Monday, May 22, 2006

DC Poetry Goddess Kim Roberts Guest-Blogs For Madam Mayo: "The Swag, Oh, The Swag!"

Madam Mayo is about to head out the door to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts to work on her novel. So, no blogging for another week-- check back for new posts after June 1st. For my new anthology of Mexican writing in translation, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, May 31st is my big event at the Washington DC Mexican Cultural Institute (co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Latino Center): "A Literary Look at Mexico". I'll be taking that look with novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter. Moderator will be Ray Suarez, senior correspondent of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. To get tickets, check my website's events page.

Guest blogging today is my amiga, Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway, DC's most excellent on-line poetry journal. (For my post about Beltway's list of litblogs, click here.) Her report on Washington DC's Book Expo America:
I made it through my first Book Expo America. I’m still a bit dazed.

My friend Gregg called me months ago from Chicago telling me to reserve my tickets to what he insisted was the most exciting event of the year. The way Gregg described it, the Book Expo was the kind of event that makes you froth at the mouth—and I knew from the start that nothing could possibly live up to the glorious excesses of his enthusiasm. On the other hand, Gregg is the perfect person to attend this kind of thing with. There’s not an ounce of cynicism in the lad: all he wants is to be surrounded by books and authors. Nothing makes him happier.

The Expo is enormous: row after row of tables and displays in the cavernous halls of the new Convention Center. It’s the kind of place that makes your feet ache just to look at. The conference brochure you get at check-in is a tome in itself. But what makes the event warm the cockles of Gregg’s heart is swag. He loves the free give-ways. He’ll pick up anything: magnets emblazoned with the names of presses, cheap plastic picnic cups printed with book titles, t-shirts and baseball caps, pens of all descriptions, bookmarks, rubber squishy toys (shaped like balls, dollar bills, houses, turkeys), fly-swatters, pins, miniature flags, pocket mirrors, toys (the best of which in my opinion were the Hot Wheels cars), letter openers, seed packets, matches, and candies. Did I mention the candies? Nearly every press lured you in with something: little chocolates, sugar cookies, salt water taffy, mints. They were all a source of joy to Gregg. I tried to resist. I tried mightily to be discriminating. Even still, I came home with a ridiculous amount of crap: a soft translucent plastic green alligator, a miniature Statue of Liberty, a flyswatter shaped like a guitar, one of those annoying paddle games with the rubber ball attached to an elastic string, an American Girls doll sticker pack, a black plastic cup that says only “Manspace.” Some things were just too irresistible, and I admit it: my resolve was a mere memory by the third day of this.

The best swag, of course, were the free books. Presses were distributing advance copies, in the hopes that booksellers and librarians would stock up on these forthcoming titles. I did not participate in any of the official signings at the official signing area on the second floor, where attendees were herded through mazes roped off like some sick parody of bank teller lines. But I did allow myself to be dragged to author signings on the main level by the indefatiguable Gregg. Some of these were for books I actually wanted—books I would have even been willing to pay for. But some I got simply because, yes, we were there, and they were free. I mean-- I don’t even cook. What the hell was I doing getting free cookbooks signed?

Each day we parked within a few blocks of the convention center, the better to offload bags of swag. Lots of presses were giving out tote bags (we got to be connoisseurs, bypassing the shoddier makes for expandable ones, ones with reinforced corners or handles, or the coveted type with outer pockets), which we would fill up within a couple of hours. Gregg, bless his heart, was always willing to carry my tote bags, along with his own, to the bulging trunk of his car, while I rested up, sitting on the floor along a side wall. I needed regular breaks.

We arrived each of the Expo’s three days as the doors opened at 9:00 am. By the time we took a break for lunch, I was only barely human: dazed, achy, and a little dizzy. I spent the afternoons back at my house, napping. Gregg, needless to say, put in full days. When he came back to my house in the evenings, he’d unload his car, and we would lay out the day’s take on the floor of my living room and compare. It was reminiscent of a post-Halloween candy inventory from my youth. By any estimation, my take was pretty damn impressive.

But nothing I amassed could possibly compare to Gregg’s take. He’s driving his Swagmobile back home to Chicago right now. What—driving-you ask? How else could he possibly get that many tote bags home?

Read Madam Mayo's reports on BEA here and here. Madam Mayo ate more candy and cookies than were good for anybody. And if Robert Giron's partner Ken hadn't helped carry her tote bags to the car, she would now be at the chiropractor.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Book of Hours / Libro de Horas

No exaggeration: this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen: Poems and paintings by one of Mexico's most original and accomplished artists, Alfredo Castaneda, translated by the greatest living translator of Mexican literature, Margaret Sayers Peden. But-- oh, this world of Philistines!---it does not have a US distributor. Margaret tells me it can only be purchased from Castaneda's gallery in New York, Mary-Anne Martin Fine Arts. It was published by Artes de Mexico and has a prologue by Alberto Ruy Sanchez. (Ruy Sanchez's essay on Oaxaca, by the way, appears in my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.) In the prologue, Ruy Sanchez writes,
The ritual of Alfredo Castaneda's Book of Hours is permeated with a modern, ironic smile, no less disturbing and profound than the questions he poses before the abyss of being. It includes poems of abounding love, of liberty, doubt, mystery, and astonishment. In its lines time blows like the wind, and the horizon speaks to us. Light literally grows brighter with each page of this volume, because it composes an illuminated space which, when drunk in by our eyes, lights our steps as we move forward through it. This Book of Hours is one of those unique works of art that inscribe their mark on time.
I couldn't have said it any better.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Report from Book Expo: Day 2

So many books! Madam Mayo spent the whole day, from 9-5, at the Washington DC Convention Center, signing El Cielo de El Nido (translation by Agustin Cadena) at the Planeta booth, trolling the aisles... happy to find her other books, Sky Over El Nido and Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, both nicely displayed... Hanging out with DC Poet-Publishers Robert Giron and Richard Peabody at the Gival Press/ Paycock Press table... Richard's new anthology, Enhanced Gravity: More Fiction by Washington Area Women, is ready to go, and the cover features, well, what else, the world on fire. Who's in it? Julia Slavin, Kate Blackwell, Liz Poliner, Julie Wakeman-Linn, Stephanie Allen, and Wendi Kaufman, Patricia Elam, Rose Solari, and more... Interesting chat with Paul Dry at Paul Dry Books about Gabriel Zaid's So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance and his upcoming take on the pursuit of literary fame (Zaid is Mexico's J.D. Salinger, as Dry put it). And in aisle 2700, or thereabouts, a very fun conversation about blogging with Kenneth Ackerman, author of Boss Tweed. Brain fried. Ciao for now. P.S.: For more about Book Expo, check out Sarah Browning and The Elegant Variation.

Gone to the Litblogs: Madam Mayo, Who (Alas) Did Not Get Carded, Ventured All The Way to the Back and Down into the Cellar of...

Dupont Circle's Big Hunt Club... for The Happy Booker and the LitBlog Coop's Book Expo America celebration.... Roughly in order of their appearance to moi: Tim Wendel, Leslie Pietryk, William O'Sullivan, Liz Poliner, Wendi Kaufman (The Happy Booker), publicist Lauren Cerand looking comfy on the sofa, next to red-haired Carolyn Kellogg (Pinky's Paperhaus podcast), Bookdwarf and Matthew Cheney (Mumpsimus) and Bud Parr (Chekhov's Mistress) and Lizzie Skurnick (Old Hag) and C. Max Magee (The Millions) and Mark Sarvas (Elegant Variation). I'm one of the newer bloggers. Anyone who began blogging back in 2003 is too cool for school. The name of what's going on here is "disintermediation," and it sure is interesting. I predict that next year's bash will be twice the size, and with name tags. (For my other posts on "Gone to the Litblogs" click here, here, and here.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Laila Lalami in the Huffington Post

Excellent piece on Morocco by writer and fellow litblogger Laila Lalami in the Huffington Post. (I was recently in Morocco. Very glad to read her words. Her blog is one of the best litblogs out there, Moorish Girl.)

Mexican Writer Elena Poniatowska Coming to DC

Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico's most prolific and beloved literary writers will be at Washington DC's Mexican Cultural Institute May 20th at 5 pm. To get the details, click here. The author of more than 50 books, including Dear Diego, Massacre in Mexico, Here's to You Jesusa, The Skin of the Sky, which won the Alfaguara Prize in 2001, and Tinísima, Poniatowska has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Emeritus Fellowship from Mexico’s National Council of Culture and Arts. In 1979, she became the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism. ---> For more about the flourishing Spanish language literary scene in Washington DC, check out my article "Viva la Vida Literaria!". ---> And please keep in mind: May 31st I will be presenting Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion at the Mexican Cultural Institute. More about that anon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

E. Ethelbert Miller: Borders Are So 19th Century

Speaking of litblogs, I like to check in with DC poet E. Ethelbert Miller's blog "E-Notes" every once in a while. As editor of Tameme, I zoomed right in on this--- posted last night:
Borders are so 19th century....Are we living upside down? Our world is changing. Electronic technology, internet, and just the flow of information is changing how we live and what we believe in. So maybe the next language of the US is Spanish. What were Native Americans speaking when Europeans landed? Things change and I'm talking about evolution and revolution. Look at how the food we eat has changed in the last several years. Talking about speaking English most of us sound like characters in BladeRunner. We speak a mish mish of sounds. Has anyone be on the 70 bus lately? We don't even write English without adopting the various changes in language. Just like yesterday in that A & The Bee movie. Akeelah uses the word dis and finds it in the dictionary. Why? Because the dictionary expands to embrace the new language that we speak. We need to realize that in the 21st Century we might move beyond North, South and Central America. It's going to be just ONE America. The new language might just be Spanish. Already we see English speaking black people falling behind Spanish speaking Black folks. Soon we will be behind the people coming out of Brazil. Don't jump in front of the moving train and wave your hands. The train won't stop for you. Oh, and if you give one person a National ID card -you'll have to give everyone one. We knew this was coming. Smile at the camera and talk into your phone. The government LOVES YOU.

Gone to the Litblogs: Scott Esposito's Conversational Reading

As I noted in my 4/5/06 post, "Blogs have changed the way books make their way into our culture (is there anyone under the age of 30 who still plows through The New York Review of Books?) And, as many long-time authors are finding out when they launch their latest books, fewer are being reviewed in print venues these days--- it's going to the litblogs." In my surfaris, I have come across a few -- alas, very few --- excellent litblogs, among them, Oakland, California-based writer Scott Esposito's Conversational Reading. So I zapped him an e-mail: which are the litblogs he regularly reads? He answered:
I'd say the best guide to the litblogs I regularly read is to have a look over at my blogroll. Out of those, favorites would include the Complete Review, and The Reading Experience, although there are certainly others.
I also asked him when, how, and why he started Conversational Reading.
I started the blog in August 2004, basically because earlier that summer I had discovered the world of litblogs and was excited to enter into the discussion. Nowadays, I try to provide a good mix of information that people will find useful (book recommendations, links to interesting reviews and pieces of news) and pieces of my own commentary, when I feel I have something worthwhile to say. I try to do a little literary criticism on the blog as well, but that's usually only when I'm reading a book that's really moving me.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Washington's New Journo-Literary Genre

This is way inside the Beltway... For the Washington Independent Writers Conference June 10th I am scheduled to participate on a panel with William O'Sullivan, Leslie Pietrzyk, and political commentator Mike Long, whom I had never heard of... I may live in Washington, but I admit, I spend my waking hours in Literary La-La Land. For this WIW panel, I am going to be talking about the value and how-to of publishing novelistic/ poetic / quirky/ essays in literary journals such as Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, and the like, while Mike Long is going to talk about something that actually rakes in some bucks: In Opinion and, I imagine, In Opinion's trade marked "One Word Editorials". Here's a hot-off-the-website sample of this new journo-literary genre:
05/11/06: YaThink?
One reason President Bush enjoys such Carteresque popularity (besides the weirdly similar gas prices) is that his own conservative base is starting to get a tad miffed. We know this because The Washington Post discovered it and put it on the front page. Never mind the howls when... click to read more...
Yep, there's a blog, too. Well, it's "good night & good luck" for me here in Foggy Bottom. Back blogging on May 16th.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Golb is Blog spelled Backwards or, Picadou, Blogged

Yes, dog is God spelled backwards. I recently released an audio CD about my dog: "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City", a reading of my essay in Creative Nonfiction. After having published books and a literary journal, it's been an interesting experience to do an audio CD, and at just the moment when blogs are taking off as a review venue (on that subject, check out Scott Esposito's "Friday Column" over at his litblog, Conversational Reading). One of the things I did to help promote the audio CD was guest blogging the column "If I Had an ipod" for Wendi Kaufman's The Happy Booker. Several other blogs mentioned the audio CD-- not only "litblogs," but blogs on travel, fashion, and dogs. Here are a few:
AnimaMundi ~ Gridskipper ~Just My Cup of Tea ~Moleskinerie ~ 3rd House Journal~Insurgent Muse~
Blue Poppy~Fashion Tribes
A portion of all sales of this CD benefit Presencia Animal, a Mexico City dog and cat rescue organization. Just yesterday, I got word they rescued a black pug.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Cupa News

This just in:
---> Novelist Leslie Pietrzyk signals excellent interview in Blackbird with novelists Ann Patchett and Elizabeth McCracken.
---> For my May 14th one day Revision workshop at the Bethesda MD Writers Center click here.
---> MonkeyBicycle features Mexican author Edgar Aviles's short stories with English translations by Toshiya Kamei.
---> DC travel writer Rick Kinnaird advises: "Pology’s world culture blog is thriving."
---> New Baja blog: Diane's Baja Garden Desert Blog.
---> New litblog: DC poet and activist Sarah Browning.
---> Relative keeps Madam Mayo humble:
"I've got your book in my 'shopping cart' at Amazon along with the Waterpik AccuReach Precision Massager. I'm trying to find something else to buy so I will spend enough to get free shipping. Might take me a few weeks."

Edna Spokane: A Select Few Blogs + Frog

A postcard with a grizzly bear in a tutu has just arrived: Peripatetic turban-wearing performance artist Edna Spokane says she has been reading these blogs: Dada Nation; Dear Leader's Daily Thought; Super Frenchie; David Byrne; & Madam Mayo. Madam Mayo is flattered, but unsure whether to believe her, as word is, Edna, who has been living out of her 1976 watermelon-pink Rolls Royce of a Winnebago, does not own a computer. Is Edna hanging out again at the Kinko's in Fairbanks? If she does what she did last time, my bet is, she'll get herself arrested. She says she just bought 27 tubes of cadmium yellow and a battery-operated frog.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gone to the Litblogs: Dan Wickett Recommends

I am still trying to get my mind around blogs-- who is blogging, and what's worth reading? Dan Wickett, one of the first and best literary bloggers, recently posted an "E-panel" discussion with nine litbloggers. He writes: "They range from individual story critiquing, to discussions of books read, to looks at literary journals, to general pop culture with a slant towards books. All worth your time each day or two." The nine litblogs are:
Short Story Craft
What Blows My Skirt Up
Syntax of Things
Perpetual Folly
Katrina Denza: Illuminate; Ruminate; Create
Books for Breakfast, Drinks for Dinner
I Read a Short Story Today.
Madam Mayo's verdict: Katrina Denza's is the best of this bunch. (For more about litblogs, see my 4/5/06 post "What's Tops on Novelist Leslie Pietrzyk's Hit List" and my 4/20/06 post "Beltway's List of Litblogs of DC and Environs."

Chapbooks on My Mind: Tameme, Chapbookfinder & Momotombo

Madam Mayo has chapbooks on her mind. First of all because I am gearing up to publish Tameme's first chapbook-- a bilingual (Spanish/ English) short story by Mexican writer Agustin Cadena. Second, because we are putting out the word about Tameme's call for submissions for the second chapbook. Third: I recently heard from poet Elaine Sexton over at -- check that out, it's one of the most original and valuable literary ventures I've yet seen. And finally, because I have in hand Momotombo Press's crisply elegant new chapbook--- so new it's not even on the website yet--- Malinche's Daughter, essays by Michelle Otero with an introduction by Lisa D. Chavez and edited by Richard Yanez. Momotombo Press was founded by poet Francisco Aragon.... who writes to me, "I hear you have a blog!" Madam Mayo does indeed, and she keeps it on a leash and it's nicely behaved.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercise: "Addicted to TV"

My Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercise is going strong. I've been posting them since October 1st and my plan is to go for the whole 365. Today's is "Addicted to TV" -- which Madam Mayo herself is definitely not. Otherwise, how would she possibly have time for her creative writing, never mind blogging?! Being addicted to TV is, so, like, 20th century.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Alfredito, Mexico's Most Beautiful Bird

Isn't he gorgeous? This is Alfred, my Amazon parrot who now lives with M.S.C. in Mexico City (because when I moved to Washington DC I couldn't take him across the border). Alfred fell in love with M.S.C. at first sight. He just hopped right up onto her finger. (Usually, he bites people.) This was not good for Madam Mayo's ego, but very nice for her heart, because it is important that Alfred be happy! M.S.C. writes that Alfred has been listening to the audio CD by David Rothenberg, "Why Birds Sing." This includes Rothenberg's duets with real birds. It's a strangely fascinating series of recordings. (So, why do birds sing? In his book, Why Birds Sing, Rothenberg concludes after a profound examination of the research, that, well, maybe it's because they like to.) Alfred likes to SCREAM SO LOUD YOU NEED TO COVER YOUR EARS. Maria Callas is his fave. Placido Domingo is OK, too.

The Bard's in Baja: To Be or Not to Be

My sister Alice writes that on her recent trip down to the bottom of Baja California, she has found a tribe of Shakespeare aficionados. As the bard himself might say, Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough brier, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, I do wander even so far as the East Cape. Ole! Tickets for A Midsummer's Night Dream are on sale. By the way... the number of U.S. citizens moving south of the border is increasing at a dramatic rate. Many are living and working in Mexico illegally, and many of them, believe it or not, are applying for Mexican citizenship. Check out this article on the "Baja Insider" about the pros and cons of applying for Mexican citizenship: "To Be Or Not to Be" un mexicano...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Secrets of the Zona Rosa

No, not Mexico City's Zona Rosa -- I am talking about Savannah, Georgia's own Rosemary Daniell's new book Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (And Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives. Zona Rosa is the name of the writing groups Rosemary founded 25 years ago and still leads. (I don't have anything to do with them-- thanks to Gail Galloway Adams, bless her heart, I just happened to meet Rosemary at the El Azteca restaurant, in Austin, Texas, of all places.) Why are Rosemary's writing groups named after Mexico City's nightclubbing neighborhood? Check out her website,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Picadou's Mega Pug Party

Was a bust. Yesterday, in Arlington, Virginia's Shirlington Park, some 50-60 pugs congregated for the monthly "meetup." It was Picadou's first time. She wasn't sure what to make of all the commotion. She just stood by the fence and watched. There was some sniffing going on with "Peanutbutter"and "Elmo." That was about it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Today! Lubuto Project @ Washington DC's Politics & Prose

This just in from DC librarian Jane Meyers: Politics & Prose is conducting a book drive for the Lubuto Library Project, a DC-based charity that creates libraries for street children, orphans, and other vulnerable youth affected by HIV/AIDS in southern African countries. P&P will give a 20% discount on all book purchases for Lubuto libraries made between April 19th and May 31. Lubuto is seeking donations of new books that fit their specific needs. A description of the types of books that are needed is available in the store, and the children’s department staff will be happy to give suggestions for appropriate titles. Jane Meyers, founder of the project, will be available to answer questions and discuss the project at P&P on Saturday, May 6, from 1 to 4 p.m.

"Beyond the Book": Blogs, CDs, DVDs, Podcasts, Vidlit, Chapbooks, Broadsides & More

This is the audio CD I recently released: "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City,"my reading of my essay in Creative Nonfiction. It's been such an interesting experience to do a CD, and now that I am putting together the first Tameme Chapbook, and blogging, I'm fascinated by other "delivery systems," as Copper Canyon's Director of Marketing and Sales, Joseph Bednarik, puts it. "Beyond the Book" is the title of my panel proposal for next year's Associated Writing Programs Conference. Here's the idea:
The music industry experienced a major revolution in the distribution of content. What are the lessons for publishers and creative writers trying to deliver words to an audience? Are books the be-all and end-all "delivery system"? This panel examines a variety of content delivery systems, including websites, podcasts, audio CDs, DVDs, and "vidlit", as well as time-tested print technologies such as chapbooks, pamphlets, and broadsides. Panel participants discuss the benefits, costs, synergies, and suprises of publishing in these ways.
Panelists: Nancy Zafris, Richard Peabody, Joseph Bednarik, Richard Beban, Urayoan Noel, et moi. Let's see if this one gets accepted. Wish us luck.

Dr Mishlove's Psi Development Systems

On his slow-as-treacle but otherwise marvelous blog, Dr Jeffrey Mishlove has recently posted the preface to his now out-of-print classic, Psi Development Systems. His "Rainbow Ying Yang" (pictured here) has a very special meaning. To read his blog post about that, click here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Apropos of the Cinco de Mayo: Sara Yorke Stevenson on General Achille Bazaine

No, the Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. It is the commemoration of the Mexican victory against France in the first Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. The second battle of Puebla, a year later, was won by the French Imperial Forces, which then went on to occupy Mexico City and install Maximilian von Habsburg on the Mexican throne. Curiously, most Americans have no idea that France invaded our sister republic. It's quite a story (and one with many parallels to the current U.S. imbroglio in Iraq). I've been marinating my imagination in it for the past few years, as I am writing a novel set in Mexico City during the period. Apropos of the Cinco de Mayo, a little note here about General Achille Bazaine, who is turning into one of my favorite characters. Perhaps you will see why when you read this excerpt from With Maximilian in Mexico, a memoir by Sara Yorke Stevenson, an American who was resident in Mexico City at the time. She writes:
He was a plain-looking man, short and thick-set, whose plebian features one might search in vain for a spark of genius or or a ray of imagination; and yet under the commonplace exterior dwelt a kindly spirit, an intelligence of no mean order, and, despite a certain coarseness of thought and expression too common among Frenchmen, a soul upon which the romance of life had impressed its mark in lines of fire.

For more on Cinco de Mayo, check out The Happy Booker's TGIF Cinco de Mayo Edition.

The Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercise Gets The Rubber Chickens

Ever since October 1st I have been posting a daily 5 minute writing exercise on my website, It began as a nudge for my writing workshop students, and also for myself. (Why five minutes? Read all about it here.) Today's exercise: A Rain of Rubber Chickens.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Felicidades to Tony Cohan!

Tony Cohan's latest, Mexican Days: Journeys Into the Heart of Mexico, has just been published. My sister Alice went to his booksigning at Kepler's in Menlo Park, CA and got me a signed copy. Madam Mayo is very much looking forward to reading this one.

J.M. Servin, Por Amor al $$$

From Mexico City David Lida writes: "The best Mexican book I've read recently is Por amor al dólar by J.M. Servín, published by Joaquín Mortiz-Planeta. It is very sardonic memoir of his years as a "mojado" in and around New York, working in restaurants, as a babysitter and in a gas station. Servín strikes me as a very special, unexpected writer." Hmmm... anyone translating this?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Un dia sin mexicanos (A Day Without Mexicans)

Un dia sin mexicanos: This is the movie everybody in Mexico has been talking about-- indeed, it's the second most popular movie in the history of Mexican cinema. What happens when the Mexicans disappear? Los gringos lloran (the gringos cry). Chairman Mayo is Mexican, so I felt mucha solidaridad with the marchers yesterday. All the same, I was very glad that my cleaning ladies, who are from El Salvador (and legal as far as I know), showed up. Chairman Mayo went on a business trip, so for me, it was a day without a Mexican.

Cupa Literary Translation News

This just in:
--->From Spanish language literary translator Elizabeth Gamble: there will be an Interpretation and Translation Conference in La Antigua, Guatalemala May 24-27th. More information about that at
--->Apropos of Guatemala, Richard Schaaf writes that he's just published Margaret Randall's translations of the Guatemalan poet Otto Rene Castillo in a bilingual edition entitled Let's Go! For more about the book, visit Azul Editions.
--->From Santa Barbara, California: Suzanne Jill Levine announces UC Santa Barbara's May 10-12 conference, "Translation in a Non-Literary Age" with Bei Dao, herself, and many others. For more about that conference, click here.

Cupa Blog News

This just in:
--->Translator Toshiya Kamei signals Hilda Veznor's La Canasta, an excellent Spanish language blog on literary translation.
--->Yet another new blog-- and this also looks like a very good one: Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle blog, featuring publishing and criticism news and commentary, noteworthy reviews, tips, useful products, and anything else NBCC related.
--->Revived blog: Washington DC poet Bernadette Geyer's.
--->Noteworthy blog: Jeffrey Mishlove's blog is slower than treacle than on a cold day, but the content is pure candy for anyone into the human potential thing, which I am. Message to Dr Mishlove: I am so glad you are blogging, but please change to or typepad.

Monday, May 01, 2006

DC Poet Jacklyn Potter

A great loss for the DC poetry scene: Jacklyn Potter recently passed away of a sudden heart attack. From her Washington Post 4/18/06 obituary:
"Jacklyn Wayne Potter, 62, a poet and teacher of English as a second language, died of a heart attack April 10 at Holy Cross Hospital. She lived in Silver Spring. Ms. Potter was born near Camp Lejeune, N.C., and grew up in Alexandria. As a child, she performed as a singer on radio, television and the stage. She was a graduate of the old Groveton High School and of George Washington University. She received a master's degree in creative writing from American University in the early 1980s.Ms. Potter was director of the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series in Washington from 1984 until her death. She won a number of prizes for her poetry, which appeared in the Washington Review, the Hollins Critic and several anthologies, including "Whose Woods These Are," "Quiet Music" and "Weavings 2000: The Maryland Millennial Anthology."
When I first came to DC, Jacklyn selected my work for the Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Reading Series. She called me up and I think we must have talked-- literally-- for three hours. I remember her as thoughtful, vivacious and genuinely commmitted to poetry. Joaquin Miller was a DC poet of the 19th century. His cabin, which is in now in a grassy meadow within Rock Creek Park, originally stood in what is now Malcolm X Park. Read more about Jacklyn and the reading series at the WordWorks.

Revision: Take a Chainsaw to Those Little Darlings, Prune, Do No Harm, Be an Archeologist, Move the Furniture Onto the Front Lawn, Flip the Gender

Revision on my mind... as I am revising the revision of the revision (of the revision) of my novel... which has already undergone a few chainsaw massacres... more than Texas-sized... Australia-sized (I'm talking 250 pages)... I am also gearing up to give a special one day workshop on Revision at the Writers Center this May 14th... So I recently asked a few writer friends for their thoughts on revision. Novelists Mary Kay Zuravleff and Carolyn Parkhurst were both in my writing group; first-hand I've seen how good they are with revision. Check out their websites to see what they're up to-- both have wonderful new novels out. Dinty W. Moore is the author of many books, most recently The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. Dawn Marano is fine writer of creative nonfiction and, bless her heart, the editor of my memoir, Miraculous Air. Known to all in literary Washington DC but the brain dead, Richard Peabody is a poet, fiction writer, editor, publisher and writing teacher. Check out his website-- he's offering a novel writing workshop.

Here's what they had to say on revision:

"The prose on my pages doesn't match what I've envisioned for drafts and drafts. Near the end, I make a pass for each of the senses. There's the smell pass, the hearing pass, etc., as I try to vivify every sidelong glance. Then it's time to prune it back so readers don't choke on details!"

"When facing revisions, I think it's useful for a writer to begin from the same starting point as a doctor: first, do no harm. Revision is a vital part of the writing process, but it's possible to revise all the life out of something if you're not careful. Never lose sight of what was artful and compelling about the piece in its purest state: when it existed only in your imagination."

"Substantive revision—as opposed to line-editing, that is, moving commas around and such—begins when a writer returns to a draft of her work with the curiosity of, say, an archaeologist. Arrayed before her are the traces of a lost civilization—in this case, sentences and paragraphs instead of material artifacts—that are waiting for her to see them with the fresh and patient eye of possibility: ‘What larger meaning or context might this perplexing fragment of thought I left undeveloped be a part of? What is this clever demurral or summarization disguising or helping me avoid writing about? What story am I really trying to tell myself with this assemblage of words on the page?’"

"Simply proofreading your second or third draft and fixing a few awkward sentences is similar to remodeling a room by dusting the end tables and rearranging the pillows on the sofa -- not much changes. The true act of revision comes when a writer is willing to move each piece of furniture out onto the front lawn, roll up the area rugs, take the pictures down from the wall, and then, on a case by case basis, decide what returns to the room, and where it will be situated. Sometimes a favorite table has to be left out on the curb for recycling, because it just doesn't fit anymore; maybe some new furniture is purchased (a new scene is written); perhaps the walls are painted a new color (voice or point-of-view shifts); or maybe all of the furniture is returned but in a different configuration -- what's important is that nothing goes back inside the metaphorical living room until and unless the writer makes the conscious choice that it belongs."

"I think revision is about testing the boundaries of what's on the page, having no fear of pushing to the logical extreme. You need to jettison your baggage about plot, invest in your characters (and their voices), and trust your guts. When all else fails flip the gender."