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Madam Mayo

By award-winning 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 EM

Updated: 2016-12-09T16:41:40.806-05:00


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 English and indigenous peoples that was nonetheless foundational to modern American culture. I found this work fascinating 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 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. 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."> Archive of all book reviews> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Top 10 Books Read 2015Top 10 Books Read 2014Top 10 Books Read 2013Top 10 Books Read 2012Top 10 Books Read 2011Top 10 Books Read 2010Top 10 Books Read 2009Top [...]

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 readers-- to do, ayyyyiyi, some marketing. As I often say to my workshop students who seem terror-struck at the idea of "self-promotion," book promotion is [...]

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. UPDATE:Behold! My 1961 Hermes 3000 Picafrom Typewriter TechsA few US dealers who look like promising possibilities: Olivers By BeeOliver Typewriters Manufactured [...]

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 States shares a nearly 2,000 mile border with Mexico, and all the cultural, economic, ecological, historical, and political intertwinings that would suggest— the[...]

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. guy said that where it's happening is Instagram. Oh well! > Read Patricia Dubrava's recap on the conference, "Only at ALTA"MY EVER-GROUN[...]

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, noshing on buffet chicken, gleaning loads of practical advice, and selling books, a writers conference offers the chance to put faces to names. Among them: Amy[...]

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.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 your actual practice. Oftentimes these costs are devastating. But fear of "missing out," fear of admitting that one could have done so much better than to have spent [...]

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 Baja California was published I uploaded a few to my website. You can view those here.)NOW: Photos and videos can be amply shared on this blog, the website, Twitter, [...]

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 ancestors double with each generation back. Do the math-- and keep your sombrero on: just about everyone alive today of European descent may be descended from C[...]



[[ 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 Southwest writer Mary Austin, as well as contemporary writers, including Rudolfo Anaya, Patricia Hampl, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Barry Lopez's writers retreat. Can y[...]

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 specific type of asteroid and associated meteorite you are dealing with is much more difficult.  Scientists have looked at differences in bulk elemental ratios[...]

Roundup by Robot


No need to haul around the chuck wagon!Rounding up cattle on the La Escalera Ranch in Far West Texas, using a Phantom 3 drone: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="240">La Escalera Ranch ("Herding Cattle with a Drone") from Lyda Video & Photo on Vimeo.Cattle herding in Queensland, Australia, from an article in International Business Times: frameborder="0" height="260" scrolling="no" src="" width="240">Robot-herding cattle in the Azores-- with extremely annoying soundtrack. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" src="" width="240">Herding sheep by drone in New Zealand: Article in the Daily Mail. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="260" id="molvideoplayer" scrolling="no" src="" title="MailOnline Embed Player" width="240">What prompted my interest in this at once esoteric and emblematic rural activity? As those of you who have been flowing this blog know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas. I spent the weekend transcribing some of my notes from driving around out there, including a spectacular stretch of US-385 heading south at sunset from Fort Stockton to Marathon. Judging from the number of gates out there with the logo that looks like a III, or a small ladder, La Escalera Ranch owns the zone. Hence, the Google, which landed me on their very interesting website with that video of the drone roundup. On that note, Kevin Kelly's The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future is a most enlightening read. Highly recommended.Marfa Mondays #11 Cowboy Songs by Cowboys and an Interview with Michael StevensThe Comanche Empire by Pekka HämäläinenMarfa Mondays #8: A Spell at Chinati Hotsprings[...]



Another fine example of the genre has been added to my frequently updated list of recommended literary travel memoirs: Shelley Armitage's Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place. Armitage's wistful, knowledgable, and lyric memoir may be one of best books ever to come out of the Texas Panhandle.> Visit Shelley Armitage's website here.>> Update on the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project: Ayyyy, I am still working on podcast 21, on the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts. Meanwhile, listen in to the other 20 podcasts anytime here.>> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.>> The newsletter goes out soon. I invite you to sign up here.The Comanche Empire by Pekka HämäläinenFrom The Writer's Carousel: On Literary Travel WritingThe Story is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories by Bruce Jackson[...]

Mexican Fiction in Translation: Agustín Cadena and Rose Mary Salum in ArLiJo


I am very honored and delighted to announce that the new issue #91 of Robert Giron's ArLiJo features two of my translations of Mexican short fiction: Agustín Cadena's "The Coco" and Rose Mary Salum's "Someone is Calling Me." >> Read ArLiJo #91 here << More about Agustín Cadena:> His blog, El vino y la hiel> "Lady of the Seas" by Agustín Cadena in my anthology Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion> A Note about Cadena's poem "Blind Woman" in BorderSenses> A Note about Cadena's short story "The Vampire" in MexicoCityLit> Café San Martín: Reading Mexican Poet Agustín Cadena at the Café Passé in Tucson, ArizonaMore about Rose Mary Salum:> Rose Mary Salum's blog, Entre los espacios> Rose Mary Salum, Founding editor of Literal> A Conversation with Rose Mary Salum (super crunchy)> A Note on the second issue of Origins, edited by Dini Karasik, featuring Mexican writer Rose Mary SalumA tip of the sombrero to you, my fellow El Pasoan, dear Robert Giron!Thank you for your long-time support for literary translation![[ ¡Viva ArLiJo issue #91! ]]A Note on Literary Projects & Literary Translation by Yours TrulyAlas, given that there are not 50 hours in the day and 700 days in the year I am not anywhere near ever becoming a full-time literary translator. My main literary projects at the moment are my own book on Far West Texas, and the related podcast series, "Marfa Mondays," but, as I have for many years now, I make it a regular practice to translate Mexican contemporary short fiction and poetry. (My most recent book is about and includes a book I translated-- an exception to my usual translation work on many levels, including the fact that the author was murdered in 1913. That book is Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.)As a resident of Mexico City, and a writer and poet myself, I treasure the opportunity to translate my Mexican contemporaries and bring them to English language readers. And I have plenty to say about all that: See "Translating Across the Border," my talk for the 2015 American Literary Translators Association Conference panel on "Translating the Other Side."At present, I am working on The Water that Rocks the Silence, a collection of linked short stories,  El agua que mece el silencio,  by Rose Mary Salum (three more to go for a complete first draft); a short story by Araceli Ardón (advanced draft); a second short story by Ignacio Solares (rough draft); and poem by Alberto Blanco (draft). Fingers crossed, later this year, I may have some news about a collection of stories by Agustín Cadena. Would that the day had more hours!> For more about my published translations, click here.> My amiga the poet and writer Pat Dubrava and I both translate Mónica Lavín and Agustín Cadena. Read her post about her visit to Mexico City in her blog, Holding the Light.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.> My newsletter goes out to subscribers soon. I welcome you to join the list here.Why Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret BookLooking at Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John TutinoFor MexicophilesNPR Interview with C.M. Mayo on the Art of Literary TranslationOn Writing About Mexico: Secrets and Surprises[...]

THE COMANCHE EMPIRE by Pekka Hämäläinen: A Book Review by C.M. Mayo


The cover of Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire, of a ghost-white warrior with a trio of blood-red slashes down his cheek, is as arresting as the argument that, as it opens, the Comanches' was "an American empire that, according to conventional histories, did not exist."In the United States public discourse conflates wildly heterogenous groups into easy categories— Native American, white, black, and so on and so forth— and then, with school board-approved narratives as mortar, we construct colossal political edifices. In their shadows, alas, many of us are blind to the complexities in our society and history. The complexities are riotous. And when we shine a light on but one of them— as Finnish historian Hämäläinen has in this brilliant study of Comanche hegemony— suddenly our easy categories and well-worn narratives may look strange, deeply wrong.As those of you who follow this blog well know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas, that is, Texas west of the Pecos River. Anyone who heads out there, especially to the remote Big Bend, hears about Comanches, e.g., they crossed the Río Grande here, they watered their horses there. But the Comanches, an equestrian Plains people who hunted the buffalo, were latecomers to the Trans-Pecos. They did not settle there; they trekked through it on the Comanche Trail (more aptly, network of trails) on their way to raid in northern Mexico. They returned driving immense herds of horses and kidnapped Apache and Mexican women and children in tow, for markets up north around Taos, New Mexico, and Big Timbers on the Arkansas, which garnered them metal tools, cooking pots, corn and other carbohydrates, textiles, and above all, guns and ammunition.George Catlin"Buffalo Chase"The Comanche were raiding south of the Río Grande as early as the 1770s, but their large-scale raiding in northern Mexico commenced in the 1820s, plunging deep into Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Durango, Zacatecas and, in the 1840s, as far as Jalisco and the major central market and manufacturing city of Querétaro. This systematic "mass violence" which left the northern realm of the Mexican economy crippled and its people demoralized, turned it into what Hämäläinen terms "an extension of Greater Comanchería." Hence, by the late 1840s, when the U.S. Army invaded Mexico, what they were really invading was, to quote Hämäläinen, "the shatterbelt of Native American power." But this is to get ahead of the story. >>>>[CONTINUE READING]P.S. WHAT'S UP WITH "MARFA MONDAYS"?Those of you have been following my related podcast, Marfa Mondays, may be wondering, where is the long-promised podcast #21 on the Seminole Negro Scouts? After the US Civil War, the US Army invited the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts into Texas from Mexico, where they had taken refuge from the Confederacy's slavers, to help clear the Apaches and Comanches out of Texas. So I've been reading about the latter groups, whose history, it turns out, is far more wide-ranging and multifaceted than I had imagined. I may be a fast reader, but this is a monster of a bibliography. Add to that, in 2008, with Pekka Hamalainen's The Comanche Empire, the whole of the paradigm has been upended. So stay tuned: by the by, podcast #21 on the Seminole Negro Scouts will be posted. Listen in anytime to the other 20 posted so far here.>>Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.>[...]

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 MEXICO


As a writer who has been living in Mexico for nearly three decades and, for an ongoing hairy spell, working on a book about Far West Texas, I am tardy in the extreme in reading Susan Shelby Magoffin's diary of 1846-47. Only recently did I pick it up in a bookstore on a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I promptly devoured it and am still shaking my head that I had not happened upon this marvel of a chronicle before. Indeed, the diary stands an essential document in US and Mexican economic history. Herewith, a few notes. (In other words, this post is not a polished essay but for my own reference-- and may it also serve you, dear reader, as an inspiration for further surfing and reading.)YEA, VERILY, IN THE PRE-PRE-PRE NAFTA ERAAt the time that Mrs. Samuel Magoffin, or "Susanita," as she called herself, began her diary on "the Great Prairie Highway," few people apart from hard-bitten traders, Indians and Indian fighters had traversed the Santa Fe Trail. This was, as historian Howard Lamar writes the diary's forword, "the West's newest and most romantic business." In fact, a best-seller of the day, read and reread by the exuberantly admiring [[Josiah Gregg ]]Susanita, was her husband's colleague Josiah Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, published in two volumes in 1844-- only two years before Susanita began her diary.>>Rare book collectors alert: A first edition of Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, both volumes and in good condition, is offered by James Cummins Bookseller for USD 4,500. Now worries, dear reader, it is now in the public domain and you can read it for free on also the online edition available for free at enticement: furs, and mules, and Mexican silver. From Independence, Missouri, the well-armed caravans of wagons packed with cloth and clothing, books, and other manufactured goods rumbled across the oceanic prairies of not-yet-bleeding Kansas and the southeastern corner of Colorado to the old Spanish city of Santa Fe-- then in its sunset days as part of the Mexican Republic. From Santa Fe, some traders then turned south on the old Spanish Camino Real de Tierra Adentro to Albuquerque, El Paso del Norte, Ciudad Chihuahua, and yonder into deepest Mexico. [[Mexican silver coin, 1844 ]]According to historian Lamar, the trade began in 1822, when Mexico, having separated from Spain, abandoned its mercantilist trade prohibitions. One Captain William Becknell ventured down from the Plains and reported "fantastic success bartering with the New Mexican at Santa Fe." By 1825 James Wiley Magoffin had entered the trade, bringing along his younger brothers, including Samuel, the husband of Susanita. Susanita Magoffin believed that she was the first white woman to traverse the Santa Fe Trial-- although that distinction may belong to Mary Donoho, who traversed the trail in 1835. [See the article by Kelley Pounds.] Remarkably for a diary of such careful observation, its author was a teenager: she celebrated her 19th birthday on the trail at Bent's Fort. Even more remarkably, her journey coincided with the US-Mexican War. More about that war in a moment.>> See the website for the National Park Service Santa Fe National Historical Trail ]>> Read more about the trail at the website of the Santa Fe Trail Association.[[CLICK HERE to visit the interactive[...]

Shattered Reality! Podcast: Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution


This past week for Shattered Reality! podcast Kate Valentine and Fahrusha interviewed me about my latest book,  Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. Considered Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy," Francisco I. Madero was the leader of the 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico from 1911-1913. In the year he launched the Revolution he wrote Manual espírita, then published it in 1911 as "Bhima," a pen name taken from the Bhagavad-Gita, when he was president-elect. What's it all about?>> Listen in here <<(Transcript to be posted shortly)I'm always delighted to talk about Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution-- which includes my translation of Madero's Manual espírita as Spiritist Manual-- and I have been fortunate to do so many a time since it came out in early 2014. For those looking for a more scholarly discussion, on the book's webpage you can find my lectures about Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution for the UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies (podcast); University of Texas El Paso (transcript); and The American Literary Translators Association Conference (transcript), among others, plus an ample and frequently updated page of Resources for Researchers.In scholarly venues, with noted exceptions, I usually find myself before an audience flummoxed to horror by the idea of Mexico's revolutionary hero as a Spiritist medium, so it was a fun treat to have this freewheeling podcast conversation with Kate Valentine, an expert on UFOs, and Fahrusha, a well-known professional psychic. They were not in the least kerfuffled by, for example, discussions of channeling the dead, table tipping, and apparitions--  to mention only a few of Francisco I. Madero's esoteric enthusiasms. Whether you relish discussions of the paranormal or not, if you have an interest in Mexico per se, I warmly recommend the Shattered Reality! interview with Andrew Chestnut, professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, about his book Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte the Skeleton Saint. Of late there has been a raft of sensationalist reporting on this visually spectacular cult which originated in Mexico City and is now popular among narco-traffickers, prisoners, and black magic practitioners, among others. Chestnut provides a well-grounded history of Santa Muerte (he identifies Aztec influences, as well as Spanish representations of the Grim Reaper, imported with the Conquest in the 16th century), and some very crunchy sociological insights. (I am often asked if Francisco I. Madero's Spiritism had anything to do with La Santa Muerte. The answer is a resounding no.)>> Again, listen to my Shattered Reality podcast interview here.Some of my other interviews on Madero, Spiritism, and the Mexican Revolution include:> Jeffrey Mishlove's television show New Thinking Allowed> Greg Kaminsky's podcast Occult of Personality> Stephan Woodman's The Mexican Labyrinth> University of Chicago Social Sciences Division newsletter> All Q & A here.Your comments are always welcome.CLICK HERE.I invite you to subscribe to my free podcast-packed newsletter.CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.No spam. Nor ham.Newsletter goes out every other month-ish.Book review for Literal:Ax of Apocalypse: Streiber and Kripal's The Super[...]