Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 E-Mail Manifesto

UPDATE December 2016: Email Nijerie in the Theater of Space-Time

I owe a lot of you e-mails. (I am owed a lot of e-mails, now that I think about it.) Isn't everyone overwhelmed, snowed under, treadmilling up to the nostrils in the stuff? Yet, so much of it really does matter. So many messages I sincerely do appreciate! Starting Monday, January 4, I will be responding to e-mail again in what I hope will be a more timely matter. Meanwhile, I will catch up as best I can. My personal guidelines for 2010:

---> E-mail checking once, max twice per day.

---> Answer e-mails from family and close friends first. Because they are first.

---> Remember: there are such things as vacations, weekends, and free evenings.

---> Be here now. This is not possible with a Blackberry.

---> Delete mass e-mailed jokes (sorry, but help me out here, OK?)

---> Ditto anything with an unsolicited attachment (people who send attached PDFs for their newsletters, etc, please use a link to the PDF on your website).

---> Always (unless it's totally spammy, i.e., from someone I don't know) send a thank you / congrats to anyone who announces a new book / show / anything that took time, know-how, and guts to share.

---> Send a real letter / note / curious postcard at least once a week.

More anon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

3 Most Frequently Asked Questions About the Writing Business

To my (happy) surprise, I am guest-blogging today over at the Writers Center blog, First Person Plural, with a re-posting of my answers to the three most frequently asked questions about the writing business. More anon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Compassion is the Way: TNR for Feral Cats / Gatos Callejeros

What to do about the feral cats? I'm in a Mexico City neighborhood that's been overrun. Given the scale of the problem and the scarcity of resources, what is the most compassionate and effective way to address the situation? Well, why reinvent the wheel? Herewith a batch of links:

"Compassion is the Way: The Care and Feeding of Feral Cats" by Nathan J. Winograd
A both knowledgable and commonsensical article. The author recommends a policy of TNR, that is, Trap, Neuter, Return. He writes, "TNR is not only humane, it is the most effective way to reduce the number of homeless cats. In addition, feral cat caregivers are a dedicated 'army of compassion,' and can be one of a shelter’s greatest resources in the community. Organizations on even the smallest budget can start a feral cat program..." Includes a section on humane trapping methods.

Feral Cat Program SPAN-NC Humane Trapping Instructions
More about humane trapping (forget the itty bitty cardboard box, folks... )

Myths and Facts about Spay and Neuter
Just in case your commonsense is still mired in the 18th century (meow).

Alley Cat Allies
Alley Cat Allies "introduced the practice of spaying and neutering entire colonies with Trap-Neuter-Return in the United States. Since then, Alley Cat Allies has led the progressive movement for the protection of these cats and continues to educate the public about the lives of cats." Includes a page for social networking for friends of feral cats including links to a yahoo listerv, in various U.S. cities, MySpace, facebook, and more. Also check out their excellent resources, including "Starting an Organization to Help Cats." and "How to Implement a TNR Program."

"Sanctuaries: No Place for Feral Cats"
From the Alley Cat Allies website, a page about why sanctuaries (shelters) are generally not the best choice for feral cats.

The Amanda Foundation
Read about this Beverly Hills California-based nonprofit which runs (among many other programs) "mega feral spay/neuter days" with Stray Cat Alliance and Kitten Rescue. Also read about their "spaymobile," a fully outfitted surgery station in a truck, which they call "the answer to ending pet over population."

Lots more going on: Indy Feral in Indiana (note their flyer); SNAP-NC (North Carolina); Feral Cat Coalition; Feral Cats San Diego.

Ear Tipping vs. Tattoo
From Bloomington, Indiana's "Neuter Scooter" page. Their argument sounds good to me.

What's already being done in Mexico City? I asked three different veterianians here; so far none can tell me of any TNR programs for feral cats--- only rescue. The best-known organization is PNA Mexico.

Some other animal rescue organizations based in Mexico:

Refugio Franciscano, A.C.
Working to rescue dogs and cats since 1977. Offers a page about sterilization for dogs and cats. Lots of dogs and cats available for adoption. Gruesome stories, alas.

Los Cabos Humane Society
I know one of the founders; they do a splendid job with fundraising in the community. The annual cocktail party with silent auction is a military-style operation-- with flowers, live music, and hors d'ouerves galore. Flip-flops and an Aloha shirt, it ain't. Seriously, on multiple fronts, they are doing an excellent job and this has helped improve the quality of life for both animals and people in the area.

Amigos de los Animales (San Miguel de Allende)
Many heart-warming stories here.

More links:

Secretaria de Salud, Semana Nacional de Vacunacion
(Mexican Secretary of Health, National Vaccination Week)
Is there a feral cat TNR program? If so, I couldn't find it.

Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (USA)

My conclusion thus far: no need to kill the poor kitties, neither to let them starve, nor do you need to scrape together scarce resources to build and administer a shelter. TNR seems to be an effective, compassionate, and relatively inexpensive policy.

Key words: Feral cat colony management with TNR.

More anon.

P.S. If you have links / other information about this issue, and in particular, anything that is already underway in Mexico City, I'd be very happy to hear about it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taller Leñateros

A couple of weeks ago at the Feria Internacional del Libro in Guadalajara, I came across the brilliantly creative artist books published by Taller Leñateros, a publishing collective founded by poet Ambar Past and operated by Mayan artists in Chiapas. I bought both the Tzotzil-Spanish and Tzotzil-English versions of the children's book Bolom Chon. I'll post some photos asap. More anon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read 2009

#1. Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille by Rosemary Sullivan
Read my review / profile of Rosemary Sullivan for Inside Mexico here.

#2. Tras las huellas de un desconocido: Nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo by Konrad Ratz
A crucially important new work by Dr. Konrad Ratz, Austrian expert on Mexico's Second Empire. Covering a wide range of previously unknown or only superficially explored subjects relevant to Maximilian's life and brief rule in Mexico.

#3. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
The mega-paradigm shift explained by a leading networks scientist in plain, if elegant, English. Though this book first came out in 2002, it's well worth reading for the light it shines on the current financial crisis.

#4. My Grandfather's Finger by Edward Swift
An eccentric, elegant, and unblinkingly compassionate memoir of growing up in the thick of the Big Thicket.

#5. The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper
A story every American should read.

#6. The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
An epistolary novel that brings the French Revolution and not only Josephine, but many of France's most intriguing personalities to such life, it sometimes seemed hard to believe I was reading fiction. Gorgeous.

#7. Midday with Buñuel by Claudio Isaac
I was both charmed and moved by this poetic memoir by Mexican filmmaker and writer Claudio Isaac about his friendship with his mentor, the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, who died in Mexico City in 1983.

#8. Marcel Proust: A Life by Edmund White
Oh, writers...

#9. Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley
Mum and Pup of the title were William and Pat Buckley whom I-- and many millions of other Americans--- knew by their glamorous doings as chronicled in the likes of W. This is a headshaker of a memoir, but then it's about a very peculiar and supremely public couple, and by their son. Beautifully written. One of those few books that merits a re-read or three.

#10. Living by Fiction by Annie Dillard
What a splendid book. She's also a master of the intended diction drop-- which is sometimes hilarious.

---> Top 10 Books read 2008
---> Top 10 Books Read 2007
---> Top 10 Books Read 2006

Friday, December 04, 2009

San Miguel Author's Sala December 10th: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire & The World of San Miguel de Allende

It's my last reading for 2009, and I'm really delighted about the wonderful venue, the San Miguel de Allende's Author's Sala in the Posada San Francisco, across from the Jardin. If you're in San Miguel, come on by! Check out their line-up: the series is very eclectic and always fun.

C.M. Mayo reading, dicussing and signing The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire together with Robert de Gast, The World of San Miguel de Allende: An Uncommon Guide. this Thursday December 10th from 5:00pm - 7:00 pm. Cost: 70 pesos, includes wine reception. More anon.

P.S. Why attend a reading?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cosecha de la FIL, Part 3: In Celebration of Literal: Latin American Voices / Voces Latinomericanas

The other day here at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara, I participated on the panel presenting Literal: Latin American Voices / Voces Latinoamericanos, the Houston-based bilingual literary magazine edited by Rose Mary Salum. Here's my slightly edited version in translation:

It's been a few years since I saw the first issue of Literal, and with each one I am only more impressed-- impressed not only that it is exists (for launching and continuing to publish a literary magazine for five years is no minor job); impressed not only that it has such a broad and original vision; but above all, impressed by its extraordinary quality.

Speaking as a writer, I am happy to see a new literary journal, and thrilled indeed to come across one of such style and quality as Literal. Just the mention of few of the Mexican writers and poets in its pages should say more than I ever could: Pura López Colomé, Alberto Blanco, Adolfo Castañon, Tanya Huntington Hyde, Fabio Morábito...

And speaking as a literary translator, I am delighted. We translators should all celebrate Literal, for there are so few publications of quality that are open to, never mind so actively promote literary translation. (It pains me to say this, but this is especially true in the United States, my own country.)

I am a writer and a translator of contemporary Mexican fiction and poetry, and in these two roles I have had the honor of participating in Literal. But in my talk today I would like to put on a different hat, as they say: that of editor.

As an editor, I am a great admirer of Rose Mary Salum. About ten years ago, I founded a journal called Tameme. Tameme had a somewhat different concept--- it was bilingual, everything in both Spanish and English presented strictly side-by-side; it published fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction (no interviews or book reviews); and it only included works by living writers from or residing in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. I don't mean to go on about Tameme; my point is that I know that editing a bilingual literary magazine is a path paved with satisfactions and strewn with surprises, some magical, and many, well, consternating. To launch and continue publishing any literary magazine is not easy. So to Literal, to Rose Mary Salum, my sincere respects.

I recall a conversation we had some years ago about Botteghe Oscure. This was a magazine founded by Marguerite Caetani in Rome (named after the street), and published from the late 1940s through 1960. She published in four languages: Italian, French, German and English and such writers as Dylan Thomas and Guiseppi di Lampedusa. Botteghe Oscure was an inspiration for George Plimpton, an American writer who was one of the founders of the Paris Review. Based for many years now in New York City, the Paris Review is one of the leading literary journals in the U.S. In my case, with Tameme, I can mention as inspirations The Paris Review and El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn , which was founded by Margaret Randall and
Sergio Mondragon in Mexico City in the early 1960s. El Corno Emplumado is perhaps best remembered for publishing Octavio Paz in English, but it has a fascinating history. Another inspiration was Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas / Nueva escritura de las Americas, founded by Roberto Tejada in Mexico City in the
early 1990s. After I founded Tameme (gosh, this was in the days before the Internet took off), I learned about the superb Two Lines, a journal of translations of writing and poetry open to all languages, founded by the California-based translator Olivia Sears. Two Lines has published many of the leading Mexican writers and poets.

I'm not going to go into the detail of the history of literary journals and their founding editors; I mean to say, we are--- as is anyone bold enough to start a literary journal--- part of this tradition. And Literal is a mega-bright star in the not-so-big constellation of bilingual magazines. I don't think it's possible to exaggerate the importance of Literal and the many reasons we have to celebrate it.

As an editor, I'd like to talk a bit about the work, which is so much more wide-ranging and complex than most writers and translators realize. As editor of Tameme, I have learned many lessons, some quite painful. To successfully publish a literary magazine, one needs a range of abilities and while many people have some or a few of these, it is rare indeed to find someone blessed with all of them. First and foremost, one needs the ability to recognize literary quality, to evaluate and select. Second, one needs courage, huge dollops of it, for not only is publishing a journal a public act--- and any public act invites criticism, even ridicule or worse--- one of the key abilities of a good editor is the ability to say, "No." No to friends, no to famous writers, no to wannabe writers, no to, well, all sorts of people. Believe me, when you launch a literary magazine you will find no shortage of manuscripts. If you're an arrogant narcissist, saying "No," is a click of the fingers. (Certainly we all know of some sadists who rather relish it.) But if you have a good heart, having to say, "No," can be one of the least pleasant parts of this work. I know Rose Mary Salum has a good heart, and I know this part of the work cannot be easy. In addition, an editor must also have managerial skills. To work with a board, with assistants, and designers, as with any team, requires such skills but in the case of working with writers and poets, well, are we not like cats? Try herding cats!

Then there are administrative skills. There are permissions to be complied with--- letters, contracts, payments. One has to choose a printer, after taking bids, calculating the cost of certain types of paper-- this thickness or that, acid-free or what. How many to print? Arranging shipment and warehousing.

And one has to be an expert in marketing. (Marketing! Goodness, can't you go to university and get a couple of degrees in this field?) To put it simply: how to bring the magazine to the hands of its readers? We don't want the boxes sitting unopened in the warehouse!

In sum, editing a literary magazine is like trying to juggle a watermelon, a few squealing mice, the aforementioned cats, a hippopotamus or three, and a block of cement. What is the block of cement? Why, distribution. God, distribution. I've been a member of a private e-mail discussion group for editors of literary journals and I can't quote or name names but believe me, I've heard the stories.... distribution... it's an unholy nightmare. But when I go into a Sanborn's, I always see a copy of Literal. And they're doing a fabulous job getting the word out with the website, the blog, and facebook and twitter. Rose Mary Salum, and the team at Literal, my respects!!

I don't have time to comment in more detail about Literal's extraordinary editorial vision. Suffice it to say that if you look at any issue's table of contents you will see the richness and originality of the selections. There are interviews with such outstanding figures as Junot Diaz, Oscar Hijuelos, Hernando de Soto, and Wangari Maathai; essays by Margot Glanz (on the Orient Express), David Medina (on GMOs), Alberto Chimal (on Edward Gorey--- speaking of cats!), John Mason Hart, one of the leading historians of Mexico, Maarten van Delden on Jose Martí, and fiction by Rosa Beltrán, Juan Villoro... I haven't yet mentioned the gallery section, with photography, sculpture, painting, and even an entire issue dedicated to the art of comics. Literal embraces not only Latin America but the world, ideas, art--- it is an intellectual magazine; intellectual in the best sense of the word.

In not only launching Literal but keeping it going stronger than ever for five years is an extraodinary achievement. As an editor, Rose Mary, my heartfelt congratulations to you. As a writer, as a translator and most of all, as a reader, my heartfelt thanks. May Literal have all the success it deserves and long, long life.

Translation of a talk given at the Feria Internacional del Libro, December 1, 2009.

***UPDATE: See my podcast interview with Rose Mary Salum for Conversations with Other Writers

Cosecha de la FIL, Part 2: Pedro Angel Palou, Juan Villoro, Enrique Krauze, Teresa Carbajal Ravet, Tanya Huntington, Pedro Serrano, Carlos López de Alba

A book fair is a crucible of serendipity. Holas to Juan Villoro, whose story "Mariachis" is in BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION*, (for which I translated a story by another Mexican writer, Alvaro Enrigue), and Sergio Troncoso, whom I just happened to see last month at the bodacious Texas Book Festival in Austin, here in Guadalajara for an event with the Goethe Institut. (Check out his blog, Chico Lingo, and in particular the piece about a real head-scratcher out of the Texas Library Association).

*BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION presentation is tomorrow, Dec 3 @ 6 pm here at FIL.

History: Pedro Angel Palou (whose short story about an unusual town in the state of Puebla appears in my anthology, MEXICO: A TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION) is one of the big stars of the FIL this year with his new book, LA CULPA DE MEXICO: LA INVENCION DE UN PAIS ENTRE GUERRAS, which is featured in towering stacks (literally-- when I pulled out a copy I was afraid I'd make the whole thing topple).

Enrique Krauze was on a panel about Mexican leaders of yore-- every chair was taken and the smidgen of aisle-space was for the sardines. Translation: I tried, but I couldn't squeeze in.

More translators: after the LITERAL presentation yesterday, saw Teresa Carbajal Ravet, who is doing so much to promote translation-- check out her blog Sententia Vera: Your Bilingual Connection to the Spanish Culture.

And poets! An all-around charming presentation of Tanya Huntington Hyde's beautiful new bilingual RETURN / EL REGRESO (with a glowing introduction by Pura López Colomé), what a delight to see Pedro Serrano and his new issue of PERIODICO DE POESIA and to meet Carlos López de Alba, editor of the bilingual magazine REVERSO with a special issue on Novísima Poesía Mexicana / Up-and-Coming Mexican Poets.

New schedule for Madam Mayo:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs noted.
Wednesday: 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Except when not.

Click to follow on twitter: @madammayo

From the Niagara of New: 5 Blogs to Follow-- Nieman Storyboard, A Writing Life, Coffee with a Canine, Las Comadres, & She Writes

Today, apart from running all around the Feria Internacional del Libro (more about that in a moment), I'm guest-blogging over at the Writers Center's blog, First Person Plural, with a post on five excellent blogs to follow: Nieman Storyboard, Coffee with a Canine, Christina Baker Kline's A Writing Life, Las Comadres, and She Writes. Read on!

More anon.

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs noted.
Wednesday: 5 links or guest-blogger with 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Twitter: @madammayo

Cosecha de la FIL, Part I: Literal, Yankee Invasion, Tirofijo, Miriam Berkley, Trudy Balch and Gaby Brimmer, Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction

Here at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara:
Just participated in the press conference for the new anthology from Dalkey Archive, BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION, edited by Alvaro Uribe and Olivia Sears, for which I translated the fabulous (truly, truly) short story by Alvaro Enrigue.

In the vast exhibition hall, I ran into Trudy Balch, who happened to have a copy of her translation of Gaby Brimmer's autobiography, so I'm taking that over to International PEN tomorrow morning-- that's when they take over stand #NN40, so if you're at the FIL, be sure to come on by.

Yesterday, at the presentation for Literal: Latin American Voices, Voces Latinoamericanos (much more about that anon), ran into translators Nick Hill and Jay Miskowiec, director of Aliform, who gave me a copy of the gorgeous new novel in English translation by Timothy G. Compton, Ignacio Solares's YANKEE INVASION and the hot-off-the-presses THE TRIUMPHANT VOYAGE by Eduardo Garcia Aguilar.

Also in attendance: Juancarlos Porras y Manrique, editor of Leon's elegant
TIROFIJO: REVISTA CULTURAL DEL BAJIO, among all sorts of things over at (seriously, check it out, he's doing a million or, OK, maybe 800, amazing things). Miriam Berkley, the photographer of writers, a true treasure of the literary world, snapped some pix--- read more about her work in "A Literary Eye" by Larry Brownstein.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feria Internacional del Libro, Guadalajara: Literal Magazine; Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

December 1

6:00 - 6:50 pm
LITERAL magazine presentation with editor Rose Mary Salum, C.M. Mayo, Tanya Huntington and Adolfo Castañón.
Location: Salon C, del área Internacional.

December 3, 2009

Book Presentation 1:00 - 1:50 (13:00 a 13:50hrs) The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Location: Salon Alfredo R. Pascencia, Salones planta alta de Expo Guadalajara

Roundtable Discussion 6:00 - 7:50 pm Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction
Alvaro Uribe (moderator), Christopher Michael Dominguez, Alvaro Enrigue, C.M. Mayo, Jorge Hernandez, and Vivian Abenshushan
Location: Salón 5 Expo Guadalajara

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogs Noted: The Long Now, Athleta Chi, Jennifer Howard, Shenandoah Breakdown, Maira Kalman

Athleta Chi
Cartwheels o' chi.
Maira Kalman
Drawings combined with story and the wry sense of humor.
Google Earth Blog
For cybertravelers.
The Long Now
And it's reeeeeally long!
Jennifer Howard
Excellent writer's blog.
Shenandoah Breakdown
By poets Heather Davis and Jose Padua.
More anon.

P.S. Please note Madam Mayo Blog's new schedule:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: guest-blogger or 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Karma Moffett's Tibetan Bell Experience

...activates the chakras... watch and listen. A book review anon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Videos Watched in 2009

Herewith the annual list of top 5 favorite videos I happened to view this year:

Tie for #1. "House" by The Electric Company
An animated video by Carmen D'Avino. A visual fiesta.

Going West
Books come alive in a very wacky way for the New Zealand Book Council.

#2. Design and Elasticity of Mind
A TED talk by MOMA Design curator Paola Antonelli.

#3. Manatee Makes the Bed
Just so, um, charmingly wierd.

#4. Novel trailer for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Video by Julia Sussner.

#5. Cirque de Soleil juggler Viktor Kee
Beyond Las Vegas: the Ukranian juggling sensation. What the human body is capable of! Holy smoke-a-roni!

---> Madam Mayo's Top 5 Videos Watched in 2008
---> Madam Mayo's Top 5 Videos Watched in 2007

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto). And the comments have been turned back on. More anon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Texas Book Festival

One of the perhaps surprising things about a book tour is that it's not all about the book; it's about meeting other writers, learning about their books, and, in this uber-connected age, learning about their websites and blogs. So I'm back (as of a couple weeks ago) from Austin's fabulous annual Texas Book Festival, where I participated on a panel --- "Imagination sin Fronteras: Wrestling with Mexico"--- with my fellow novelists Jimmy Santiago Baca (A Glass of Water), Barbara Renaud Gonzalez (Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me?), and Luis Alberto Urrea (Into the Beautiful North), moderated by poet and writer Katherine Oldmixon (so yes, we "wrestled" with Mexico in the cavernous Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol, a more than somewhat surrealistic experience...). I've been on a panel with Luis Alberto Urrea before: he lights up the room, literally. Though I'd heard of their work, this was the first time I met Jimmy Santiago Baca and Barbara Renaud Gonzalez-- two wonderful writers. And I also met with my amiga novelist S.Kirk Walsh, who was just back from a stay at Yaddo, and novelist (and blogger) Sergio Troncoso, down from New York City, and poet Sara Cortez, and many other members, including founding member Nora de Hoyos Comstock, of Las Comadres. As a "Latina de corazon" (after nearly 25 years married to a Mexican and living, mostly, in Mexico City, and writing about Mexico and translating Mexican work, etc.) I felt very welcomed by Las Comadres, and seriously impressed by what this nonprofit organization has achieved: 15,000 + membership and a national Latino Book Club. I did not see Southwest Review editor, Willard Spiegelman, but I did grab a copy of his splendid new book, Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness. Documentary photographer John Christian, whose haunting show, "Un viaje a Uxata," wrapped up last year at the University of Texas, also made an appearance. One writer I was especially sorry to miss: Edward Swift. When I think of Austin, I think of his wry and playful spirit. Check out his book, My Grandfather's Finger, and his art gallery in San Miguel de Allende here. Playful: that's Austin. When I got on the plane (connecting from Dallas), the change in vibe was palpable. Most amusing sight: The Grim Reaper and a bumble bee, strolling arm-in-arm down Sixth Street on Halloween.

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:

Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto).

And the comments have been turned back on.

More anon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Announcing New Schedule for Madam Mayo Blog

Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto).

And the comments have been turned back on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest-blogger Christina Baker Kline: 5 Quotes that Influenced the Writing of a Novel

What fun it was to run into my fellow VCCA resident, novelist Christina Baker Kline, at the recent Women's National Book Association Reading Group panel in New York City. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and the author of several novels, she has just published the intriguing Bird in Hand, which opens with a horrifying accident and then delves into the intricacies of betrayal. Read on!
Five Quotes that Influenced the Writing of a Novel

When I’m working on a novel I become obsessed with its themes, and look for inspiration anywhere I can find it. Paintings, photographs, films, poems, essays, novels – everything I take in is filtered through the lens of my current obsession. (I’ve written about some of the visual inspiration for my new novel, Bird in Hand, here and here.)

Recently I opened a file I kept while working on Bird in Hand. It’s filled with newspaper clippings, handwritten and typed pages, poems torn out of magazines, Post-it notes in soft yellow and acid green. One 2”x2” fragment – the bottom of a “To Do” list – has only this, in my handwriting: Don’t worry about starting. Just begin. No story is too large to tell. (Did I write these words, or was I quoting someone? Either way, I must have found them inspiring.)

Leafing through this file, I can trace the genesis of my ideas. The scrap of paper, for example, with phone numbers on one side and Four danger signs for a marriage: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, emotional withdrawal scrawled in black pen on the other. Below this I wrote, “Is [Bird in Hand] a love story or a tale of betrayal? Is it about finding your soul mate, or losing everything you hold sacred? How can the two stories be the same?”

Below are some passages I found in the file that shaped my novel-in-progress –- and why:

1) “I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or at least an unfortunate accident. I hadn’t learned that it can happen so gradually you don’t lose your stomach or hurt yourself in the landing. You don’t necessarily sense the motion. I’ve found it takes at least two and generally three things to alter the course of a life: You slip around the truth once, and then again, and one more time, and there you are, feeling, for a moment, that it was sudden, your arrival at the bottom of the heap.” -- Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

This novel-– which, like Bird in Hand, is about the accidental death of a child that sets in motion a series of events that changes the lives of the main characters-– had a huge impact on me. My own opening paragraph, I later realized, echoes the beginning of Hamilton’s powerful book.

2) “Those of us who claim exclusivity in love do so with a liar’s courage: there are a hundred opportunities, thousands over the years, for a sense of falsehood to seep in, for all that we imagine as inevitable to become arbitrary, for our history together to reveal itself only as a matter of chance and happenstance, nothing irrepeatable, or irreplaceable, the circumstantial mingling of just one of the so many million with just one more.” -- Alice McDermott, Charming Billy

Bird in Hand is about four people, two of whom betray their spouses. I was interested in writing about moral ambiguity, which McDermott so brilliantly parses in this novel. If you truly believe that your spouse is not your soulmate, and that your own happiness is vitally important, what do you do?

3) “Close to the body of things, there can be heard a stir that makes us and destroys us.”-- D. H. Lawrence, Study of Thomas Hardy

That people’s deepest feelings cannot be constrained by social norms or boundaries is an idea I wanted to explore in this book (and an idea that preoccupied Lawrence). Though two of my characters disrupt - and arguably destroy - other lives in their quest to be together, they are oblivious to all but their own happiness.

4) “It is a queer and fantastic world. Why can’t people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing.” -- Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

My four characters are constantly at odds. Their preoccupations, passions, and dreams are often in conflict. In developing this story, I wanted to give equal weight to each perspective. I was fascinated by the complexity of The Good Soldier, and at how skillfully Ford got to the core of his characters' motivations.

5) In truth, I did not read Chekhov’s short story “The Lady with the Dog” until after Bird in Hand was published. But this quote (from the Norton edition) is uncanny in its precise application to my story – down to the reference to birds:

“It seemed to them that fate had intended them for one another, and they could not understand why she should have a husband, and he a wife. They were like two migrating birds, the male and the female, who had been caught and put in separate cages. They forgave one another all that they were ashamed of in the past and in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.”

At the end of the story, as at the end of Bird in Hand, the characters are on a precipice. Chekhov writes:

“And it seemed to them that they were within an inch of arriving at a decision, and that then a new, beautiful life would begin. And they both realized that the end was still far, far away, and that the hardest, the most complicated part was only just beginning.”

--- Christina Baker Kline

P.S. Baker Kline also hosts a blog, A Writing Life, for which Yours Truly recently provided this guest-blog post. Among Baker Kline's most popular posts: "My 10 Year Overnight Success."

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guestblog posts, click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The reification of history as such recapitulates the ideology of the public sphere

Ya think so? That bit of gobbledygook is thanks to this nifty toy: Make Your Own Academic Sentence. More anon.

Guest-blogger Austin S. Camacho: Top Five Sites to Find Russia in Washington DC

The guest-bloggers are back here at Madam Mayo. It's been a long while since the last guest-blog post (short story writer Dylan Landis on 5 Magnetic Spaces, back in August), and an even longer while back to July when poet and childrens book writer J.D. Smith offered his top 5 mariachi links. If you've been following this blog for more than two days at a stretch, you know the reason is I've been on tour with my new novel. Enough said. This Wednesday: novelist Christina Baker Kline. Today: my fellow Maryland Writers Association member, and intrepid volunteer for more than one area writers association (bless him!), Austin S. Camacho, whose latest novel in his Hannibal Jones mystery series is Russian Roulette.

Hannibal Jones, the Washington DC, African-American private detective is forced to take a case for Aleksandr, a Russian assassin. He must investigate Gana, the wealthy Algerian who has stolen Viktoriya, the woman Aleksandr loves. Evidence connects Gana to Russian mob money and the apparent suicide of Viktoriya’s father. More deaths follow, each one closer to Viktoriya. To save the Russian beauty, Hannibal must unravel a complex tangle of clues and survive a dramatic shootout on Roosevelt Island, side-by-side with his murderous client.

So, the top 5 sites to find Russia in Washington DC? Herewith Austin Camacho's recommendations:

#1. The Russia House is a good place to start. The charming yellow stone building at 1800 Connecticut Ave. NW houses a group dedicated to promoting U.S. - Russia business, science, educational, and cultural cooperation.

#2. For those of us who are not international businessmen, the Russia House Restaurant and Lounge provides an elegant meeting place for Washington's integrated social scene. The caviar selection is impressive and, as I point out in Russian Roulette, they have one of the largest vodka collections in the District.

#3. I found a more official introduction to Russian culture at the Embassy of the Russian Federation not far away on Wisconsin Ave. NW. While researching my novel I found this stately building more welcoming than expected.

#4. The Russian Bazaar is neither a place nor an event, but a student organization at George Washington University created to promote Russian culture and awareness of Russian traditions. The Russian Bazaar brings together people from all over the former Soviet Union and others who are eager to experience diversity.

#5. But the official home of Russian culture in the U.S. is The Russian Cultural Centre on Phelps Place NW. The center’s primary goal is to help develop and foster positive relations between the US and Russia in the 21st century. Their motto: That Our Two Nations Never Again Polarize.

-- Austin S. Camacho

--> To view the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Blogs Noted: Mexico Today, Art Predator, Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art, Rachel Laudan, Mexico Cooks!, Cowgirl Yoga, Baker Kline, Page 69 Test

Mexico Today
News summary in English (mostly).
Rachel Laudan
Food witer extraordinaire based in Mexico.
Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art
Like the title says...
Mexico Cooks!
A culinary travelogue and gorgeous photos.
Cowgirl Yoga
Inspiring (but yoga in cowboy boots?)
Art Predator
I don't need to go to Burning Man, thanks, I'll just read all about it here.
Christina Baker Kline's A Writing Life
A novelist's take-- and her colleagues's.
The Page 69 Test
Wacky book promo confirming the holographic nature of the universe.
More anon.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sandra Gulland and Mistress of the Sun, Barbara Levine and Finding Frida Kahlo

If you're anywhere in the neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende this Thursday November 12, don't miss this! As part of the San Miguel Literary Sala series, Sandra Gulland will be talking about her latest and splendid novel, Mistress of the Sun, and Barbara Levine will also be talking about her book, Finding Frida Kahlo. This takes place at 5 pm in the Hotel Posada San Francisco (across from the jardin) and there's a wine reception to follow (donation 70 pesos). For further information, see the San Miguel Literary Sala website.

P.S. On Thursday, December 10th I'll be presenting my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, along with filmmaker and novelist Jan Baross.

More anon.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life"

Today I'm guest-blogging at novelist Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life" with this piece on how to break a writing block.

Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life" is an excellent and wide-ranging blog on writing--- one of the best I've seen in my nearly 4 years of reading blogs. Here are just a few of the recent guest blog posts:

Thirteen Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Done by Gretchen Rubin

Novelist Aimee Liu on Writing Like a Grownup

Q & A with Graphic Designer and Memorist Julie Metz on Judging a Book by Its Cover (Julie Metz's new memoir, Perfection, has one of the most arresting covers I've ever seen; she also designed the cover for Kingsolver's The Posionwood Bible.)

Baker Kline, an accomplished novelist, offers numerous posts herself. Here are two of her more recent:

What If: The Fear That Inspired My Novel Bird in Hand

My Ten Year Overnight Success

More anon.

Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction

New on my list of recommended books on the creative life: Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction, a book about... the world. I've had it on my shelf for years; finally re-read it last week. What a splendid book. She's also a master of the intended diction drop-- which is sometimes hilarious. More anon.

Update: Very fun: novelist Alexander Chee's personal essay, "Annie Dillard and the Writing Life".

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Red Room Blog Post: My Favorite Bookstore?

Photo: Yours Truly doing a reading and booksigning at the Bookworks in Albuquerque NM. Today over at the Red Room Authors Blog: "C.M. Mayo Celebrates a Batch of Bookstores": Vroman's, Kelper's, the Book Works, Bookworks (yes, they are two different bookstores), Blue Willow, Seminary Coop, Riverby Books, La Sombra del Sabino, and more.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dr. Julius Augustus Skilton and Maximilian's Portrait and Saddle

A fascinating new website now listed on my Maximilian page's links: Maximilian I Emperor of Mexico. It's about the American surgeon Dr. Julius Augustus Skilton and the upcoming auction of two items that have been handed down in his family: Maximilian's portrait and a Mexican saddle first given to Maximilian, then to Father Fischer (one of Maximilian's closest advisors) and then to Dr Skilton. You can see pictures and read all about the history of these items here. Dr Skilton was actually a Juarista. According to the website, after the U.S. Civil War, he "traveled on assignment for the New York Herald to Mexico. He is reported to have fled Mexico as he was sympathetic to the Juarez cause. In 1867 he returned to Mexico as Medical Officer and part of the escort of the Juarez family. He was also asked by the Mexican government [then the Republic under President Juarez] to exhume an examine the body of Maximilian before it was delivered to the Austrian Navy for its return to Austria." (For more about that horror show, see "La muerte del Emperador Maximiliano" por Dr. Szender Ede.) Later, in the 1870s, Dr. Skilton served as U.S. Consul General in Mexico. For anyone who wants to dig deeper, Dr. Skilton's papers are in the Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell University and also the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

More anon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Texas Book Festival: C.M. Mayo, Luis Alberto Urrea, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

November 1, 2009 Austin, Texas
Texas Book Festival
2:00 - 3:00 pm
Imagination Sin Fronteras: Four Novelists Wrestle with Mexico
with Jimmy Santiago Baca, Barbara Renaud Gonzalez, C.M. Mayo, and Luis Alberto Urrea
Moderator: Katherine Durham Oldmixon .

I'll be talking about my latest book, a novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which is set in 19th century Mexico during Mexico's transnational trauma: the Second Empire or French Intervention. If I have time, I may also talk a bit about some of the far corners of Mexico's Baja California peninsula and the people there (which I wrote about in Miraculous Air) and my anthology of 24 Mexican writers, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.

More anon.


After 3 years, I'm back to allowing comments. Comments?

Update 2015: Nope, not on the blog. But you can always write to me here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roselind Reisner On Five Writers Talking About their Books

From left to right: Rosalind Reisner (co-moderator), C.M. Mayo, Julie Metz, Eva Hoffman, Christina Baker Kline, Roxana Robinson, and Miriam Tuliao (co-moderator).

Over at her excellent blog, "A Reader's Place," Rosalind Reisner gives the full report on the recent Womens National Book Association panel in celebration of National Reading Group Month. She includes a note about my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, as well as new works by Roxana Robinson (Cost), Eva Hoffman (Apassionata), Julie Metz (Perfection), and Christina Baker-Kline (Bird in Hand). It was an honor and a delight to participate. More anon.

UPDATE: And here's what Marian Schembari has to say about this extraordinary evening over at Marian Librarian.

Twitter Is

"Twitter Is," my essay on twitter which was published in the summer 2009 issue of Literal, is now (with blessings of the editor, Rose Mary Salum), on-line here. (Will tweet now!)

Thanks to:
@trhummer Twitter is an aphorism machine.
@HollyridgePress Twitter is a glittering sunrise with our books in the clouds.
@mdemuth Twitter is a confined space I can hang one hat of words upon.
@Sandra_Gulland Twitter is "poetry of the mundane" @ChetG, Page Six magazine.
@lisaborders Twitter is a message in a bottle that sometimes gets answered.

More anon.
P.S. Follow me on twitter @madammayo (for this blog) and @cmmayo1

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Techniques of Fiction Workshop in San Miguel de Allende, February 22-23, 2010

This February 22-23, 2010, I'll be giving a two day only workshop, Techniques of Fiction, for the San Miguel Workshops in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This is a workshop intended for both beginning and advanced fiction writers. For a full description and registration information, visit: More anon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ASCENT: How to Be a Good Neighbor by Dawn Marano

The venerable literary journal Ascent (edited by W. Scott Olsen) is publishing it's first on-line edition. Check it out-- and Dawn Marano's crackerjack essay of creative nonfiction, "How to Be a Good Neighbor." More anon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reading Groups: A Panel Discussion for the Womens National Book Association NY October 21 New York City

October 21, 2009, New York City
6 - 9 pm.
A Panel Discussion in Celebration of National Reading Group Month
Women’s National Book Association, NYC Chapter
WNBA–NYC at the Mint Theater
311 W. 43rd Street, Suite 307, New York NY
Rosalind Reisner (Read On . . . Life Stories and Jewish American Literature, Libraries Unlimited)
Miriam Tuliao (Assistant Director, Central Collection Development at New York Public Library)

Eva Hoffman (Appassionata, Other Press)
C.M. Mayo (The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, Unbridled Books)
Julie Metz (Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal, Hyperion/Voice)
Anne Roiphe (Epilogue, Harper Perennial)
Roxana Robinson (Cost, Picador)

Members and friends welcome! Admission free for paid-up members; $20 for nonmembers. RSVP required to

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Vook

I knew this was coming. Hmmm. Much to contemplate. More anon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Save the Date, October 18th @ The Historical Society of Washington D.C.

Washington DC (and Cleveland Park and Georgetown) history buffs take note:

October 18, 2009 Washington DC
Historical Society of Washington DC
C.M. Mayo on The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, a novel based on the true (and suprisingly Washingtonian) story

Sunday Afternoon Author Series

---> 2:30 pm (please note time, has changed) <---

801 K St NW at Mount Vernon Square, Washington DC 20001

Free and open to the public

Who knew that Mexico once had a half-American prince? Or that this little boy’s future was hotly debated not just in Mexico but in Washington D.C. and in every court in Europe? Set in the mid-19th century when Maximilian von Habsburg was Emperor of Mexico, C.M. Mayo's novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is based on the true and never before completely told story about a half-American, half-Mexican boy who, as in a fairytale, became a prince and then a pawn in the struggle-to-the-death over Mexico's destiny.

Published by Unbridled Books this May, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire has already received numerous glowing reviews, including from Publisher's Weekly, Latin American Review of Books, the Austin American-Statesman, Mexico Connect, and Library Journal, which said, "Mayo’s cultural insights are first-rate, and the glittering, doomed regime comes to life."

This novel incorporates original research into what is also a very Washingtonian story, for the prince's mother was from a prominent Washington family, and his father, Angel de Iturbide, second son of Mexico's first deposed emperor, Agustín de Iturbide, had come to Georgetown in Washington DC as a young boy and eventually served as the Mexican legation's secretary.

C.M. Mayo will present the novel and discuss the story behind the story of Mexico's last prince, a descendant not only of an emperor of Mexico, but of an old Washingtonian family, and why it has been obscured for more than 100 years.


More anon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So Would You Be Willing to Publish "The Long Sad Summer of Our Hot Forsaken Love" by Lachryma Duct?

Or, to quote Daniel Menaker, "Nuke Anbar Province, and I Mean Now!," by Generalissimo Macho Picchu? Check out his informative and thoughtful essay on the editing profession today over at the Barnes and Noble Review.
More anon.

Madam Mayo Recommends: Pyramid Atlantic Art Center to Feature Ghostly Poems and Stories

“Ghosts, Goblins and Shadows: A Halloween Reading of Poetry and Fiction” will be presented at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring on Thursday, October 15, from 7-9 p.m. Authors Kim Roberts, Cynthia Atkins, Lesley Wheeler and Laura Brodie with gather to share writings tuned to the season. The reading is free and open to the public. The Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is located at 8230 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD, More anon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In Memoriam: Charles East (1924-2009)

A splendid writer and editor, Charles East, has died. The University of Georgia Press blog has his brief obituary here, with links to more. More anon.

Update: LSU Press Blog on Charles East.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dylan Landis @ Politics & Prose October 11

If you're anywhere near DC, be sure to attend Dylan Landis' book launch for Normal People Don't Live Like This at Politics & Prose this Sunday @ 1 pm. P.S. Check out her guest-blog post for Madam Mayo, "Five Magnetic Spaces."

More anon.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Difficult Beauty: Readings Oct 10 and Oct 11

I won't be in town, alas, but highly recommend both events:

Sat., Oct. 10, 3:00 -- Arlington Central Library
Central Library Auditorium, 1015 North Quincy Street, Arlington, VA 22201
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Argentine poet Luis Alberto Ambroggio and his translator, Yvette Neisser Moreno, will read from Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems, and discuss the connection between bilingualism and identity. 703-228-5990.

Sun., Oct. 11, 6:00 – Iota Poetry Series
Iota Club and Café, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA (two blocks from Clarendon Metro).
Argentine poet Luis Alberto Ambroggio and poet/translator Yvette Neisser Moreno read from Difficult Beauty and other poems. Open reading to follow. Street and garage parking available. 703-256-9275.

The First Annual Writers Ball in Washington DC

My amiga poet Brandel France de Bravo writes:

The date is fast approaching...don't drop the ball. Buy your ticket now at You (and your ipod) are invited on October 17th from 8:00 to 11:00 pm to the first annual WRITERS BALL. Poets, journalists, novelists, playwrights, speechwriters, essayists, short-story writers, and friends of writers--you are all welcome! Join us in raising the roof and raising money for Washington Writers' Publishing House, a nonprofit, collective press celebrating its 35th year. WWPH is the only literary press in Washington, D.C. dedicated to publishing and promoting local writers. It has published over 80 books of poetry and fiction from some of Washington, D.C.'s best writers--many of them nationally recognized.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Texas Book Festival Schedule

The Texas Book Festival schedule has been posted.

November 1, 2009 Austin, Texas
Texas Book Festival
2:00 - 3:00
Imagination Sin Fronteras: Four Novelists Wrestle with Mexico
with Jimmy Santiago Baca, Barbara Renaud Gonzalez, C.M. Mayo, and Luis Alberto Urrea
Moderator: Katherine Durham Oldmixon

More anon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coral Bracho and Forrest Gander in Washington DC

(Coral Bracho's beautiful poems appeared in past issues of Tameme.)

News from the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington DC:

BOOK PRESENTATION | Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 6pm – 8pm
A bilingual reading of Firefly Under the Tongue
by Mexican Poet Coral Bracho and translator Forrest Gander

Join us for a special reading of Coral Bracho’s brilliantly translated bilingual edition of poems Firefly Under the Tongue, published by New Directions in 2008.

One of Mexico’s foremost poets, Coral Bracho is the author of eight books of poetry and recipient of numerous accolades for her work. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Bomb, Conjunctions, The Nation, and Poetry International. Bracho’s work has altered the landscape of Mexican poetry with its prodigious originality. Firefly Under the Tongue is the first book in English by this influential Mexican poet containing poems from her many groundbreaking collections in Spanish.

A Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brown University, Forrest Gander has published numerous books of poetry, novels, and translations. Gander's poems appear in many literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad, and have been translated into half a dozen languages. In describing Bracho’s work, Gander said “For me, the pleasures of her poems derive from their open-endedness, from their music, their delicious vocabulary and from the tensions between the insistently telic rhythm and dehiscent narrative”. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear the poems read in both Spanish and English, by Coral Bracho and Forrest Gander.

Tuesday, October 13, 6pm – 8pm
2021 14th St. NW, Washington DC, 20009. (MAP)
Free and open to all.

More anon.

Blogs Noted: The Word Hoarder, El vino y la hiel, My Big Walk, Lit Drift & More

Joanne Weir
El vino y la hiel (Agustin Cadena)
LSU Press
The Word Hoarder (Rich Rennicks)
Pinakothek (Luc Sante)
My Big Walk (Laurie Lico Albanese)
Lit Drift
Poeticas Generadoras (Claudia Posadas)
More anon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blogs Noted: Kevin Kelly, Bricolage, Reb Livingston, Right-reading, The Tao of Dana

The Art of American Book Covers


Kevin Kelly

The Neglected Books Page

Reb Livingston
(RIP "Homeschooled by a Cackling Jackal"?)

Out-of-Print (Fairfax County Public Library)


The Tao of Dana

More anon.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Writers Conference

I won't be there, alas, but for all writers (and beginning writers) in the Mid-Atlantic region, I recommend the 14th Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference in Rockville, MD on Saturday October 17th (7:30am-6:15pm). Award Honoree this year is Julia Alvarez. Richard Peabody (who judged the short story contest) writes:

"This is a great one-day conference and you should sign up. Other panelists and presenters this year include: Henry Allen, Cathy Alter, Khris Baxter, Ellen Braaf, Keith Donohue, H. G. Carillo, Olga Grushin, Dave Housley, Susan Muaddi-Darraj, Azar Nafisi, Kim Roberts, and Tim Wendel."

All info here:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Today is F. Scott Fitzgerald's Birthday

Read all about it over at the excellent blog of my amiga novelist and writing teacher, Leslie Pietrzyk, Work in Progress. I agree with her completely, that "The Great Gatsby is one of the most nearly perfect novels ever written." It's a novelist's novel.

P.S. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that someone from Alice Green de Iturbide's family married into the Fitzgerald family. Washington DC was a small world then. Both the Greens and the Fitzgeralds had a long history in the area.

If You Want to Write

If you want to write, you won't; if you need to write, you will. Well, that's the thoughtoid du jour. Light blogging this week as I've been working on the new novel at Nirvana on Earth, I mean, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts... and now must grapple with my karma: a Mount Everest of unanswered e-mail.

Events: Library of Congress Roundtable on Translating Poetry this Friday, Fall for the Book reading with Pam Jeff this Saturday, and the one day only Dialogue Intensive workshop at the Writers Center in Bethesda MD this Sunday. Full info about the whole enchilada here. More anon.

P.S. If you need to write, check out Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More Five Minute Writing Exercises.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BookCast: Podcast interview by Sam Clay with Pam Jenoff and C.M. Mayo

Apropos of our upcoming "Fall for the Book" reading, Pam Jenoff (Almost Home) and I (The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire) did a BookCast interview with Sam Clay on writing historical fiction. Listen in.

Our reading will be on Saturday September 26, 2009 @ 3 pm in the Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Avenue East, Vienna, VA 22180

P.S. I also did a "Fall for the Book" text interview for David Heath, about the Washingtonian history and original research behind the novel, which is based on the true story of Agustin de Iturbide y Green and Mexico's Second Empire. Read it on-line here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saul Leiter Resurrected, by Adam Harrison Levy

Over at Design Observer, a fascinating story about the brilliantly talented and now elderly painter, Saul Leiter. More anon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Dozen Tools for a Translation-in-Progress

I'm guest-blogging over at the brand-new Center for Art in Translation Blog with "One Dozen Tools for Organizing a Translation-in-Progress."

Trying to tackle a long translation . . . well, sometimes just thinking about it makes me weary. I’ve found that, for getting down a first draft, it works wonders to slice it up—yes, like that proverbial sausage—into bite-size pieces. Here are the tools I use:

1. Two print-outs (or copies) of the original work

Why two? Read on.

2. Plain paper, and lots of it

3. Scissors

Nice and sharp!

4. Tape

I take one copy of the original work and cut it up into bite-size pieces (two to three sentences—a brief paragraph at most) which I tape to the top of a page, leaving the rest of the page invitingly blank.

5. A pencil

In that nice big blank space, without the aid of a dictionary, I jot down the slobbiest, haziest first draft and sometimes it’s got gaps so big you could drive a Hummer though them. Who cares? It’s only a first draft. Additional trick: oftentimes I grab a few pages from the stack, say, six to seven, maybe as many as 10, and fill them in during odd moments of a busy day.

6. Source language—English Dictionary

After I’ve filled in all (or some) of the pages as best I can, I go through them again, looking up the words I didn’t know or wasn’t 111% sure about.

7. Yellow highlighter

Then I go through it again, smoothing, filling in, and highlight any words and phrases that remain mysterious or awkward.

8. Dictionary of the English language

Usually by this time I feel ready to type the whole thing up (and toss out that embarrassing, scribbled, taped-together draft.) There may still be some questions; usually a dictionary is indispensable.

9. Dictionary of the source language

So is this.

10. Thesaurus

And this. By now I’m in the fourth or fifth draft, polishing, polishing . . .

11. Native speaker helper

When the translation has been polished and typed and polished and retyped, even if I think it doesn’t, I’ve learned from experience that it does still need to be checked by someone else, preferably a native speaker (triple bonus points if you can also get the help of an experienced translation colleague). I translate contemporary Mexican poetry and fiction; luckily for me, my native speaker helper is my husband. How people translate 10th-century Chinese, I have no clue.

12. Time

Time heals all swollen heads. You can be 99% assured, your super-polished translation still has some rough spots. To be able to see those spots, however, you need to let the translation sit in a drawer for at least a few days— though I find a minimum of three weeks is optimal— and then give it another go over. And then another. And another.

Note: This guest-blog post is part of the Center for the Art in Translation's new on-line resource page, "Translator's Toolkit."

P.S. I'll be doing a translation roundtable on September 25th at noon at the Library of Congress with poets, writers and translators including Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Yvette Neisser Moreno, Lori Marie Carlson, and Steven F. White. More info here.

UPDATE 2016. These days I stick with the laptop and for a first draft (first draft only) I rely on my online dictionaries, but as the draft advances, I still consult my paper reference books. And I'll admit it might be a good idea to return to using paper for a first draft-- away from the laptop there are fewer distractions. 

Your comments are always welcome.

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