Friday, August 29, 2008

Face to Face with the Mexicans by Fanny Chambers Gooch

First published in 1887, Gooch's Face to Face with the Mexicans, is on-line here in a very readable format. It includes the many charming illustrations by Isabel V. Waldo, as well as portraits of the characters in my novel, Agustin de Iturbide y Green and his mother, Dona Alicia Green de Iturbide.

Note: an edited (severely abridged) version with an introduction by C.H. Gardiner was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 1966. However, said version does not include the material about the Iturbides.

More anon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Court Life from Within by HRH Eulalia, the Infanta of Spain

Princess Eulalia of Spain's memoir, which raised a kerfluffle of an international scandal back at the beginning of the 20th century, is on-line here, and in a very conveniently readable version. (I'm blogging about some of these royalty books as I beef up the links for the bibliograhy of my novel.) More anon.

Old Georgetown on the Potomac by Henry Ridgely Evans

Yesterday I received a most extraordinary letter from a book collector and Maximilian expert who had in his possession a copy of Henry Ridgley Evans's Old Georgetown on the Potomac, inscribed by the author to one of the people who appears in my novel's epilogue (to respect his privacy, I won't say more than that). A note about Henry Ridgely Evans: the author of some two dozen books on freemasonry and magic (including a fine biography of Cagliostro), he lived in Georgetown, Washington DC and, as a child, played with the likes of the children of the Czar's ambassador Baron de Bodisco (whose house is now owned by Senator and Mrs Kerry), ex-Prince Agustin de Iturbide y Green (subject of my novel) and the daughter of the Japanese ambassador. It is a treasure of a book, full of charming details, and showing us a Washington that, for those of us who live there today, is almost impossible to imagine. The Georgetown Library's Peabody Room has a copy, as well as copies of several other of Evans's works.

P.S. View the painting with the same title here. The large building with two spires is Georgetown University's Healy Hall. Note also the Frances Scott Key House at the end of the bridge (since torn down).

More anon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Message from Eric Maisel about the Writers Telesummit

From writer and writing coach-of-coaches Eric Maisel:
Hello, everybody:

Please join me this Wednesday for a free preview of the Writers Telesummit. I’ll be sharing some useful practice tips for writers (and for all creative people) and explaining the benefits, some of them quite surprising, of attending our virtual writers’ conference. There’s also a very nice free gift if you join in on the free phone call.

Please join me at 6 pm Pacific (9 pm Eastern) this coming Wednesday (August 27th) for an informative half-hour. To sign up, go here; you will see the free call sign-up near the top of the page:

I hope you’ll drop on by.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Naomi S. Baron's Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World

Always On by Naomi Baron is one of the most original and profound works on the changes wrought by our modern communication technologies. As for me, two and half years into blogging, I'm still fascinated by the form and though I've anounced (see sidebar) that I update on Mondays and Wednesdays, I generally blog almost daily. But I loathe cell phones, watch a gnat's portion of television, and am still not ready for facebook. As for LinkedIn, I have my doubts. Once in a while I accept an invitation to link, but it gets weird. The other day I tried to invite a fellow novelist to link, but LinkedIn refused to recognize my password--- which brought on multi-layered meditations on the bungle-fangled capitalist appropriation of social networks. Yesterday, on the advice of a fellow writer, I joined, thinking it would be interesting to explore and perhaps help gain some visibility for my books. But why (when that's my publisher's job)? Or, why not (when it might be both fun and useful)? The eternal conundrum: what to do, what not to do?

One of Naomi Baron's conclusions:
"most of us have more freedom than we realize to shape our own usage of language technologies. We have substantial say over the extent to which we multitask."

More anon, probably.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Guest-Blog Archive Link for Madam Mayo

Solveig Eggerz, Richard Goodman, Leslie Pietrzyk, Isabella Tree, David Taylor, Sandra Beasly, Jane Kinney Meyers, Nani Power, Dan Olivas, David Lida, Kim Roberts, and many more...check out the new archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts. More anon.

Madam Mayo Update: What's New on the Blogrolls

Doing some housekeeping here, as the sidebar gets increasingly cluttered. You'll notice that the link to the blogroll is new. Also new: American Fiction , Kinemapoetics, MeowBarkBlog, and several new Mexico-related blogs, including Border Reporter and Intersections. More anon.

Whereabouts Press's Traveler's Literary Companion Series is Now on FaceBook

Here--- and includes links to the material about my own anthology in the series, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. (I'm still not ready for FaceBook, however.) I was especially interested to read the interview with the editor of the France anthology, William Rodarmor. An excerpt:
Why isn’t more French writing being translated?
I think it’s partly because of the tremendous consolidation of U. S. publishers in the last thirty years. Small, high-quality houses like David R. Godine have to compete with multinational mega-companies that pay celebrity authors million-dollar advances. And translation is expensive, since you have to pay both the author and the translator. Read more

Here's my answer to the question,
Why isn't more Mexican writing being translated?
For the same two reasons that very little literature in any language is being translated. First, readers have a natural bias toward their own culture; second, cost. Translation can be expensive! Read more

There are some dozen books in the Whereabouts Press Traveler's Literary Companion Series, including Italy, Greece, Vietnam, Israel, Australia, Ireland, Japan, China... and more in the pipeline. Visit my page for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guest-blogger Solveig Eggerz on 5 Works of Historical Fiction

As a writer of historical fiction myself, when I got the announcement that my fellow American Independent Writer Association member, Solveig Eggerz, was to give a "pubspeak" on history and fiction, I was intrigued. And when I mosied on over to her website,, I was fascinated. The author of the just-released novel, Seal Woman, set in World War II-era Iceland, Solveig Eggerz is a native Icelander with some impressive literary roots. In her own words:
"My great-great grandfather, Friðrik Eggerz, a farmer and a protestant minister, wrote his autobiography when he was in his eighties, a book that documented 19th century Icelandic regional history; my grandfather, Sigurður Eggerz, twice prime minister, wrote plays and essays. My father, Pétur Eggerz, a foreign service officer, wrote fiction and non-fiction until the day he died at age 80."

I'm about to delve into Seal Woman, which is sure to be good, for none other than Margot Livesey has lauded it as "rich in vivid detail and psychological understanding" and a "beautiful and suspenseful debut." I was out of town for her "pubspeak," alas, so I asked her to share with me--- and you--- some of her thoughts about writing historical fiction. With my warmest thanks, over to you, Solveig!
In reading fiction, I like two different ways of examining the past. One focuses on how the past can pervade the present. Charlotte in my novel, Seal Woman, carries the past within her heart to the point where it guides actions in the present. The other approach involves capturing the essence of the past—but without sacrificing the characters to the details of history.

Two examples of the past pervading the present: A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee presents a character who leads a routine life in a California suburb, but his imagination pulsates with violent memories from World War II in Korea, edged by his own culpability.

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa brings two time periods together, 1961, the year of the assassination of the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, and 1996, the year when a fictional character, a Trujillo victim wreaks revenge on the tyrant. Vargas brings the timelines ever closer until they finally collide, laying bare the unsavory truth.

How did capturing and shackling humans in Africa corrupt the character of the crew members on an 18th century slave ship? Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth offers the bitter lesson: “it could have been me” from several points of view.

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky both describe German-occupied France in World War II, especially its deadly impact on foreign-born Jews. The difference lies in the author’s proximity to the events. Faulks describes the occupation and the resistance from the hindsight of the present. Nemirovsky records events as they are occurring, ceasing only when the French police knock on her door July 13, 1942. She dies August 17, 1942 in Auschwitz.

---Solveig Eggerz

P.S. Here's a link to a recent interview with her about Iceland and the novel.

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

Georgia On My Mind


Monday, August 18, 2008

Mary Quattlebaum on Hello Ocean and the 5 Senses Game

My DC writing amiga and fellow WNBA member, childrens's writer Mary Quattlebaum, has just started blogging for the National Wildlife Federations' Green Hour. Here's her latest, a review of Pam Munoz Ryan's Hello Ocean:
The ocean: playful, powerful, mysterious. What kid isn't intrigued by its crashing waves and salty tang? Hello Ocean is a sense-tingling read-aloud, whether your family is anticipating a trip to the beach or simply re-visiting memories. In poetic language, author Pam Munoz Ryan explores an ocean setting through each of the five senses. The little-girl narrator sees "amber seaweed," "speckled sand," and "bubbly waves," hears the "screak of gulls," smells "reeky fish" and "musty shells." READ MORE

More anon.

Why Blog? Writers's Blogs I've Been Reading this Month

One of my favorite bloggers, poet and visual artist Christine Boyka Kluge, has a fascinating post about blogging. I too have often questioned, why am I doing this? It's such a new form that there are few examples (though more each day) of truly outstanding blogs. Whom to emulate? There are a million different ways to go about this and there are plenty of bad blogs, certainly. For a recent writers conference, I managed to cobble together a list of some best (& worst) practices for writers's blogs. Here are some of the several writers blogs I've been reading of late:
--->Christine Boyka Kluge
Unexpected beauty.
--->E. Ethelbert Miller's E-Notes
A poet's take. Casual. Eclectic.
--->Leslie Pietrzyk's Work in Progress
Newsy, friendly, thoughtful blog by an accomplished and hard-working literary novelist.
--->David Lida's Mostly Mexico City
Nobody covers the world's wackiest megalopolis as originally as David Lida.
--->James Howard Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation
The weekly dose of doom and gloom but oftentimes funny, in an evil sort of way. (Maybe I just have a peculiar sense of humor.)
--->Tom Christensen's Right-Reading
The uber-cool renaissance font guy.

And here's a writer I wish would blog: Hattie Ellis.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Writers Telesummit

The first ever "virtual writers conference" is coming up. Click here for the full line-up. I'm doing the travel writing workshop on Thursday September 4th.

Washington DC Writers's Houses

Via Dan Vera's Wonder Machine, his and Kim Roberts's very cool project to photograph Washington DC area writers's residences. Pictured left is Ambrose Bierce's Logan Circle apartment (and click here to read DC area poet M.A. Schaffner's work on Beltway about Bierce.). Here are a few more, yet to be listed, whom I am quite curious about:
--->Frances Calderon de la Barca, author of Life in Mexico
She met her husband, a Spanish diplomat, in Washington
--->Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of the childrens's classic The Little Princess, The Lost Prince, The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy
I believe she lived on Connecticut Avenue.
--->Fanny Chambers Gooch, author of Face to Face with the Mexicans
I know she was in Washington for a time and had many Washington connections.
--->Henry Ridgley Evans, author of numerous works, including Old Georgetown on the Potomac, a biography of Cagliostro, and many on Freemasonry
This high-ranking Freemason and all-around very curious person lived on I Street NW. I have the address somewhere... I came across Evans's works when I was researching Georgetown history for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. There is an ample collection of his books in the Georgetown Public Library's Peabody Room.
More anon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jorge Fernandez Granados & John Oliver Simon

News from Tameme Chapbooks ~ Cuadernos --- all over the Mexico City press!

...Autor de poemarios como Resurrección o El cristal, así como del volumen de cuentos El cartógrafo, Jorge Fernández Granados por vez primera es traducido al inglés bajo el título Ghosts of de Palace of Blue Tiles –Los fantasmas del Palacio de los Azulejos- (Tameme Chapbooks, 2008). “Tengo la convicción de que en un mundo globalizado, donde las fronteras políticas pierden importancia frente a la tecnología y a la comunicación, un texto que pueda ser leído por otros lectores, en otra lengua, permite ingresar a otra dimensión. Y la traducción es un trabajo de coinvención o de segunda creación, que de ninguna manera hay un autor y sus traductores, sino son varios autores que crean el texto en otro código: un buen traductor puede hacer que un texto viva y uno malo lo puede matar para siempre.”

El Universal El poeta y traductor estadounidense John Oliver Simon estará de visita en México para ofrecer un par de lecturas poéticas, el próximo miércoles en la Casa del Poeta, de esta ciudad, y el viernes en la Casa del Escritor, en Puebla. Oliver Simon también aprovechará su visita para presentar Ghosts of the palace of blue tiles (Los fantasmas del palacio de los azulejos, Tameme Chapbooks, 2008), traducciones suyas del poeta mexicano Jorge Fernández Granados. El libro fue publicado en el prestigiado sello californiano Tameme, dirigido por C. M. Mayo, tras haber sido seleccionado como el mejor manuscrito y traducción de una obra literaria mexicana contemporánea a partir de una convocatoria lanzada por la editorial.... READ MORE

El Universal (another article) A la par de la creación poética, John Oliver Simon es el traductor por excelencia de los poetas latinoamericanos. Lo mismo ha traducido al inglés la obra de Gonzalo Rojas, que la de José Emilio Pacheco, Rodolfo Hinistroza, David Huerta, Elsa Cross y Jorge Fernández Granados. Su aprecio por la poesía lo llevó a fundar en San Francisco el Poetry Inside Out, un programa de traducción literaria entre niños de escuelas primarias, con el que busca valorar el papel de la poesía en la educación... READ MORE

El Porvenir
La antología "Los fantasmas del palacio de los azulejos", de Jorge Fernández, la cual conforma una visión unitaria de la poética de su autor, y el libro "Principio de incertidumbre" serán presentados el 12 de agosto, en la Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl. En la presentación de "Ghosts of the Palace of blue tiles", (Los fantasmas del palacio de los azulejos), primer cuaderno antológico en inglés del poeta Jorge Fernández Granados, participarán María Baranda, Josu Landa, John Oliver Simon, Jorge volpi y el autor. El cuaderno editado por Tameme, es el resultado de una amplia convocatoria lanzada por el sello en Estados Unidos para publicar el mejor manuscrito y traducción de una obra mexicana... READ MORE


The latest wonky widget thingamajig on Madam Mayo is the Feedjit (see sidebar). It's kind of Orwellianly freaky. I may remove it. I may not. Hmmm.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire -- update

My novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, has been revised for maybe the 718th time. But this is it--- it goes into copyediting now. Just sent it to the publisher, Unbridled Books. Pub date still to be announced. Maybe spring 09? I will be touring for the book in the US, especially Washington DC, New York City, the west coast, and also a bit in Mexico (especially Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and around Los Cabos). Click here to sign up for the mailing list. More anon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pushing the Electronic Envelope

The American Independent Writers Association (which used to be Washington Independent Writers) has announced a Saturday Seminar at George Mason University in Fairfax VA on September 6, 2008. Here's the scoop:

Sharing Your Writing and Selling Your Work in Cyberspace

The proliferation of online tools, social networking sites, and Web markets has created a lot of opportunities – and revenue streams – for writers. But along with the possibilities may come some confusion. Do you need a website? What is Twitter? What’s the difference between a blog and a vlog? Why do writers need Facebook?

In this all-day seminar, we’ll walk you through some of the most popular and writer-friendly Web tools to help you find new work, promote your services, sell your book, and build your platform.

Breaking into the Blogosphere: Blogging, Vlogging, and Microblogging

Writing for the Web: What You Need to Know to Sell to Online Markets

Social Networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and More

What Every Writer Needs to Know About Professional Websites

Member cost is $89, Non-members cost is $129, and Students cost is $49. To RSVP, call (202) 775-5150, send an e-mail to, or register online at Please mention the event for which you are responding and your membership status.

P.S. Last winter I chaired the panel on blogging for their winter fiction seminar and also did a workshop on same for the Maryland Writers Association. Here's the handout (with links): "Writers Blogs: Best (& Worst) Practices". More anon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Guest-Blogger Richard Goodman's Five Favorite Books with Soul

While I wind down pre-judging the Flannery O'Connor Award (must write comments on the selected seven for series editor Nancy Zafris), travel writer and writing teacher Richard Goodman guest-blogs again! His latest book is The Soul of Creative Writing. He is also the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France, one of the founding members of the New York Writers Workshop, and teaches creative nonfiction at Spalding University's Brief Residency MFA in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky. Over to you, Richard!
My Favorite Five Books With the Word "Soul" in the Title.

Yes, I know five. And they are all very good books it turns out. While this may seem a bit gimmicky, it actually reveals something about the intensity and depth of the word "soul." I chose it as part of my own title with a great deal of respect and some trepidation. It's an august word, and meaningful, and, to be truthful, I still have my doubts as to whether or not I've used it in vain. But it was too appealing to resist. The five books are all very different, but what connects them, I think, is an attempt to get at something intangible, essential, elusive, unique and powerful. I left out some well known "soul" books (Dead Souls comes to mind), but five's the limit.

Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver.
For those readers who have never heard of the Black Panthers, and for those who have simply relegated them to a dusty corner of their memory, this book, published in 1968, will be a stern enlightenment. Cleaver was one of the founders of the Black Panther party. He spent time in prison. Eventually, he fled to Algeria to avoid criminal prosecution. This is a brutal, hard book, with a bitter taste, but he pulls no punches.

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore.
This book was given to me by the great editor Hugh Van Dusen. Hugh, who has worked at Harper Collins for years, and edited some of the world's most famous authors, is a wonderfully urbane, elegant and generous man. When he gave me this book some years ago, I was skeptical. The title seemed a but new-agey for me. I was wrong. It's a powerful book, and one of the most important things it does is to make a distinction between the heart and the soul.

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.
This book, told at a breakneck pace about a breakneck race to build a new kind of computer, is a brilliant look at the huge pressures involved in trying to stay one step ahead in cyber technology. What makes this book especially wonderful is its sense of irony, and ultimately, of disappointment.

Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross.
This sixteenth century Spanish monk, and friend of St. Teresa, wrote stirring poems about the soul's effort to unite with God. Whether you're a believer or not, it's hard to resist verses like: When the breeze blew from the turret / as I parted his hair / it wounded my neck / with its gentle hand / suspending all my senses.

The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois.
This seminal book begins, "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line." Now, as we move steadily into the twenty-first century, has anything really changed? This book, by the "Bard of Great Barrington" and one of the most influential black thinkers who ever lived, is a favorite.

--- Richard Goodman

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo's guest-blog posts, click here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Blogging the Flan, Part III

Back blogging next Wednesday with another fun guest-blog post from travel writer and writing teacher extraordinaire, Richard Goodman (read his first guest-blog post here). I'm still plowing down the ohmygod pile of manuscripts for the Flannery O'Connor Award.