Monday, July 08, 2019

“Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

REST: My writing assistant demonstrates the concept. With snoring.

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.)


Monday, July 01, 2019

Lonn Taylor (1940-2019) and Don Graham (1940-2019), Giants Among Texas Literati

By C.M. Mayo

Say “Texas” and the images that pop into most people’s minds do not include literary figures and their oeuvres. But trust me, as one who has been working on a book about Far West for more years than I care to count, Texas has one helluva literary culture, a long-standing and prodigious production, yea verily flowing out as if by pumpjacks, and if not all, a head-swirling amount of it is finer than fine, and there are legions of readers who sincerely appreciate and celebrate it, as do I. 

Know this: Lonn Taylor and Don Graham, both of whom just passed away, were giants among Texas literati. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Q & A: Diana Anhalt on her Poetry Collection "Walking Backward"

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.

We have never met, but I feel as if we have. I think this is always true when one has read another’s such wonderful writing. But I did “meet” Diana Anhalt, in a matter of speaking, when years ago, she sent me a selection from her powerful and fascinating history / memoir of growing up in Mexico City, A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965. When, sometime later, I read the entirety of that beautifully written book itself–which I admiringly recommend to anyone with an interest in Mexico–I wrote to her, and we have kept in touch ever since. Apart from writing poetry and essay, we have this common: a lifetime, it seems, of living in Mexico City, and married to a Mexican. By the time we found each other’s work, however, Diana and her husband Mauricio had left “the endless city” for Atlanta, Georgia. (But ojalá, we will meet one day outside of cyberspace soon!)

Her latest, just out from Kelsay Books, is Walking Backward. From her publisher’s website, her author bio:


Monday, June 17, 2019

Journal of Big Bend Studies: “The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero”

Nope, that is not Francisco I. Madero,
pictured right, but J.J. Kilpatrick,
subject of Lonn Taylor’s fascinating article
in this same issue of the
Journal of Big Bend Studies, vol. 29, 2017.
By C.M. Mayo

A belated but delighted announcement: my article, “The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero, Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution” which is an edited transcript of my talk about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution (which is about and includes my translation of Manual espírita), came out in the Journal of Big Bend Studies in 2017. 

Because I am a literary writer, not an academic historian, it is a special an honor to have my work published in an outstanding scholarly journal of the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

For those rusty on their borderlands and Mexican history, Francisco I. Madero was the leader of Mexico’s 1910 revolution– the first major revolution of the 20th century– and President of Mexico from 1911-1913. This was not only a transformative episode for Mexico, but also for Texas.
My book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual, came out in 2014 (also in Spanish, translated by Agustín Cadena as Odisea metafísica hacia la Revolución MexicanaFrancisco I. Madero y su libro secreto, Manual espírita, from Literal Publishing.) So far so good: it has been cited already in a number of scholarly works about Madero and the Revolution.

Yes, Metaphysical Odyssey, is a peculiar title. In the article, I explain why I chose it and why, much as readers groan about it, I would not change it.

> Read the article here. (I had posted an earlier only partially edited PDF at this link; in case you’ve already seen it, as of June 17, 2019, it has been updated.) And you can order a copy of the actual printed article with all photos, and of the complete issue from the Center for Big Bend Studies here.
A few of the photos, not in the PDF:

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Writerly Tool for Sharpening Attentional Focus or, The Easy Luxury of a Lap Desk

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.)

My writing assistant presents the lap desk. He likes the lap desk.
It means we all sit together on the sofa.

As far as the need for equipment goes, writing is not like casting bronze sculpture. All you need is a pencil and paper–any scrap will do. The formidable challenge most writers face is managing their attentional focus, that is to say, their ability to actually sit down and, ahem, actually write. 

Sheer willpower isn’t the only thing needed, however. Habits, even tiny habits, can help enormously. Here’s where some writerly material tools can be useful… perhaps. I say “perhaps” because what works for one writer may not necessarily work for another.

What do I mean by “writerly material tools”? Well, you could have a special pencil and make a ritual of sharpening your special pencil– so there you have a pencil, and you have a pencil sharpener. Not a budget buster. If you don’t know what to do with your money, why, you could go gung-ho for such writerly material tools as a gold-plated typewriter with your name engraved in curlicues or, say, some rococo-rama iteration of George Bernard Shaw’s rotating writing shed. >>Continue reading this post at WWW.MADAM-MAYO.COM

Monday, June 03, 2019

“What Happened to the Dog?” A Story About a Typewriter, Actually, Typed on a 1967 Hermes 3000

Of late I have become an enthusiast of typewriting— the machine I am working on these days is a refurbished Swiss-made 1967 Hermes 3000, and quite the workhorse it is! (Ribbons? Kein Problem.) Of course I do most of my writing on my computer using Microsoft Word; WordPress for this blog; not to mention multitudinous hours spent with ye olde email program. But for laser-level attentional focus–and percussive energy!– the typewriter is something special, and as time goes by, the more I use it, the more I appreciate it. In fact, I now use my typewriter for one thing or another (drafts, notes, letters, recipe cards) almost every day.

Though I have yet to meet him in person, my mentor in the Typosphere is none other than Richard Polt, professor of philosophy at Xavier University and the author of some heavy-weight tomes on Heidegger, and, to the point, a practical manual I often consult, and warmly recommend to anyone thinking of buying a typewriter, or, say, hauling Grandpa’s out of some cobwebbed corner of the garage: The Typewriter Revolution. As “Richard P.” Professor Polt also maintains a blog of the same name. And now he, Frederic S. Durbin, and Andrew V. McFeaters, have put together a pair of anthologies, both just published, the second of which, Escapements: Typewritten Tales from Post-Digital Worlds (Loose Dog Press, 2019), includes a story of mine: “What Happened to the Dog?”

(Well, I guess it got loose, haha.)


Monday, May 27, 2019

Q & A: Donna Baier Stein on "Scenes from the Heartland" and "Tiferet"

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.
It has been more than a couple of years now since I participated as faculty at the San Miguel Writers Conference, but shining bright in my memory is a chat in the emerald cool shade of some palm trees there with Donna Baier Stein. And then we crossed paths again at the Women Writing the West Conference. Pequeño mundo! And at some point in between, to my great honor, she published an excerpt from my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, in her journal, Tiferet. Donna Baier Stein’s latest book is a collection of short stories inspired by artworks by Thomas Hart Benton– one of the greatest of the greats among American artists, and a personal favorite of mine. >>CONTINUE READING THIS POST AT WWW.MADAM-MAYO.COM

Monday, May 20, 2019

Why Do Old Books Smell? / Plus from the Archives: "What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz"

By C.M. Mayo

A most wonderful rare book about a 17th century American poet, whom I aim to write about, has arrived in my library. But phew, it STINKS. It stinks so nasty, I cannot even bear to read half a page of it.

Monday, May 13, 2019

BatCat Press' Call for Submissions, Plus from the Archives: "Out of the Forest of Noise: On Publishing the Literary Short Story"

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.)

Now that anyone and everyone and their dog, cat, budgie, llama, and chartreuse polkadot giraffe can start a blog, or for that matter an online magazine (dub your blog an online magazine, pourquoi pas?), I am rarely asked, with that gaze of yearning, as I so often was twenty years ago, how can I get published? These days, um, lift a finger and click “publish.” 

Nonetheless it remains a fact that for most poetry, short stories, and literary essays, discerning readers will be easier to come by when said work is brought out not by its author, but by a print magazine or imprint of repute. (There are exceptions, but that would be another blog post.)

Back at the end of March I attended the annual AWP bookfair— this is the biggest litmag scene in the US– and what struck me about it was how little things had changed in the past 20 years. There were Poet Lore, the Paris Review, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction— a whole host of venerable litmags that have been around since forever. (In the case of Poet Lore, that would be 1889.)