Monday, September 29, 2008

The Happy Booker: Back Blogging

My amiga, DC area writer Wendi Kaufman, one of the pioneers of lit-blogging, is back blogging after a summer hiatus. Check out her excellent blog, The Happy Booker. More anon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guest-Blogger Moira Egan's Five Fun Things to Do Next Time You're in Italy

Buongiorno! It's time for the Wednesday guest-blogger and this week it's the very gifted poet, translator, writing teacher, and now resident of Rome, Moira Egan. I met Moira at the Writers Center, where she read from her sublime collection, Cleave. Since then we've crossed paths, or almost crossed paths, here and there and most recently at the Associated Writing Programs mega-pow-wow in New York City, not to mention a multitude of times in cyberspace, where, by the way, I learned about her latest publication, with Damiano Abeni, a translation into the Italian of the work of John Ashbery. It's a delight and an honor to have Moira guest-blogging today. Be sure to check out her blog, or rather, Blague, and her special poetry page. She'll be teaching in the Summer Literary Seminar in Vasto, Italy this May. Over to you, Moira!
Five Fun Things to Do Next Time You’re in Italy

#1. Go to L’Agnata, the Sardegnan agriturismo run by the widow of Fabrizio De André (1940-1999) one of Italy’s best-loved, intelligent and politically engaged singer-songwriters. Don’t eat much for breakfast before you go, because you’ll be feasting on a multi-course meal that includes some of the best salami and prosciutto you’ll ever taste, local versions of pasta, the amazing porcheddu (from an entire roast pork), fresh fresh salad, and more. Desserts include wicked flaky pastries drizzled with the Sardegnan specialty, bitter Corbezzolo honey.

#2. From one island to another: drink some Donnafugata wine. They run an eco-minded and sustainable vineyard, and their wines are not only tasty but many have literary names as well. Join Mark Strand, for example, as a fan of their Tancredi. And you just can’t go wrong, and might end up telling some good stories, with a glass or two of their Sherazade.

#3. Visit Beata Ludovica, the less-visited Bernini sculpture of a holy someone in ecstasy. You can find her in San Francesco a Ripa, a lovely Franciscan church in Trastevere, a neighborhood that’s definitely worth an afternoon’s wander. The main church in Trastevere is Santa Maria in Trastevere (also worth a long visit) whose emphasis on the story of Mary gives the area a respectfully feminine aura. Speculations that Bernini’s portrait of do-gooder Ludovica Albertoni might actually be Saint Anne, the mother of Mary, getting the good news that she was going to bear the Immaculate Vessel that would then bear Christ, don’t seem so out of line.

#4. Visit Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto (whom I fondly call the Madonna of the Dirty Feet), another slightly less-visited masterpiece. The last time I was in Sant’Agostino, I had the chapel all to myself for quite a while, a lovely feeling, but then a large field trip of young Spanish priests-in-training came in. So I wandered over to see Raphael’s Isaiah and a lovely Madonna and Child with St. Anne (there she is again!) by Andrea Sansovino, and, after the priests left, I went back to say my farewells to the Madonna, her chubby Baby, and their dusty pilgrims. Not surprisingly, the pictures on the web just don’t do this painting justice. You’ll have to make the pilgrimage yourself.

#5. Read John Ashbery in English and Italian. What happens when you marry a translator? You roll up your sleeves and pitch right in. Damiano had been working on this substantial translation of Ashbery for years, but I came along just in time to field such questions as “Do you think this sentence means this, or this, or this?” to which the answer was, invariably, “Yes.” Ah Ashbery, such fun and such frustration. But we’re very happy to say that the book is being well received. And it looks even better in person!

So, Madam Mayo, grazie mille per avermi invitato come "guest blogger" questa settimana!

---Moira Egan

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

McKee Story

Light posting this week, as I'm just back from the three day LA marathon, Robert McKee's Story seminar. Out of ten stars I give it twenty-five. Seems everyone agreed: he got a standing ovation. Stay tuned for Moira Egan's guest-blog post this Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guest-Blogger Deborah Ager: 5 Fantastic Freebies for Writers

Apropos of the financial melt-down upon us, writers, do not despair! Not only is inspiration free as the air, but today poet Deborah Ager offers links to five fantastic freebies. I first met Deborah Ager a few years ago at that blessed oasis of poetry (among other arts), the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Since then, we've crossed paths everywhere from the Writers Center to the Washington Independent Writers (now American Independent Writers) blogging for writers panel to, well, all over cyberspace. Not only is Deborah a truly gifted poet, and poetry editor (founder of the journal 32 Poems) but she's a web 2.0 diva--- by which I mean, blogging, twittering (is that the right verb?), and facebooking (um, is that a verb also?) with both grace and goodwill (speaking of which, check out her Nine Effective (and Possibly Hip) Ways to Use Facebook.) Official bio: Deborah Ager's first book, Midnight Voices, will be published in March 2009 by WordTech. She has published in Best New Poets 2006, Best of the Tigertail Anthologies, The Bloomsbury Review, The Georgia Review, New Letters, and Quarterly West. She has edited 32 Poems Magazine since 2003. Keep up with her at the 32 Poems blog. Over to you, Deborah!

5 Fantastic Freebies for Writers

Not all writers can be James Merrill and spend two-and-a-half years traveling across Europe -- sigh! -- with no worries about money. I can't guarantee you'll save enough money from my tips to travel Europe, but you might have enough to take time from work to visit an artist's colony.

Here's to stretching your dollar and having a good time in the process.

1. Free Movies and TV Shows
Watch "Saturday Night Live", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "The Office" or other shows at -- or catch more than 100 movies. I credit Kiplinger's for this idea.

2. Free Furniture, Books, etc.
Freecycle is the king of free. Do you want toys for your kids, books, or a new modernist chair? Look no further. Take some items off your neighbor's hands. When your house gets too full, put your items on the list for others to take.

3. Free Software
With Open Office create poems and write prose without having to shell out for software. My book publisher -- Cherry Grove Collections -- uses Open Office to lay out books. I downloaded the software and fell in love. It's much like MS Word, except you don't have to pay!

4. Free Web Browser
Many of us still use IE. Try out Flock and see what you've been missing. You can see Facebook updates from your friends in a split screen and keep track of incoming emails about local readings.

5. Free Books
Bored on a vacation or taking a break at work? Open up an oldie but a goodie at Project Gutenberg. Whether you want to read Austen, Kant, or Keats, Project Gutenberg offers hundreds of books that are in the public domain.

--- Deborah Ager

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Mental Edge by Kenneth Baum and Other Resources for Writers

A hazard of the trade: publish a book and you'll be inundated with... no, not so many fan letters... questions from wannabe published writers and wannabe better published writers. But I view this as a bodacious opportunity for good karma, because however things may (or may not) appear, we're all in the same pond. That said, it's not possible for me to answer every e-mail individually. Voila: my website's Resources for Writers page. (The oldie but goodie is The 3 Questions I am Most Frequently Asked About the Writing Business.) This morning I got yet another e-mail from a writer asking my advice on how to cope with rejection. Herewith my answer:
No writer, including a Nobel Prize winner, escapes rejection. Perhaps a university does not want to pay her fee for a commencement speech. Perhaps an influential critic loudly asserts that another writer should have taken the prize. Perhaps his difficult new book of poetry is turned down by three different publishers for translation rights. Certainly, billions of people on Planet Earth do not and will never read even one of the Nobel Prize winner's books. In sum, there's no avoiding rejection completely. So unless you want to be miserable and miserable to be around, if you want to write and publish what you write, you have to learn to cope with it. I have found some of the literature on sports psychology most helpful, and warmly recommend The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind-Body Connection by Kenneth Baum with Richard Trubo. Also, all of the books on my list of Recommended Books on the Creative Life address rejection, among other subjects.

More anon. But not on rejection.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Via Mudflats: Pro-Obama Rally in Anchorage, Alaska

News of the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally, via eyewitness, Mudflats:
"Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn’t honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn’t happen here." READ MORE

Author Buzz Contest Starts Today for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion

Starts today, ends Sept 17th at midnight. Visit Author Buzz for the details about the promotion for Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aura Estrada Prize for Spanish Language Women Writers

An open letter from novelist Francisco Goldman:

Dear Friends,

Last July 26th, 2007, when my wife Aura Estrada died, I vowed to somehow start a prize in her honor. Nearly 14 months later, that prize is becoming a reality. This has happened thanks to the hard work and devotion of many friends who loved Aura, and because of the contributions of so many who were moved by her story.

Aura, at the time of her death, was a 30-year-old PhD student at Columbia University as well as a student in the Hunter College MFA program, where she was studying fiction-writing under Peter Carey and Colum McCann, and where, as the recipient of a Hertog Fellowship, she was also a research assistant to Toni Morrison. Writing in Spanish, Aura had already begun to publish essays and stories in some of Mexico and Latin America's best magazines, and she was also beginning to publish in English, in Bookforum and The Boston Review.

The Aura Estrada Prize will be given every two years to a female Spanish-language writer of creative prose, 35 or younger, living in Mexico or the United States. This unique prize will combine a cash award with residencies in writers' colonies and publication in Spanish language Granta. You can read much more about the prize and Aura's life and writing at and at
As you will see if you peruse the website, the prize has generated an extraordinary response, inspiring the participation and generosity, in many different ways, of writers such as Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, and younger friends of Aura such as Junot Díaz, Susan Choi, Rivka Galchen and so many others. The Oaxaca-based artist Francisco Toledo, probably Mexico's most renowned contemporary artist, is producing a special once-only design of 15 signed and numbered works of his "Papalote" series just for the Aura Estrada Prize. These, and rare signed special editions and books by García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Henry Miller, Colm Toibin and others will be available through the prize website. We are also, for one thousand dollars (or more!) a piece, offering dinners-- in the homes or in the restaurant of the hosts' choosing -- with writer friends such as Jon Lee Anderson, Junot Díaz, Gary Shteyngart, Colm Toibin and (they will come to your dinner together) Susan Choi and Jhumpa Lahiri or Rivka Galchen and Heidi Julavitz.

Aside from the New York Sept 18th benefit, Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt are coming to Oaxaca, Mexico to headline a benefit and reading for the prize on November 6th and 7th. This will inaugurate what will be an annual Aura Estrada Reading, by an American or English writer, at the Oaxaca Book Fair. There are plans to nationally televise, on the equivalent of Mexico's PBS, Paul and Siri's reading and parts of the event. We are also hosting a benefit art auction at famed Mexico City jazz club El Zinco on November 25th (the U.S. Embassy is helping us bring down a first rate jazz performer) and the prize will be officially announced at a press conference, with the participation of Gabriel García Márquez, at the Guadalajara Book Fair on December 1st.

I hope that this prize will interest the great community of literary bloggers and readers! We've worked really hard, and as we are all total amateurs at this, we are amazed that we are actually pulling this off! Please take a look at and help spread the word and help up attract donations, especially for the writers' dinners and art, book and manuscript auctions!

Thanks! Saludos to all,

Francisco Goldman (speaking here on behalf of the Aura Estrada Prize Committee)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pigs and Lipstick, Fish and Stink

FYI, via Andrew Sullivan, former McCain fan, here's the full context of Obama's quote from the New York Times:

“John McCain says he’s about change, too — except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics. That’s just calling the same thing something different.”

With a laugh, he added: “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.”

Still not clear? Click here.

UPDATE: After you've had a look at that "clear" link... check out today's Angry Poodle. Talk about some Jungian ju-ju (aka synchronicity)... I don't even know the guy. I found the link via my google alert on "habeas corpus."

The Wednesday Guest-blog Flew the Coop or, Top 5 Chicken Cams

Oh well! Check out the Madam Mayo guest-blog archive to read previous Wednesday guest-blog posts by yoga, writing & literary agent-blog expert Lindsay Reed Maines, poets Grace Cavalieri, Sandra Beasley and Cathleen Calbert, novelists Eric Martin and Leslie Pietrzyk, King of the Baja buffs Graham Mackintosh, writer and filmmaker David Taylor, poet and artist Christine Boyka Kluge and many more. Next week: poet and web 2.0 diva Deborah Ager, and after that, Moira Egan, Stephanie Elizondo-Griest, Zack Rogow, Tim Wendel and, no kidding, Pickles the pug. More anon.

P.S. Apropos of my burgeoning interest in chickens (really), herewith 5 links:

--->The Flying Skunk Farm chicken cam (featuring Gumby).
--->Hencam (in the UK)
--->Thelma and Louise in Belgium
--->Huehnercam. Double Deutsche cam!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hattie Ellis's Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee

New on my list of recommended literary travel memoirs is British journalist Hattie Ellis's elegantly written and deeply researched Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee. Travel on a spoon from Surrey to Sicily, and Paris parks to New York City rooftops--- and gain an all new appreciation of this nectar from heaven, and the reason why bees can tell us more about ourselves than any other creature. (Except, well, pugs. Had to get that in there.) More anon.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mudflats on Palin's Attempt to Ban Books in Wasilla

So what was on Mayor Palin's hit list? Fahrenheit 451? 1984? Well, I wouldn't bet the bazookas on those two titles. Here's the link to the Mudflats post. Photo left is the Wasilla, Alaska Public Library, via Mudflats. More anon.

UPDATE Sept 12: USA Today recently reported that Palin "did not ban books." Still, according to that same article, it's the same story reported by the Mudflats blog (see link above). To quote from the USA Today article:

Mary Ellen Emmons was Wasilla's librarian at the time. She told a local newspaper, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, in December 1996 that Palin repeatedly had asked her about removing books from the library, but said Palin never mentioned specific titles, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Palin has cast her questions about the library's policy, including at a 1996 City Council meeting, as theoretical. Her critics, including a city resident who attended the meeting, say the questioning was more direct.

"There was no way that I thought it was rhetorical," said Anne Kilkenny, who said she attended the meeting where Palin raised the issue but says she did not remember Palin's exact words.

In January 1997, Palin requested that the city's department heads, including Emmons, reapply for their positions. Though the censorship issue was not raised, some members of the community rallied behind Emmons and the librarian kept her job until she resigned three years later.

Read the whole USA Today story here:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Open House at Writers Center, and Flash Fiction

Open house this Saturday September 6th at the Writers Center just outside Washington DC in Bethesda MD. I'll be giving the one-day "Flash Fiction" workshop on Sunday October 5th. Key links:
--->The Writers Center.
--->C.M. Mayo's Flash Fiction Workshop
--->"Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"
More anon.

P.S. On another, but related subject, today is the last day to register for the Writers Telesummit, the virtual writer conference. (I'll be giving the talk and Q & A on travel writing). Click on the Writers Telesummit icon over on the sidebar for more information and to register.

Guest-blogger Lindsay Reed Maines on Top 5 Literary Agent Blogs

I met journalist Lindsay Reed Maines when I took her pretzelly-fun one day workshop at the Writers Center in Bethesda MD on Yoga and Writing, which I warmly recommend to anyone interested in improving their writing. In addition to teaching yoga, she maintains the Rock and Roll Mamma blog, where you can read more about her endeavors, which include two books in progress, a novel and nonfiction book about the ways moms maintain their musical identities after having children, and the role music plays in parenting. Over to you, Lindsay!
Like all writers, I've spent time deeply immersed in the voodoo art of finding a literary agent. While conventional wisdom always dictates researching them as carefully as possible, how exactly does one go about doing that? I mean, sure, you can look up their most recent sales on Publishers Marketplace, but what does that REALLY tell you about them?

Oh, it's useful for specific, factual information, (yawn) but does it tell you who eats popcorn while reading submissions? Who hates being addressed as Ms.? Or any of the countless other proclivities one glimpses only through a window into another's mind? No. I think not.

Enter: The Agent Blog. It's so refreshing to meet the humans behind the letters, and to see the passion that goes into the books they sell. Here's my 5 faves, but there's many more. Enjoy, and happy querying!

Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency
Self-described "nice Mid-Westerner", Kristin Wheels and deals from Denver. From her track record, she dispels the myth that you've gotta be in New York to be a player.

Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary
Janet Reid has a lovely no-nonsense way about her, and a wicked sense of humor.

Jennifer Jackson, The Donald Maass Agency
Ms. Jackson has a wealth of greatly detailed information that's sure to strengthen your query.

Nathan Bransford, Curtis Brown Ltd.
Mr. Bransford's in San Francisco. As well as providing information about the particulars of querying and the issues they involve, he often offers an interesting view on the world of publishing at large.

Miss Snark
Anonymous and defunct, but oh so well loved. Spend some time in her archives, you'll not be disappointed.

Add them to your readers, my friends, and look at the numbers of the queries they're wading through as you wait the torturous 2-6 weeks. It makes the waiting go faster. All the best! You can do it! xoxo,

--- Lindsay Reed Maines

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

P.S. Madam Mayo's answer to the "Do I need an agent" question is here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mudflats: An Alaska Politics Blog

Re: Palin. Madam Mayo is still shaking her her head and trying to keep her jaw where it belongs (not the floor). My Alaska amiga sends me a few interesting links: here's Mudflats. More anon. Gotta go pop some squirrels with my beebee gun. (Just kidding.)

One Day Writing Workshops

I love the one day writing workshop format. I've been giving these ("Break the Block"; Literary Travel Writing", "Flash Fiction" "Techniques of Fiction" & etc) for some years now at the Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and also, lately, via Dancing Chiva in Mexico City. Why do I love it? Unlike an on-going workshop, a one day is much easier for me to fit into my travel-cluttered schedule, and I not only get more students, I get a more varied group. I've had many beginners, but also magazine editors, accomplished journalists, and many who've published books. So it keeps me sharp. And I love taking one day workshops myself--- it's a way to freshen up, get jolt of inspiration. At the Writers Center, I've taken, and warmly recommend, Khris Baxter's one day short screenplay writing workshop, Lindsay Reed Maines's yoga and writing one day workshop. And, though not a writing workshop, as I did find it extraordnarily helpful for my novel, I recommend Edward Tufte's splendid and entertaining one day course, Presenting Data and Information.

And two more recommendations: this fall, my amiga award-winning novelist, short story writer and essayist Leslie Pietrzyk will be offering two all-new one day workshops at the Writers Center, "Set Your Prose Free Through Collage" and "Flex Your Creative Muscles." Over at her blog, Work-in-Progress, she provides a full description of both.

More anon.