When the New York Times reviewed my first book, I received the incredible accolade that “Graham Mackintosh is not much of a writer, but he makes a great traveling companion.” Ever since, I have absolutely refused to take any steps to improve my writing, and have just concentrated on making my tales as interesting and humorous as possible.
The most comprehensive single Internet source for discussion and opinions about Baja California is perhaps BajaNomad. At its best, Nomad is a wonderful resource; at its worst, it’s replete with knee-jerk negativity. Ironically, when I most need its community opinion, I tend to stay offline. I’m much more productive being “not much of a writer” when I work alone and focus on the experience that I’m trying to convey. Reading that I should be yanked from Baja, thrown in jail, and have all my worthless books trampled underfoot does not seem to help the process. There was such a heated Nomad debate about my last adventure camped on a remote island in the Sea of Cortez, that I included great chunks of the back-and-forth in my new book. It saved me writing whole chapters and was much more entertaining than anything I could have written. I’m just glad I didn’t know the half of it (the hostile half) while I was enjoying my sensitive, thin-skinned experience with the spirits and the wild life on the island.
Perhaps because of my Catholic, working class upbringing, I’ve always sought “truth” on a visual and emotional level. And probably because of my propensity for devouring comics as a kid, my deepest thoughts tend to flow as lines, images, and graphics. I have a bit of a distrust for words. Images appeal to my sense of economy. Show me a page of written instructions and I quickly feel lost, whereas one good graphic and I can often see the point instantly. I love to look at the world through Google Images. I’ve spent many happy hours zooming into remote areas of Baja, enjoying volumes of memories, recollecting faces of kindly strangers, simple meals shared on remote beaches, canyons where I camped with my donkey… and occasionally feeling myself called to some new adventure. You can get down and dirty to just about any place on earth, including your own back yard.
A good chunk of my literary education has come from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, though I do prefer listening rather than reading.
For a slightly different perspective on news and cultural matters, especially how my favorite soccer team is doing back in London, (very poorly by the way; looks like they are going to be relegated from the Premiership) I am fond of visiting the BBC website.
Otherwise, my web searching tends to be remarkably scattered. When I need to research a species of rattlesnake that nearly nailed me or some strange kingfisher behavior that I observed, then I’ll worm my way through Google. And before I know it, I’m having a super time delving into Greek mythology or an 1860s article in the American Journal of Medical Sciences, “On the production of cataracts in frogs by the administration of sugar.” I seem to end up everywhere except on sites that might actually help me improve my craft as a writer.
For a fifth choice that would be in any way relevant, I had to check to see what web sites were in my recent “favorite places” list. This one, http://www.mexico-herps.com, was very helpful and interesting, lots of nice maps and pictures. No, it’s not about some horrible viral disease, but rather an introduction to the wonderful range of reptiles and amphibians (snakes, lizards, frogs, etc) south of the border. Not comprehensive, but a good beginning. Enjoy.
--->For the archive of Madam Mayo's guest-blog posts, click here.
Up next Wednesday: Paula Whyman.