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Preview: Madam Mayo

Madam Mayo

By literary journalist and novelist C.M. Mayo. Mainly Mexico, oftentimes Texas and well yonder. Author of METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION, FRANCISCO I. MADERO AND HIS SECRET BOOK, as well as THE LAST PRINCE OF THE MEXICAN EMPIRE, the nove

Updated: 2017-08-18T17:32:37.763-04:00


What's Happening in Mexico City: Bridges Not Walls! B4U, a Nonpartisan Grassroots Effort by U.S. Citizens in Mexico Who Value Good Relations with Mexico


www.bridgesforunderstanding.comDid you know that there are some 1.5 million U.S. citizens living in Mexico? Many of them, including myself, have been here for decades and have binational families, and we are profoundly aware of the importance of maintaining good relations between the US and Mexico.Here is some excellent news in this direction.Last week, thanks to the digital wizardry of Helena von Nagy, the website of Bridges for Understanding went live from Mexico City. Anyone and everyone who cares about US-Mexico relations, please check out this grassroots effort in the American community here to help promote better understanding, and so better relations, between the US and Mexico. Their mission is:To contribute to the preservation of US-Mexican relations based on an exchange of ideas, personal narratives, and advocacy.Mary O'Keefe and sonsThe founding members / leadership team are Monica French, Mary O'Keefe, Nancy Westfal de Garrulo, Sam Stone, Jan Silverman, Helena von Nagy, and Lisa Milton. Check out their bios, they are impressive bunch!Here's what they say about who they are:Bridges for Understanding (B4U) is a grassroots, non-partisan, membership and advocacy organization comprised of primarily U.S. citizens and bi-nationals living in Mexico and elsewhere working side by side with their Mexican neighbors.Founded in January 2017,  B4U strives to promote the shared principles of freedom and economic prosperity that bind the two nations. We seek to combat the deterioration of bilateral relationsand its impact on human rights, commerce and economic stability on both sides of the border.Many U.S. and Mexican academic and nonprofit institutions are networking with Bridges for Understanding, among them, the American Benevolent Society, CIDE, Global Jewish Advocacy, New Comienzos, Rotary International, the Wilson Center, and many more. I am proud to report that that my blog post is the first for the B4U cultural blog: "A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."READ THE FIRST B4U CULTURAL BLOG POST"A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."So check out, surf around in there, and if you like what you see, become a member, sign up for the listserv, tweet, FB, whatever you can do to help build bridges.P.S. You will find Bridges for Understanding on Twitter @Bridges4underst> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious and Adventurous English-language ReadersWhat the Muse Sent Me about the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la CruzQ & A with Mexican Historian Alan Rojas Orzechowskiabout Painter Santiago Rebull[...]

Spotlight on Mexican Fiction: "The Apaches of Kiev" by Agustín Cadena in Tupelo Quarterly, and Much More


Delighted to announce that my translation of the short story by Agustín Cadena, "The Apaches of Kiev," appears in the very fine U.S. literary journal, Tupelo Quarterly. It's a story at once dark and deliciously wry. It caught my attention because, well, everything Cadena writes catches my attention-- he is one of my favorite writers in Mexico, or anywhere-- and he happens to be living in Hungary, so the Eastern Europe angle is no surprise. In all, Cadena's is a unique and powerful voice in contemporary fiction, and I hope you'll have a read.THE APACHES OF KIEVBY AGUSTIN CADENA(Originally published in Spanish on Agustín Cadena's blog, El vino y la hiel) Translated by C.M. MayoThe story about the body they found in the Botanic Garden came out in the newspapers and on television. The Kiev police identified it immediately: Dmitri Belov, reporter and political analyst known for his scathing criticism of President Poroshenko’s administration. Presumably it was a suicide, but until they could confirm this verdict, the police had been ordered to put all resources to work.Among the underemployed— peddlers and prostitutes— who roamed the Botanical Garden, very few were aware of this. So how was anyone else to find out? They didn’t have televisions and they didn’t spend their money on newspapers. Understandably, those who knew about the body avoided that area. They knew there would have been a commotion, and especially if the body belonged to someone important. The police would go around searching for possible witnesses to interrogate, and by the way, shake them down on other charges. It wouldn’t do any good to explain to the police what they already knew: that every week all of these underemployed people paid a bribe to be left in peace. Ignorant of everything, three men of approximately 40 years of age, exotic-looking, dressed like Apaches in a Western movie, appeared after 11 in the morning. They were Ernesto Ortega, Gonzalo Acevedo and Milton Guzmán: Mexican, Salvadorean and Venezuelan, respectively. The three of them dressed identically: a headdress of white feathers that went from their heads down to their waists, jacket and trousers of coffee-colored leather with fringe on the sleeves and the back, moccasins, and ritual battle makeup. They carried assorted musical instruments and they took turns playing Andean music: “El cóndor pasa,” “Pájaro Chogüi,” “Moliendo café,” etc. They knew the music did not go with the costumes nor the costumes with their ethnicities, but this strange combination was what worked for them commercially. Americaphilia was at its height in Kiev, and passersby were happy to give money to these “North American Indians” who played the music “of their people.” Perhaps the happy notes of “La flor de la canela” led the Ukrainians to imagine the beauty of life in teepees, among the buffalo, wild horses, mountain lions, and bald-headed eagles. The fact is, in addition to playing and signing, the “Apaches” also sold their CDs of this same music, displayed on a cloth spread on the ground. [... CONTINUE READING] P.S. My amiga the poet and writer Patricia Dubrava also translates Cadena. Check out some of her excellent translations at Mexico City Lit.# # #This past Saturday I had the good fortune to be able to attend Cadena's book presentation in one of my favorite Mexico City bookstores, the FCE Rosario Castellanos in Condesa. (Here is where I interviewed Michael Schuessler about his biography of Pita Amor, among other works.) Cadena was presenting a novel for young readers, La casa de los tres perros (The House of the Three Dogs) and along for the ride came a group of Mexican writers who have stories in his latest anthology, Callejeros, cuentos urbanos de mundos soñados (My rough translation of that might be, Street People: Stories of Urban Dreamworlds). Happily for me, this also meant a chance to visit with my friend the Mexican novelist and historian Silvia Cuesy. Here we are with Agustín Cadena:C.M. Mayo,[...]

Some Old Friends Spark Joy (Whilst Kondo-ing My Library)


Elvis approvesI moved. And of course, this involved oodles of Kondo-ing.For those who missed the phenomenon of Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo: She says the way to do it is to pick up each object and ask yourself, does this spark joy? If so, keep it (even if it's a raggedy T-shirt), and if not (even if it's a brand new suede sofa that cost a heap), thank it, then chuck it--or donate it or sell it, or whatever, but get it out of your space. Many organizers and sundry pundits have dismissed Kondo-ing as "woo woo." Too bad for them because, by Jove, by whatever Shinto spirit you want to name, or the god Pan, or Elvis Presley, it works.My personal and working library is at last in good order, and I am delighted to share with you, dear and thoughtful reader, just a few of the many old friends that sparked much joy:See this post that mentions the luminous Sara Mansfield Taber: "So How's the Book Doing? (And how many books have you sold?And what was your print run?)"Both of these books made my annual top 10 book read lists.2011 Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and Living in Viet Nam2014 Finding George Orwell in BurmaPost re: Bruce Berger's amusing, eccentric and very sensitive artist's memoir.I often quote from Rupert Isaacson's The Healing Land in my literary travel writing workshops.Taking the advice in Neil Fiore's The Now Habit enabled me to finish my novel.David Allen's GTD saves the bacon every time.Back in 2010 Regina Leeds contributed a guest-blog:"Five Plus 1 Resources to Make a Writer Happy in an Organized Space"I have a sizable collection of books about books. Books for me are heaven.I wrote a bit about book history in my recent longform Kindle,"Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" Sophy Burnham is best known for her works on angels, but she has a sizable body of outstanding work of literary essay / sociology. Her The Landed Gentry was especially helpful for me for understanding some of the characters in one of my books.Doormen by Peter Bearman... that merits a post...Drujienna's Harp was one of my very favorite novels when I was first starting to read novels.As for The Golden Key, pictured right, my copy was left for some days by an open window in the rain back in 1960-something, but I have saved it and I always shall.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Top 10 + Books Read in 2016A Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a WriterDispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito HablaA Longform Essay on the Mexican Literary Landscapeand the Power of the Book[...]

Roopa Pai Decodes the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Book that Predates Organized Religion


The other day a Mexican Spiritist author sent me some questions about how Spiritism influenced Francisco I. Madero as the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and as president of Mexico (1911-1913)-- so the topic has once again been on my mind. Of course, as those of you have read my book about Madero's secret book of 1911, and/or who been following this blog well know, Madero's Spiritist Manual is more than a rehash of ye olde Kardecian Spiritism: Madero stirs in sprinkles and cupfuls of all sorts of esoteric ideas from other authors and occult tradition. Also reflected in his Spiritist Manual is Madero's avid interest in the Hindu Holy Book of 700 verses in 18 chapters known as the Bhagavad Gita.> See my post on Madero's commentary on the Gita.And there, in the Bhagavad Gita, is where I believe we can find the answer to another more frequently asked question, how did a Spiritist, supposedly devoted to brotherly love and peace, pick up arms and fight a revolution?The Bhagavad Gita is about war. It is also about the afterlife and life itself, down to some very earthy, very granular levels. Because I have since moved on to work on another, very different book-- a travel memoir about Far West Texas (in which Madero makes a cameo appearance, of course, because the 1910 Revolution started at the border)-- I have not been able to go into the detail about the Bhagavad Gita that the subject warrants. So I was very pleased to find and be able to link to this TEDx talk by Roopa Pai about the Gita, "India's book of answers." Pai calls the Gita "a shining moral compass for guidance"; "a primer on the art of civilized debate"; "a killer app for contentment"; "the ultimate equal rights manifesto"; "the original monograph on free trade"; "the original tree huggers handbook"; "the Indian book on baby names"; and "a mathematical treatment on the mobius strip called karma."Roopa Pai's is the best short introduction I have yet found to the Gita, and I highly recommend it. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="" width="360">P.S. In addition to the link to Roopa Pai's talk on the Gita, you will find many more resources for researchers on the webpage for my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.> Resources for Researchers (films and videos)Biographers International Interview: Strange Spark of the Mexican RevolutionCyberflanerie: Soltario Dome EditionTulpa Max or, Notes on the Afterlife of a Resurrection[...]

My Great Great Great Uncle, De Witt Clinton Boutelle, Painter of the Hudson River School


Untitled (Hudson River Landscape with Indian) 1848De Witt Clinton BoutelleChrysler Museum of ArtApart from trying to finish my book on Far West Texas and the overdue prologue for a friend's most unusual and outstanding book and moving house (half the books now in boxes, my train of thoughts surely must be bubble-wrapped into one or three of them) and see about querying publishers for various projects and translations, and trying also (also!) to not fall too woefully behind with email (... am trying to take my own advice...), this week I got wrapped up with some thunderous family news... precisely, of the existence of De Witt Clinton Boutelle (1820 - 1884), a great great great uncle who was, lo and behold, a remarkably talented painter of the Hudson River School. My sister, thanks to Google, found his grave. And from there it was all open sesame.> More about the Hudson River Landscape with Indian of 1848 in the Chrysler Museum.> Here is De Witt Clinton Boutelle's "Indian Surveying a Landscape" 1855, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (I note that it was purchased from a private collection in Springfield MA.)> And here is Boutelle's 1873 portrait of Asa Packer.> And a bunch more of Boutelle's landscapes at artnet.> Even more at .> And a note on Boutelle's "Catskills Mountain House" of 1845.# # #> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.A Couple of AbolitionistsA Book That Defies the Passage of Time(My Dad's Book, Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam)Cymru and Comanche: Cyberflanerie[...]

"Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" A Longform Essay About the Mexican Literary Landscape and the Power of the Book


Get this essay about the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book in KINDLEMy extra-crunchy long essay on the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book is now available in Kindle.Featured on the cover are my writing assistants, Uliberto Quetzalpugtl (aka Uls) and Washingtoniana Quetzalpugalotl (aka La Wash), both thinking profound thoughts... probably about the neighbor's cat. (As for books, they go for the corners.)If you have been following my blog (in which case, bless you), you might be wondering, what in Timbuktu does this long essay on the Mexican literary landscape have to do with my current work in-progress on Far West Texas? Plenty, actually, starting with Cabeza de Vaca's gobsmackingly bizarre Informe. One of the several reasons I wrote this essay was to get my mind around the literary nuns of the baroque period— in Mexico, the prime and cherished example is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Another literary nun not mentioned in this essay, but who will appear in my book on Far West Texas, is María de Agreda, the Blue Lady. Much more about María de Agreda and her exterioridades anon.Above all, I wrote "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" for U.S. friends and colleagues who want to get past the heavily-retailed clichés about Mexico. This essay is at once my love letter to Mexico and a distillation of all that I have come to understand after 30 years of living here and over two decades of writing about Mexico and translating Mexican literature. I sincerely hope it will invite you to consider our southern neighbor in new ways— and so, consider our own republic in new ways as well.Read some excerpts from "Dispatch from the Sister Republic":> Lord Kingsborough's Antiquities of Mexico> What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz> A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, Mexico City>> Get "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" in in Kindle here.<<#   #   #Kindle editionAlso in the Kindle store you will find my memoir of yore, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. Available as always in Kindle from Dancing Chiva, it will be for free in the Kindle store—yes, free—for two days later this month, July 22 and 23. So, I invite you to note those free days in your calendar, or shell out the clams. Or not. Or whatever. I invite you to read more about this book, reviews, and excerpts here. (The original hardcover was published by the University of Utah Press and the still in-print paperback is available from Milkweed Editions and all the usual online and independent booksellers.)#   #   #> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious and Adventurous English-Language ReadersBiographers International Interview: A Strange Spark of the Mexican RevolutionOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and Surprises(University of Texas El Paso Centennial Lecture)[...]

Recent and Current Reading: Cather, Bogard, Kunstler, Padilla, Abbey


The Professor's Houseby Willa CatherIn one of the strangest, most elegant and powerful novels I have ever read, Cather combs apart the strands of the very DNA of North America.The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Lightby Paul BogardIf you still want to vacation in Las Vegas after reading this...Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation by James Howard KunstlerFor those who have not yet drunk the Kool-Aid of Geewhizdomerie. Kunstler, maestro of colorful metaphors and hilarious diction drops, is always a wicked pleasure to read. The Daring Flight of My Pen: Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's Historia de la Nueva México, 1610By Genaro M. PadillaAt once a brilliant work of scholarship and a powerful personal essay, The Daring Flight of My Pen is vital reading for anyone anywhere who would attempt to understand North American history. Resist Much, Obey Little: Remembering Edward AbbeyEdited By James R. Hepworth and Gregory McNameeOne cannot go far into reading about the American West without encountering Edward Abbey and, in particular, his iconic Desert Solitaire. This eclectic collection of essays and interviews is like an adventure in the fun house of Edward Abbey's mind.For those of you who follow this blog: As you might guess from this reading list I am at work on the book about Far West Texas. Stay tuned for podcast #21; I really am going to post it soon. In the meantime, I welcome you to listen in to the other 20 podcasts here.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Top 10 + Books Read in 2016Book Review: Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos RiverBook Review: Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire[...]

Tulpa Max or, Notes on the Afterlife of a Resurrection (On the 150th Anniversary of the Execution of Maximilian von Habsburg)


Letras Libres, one of Mexico's finest magazines, has a special section in this month's issue which includes, I am delighted to report, my own essay on Maximilian von Habsbug, "Tulpa Max. La vida después de una resurrección".  ("Tulpa Max or, The Afterlife of a Resurrection.") It's a riff on writing historical fiction-- and my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which was beautifully translated by Mexican writer Agustín Cadena as El último principe del Imperio mexicano (Random House Mondadori-Grijalbo, 2010). I am hoping my Spanish has continued some progress up the steep hill toward matching my English: I dared to translate this essay for Letras Libres myself.The novel, by the way, is not about Maximilian per se, but rather the little half-American prince, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, whom Maximilian brought into his court (true story), much to the child's parents' consternation.The English version of this essay is forthcoming in the summer issue of Catamaran Literary Review, and once that's out I will be sure to post it here.> Read the essay online here.For the occasion, a few links about Maximilian:> On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühlung> Podcast of the book's presentation at the Library of Congress> A Conversation with M.M. McAllen About Her Book, Maximilian and Carlota> Q & A with Mexican historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski About Santiago Rebull, Maximilian's Court Painter-- Later Diego River's Professor> Oodles more at my novel's webpage, on the Maximilian and Carlota Blog, and the research page Maximilian von Mexiko> Your comments are always most welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico: Recommended Reading for Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English Langiage ReadersWriting About Mexico: Secrets and SurprisesWhat the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz[...]

Daniel Yergin's THE PRIZE, M. King Hubbert, Medieval Smokestacks & Etc. (Plus Cyberflanerie)


Finally I finished reading Daniel Yergin's brilliant and necessary The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a doorstopper of a tome which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1992. I sincerely wish I had read it decades sooner. It rewired my thinking about World War II, among multitudinous other things. What prompted me to pick it up is that for the book I am writing about Far West Texas I needed a broader historical perspective for the oil industry in the Permian Basin. One oilman mentioned in The Prize whom I'll be writing about is pioneer geologist and philanthropist Wallace E. Pratt... More about him anon. Next on my reading list: Mason Inman's new book about M. King Hubbert, The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future> M. King Hubbert's 1989 obituary in the New York Times> A lengthy and fascinating memorial to M. King Hubbert in The Geological Society of America (PDF).Oil Extraction, Economic Growth, and Oil Price DynamicsAn academic article that represents a parting of the seas.Low Tech Magazine on Medieval Smokestacks: Fossil Fuels in Pre-Industrial TimesAn almost unknown history well worth knowing.# # #A few more fascinating items I've happened upon in recent surfaris:Bob Dylan's Nobel LectureStrange and powerful, a highly recommended read. (But I still think I must have stepped into some parallel universe, this one where Donald Tump is President and Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.... I am not comparing Dylan to Trump, however. And, apropos of that lecture, I will say that I'm a serious fan of Buddy Holly.) On Jeffrey Mishlove's "New Thinking Allowed": Psychedelic Experience with Stanley KrippnerI am not planning on seeking out any psychedelic experiences myself; current events seem plenty psychedelic to me. But I do find it fascinating to listen to other people's experiences and to learn some of the cultural history. For psychonauterie and psychedelia, the very articulate and matter-of-fact Professor Krippner is the elder guru. Who Says 19th Century Family Photo Albums are Boring?Check out this post on the blog of Jeff Peachy, blogging book conservator extraordinaire.Guaranteed Minimum What?Another thoughtful post from Granola Shotgun. And finally, a couple of especially interesting pieces both in the New York Times:The Hidden Radicalism of Southern Food by John T. EdgeIs there an ecological unconscious? by Daniel B. SmithCyberflanerie: Cymru & ComanchePeyote and the Perfect YouJeffrey Mishlove's Thinking AllowedInterview with Yours Truly about Francisco I. Madero andSpiritism in the Mexican Revolution[...]

Five Video Poems to Watch


Once in a chartreuse moon I concoct a little video... (my latest is this one about the controversial statue at the El Paso airport). Mainly I have made what I call "mini-clips" to illustrate my travel writing, which are really more like GIFs-- and, in fact, I have started making the occasional GIF. So in the jiggy flow of things, I have become intrigued by video poetry...Herewith a few examples gleaned from my recent Internet surfaris:Sor Juana's "Green Enchantment" Video by Dave Bonta allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">Ann Cefola's "Velocity" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="" width="360">Sandra Beasley's "Inner Flamingo" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">Laurie Anderson's poem "Walking and Falling" as "Step" Filmed by Pascal Rekort allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">> See Dave Bonta's Moving Poems website and Bonta's excellent 2012 AWP talk, "Video Poetry: What Is it? Who Makes It? And Why?"> See also Bonta's post from 2014, "Poetry Videos on the Web: Some Preliminary Observations." > You can watch some of Bonta's own video poems here.> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la CruzTop 13 Trailers for Movies with Extra-Astral TexinessTyposphere, Ho! "Stay West" on My 1961 Hermes 3000[...]

"For the Vivid Dreamer": Notes from my Workshop on Nature and Travel Writing in the Glorious Guadalupe Mountains National Park


El Capitan from the Pine Springs Station,Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TexasThis past weekend for my workshops as artist-in-residence at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park I offered this handout which includes three brief, fun, easy-peasy and yet powerfully effective exercises to rev up your writerly perceptions.We can think of the best writing about nature and travel, whether fiction or nonfiction, as instructions for the reader to form in his or her mind a "vivid dream," an experience of the world. How do we, whether as readers, or as any human being (say, folding laundry or maybe digging for worms with a stick), experience anything? Of course, we experience the world through our bodies, that is to say, through our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing-- and I would add a "gut" or intuitive sense as well... CONTINUE READINGP.S. Loads more resources for writers on my workshop page.> Some of my travel writing is here, here, and here.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.One Powerful But Simple Practice in Reading as a WriterOn Seeing as an Artist or, Five Steps for a Journey to EinfuhlungWhat the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz[...]

Q & A with Mary S. Black About Her New Book, "From the Frio to Del Rio"


Amazon orIndieBoundOne of my very favorite places not just in Texas but in the galaxy is the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, so I was delighted to see that Texas A & M Press has published Mary S. Black's splendid and much-needed guidebook, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands. From the catalog:"Each year, more than two million visitors enjoy the attractions of the Western Hill Country, with Uvalde as its portal, and the lower Pecos River canyonlands, which stretch roughly along US 90 from Brackettville, through Del Rio, and on to the west. Amistad National Recreation Area, the Judge Roy Bean Visitors’ Center and Botanical Garden, Seminole Canyon State Park, and the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde, along with ghost towns, ancient rock art, sweeping vistas, and unique flora and fauna, are just a few of the features that make this distinctive section of the Lone Star State an enticing destination."Now, veteran writer, blogger, and educator Mary S. Black serves up the best of this region’s special adventures and secret treasures. From the Frio to Del Rio is chock-full of helpful maps, colorful photography, and tips on where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. In addition there are details for 10 scenic routes, 3 historic forts and 7 state parks and other recreation areas."Herewith an interview with the author:Mary S. BlackAuthor of Peyote Fireand From the Frio to Del RioC.M. MAYO: What inspired you to write this book? MARY S. BLACK: I think what inspired me was the land itself, and the history. The Lower Pecos Canyonlands are not well known by most people, but the landscape is incredibly majestic and unexpected. You can be driving 70 miles per hour down the highway through the desert, when, wham, a huge canyon veers off to the left like a sudden tear in the earth. These canyons were inhabited by human beings for thousands of years. They lived off the land and made paintings on the canyon walls that illustrate their gods and belief systems. Over 300 of these paintings still exist, and you can visit some of them. They are a treasure of human culture, and I hope more people will learn to value them as something important for us to save. The people who settled this area historically were a diverse bunch with a lot of gumption. Do people know that word anymore? I guess in modern language, we might say they had a lot of guts. C.M. MAYO: In your view, what is the most underrated place in this region?  Las Moras SpringsMARY S. BLACK: If I have to pick only one, I’ll say Las Moras Springs Pool at Ft. Clark in Brackettville.  I’m always looking for great swimming holes. Las Moras Springs Pool is the third largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas. Crystal clear water at a year-round temperature of about 70 degrees comes into the pool from a strongly flowing spring, yet very few people swim there because they don’t know how to get access. The pool is located on Ft. Clark, and old U.S. Army fort originally built in 1849. You can get a day-pass for $5.00 at the guard house to enter the fort, enjoy the pool or play golf on either of two gold courses, and look at all the old stone buildings that remain from when the place was an active Army fort. There is also a really interesting museum there that is open on Saturdays.C.M. MAYO: What is your favorite place? MARY S. BLACK: Hands down, the White Shaman Preserve. The best studied of all the ancient murals is located there.  This is a polychrome painting about 25 feet long and 13 feet high done on a rock wall overlooking the Pecos River. This painting tells a story about creation and how the sun was born, according to Dr.[...]

A Glimpse of "México Profundo" in a Visit to La Santa Madero in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila


Having written a book about the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero--Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy"--I am often asked if I have visited his native town, Parras de la Fuente. As of two weeks ago, thanks to an invitation to give talk about my book there, I can now answer, with the easiest of shrugs, why, of course. An oasis of a mission-and-farm-town in the arid border state of Coahuila, Parras de la Fuente is one of Mexico's 111 officially-designated "pueblos mágicos," or "magical towns." Apart from its historical importance and its charming downtown, Parras de la Fuente's biggest draw is Casa Madero, the oldest winery in the Americas--at one time run by Francisco I. Madero. If you're interested in visiting Parras de la Fuente--and for anyone at all interested in Mexican history and culture I warmly recommend it--check out Tripadvisor for information galore. (If you read Spanish, there is a very informative article about the town in the magazine Mexico Desconocido.) I won't aim to cover the gamut here, just one of several worthy attractions, La Santa Madero.View of La Santa Maderofrom the parking lotLA SANTA MADERO It's impossible to talk about Parras de la Fuente without making some reference to the Madero family. Not only was native-born son Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) the leader of the 1910 Revolution, but he served as president of Mexico from 1911 until his assassination in 1913. Moreover, there was his grandfather, industrialist Evaristo Madero (1828-1911), founder of a veritable dynasty. In many ways, Parras de la Fuente is, if you will excuse my anglosajonismo, Maderotown.Speaking of looming, perched above the little town on a bulbous hulk of rock sits La Santa Madero.Perhaps you wonder, is that a misspelling? (Shouldn't it be El Santo Madero?) Was there a Saint Madero? Or could this be a sanctuary of some sort donated by the Madero family?La Santa Madero, it turns out, refers to the Holy Cross, a purported splinter of which is enshrined in the early 19th-century chapel at the top of that craggy overlook.Ring-a-ling to Dr. Jung! In the Names Department, La Santo Madero overlooking "Maderotown," this is quite the bodacious synchronicity... And this does bring new texture to a quote in my book:As even his great admirer, Isidro Favela put it, Madero was a Don Quixote with “the fury for freedom.” Others who loved him said Madero was “made of wood for the cross.”Starting up the hill to La Santa MaderoAbout half way up... sun setting through a cloudParras de la Fuente belowNearing the top, about to go around the curve...Final staircase to the top...Pug Puppy Alert!cClose up of pug puppy at La Santa MaderoThis Chapel of the Holy Cross...Alas, the chapel was locked.But you can view photos of the interior on TripadvisorOn the way back down the hill:Sunset over Parras de la Fuentefrom La Santa MaderoOn the way down we passed a girl in a huge poppy-red quinceañera dress (15th birthday celebration) and her photographers-- probably brothers, cousins and friends. One of my companions on this hike, an eminent Mexican scholar, gravely remarked that with this--the girl in her fabulous dress, as much as La Santa Madero--we'd had a glimpse of México profundo.More anon.> The webpage for my book about Francisco I. Madero is here.> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico CityA Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"Translating Across the Border[...]

Dispatch from Mexico City: On the "Relación" of Cabeza de Vaca


La Relacion de Cabeza de VacaThe latest issue of Scoundrel Time, a new literary magazine edited by Paula Whyman, includes my piece for the "Dispatches" section (mine being from Coyoacán, Mexico City), "On the Relación of Cabeza de Vaca."> Read it here. This is an excerpt from a long essay about the Mexican literary landscape and the power of books, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" which is forthcoming in Kindle from Dancing Chiva next month. now.> Check out the Kindle here.This long essay about the Mexican literarylandscape and the power of the bookis available in Kindle.P.S. You can view the Spanish text of the Relación of Cabeza de Vaca here.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.What the Muse Sent me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la CruzReading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious and Adventurous English-Language ReadersWhy Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret Book[...]

Cyberflanerie: Granola Shotgun on "The Springfield Strategy," Kunstler Interviews Orlov, Rachel Laudan on the Mexico-Islamic Connection, RALPH Mag & More


Granola Shotgun on "The Springfield Strategy"A few months back I started following Granola Shotgun by "Johnny," a self-described "amateur architecture buff a with a passionate interest in how we all live and occupy the landscape."  So far his posts have been consistently informative and thought-provoking. This recent one on what Johnny terms "The Springfield Strategy" struck my gong on multiple levels: the examples of taking major life-enhancing opportunities others miss; pattern integrity versus pattern corruption / decay; and finally the views of Springfield, Massachusetts itself. (Believe it or not, Springfield makes a cameo in my book in-progress on Far West Texas. Back in ye olde day, Springfield, sprung from the Agawam Plantation on the Connecticut River, pioneer settlement of my just-missed-the-Mayflower ancestor, was the original bleeding edge of the Wild West.)amazonA fascinating podcast: James Howard Kunstler interviews Dmitry Orlov on his book, Shrinking the Technosphere.Orlov's Shrinking the Technosphere is brilliant... but I remain mystified as to why he makes no mention of the works of Kevin Kelly--who also discusses the Unabomber at length in the also brilliant What Technology Wants-- nor any reference to the ideas of psychonaut John C. Lilly.Orlov now blogs his lengthy, occasionally consternating, always surprising, information rich, often hilarious, and beautifully written essays behind a Patreon paywall-- not a Trumpesque impediment; a buck a month gets you in. But caveat emptor: Orlov can get waaaaay-out metaphysical-- albeit not as far into outer asteroid-belt orbits as John C. Lilly--or, not yet, anyway.Food historian Rachael Laudan delves deeper into the Mexico-Islamic Connection(Having blasted apart the story of mole, which my Mexican husband is still recovering from, she's now talking about chicken.)> See also Laudan's post on When Is the Easter Bunny Not a Bunny? (most assuredly not for vegetarians).So having spotted the review of Dr. Thoman Cowan's Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, I dashed off an email to Lolita Lark, editor of RALPH mag and by response, ended up with a whole page there, including links to RALPH mag's reviews of my books. Good thing my ego has a tether! P.S. I haven't scrounged up any emu oil pills yet, but yes, I am rereading Cowan. And I'm all for Dr. Cowan's vegetable powders.Artist and travel writer Jim Johnston looks at the Pinta la Revolución show at Bellas Artes for his Mexico City blog.(I saw that show myself back in March, highly recommended.)Not far from my recent stomping grounds in El Paso, landscape architect David Cristiani hikes Tortugas Mountain looking for cacti.Poet and translator Patricia Dubrava on The Little Engine That Could.David Allen's GTD blog on Making Use of Weird Windows of TimeHow Tim Ferriss Became the Oprah of Audio. An insightful interview with the maestro of mass by Ryan Holiday for the Observer.(And what of my podcasts, you might be wondering? Stay tuned. Marfa Mondays Podcast #21, which goes to Bracketville, Texas, will be posted shortly. I guess I could call it-- taking inspiritation from Greg Gibson's upcoming "bookectomy"--a podcastectomy. I have been working on it for too ridiculously long a time.)And finally, just because, here in Mexico City is my writing assistant, Uli Quetzalpugtl, lifting his nose to the glory of the last of the jacaranda blossoms for this year.Uli Quetzalpugtl with the Jacaranda, Mexico City, 2017.Photo: C.M. Mayo> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Cyberflanerie: Carnyx EditionTyposphere, Ho! "Stay West" on my 1961 Hermes 3000Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the P[...]

Dispatch from Palo Alto: A Joy in this Intensely Multivariate World: Edward Tufte's "Presenting Data and Information"


C'est moi in Palo Alto,After the ET Presenting Data and Information workshopYonder back, about a decade ago, on the rave recommendation of a graphic designer friend, I took Edward Tufte's one day workshop, Presenting Data and Information, and it was such a joy of an inspiration that ever since I had wanted to take the class a second time. Finally, in Palo Alto this Monday, it was possible. Herewith a few notes and links:Beautiful Evidence, one of several books by ETWebsite: www.tufte.comIncludes more than 200 essaysBooks by Edward TufteTwitter: @EdwardTufteLinks from the handout:+ The Future of Data Analysis, video of Edward Tufte's keynote talk, September 2016+ Ingre Druckrey: Teaching to See, docfilm produced by Edward Tufte and directed by Andrei Severny+ "The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis" David Lazer, Ryan Kennedy, Gary King, Alessandro Vespignani  [PDF]+ "The Quartz Guide to Bad Data: An Exhaustive Reference" From Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte:"clutter and confusion are failure of design, not attributes of information" (p. 51)"What we seek... is a rich texture of data, a comparative context, an understanding of complexity" (p.51)Visual Explanations by Edward TuftePractical advice for presentations on p. 68.From this workshop, random E.T. quotes of note:"the world is intensely mutlivariate""respect your audience, endlessly""I'm not going to dumb things down, I'm going to make everyone smarter""How do I know that? How do they know that?""Start with a document, not a deck""Keep architecture simple, content rich" "A visualization should provide reasons to believe""If you have any reason to bring in a three dimensional object, do so""Find successful things in the wild. Where is the ceiling of excellence?""Keep an open mind, not an empty head""The point of an information presentation is to explain something with credibility and to help viewers understand the content, help them reason. Show causality.""Separate the sheep from the goats""Sculpture is a work of art that casts shadows""When things are spacially adjacent this lets the audience be in charge"I eagerly await ET's forthcoming book, Meaning and Space. > Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Steps for a Journey to EinfuhlungFive Super Simple Tips for Better Book DesignThe Chocolate-Boxy Yum of Small Multiples[...]

Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River by Patrick Dearen


When I closed the cover of Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River it was with both gratitude and the unsettling sense of having arrived into new territory— raw, rich, appalling—in my understanding of Far West Texas. This is no minor thing to acknowledge; for some years now I have been at work on a book about that very region. But first, for those who don't have a jones for, shall we say, Wild Westerie, why bring Far West Texas into the cross hairs? And why give a hoededo about its skinny river so salty, to quote one of Dearen's informants, that "a snake wouldn't drink it"?Texas is one of the most powerful economic and political entities in not only the United States but the Americas. At the same time, "Texas" is so hammered out into tinfoil-thin clichés of popular culture (and many of those informed by warmed-over 19th century war propaganda and Madison Avenue-concocted boosterism), that we have the illusion we know Texas, when in fact it enfolds concatenations of undeservedly obscure histories, stupendenous beauty, and the lumpiest of paradoxes. If Texas—and I mean the real one, not the confection of Marion Morrison aka John Wayne, et al—is still in many ways terra incognita, its "iconic" far west, profoundly moreso. What delineates Far West Texas from the rest of Texas is precisely that skinny, salty river. And a most peculiar body of water it is. CONTINUE READING > Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Marfa Mondays Podcasting ProjectMore Book Reviews by C.M. MayoLiterary Travel Writing: Notes on Process and the Digital Revolution[...]

Spring Break


Traditional Mexican candies from the Dulcería CelayaI'm off this week to do more research for the book in-progress on Far West Texas. In case you missed them, herewith a batch of yummy posts from springtimes of yore:Mexico City Lit: Agustin Cadena, Patricia Dubrava, and Yours Truly, Plus a Note on the Past and Future of the Literary MagazineApril 27, 2016Q & A with Independent Publisher Michele Orwin, Founding Editor of Bacon Press BooksApril 15, 2015The Memoirs of Maximilian's Gardener,Wilhelm Knechtel, Translated by Susanne IglerApril 8, 2013Little Walls Against the TechniumMarch 14, 2011From The Writer's Carousel: Literary Travel WritingMarch 17, 2009Next post next Monday, April 17. P.P.S. Stay tuned for more Marfa Mondays podcasts. Twenty have been posted to date. Listen in anytime here.One Simple Yet Powerful Practice for Reading as a WriterDesert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West by Rubén MartínezOn Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfuhlung[...]

A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City


This is an excerpt from my long essay, of creative nonfiction, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," which  is forthcoming now available in Kindle.In the shadow of the National Palace: La Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, the House of the First Printing Press in the Americas, Mexico City. Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017....There is one more a pearl of a place that cannot go unmentioned in any discussion of our sister republic’s literary landscape. From the Claustro de Sor Juana, in less than twenty minutes’ walk north and slightly east—weaving your way through the shoppers, touts, tourists, beggars, businessmen—honking cars and buses and motorbikes—and a skate-boarder or two—blaring music, freighters with their trolleys piled to toppling with boxes—don’t get run over by the pedicabs—and once at the Zócalo, wending around the Aztec dancers in feathers and ankle-rattles, the toothless shouter pumping his orange sign about SODOM Y GOMORRA MARIGUANA BODAS GAY, and an organ grinder, and to-ers and fro-ers of every age and size, you arrive, out of breath, at a squat, terracotta-colored three-story high building. This is where the first book was printed in—no, not just in Mexico—then New Spain—but in the Americas. La Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América.To step into the foyer of its museum and bookstore is to relax into an oasis of peace. The uniformed guard hands me a pen to sign the guest book. It’s late afternoon; I am the third visitor for the day. I take a gander at the exhibition of contemporary textile art—a few pieces reference one of Frida Kahlo’s drawings in the Casa Azul of a tentacled monster of paranoia, each limb tipped with a staring eye. In the second gallery I find the replica of our continent’s first printing press soaking in sun from the window. The wooden contraption is taller than I am, but so spare, it occurs to me that it might serve to juice apples.How my Mexican amigos scoffed at the auction of the Bay Psalm Book in 2013. Not about the record sum—14.2 million US dollars—for which that little book, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640, went to a private collector, but about the report in the international media that the Bay Psalm Book was “the first book printed in America.”To Mexicans, America is the continent, not their sister republic. Mexico is part of the same continent, of course, and so the first book printed in America—or, as we estadounidenses prefer to say, the Americas—was Breve y más compendiosa doctrina Cristiana en lengua Mexicana y Castellana (Brief and Most Comprehensive Christian Doctrine in Nahuátl and Spanish), printed right here, in Mexico City, in this building, in 1539.Mexico beats out Massachusetts by 101 years! But this sinks to silliness. That printer in Cambridge, Massachussetts, was English, and the one in colonial Mexico City, a native of Lombardy named Giovanni Paoli, Hispanicized to “Juan Pablos.” The technology that found its way to the Americas with these printing pioneers—to the north, Protestants, to the south, Catholics, separated by religious schism and the whirlwinds of European politics, and that century, and moreover, by the staggering distance of desert, swamplands, oceanic buffalo-filled prairies, and sunless and unmapped forests—had one and the same root: the fifteenth-century workshop of a German goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg was inking his little pieces of movable type more than half a century before [...]

Thank You, Dear Readers: On the Occasion of Madam Mayo Blog's Eleventh Anniversary


Images courtesy of Pulp-o-MizerMethuselah of Blogdom here. Why am I still blogging? I am heartened to say, dear readers, that I know you're there, more of you each year, and I appreciate your visits and your comments (as always, I welcome comments via email.) As for the granular whys and wherefores of this blog, I wouldn't say much that I didn't say last year, on its tenth anniversary, which echoed much of what I had to say on its eighth anniversary. The latter link goes to my talk for the 2014 AWP Conference panel on "Homesteading on the Digital Frontier: Writer's Blogs." To quote from that:"Madam Mayo" is not so much my so-called "platform," but rather, a net that catches certain special fish— the readers who care about the things I care to write about. As ever, I aim to provide posts on a variety of topics that might be, in turn, of use and/or interest for my writing workshop students, and/or for Mexicophiles, and/or for Far West Texasphiles (is that a word?), adventurous readers, and myself. One of my many motivations for blogging is to iron out my own thoughts, especially on subjects that tend to come up in my correspondence with other writers and in my writing workshops, for example:(What do you mean, "reading as a writer"?)One Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a Writer(How do you keep up with email?)Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time(Where do you find the time to write?)Thirty Deadly-Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing(What do you think about social media?)Adios Facebook!Six Reasons Why I Deactivated My AccountYou will also find posts on my work in-progress and anything relevant to it (at present, a book about Far West Texas):A Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"Book review: Pekka Hamalainen's The Comanche EmpireThe Strangely Beautiful Sierra Madera Astrobleme (What's an Astrobleme?)Peyote and the Perfect YouTop 13 Trailers for Movies with with Extra-Astral TexinessThe Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of Trade with Mexicoin the Pre-pre-pre-NAFA EraNotes on Artist Xavier González (1898-1993)Once in a zera-striped-chartreuse moon of Pluto I touch on nonwriterly topics:12 Tips for Summer Day Hiking in the Desert (How to Stay Cool, Avoid Actinic Keratosis, Blood, and Killer Bees)Yet one more reason to check in with this blog is for announcements about my publications and interviews:Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary JournalsBiographers International Interview: Strange Spark of the Mexican RevolutionNew Thinking Allowed Interview by Jeffrey Mishloveand a Review by Michael TymnAx of Apocalypse: Strieber and Kripal's Super NaturalTo share my talks and podcasts:For the 2016 Women Writing the West Conference: On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Steps to a Journey to EinfuhlungFor the American Literary Translators Association Conference: Translating Across the Border> More talks here.> All Marfa Mondays Podcasts here.> All podcasts here.And, something I especially relish, to learn about and celebrate the work of other writers:Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub on Translating Blume Lempel's  Oedipus in Brooklyn from the YiddishShelley Armitage on Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place> More interviews here.P.S. For those of you who are writers / bloggers, herewith the top five things I would have done differently back in 2006 had I known what I know now:1. Use WordPress2. Post once per week, somet[...]

What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz


Door to the quarters of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, "the Tenth Muse." Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017.Late last year my amiga the brilliant short story writer Paula Whyman invited me to send a "Dispatch from Mexico City" for her new magazine, Scoundrel Time. So I dialed in to Muse HQ... As I told Paula, woefully past the deadline, I had asked the Muse for a slider, a yummy little note about books in Mexico, but she delivered the whole ox. In other words, my "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" is a novela-length essay about the Mexican literary landscape, from prehispanic codices to contemporary writers. It is what it is, I don't want start chopping (there would be blood!!), but of course, a 30 page essay is too long for a magazine. Scoundrel Time will be publishing an excerpt about Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación-- a nearly 500 year-old memoir little known outside of Mexico and Texas, yet that stands as one of the most astonishing and important books ever written. (As soon that goes on-line, I will be sure to link to it from here. Read the piece about Cabeza de Vaca in Scoundrel Time here.) As for my full-length essay, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic," look for it as a Kindle under my own imprint, Dancing Chiva, ASAP.  it is now available in Kindle. Herewith my other favorite excerpt, about the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz:Excerpt from "DISPATCH FROM THE SISTER REPUBLIC OR, PAPELITO HABLA"by C.M. MAYO For rare book collectors, Mecca is Mexico City’s Colonia Centro, and for such aficionados of mexicana as myself, its sanctum sanctorum, the Librería Madero—by the way, recently relocated from the Avenida Madero to the Avenida Isabela La Católica, facing the the formidable wedding cake-white corner of the 16th century ex-convent of San Jerónimo, known today as the Claustro de Sor Juana, that is, the Convent of Sister Juana.And if you would not know Sor Juana from a poinsettia, gentle reader, with all respect, you must crowbar out that boulder of ignorance, for which you will be rewarded by a glimpse of the diamond of the Mexico’s Baroque period, the first great Latin American poet and playwright, “the Tenth Muse,” a cloistered nun.Texan poet John Campion was the first to translate Sor Juana’s magnum opus, “Primero sueño,” as “The Dream,” in 1983. (Alas, that date is not a typo.) Campion’s translation is out of print, but he offers a free PDF download of the text on his website, The first lines of Campion’s translation beautifully capture Sor Juana’s uncanny power:Pyramidaldeath-born shadow of earthaimed at heavena proud point of vain obeliskspretending to scale the StarsIn her time Sor Juana was one of the most learned individuals, man or woman, in the New World, and her prodigious oeuvre, from love poems to polemics, comedies to enigmas to plays to villancicos, was exceptionally sophisticated, so much so that its interpretation is today the province of a small army of sorjuanistas. As Mexico’s Nobel laureate poet Octavio Paz writes in Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden), “A work survives its readers; after a hundred or two hundred years it is read by new readers who impose on it new modes of reading and interpretation. The work survives because of these  interpretations, which are in fact resurrections.”And perchance startling discoveries. In his 2011 El eclipse del Sueño de Sor Juana, Américo L[...]

One Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a Writer


I'll be giving my annual one day only workshop on Literary Travel Memoir at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland this April 22. [Learn more and register online here.] New in ye olde packet  of handouts for this workshop is "Words I Like," my name for a powerful yet simple practice that you might think of as Feldenkrais for your vocabulary.  "WORDS I LIKE"As writers, albeit human creatures of habit, we tend to use only a woefully limited portion of our vocabularies. Hence our first drafts may be stiff, dull, and vague. To add verve, freshness, and focus, it helps to loosen up our mental joints, as it were, and reach for a greater variety of words.The challenge is not necessarily to expand your vocabulary --I am not talking about trying to sound fancy-- though perhaps you or one of your characters may want to do that-- but to bring more of your writerly attention to words you know but do not normally use.Towards that end reading is vital-- but not reading passively, as a consumer of entertainment, nor reading for facts and concepts, as would a scholar. Instead, read as a writer, with a pencil or pen in hand, noting down any words that strike you as especially apt or somehow, for whatever reason, attractive to you. These might be simple words such as, say, brood; caprice; crackpot; pall; nougat; persimmon. When I read I keep a notebook, PostIt, or index card handy so I can jot down any words and phrases that I like. I used to worry about keeping all these notebooks and bits of paper in some semblance of order, but I now believe that most of the benefit is in simply noticing what it is that I like; and second, writing it down. (In other words, when it comes time to declutter, I will, as I have, and so what?) Of late I toss these index cards in a recipe box that I keep on a shelf behind my desk. When one of my drafts needs an infusion of energy, I pluck out a random batch of cards, shuffle though them, and see if anything might be of use. Often it is. From another card plucked out at random:shrewd; sagacious; "intrigue and shifting loyalties"; surmise; astute; console; relentless; do not relent; never relent; pout; nuanced; verdict; deadly; banal; banalities; dejected; munificence; fail to grasp; thieving toadThieving toad! I don't know why, that makes me laugh. And it makes me want to start (or perhaps end?) a short story thus:She failed to grasp that he would never relent, he was a thieving toad.I also note phrases and sayings I like, e.g.:"Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.""Birds of prey don't sing""the apostles of -- " "camarón que se duerme amanece de botana" (the shrimp that sleeps wakes up as an appetizer-- that's a variation on the old Mexican saying, "the shrimp that sleeps is carried off by the current.")Bonhomie! I love it! Why? 'Cuz!From that second index card pictured above: bonhomie; obviate; banal; decrepitude; penumbra; chronic; salient; pieties; vim; dour; bouyancy; bouyant; circumlocutions.Why these words? Because I like them. You might not. The point is, as you read, write down whatever words you like.Well now, I hear Henry James' Muse yelling! So many salient pieties... In the penumbra of his chronic bonhomie, she felt at once dour and bouyant.>> Workshop Page >> Resources for Writers(Includes Tips & Tools; On Craft; On Editing; On Publishing; On Digital [...]

Email Ninjerie Update: Old-School Tool to Break the Ludic Loop


Behold the Zassenhaus.Back in December of 2016 I posted "Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time or, This Writer's 10 Point Protocol for Inbox 10 (ish)." As I explained, for me the game-changer was point #1, tackling email in scheduled batches using a stopwatch. To quote:I usually do 20 minutes of email processing with a stopwatch. It's not that I am trying to hurry through my email, but rather, I am respecting the limits of my brain's ability to effectively focus on it. I'm a speed-reader and I can type faster than lickety-split, but on most days I can deal with email for only about 20 minutes before my brain cells run low on glucose and I end up scrolling up and down the screen, dithering, feeling scattered— in short, procrastinating. (You might be able to do 10 minutes, or, say, an hour in one go— of course, not everyone's energy to focus on their email is the same, or the same every day and in every circumstance. One can always set the stopwatch for a different amount of time.) Don't believe me about batching? Check out the extra-crunchy research at MIT (PDF). By processing email in 20 minute batches, when the sessions all add up over the arc of the day, I find that I accomplish more in, say, one hour of three separate 20 minute sessions than I would have had I plowed on for an hour straight.When the stopwatch dings, I do not expect to have finished— "inbox zero" is a fata morgana! And that's OK, because I have another email batch session already scheduled (a few hours later, or five minutes later. It's important to take a break, at the very least stand up and stretch.)Above all, because I am focussing on email at my convenience, on my schedule, my attention is no longer so fractured... [Read the complete post here] I didn't put it this way in that post, but now that I've grokked the term ludic loop, I must say, that rrrrrring slices right through it. In other words, paradoxically, the reason I was drowning in email was that I was spending too much time on it. That is, I would get stuck in a ludic loop, checking, looking, checking, looking. Yes, indeed, gentle reader, batching with a stopwatch works. But of course, when it goes off, you have to actually stop. I added the habit of standing up. Bell rings, I stand up. Which stopwatch to use? Of course everybody and their uncle's cousin's zonkey has a smartphone with a stopwatch app, and I know, for a lot of people, especially those under the age of 30, any other option would be, like LOL, a total eye-roller. For those answering email on their laptop, such as myself, I recommended using a free on-line stopwatch (get yours here). But of late, I have switched to using a mechanical Zassenhaus kitchen timer.* I chose that particular brand because it's better quality and heavier than the average cheap-o plastic kitchen timer. Why an old-fashioned kitchen timer, pray tell? Because using something not on the computer screen but in the real world-- ye olde meatspace-- helps me stay focused on the task at-hand. It's one less reason look at the "desktop," one less thing to have to go click on (and so reduce the risk of another journey down the rabbit hole, or to put it another way, of getting caught in a ludic loop). As I quoted David Allen in my guest-blog for "Cool Tools" on why I use a paper-based organizing system, "low-tech is oftentimes better beca[...]

Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary Journals


While it is a joy to be able to publish without gatekeepers-- joy enough that I for one have been blogging every Monday and oftentimes more often since 2006 on this free & open-to-all platform-- a curated presentation of poetry and prose, that is, the traditionally edited literary magazine on ye olde paper, has not disappeared, nor will it, and thank goodness.I happy to report that a pair of very fine independent literary magazines has landed in my mailbox: Catamaran Literary Reader and Tiferet. I am also honored to report that the Fall 2016 issue of the former includes my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum’s short story “The Time,” and the Fall 2016 issue of the latter, an excerpt from my book, a work of creative nonfiction about a translation: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. As an ex-literary magazine editor myself (Tameme), I have a big heart full of appreciation for such magazines. And when they are as unique, and as beautifully edited and exceptionally well-designed as these two, I want to get up on the top of the roof and toot a tuba-- or something! CATAMARAN LITERARY READERFounding editor Catherine Segurson describes Catamaran as “pages full of color, inviting images, and engrossing stories, poems and essays—all from curious and inventive minds.”  Indeed: standouts in this issue include a poem and an essay by Richard Blanco, and the several paintings by Bo Bartlett, whose “Via Mal Contenti” graces the cover.  More about artist Bo Bartlett in this brief video: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="" width="360">Catamaran makes a special effort to include literary translation in every issue. N.B.: Catamaran's contributing editors include essayist and translator Thomas Christensen and poet, teacher, and noted translator Zack Rogow.  Mexican writer, poet, editorRose Mary SalumABOUT ROSE MARY SALUM, Mexican Poet and WriterMexican writer and poet Rose Mary Salum is the editor of Literal, and editor of the anthology Delta de las arenas: Cuentos árabes, cuentos judíos. Her collection of linked short stories set in the Midde East, which includes "The Time," is El agua que mece el silencio. My translation, in-progress, is entitled The Water That Rocks the Silence. If you read Spanish, check out her interview in El Páis.>> See my previous post about her work in Origins. >> See also my in-depth interview with Salum in Conversations with Other Writers.) TIFERETTiferet is published by novelist and poet Donna Baier-Stein. I echo poet Molly Peacock's praise: “Thank you for this journal which combines spiritual issues, imaginative issues, esthetic issues. All of those, I think, need to be in the mix for the richly lived life, the richly observed life.” This Fall 2016 issue opens with a splendid essay by poet Mark Doty, “Luckier / Rowdyish, Carlacue, Wormfence and Foosfoos.” Just for that yonder-galaxy-beyond-the-Cineplex-title: Another thank you! Francisco I. MaderoABOUT FRANCISCO I. MADERO,Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913My piece in Tiferet  about Madero's 1911 Spiritist Manual&[...]