Saturday, July 29, 2006

Diesel, A Bookstore: August 6th @ 3 p.m. Oakland CA

Sunday, August 6 at 3:00 PM, I will be reading and signing Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion at Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland CA. This event is free and open to the public, so if you're in the neighborhood, please come by! Diesel is at 5433 College Avenue, Oakland CA, 510-653-9965. Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion is not a guidebook but a collection of Mexican fiction and literary prose by some of Mexico's most outstanding literary writers, among them, Carlos Fuentes, Laura Esquivel, Carlos Monsivais, Juan Villoro, Agustin Cadena, Monica Lavin, Marta Cerda, Pedro Angel Palou, and many others.

"This is how Mexico looks, tastes and feels, and how its writers write about it. . . .This is a book to throw in a suitcase or mochila (backpack) on the way to Mexico or just settling into a favorite patio chair. It will open your eyes, fill you with pleasure and render our perennial vecinos a little less distante."
--Los Angeles Times

"This delightful anthology . . . allows readers who do not have roots in Mexico or who have never traveled there a glimpse into the rich diversity of people and landscape. For travelers, these selections enhance exploration and offer vistas beyond the scope of the usual tourist guide. For other readers, they provide a clearer understanding of the cultural and social forces that shape today's Mexico. Highly recommended."
--Library Journal

"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, leading literary translator and editor, Mexican Writers on Writing

Read more about Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion (including table of contents, preface, bios, Q & A, and more) here.

Back blogging after August 20th.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Soundwork: Don Campbell's "The Power and Sound of Music"

Excellent progress on my novel this week. I find that the kind of music I listen to makes a profound difference in my ability to quickly get into the "trance" for writing fiction. What definitely does not work: rock and roll, jazz, most opera, and anything loud. What does work: quiet, drifty, minor key... I'm still developing a vocabulary to talk about this... I've been listening to Don Campbell's fascinating 4 CD set, "The Wisdom and Power of Music." On the CDs he talks about and gives examples of music that enhances health, creativity and communication.(For my previous post on Soundwork, click here.)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Enrique Krauze's Op-Ed in the Washington Post

Enrique Krauze (a force unto himself--- he's one of Mexico's best-known editors and writers, and a distinguished historian) has an op-ed in today's Washington Post, which appeared the other day in Spanish in Mexico's Reforma newspaper. It is well worth reading. For too many Americans, "Mexico" is synonymous with "corruption." Well, all Madam Mayo can say is, t'ain't necessarily always so. For those following the election imbroglio, do be sure to check out Lupa Ciudanana and the Wilson Institute's Mexico Elections.

Gone to the Litblogs: Malcolm Gladwell's "The Derivative Myth"

Fascinating essay on blogging over at Malcolm Gladwell's blog. (He's the author of The Tipping Point.) To read my previous "Gone to the Litblogs" post, click here.) Is "Madam Mayo" derivative? You betcha. Where's the meat? Here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Maximiliana: Maximas minimas

A fun book I recently picked up in Mexico City: Maximimas minimas de Maximiliano, [the sayings of Maximilian, 1851-1862] with a prologue by Fernando del Paso. (By the way, my translation of an excerpt from Fernando del Paso's epic novel, Noticias del imperio, appears in Mexico: A Traveler's Traveler's Companion.) Here's a sampling (my translation) from the Maximas minimas:

~It is not good to contemplate great men from up close: as we approach the light, the darker the shadows, and when we become accustomed to this, we are no longer dazzled.

~Fear and ambition are the motors that turn the wheel of the world.

~May your spirit be made of steel, your heart pure gold, your soul a diamond.

Click here for more about Maximilian.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Way More Than Whitman: Beltway's "DC Places Issue"

From editor Kim Roberts: "The DC Places Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, an on-line anthology of poems that celebrate Washington, DC, by naming specific sites in the city (streets, neighborhoods, parks, monuments, or buildings), is the first issue of the journal to go beyond the Mid-Atlantic region and include poets from all across the United States. And what a list of contributors! The issue includes former U.S. Poets Laureates Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and William Carlos Williams, and former and current State Poets Laureates Joseph Awad (of Virginia), Fleda Brown (Delaware), Sterling A. Brown (DC), Linda Pastan (Maryland), and Baron Wormser (Maine).... The DC Places Issue was co-edited by Kim Roberts and Los Angeles poet Andrea Carter Brown. Brown writes in the issue’s introduction: “Every city has its history, but for no other American city is the struggle between local identity and national role so acute.” This presents both a burden and an opportunity for poets, who amply rose to the challenge to portray the city in its public and private aspects, in all its wild complexity. Subscribe for free! Go to the “About Beltway” page: "
(Note: To read Kim's hilarious Book Expo guest blog post, click here. And for a "Gone to the Litblogs" post about Beltway's list of blogs, click here.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mexico City July 1866

Just finished the draft of my novel chapter set in Mexico City in July 1866. And just uploaded an excerpt from Maximilian's Reglamento y ceremonial de la corte: "De las comidas del Palacio".

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Panda Cam

Check out Tai Shan (aka "Butter Stick") on the National Zoo's Panda Cam. Not as cute as pugs but still, pretty cute. And by the way, today's 5 minute writing exercise is "Zoo Animals."

Soundwork: Don Campbell's "Essence"

I've been playing "Essence: The Ambient Music of Don Campbell". I'm finding it extremely helpful for visualizing scenes in my novel-- especially the first track, "Crystallite." Don Campbell is a long-time leader in the field of music and sound healing, a fascinating field. Read my previous post about soundwork here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mexico's Presidential Election Was So Close

From Burton Kirkwood's The History of Mexico :
"In [the 1828] elections Manuel Gomez Pedraza [pictured left] ran as a conservative against former insurgent general Vicente Guerrero representing the federalist position. The election was so close that Guerrero protested the election results and "pronounced" against Gomez Pedraza. Backed by federalists and Santa Anna, Guerrero denounced the 1828 electoral vote. His actions established the precedent whereby elections would be held, but in actuality charismatic caudillos determined who would assume the office of presidency. As a result of Guerrero's opposition, the 1824 constitution existed only on paper."

For the latest on the the current Mexican presidential election fiasco, check out Mexico Elections and Lupa Ciudadana. My previous post on the subject is here.

The Sermon on the Wall

Is here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Empress Carlota's Visit to Yucatan

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel set during Maximilian's reign, is nearing completion (22 chapters down, 4 to go... and then... grrr... revision). There are always new bits and pieces of research to contemplate, and possibly incorporate... For those who speak Spanish, here's a very interesting article I just found on the Internet: "Estancia de la emperatriz: Carlota en la hacienda de Mucuyche, Yucatan" by Jose N. Iturriaga de la Fuente. Iturriaga de la Fuente is also editor of the extensive collection of her letters, Escritos mexicanos de Carlota de Belgica, published by Banco de Mexico in 1992. More anon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eric Maisel, Creativity Coach

Just finished reading Eric Maisel's latest, Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers. Actors, Visual Artists & Musicians from America's Foremost Creativity Coach. Yes, I recommend it. Here I am in year five (more or less) of writing an epic novel (up to page 427 today). It's a marathon. I'm big on sports psychology. If I could boil all the advice down to one single thing, it would be "CRA," Consistent Resilient Action. You drop the ball? CRA. You have to cut that sucky chapter? CRA. Or, to use the mountain climbing analogy, it's about putting one foot in front of the other. Eric Maisel rocks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

He shrugged. She Shrugged. (But Did the Dog Shrug?)

Thanks to Writer's Center amigo Rick Kinnaird, an amusing snippette about shrugging. Same goes for "nodding" and "pausing" and "sipping." Yep, I made an daily 5 exercise out of this.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


If you read Spanish, check out Mexican cartoonist Trino's "Fabulas de policias y ladrones" and "Cronicas marcianas" at either (under "editoriales") or Perdon la falta de accentos.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Today's 5 Minute Writing Exercise

Strawberries. I started offering a daily 5 minute writing exercise back on October 1, 2005 and I will post them through September 30th. Yes, the exercises are going to be part of a book. I hope they are both fun and useful.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Alan Cogan on Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion

Alan Cogan writes: "I've reviewed over a hundred books for Mexico Connect. These have covered the gamut of topics, all related to this country - fiction, travel, history, living in Mexico, moving to Mexico, biographies, city profiles and a few volumes difficult to categorize. I thought I had covered just about all aspects of the subject. Imagine my surprise, then, to suddenly be reminded of a sizeable slice of Mexicana that I had barely touched. Discovering it was like opening a door and walking into a brightly lit room filled with all kinds of literary treasures, all of which were produced in Mexico by active homegrown writers, many of whom are probably known to Mexican readers but not necessarily to outsiders like myself who need much more familiarity with Spanish in order to appreciate the breadth and scope of this country's literature... " Click here to read more.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Zinkzine Lives!

News from Susan Taylor Chehak, editor of Zinkzine: The all new issue number 9, Summer 2006, is on-line, featuring: Patrcia Brody, Moira Egan, Amy Lemmon, Emily Lloyd, Tatyana Mishel, Marilyn Taylor, and Kathrine Varnes. Kathryn Pope interviewing Brad Kessler, author of Birds in Fall. An excerpt from Birds in Fall, and an excerpt from The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a novel by Ruth Francisco, and an excerpt from There Will Never Be Another You, a novel by Carolyn See. Go to to start reading ZinkZine.

I love Zinkzine. Susan published some of my work back in 2003-- click here to read "Hell, I Knew It Was Paradise" (an excerpt from Miraculous Air). I found out about her work a few years back through Dan Wickett's Emerging Writers, which back when, was an e-mail newsletter rather than a blog. I bought her book, Don Quixote Meets the Mob: The Craft of Fiction & The Art of Life, which I highly recommend.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Vive La France

Alors, the daily 5 minute writing exercise celebrates Bastille Day.

Picadou & The 3-Legged Standouts

The just-on-the-newststands July/August issue of The Bark -- "the modern dog culture magazine" -- features "3-Legged Standouts" including darling cover-girl Border-Collie mix Clover, wearing a necklace of yellow flowers. Picadou has all four legs last I checked (she's right here with me in my office getting her z's). She's featured on page 81, in a drawing by Maria Isabel Arango, and my essay, "Postcard from Mexico City" (an excerpt from "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City", the full length version, originally published in Creative Nonfiction and, by the way, available in an audio CD, with a part of proceeds to benefit Presencia Animal.) I love The Bark, which my mom's cousin Annie introduced me to some years ago. I've been a faithful reader ever since. Even the ads are woofie! I love checking out the advertisers's websites-- the stuff people come up with! ( and and The Bark's motto: "Dog is my Co-Pilot." Oh yeah.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Diane's Baja Desert Garden

Diane's Baja Desert Garden is the most gorgeous Baja California blog.
Though I've got to warn you: her most recent post features a rattlesnake making lunch out of a baby bunny. No, I don't know Diane personally-- just found her blog here in cyberspace. I highly recommend it. This is her photo of echinopsis oriele. If you're interested in Baja California, check out my Baja California Page. More anon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Letters to a Young Pug

Pug news! Get ready: Nancy Levine's latest, Letters to a Young Pug, is coming out this October. Here's the boilerplate: "Another delightful adventure featuring Wilson the Pug and his sidekick, Homer. How does the Master teach? Wilson the Pug, everyone’s favorite canine Taoist, is about to find out. Otto, the wise old pug who taught him the ways of the Tao-te Ching, is retiring to Boca Raton. Wilson is next in line to take his place as Master of the Taoist pug lineage, but before he can assume his rightful position he must train his own successor. Through funny letters and charming photographs, Wilson confers with his apprentice, Homer, on the subtle wisdom of the Tao. Unfortunately for Wilson, Homer is more interested in filling his stomach than feeding his mind. And he’d rather nap his way to wisdom." Picadou is a big fan. She says, "wuf wuf wuf!" Madam Mayo is working on the translation of that, but she is sure it is something very good.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wayne E. Yang's Eight Diagrams, and Rolf Potts's Vagabonding Blog

New on my litblog blogroll are writer and photographer Wayne E. Yang's Eight Diagrams and travel writer Rolf Potts's Vagabonding Blog. I mention them together because Eight Diagrams features an interview with Rolf Potts (June 14th). Read more about Rolf Potts (pictured left) at his cram-packed website, which includes his interview with me (apropos of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico)-- as well as his interviews with many other travel writers, among them, Karl Taro Greenfield, Don George, and Pico Iyer. Plus Rolf offers some excellent tips for travel writers. Bon voyage.

Translating Mexican Literature: The Eight Diagrams Interview

Wayne Yang interviews Yours Truly in his excellent litblog, Eight Diagrams.
Wayne: You once said that you took up translating, because you found that very little Mexican literature was being translated. What kind of impression does the American reader have of Mexican literature?

C.M.: An extremely faint one. Most educated Americans have heard of Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes but, alas, that’s the extent of it. More knowledgable readers are aware of a few other names such as Alma Guillermoprieto, Elena Poniatowska, Alberto Ruy Sanchez, Angeles Mastretta, Laura Esquivel, Juan Villoro, Carlos Monsivais, and Ilan Stavans. This is especially dismaying given that Mexico not only has a stunningly rich literary heritage and contemporary literary scene, but it shares with us a nearly 2,000 mile long border.
click here to read on...

Monday, July 10, 2006

La Sombra del Sabino in Tepoztlan, Morelos

Just back from Mexico, where the Presidential election recount kept just about everyone except Madam Mayo awake half the night. (Click here for the best English-language webpage on the subject. And here for Madam Mayo's previous post.) Back to first person: On Saturday, I escaped from Mexico City to nearby Tepoztlan, to present Mexico: A Literary Traveler's Companion, my new anthology of Mexican fiction and literary prose, at Bridget Estavillo's cozy and coffee-perfumed bilingual bookstore, La Sombra del Sabino. The reading --- of my translation of Monica Lavin's short story "Day and Night"--- took place in the bookstore's garden, on a lawn that could have served for the national croquet championship. This was, by the way, in the shadow of the mist-enshrouded mountain, El Tepozteco, which appears in the book's cover painting by Mexican artist Elena Climent. And who showed up? Magda Bogin, of course! And she brought flyers for the upcoming Under the Volcano Writers Workshop. Oh, Tepoztlan... It is all too charming for words...