role has passed to agents and, before them, to the creative writing tutors through whose MA programmes…the majority of today’s new writers emerge.’

NB: Wolfe studied playwrighting at Harvard, but neither Fitzgerald nor Hemingway ever took a writing class.

So what does this mean for those of you self-publishing? If the corporations with all the resources don’t have the budget to spend enough time on manuscripts to polish them, what chance do you have of turning out brilliant, error-free copy on your own?

A few years ago, someone in the publishing industry absolutely winced when I mentioned the self-publishing site Lulu to him.

‘Oh! Awful! I saw a book published there and it was filled with typos and looked terrible!’

I explained to him that any formatting or textual errors wouldn’t be Lulu’s fault. It’s up to you, the author, to create a perfect, error-free manuscript before publishing it on Lulu. And you do all the marketing yourself too!

All of this is designed to convince you that, whenever you are putting your work out there, it is worth the time and money to edit, proofread—twice–and have someone else look at it. Even if it’s just a blog post—run it by someone who knows his or her grammar. Choose somebody who went to Catholic school–Those kids really know how to spell…

And if you are going to invest in self-publishing, or putting up a website, or promoting your latest project, hire a professional.

If you would like to know more about Maxwell Perkins and his work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, here is a suggested reading list: from my other blog, Such Friends []

Honey—was that okay? [I always have my husband read through anything I’m going to post…]

Why you need a copy editor…

A debate has been developing among my Facebook friends as to whether anyone needs to be taught spelling and grammar now that we are fully into the age of Spellcheck and Autocorrect.

Thank you Karin Scott for posting the poem below, which I have used in my classes for years. If you want any help finding all the errors in here, or want to take advantage of our lunch offer [see previous post] email me at

Spell checker