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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: 2017-01-23T12:46:23.531-05:00


A Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"


This finds me working on the book on Far West Texas, and about to resume the Marfa Mondays podcasts (20 podcasts posted so far, 4 more to go, listen in anytime). I just posted a brief video of my visit last November to see, among other wonders and curiosities, a most extraordinary and controversial statue at the El Paso International Airport. Because of the way it is placed, directly behind a grove of extra-fluffy trees, and at the entrance where most drivers, speeding in, are on the lookout for signs, such as rental car return, departures, arrivals or parking, I daresay few passersby would even notice the statue. I myself drove by it more times that I would like to admit before I realized it was there.Here's my 3 minute video: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="460">My video mentions "The Last Conquistador," a magnificent documentary about this statue and the controversy. Watch the trailer: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">POV Interactive offers the first clip of "The Last Conquistador" documentary: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">For "Behind the Lens POV PBS"Cristina Ibarra and John Valadez Talk about the Juan de Oñate Sculpture: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">I'll give the sculptor, John Sherrill Houser, the last word, quoting him from the documentary:"Here it is, look at this and think about it, good and bad, the whole thing. The history."Reading Mexico:Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English-Language ReadersOn Seeing as an ArtistNotes on Artist Xavier González (1898-1993)[...]

Biographers International Interview: A Strange Spark of the Mexican Revolution


I'm the featured member interview this month in the Biographers International newsletter. Herewith:BIOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL: What is your current project and at what stage is it?C.M. MAYO: I'm at work on World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas, not a biography properly so-called, but the narrative weaves in some history and so encompasses a number of biographical vignettes from Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the conquistador who got lost, to some of the contemporary artists working in Marfa. Stage: still banging out the first complete draft. [[ FRANCISCO I. MADERO ]]My latest publication, however, is about a major figure of the Mexican Revolution, and that certainly informs the Far West Texas book, for some of the key battles were fought along the US-Mexico border: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. Madero was the leader of Mexico’s 1910 Revolution and President of  Mexico from 1911-1913, so the fact that he was a Spiritist medium and, albeit under a pseudonym, author of a book of Spiritism published in—yes—1911, is a dramatic twist in the paradigm of how we understand the spark of the Mexican Revolution. My book, which includes my translation of Madero’s book, was published in 2014, so I am well into the promotion stage. (I’m delighted to report that Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution won the National Indie Excellence Award for History, and to date, I've given talks about it at Mexico City’s Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México, Rice University, Stanford University, UCSD’s Center for US-Mexico Studies, and the University of Texas El Paso, among other venues.)> Listen to and/or read some of my talks about this book here.BI: What person would you most like to write about?C.M. MAYO: At the moment, because I'm writing about Far West Texas, pioneer petroleum geologist Wallace E. Pratt. I am especially intrigued that he would choose to live for many years in a such an isolated place as McKittrick Canyon, deep in the Guadalupe Mountains. It is, in large part, thanks to Pratt's visionary gift that we now have the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I am very honored to say that I will be one of the artists-in-residence in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park this spring, so I will have the chance to retrace his steps and visit his house.BI: Who is your favorite biographer or what is your favorite biography?C.M. MAYO: As far as my Far West Texas reading goes, I both admired and especially relished the biography of the 20th century bard of Texas, J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind, by Stephen L. Davis. Many of the popular ideas we take for granted about Texas and Texans have their roots in Dobie's works. My two all-time favorite biographies are Nancy Marie Brown’s The Far-Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman and Paula Kamen’s Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind.BI: What have been your most satisfying moments as a biographer?[[ Visit this book's webpage ]]C.M. MAYO: I'll answer this for my book on Francisco I. Madero, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution. After many years of reading and archival research, it was tremendously satisfying to be able to fit together the pieces of what had been a humdinger of a puzzle—how could Madero be rifle-toting revolutionary and a Spiritist, a savvy political organizer and victim of a coup d’etat?— into a narrative of high strangeness but relative sense. Suddenly Mexico itself looked very different.BI: One research/marketing/attitudinal tip to share?C.M. MAYO: As a biographer I have only published the one title, however, I have published several other works of fiction and  nonfiction, so I do have more than a little  experience about this perennially mystifying and consternating topic. My short answer is[...]

Typosphere, Ho! "Stay West" on My 1961 Hermes 3000


[[ My first attempt at typing on a typewriter in nearly thirty years ]][[ My writing assistant denies any and all responsibility for slipshod typing or head-scratching sushi poetry. ]]THANK YOU, TYPEWRITER TECHSMy refurbished 1961 Hermes 3000 typewriter has arrived in Mexico City. Typewriter Techs, the Riverside, Illinois company that refurbished it, shipped it to California in a box so well padded it could have survived a Mars landing; having discarded the packing materials and box, I then grew some new biceps carrying it on board my flight home. I'd say it weighs about the same as a wet brick. It was a loooooong way from the security screening area to the gate. Jack LaLanne, watch out.[[ No, not the French scarf company. This Hermes was of Swiss manufacture of yore. ]]The color is just as I had hoped, a foamy celadon (although it looks gray in this photo— too strong a flash). LIKE TIME TRAVELINGI'm old enough to have had nearly two decades of experience with typewriters, both manual and electric, before I started using a computer in the late 1980s. It was an eerie experience to type on a typewriter again... like time traveling. My first attempts at typing on this antique were clumsy, since I am, as are we all, so used to letting fingertips fly over a laptop's keys and making scads of corrections en medias res and whatever whenever wherever and with the benefit of, after penicillin and sliced bread, the bestest thing ever invented: CNTRL Z! But I like the deliberateness of typing on a manual typewriter— the goose-stepping linearity of it. That is the whole point, for me as a writer now. (Why? See my previous post, Consider the Typewriter. Am I kidding? No, I am not kidding.) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="" width="360">Madam Mayo says, The Anti-Digital Revolution will be Youtubed! And blogged! And, when I get around to it, tweeted!Git yer iron-knee right here, on a spatula!But seriously, check out this fine trailer for philosopher Richard Polt's excellent and thought-provoking resource The Typewriter RevolutionWHY AN HERMES 3000?I chose the Hermes 3000 because of Richard Polt's recommendation in The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century:"The 3000 model is a Swiss segment-shifted typewriter with excellent alignment, smooth carriage return, and quality manufacturing, introduced in the fifties. You’ll find it in a wonderfully bulbous body, painted in a color that some call “sea-foam green”... Not the very fastest or snappiest typewriter, but “buttery” in its smoothness, as fans like to say... Users include Larry McMurtry, Sam Shepard, Eugene Ionesco, and Stephen Fry."A tip of the Stetson to my fellow Texan Mr. McMurtry. As for Monsieur Ionesco, voila l'entrevue:[[ Watch the interview with English subtitles here. No, alas, Ionesco's Hermes 3000 does not make an appearance.Mais nous pouvons utiliser notre imagination. ]][[ My 1961 Hermes 3000  arrived in its original carrying case, along with, LOL, total yay, a packet of jellybeans!! ]][[ Under the jellybeans, a message from Typewriter Techs. ]][[ The original 1961 Hermes 3000 instruction manual (Ha! Will those websites and YouTube videos still be available and playable in 55 years?! You reeeeeeeeeally think so...?) ]][[ The warranty, yay, from Typewriter Techs. ]]I WILL NOT PANIC ABOUT TYEWRITER RIBBONS NO I WILL NOT PANICAlthough we now inhabit a consumersphere rife with such exploitative poppycock as single-serve Nespresso capsules... it is nonetheless easy-peasy to find typewriter ribbons that work for multitudinous models and makes of typewriters. I knew that from reading Polt's The Typewriter Revolution, and a quick Google. Furthermore, Typewriter Techs included this with their shipment:In case you cannot read the image and/or your brain, like mine, goes into blur mode WITH ANYTHING WRITTEN PLEASEGODWHY ALL IN[...]

Q & A with Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub on Translating Blume Lempel's OEDIPUS IN BROOKLYN from the Yiddish


Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Storiesby Blume LempelTranslated by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taubamazon.comindiebound.orgStrange, muscled, riven with grief, Blume Lempel's short stories, many set in the U.S., are for the ages. Yet because Lempel wrote in Yiddish, few aficionados of the form have had the chance to read her— until now, with the translation by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories. Excerpts from the catalog copy of the publishers, Dryad Press and Mandel Vilar:Lempel (1907–1999) was one of a small number of writers in the United States who wrote in Yiddish into the 1990s. Though many of her stories opened a window on the Old World and the Holocaust, she did not confine herself to these landscapes or themes. She often wrote about the margins of society, and about subjects considered untouchable. Her prize-winning fiction is remarkable for its psychological acuity, its unflinching examination of erotic themes and gender relations, and its technical virtuosity. Mirroring the dislocation of mostly women protagonists, her stories move between present and past, Old World and New, dream and reality...Immigrating to New York when Hitler rose to power, Blume Lempel began publishing her short stories in 1945. By the 1970s her work had become known throughout the Yiddish literary world. When she died in 1999, the Yiddish paper Forverts wrote: "Yiddish literature has lost one of its most remarkable women writers."Ellen Cassedy, translator, is author of the award-winning study "We Are Here", about the Lithuanian Holocaust. With her colleague Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, they received the Yiddish Book Center 2012 Translation Prize for translating Blume Lempel. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of several books of poetry, including "Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres" (2013),"Uncle Feygele"(2011), and "What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (2008)."[[ Translators Yermiyahu Ahron Taub and Ellen Cassedy ]]C.M. MAYO: Can you tell us more about Yiddish as a language, and specifically, its roots and connections with other languages, including German and Ladino?ELLEN CASSEDY & YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB: Yiddish is a Germanic language written in the Hebrew alphabet.  For hundreds of years, it was the everyday vernacular spoken by Jews in Eastern Europe. While Ladino became the Spanish-inflected language of Jews in the Mediterranean region, Yiddish was the everyday language among Jews living farther north, in Germany, Russia, and Eastern Europe.   YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB:  There is an alternative theory that Yiddish is essentially a Slavic language, but most scholars believe it’s a Germanic language.  ELLEN CASSEDY: For me, Yiddish is a holy tongue. Translating Yiddish connects me to a history, an enduring cultural legacy. Yiddish is precious to me for its outsider point of view, its irony, its humor, its solidarity with the little guy, its honoring of the everyday.  YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB: The Yiddish language has been a crucial tool for my literary work. As a bridge to the past and an enhancement of my literary and social present, Yiddish opens a vibrant linguistic plane, full of texture, play, and reference. Yiddish is for me a place of primal connection and, for all its and my "baggage," a source of strange comfort. Writing, reading, and translating Yiddish also allows me to learn new Yiddish words and re-learn forgotten ones.  [[ BLUME LEMPEL ]]C.M. MAYO: You write in the introduction that for Blume Lempel the "decision to write in Yiddish was a carefully considered choice." What do you think motivated her to write for what was already a quickly shrinking readership?ELLEN CASSEDY & YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB: For Lempel, Yiddish was a portable homeland that served her well as she encountered new circumstances and new languages.  Born in 1907 in a small town in Eastern Europ[...]

Top Posts of 2016


Warmest wishes for the holidays and a most excellently bodacious new year! In case you missed any of them, here is the annual wrap-up of top posts. This blog, and the Marfa Mondays podcasts, will resume in the new year.Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Timeor,  This Writer's 10 Point Protocol for Inbox 10 (ish)December 12, 2016~ * ~Top 10+ Books Read in 2016December 7, 2016~ * ~Willard Spiegelman's Senior Moments, Guilt Management, and the Magic Wand of an EmailDecember 5, 2016~ * ~Consider the Typewriter(Am I kidding? No, I am not kidding)November 28, 2016~ * ~Reading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English-language ReadersNovember 21, 2016~ * ~Santa Fe 2016: Women Writing the West and AlláOctober 31, 2016~ * ~On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to EinfühlingOctober 24, 2016~ * ~Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion and the Whereabouts Press SeriesOctober 3, 2016~ * ~Cal Newport's Deep Work / Study Hacks Blog / On Quitting Social MediaSeptember 26, 2016~ * ~Literary Travel Writing: Notes on process and the Digital RevolutionSeptember 19, 2016~ * ~Cymru & Comanche: CyberflanerieAugust 29, 2016~ * ~Q & A with Shelley Armitage on Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of PlaceAugust 21, 2016~ * ~The Strangely Beautiful Sierra Madera AstroblemeAugust 16, 2016~ * ~Roundup by RobotAugust 15, 2016~ * ~The Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of US Trade with Mexico in the Pre-Pre-Pre-NAFTA Era: Notes on Susan Shelby Magoffin and her Diary of 1846-1847, Down the Santa Fe Trail and into MexicoJuly 11, 2014~ * ~Another One Hundred Foreigners in Morelos: José Iturriaga (and Yours Truly) in Cuernavaca's Historic Jardín BordaJuly 4, 2016~ * ~ Peyote and the Perfect YouMay 23, 2016~ * ~Top 13 Trailers for Movies with Extra-Astral TexinessMay 9, 2016~ * ~Notes on Xavier González (1898-1993), "Moonlight Over the Chisos" and a Visit to Mexico City's Antigua Academia de San CarlosMay 2, 2016~ * ~Mexico City Lit: Agustín Cadena, Patricia Dubrava and Yours Truly(Plus a Note on the Past and Future of the Literary Magazine)April 27, 2016~ * ~Cyberflanerie: Carnyx EditionApril 25, 2016~ * ~GIFs of Far West TexasApril 21, 2016~ * ~Global Migration: People and Their StoriesIntroduction to the Panel at the San Miguel Writers Conference April 18, 2016~ * ~With a Ker-Thunking Clash of Gamelan Puggy Hooha: On 10 (TEN!) Years of BloggingApril 11, 2016~ * ~Q & A with Historian Carolina Castillo Crimm, author of De Leon: A Tejano Family HistoryMarch 28, 2016~ * ~Grokking the GIFMarch 15, 2016~ * ~Blood Over Salt in Borderlands Texas: Q & A with Paul Cool about Salt WarriorsFebruary 15, 2016~ * ~Five Super Simple Tips for Better Book DesignFebruary 4, 2016~ * ~Q & A with John Kachuba, author of The Savage ApostleFebruary 3, 2016~ * ~Podcasting for Writers: To Commit or Not (or Vaguely?)January 13, 2016~ * ~Top Posts of 2015Top Posts of 2014Top Posts of 2013Top Posts of 2012Top Posts of 2011Top Posts of 2010Top Posts of 2009Top Posts of 2008Top Posts of 2007Top Posts of 2006[...]

Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time, or This Writer's 10 Point Protocol for Inbox 10 (ish)


BIG FAT CAVEAT: If you have a job and/or family situation that oblige you to use your smartphone like a bodily appendage, dear reader, a shower of metaphorical lotus petals upon you, but this post is not for you. Perhaps you might enjoy reading this post from 2012 instead. See you next Monday.The challenge in a pistachio shell: How to maximize the quality of one's email, both incoming and outgoing, while minimizing the time and effort required to dispatch it— all the while maintaining the blocks of uninterrupted time necessary for one's own writing. What works for me may not work for you, dear reader, but I know that many of you are also writers, and a few of you are artists and/or scholars, so perhaps—and here's hoping— my time-tested 10 point protocol for dealing with email will be of as much help to you as it has been to me. A PRELIMINARY NOTE ON CONTEXT: EMAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!RRRRRRRHow is a writer to cope with this snake-headed conundrum-o-rama that just about everyone everywhere has been wrestling with since it first emerged out of the DARPA-depths of this rapacious fabulosity we call the Internet?I've been slogging it out with email for more years than I care to count. It was sometime in the mid-1990s when I logged on to my first account; I but fuzzily recall the roboty-dialup-and-connection sounds and an inky screen with neon-green text. A few years after that, I was using this cutting-edge thing called an AOL account. (Whew, AOL, Paleolithic!) Now I use a nearly-as-ancient yahoo account plus a pair of gmail accounts all funneled into ye olde Outlook Express inbox, into which pour... pick your metaphor... (a) Rains!  (b) Niagaras! (c) Avalanches! (d) Gigazoodles of emails!As anyone who remembers the late 1990s will attest, it seemed that overnight email blossomed into a hot-house monster—or, I should say, a Macy's Parade of monsters— and for me, by 2009-2010, when I was on tour for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire at the same time that my father was in his last days, trying to cope with email, both professional and personal, had become a nightmare. In 2011-2012 I was tempted to follow the example of "Swiss Miss" blogger Tina Roth Eisenberg after her three months of maternity leave: Declare email bankruptcy. Many a time I was also tempted to remove my email address from my website. Neither of those strategies appealed to me, however; I appreciated so many of those messages, and I also appreciated that, apart from spam and the occasional bit of nonsense, behind those messages were relationships that I sincerely valued, even cherished.I also realized—and this is something I am writing about in my book Far West Texas— that hyper-connectivity along with endless carousels of hyper-palatable distractions are now woven into the very fabric of modern life. As long as the electric grid continues functioning, I doubt these forces impinging on one's experience of work, family, social life, politics, and travel, will diminish; on the contrary.Over the past several years, chip by chip, I managed to whittle down that ghastly backlog (not to zero, but on some days it gets razor-close). More importantly, by trial, error, research, and mental muscle, I formulated a more workable strategy for dispatching the ongoing flow. Again, that caveat: this post is not for those who need to be continually available to a boss, colleagues, clients, friends, or family.IT STARTED WITH SOME ILLUMINATING READING...THEN THE FLOODLIGHTS SWITCHED ON WITH "THE MACHINE STOPS"I gleaned many an insight and tip for managing email from:+ David Allen's Getting Things Done;+ Naomi Baron's Always On (a linguist's perspective on the current madness); + Matthew Crawford's The World Beyond Your Head; + Neil Fiore's The Now Habit; + Julie Morgen[...]

Top 10+ Books Read in 2016


This was a year of marathons of reading. A few books I read for pleasure, but most as research for my book in-progress on Far West Texas. May you find the works listed here as remarkable and illuminating as I did. 2016 has been a blessed year in the reading department.1. The Super Natural: A New Vision of the UnexplainedBy Whitley Strieber and Jeffrey J. KripalA flying ax of apocalypse.> Read my review of this book for Literal magazine.2. River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West By Rebecca SolnitI grew up walking distance from the Stanford University campus, heart of what is now known as Silicon Valley, so for me this was especially compelling history. But for anyone interested in technology and cultural change the beautifully written and deeply researched River of Shadows is a must read. 3. The Comanche EmpireBy Pekka HämäläinenA brilliantly argued and supremely important contribution to the history of North America. This book made me rethink everything I thought I knew about US-Mexico history.> Read my review of this book here.> This title also appears on my post, "Reading Mexico".4. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American WestBy Patricia Nelson LimerickMagnificently masterful. What a treasure of a book.5. The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American IdentityBy Jill LeporeFew Americans know anything about this long-ago conflict between the colonists of New England and indigenous peoples that was nonetheless foundational to modern American culture. I found this work spell-binding and, for its verve and elegance, a great pleasure to read.6. Tie: The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our FutureBy Kevin Kelly andWhat Technology WantsBy Kevin KellyHumanity has arrived at a lynchpin of a moment with technology; Kevin Kelly's books explain the whys and wherefores and what to expect. Vitally perceptive and original as these two books are, I am not so optimistic as to assume, as Kelly apparently does, that we will always and everywhere be able to plug into a well-functioning electric grid. We shall see. It is a strange moment in the US and in the world. That said, Kelly's books are tremendous contributions towards grokking this wild, ravenous thing he dubs "the technium." My mind is still doing pretzels.7. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryBy S.C. GwynneA real life epic tragedy, and a crucial story for everyone with any interest in North America. An engrossing read, too, by the way.8. Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of PlaceBy Shelley ArmitageThis wistful, knowledgable, and lyric memoir may be one of the best books ever to come out of the Texas Panhandle. > Read my Q & A with Shelley Armitage for this blog.9. Tie:Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio GrandeBy Paul CoolThis meticulously researched and expertly told history of the El Paso Salt War of 1877 is essential reading for anyone interested in US-Mexico and Texas history, and indeed, anyone interested in US history per se.> Read my Q & A with the author for this blog.De León: A Tejano Family HistoryBy Carolina Castillo CrimmWe often hear about the Tejanos (Mexican Texans or, as you please, Texan Mexicans) in Mexican and Texas history, but who were they? Crimm's De León provides an at once scholarly and intimate glimpse of one of the first and most influential Tejano families though several generations. > Read my Q & A with Carolina Castillo Crimm for this blog.10. Tie: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the SouthwestBy David Roberts> This title also appears on my post, "Reading Mexico."The Last of the CeltsBy Marcus TannerHow does it end and how has it ended[...]

Willard Spiegelman's SENIOR MOMENTS, Guilt Management, and the Magic Wand of an Email


[[ SENIOR MOMENTS ]]Straight to the meat, two slices worth:(1) Willard Spiegelman's improbably titled Senior Moments is a delicious read. Viva!(2) Ye olde email, and of course I mean non-spammy email, can serve a book splendidly. Double viva!GUILT MANAGEMENTThere is a reason a literary magazine marketing expert, whose name now escapes me, dubbed her workshop for litmags "Guilt Management 101." Because I founded and used to edit a literary magazine and chapbook press, I used to worry about and overthink and feel guilty about all the woulda coulda shouldas of marketing. And although I no longer edit anyone other than myself, because I write books, I still worry about and overthink and feel guilty about all the woulda coulda shouldas of marketing. (Why didn't I write an article for the Washingtonian? Why I didn't I send an op-ed to the New York Times? Why didn't I enter my book in that contest?! etc.) To one degree or another the same could probably be said by every living writer I know. (Re: Focus on book PR, see, for example, novelist Leslie Pietrzyk's resource-rich blog post about her recent Associated Writing Programs conference panel "Should I Know Who You Are? Book PR for the Modern Age." So near-universal is this concern among writers that I have yet to see the schedule of a writers conference that does not include at least one panel and/or break-out session on book PR / marketing.)SOCIAL MEDIA, MEH.Back in 2009, when my novel came out, I appreciated working with Unbridled Books' crackerjack marketing staff. I had already published several books, so I knew the drill, the ever-expanding list of an author's "to dos" for a book launch; thus it was with a sense of duty mixed with relish for adventure that I took up the then-shiny new tools of Facebook and Twitter, aka "social media."I like to think that my publisher appreciated my little flurries of status updates and tweets-- I'm reading here; I'm signing there; So-and-So reviewed it on her blog. But what a bore! What an unholy bore of a chore! Surely I would be better at starting up a dog grooming business. Or maybe selling vegetable powders. I am not kidding. (Dear Dr. Cowan, I totally heart your vegetable powders.) I mean no disrespect to marketers or anyone else. Marketing can be a noble profession, and if you don't believe me, just follow Seth Godin's blog for a few days. What I mean to say is, I am not cut out for marketing, and that's OK. Neither am I meant to be a nurse or an architect or a candidate for Sheriff in Brewster County, Texas! Last I checked, I am, as are we all, living one lifetime at a time. And writing books, never mind any attempt to market them, consumes a whopper of a chunk of time.So I have been reconsidering the utility, for me, of social media. I still post on Twitter on occasion, but because I found it such a distraction, I deactivated my Facebook account-- that was over a year ago, and I breathe a shoulder-melting sigh of relief about it every day. (Note to Mr. Quibble: Don't count this blog as social media because I do not publish comments. Nonetheless, dear reader, and that includes you, Mr. Q., your comments are always welcome via email.)All that said, most of the writers I know-- and to be sure, publishers' marketing staffs and freelance publicists-- remain enthusiastic about social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and LinkedIn, among many others. Although I've taken said steps back from the social media arena, I remain intensely curious about how and why and optimizing the ways we communicate with one another in this digital age. And, dagnabbit, it is important-- an integral part of the arc of writerly action, as I think of it-- to help give one's book the chance to find its re[...]

Consider the Typewriter (Am I kidding? No, I am not kidding)


Perhaps, dear reader, you have heard of Freedom, the app that blocks the Internet so you can focus on your writing (or whatever offline task). It is not cheap; prices have gone up more than a smidge (ayyyy!) since I purchased it some years ago for a mere USD 10. Nope, I don't use it. End of review.Of course, a more economical alternative for those who work at home would be to simply switch off the wi-fi signal. But never mind, there you are, glued to your computer, same screen, same keyboard, same desk, same chair, and whether you're using the Freedom app or you've turned off the wi-fi signal, either can be reversed (that is, the Freedom app turned off, or the wi-fi switched back on) in a matter of the slight inconvenience of a moment. Staying off-line when you're working on a computer is akin to trying to diet with an open box of chocolates within reach! As they say, Don't think about the pink elephant. Or, elephant-shaped chocolates with a cherry in the middle! Or, for a more au courant Internetesque analogy, Don't think about cats! And certainly not cats wearing hats!YE OLDE NONELECTRIC TYPEWRITER Yet another strategy for diminishing the pull of the Internet, at least for some writers some of the time, would be to get up from the computer, aka the distraction machine, and hie thee over to ye olde typewriter.My typewriter went to Goodwill years ago. But now, with a book to complete, I am seriously considering going back to using a typewriter. I am old enough to remember typing up my papers for school and college, that satisfying clackety-clack and the little ding at the end of the right margin... The calm. The focus.Speaking of analogerie, I am also, as those of you who follow this blog well know, massively, as in an-entire-parade-ground-filled-with-dancing-pink-elephants-and-cats-in-hats-all- under-a-rain-of-chocolates, massively, relieved to have deactivated my Facebook account. That was back in August of 2015. Yes indeed, having eliminated that particular bungee-pull to the Internet, I have gotten a lot more writing done, and I am answering my email in a more consistently timely manner. So, typewriters. I spent an afternoon of the Thanksgiving weekend doing some Internet research. Herewith:Five Reasons to Still Use a Typewriter By Gerry Holt, BBC News MagazineThe Hidden World of the TypewriterBy James Joiner, The AtlanticThe Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st CenturyBy Richard PoltA superb reference written by a professor of philosophy.His blog is The Typewriter RevolutionWHERE TO FIND A GOOD OLD (AND MAYBE REALLY OLD) NONELECTRIC TYPEWRITERWhy nonelectric? It might be nice to type in the tipi! But also, it seems that some of the best workhorse typewriters are nonelectrics made back in the mid-20th century. The only nonelectric typewriters currently being manufactured are from China and although cheap, they're crap, so if a nonelectric typewriter is what you want, think vintage. For a rundown on vintage brands and models, both nonelectric and electric, Polt's The Typewriter Revolution is an excellent resource. On his website Polt also maintains a list of typewriter repair shops.You could start combing through the cheapie listings on EBay and Goodwill, and if you have the time and can stand the skanky vibes, peruse the stalls in your local flea market. You might even grab a typewriter for free-- perhaps the one gathering cobwebs in your parents' garage... But it seems to me that, if you want to start typing ASAP on a good vintage machine, the best strategy would be to shell out the clams to a dealer who specializes in refurbishing or "reconditioning" quality typewriters, and who offers his or her customers a guarantee. I should think you would also want to confirm that it will be possible to source ribbons. UPDA[...]

Reading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English-Language Readers


[[ Just a few selections from the chocolate boxof English language books on Mexico ]]In recent days, I am delighted to report, more than one American has asked me for a list of recommended reading on Mexico for their book clubs. Before I present my correspondents, and you, dear reader, with my list, herewith a big fat flashing neon-lime caveat: This list is unlikely to coincide with most English language writers' and readers' ideas of what might be most appropriate. Nope, no Graham Greene. No D.H. Lawrence, no Malcolm Lowry, nor John Steinbeck. Most of the usual suspects have gone missing from my list. I packed the bunch of them off, as it were, to Puerto Vallarta for margaritas (a drink invented by a Texan, by the way) and a purgatory of reading juicy crime-novels. About crime novels, I am not your go-to gal.[[ MEXICO:  A TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION24 Mexican writers on Mexico, many in English translation for the first time. ]]For those of you new to this blog, let me introduce myself. I am a US citizen who has been living in Mexico City on and off for over three decades, and not in an expat community, but as a part of a Mexican family. Over these many years I have written several books about Mexico, most recently, the novel based on the true story of Mexico's Second Empire, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. I have also translated a long list of Mexican writers and poets, and am the editor of an anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, which is not a guidebook but a selection of 24 Mexican writers on Mexico, many in translation for the first time. All of which is say that although I have not read each and every last thing ever published on Mexico (a feat for a bot!) I am very familiar with both the Spanish and the English language literature on Mexico, fiction and nonfiction. TWO CHALLENGES: SAD! VERY SAD!But to make a list of recommendations for an English-language book club there are challenges. First, a number of Mexican works have been translated into English, but this amounts to only a tiny percentage of what has been published in Mexico over the centuries. To quote DJT completely out of context, "Sad!"Second, also sadly, many of the best-known and easily available originally-in-English works on Mexico strike me as superb examples of a south-of-the-border species of what Edward W. Said termed "orientalism." Translation: toe-curling. Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez, to take but one example, while a deserved classic for its lyric beauty (count me a fan), will tell you little about Mexico, never mind the Baja California peninsula that stretches for nearly a thousand miles along the Sea of Cortez; much of what Steinbeck says about it is either flat wrong or rendered through a filter of commonplace prejudice and presumption.Much of the best of contemporary English language literature on Mexico covers the border, mainly focusing on illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violence. There are several excellent works under that voluminous tent, but I'd like to get to those last. I submit that for a deeper sense of Mexico, one has to dig past the sorts of stories one can easily encounter in the mainstream news, television, and cinema, to go both deeper into the country and deeper into its past.For a deeper sense of Mexico, one has to dig past the sorts of stories one can easily encounter in the mainstream news, television, and cinema, to go both deeper into the country and deeper into its past. Nope, that sad little shelf in the back room of your local big box bookstore is not the place to look. Unfortunately, and head-scratchingly—for the United Stat[...]

The Mexican Revolution at the Center for Big Bend Studies Annual Conference at Sul Ross State University


[[ WASHI & ULI, stop those suitcases! ]]I have been visiting Alpine, Texas for the annual Center for Big Bend Studies conference to talk about Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. Check out the conference, which is rich with archaeology and history and more on the Big Bend but also the wider region of West Texas and encompassing parts of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, here. The keynote speaker was my amiga, M.M. McAllen, author of the extraordinary narrative history Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico. (Listen to our extra-bacon-on-top-crunchy conversation about the whole enchilada of Mexico's Second Empire / French Intervention for my "Conversations with Other Writers" occasional podcast series here.)Funny, my Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution has zip to do with the Big Bend of Far West Texas. But the Mexican Revolution is a topic of perennial interest in this region; many battles and other incidents of the Mexican Revolution took place along the border in the Big Bend region, especially in the years after President Francisco I. Madero's assassination in 1913. Moreover, it so happens that I am at work on a book about Far West Texas. It won't be a book of straight history, however, but an interweaving of personal narrative, history and reporting, and maybe the kitchen sink, too, in the style of my book about Mexico's Baja California peninsula, Miraculous Air. Herewith a batch of posts on this blog about the Big Bend:The Strangley Beautiful Sierra Madre Astrobleme (What's an Astrobleme?)Cyberflanerie: Solitario Dome EditionA Visit to Swan HouseWe Have Seen the LightsOver Burro MesaGIFs of Far West TexasXavier González (1898-1993), "Moonlight Over the Chisos," and a Visit to Mexico City's Antigua Academia de San CarlosOn the Trail of the Rock Art in the Lower PecosPlus you will find 20 of a projected 24 "Marfa Mondays" podcasts, mainly interviews, posted to date, including Charles Angell in the Big Bend; Lisa Fernandes at the Pecos Rodeo; Mary Baxter on Painting the Big Bend; Avram Dumitrescu, and Artist in Alpine; and Cowboy Songs by Cowboys and an Interview with Michael Stevens. >>> Listen in anytime.More anon.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here. Book review: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914 by Heribert von FeilitzschBook Review: The Comanche Empire by Pekka HamalainenMarfa Mondays #13Looking an Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John TutinoMarfa Mondays #17Under Sleeping Lion: Lonn Taylor in Fort Davis[...]

A Banquet of Literary Translations for Travelers & ALTA Fabulosity


This post is dedicated to two of my favorite Spanish language translators, both ever and always the very souls of kindness and dedication and generosity, who could not be at ALTA this year: Cola Franzen and Margaret Sayers Peden. Dear reader, if you are at all interested in literary translation, whether you are the shyest of maybe-might-want-to-try-its or, shall we say, the Grand Poo-Bah of Literary Translation Theory Crunchiness, if you haven't already, take a look at the excellent work of ALTA, the American Literary Translators Association and their annual conference. For greater national coverage, the annual fall conference changes venue from year to year. In 2014 it was held in Milwaukee, last year, Tucson; this year, Oakland, California; next year (brrrrr) Minneapolis. Herewith, my recap of ALTA Oakland 2016:[[ WHEREABOUTSPRESS.COM ]]Voila, the historic Whereabouts Press editors photo taken on October 7, 2016 in Oakland, after the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) Conference panel celebrating the Literary Travel Companion series-- and a dangerously caloric lunch of fried chicken and waffles at Miss Ollie's. From left: Jill Gibian, editor of Argentina; Alexis Levitin, editor of Brazil; William Rodarmor, editor of France and French Feast; our guru, visionary founding publisher of the Whereabouts Press Travelers Literary Companion series, David Peattie; and, far right, Yours Truly, editor of Mexico. The Travelers Literary Companions paperbacks are not guidebooks, but carefully curated collections of writing about a country by writers from that country, many in English translation for the first time. If you are planning any travels, for real or via armchair, to any of these countries or, say, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Israel, Italy, Vietnam and so many more... any of one of these "travelers literary companions" deserves space-- and it won't take up much-- in your hand luggage.> Listen in to my interview with NPR about Mexico: A Literary Traveler's Companion, and read some of the stories by Araceli Ardón's "It Is Nothing of Mine";  Mónica Lavín's "Day and Night" (both my translations) and Geoff Hargreaves' translation of Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo's "The Green Bottle" at ALTA FABULOSITY[[ JESSE LEE KERCHEVAL'S LATEST TRANSLATIONS OF URUGUAYAN POETRY ]]The other highlight for me was the chance to see my amigas Patricia Dubrava and Clare Sullivan, among so many others, old friends and new:Pamela Carmel; Ellen Cassedy, who has a new book out of translations from the Yiddish (more about that anon); Barbara Goldberg; Susan Harris of Words Without Borders; Jesse Lee Kercheval, who continues doing wonders for Uruguayan poetry; Dennis Maloney of White Pine Press; Amanda Powell; Jessica Powell; Mahmud Rahman; Carolina de Robertis;Zack Rogow, co-author of the play Colette Uncensored and blogger extraordinaire at Advice for Writers (see his take on the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan) ;Alberto Ruy Sánchez;Mark Statman; and, surely having left aside a football team's worth of excellent people, I must now conclude with the deftly brilliant translator of Mexican poetry Mark Weiss.One especially memorable panel included the reading of works by the late poet Eduardo Chirinos by his translator, G.J. Racz. Check out Still Life with Flies, published by the elegant Dos Madres Press.For the Spanish bilingual readings I read an excerpt from my translation "The Apaches of Kiev," a hot-off-the-blog short story by Mexican writer Agustín Cadena.PS. T[...]

Santa Fe 2016: Women Writing the West and Allá


Dear reader, if you are a writer who has not yet attended a writer's conference, may I suggest that, whether you are a beginner or a battle-scarred multi-prize-winning veteran in this "business," a conference can be one of the best investments you make in yourself. Plus, if you have even a wee bit of extrovert in you, it's a gab fest.  That said, over the years I've participated in so many writers' conferences, most blur together in a sort of schmoo of vaguely remembered panels and jostling in the corridors and too much coffee and overcrowded ladies rooms... I sometimes wondered, ho hum, what could possibly be new? Well, a couple of years ago it occurred to me that it would be both new and apt for me to look west; after all, the majority of writers conferences I had attended up until then had been on the East Coast, and I am at work on a book about Far West Texas. Plus, my agent, bless her heart, passed away, so I might need another one (whether I do or not remains an open question)-- the agent pitch sessions at a writers conference are always valuable if for no other reason than to practice pitching. After attending the 2014 Women Writing the West conference in Golden, Colorado, I learned so much and met so many accomplished and friendly and indeed, women-writing the-west writers, including several Texans, that I hoped to attend another. Finally this October it was possible, and that meant a journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico.My participation this year was on the panel "Writing Across Borders and Cultures" with Dawn Wink and Kathryn Ferguson and I gave a workshop on "Podcasting for Writers." > Transcript of my remarks for "Writing Across Borders and Cultures" here.> Handouts for the workshop "Podcasting for Writers" here and here.PEYOTE EXPERT STACY B. SCHAEFER,  TACO MAVEN DENISE CHAVEZ, ACQUISITIONS LIBRARIAN ALICE KOBER, RIGHT-TO-WRITER JULIA CAMERON, NAVAJO POET LUCI TAPAHONSO, & MORE GALOREOne of the highlights for me was meeting anthropologist Stacy B. Schaefer, whose biography of Amada Cardenas, Amada's Blessings from the Peyote Gardens of South Texas (University of New Mexico Press) was a finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award for Scholarly Nonfiction. Of course my book in-progress about Trans-Pecos Texas will include some discussion on peyote, since its habitat, mainly in South Texas and Northern Mexico, includes a patch of the Big Bend, which is in the Trans-Pecos. Schaefer is one of the leading scholars on peyote and her story of the first federally-licensed peyote dealer Amada Cardenas is essential reading for anyone who would seek to understand the history and ritual of the Native American Church, as well as a vital part of US-Mexico border culture and history.Another highlight was Denise Chavez's magnificently theatrical luncheon keynote, a reading from her book, A Taco Testimony. In the photo below, to the left of Chavez, in blue, sits acquisitions librarian Alice Kober, who later gave a talk entitled "Why Would Librarians Buy Your Book— Or Not?" (Oh dear, those "nots"...) Most writers' conferences offer a panel on book marketing. In my newly-forged opinion, ideally, all writers' conference panels on book marketing should feature an acquisitions librarian. Would that he or she could be half as wickedly excellent a speaker as Alice Kober.[[ DENISE CHAVEZ TALKS ABOUT TACOS ]]Another sparkling keynote, "The Right to Write," was delivered by Julia Cameron, and at the Willa awards banquet, Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso read her exquisite works.Further entertainment was provided by this fine mariachi band.[[ CARMEN PEONE ANDKATHRYN FERGUSON ]]Apart from being entertained, [...]

On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühlung: Remarks For the Women Writing the West Panel on "Writing Across Borders and Cultures"


TRANSCRIPT (slightly expanded and now with a proper title) of C.M. Mayo’s talk for the panel “Writing Across Borders and Cultures”Panel: C.M. Mayo, Dawn Wink and Kathryn FergusonWomen Writing the West Annual ConferenceSanta Fe, New Mexico, Saturday, October 15, 2016ON SEEING AS AN ARTIST OR, FIVE TECHNIQUES FOR A JOURNEY TO EINFÜHLUNGREMARKS BY C.M. MAYOHow many of you have been to Mexico? Well, viva Mexico! Here we are in New Mexico, Nuevo México. On this panel, with Dawn Wink and Kathryn Ferguson, it seems we are all about Mexico. I write both fiction and nonfiction, most of it about Mexico because that is where I have been living for most of my adult life— that is, the past 30 years— married to a Mexican and living in Mexico City. But in this talk I would like to put on my sombrero, as it were, as an historical novelist, and although my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, is about Mexico, I don’t want to talk so much about Mexico as I do five simple, powerful techniques that have helped me, and that I hope will help you to see as an artist and write across borders and cultures.>> CONTINUE READING # # #> See also A Reading List for Writing Across Borders and Cultures> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Free ebook [PDF]: My Recollections of Maximilian by Marie de la Fere; Introduction by C.M. Mayo (A rare eyewitness English-language memoir published as an ebook by permission of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley)A Conversation with M.M.McAllen about Maximilian and Carlota(podcast and transcript)See also my other blog, Maximilian and CarlotaResources for Researchers of the Tumultuous Period of Mexican History Known as the Second Empire or French InterventionTranscript of Keynote for Board of Directors meetingHarry Ransom Center University of Texas Austin, April 22, 2010:To Remember, To Understand: On Researching and WritingThe Last Prince of the Mexican EmpireWhy Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret Book(Transcript of my talk for the panel on "Why Tramslate?"American Literary Translators Conference, Milwaukee, 2015)[...]

In Plain Sight: Felix Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914 by Heribert von Feilitzsch


[amazon]My review, just published in Literal:IN PLAIN SIGHT: FELIX A. SOMMERFELD, SPYMASTER IN MEXICO, 1908 to 1914by Heribert von FeilitzschHenselstone Verlag, 2012It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history." Like Gandhi, Francisco I. Madero was deeply influenced by the Hindu scripture known as the Bhagavad-Gita and its concern with the metaphysics of faith and duty. And like Gandhi, Madero altered the course of history of his nation. From 1908, with his call for effective suffrage and no reelection, until his assasination in 1913, Madero received the support of not all, certainly, but many millions of Mexicans from all classes of society and all regions of the republic. But the fact is, during the 1910 Revolution, during Madero's successful campaign for the presidency, and during Madero's presidency, one of the members of that "small body of determined spirits," who worked most closely with him was not Mexican. His name was Felix A. Sommerfeld and he was a German spy. >>> CONTINUE READINGThe Comanche Empire by Pekka HamalainenWhy Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret BookOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and SurprisesUna ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World): Master Amajur and the Smoking Signatures[...]

A Reading List for Writing Across Borders and Cultures


This was my handout for the panel "Writing Across Borders and Cultures" with Yours Truly, Dawn Wink and Kathryn Ferguson at the Women Writing the West Annual Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 15, 2016. UPDATE: Now posted, transcript of my remarks, "On Seeing as an Artist: Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühling"RECOMMENDED READING FOR WRITING ACROSS BORDERS AND CULTURESA LIST BY C.M. MAYOC.M. Mayo Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual+ The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire+ Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico+ Sky Over El Nido: Stories+ (as editor) Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary CompanionMEGA BIG PICTURECampbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.Crawford, Matthew B. The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Duffy, Patricia Lynne. Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their World. Said, Edward. Orientalism. Scarry, Elaine. Dreaming by the Book. ON CRAFTEdwards, Betty. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Ricco, Gabriele Lusser. Writing the Natural Way.Smith, Pamela Jaye. Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation. Zinsser, William, ed. They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing. ON PROCESS / PUSHING PAST RESISTANCEBaum, Kenneth. The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind-Body Connection. Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Winning the Creative Battle.P.S. Gigazoodles more recommended reading at my writing workshop page (on tips, on craft, process, editing, publishing, and more).>> Stay tuned for the transcript of my talk for this panel.>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Recommended Literary Travel MemoirsRecommended Reading on MexicoOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and Surprises[...]

Five 2 Word Exercises for Practicing Seeing as a Literary Artist in the Airport (or the Mall or the Train Station or the University Campus or the Car Wash, etc)


Later this week at the Women Writing the West conference in Santa Fe,  I'll be talking about seeing as an artist, apropos of which, this brief exercise:Wherever there be a parade of people, there's an opportunity for a writerly exercise. This is a quick and easy one, or rather, five. The idea is to look-- using your artist's eye, really look at individuals and come up with two words (or 3 or 4 or 7) to describe them. Yep, it is that easy. It helps to write the words down, but just saying them silently to yourself is fine, too. The point is to train your brain to pay attention to detail and generate original descriptions.As someone walks by:1. One word to describe the shape of this person's hair; a second word (or two or more) for the color of his or her shoes (referring to a food item), for example:knife-life; chocolate puddingShe had a knife-like bob and slippers the color of chocolate puddingcurve; pork sausageHis head was a curve of curls and he wore pinkish clogs, a pink that brought to mind a pair of pork sausagessumptuous; cinnamon candyShe had a sumptuous do and spike-heeled sandals the red of cinnamon candystubbly; skinned troutHe had stubbly hair and tennis shoes the beige-white of skinned trout.(By the way, it doesn't matter if the words are any good or even apt; the point is to practice coming up with them. Why the color of a food item? Why not?)2. Is this person carrying anything? If so, describe it with one adjective plus one noun, e.g.:fat purseShe carried a fat purselumpy briefcaseHe leaned slightly to the left from the weight of a lumpy briefcase crumpled bagShe clutched a crumpled bag white cupOn his palm he balanced a white cup3. Gait and gazeloping; fixed to groundshuffling; brightbrisk; dreamytiptoe; squinty4.  Age rangeolder than 10, younger that 14perhaps older than 20I would believe 112obviously in her seventies, never mind the taut smile 5. Jewelrya gold watch; a silver skull ringfeather earrings; a toe ringeyebrow stud; hoop earringsa wedding band on the wrong finger; an elephant hair braceletOne need not use all this detail; the point is to generate it in the first place-- to get beyond stereotypes (eg she was a short Asian woman) and write something more memorable and vivid. She had a knife-like bob and slippers the color of chocolate pudding. She carried a fat purse. Her walk was brisk, her gaze dreamy. Perhaps she was older than twenty. She wore a wedding band on the wrong finger and an elephant hair bracelet.>> How to select the detail and avoid clutter? See "On Respecting the Integrity of Narrative Design: The Interior Decoration Analogy."More anon.UPDATE: See the transcript from my talk "On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfuhlung"Emulation ExercisesWriting Loglines and the Concept of the EyespanGiant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises[...]

Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion and the Whereabouts Press series


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of my Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion anthology. This week I'm off to the American Literary Translators Association conference in Oakland, California, where, thanks to my amiga, Jill Gillian, editor of Argentina: A Traveler's Literary Companion, I will be participating on roundtable discussion panel of editors of the Whereabouts Press Traveler's Literary Companion series: founding editor David Peattie; Jill Gibian (Argentina); Alexis Levitin (Brazil); Ann Louise Bardach (Cuba); and William Rodamor (France).THE UNIQUE AND VISIONARY CONCEPT OF THE TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION SERIESWhereabouts Press founder David Peattie's concept of the series is visionary, and I was truly honored to have been invited to edit the Mexico collection. As the Whereabouts Press website says, "unlike traditional guidebooks, our books feature stories written by literary writers. Through these stories, readers see more than a place. They see the soul of a place."Isabelle Allende praised the Whereabouts Press Traveler's Literary Companion series: "We can hear a country speak and better learn its secrets through the voices of its great writers. An engaging series— a compelling idea, thoughtfully executed."[[ MEXICO: A TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION,EDITED BY C.M. MAYO ]]HEREWITH, THE WHOLE ENCHILADA OF LINKS. AS THEY SAY IN MEXICO, SERVE YOURSELF WITH THE BIG SPOON!Webpage for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary CompanionIncludes:> Table of Contents> List of writers and translators> Preface> "Lady of the Seas" by Agustin Cadena> About the cover-- the beautiful painting of the "Cocina verde co arroz al horno" (Green Kitchen with Baked Rice) by Elena Climent > National Public Radio interview about this book with Yours Truly> Q & A plus other interviews> Links to buy this book from amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and more."It will open your eyes, fill you with pleasure and render our perennial vecinos a little less distante." Los Angeles Times Book Review"One of the outstanding contemporary works on this country"David Huerta, El Universal, Mexico City"Highly recommended."Library Journal"Discovering it was like opening a door and walking into a brightly lit room filled with all kinds of literary treasures" Mexico Connect"This delicious volume has lovingly gathered a banquet of pieces that reveal Mexico in all its infinite variety, its splendid geography, its luminous peoples. What a treat!"Margaret Sayers Peden, editor, Mexican Writers on Writing+ + + + + Because I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, my translation endeavors have slowed to a bit of a crawl this year. That said, I should soon be finished with my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum's award-winning collection of short stories, The Water that Rocks the Silence. More about that anon.Translating Across the Border: Transcript of my talk for the American Literary Translators Association Panel, "Translating the Other Side", Tucson, Arizona, 2015"Café San Martín": Reading Mexican Poet Agustín Cadenaat the Café Passé in Tucson, ArizonaWhy Translate?The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret Book(ALTA 2014 in Milkwaukee)At the FIL or,The Mexican megabookmashup[...]

Cal Newport's DEEP WORK / Study Hacks Blog / On Quitting Social Media


[[ DEEP WORK ]]Find out about a must-read book, a must-read blog, and a must-watch TED Talk by Georgetown University Associate Professor of Computer Science Cal Newport, all in one handy post at his Study Hacks Blog, "Quit Social Media."What Newport says in that post is provocative-- undoubtedly just the title will rub many people's fur the wrong way, and no surprise, it already has many commenters a-huffing & puffing. Here is my comment on Cal Newport's post:"Thank you for this blog, for your TED Talk, and for your books, especially Deep Work. I am a writer with 2 finance books published under another name, plus 4 literary books, plus an anthology– all of which is to say, I understand the nature and immense benefits of deep work. But dealing with the Internet… that has been a challenge for me over the past several years, and especially when all these shiny new social media toys seemed to be so necessary and (apparently) effective for promoting one’s books. Every publicist, marketing staff, my fellow writers, all seem slaves now to social media. I can assure you, every writers conference has a panel on book PR and social media. For a while, at the enthusiastic urging of one of my writer-friends, by the way, a best-selling and very fine historical novelist, I maintained a Facebook page, but when I realized what a time-suck it was, and how FB made it intentionally and so deviously addictive, I deactivated my account. I had also come to recognize that people addicted to FB, as seemed to be not all but most of my “FB friends,” often as they might “like” and comment on my posts there, are probably not my readers. (My books require sustained focus; I admit, they can be challenging.) I deactivated my FB more than a year ago, and I breathe a sigh of relief about it every blessed day.  As for your book, Deep Work, much of what you say was already familiar to me from my own experience as a writer, but I appreciated the reminders, especially in light of these contemporary challenges to sustaining focus. What was especially interesting and intriguing to me was the new cognitive research you mention. Next time I teach a writing workshop you can be sure that Deep Work will be on the syllabus."Do I miss interacting with friends and family on FB? Yes, but now I have more time for higher quality interpersonal interactions, such as, say, emails, telephone conversations, and--Land o' Goshen!!-- actually getting together in person.However, for the record here at Madam Mayo blog, I'm not (yet) giving up the three social media tools I still use, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, because:(1) With LinkedIn and Twitter I appreciate having a way to contact certain individuals when email is not a workable option (nieces and nephews, you know who you are!);  (2) I appreciate the broadcast opportunity, modest as it is (usually I just zip in to tweet a blog post or a podcast, then out, and not every day);(3) I turned off their notifications (wondering why I didn't do it sooner); (4) I do not find these services addictive, as I did Facebook, hence, I am not tempted to constantly check them. In sum, for me-- and of course, this might be different for you-- at this time-- and no guarantees for the future-- the benefits of maintaining my LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube accounts outweigh the costs. Speaking of costs, one of the vital arguments Cal Newport makes in Deep Work is that pointing out the benefits of utilizing any given social media tool is not enough; one must also take into full account its opportunity costs in yo[...]

Literary Travel Writing: Notes on Process and the Digital Revolution


[[ Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in Far West Texas.Confession: After I snapped this photo with my iPhone I checked my email-- just to see if I could! Alas, I could.]]The aim of literary travel writing was-- and remains-- to bring the reader to deeply notice, that is, get out of her head and into the world of specific sounds, smells, tastes, textures, colors, ideas, histories, geographies, geologies... In the words of Kenneth Smith, "You have to open space, and deepen place." Start with escape velocity: from wherever you are, whoever you are in your known world, you rocket out, beyond the orbit of ordinary life. You float around out there-- there being your own backyard or, for that matter, the island of Molokai-- for a spell. Then, with a story to tell, you splash back to earth.Next step: craft the narrative, rendering your experience in and understanding of that time and place as vividly, as lyrically, and engagingly as possible. I've had plenty to say about the craft of literary travel writing; what I want to touch on here are some of the steps in the process and how they have or have not changed with the lure of digital technologies and the tsunami of the Internet.HEREWITH SOME NOTES, FIRSTLY, ON TAKING NOTES:THEN: [[ Miraculous Air ]]In olden times of yore, I mean in the 1990s, when traveling in Baja California for my travel memoir Miraculous Air, I carried around a pen and bulky notebook, and a camera with so many lenses and dials that if I were to pick it up today I wouldn't remember how to operate it. To get every raw thing down that I would need for my book, I had to scribble-scribble-scribble, and during interviews and/or at the end of a day's driving and hiking or whatever, boy howdy, I felt like a squeezed-out sponge and my hand like an arthritic claw. Once home, I spent hours upon hours typing up my field notes. And neither film nor film processing was cheap. Such was the first step of the process.[[Charlie Angell, in the Solitario,Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. Photo taken with my iPhone. P.S. Check out Charlie's Tripadvisor reviews.]]NOW:These days, for my book in-progress on Far West Texas, I carry a pen and a slim Moleskine to jot down this-and-that, but my main tool is my iPhone. Rather than scribble my field notes and interview notes, I simply turn on my iPhone's dictation app and press "record" -- when finished, I have a digital file. I also take loads of photos and videos. Oh yes, this is infinitely easier on me as I am traveling, and as far as the pictures and video go, the cost is zip. Once home, however, transcribing the audio field notes takes me hours upon hours, and it is exhausting.[*] [*]Yep, I have voice recognition software but it doesn't work well enough-- in the time it would take me to correct the gobbledygook I might as well transcribe from scratch. I expect this to change. For some of my podcasts I have used a transcription service, but field notes are another matter-- too detailed, too personal. Furthermore, as tedious a job as it may be, transcribing my field notes helps me hyper-focus, recall more details, and gain further insight.I am the first to admit, were I to do another literary travel memoir, while I would dictate my notes, I would need a better strategy for getting them transcribed. So I'm working on this mid-way. Ayyy.===ON UTILIZING / PROCESSING / PUBLISHING PHOTOS & VIDEOTHEN: Photos stayed in a box. A few ended up in the book. (Several years after the book on Ba[...]

Q & A at Madam Mayo Redux


This week I've been traveling in Far West Texas. Marfa Mondays podcasts to resume shortly. Herewith, dear reader, may you find some fascinating Q & As-- some on Far West Texas, some not-- previously posted, but that you might have missed:Shelley Armitage on Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of PlaceCarolina Castillo Crimm on De Leon: A Tejano Family HistoryPaul Cool on The Salt WarriorsJohn Kachuba on The Savage ApostleKaren Benke on Write Back Soon!Sonja D. Williams on Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and FreedomRoger Greenwald on Translating Poet Gunnar HardingStephan A. Hermann on Francisco I. Madero as MediumMichele Orwin, Founder of Bacon Press Books, on Independent PublishingAlan Rojas Orzechowski on Diego Rivera's Professor, Santiago RebullPlus you can find oodles more interviews on my Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Exploring Marfa, Texas & Environs in 24 Podcasts and my occasional series Conversations with Other Writers. Just to mention three faves:Marfa Mondays # 9 Mary Baxter on Painting the Big BendMarfa Mondays #13 John Tutino on Looking at Mexico in New WaysConversations with Other Writers #7 Rose Mary Salum on Making Connections with Literature and ArtAnd if you want to read or listen to interviews with me about my books, you can find them all right here. Many readers have been asking me about my current book in-progress. No, it is not all interviews, but it will include excerpts from numerous interviews, very similar in style to my previous travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico.= Related Content = Why Aren't There More Readers? A Note on Curiosity, Creativity, and CourageTop 10 Books Read in 2010Top 10 Books Read 2014[...]

Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford's BORDER RADIO, Plus a Batch of US-Mexico Border Cyberflanerie


The US-Mexico border: For most readers, so it would seem, those three words conjure ye olde as-seen-in-the-NYT problemos. But as I have posted previously (here and here and here, to offer a few examples of multitudes), the border has its wonders-- speaking of which, on its way to me via amazon is a book that promises to be a wacky fun read: Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Pyschics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford. Whoa, it has a foreword by Wolfman Jack! (I guess that tells you how old I am!)P.S. Check out the wicked trailer for the documentary in-progress from the Border Radio Research Institute's Facebook page. (Alas I could not figure out how to embed that video. So just click on the link.)EXTRA EXTRA: US-MEXICO BORDER CYBERFLANERIEMore about PeyoteA few weeks ago I posted an extra-crunchy batch of notes under the title, "Peyote and the Perfect You." * Thanks to Gene Fowler, none other, who very kindly sent me the link, I have added to that blog post this link (embed rather) to "Amada of the Gardens" a fascinating documentary on peyotera Amada Cardenas (1904-2005). allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="300" src="" width="300">*Marfa Mondays Podcast #22, not yet posted, scoots an hour and forty five minutes east on highway 90 over "The Town Too Mean for Bean," Sanderson, the Cactus Capital of Texas-- so stay tuned for more about peyote.>> Gene Fowler's article on Marfa and more: "Sound Speed Marker: An Archeology of Cinema">> Chris Gill's article on Valentine artist Boyd Elder: "Keeper of the Flame">> Olivia Judson's article on the eerie wonder of the Guadalupe Mountains: "When Texas Was at the Bottom of the Sea">> Lobo Film Fest at the Desert Dust Cinema. Featuring a movie you can watch on YouTube: "Wild Bichons" by Stefan Nadelman allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="360">> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.> Newsletter.= Related Content =Blood Over Salt in Borderlands Texas: Q & A with Paul Cool about Salt WarriorsThe Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of US Trade with Mexico in the Pre-Pre-Pre-NAFTA Era: Notes on Susan Shelby Magoffin and Her Diary of 1846-1847Translating Across the BorderQ & A with Sonja D. Williams on Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom[...]

Cymru & Comanche: Cyberflanerie


So "Cymru," the name for Wales in the Welsh language, is pronounced kum-ree. (Whodathunk?)I have finished reading the excellent albeit doorstop-esque The Last of the Celts by Marcus Tanner. If you have been following this blog, you know that I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, so you might be wondering, why the interest in the Celts? Of course, many Texans are descendants of Celts-- Scottish, Welsh, and Irish, above all. But it's more than this.Sometimes one's thinking, stuck in a cultural rut, needs to unlimber.  Reading into deep and/or lateral history gives one a freshly off-kilter look at what it means to be human, and it highlights forgotten or overlooked connections among now diverse peoples. Such as among, oh, say, Texians and Comanches.(If you're not familar with the term Texian, the Texas State Historical Association defines it thus: "[G]enerally used to apply to a citizen of the Anglo-American section of the province of Coahuila and Texas or of the Republic of Texas... As President of of the Republic, Mirabeau B. Lamar used the term to foster nationalism... In general usage after annexation [to the United States] Texan replaced Texian." As you might guess, Texians and Comanches did not sit around the campfires together singing the 19th century equivalent of "Kumbaya.") I've been reading piles of books on Texas. So much of this literature tends to fall into broadly categorizing people-- e.g., "Anglos" over here, "Spanish" or "Mexican" or "Tejano" or "Native American" or there. Or, for that matter, "white" or "black." Such categorizations might be convenient, and I grant, at times necessary for some modicum of understanding, but in fact, many individuals' ancestries and cultural identities are not so simple, nor is there anywhere near as much uniformity within such categories as many authors assume, or seem to imagine. (I was born in Texas but I did not grow up there. I still find peculiar the Texan notion of  "Anglo" someone who might as easily be of English as of French, Czech, or, say, Irish extraction.)Similarly, much of the literature on Mexico, whether in English or Spanish, discusses mestizaje as if the only mix were of Spanish and indigenous. But in fact, many Mexicans, like many Mexican Americans, for that matter, are part African, part Arab, Chinese, Russian, Swedish, Irish, you-name-it. (See also the preface to my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.)[[ A Record of the Bodurtha Family, 1645-1896.My trace back to Reice Bodhurtha is via one of my great-great-great grandmothers, Lucy Morris Pope ]]My own ancestry is a mix of Irish, Scottish, English, German, plus a sprinkling of Welsh-- in other words, plenty of Celt in there. (For those of you new to this blog, in case you were wondering, why my interest in Texas, Mexico, and the US-Mexico  border? I have been married to a Mexican and living in Mexico City for nearly 30 years, and I was born on the border, in El Paso, Texas.)As far as I know, my own bit of Cymru goes back to a great-great-great-etc-etc-etc-great grandfather, one Reice Bodurtha, a founder of the Agawam Plantation (now Springfield), a Puritan colony in Massachusetts in the 1600s. (Not the Mayflower, but close! Not that I put too much stock in this sort of thing. Going back that many generations, say, twelve, to get to Reice Bodhurtha, we're talking about a few thousand direct ancestors. The numbers of a[...]



[[ SHELLEY ARMITAGE ]]The week before last, I posted a brief but glowing note about Shelley Armitage's Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place. This week I am delighted to share with you the author's answers to my questions about her lyrical and illuminating memoir of growing up in and later returning to explore the area around Vega, Texas. Vega sits on the Llano Estacado about half way between the eastern New Mexico / Texas border and the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo. [Click here to see Vega, Texas on the map.] As you will see, some of my questions are with my students in mind (I teach literary travel writing and creative nonfiction), while other are apropos of my abiding interest in Texas (my own work-in-progress is on Far West Texas-- next door, as it were, to the Llano Estacado). Whether you are interested in writing travel and personal memoir or learning about this unique yet little known place, I think you will find what Shelley Armitage has to say at once fascinating and informative. C.M. Mayo: You have had a very distinguished career as an academic. What prompted you to switch to writing in this more literary and personal genre? [[ WALKING THE LLANO ]]Shelley Armitage: I haven't really switched but shifted my focus. I've tried in all my previous books to write well and evocatively and they all required research and imagination as a foundation. I never believed that scholarly writing couldn't be readable, even possess literary qualities. But it's true that because I was an academic I was always steered away from personal/creative writing, something I wanted to do from a young age on. As I mention in the book, an elementary school friend and I wrote a novel together, a kind of mystery using local characters. When I was young I also admired the writing in National Geographic though I had no idea how to prepare myself to write such. Now as a retiree, I have time (though shortened!!) to explore what I've always yearned to do, though I still struggle to write things that are personal; I am more comfortable as a participant/observer.C.M. Mayo: In your acknowledgements you mention the Taos Writers Conference and the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico "where the book found a second life." Can you talk about Taos and the book's evolution?Shelley Armitage: Taos is a special place in terms of environment and history--and many other things. So being in Taos (high desert, mountains, verdant valley) combined with focus on writing was special. I was fortunate to study with BK Loren, a novelist and essayist, at the writers' conference. She gave me permission, through her suggestions and assignments--though not related to the memoir-- to work with narrative in fresh ways.I came to think about time in terms of what memory does with it, not something chronological. I spent lots of time in the Taos area hiking, just exploring the art scene, talking with other artists (particularly at the Wurlitzer Foundation). I've always found hanging out with other creative people, not writers, to be very stimulating and fun. Ditto looking at art, attending musical events, etc.At the Wurlitzer I was able to get a rough draft. A couple of years later when I studied with BK, I went home and started again. C.M. Mayo: Which writers and works would you say have most influenced you in writing Walking the Llano? You mention Southwest poet Peggy Pond Church and Southw[...]

The Strangely Beautiful Sierra Madera Astrobleme (What is an Astrobleme?)


[[ Sierra Madera Astrobleme. Photo by C.M. Mayo. ]]As those of you who have been following this blog know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas and, apropos of that, hosting the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project. So in addition to reading about Far West Texas and related subjects, and interviewing artists and many other interesting people, I've been doing a heap of driving all over the place out there. Driving east or west on I-10 or I-20 or 90 is to barrel along with the steady flow of big rigs, pickup trucks, RVs and SUVs; driving north-south, on the other hand, it gets very lonely, very strange, very fast.Here is a photo* I took with my iPhone through the windshield while heading south on US-385 from Fort Stockton to Marathon. That jumble of hills over to the left is the Sierra Madera, which sits on the vast La Escalera Ranch, one of the largest ranches in Texas. Although I did not know it at the time, the highway was about to blaze me right through the Sierra Madera Astrobleme.[*Normally I would never fool around with my smartphone while driving, but I had been driving out here for sometime and not seen a single vehicle, in either direction. I daresay I could have taken got out of the car and taken a siesta in the middle of the road.][ Sierra Madera Astrobleme ][ Sierra Madera Astrobleme, off US-385 etween Fort Stockton and Marathon, Texas ] The Sierra Madera is indeed on Google maps, but neither of the maps I carried with me that day, the AAA and the Geological Highway Map of Texas, noted it, so I was wholly unprepared for the sight, on the open plains, well before the Glass Mountains, of the strange-looking huddle of the Sierra Madera off to the east--  and all bathed in the golden-orange glow of sunset. Alas, my photo does not do its stunning gorgeousness a shred of justice. It turns out that the Sierra Madera is an extremely rare "cryptoexplosion structure," in this case, a crater with a central mountain range raised not by volcanic or tectonic forces, but by the rebound from the impact of an unknown extraterrestrial object. The mountains and the approximately 6 mile-in-diameter crater, so eroded over some nearly 100 million years that I did not recognize it as I drove through it, are together known as the Sierra Madera Astrobleme. An astrobleme is an eroded remnant of a large crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet. The term, first used in the mid-20th century, is from the Greek astron, star, and blema, wound. What was that object that slammed into the earth those nearly 100 million years ago? I searched the literature but could not find any description beyond "approximately spherical." So I wrote to Dr. Robert Beaufort, who host the United States Meteorite Impact Craters website. He kindly answered:"Identifying the class of meteorite that caused a particular impact crater is a genuinely difficult task... Because we are talking about gargantuan numbers of nuclear bombs worth of heat and shock energy, the impacting body itself, which is pretty tiny compared to the size of the crater, winds up distributed as parts per million or billion among the melted and/or redistributed target rocks remaining in and around the crater.  Finding traces of the impactor is pretty straightforward if you have a mass spectrometer to play with (which I don't), but actually telling which [...]