Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Occult of Personality: The Interview about Francisco I. Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution

I'm ginormously honored to have been interviewed by Greg Kaminsky for his outstanding esoteric podcast, Occult of Personality. From the website:

"With a focus on authenticity, accuracy, and quality, Occult of Personality peers behind the veil to provide recorded interviews with serious esoteric practitioners, scholars, and teachers from all over the world. Established in 2006, the podcast reaches several thousand listeners each month and has been noted for the quality and depth of interviews."

> Listen in to the Occult of Personality interview here.
> More about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, here.

P.S. Just a few of the many fascinating interviews at Occult of Personality:

The Life and Work of Henry Steel Olcott (interview with Mitch Horowitz)
William Kiesel of Ouroboros Press
Josephine McCarthy, author of The Exorcist's Handbook
Mitch Horowitz and One Simple Idea
Eastern Thought in the Western Occult World

(My talk for a panel at the American Literary Translators Association Conference,
Milkwaukee, November 15, 2014)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Not a Magical Misfit Book Mobile?

Artist, writer, farmer and animal rescuer Katherine Dunn is about to do something very special, sparklingly original and healing. Think of it as a combination performance art, pet therapy, and bibliotherapy. And yes-- my writing assistants approve-- it includes a handsome pug! 

Check it out her page for this project at Kickstarter. Watch the video (screen shot below) there as well.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Q & A with Karen Benke, Poet, Creativity and Fun Maven, Letter Writing Aficionada, and Author of "Write Back Soon!"

I met poet Karen Benke about 500 years ago while on tour in California for my first book, Sky Over El Nido, and we kept in touch by email, occasionally, and especially when she brought out Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing, which includes a piece by Yours Truly ("People Who Pat Me, I Sometimes Like," by Picadou). 

All of which is to say, we writers and poets experience community in many ways, from meeting in person, to exchanging emails, commenting on blogs, tweeting, encountering each others' works in an anthology... and now, though it be 2015, let us add ye olde letter writing!

Herewith some Q & A with Karen Benke about her latest book, Write Back Soon! Adventures in Letter Writing. She is also the author of a book of poems, Sister, and Leap Write In! Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind. She says she prefers letters delivered to her actual mailbox, but can be reached via her virtual address at

C.M. Mayo: What inspired you to write about letter writing?


Karen Benke: I went through a period of "healing time" after getting divorced, when I didn't really want to talk all that much or see too many people. Including friends. But I longed for connection... and I love my friends and family, and adore knowing what they're up to. One of my closest friends, Lynn, is an amazing letter writer. Over the years, her letters have always arrived at exactly the right time, when I've needed her voice on the page the most. 

Being a low-tech type and — because I'm a writer of books who eventually must sit for hours pushing square plastic keys on my computer — I find the act of writing with a favorite black pen in my hand comforting. Addressing my thoughts to a certain someone is fun and intimate, in a way that is also safe. It's a relaxed pleasure for me to write a note or letter and to then imagine my words being met by a friend. Plus I love seeing the hops and tumbles of friends' writing when I open my mailbox and find an envelope addressed to me. 

So the short answer is the need for connection is what inspired me to create Write Back Soon! Little heart notes sent from a friend is what keep us connected. 

C.M. Mayo: What advice would you give to those who haven't written a letter before, or who haven't written a letter in an age?

Karen Benke: Don't be afraid to write about the mundane, the typical, the every-day happenings in your everyday life. "Hi, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast after walking the dog and am thinking of you. Let's see a movie soon and meet for ice-cream. Sending love on this foggy day... K." 

People love hearing what you're up to, love imagining a future outing. It's okay to write the way you talkthere's no need to reach for formality with your friends and loved ones. It's the act of sitting down to jot a few sentencescomplete thoughts or run-ons... friends don't judge you, that has the power to change us. Make it a fun project to find paper you like the look, smell, feel of. Find just the right stamp. Get that note/letter folded and into the envelope, seal it, and drop it in the big blue box. That's what counts, sending it on its way. Then you get to enjoy the pleasure of imagining it reach your friends hands, eyes, heart. And, well, those who write letters do receive letters!

C.M. Mayo: Are there any collected letters you have found especially inspiring?

Karen Benke: I really love the correspondence between the illustrator Edward Gorey and writer Peter Neumeyer. They collaborated on three children's books from 1968-1969 and through 75 letters, 60 postcards, and 38 illustrated envelopes became close friends. The story of their friendship and correspondence is found in the book Floating Worlds. I'm not much of a drawer, but Edward Gorey inspired me to start sketching odd little figures and fragments of unusual sitingsmy dogs paw prints, and elephant with upturned trunk, even half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich breakfast on my envelopes. 

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence is also one I'd highly recommend.

C.M. Mayo: Why do you think so many people have such a hard time writing bread-and-butter thank you notes?

Karen Benke: I think sitting down to write a thank you note requires us to slow down long enough to land in the present moment, minus any distractions... and our world is filled with tantalizing distractions. How often are we actually not multi-tasking and remaining in the no where else? I think many people feel it's a burden to write a thank you note, to slow down. Texting makes everything so immediate and instantly gratifying. Though staring into a small screen for too long is anything but intimate for me. I actually find it quite lonely. 

Writing a thank you note is as much a gift for the writer as it is for the receiver. Whenever we get a chance to feel genuine gratitude, and writing a thank you letter offers us this chance, it expands our world. It also makes us happier. Gratitude is the gateway to happiness, after all. 

There's also actual proof that writing by hand slows us down and de-stresses the nervous system. Sign me up for that.

C.M. Mayo: Who is the best letter writer you know?

Karen Benke: Hands down, my friend Lynn Mundell. Her letters have just the right amount of detail to transport me to wherever she is. She's incredibly well read and wickedly funny. She has this looping, easy to read script, and always picks out the card that makes me snort out a laugh. We met in college and Write Back Soon! is dedicated to her. 

Although he does not have an opposable thumb,
my writing assistant approves of letter writing.

>> Your COMMENTS are always welcome. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Edward Swift Interview: The Big Thicket, New York, the Orphic Journey, San Miguel de Allende, the Sierra Gorda, and more

From my Conversations with Other Writers Podcast, a new transcript, from the 2012 interview with artist and writer Edward Swift. 

C.M. Mayo: Edward Swift is one of my very favorite writers. I didn't come across his work until fairly recently, however. We met in Mexico City— I think it was in 2009— at an exhibition of our mutual friend, the Mexican painter Mariló Carral. Because Mariló went on about it, I got myself a copy of Edward's memoir, My Grandfather's Finger. And I have to say, it was such a good read that every time the subject comes up I get ridiculously effusive, and I've recommended it to almost every writer I know, and lots of other people, too, and well— we'll be talking quite a bit about this very unusual memoir in the interview.

Edward is also the author of several novels: Splendora, Principia Martindale, A Place With Promise, The Christopher Park Regulars, Mother of Pearl, Miss Spellbinder's Point of View, and most recently, The Daughter of the Doctor and the Saint. I'm going to read to you a little bit from his website,

"Edward Swift made his debut as a novelist in 1978 with Splendora, which the Houston Chronicle praised as one of the year's best comic novels. He has since written five other acclaimed novels, as well as a memoir, My Grandfather's Finger.

Of Splendora, The Washington Post says, "Splendora reads like an exuberant fairy tale about a young man's search for himself." And writing in The New York Times book review, Anne Tyler wrote, "Edward Swift has a particular gift for capturing the continuous low musical murmur of small town gossip. He knows how stories seem to grow on their own, drifting almost unnoticeably toward the mythical."

And of A Place With Promise— which received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, The Boston Globe, and many others— in the Los Angeles Times Carolyn See (no easy customer, by the way), writes, "A Place With Promise is a dignified, stately, intelligent book, everything a novel should be."


C.M. Mayo: It's the morning of February 22, 2012, and I'm in San Miguel de Allende with Edward Swift, and you might hear some chickens crowing, and children playing, and I don't know what. We have a lot of sounds going on here, and that's just the way it is.

We're in his workshop by his house—
 and I'm going to ask a lot of questions about the house, because it has a great story. So Edward, I am so happy to see you! I am so happy to be here to talk to you! This is really a thrill and an honor.

Edward Swift: Well, it's a thrill for me too. What in the world do you want to talk about?

C.M. Mayo: What in the world do I want to talk about? You have so many books. You have so many books! The one I love the most is My Grandfather's Finger, because it's the first one that I read by you. And you have a new novel, The Daughter of the Doctor and the Saint. You have several other novels, Splendora, A Place With Promise, and other books. And you have such an interesting life. But let's talk starting with page three of the essay that you wrote for Gulf Coast.

Edward Swift: What's on page three? I have no idea!

C.M. Mayo: [Laughs] "Come In, Mr. Proust: Remembering Marguerite Young." This is one of the most beautiful essays by a writer about his mentor, about learning to be a writer, that I have ever read.

Edward Swift: Thank you. Marguerite Young was very special to me. I sought her out. I read her book and it spoke to me, and I knew immediately that I had to not only know her, but study with her.

C.M. Mayo: And you studied with her for a long time.

Edward Swift: Four years in class at the New School for Social Research, and outside of the classroom we remained very close for about six years. And I met her for coffee almost every week, sometimes twice a week, down in the Village in New York in a little place called Reichert's, and then later on in a coffee shop called Pennyfeathers. And I was one of Marguerite's children until I was about 35 years old.

C.M. Mayo: So this was in the '70s.

Edward Swift: Yes, the early '70s.

C.M. Mayo: Greenwich Village, New York City.

Edward Swift: Yes.

C.M. Mayo: A very exciting time to be in New York.

Edward Swift: Well, it was the very last of the bohemian period in New York. Bohemian life was still alive in the Village. Now it is not. It is far too expensive now for artists to be able to move into the Village, so it's become very gentrified and full of families, and Wall Streeters, and people with a great deal of money who can afford those old brownstones and old apartment houses that we used to live in that cost nothing.

C.M. Mayo: And now they're several million dollars.

Edward Swift: Now they're several million dollars.

C.M. Mayo: [Laughs] You wrote in this essay that the image of the whale was of supreme importance to her. Quote, "To be swallowed up by the world and regurgitated, reborn with enlightenment, that," she said, "is the way of the artist. Some of you go into the whale but never come out again. Some of you go in and come out, but haven't the slightest idea you've entered another room. You walk through the door without seeing the portal."

You've been an artist for many, many years. You have written book after book after book. Your know, most people want to write a book, and never write it. Or they write it, and then it's such a searing experience they give up. But you have kept at it, and kept at it, and kept at it, and you also make art. You really are an artist, decade after decade. Do you think it's being swallowed up by the whale? 


Monday, September 07, 2015

Pitmaster Israel Campos at Pody's BBQ in Pecos (Marfa Mondays Podcast #19)

For the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Exploring Marfa, Texas & Environs in Far West Texas, I have just posted #19, an interview with Israel Campos, the award-winning pitmaster and owner of Pody's BBQ in Pecos.

 Yes, Pecos is an hour and forty minutes' drive from Marfa. Never mind, go there, grab a plate of brisket at Pody's BBQ, and you will ring the bell!

>>Listen in to this podcast anytime<<

>>Read the Transcript<<

(Wondering where to eat in Marfa? I can recommend breakfast at Squeeze Marfa, lunch at The Food Shark, and --if you still have both the room and the clams-- dinner at Cochineal. If there is a good BBQ in Marfa that I have overlooked, I ask your indulgence; I am writing a literary travel memoir, not a guide book. That said, please send me your recommendations, because, like Arnold, I'll be back.)

About the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project

You can find all the Marfa Mondays Podcasts on my webpage here. They are all free; listen in anytime. There are now 19; there will be more until there are 24. These podcasts are apropos of my book in-progress about Far West Texas, that is, the blazingly gorgeous and utterly fascinating Trans-Pecos

Check out the maps of this surprisingly little-known region here. (P.S. there are two typos on the maps... if you can find more and let me know, I shall be eternally grateful.)

Your comments are always welcome.