“The King and the Beggar Lady” is an Eric Hoffer Awards Category Finalist!

Our new book The King and the Beggar Lady (written by Wim, illustrated by Pat) is an announced Category Finalist for this year’s Eric Hoffer Book Awards! One of the largest international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses, the Hoffer Awards honor “freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit. According to the Hoffer Awards website,

The commercial/political environment for today’s writers has all but crushed the circulation of ideas. It seems strange that in the Information Age, many books are blocked from wider circulation, and powerful writing is barred from publication or buried alive on the Internet. Furthermore, many of the top literary prizes will not consider independent books, choosing instead to become the marketing arms of large presses.… The Hoffer will continue to be a platform for and the champion of the independent voice.

The awards are given every year in memory of Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), the American moral and social philosopher who never turned his back on his working-class roots. Dubbed “the longshoreman philosopher,” Hoffer once said …

My writing is done in railroad yards while waiting for a freight, in the fields while waiting for a truck, and at noon after lunch. Towns are too distracting.

Only 10% of entries reach the Category Finalist stage for this prestigious award. The King and the Beggar Lady was in competition with books from smaller traditional publishers, including university presses and well-known literary houses, as well as a multitude of other independently-published books. So we are deeply honored! A hearty thank-you to the Eric Hoffer judges for this affirmation of our work, and also the work of all independent writers, publishers, and thinkers. It means a lot to us.

Anna's World by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin

Our work has a distinguished history with the Hoffer Awards. For example, our Young Adult Novel Anna’s World was 1st Finalist in the Young Adults category of the Hoffer Awards.

The Jamais Vu Papers

And our new edition of our groundbreaking experimental novel The Jamais Vu Papers received an Honorable Mention in the Spiritual category of the Hoffer Awards. The Jamais Vu Papers was also on the short list for the Montaigne Medal, given by the Hoffer Awards for “the most thought-provoking titles … books that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.”

The Cleansing (Holy Monday) — a short play


Mary and Martha
Judah Ben-Hur

The scene is the Mount of Olives; Jesus sits on a stone bench staring forward; Mary enters, followed by Martha.

I’ve found him.


Sitting right here like nothing happened.

What do you think you’re doing?


For what?


Temple of Herod, Holyland Model of Jerusalem.

JESUS (pointing).
The Temple is about to fall; soon
not one stone will be left upon another.
Watch here and see for yourself.


Let’s run.
Your disciples have fled already.

Why run? What’s the danger?

After what you did just now?

You’re joking!

The Temple guards—
they’ll find you here and take you!

No. Not today. My betrayal is still
four days away—I’m safe till then.
Do you know how my Father makes figs?

No parables, please!

Not right now!
Let’s hurry home to Bethany
where we will all be safe
and you can tell your stories
and I can make you dinner
while she sits at your feet
doing nothing as usual.


Tintoretto: Jesus at the Home of Martha and Mary.

Since you’re curious, I’ll tell you.
My Father sinks his mighty hand
into a soft shaft of sunlight
as if it were riverbank clay—
like this, you see? And he seizes
a warm, pliant fistful of it
and squeezes it tight—like this.
See how the yellow light
oozes out between my fingers?
He holds the sunlight fast
a little while—just like this—
then slowly loosens his grip
to reveal a ripe and luscious fig
that tastes just like the sun.

(JESUS opens his hand to reveal a coin)

But I don’t see a fig.

I see a coin with Caesar’s face on it.

(JUDAH BEN-HUR enters.)


Denarius of Tiberius, known as the tribute penny.

Go away!

He’s innocent!

You’ve got the wrong man!

Foolish women—what do I look like?
A priest, a Temple guard, a stooge
of Herod or Pilate, either one?

Who are you, then?

I’ll tell you.
His name is Judah, a son of Hur—
an angry soul, filled with hate.
The friend he most loved in his youth
betrayed him into Roman slavery;
he was chained for three years
to a galley’s oar; but he won freedom
and became a Roman citizen;
yet still he remains a Jew—
the most bitter Jew in Israel.

You’re bitter yourself today.


Byzantine icon of Jesus cursing the fig tree.

So I am. I wish I knew why.
(to JUDAH)
I killed a tree this morning
an innocent fig tree just outside
the city gates. A strange thing to do.

It bore no figs.

It’s not the season.

You’re a carpenter, and a carpenter’s son;
that wasn’t the first tree you’ve killed.
Learn to kill men, my Lord.
It’s the one thing I have to teach you.

Can you teach me to kill men without rage,
the way a carpenter kills a tree?

What you did just now at the Temple—


El Greco: Christ Driving the Money-Changers from the Temple.

JESUS (interrupting).
A mistake. The Temple now
belongs to Caesar, not my Father.
I had no business there at all.
Its time is over—in moments now
a breath of icy love will send it
crashing under its own weight,
the weight of this world’s greed.

The Temple won’t fall—not till
you bring it down yourself.
The moment is now—you mustn’t wait!
The money changers’ backs are stinging
from the whippings you gave them,
and they scuttle about like scorpions,
grubbing up the coins you spilt
when you overturned their tables—
denarii, drachmas, darics, shekels,
the currencies of all the world
jumbled in gibbering heaps,
worth nothing until they’re sorted
and weighed anew. All commerce
is suspended—and all authority,
the power of priests and Rome alike.
The time is here—this very moment—
to cast off the yoke of Rome,
to lift up the poor and crush the rich,
and make of Israel the Kingdom
that you yourself have promised.

And you’ve raised three legions
to bring me victory. Right now
they mingle like cutpurses among
these millions who have come
to Jerusalem to celebrate
the Passover.

How did you know?

ramon novarro-1

Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur, 1925.

Three years you followed me
with thousands of men with knives
in their belts. I wasn’t supposed
to notice? While I sought farmers
and fishermen and tax collectors
and mothers, wives, and harlots,
you gathered soldiers. You trained them
in the lava beds—to guard and strike
with their fists, to cut and thrust
with javelins and swords,
an army of Galileans styled
like Romans to destroy the Romans.

Your army—the Kingdom’s army.

Are you sure they are enough?
Do they have spears that hurl themselves
from tunnels forged from iron
and tear men’s bodies to pieces?
Do they ride winged chariots
that drop fire from the sky,
consuming cities faster than thought?
Can you make the winds themselves
breathe writhing and devouring death
into your enemies’ bones?
Can you unleash the power of the sun?
Do you have an arm like God?

Rabbi, why all these riddles?
Why do you brood and wait?
Rome’s power is puny beside yours.
Rise up now, work miracles
to liberate Israel—the kind
I’ve seen you work a hundred times.

Miracles? What miracles? Tell me.

You’ve healed the sick and lame,
the palsied and the paralyzed,
cast out devils, made blind men see;
you cured and cleansed my own
dear mother and sister of leprosy;
and Lazarus, these women’s brother—
he died, you gave him life again;
and when a multitude was hungry
you fed them, all of them.


Bernardo Strozzi: Feeding the Multitudes.

Wait—I fed a multitude, you say?

Of course you did.

You know you did.

Were you there?

Right near you, yes.

So tell me—how did I do it?

My Lord, everyone knows—

No—not what you’ve heard,
but what you saw and felt and did.
I want to hear it.

Five thousand gathered by the sea
to hear you speak—but where
was food enough for them to eat?
Two hundred denarii would not buy
enough bread for that multitude.

And you—did you lack food as well?

No. I’d brought bread of my own,
and so had others, but not most;
thousands more were waiting, hungry.
Then Andrew found a boy who’d brought
five loaves of barley and two fishes.
You told the multitude to sit
and gave thanks to your Father;
you broke the bread and gave it to some,
and you gave away the fishes,
and then … Oh, Lord, I am ashamed.

Tell me.

I’d had no wine, and yet
I became drunk—drunk and hungry.
I tore my own bread, stuffed my mouth,
and then …

Tell me.

The old man next to me—
his hunger became mine,
his wrinkled lips, his aching belly,
I felt his craving as my own.
And on my other side, a mother
unfed, her baby at her breast—
I became her too, I felt the grip
of her baby’s gums pulling her dug,
felt the dryness inside her.
And then … Oh, Lord …

Tell me.

I rose stark mad to my feet, reeling
with bounty and munificence,
and tore my bread and crammed
some in the old man’s hand, then
in the mother’s too, and staggered
giving amid the multitude
while others, as drunk with love as I,
reeled all around me, giving
and receiving much, much more
than all their fill. And then—
and then when it was all done …

Twelve baskets were left brimming
with bread and fishes …

… the leavings after
the five thousand were sated.

But I … Oh, Lord …

Tell me.

Such horror of great brightness!
I was sick to my soul, lost to myself—
lost, all lost, the son of Hur,
his lonely desire, the solitary
warrior thirsty for vengeance,
all gone, my precious life was gone.
I ran down to the Galilean shore
and retched up all I’d eaten until
I was alone in my own skin
and not filled with a multitude
made drunk with lovingkindness.

(JUDAH is weeping.)

Leave me now, Judah—go.
You have chosen another way.

How can you be so indifferent?

What do you think I am?

You are my King, Israel’s King,
much mightier than Caesar,
more splendid even than Solomon—
a king to rule the world forever.

I am a door. A door is indifferent;
it makes way to everyone.

(MARY and MARTHA begin to reel about, as if drunken.)

What’s this?

What’s happening?

The ground—it rolls and shakes.

I can’t stay on my feet.

I can’t either.

(JESUS and JUDAH seem undisturbed by the forces felt by MARY and MARTHA.)

Dance, then.


If we can’t stand, we’ll dance!

(MARTHA and MARY dance wildly to silent music.)


Original edition of Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

All love is cold and open.
I am the open door of love;
to pass through, open yourself,
go naked through the cold,
or else consign yourself forever
to the Kingdom of Caesar.


Each moment is forever;
the Temple is always standing;
the Temple is always falling.

MARY (pointing).

MARTHA (pointing).
Look there!

The Temple!

It’s dancing too!

No, it’s falling!

Its white stone frowning faces,
its porticoes, pinnacles, ramparts …

… all breaking, breaking
like twigs in children’s hands!

The sacred veil tears clean in two …

… the Holy of Holies now
stands revealed …

… now disappears
into the vaults below …

… and dust clouds billow skyward!

The air rings with falling stone …

… the thunder and music of love!

Let’s go there—before the dust settles!

Yes, we’ll dance among the clouds!

(MARY and MARTHA hurry away.)

Hatred is soft and sweet;
love is hard and bitter.
My time in this place is done.
The friend I love most of all
will soon betray me out of love—
cold and indifferent love,
strong and unyielding love,
the biting kiss of love.

(JESUS leaves; JUDAH stands alone, facing forward.)

But the Temple—it still stands!



Here on this fleck among the uncountable stars something takes form, eventually to wonder why we are and what to each other.

Those words, my most-often-used artist statement, are about the wonder of life existing at all and how we experience it and what we are to do with it. My fiber works are often a direct expression of the enigma of life itself, and variations on these issues permeate all of my work. The books that Wim and I write deal with the same questions in one way or another.

We just finished hanging an exhibit of my work at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, up through the end of March. Here’s the main area.

Below is the wall of my illustrations for our book pages.

Another wall features small works.

Some closeups on my art page: https://playsonideas.com/pats-artworks/


The King and the Beggar Lady

An Old Tale Retold for a New Time …

This colorfully-illustrated book, now available on Amazon.com, is a new take on a tale dating to Shakespeare’s days—the one about a king who falls in love with a beggar woman. Does he woo her and marry her and make her his queen? In this retelling, the Beggar Woman turns the King’s world upside down.

From the award-winning creative team that created the cult classic The Jamais Vu Papers, this charming story-poem is written by Wim Coleman and illustrated by Pat Perrin. The King and the Beggar Lady is an announced Category Finalist for this year’s Eric Hoffer Book Awards! 

A great little book for a gift or personal collection.

… now available on Amazon.com.

Is there not a ballad, boy, of the King and the Beggar?

The pompous Spaniard Don Armado asks this question of his page, Moth, in William Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. Moth makes this reply:

The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since: but I think now ’tis not to be found …

But the ballad seemed to have reappeared a short time later, when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. It comes up again when Romeos’ friend Mercutio mentions Venus’s “purblind son and heir”:

Young Adam Cupid, he that shot so trim,
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid!

So a ballad about “The King and the Beggar-Maid” was already known when Shakespeare wrote both of these plays during the 1590s. The oldest known version appeared in an anthology in 1612. It tells the tale of the wealthy King Cophetua, who disdains women and marriage until he falls in love with a beggar named Penelophon. And just as Mercutio says, Cupid is to blame for the king’s unexpected passion:

The blinded boy that shootes so trim
From heaven down did hie,
He drew a dart and shot at him,
In place where he did lye …

The ballad unfolds in a traditional fairytale manner. The King woos Penelephon, who (of course) is overwhelmed and honored by his attentions:

At last she spake with trembling voyce,
And said, “O King, I do rejoyce
That you will take me for your choice,
And my degree so base.”

And (of course) she marries the King, and they live happily ever after:

And thus they led a quiet life
During their princely raine,
And in a tombe were buried both,
As writers sheweth plaine.

The story especially inspired artists and writers during Victorian times. The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a couple of stanzas about the story, which was also a subject for the Pre-Raphaelite painters Edmund Blair Leighton and Edward Burne-Jones. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) took a photograph of Alice Liddell, thought to be the model for the title character in his most famous books, costumed as the beggar-maid.

If the story has fallen from fashion, it may be because we’ve become less enthusiastic about Cinderella-like tales in which a handsome nobleman rescues a poor but beautiful (and vacuous) maiden from a life of misery and turns her into a princess.

In our own version of the ballad, we decided to turn things around a bit.

“The Mad Scene” — prologue to Wim’s award-winning new play

Here is the prologue to my latest full-length play, The Mad Scene, which was just awarded First Place in the Script category of the 91st Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition

The Mad Scene has been aptly described as “an Our Town about the Reign of Terror.” It was developed during 2020-21 as part of the Theatre at St. John’s Cyber Salon, hosted by Mark Erson. The parts were read by Everett Quinton, Jenne Vath, Sally Plass, Maude Burke, and Shane Baker; Daniel Neiden directed. The Mad Scene has yet to be produced.

The entire text of The Mad Scene is available on the New Play Exchange or by contacting me personally.




Marie Grosholtz/Madame Tussaud
Marie Antoinette

The scene is the Madeleine Cemetery, Paris, the night of October 16, 1793.

MARIE ANTOINETTE’s head lies in the lap of MARIE GROSHOLTZ, who will later become known as Madame Tussaud. MARIE works by the light of a lantern.

MARIE. Madame …

ANTOINETTE. There is no sky.

MARIE. … can you hear me?

ANTOINETTE. I never noticed it before.

MARIE. I must take your face.

ANTOINETTE. Carolina, look for yourself. You’ll see it’s true.

MARIE. I’m not Carolina.

ANTOINETTE. There is no sky. There are only stars. Oh, and a slender curved scimitar of a moon, hanging by … an invisible thread, I suppose. But tied to what? There’s nothing to tie it to, nothing to hang it from. There is no sky. (wincing) Don’t. Carolina, why are you touching my face like that?

MARIE. I’m not your sister. I’ve got to make a cast of your face.

ANTOINETTE. What are you smearing on my skin?

MARIE. Oil, so the plaster won’t stick.

ANTOINETTE. What a silly thing to do on such a night, with a moon and so many stars and no sky at all to gaze at. Look.

MARIE. I’m looking.


Marie Antoinette, by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

ANTOINETTE. No, you’re not. You’re looking down at me. You’re in the way of my view. But where are we? Oh, we fell asleep in the gardens again, didn’t we? I was counting clouds and you were giving them names and it got dark without us knowing it. Our dresses must be soaked through with dew. Odd, I feel so … dry. We’ve got to get back to the palace. The countess must be angry. Or beside herself with worry. Poor old thing, we’re so much trouble to her.

MARIE. We’re not in your garden in Vienna.

ANTOINETTE. Of course we are.

MARIE. No. This is the Madeleine Cemetery. In Paris

ANTOINETTE. What are we doing in Paris? Don’t touch my eyes.

MARIE. I’m only closing them.


MARIE. Because they’re not glass. I’m covering them with plaster.

ANTOINETTE. I don’t understand.

MARIE. It’s best not to talk.


MARIE. The dead are usually quiet. Or at least they’re supposed to be.


Execution of Marie Antoinette, Museum of the French Revolution. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

ANTOINETTE. I’m not dead.

MARIE. Madame, you have been beheaded. You are certainly dead. Tomorrow you will be buried. It really would be best to keep quiet. You’ll upset yourself.

ANTOINETTE. You’re not Carolina.

MARIE. So I’ve been telling you.

ANTOINETTE. I’ve not been beheaded.

MARIE. You have, and it was hard to find you among so many dead, all thrown about every which way, so it’s hard to tell whose head belongs to whose body. Don’t you smell the stench?


MARIE. Death has its blessings then. I never guessed how blood and flesh could stink. It’s always such a chore, this scrounging through stench and open graves, looking for just a certain head. Your husband was even harder to find than you, and to make things worse, he was already dissolving in quicklime.

ANTOINETTE. My husband?

MARIE. But I found you. I recognized the white morning dress you wore on the scaffold, even though it was stained and caked with blood and dirt. Then your head was easy to spot, plopped right between your knees. But your face looks strange now—so thin and drawn, with a scalp of short white hair. When did your hair turn white? Oh, I hear it was after you were caught trying to escape—you and the king and your children. I can fix all this when I make your new face.

ANTOINETTE. Who are you?

MARIE. I hoped you’d remember me, madame. My name is Marie Grosholtz. I lived at Versailles nine years. I tutored Madame Elizabeth in molding wax, and I lived in her apartments and kept her company. You were very kind to me in those days, madame.

ANTOINETTE. Versailles? Madame Elizabeth?

MARIE. The king’s sister. You don’t remember. You’re confused. But don’t worry. The plaster will set, and we’ll be finished soon, and it won’t matter whether you remember or not. I needn’t tell you to keep still. You’re doing that anyway.

ANTOINETTE. There is no sky.

MARIE. I’m sure you are correct, madame.

ANTOINETTE. Oh, yes. Versailles. They tell me I’m going there. They tell me I am to become the Dauphine of France.

MARIE. If you say so, madame.

ANTOINETTE. I am to marry the Dauphin, they tell me—Louis-Auguste, some cousin I’ve never met. They say he is a clumsy boy, rather stupid, and he’s sure to grow fat, and he can’t dance at all. But then, I’m just a girl myself, and people say I am silly and I laugh more than I should and I like to dance too much. No, don’t deny it, I know that’s what they say. But he’s a boy, just a boy. I wish I could marry a man, someone wiser, someone I could trust to know …
… how to …
But it’s not up to me, is it? Nothing is up to me. And not only must I stop being an archduchess, they tell me I must stop being Austrian, and I must say goodbye to everyone I’ve ever known—even to you, Carolina, and also to Mutti—and I must forget how to speak German and speak French perfectly for the rest of my life. And when I go to France, before I meet the Dauphin in the Forest of Compiègne, I must be stripped of every scrap of my Austrian dress and be clothed anew in the manner of a French princess. Of course there will be people watching me change. It’s always been like that. I’ve never been naked alone. But in France there will be more people than ever, watching my every waking moment, and while I’m sleeping as well. I will put on my rouge in front of the whole world. It will never stop.

MARIE. There. The plaster is set. I’m almost finished.

ANTOINETTE. That pinches.

MARIE. Yes, but only for a moment, while I remove the cast.

(MARIE pulls the cast away.)

MARIE. I must leave you now.

ANTOINETTE. Where are you going?

MARIE. To where I work.

ANTOINETTE. You can’t leave me.

MARIE. I must. I’m sorry.

ANTOINETTE. I am your queen.

MARIE. France has no queen.


MARIE. I must obey the National Assembly. I wish it weren’t so.

ANTOINETTE. Take me with you.

MARIE. I can’t take your head, madame. I’ll lose my own if I try. Adieu.


Marie Tussaud, by John Theodore Tussaud.

ANTOINETTE. Wait! I remember! Your name is Marie! You make likenesses from wax! Elizabeth adores you! She came running to me a little while ago to show me a Virgin you taught her how to make. “Look, sister!” she said. “Look at my little wax Mother of God! I made her look just like you without meaning to, I couldn’t help it! Was that blasphemous of me, sister? Must I confess it to the abbé?” “No, sister,” I said. “No blasphemy at all …”

MARIE. Adieu, madame.

ANTOINETTE. But what will happen to me after you go?

MARIE. I don’t know.

ANTOINETTE. Oh, but you do. I’ll vanish. I’ll die. Please, I beg you. It is only by the grace and bounty of your madness that I still live. Don’t let me die.

MARIE. You’ll live again in wax.

ANTOINETTE. But will I remember … ?

MARIE. I don’t know what you’ll remember.

ANTOINETTE. Will I still be myself?

MARIE. I don’t know.

ANTOINETTE. Am I myself even now?

MARIE. I said I don’t know.

ANTOINETTE. Please stay!

MARIE. Dawn is nearing.

ANTOINETTE. We’ll watch it together!

MARIE. I must go.

ANTOINETTE. We’ll skip barefoot in the dew, watch morning burst into blossoms of light, bathe ourselves in mad mists of swirling color! We’ll worship the sun and laugh and dance like Incan priestesses!

MARIE. Adieu.

(MARIE exits, carrying her lantern.)

ANTOINETTE (dying). There … is … no … sky …



Le triomphe de la guillotine, Nicolas-Antoine Taunay