Thursday, February 28, 2008

Watch This Video and Get a Free Torta (Just Kidding)

OK, OK, I'm posting it!!! Via e-mail from several amigas, most recently, travel writer and Mexico-specialist Isabella Tree (more about her fascinating work asap): here's a YouTube video of Texas mariachis for Obama. He's my candidate, but lemme tell ya, even if you're voting for McCain, this video will save you the price of the morning's cup of coffee.
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More more youtuberie, click on the tag below.

Guest-Blogger Eric B. Martin's Pick for the Next Roberto Bolaño

Re: Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, my collection of 24 Mexican writers. If I do say so myself, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Mexico, Mexican literature, pues si, all things mexicanas. But 24 writers is a wee crowd--- no paperback collection (I mean, of the handy size that fits in a carry-on bag) could begin to cover the mulititudinous, firecracker-variety of contemporary Mexican literature. So, who's missing? Yep, Roberto Bolaño for one. Guillermo Fadanelli for another. Guest-blogging today is San Francisco-based novelist Eric B. Martin (pictured here), author most recently of The Virgin’s Guide to Mexico (and do check out that link, it's to a rave review by Jill Meyers on Bookslut, on one of the best litblogs on the 'Net).

It’s fitting somehow that the only Mexican writer to explode onto the American literary scene in recent years is 1) dead, and 2) not Mexican. From 2005-2007, the Chilean-born Bolaño--- who died in 2003--- logged four stories in The New Yorker, more than any other translated author except for Murakami. A few thoughts, then, on the search for the next Mexican crossover:

My pick: Guillermo Fadanelli
Almost completely untranslated in English and little read outside of Mexico, the forty-something Fadanelli is the greying bad boy of Mexican letters, a brutal and fluid stylist with the kind of once-in-a-generation voice that takes your breath away. Like Murakami, he is heavily influenced by American writers; like an edgier Bolaño, he sits at the center of a small, strange Mexico City literary underworld; yet he is unlike either of them or anyone else in his combination of high/low language, vision and sensibility. Hopefully he won’t have to wait until he’s dead to rock the USA.

Breakthrough book: La Otra Cara de Rock Hudson
You can taste the Mexican curb in this one. And it tastes so bad that it tastes good.

Best book so far: Lodo
This one was a finalist for the Rómulo Gallegos prize; Fadanelli took more than a year to write it, which was the longest he’d ever worked on a book. It shows.

A list of short fiction in The New Yorker, 2003-2007 (in The Millions blog)
Check out this interesting list and analysis of most every story published in The New Yorker over the last five years. Note: one of Bolaño’s stories in the December 26 2005 issue is notably missing.

---> Read more of Madam Mayo's guest-blog posts here.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flash Fiction Workshop in Mexico City

I'll be offering a one-day flash fiction workshop in Mexico City this spring via Dancing Chiva.

Flash, or micro-fictions are stories as short as six and as long as, say, 1,000 words. Though a genre with a distinguished tradition, flash fiction is perfectly suited for blogging and podcasting. For both beginning and advanced writers, this workshop will focus on improving your fiction-writing craft and generating new material. For more information about this workshop, click here.

P.S. Help yourself to the Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More 5 minute writing exercises.

No, It's Not Magic: It's the Wikiway... My Amiga J. on Obama and the Wonders of Wikipolitics

Obama "gets" wiki. (click here for the origin of the term). This is a very important concept, one few in the other candidates's camps have yet grasped. On the Obama "Say What We Think" blog, my amiga J., aka Citizen 20854, writes:
What is WIKIPOLITICS? It is the power of mass political collaboration--– the power to change everything. It is an American style constitutional power--- of the people, by the people and for the people. Obama is the first candidate to practice WIKIPOLITICS.... READ MORE

(On this subject, see also my recent post about D.J. Lightbolt's Youtube video for Obama. "Whoever wins, when the history of this presidential campaign is written, a key part of it will be the participatory nature of Obama's campaign... " READ MORE
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And Sandra Gulland Blogs, Too

Just back from the San Miguel Writers Conference where one of my favorite lunch companions was historical novelist Sandra Gulland. She's the author of the Josephine trilogy and Mistress of the Sun (pictured left are the just-published Canadian and forthcoming US edition covers). We had a fruitful chat about blogging and writers' blogs--- here's hers: Notes on the Writing Life. More anon.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Lord of the Dolls: Voyage in Xochimilco

Just back from the fabulous San Miguel Writers Conference, unpacking a suitcase full of books--- among them, the deeply weird chronicle of the discovery of what may well be the modern survival of a violent pre-Hispanic cult: Lord of the Dolls: Voyage in Xochimilco by Eva Hunter with photographs by Jo Brenzo. Read Roy Sorrels's review on culturevulture here. Where is Xochimilco? Here's the wiki. More anon.
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Re: The Future of Blogs and the Potential of the Web as a Vehicle for Content

My amiga the novelist Leslie Pietrzyk, who blogs at Work-in-Progress, sends me this link to " My So-Called Internet Life: How I Launched the Web Series Quarterlife" By Marshall Herskovitz, in Slate Magazine. (The things you can do with MySpace!!!)
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Guest-Blogger Richard Goodman's Top 5 "Collected Letters of..."

We've gone to the blogs, guys. But back in the days, they tossed off letters, some so soulful that they have been collected into books to treasure--- and to turn to for inspiration. Apropos of his forthcoming The Soul of Creative Writing, Richard Goodman, author of the cult-favorite travel memoir, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France, and an astonishingly wide variey of articles and essays for the New York Times, Harvard Review, Vanity Fair, Saveur, Creative Nonfiction, and the Michigan Quarterly Review, among many others, offers his five favorite epistolary collections.

#1. The Letters of Giuseppe Verdi
Alas! out of print, but available at At the conclusion of the 1972 New York Times review of these letters, the reviewer could only say, "What a man." And indeed, Verdi was. This is a book not only for music lovers, but for any artist, of any kind. Listen to Verdi berate his librettist: "You talk to me about 100 syllables!! And it's obvious that 100 syllables aren't enough when you take 25 to say the sun is setting!!!"

#2. The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, vol. 1 and vol. 2
Wonderfully translated letters of the author of Madame Bovary. These books are just jammed with gems. For Flaubert, writing was agony, and he wrote about his search for the exact word so eloquently, "I am the obscure and patient pearl-fisher, who dives deep and comes up empty-handed and blue in the face."

#3. One Art: Letters, Selected and Edited, of Elizabeth Bishop
The letters of one of America's greatest poets. Reading them is a course in courage and ethics. It's worth getting the book just to see how she takes Robert Lowell to task for exposing the private lives of others in his poetry.

#4. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
(Check to see if you can get a good price on the three-volume Bulfinch set. It's got it all.)
Letters by this great artist who was, as it turns out, perhaps the best-read painter who ever lived. He loved books, and many of his letters are about the writers he admired. It's difficult to read these letters as they approach the inevitable end to his life. You feel the sad resignation of a man who knows he's drowning. Still, his passions stay with you.

#5. The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, vol. 1 and vol. 2
It's amazing how he did it. What a hardscrabble life he led before he hit the big time. It seems like a quarter of the letters in the first volume are to his agent asking for twenty or thirty bucks so he can get his typewriter out of hock. But what resolve!

---> For the archive of previous guest-blog posts, click here.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Landed Gentry

Sophy Burnham's extraordinary, courageous, vividly and stylishly written romp through a heavily camouflaged part of America, The Landed Gentry: Passions and Personalities Inside America's Propertied Class, first published in 1978, is back in print--- through the Author's Guild's phenomenal program. Highly recommended. But not for the squeamish. Read what the author has to say about it here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Barack Obama's Dallas Morning News Op-Ed: "I Will Repair Our Relationship with Mexico"

Barack Obama just published an op-ed piece in the Dallas Morning News.

"Under George W. Bush, the United States has not lived up to its historic role as a leader in the Western Hemisphere. As president, I will restore that leadership by working to advance the common prosperity and security of all of the people of the Americas. That work must begin with a renewed strategic partnership with Mexico.

Mr. Bush took office vowing to make the Americas a top priority. But over the last seven years, the administration's approach to this issue has been clumsy, disinterested and, above all, distracted by the war in Iraq. Indeed, relations have not fully recovered since Mexico refused to fall in line with President Bush's rush to war.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon just traveled across the United States but didn't even go to Washington, which isn't that surprising given how little Mr. Bush has done
to improve relations...." READ MORE

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At Tameme's Table in the AWP Bookfair NYC

C'est moi with visiting photographer Miriam Berkley---photo by my sister, Alice. I'm about to send out the announcements about Tameme's beautiful new chapbook of poetry by Jorge Fernandez Granados, translated by John Oliver Simon.... More anon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

San Miguel Writers' Conference This Weekend

I'll be leading the "Creative Nonfiction" session on Saturday morning. For the complete line-up, schedule and link to register, click here.
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Edward Tufte's "ZZ Smile"

Via : a brief and elegant video in which the moon turns into a tooth and the sky sails by.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

El Olvido, Acapatzingo, Morelos, Mexico

New on the Maximilian page: photos of a recent visit to Maximilian's country retreat, "El Olvido," now an ethnobotanic garden and museum of folk medicine.

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Nicky Enright (D.J. Lightbolt) and Obama '08

I met Nicky Enright a few years ago at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I was working on my novel and he was working on his "big hands" series--- we were all amazed as he covered an entire wall in the studios in the back barn. So he sends me this link to a "Lightbolt" video he made for Obama. It's fun--- I think it gives the spirit of the campaign. Whoever wins, when the history of this presidential campaign is written, a key part of it will be the participatory nature of Obama's campaign. This isn't a slick, expensive TV commercial; it's fun, upbeat, and it cost the campaign nothing. Nicky made it on his own. It's on his website, on youtube, and I'm sure I'm not the only one posting it on a blog. The same story will be told about the financing of the campaign. Obama isn't building a war chest out of PAC money and intimate little $5,000 a head dinner parties in Georgetown. For an idea of how Obama is bringing in money, and by the trailer-load, check out my friend J's Personal Fundraising for Obama website--- which is but one of thousands and thousands. The official Obama website is incredibly user friendly--- constructed for lickety-split navigation, to not only impart information, but to capture your e-mail and your donation and, above all, your participation. The same cannot be said for most of the other candidates's websites. Interesting, no? And in Mexico, too, whoever figures out this new game will do very well... More anon.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Youtuberie Du Jour

--->Via Right-Reading, Alex Gopher's Motion Typography. Brilliant--- indeed.

--->And on Gayle Brandeis's fruitful, her own very simple but very effective trailer for her new paperback, Self-Storage.

(Click here for my last post on vid-lit.)
More anon.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

On Blogging and Writers's Blogs: Yummy Links

---> From Wired magazine, "The Lifecycle of a Blog Post" This is a treasure--- bloggers, and anyone interested in blogging, be sure to have a look at this.
---> From Copyblogger, "Why Brains Crave Beneficial Copy"

More on Writers Blogs:
--->Apropos of last Saturday's WIW Writers Conference panel on writers's blogs, I asked writer Andrea Cumbo which litblogs she recommends. She said she loves Book Ninja and fruitful by Gayle Brandeis.
--->WIW member and science fiction writer Nancy Jane Moore is a member of the blogging team at Ambling Along the Aqueduct, sponsored by Aqueduct Press, which publishes feminist science fiction, and wanders into interesting territory from time to time. Nancy Jane Moore also blogs on self defense at Taking Care of Ourselves.
--->WIW member Austin Camacho writes, "Of course, I could mention my blog, which I share with my wife: Another Writer's Life (and a writer's spouse). But my favorites are A Writer's Life - Murderati -The Outfit - Acme Authors Link."
---> For the archive of posts on "Gone to the Litblogs," click here.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Predatory Lenders

So who's "Brownie"? Scathing op-ed in today's Washington Post by Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer:

Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers... READ MORE.

But over at Bank Lawyer's Blog, a whiplash-inducing 180.

Better yet: John Bird & John Fortune.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

...And Paula Whyman, "Curious Writer"

Another DC writing amiga has an excellent new webpage: check out Paula Whyman's, which includes a page called "discussion"--- which Madam Mayo dubs a blog, because a blog is not a blog is a blog is... whatever. It's all blogging now, including Edward Tufte's "moderated forum". More anon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ann McLaughlin

My dear friend the novelist Ann McLaughlin has a beautiful new website.

Time to Blog & Read Blogs & Everything Else Everywhereallthetime

Re: Web 2.0--- yes, it's speeding up, it's getting overwhelming, it's crazy crazy kray-zeee--- the torrents of e-mail, everybody on their Crackberries and iPods and BlueTooths & etc--- but is refusing to blog, or even look at a blog, an optimal response? To research my talk for last Saturday's WIW panel on writers's blogs, I sent out an e-mail to my writer friends (the majority age 40 +) asking whether they blog and which writers's blogs they would recommend. Here's a typical response, this from the author of several wonderful books:

"I have a website, but not a blog, and no time to pay attention to one. No time for that matter to spend running around the internet looking at other people's blogs. How does the artist carve out time to produce if all you do is worry about the computer?"

The opposite extreme I happened upon over at marketing guru Seth Godin's blog:

"Someone asked me the other day if posting a blog post every day is intimidating or a grind. I view it as something I get to do. I spend most of my blogging time deciding what not to post."

I would not suggest that all writers keep an on-line journal anymore than I would argue that all writers must write novels or all poets write sonnets. That said, a blog is not a blog, exactly... (see this post on that...) But it seems to me that, as artists--- artists who live in this world of unimaginable quantities of information 24/ 7--- we need to develop a set of skills we never knew we needed.

An analogy, information as food: we were like cavemen, used to having to work very hard and very smart to catch a rabbit or perhaps a bird, and to gather a few roots and berries. Then, abracadabra, plunk in front of our cave, there's a Whole Foods. You can have lamb, chicken, ground turkey breast, porkchops, sirloin, filet mignon, liver, veal, Italian sausages, low-fat sausages, chorizo, chicken with spinach sausages, grouper, snapper, shrimp, tuna, bass, salmon, smoked salmon, oysters, seafood salad, smoked trout, smoked trout dip, smoked salmon dip, gravlax--- OK, I won't belabor the point with the produce section, the cheese, the wine, the pastas, the olive bar, the ... oh, and seven brands of mayonnaise! Twelve brands of yoghurt, goat, sheep, cow, skim, fat-free, vanilla, strawberry, banana, peach, raspberry, honey and nuts, from Greece, from Iceland, from Australia, from West Virginia, grass-fed this, cage-free that, hormone free, gluten free, etc etc.

So, our caveman could:
---> stand in the first aisle in a slack-jawed daze;
---> grab up more than he can carry, injuring himself (and dropping quite a few things on the floor), and stuff himself until he pukes;
---> say, "this is a scary place" and refuse to ever return;
---> make a grocery list, push his wheeled cart through the store aisle-by-aisle, and then take his groceries home and place his selections, as appropriate, in the fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Well, bone appetite.

--->To view previous "Gone to the Litblogs" posts, click here.AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, February 09, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog? That is Not the Question in the Web 2.0 World

Just back from this morning's Washington Independent Writers Fiction Seminar panel on writers's blogs--- with fiction writer and journalist Wendi Kaufman (The Happy Booker), novelist Leslie Pietrzyk (Work-in-Progress), freelancer and improv artist Shawn Westfall, blogger for, and poet Deborah Ager of 32 Poems. I'd had no idea that Wendi got the idea to start her blog (one of the first and best lit-blogs out there, by the way) after her eight year-old son launched one for Pokemon characters. And wow, Deborah is a wordpress wizard! But to the point:

To blog or not to blog, I repeat, that is not the question. A blog, supposedly, is a web (on-line) log, or diary or journal. I say no, it's anything you want it to be. Call it a newsletter. Or take a newsletter and call that a blog. It could be an on-line magazine column. Updated once a year. Updated eight times a day. Longish personal essays, whole books, pictures with or without commentary, or, say, nothing but lists of links to kitty videos on Youtube. Did I mention videos of people crying while eating? Mustaches of the 19th century! Some blogs invite comments, others (such as this one) do not (though if you want to send me an e-mail, click here). It's the Wild Get Out of Dodge West. So what I'm saying is, if you're on-line in any way, you might as well accept it, it's a Web 2.0 world, morphing at warp speed--- and you might as well consider what you do blogging. For lack of a better word. We do not have an adequate vocabulary for any of this. More anon...specifically:

---->The main misconception about "blogs"
----> Making time for blogging (why and how) and my Bushman (and I do not mean the W) goes to Whole Foods analogy.
---->The perplexing problem with print-outs of blog posts.
---->Then, Maximilian galore, new pix & more.

---->To view the archive of Madam Mayo on blogging, click here

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sarah Boxer's "Blogs" in the New York Review of Books

I mentioned this one in a recent post, but, herewith, a repeat. For anyone interested in blogging as a literary phenomenon, start here.

--->And for Madam Mayo's "Gone to the Litblogs" posts, click here.

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Tamara Kaye Sellman on Why Writers Should Blog

At the Tameme table at last week's AWP bookfair in New York City (that's Yours Truly, left), Tamara Kaye Sellman (right) came by with her Kindle, the newest digital text reader-e-gizmo (aka "wireless reading device") which has a suprisingly light heft and bright screen. We had long a chat about blogs--- writers's blogs in particular, as, well, we're both writers and we both blog, but also apropos of the Washington Independent Writers conference this Saturday, where I'll be chairing the panel on writers's blogs. Just posted on Sellman's blog, Writer's Rainbow, Why Writers Should Blog:
"...Blogs make perfect calling cards for writers, first of all. If you're a writer, then you should have things to say, and you should have a way to structure the things that you have to say, and you should want others to read these things that you have to say. Otherwise, why are you a writer? But how to go about it, you ask? ..." READ MORE

--->And for more about writers's blogs and litblogs, click here.

Ethelbert Says North Dakota Rocks


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Post-AWP Note-oid or, Paper Source: Antidote for Blog Fever

The past couple of weeks I've been thinking about blogging, talking about blogging, and blogging about blogging. Explanation: I've got a writers conference coming up this Saturday at (Washington Independent Writers All-Day Fiction Seminar at American University) for which I'll be chairing the panel on writers's blogs. And, I was just in New York at the AWP mega-powwow, aka bookfair, nonstop yadda yadda yadda, with Sergio Tronocoso, Francisco Aragon, Dawn Marano, Mark Statman, Leslie Pietrzyk, Richard Peabody, Christine Boyka Kluge, John Oliver Simon, to mention only a few, and plenty of the yaddaing about, yep, writers's blogs. Some blog, some don't, some care, some couldn't. Blogging is just a fad--- or it's the biggest thing that's happened to the literary scene since the 15th century. Or---? Well, happily for me, I'm walking distance to Georgetown's Paper Source, which has the most beautiful letterpress business cards, as well as endless racks of silky-looking papers and ribbons and, on the third floor, an Ali Baba's cave worth of doo-dads. Why not make an accordian book? With a cover of sparkly lipstick-red paper! "Do something creative every day" is their trademarked motto. Such wonders we have, yes, even amongst the Starbucks' and the Kinkos'. Yes, even as the book appears to be going, if not the way of the dodo, then, for the most part, into the digital soup. Plop.

More anon.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Round 2: Madam Mayo's Tip o' the Turban to a Few More (Fiction) Writers's Blogs

Apropos of the upcoming panel on writers's blogs for the Washington Independent Writers Conference All-Day Fiction Seminar in Washington DC February 9th, the other day I posted my top 10 writers's blogs--- not necessarily by fiction writers, and not necessarily my personal favorites, but, in my view, outstanding representatives of the genre. Herewith another batch of notable writers's blogs--- all very different from one another.

Maud Newton
News, opinion, a charming miscellanea--- hers is one of the longest-standing and most respected lit-blogs.

Jane Smiley (on the Huffington Post)
One of our finest novelists. Her blogging, however, is focused on politics.

Tod Goldberg
Out of Southern California: snappy, snippy & zippy. (For those who don't mind incessant use of "fucktard.")

Tayari Jones
Novelist and writing teacher based in Washington DC.

M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype
She's the author of some steamy best-sellers; the blog supports her "AuthorBuzz" advertising business.

C. Monks's Utter Wonder
Quirky, elegant design.

More anon.

--->Read more "Gone to the Litblogs" posts.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writers's Blogs: Madam Mayo's Top 6 Peeves

This Saturday I'll be chairing the panel (with Wendi "The Happy Booker" Kaufman, Leslie "Work-in-Progress" Pietrzyk, Deborah "32 Poems" Ager, and Shawn Westfall, on writers blogs for the Washington Independent Writers All-Day Fiction Seminar at Washington DC's American University. So, I'm thinking a lot about writers's blogs... (here, by the way, is a list of 10 excellent examples of the genre). So, as a reader of writers's blogs, herewith my top 6 peeves--- the things that make me surf on (and rarely, if ever, return):

#1. Black backgrounds.
So sleek, yet such a strain to read. Forget the fancy stuff, make it easy on the eyes for your readers.

#2. "Me, me, me, and mine, blah blah and when I was contemplating the lint in my navel, blah-be-de-blah"
I'm looking for quality content, and that includes good links. Interestingly, a number of well-known literary writers have blogs that are very poor examples of the genre.

#3. Ginormous jpegs which take--- so I am guessing but I'm not going to wait to find out--- anymore than I would watch paint dry--- eleven cen-tu-rie-sssss to dooooooooow-n-n-n-n-load
Many readers have a dial-up connection, sometimes or all the time. But even still, they can surf away, click.

#4. Long strings of even more ginormous jpegs.
Please God, why?

#5. Inconsistent / infrequent posting.
It's a canard that to attract readers, a blog needs to be updated daily. Some excellent and very popular writers's blogs, such as James Howard Kunstler's, are updated once a week; others, such as Jeff Gomez's Print is Dead, frequently, but not necessarily daily. But a writers's blog that appears to have been abandoned, weeks or even months ago, with no explanation... well, it's about as appealing as a grocery cart parked on a front lawn.

#6. Opening a blog post with an apology
"Sorry not to have been posting as I should"--- oh, yecch. (Re: peeve #2). Just blog.

Less peevishly... more anon.

---> Read Madam Mayo's previous "Gone to the Litblogs" posts here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

La Peña de Bernal

Mini-Matterhorn in Mexico. This is a photo from a visit a few months ago, which I've been meaning to post. Near the city of Queretaro, la Peña de Bernal is a curious monolith, one of the largest in the world. Anyway, this is sort of what the pile of "to dos" on my desk looks like as I'm just back from New York City's AWP bookfair for Tameme and signing Miraculous Air at the Milkweed booth. Among other sundry items, I hope to have some excellent new guest blog posts up later this week. Plus pix of El Olivido, Maximilian's little-known country house in Acapatzingo, Morelos. So: much more anon.