Sunday, September 30, 2007

Improv Party

Washington DC's improv king, Shawn Westfall, will bring it to your living room! He writes:
My new company, Improv Comedy Delivered, is founded on the notion that the collaborative art of improvisational comedy is easy to learn, fun to do and therefore can also fuel a unique, unforgettable party or event experience.
Madam Mayo has not (yet) hosted an improv party, but she has taken his bodaciously fun improv workshop. Here's what she had to say about it. More anon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky

is the book I selected for the Second Annual Dayton Literary Peace Prize. From the press release: "The Dayton Literary Peace Prize was established in 2006 as a legacy of Dayton’s stature as the host of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that brokered a negotiated peace for the Balkans. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States, honors writers whose works focus on the broad theme of peace and whose writing style and subject matter have an enduring literary value.

Mark Kurlansky will receive the prize for nonfiction and a $10,000 honorarium for his book Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea. Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. It is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Exploring the revolutionary concept of nonviolence in an historical, social and political context, he presents twenty-five provocative lessons that can be used to effect change today.

Author Statement: “I’m thrilled to receive this award because there’s no subject closer to my heart. It’s a valuable opportunity to ask people to rethink history, and I still believe the world can be changed.” Mark Kurlansky

Judge Citation: “The smoothly elegant prose of Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence provides a cogent analysis of the vast sweep of the history of human conflict. Its thoughtful assertions and conclusions invite both contemplation and debate.” C. M. Mayo

Mark Kurlansky has also written Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; The Basque History of the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.

The October 14 ceremony will be held at The Schuster Center, Second & Main Streets, Dayton, Ohio. For further information about the prize and the award ceremony, please visit
The full press release is here.

More anon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thin Ice at the North Pole

National Public Radio's Elizabeth Arnold heard-- and saw-- some very scary things near the North Pole. Just heard it on the car radio a few hours ago.

Miraculous Air in San Diego: October 4th at 6 p.m. Museum of Man

I'll be presenting the new paperback edition of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico--- a reading, slide show, discussion, signing--- at the San Diego Museum of Man on October 4th at 6 p.m. (This event is co-sponsored by the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies, University of California, San Diego). The event is free and open to the public--- books for sale, of course. RSVP gmallinger (at) ucsd (dot) edu Tel. 858-822-1696. More anon.

Yes, Picadou Is Smiling

because her CD, "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City," is just about sold out. CD Baby has a few copies. I'm down to three. Collectors take note! So is the CD dead? Obviously not. And I'm booked to read at the sound studio for the next one, "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Sea of Oblivion" an essay about a journey to the Emperor Maximilian's castle in Trieste. Next up: vid-lit. More anon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

DCist or, Zip, Zop

Yours Truly is interviewed today in the DCist--- about the DC literary community; (what is the literary community?); Candida's World of Books; Richard Peabody; Miraculous Air & more--- by Shawn Westfall. (Read about Westfall's very cool improv workshop here and here.) More anon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Washington DC, Freelance Central: WIW Freelancing Seminar Coming Up October 13th

I highly recommend this one--- another excellent Washington Independent Writers Seminar. Here's the scoop:
All-day Seminar on Saturday, October 13, 2007 Jointly sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Masters of Arts in Writing program and Washington Independent Writers. Topics include "Focus the Story: How to take a variety of good ideas and build them into functional and salable stories, what an editor is looking for and how to present your work successfully." "Writing Profiles: every publication from general interest magazines to annual reports and from sales brochures to specialist booklets, have profiles in them and you can write for all of the markets." Plus freelance technical resource people—a tax expert, a rate-setting veteran, a newsletter producer, a freelance journalist and a marketing wizard are all available for one-on-one questions and answers. And! "Electronic markets: web, blogs and more..." Speakers include David Everett, Dale Keiger, and Wendi Kaufman (aka The Happy Booker). Register online at, by telephone at (202) 775-5150 or by FAX at (202) 775-5810.

More anon.

Giant Golden Buddha

is the title of the book I'm working on, a collection of the Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercises. Heavily edited. Stay tuned. Click here for the Giant Golden Buddha exercise.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Halloween Reading (Alas)

Madam Mayo highly recommends this one in which the authors, Wes Denham (journalist) and Dale C. Carson (FBI field agent, SWAT instructor, Miami police officer and now criminal defense attorney) explain many things she has often puzzled over... Read all about the "electronic plantation" and why your automobile is a rolling Easter egg. And read an interview with Dale Carson in Harper's here.

UPDATE # 3: Sig h--uh?.

UPDATE #2: Could you get arrested for not watering your lawn?

UPDATE #1: Could you get tasered and thrown into the back of a squad car for just asking a question?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Guest-Blogger Sheila Bender's Top 5 Books on Writing

As an avid reader and recommender of books on the craft of writing and the creative process (see my current lists here), I am delighted to have poet, writer, editor, publisher and teacher extraordinaire, Sheila Bender, guest-blogging today. Her poems and essays have appeared in anthologies and literary magazines around North America, including Boomer Girls, Poetry Northwest, The Seattle Review, The Bellingham Review, Northern Lights, and Tiny Lights, among many others, and she has written for Writer's Digest Magazine and The Writer Magazine.. She publishes Writing It Real and offers online classes at Her most recent instructional book is Writing and Publishing Personal Essays.

As a personal essayist and poet who teaches and writes instructional books and articles, I find myself returning to particular books frequently for the way the authors and/or contributors speak about writing and the inner world we must access when we write. I am pleased to have the opportunity to share five of them with you.

#1.) I read How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love With Poetry by Edward Hirsch just as I was about to teach a university course in poetry for non-English majors. I decided to use the book as one of the texts. My students learned what poetry is by reading a superb poet's appreciation for the way poetry opens us to experience, to spirituality, to the deepest emotions we will ever have. In Hirsch's chapters, I "met" poets I had not yet read and I "re-met" many I'd studied long before. We all got to sit with poems and the way, as Hirsh says lyric poetry "instills us with a feeling of what cannot be possessed, and it lets the soul have its way with us. The poem is a soul in action through words."

#2.) Several months ago, I reviewed In Pieces, an anthology of fragmentary writing, edited by Olivia Dresher, and I have been returning to the pages of this 382-page anthology ever since to inspire my own writing. Forms the collected fragments take: diaries, notebooks, aphorisms, vignettes, selections from letters, an essay written fragmentarily on postcards. Tone the collected fragments take: psychological, philosophical, poetic, spiritual, political, mixtures of the above. What inspires the fragments: abstract thought, nature, travel, tangible aspects of a moment or simply playing with words. What fragments do: break off "a point of their own choosing; "happen by themselves." Each fragment, many sentences inside the many fragments, call forth moods, thoughts, and associations about much I have wanted to say. And I know for any mood or thought or association I have, I'll have a variation or entirely new one the next time I read the fragment. I am affirmed reading In Pieces about the way I often read--holding up a fragment of the story or textbook like a jewel in the light, carrying it to other light, looking again. I cannot take my mind off the fragmentary writing In Pieces offers--- velvet bag of gems spilled onto the jeweler's bench.

#3.) Most recently, I finished reading Incognito Street, How Travel Made Me a Writer by Barbara Sjoholm. The narrative evokes a 1970s-style Bohemian travel life and arouses memories about how knowing I wanted to write colored the way the world looked and felt. Reading Sjoholm's honest account of her meandering way of finding her art is a reminder that we often understand who we want to become even if for awhile we have no idea of how we are going to get to be that person.

#4.) Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s book Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction offers a fabulous discussion of the forms of creative nonfiction available to essayists. Each chapter is introduced with a short personal essay by one of the authors, which grounds the book’s instruction and makes reading the book an experience similar to reading personal essays. Whether the authors are talking about the value of metaphor for helping a writer go deeper or the reason they dubbed a particular kind of essay “the hermit crab” essay the tone is accessible and rich. The book’s anthology of essays is a real treasure and the authors never go on too long--each discussion leaves me ready to write.

#5.) Finally, because I both attend and lead writing workshops, I find Joni B. Cole's Toxic Feedback a joy to refer to. She says, "… the value of feedback isn't limited to advice about structure and wordsmithing. Feedback is just as much about bolstering the writer's faith in himself and excitement about his project along the way. It is about getting some external validation." I know I need that and count on my writer's group to let me know where they are interested in what I've written and where they are sidetracked. Both are validation, because they let me know how I can get on target. In an interview I did with Joni for Writing It Real, she said, "My opinion? The Club of Real Writers is a club where no one who wants to write should ever feel like an outsider. We all need to do our part to create a stronger writing community. Published, unpublished, literary or genre writers, young or old--- what difference does it make? I think anyone who has the gumption to write belongs to the Club of Real Writers. And a rejection letter should earn you a free drink." Yup, sounds good.
---Sheila Bender

To Read Madam Mayo's other guest-blog posts, click here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mariana Yampolsky, Embracing Mexico

Just went to see the Mariana Yampolsky exhibition at Washington DC's Instituto de Mexico--- it's stunningly gorgeous. Here's the official listing:

Thursday, September 13 − Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Mexican Cultural Institute | 2829 16th Street N.W. | Washington , D.C.
An esteemed modern photographer in Mexico , Mariana Yampolsky was also known for her printmaking, book design and editing, as well as her work as a curator and collector. This exhibition presents those facets of her creative work: prints, photographs, a selection of the art books she edited, and examples from her folk art collection. For additional information please visit

Saturday, September 08, 2007

New York City and Washington DC

I'm presenting Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion with Mexican writers Monica Lavin, Pedro Angelo Palou and translators Harry Morales and Daniel Shapiro on Sept 12th at New York University. Then on Sept 17th I'm giving a talk on this same book, and also my travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico, at the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. Both events are free and open to the public. For more info, visit my events page. Back blogging after the 18th.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Kim Roberts Has A Website

Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, author of The Kimnana, and DC's all-around Poetry Goddess, (at long last!) has a website: Check out her new book and scheduled readings. Next upcoming is the Poesus Reading Series, Wednesday, September 19, 7pm, at Pentagon City Borders Books, 1201 S. Hayes St. Arlington, VA. (703) 418-0166. Hosted by Cliff Bernier. Free Admission. Read her guest-blog post for Madam Mayo here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Waist of Baja California

This recent and amazing photo of the waist of Mexico's nearly 1,000-mile long Baja California peninsula--- which shows both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean--- was taken by my sister, Alice Mansell. She's the Alice who travels with me through the peninsula in my memoir, Miraculous Air. And she blogs.

UPDATE #1: For English language news of Hurricane Henriette, see the National Hurricane Center (USA) and Todos Santos Pages - News & Rumors blog--- the author, Howard Ekman, is riding it out in a trailer on the beach.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Guest-Blogger John Kachuba's Top 5 Spooky Sites

Having recently spent five plus years writing a novel about a whole lot of dead people, Madam Mayo is not in the least nonplussed by the notion of ghosts and spirit communication. Flickering blue lights in mid-air... knocking noises... cold drafts... yes, Madam Mayo has witnessed all kinds of shenanigans. But the real expert on this subject is John Kachuba. In celebration of his new book, Ghosthunters: On the Trail of Mediums, Dowsers, Spirit Seekers and Other Investigators of America’s Paranormal World, I've invited him to guest-blog with his top five favorite spooky websites.

With Halloween just around the corner (for those of us who await the holiday in gleeful, if not ghoulish, anticipation), I simply could not refuse Madam Mayo’s request for five of my favorite ghost websites.

Ghosts and Spirits of Spiritualism is an intriguing collection of photos depicting after death communication (ADC) between the living and those the Spiritualists say have already passed over into Summerland. Some may be hoaxes, but others…..?

For those of you who think that all ghost hunters are wearers of tin-foil hats, there is the Parapsychological Association, a professional organization of psychologists that specialize in exploring the field of parapsychology. Ghosts, ESP, remote viewing, clairvoyance, telekinesis, are all grist for their paranormal mill.

One of the most extensive collection of ghost photos and videos can be found at Angels and Ghosts. The site archives several years worth of images sent in by ghost hunters all around the world, mixed in with professional television and film productions.

Ghostvillage may be the largest interactive paranormal community on the Internet. There are message boards and forums for a wide range of ghostly topics, as well as interviews, movie and book reviews, resources, and even on-line shopping for all your ghost hunter needs.

Would you like to learn how to ghost hunt or photograph spirits? Care to join a haunted tour on foot, by canoe, or motor coach? Haunted History Tours is a wonderful example of the kinds of paranormal tours available to those who would like to see why interest in the paranormal is at an all-time high in the U.S.

--- John Kachuba

To read Madam Mayo's other guest-blog posts, click here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Stirring the Mirror's Book Crossing Adventure

A book needs readers. The universe provides. Read all about it over on Christine Boyla Kluge's new blog. Christine Boyka Kluge recently guest-blogged for Madam Mayo here. More guest-blog posts from more amigos anon.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

On Sept 12 @ 6 pm New York

I'll be presenting Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion with Mexican writers Monica Lavin, Pedro Angel Palou, and translators Harry Morales and Daniel Shapiro at NYU's King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (53 Washington Square S). More info about the event on my webpage and also here. Co-presented with the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York with the support of Dos Equis. Free admission.