Monday, March 25, 2019

Q & A: W. Nick Hill on "Sleight Work" and Mucho Más

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is devoted to a Q & A with a fellow writer.

I was delighted to get the announcement for Sleight Work from W. Nick Hill, a poet and translator I have long admired. Sleight Work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License. The author invites you to download the free PDF from his website and have a read right now!

Here is one of the poems from W. Nick Hill’s Sleight Work which seems to me the very spirit of the book:


by W. Nick Hill

I live in a desert at the mouth of a mine.

The rocks and geodes I leave out on the sand.

If something fits your hand

Go ahead with it.


Monday, March 18, 2019

"Silence" and "Poem" on the 1967 Hermes 3000

By C.M. Mayo
My writing assistant wonders…. um, why?
Truly, I am not intending to collect typewriters. All shelf space is spoken for by books!! Last week I brought home a 1967 Hermes 3000 because (long story zipped) my 1961 Hermes 3000 is temporarily inaccessible, and it was bugging me that my 1963 Hermes Baby types unevenly and sometimes muddily (which could be a problem with the ribbon, but anyway), and I had a deadline to type my short story “What Happened to the Dog?” for the anthology COLD HARD TYPE (about which more anon).

Well, obviously I had to buy another typewriter!

I dare not buy anything but a Swiss Hermes. The one I could find in my local office supply shop was a refurbished 1967 Hermes 3000 with a Swiss-German QWERTZ keyboard. I’ve had to get used to the transposed Y and Z keys; otherwise, kein Problem, and es freut mich sehr to have the umlaut.
A QWERTZ Swiss German keyboard
(American keyboards are QWERTYs)
Of my three Hermes typewriters, this 1967 3000 is by far the smoothest, easiest to type on, and most consistent. I venture to use the word “buttery,” in fact. 
Herewith, typed on the 1967 Hermes 3000, “Silence” and “Poem,” from my forthcoming collection, Meteor:
Typed today but originally published in Muse Apprentice Guild in, ayy, 2002. I think it was.
If you’re going to the Great American Writerly Hajj, I mean the Associated Writing Programs Conference, come on by my reading– it’s a free event– I’m on the lineup with Thaddeus Rutkowski, Cecilia Martinez-Gil, Tyler McMahon, Seth Brady Tucker, John Domini, Teri Cross Davis, Elaine Ray, William Orem, Jeff Walt, and Joan G. Gurfield for the Gival Press 20th Anniversary Celebration Reading on Friday March 29, 2019 @ 7 - 10 PM. Hotel Rose, 50 SW Morrison St, Portland OR. 

The following day, Saturday March 30, 2019 @ 10-11:30 AM, I’ll be signing copies of Meteor at the Gival Press table (Table #8063) in the AWP Conference book fair.

You can also find a copy of Meteor on And read more poems and whatnots apropos of Meteor on the book’s webpage here.
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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Slam-dunk (If Counterintuitive) Strategy to Simultaneously Accelerate, Limber Up, and Steady the Writing Process

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my workshop page.)

Those of you who follow me here know that I am fascinated by attentional management and the creative process. Of late I have posted here on my advances in email management; finding time for writing (gimungous swaths of it!); and most recently, my distraction-free smartphone (which post includes an app evaluation flowchart to tailor-make your own, should you feel so inclined).

That last post about the smartphone appeared on the eve of the publication of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Because I am a fan of Newport’s books, especially Deep Work, which I recommend as vital reading for writers, of any age and any level of experience, I expected Digital Minimalism to be good. As I noted in that post, if nothing else, in broadening our ability to think about the technology we use, Newport’s term “digital minimalism” is an important contribution in itself.


Monday, March 04, 2019

"Round N Round" on the 1963 Hermes Baby

Uh oh (I can begin to see how this gets out of hand!) I just brought home a second vintage Swiss-made typewriter, a 1963 Hermes Baby, which is a sight lighter at 3.6 kilos (just under 8 pounds) and more compact than my 1961 Hermes 3000. It is in excellent working order, klak, klak!


He has not expressed himself verbally on the matter,
but it would seem that my writing assistant would prefer
that I use the MacBook Pro.
Also, geesh, it was ten minutes past suppertime.

From Meteor, my collection which will be out from Gival Press later this month:

>More about Meteor on my webpage.

>More about the Hermes Baby at the Australian blog ozTypewriter and at the Swiss Hermes Baby Page by Georg Sommeregger (in German, but Google translation available).

On the Hermes Baby I am also typing up my story (originally written on the laptop), “What Happened to the Dog?” for COLD HARD TYPE: Typewriter Tales from Post-Digtal Worlds. More about that anon.

Meanwhile, whilst strolling about the Rio Grande outside of Albuquerque, my fellow COLD HARD TYPE contributor Joe Van Cleave ponders the Typosphere, its relation to digital media, and the ultimately analog origins of the digital:

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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Q & A: Ellen Cassedy, Translator of "On the Landing," Stories by Yenta Mash, Master Chronicler of Exile

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is dedicated to a Q & A with another writer.

On the Landing: Stories by Yenta Mash,
translated by Ellen Cassedy
(Northern Illinois University Press, 2018)
Yenta Mash and her stories will be remembered because they have rare and masterful elegance, uncanny insight into vast prairie-like swaths human nature, and unusual heart. They also tell stories entirely new for many English-speaking people, that of the Jewish exiles to Siberia under Stalin during World War II, and their later migration to Israel. Translator Ellen Cassedy’s is a transcendent achievement; with Mash’s On the Landing she has brought a landmark book into English.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Using Imagery (the "Metaphor Stuff")

This blogs posts on Mondays. The second Monday of the month is dedicated to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. 

The study of English Literature has its pleasures and virtues, and much to do with learning the craft of creative writing; nonetheless, these are not one and the same endeavor. You can earn a PhD in race, class, gender, or fill-in-the-blank in the novel, yet still not have the wherewithal to actually write one. 


Monday, February 04, 2019

Migrating to Self-Hosted WordPress

Oops, I needed to have packed more trail mix and the glamping equipment!
 A few elephants to carry it all would have been fun, too.
Well, dangit, I meant to spend the month of January writing about Texas.
 (Photo: Engraving by G.H. Cushman of a painting by G.P.A Healy,
 Library of Congress, in the public domain.

Finally, after more than a decade, I took my own advice to get this blog off the free Google blogger platform and onto self-hosted WordPress at It was one part 2019 new year’s resolution and another part yikes-my-book-Meteor-is-about-to-come-out-and-I-should-have-already-taken-care-of-this. For the past few weeks I’ve been huffing and puffing up a steeper learning curve, and one with quite a few more scenic (and not-so-scenic) detours, than I had anticipated.


I do not aim, by the way, to import the entire archive of Madam Mayo blog posts going back to 2006. Archaeologists of Ur-litblogdom are hereby invited to dig around in the archives right where they always were and shall remain for as long as Googledom, for whatever reasons known only to itself, deems apt. What I am importing to, with selected links updated, are those posts that I believe best hold up over time: some transcripts of my talks, and other items related to my books (including the one in-progress) and podcasts; book reviews and the richer notes on recommended reading; articles for my writing workshop; and the now substantial collection of Q & As with other writers.

If you’re new to this blog, a few of last year’s posts that I would consider representative of what you can expect here going into 2019 include:

Working with a Working Library: Kuddelmuddel
September 24, 2018

Diction Drops and Spikes
(Workshop Post)
August 13, 2018
(In 2019 workshop posts are on the second Monday of the month)

Top 10+ Books Read 2018
December 17, 2018

Q & A: Leslie Pietrzyk on Writers Groups,
the Siren Song of the Online World, and on Writing Silver Girl
February 26, 2018
(In 2019 look for Q & A’s on the fourth Monday of the month)

As of today, February 4, 2019, the top “Madam Mayo” posts for 2018–some thirty in all– plus a wee batch (mainly workshop posts) from a sprinkling of earlier years, are now live at So I have more to do.

I also need to figure out the email sign-up thing…

In case you are also thinking of migrating a blog to WordPress, or starting a new blog on WordPress, herewith a few resources that I have found especially helpful:

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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, January 28, 2019


By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is dedicated to a Q & A with a fellow writer.

CORK WARS by David A. Taylor
I was excited to see David A. Taylor’s Cork Wars: Intrigue and Industry in World War II, firstly because I know from his previous works that this promises to be a thoroughly researched and superbly written history; and secondly because I have some tangentially related family history with another strategic material during World War II. My grandfather, organic chemist Frank R. Mayo, was then a research chemist at U.S. Rubber Company working on the crucial task of creating a synthetic rubber that could be mass-produced in a dangerously narrowing window of time; sources of natural rubber –-essential for making automobile and airplane tires as well as tank caterpillar tracks–-had been cut off when the Japanese invaded southeast Asia. Moreover, these days I am not the only one nervously aware that as we become increasingly dependent on our computers, smartphones, and electric vehicles, we are becoming  increasingly beholden to a supply of “rare earths,” many found nowhere near the United States, for the batteries (as David mentions in this interview).

Cork, a strategic material: Who’dathunkit? 

Taylor’s Cork Wars has been garnering rich praise. Meredith Hindley, author of Destination Casablanca, calls Cork Wars “fascinating;” Mary Otto, author of Teeth, says: “Cork Wars captures the drama of three families whose lives are bound up with a precious forest product—and the urgency of war;” and noted biographer Douglas Brinkley calls Cork Wars “a landmark achievement!”

C.M. MAYO: How might you describe the ideal reader for Cork Wars?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: The story is narrative nonfiction, so really the ideal reader is anyone who loves a good story. Because it involves espionage and World War II, that tends toward a male reader but the focus on families and how they respond to a crisis will make it interesting to a wider audience. I’ve been pleased that a wide range of readers have responded warmly to the book.

C.M. MAYO: An unsung commodity turns out to be crucial for national defense. It seems to me there are many parallels to this, both in the past and the present. Can you talk about this a bit?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: That’s long been an interest of mine, especially commodities that come from nature. We’ve come to know that water can be a flashpoint for conflict and security. And many of us grew up hearing “Blood for oil!” as a shorthand describing the motivation for wars fought over petroleum reserves.

But other parallels today are less well known. One is an obscure ingredient in electronics like our cellphones: minerals called “rare earths.” Your cellphone contains just a tiny amount of rare earths, but they’re irreplaceable – and China holds practically a monopoly on them. That’s why the Pentagon recently issued a report saying rare earths are a matter of U.S. national security.

That’s a factor in the current trade conflict. It helps to know these things as world citizens. And for writers, I think that holds dramatic possibilities as well.

C.M. MAYO: Can you talk about which writers have been the most important influences for your writing in general and for Cork Wars in particular?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: My reading taste has been shaped by so many wonderful writers of both fiction and nonfiction. It’s hard to keep to just a few. In fiction I’ve loved the works of Alice Munro, Grace Paley, Amy Bloom, George Saunders, Kate Wheeler, Chekhov, Tagore (stories), Borges, and Machado de Assis, the Brazilian master who combines wit and poignancy. In nonfiction I’ve been influenced by John McPhee, Rebecca Skloot, Isabel Wilkerson and others.

For Cork Wars, I was very impressed by a novel by Alan Furst called Dark Voyage, set during World War II and in the Mediterranean, in which the crew of a freighter (hauling a cargo of cork for part of the voyage) figures prominently. Furst evoked a world that’s noir and world-wise with vital characters, a combination I wanted for my book.

The other novel that I admired recently – it didn’t influence me because of when it came out – was Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, which has beautiful writing and characters in that wartime atmosphere of New York harbor.

C.M. MAYO: You have been a consistently productive writer for many years. How has the Digital Revolution affected your writing? Specifically, has it become more challenging to stay focused with the siren calls of email, texting, blogs, online newspapers and magazines, social media, and such? If so, do you have some tips and tricks you might be able to share?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: Thanks, so have you! The digital revolution has had a huge affect on my process. Yes, the distractions – and even the requirements – of email and social media have cut a chunk out of my writing time. I still write in the mornings, right after I get up, and that helps. And at some point in the day I like to write on paper, for a different neural connection to work. But I wish I had more tricks for staying focused (apart from self-imposed deadlines).

C.M. MAYO: Another question apropos of the digital revolution. At what point, if any, were you working on paper? Was working on paper necessary for you, or problematic?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: Yes, I started writing on computers but printing out to review and revise. I’ve seen research findings that reading hardcopy can help foster focus on longform reading (and revising). So as much as I write and revise onscreen, I do also edit on paper. The visceral circling of passages to move around can be satisfying.
I also read my work aloud to get my ear involved in hearing points for improvement.

C.M. MAYO: Organization… Keeping the research and working library all in order is a titantic task in writing a book of this nature. What were some of the things you did for this book that worked especially well for you?

DAVID A. TAYLOR: It’s interesting – have you found your own process has changed with each book? Mine has. For my first book, I used index cards to map out scenes, chapter by chapter. Later books relied on folders on the computer.

This one was challenging in terms of structure – it took a while to find the braided structure woven in three strands, with three families. As the structure evolved, the way I sorted my text, interview transcripts and images shifted.

One strength in this story’s evolution was the rhythm of research and interviews, writing and revision. The research led me to people to talk with – including Frank DiCara at his home in Baltimore, and Gloria Marsa, the daughter of a man recruited for spying by the OSS. I spoke with her often by phone in Mexico City, where she lives.

Those conversations in turn pointed me forward with search terms for more documentary research, which often yielded details that would be hard to recall, but that help the narrative.

C.M. MAYO: What’s next for you as a writer? 
DAVID A. TAYLOR: I’ve been encouraged by the response to Cork Wars and I think there are other formats in which the story and its characters can speak to us. In earlier work, I was fortunate to have partners for adapting my book about the WPA writers of the 1930s, Soul of a People, as a documentary and later as a feature screenplay (not yet produced, but it did get some nice WGA recognition). So I’d like to explore something like that with this story.

I also have several new projects. I’m in awe of the vision of August Wilson, whose Twentieth Century Cycle is so monumental. I love the idea of imagining a vast canvas, and carving it up by decade! On my own much smaller scale, I have my Thirties story with the WPA writers, and now Cork Wars in the 1940s. So I have a few more to go.

>>Visit David A. Taylor here, and check out this excellent trailer for Cork Wars:

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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Meteor (Gival Press Poetry Award) to Launch at AWP

My book Meteor, which won the Gival Press Award for Poetry, and was orginally scheduled to be published in late 2018, has been delayed slightly; it will be out in early 2019. 

I’m thrilled to see the cover, designed by Kenn Schellenberg, and to announce that Meteor which will launch at the Associated Writing Programs Conference in Portland, Oregon this March. If you’re going to conference, come on by my reading which will be part of Gival Press’ 20th Anniversary Celebration, and also to my booksigning the following day in the AWP Bookfair (details below).

Visit Meteor’s webpage here. All of the poems in Meteor have been published, but only a few are online, among them: “In the Garden of Lope de Vega,” “Stay West” and “Bank.”

I’d be the first to say many of these poems could be considered flash fictions, and in fact, a number of them were originally published in literary magazines (e.g., Exquisite Corpse, Gargoyle, Kenyon Review), as fiction. But as I like to say, it’s all poetry– or at least, it should aspire to be.

March 29, 2019 Portland, Oregon
Associated Writing Programs Conference
Oregon Convention Center
7 – 10 PM
C.M. Mayo, author of Meteor, to participate in Gival Press 20th Anniversray Celebration Reading. More details to be announced.

March 30, 2019 Portland, Oregon
Associated Writing Programs Conference
Oregon Convention Center
Book Fair, Gival Press, Table # 8063
10-11:30 AM
C.M. Mayo will be signing Meteor.

Yep, I am still at work on the book about Far West Texas. I aim to post a podcast apropos of that shortly, however next Monday’s post– the month’s fourth– is dedicated, as ever, to a Q & A with another writer: David A. Taylor, who will be talking about his intriguing Cork Wars.

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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.