Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg: a delightful and beautifully made documentary film by Aviva Kempner. One a scale of 1 - 10, Madam Mayo gives this one 11 matzoh balls! Check out the trailer and read all about it at More anon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Microfinanzas México: Conversaciones sobre las finanzas populares

Excellent new Mexico microfinance blog, founded by my amiga Mary (María) O'Keefe. It has quite a line-up of experts. Check it out at

More anon.

Immigration Now: ¡Oye tú Beristain!

Blog post by Gustavo Cano about Javier Beristain Iturbide: Immigration Now: ¡Oye tú Beristain!

South Africa: A Traveler's Literary Companion edited by Isabel Balseiro and Tobias Hecht

New from Whereabouts Press, a book for travelers who want insights more profound than a mere guidebook can provide: South Africa: A Traveler's Literary Companion edited by Isabel Balseiro and Tobias Hecht. As an avid reader of international fiction and as a fellow Whereabouts Press anthologist (mine is Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion) I am so delighted to see this excellent new addition to the series (and with such a gorgeous cover!). A couple of the authors, Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coatzee, are familiar names, but the majority are new to me and I am sure, most American readers. The section under "Gauteng" includes works by Ivan Vladislavic, Es'kia Mphahlele, Ahmed Essop and Zacharia Rapola; "Kwazulu-Natal" includes Alan Paton, Ronnie Govender, and Lewis Kkosi; "The Western Cape", Jan Rabie, Richard Rive, J.M. Coatzee,Rustrum Kozain; and finally, "The Rural Areas, the Farm, and the Game Park" includes A.C. Jordan, Oliver Schreiner, H.C. Bosman, Gcina Mhlope, Modike Dikobe, and Nadine Gordimer. The cover's painting is "Repositioning II" by Bongi Bengo 2009). More anon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Charles Blanchot: Mémoires: L'Intervention Française au Mexique

Another Maximilian bibliography note: Mémoires: L'Intervention Française au Mexique by Charles Blanchot. Published in 1911, this very rare memoir by Charles Blanchot, aide-de-camp to General Bazaine, Supreme Commander of French Forces in Mexico during Mexico's Second Empire, took me several years to find. Year after year, I "googled" it until finally it showed up on the page of an antique book dealer in Paris. The price was, in Euros, the equivalent of 700 dollars. I'll admit I waffled. But I am glad indeed that I bought it--- or rather, the 3 volume set with its pages uncut (I had to use a steak-knife to slit them open--- quite an operation). There is so much in here that has never seen light in either Spanish or English, for instance: the powerful if behind-the-scenes role of Doña Juliana de Gómez Pedraza, widow of Manuel Gómez Pedraza, and the vicious if, as Blanchot suggests, unfounded rumors circulating in Mexico City about Bazaine in 1866-7. Blanchot, who married an American of French origin in Mexico City, also offers a detailed and lively portrait of Mexico City society at the time. His memoirs informed several scenes in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, in particular, the chapters "March 1, 1866: Basket of Crabs" which includes the mention of the very suspicious and sudden death of French financial expert Monsieur Langlais and "March 4, 1866: Rio Frio," about the murder of Baron Charles d'Huart. Not in my novel but fascinating and sad reading is the chapter on his arrival with General Bazaine in Toulon, France. More anon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Konrad Ratz: Tras las huellas de un desconocido: Nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo

Aficionados of Mexican history take note! Tras las huellas de un desconocido [In the Footsteps of an Unknown](Mexico City: Siglo XXI / Conaculta / INAH, 2008), is a crucially important new work by Dr. Konrad Ratz, Austrian expert on Mexico's Second Empire. Covering a wide range of previously unknown or only superficially explored subjects relevant to Maximilian's life and brief rule in Mexico, Tras las huellas de un desconocido is a both fascinating and entertaining read. As Dr. Ratz writes in his introduction (my translation):

"This book does not attempt to rewrite the complete history of Mexico's Second Empire, but it does aim to fill several gaps in Mexican historiography by bringing forth accounts translated from the German, which because of the language barrier, have not been considered in Mexico. These are not only memoirs and diaries of the period, but also recent monographs, both published and unpublished, in German.

In 1974, the Austrian historian Adam Wandruska (1914-1997) professor at the University of Vienna and a leading expert on the history of the Habsburgs, formed a interdisciplinary group of researchers for an exhibit on "Maximilian of Mexico" at Hardegg Castle in Lower Austria. This had been the property of prince Karl von Khevenhueller, who had fought for Maximilian as commander of the Austrian hussars. Subsequently he became a friend of Porfirio Diaz. This lifelong friendship, apart from various extraofficial diplomatic contacts, greatly contributed to the resumption, in 1901, of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Austria, which had been severed in 1867...

... [In addition to these contributions by Professor Wandruska and his group of researchers, this work] covers the unpublished memoirs of the gardener and botanist Wilhelm Knechtl; the diary of Johann Stefan, first engineer on the Novara; published works on the Austrian Volunteer Corps by Edmund Daniek and on the Mexican Austrian Volunteer Corps by Felix Gamillscheg; the research by Norbert Stein on Father Fischer; a brief but essential and richly detailed work by Johann Lubienski on government institutions under Maximilian, and Felix Wilcek's thesis on Maximilian's income and expenditures in Austria.... [And] in a final chapter I have added a biographical sketch of Egon Cesar Corti, biographer of Maximilian and several other European sovereigns and dignitaries. Unfortunately, given the lack of biographical information and misunderstandings with the University of Vienna, which never offered him a professorship, the 50th anniversary of his death in 1953 went unnoticed in Mexico as well as his native country."

As Mexican historian Patricia Galeana writes in her prologue (my translation),

"...Konrad Ratz's work has great value for Mexican as well as Austrian and European historiographies on the Second Empire. He brings us new details and in such clear prose with short chapters that we may read it as a novel, though it is based on solid foundations thanks to meticulous historical research.... we discover the weaknesses and strengths of Maximilian, the romatic politician who dreamed of being the new Quetzatcoatl, Mexico's savior."

Tras las huellas de un desconocido has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation. Indeed, no bibliography of Maximilian and the Second Empire would be complete without it.

I'll be posting a note about some of Dr. Ratz's other works anon.

P.S. Yes, I was able to incorporate some of this new information into my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. In particular, it helped bring into a sharper focus that shadowy arch-conservative intriguer, Father Fischer; Maximilian's education; and Maximilian's relationship with Count Bombelles.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guest-blogger Poet and Mariachi Expert J.D. Smith's Top 5 Mariachi Links

It's Cinco de Mayo in July (¿porqué no?) and apropos of his beautiful and award-winning new bilingual children's book, The Best Mariachi in the World / El mejor mariachi del mundo, poet J.D. Smith is guest-blogging with his top 5 mariachi links. Over to you, J.D.!

1. There are at least 20 annual mariachi festivals in the United States. The largest is the San Antonio Mariachi Festival, which includes students, professionals and music educators from the Southwestern United States and Mexico. The Festival’s site also links to other resources and a message board.

2. A headliner at several mariachi festivals and an essential part of the music’s history is the original Best Mariachi in the World, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Established in 1897, this group both maintains and carries forward the tradition.

3. While mariachi began as a male-dominated genre, women in both mixed and all-female groups have become increasingly important. Mariachi Queen Laura Sobrino, who played at the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, provides an overview in the February 2009 newsletter of the National Association for Music Education.

4. In some rinconcito of your heart, you know that at least once in your life you want to dress up as a mariachi. You can find examples of traditional clothing and learn some of the terminology at Mariachi Connection.

5. One article can hardly cover the whole subject, but there’s a morsel on cocina mariachi in Issue #25 of Saveur.

--- J.D. Smith

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

P.S. Two of my own Mexican music play-lists are on-line at:

The Happy Booker Blog (apropos of an audio CD, which was itself apropos of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion)

Largehearted Boy (apropos of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire).

Real Food

Here's the future of (real) food: Today in the Washington Post's Food section, an excellent article about the local food movement. Some relevant links:
*The Haul That Helps Small Farms by Emma Brown, Washington Post.
*To view the video that accompanies this story, click here.
*The Local Flavor, a farm buyers club (direct-to-consumer)
*James C. Hanson, UMD economist working on sustainable agriculture and small farms
*Polyface Farms (and be sure to read their story)
*Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omivore's Dilemma.
More anon.

Picadou (aka Princess of the Known Universe & Beyond) in the Parque Juarez, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The new novel I'm working on is tentatively titled The Museum on the Parque Juarez. But it's not set in San Miguel de Allende, rather, a fictional town which, as I see it now, is a sort of amalgam of San Miguel de Allende, Ajijic, 1960s-era Cuernavaca, and Antigua, with a touch of Peggy Guggenheim's Venice. There needs to be a tomb of a conquistador. And many fabulous dogs. (All dogs are fabulous, we know this.)

More anon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women, edited by Richard Peabody

Viva Richard! Richard Peabody's latest anthology of Washington DC women writers, Gravity Dancers, has just been published and was launched with a standing-room only reading / celebration at Politics & Prose last Sunday. Check out the fiction by Maud Casey, Dylan Landis, Katharine Davis, Helen Hooper, Elisavietta Ritchie, Lynn Stearns, Paula Whyman, Laura Zam, and many more. And is this not a bulls-eye of a cover? The painting is by Sheep Jones; book design by Nita Congress.

The other Peabody anthologies of Washington women writers are:
Grace and Gravity
Enhanced Gravity
Electric Grace

P.S. You can read "Manta Ray," my short story from Grace and Gravity, in its entirety here.

More anon.

Frank S. Joseph's Notes on the June '09 American Independent Writers Conference

Novelist Frank S. Joseph recently shared with his e-mail list his notes on the excellent June '09 American Independent Writers Conference, and with his permission, I herewith share them with you:

Dear Writer List:

Following is from my notes of the American Independent Writers annual meeting last Saturday 6/13 in D.C.:

Panelists: Four fiction agents

You must sell 100,000 copies in one week to break into national best-seller lists.

Panelists agreed on a number: 75% of projects they represent get sold (eventually).

Blog by Chuck Sambuchino was mentioned approvingly, "Guide to Literary Agents"

A self-published book must sell 5,000 copies to get an agent's attention, panelists agree.

Panelists: Four nonfiction agents

What's Selling Now:
* Barnes & Noble's shelf categories, and Amazon's ways of characterizing books, have had a big impact on editors in terms of genres they are looking for

* So books that cross or combine genres are more challenging to sell

* "Practical" self-help categories are selling well -- children's, cooking, health, gardening, home, "retro" subjects related to the down economy

* A great "platform" is great to have (viz., Harvard Medical School); 'Get famous first, then write your book'

* For major publishers, 20-30,000 copies is a viable hardcover project; for university presses, 15,000 copies.

* Big sales of your first book are crucial for your subsequent career as an author.

(This was a terrific, inspiring address -- KD is one great speaker)

* Be a good liar

* Learn how to read

* Workshop or don't as you prefer ("you can't be taught to be a writer" -- you just have to practice, fail, then "fail better")

* Write what you want to write; write for love; write for yourself

* "Literature is an endless source of courage and confirmation"

* Don't be afraid

* Be stubborn, persistent; "take no for an answer with dignity and grace"

* Publishers Marketplace is now available online for a fee -- searchable database

* Poem: "Expect everything, and anything is nothing/Expect nothing, and anything is everything"

* Pay attention to publishing as a business

* A great deal depends on nexus/circumstance/chance

* Find a champion; a VP of Amazon fell in love with "The Stolen Child" and made the novel a success before it was ever published

* "In the end, nobody in the publishing business knows how to do this, especially in fiction"

* Be willing to(self) promote your book

* "Remember how and why you are a storyteller"

-- Frank S. Joseph

P.S. I also posted some notes about the "Other Times, Other Places" AIW conference panel I moderated with novelists Wayne Karlin, Olga Grushin, and Frederick Reuss. More anon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Historical Fiction: Washington DC AIW "PubSpeak" and Library of Congress

Here's what's next: two talks in Washington, D.C. about the story behind the very Washingtonian story of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and why it has been obscured for more than 130 years.

Thursday JULY 16, 2009 AIW PUBSPEAK
Details here.

Details here.

Who knew that Mexico once had a half-American prince? Or that this little boy’s future was hotly debated not just in Mexico but in Washington D.C. and in every court in Europe? Set in the mid-19th century when Maximilian von Habsburg was Emperor of Mexico, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is based on the true and never before completely told story about a half-American boy who, as in a fairytale, became the heir presumptive to the throne of Mexico and then, when his American mother wanted him back, a pawn in the struggle-to-the-death over Mexico's destiny. This novel incorporates original research into what is also a very Washingtonian story, for the prince's mother, née Alice Green, was from a prominent Washington family, and his father, Angel de Iturbide, second son of Mexico's first deposed emperor, Agustín de Iturbide, had come to Washington as a young boy and eventually served as the Mexican legation's secretary.

Photographs, excerpts and more can be found at

"Epic in scope...impressively researched...Mayo's reanimation of a crucial period in Mexican history should satisfy history buffs and those in the mood for an engaging story brimming with majestic ambition."
— Publishers Weekly

More anon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tune In: C.M. Mayo on Nuestra Palabra with Liana Lopez and Tony Diaz

This Tuesday evening (July 14, 2009) at 8 p.m. CST I'll be doing the Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say radio show with Liana Lopez and Tony Diaz, talking about my new novel based on the true story, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.
Writers Having Their Say (On The Air)
7:30pm - 8:30pm CST, Tuesday Evenings, 90.1 FM
(713) 416-5088 (cell)
Listen Live at (Pacifica - Houston)
or subscribe to our Podcast via iTunes

Two Lines: Call for Submissions, #17 edited by Natasha Wimmer and Jeffrey Yang

Message from Scott Esposito, Marketing Cordinator for the Center for Art in Translation (and by the way, founding blogger of Conversational Reading and editor, The Quarterly Conversation):

...we’re now accepting submissions for our 17th volume of the Two Lines anthology of literature in translation...The 17th volume will be edited by Natasha Wimmer and award-winning poet Jeffrey Yang and submissions are open through November 25, 2009.

For further details, see the Center’s website,

More anon.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Olga Grushin, Wayne Karlin, Frederick Reuss

How time zooms. I've been meaning to post something about the panel, "Other Places, Other Times: The Special Challenges of Writing and Publishing Historical and International Fiction," which I moderated (and participated on) at the American Independent Writers Conference in Washington DC last month. The other three panelists were novelists Olga Grushin, Wayne Karlin and Frederick Reuss. These three are not only among the most outstanding writers in the Washington DC area, but the entire country, so it was a priviledge indeed to hear them speak.

Herewith, a few notes:

Olga Grushin. The Russian-born author of The Dream Life of Sukhanov, a first novel that garnered scads of rave reviews, grew up in a radically different mileu than most American writers: in Moscow and Prague and surrounded by artists. In the panel, Grushin spoke of the challenges of not only imagining the point of view of a middle-aged man, but writing in English, which is her second language. She said, "I often find myself thinking of a saying of Charlemagne: 'to know another language is to have a second soul.'" One thing she said that especially intrigued me: "I don't let myself near contemporary fiction when I am writing." Check out Olga Grushin's bio and her fascinating interview with Library Journal.

Wayne Karlin. I met Karlin a few years ago in the strangest place--- a casino at Atlantic City. But no, not gambling; we were both signing books at a regional booksellers conference. I took home his novel The Wished-For Country, a richly poetic vision of mid-seventeenth century Maryland, and I've been a big fan of his ever since. I'll quote Richard Bausch, who says it best:

"In this tragically forgetful country, this country whose own history--- even the history told by the winners and the public figures--- is mostly lost, it has fallen to its best novelists to tell the whole, real story, and to make it indelible. Thatis the province of Truth, finally--- Truth, the old, abused word, one Pontius Pilate had so much trouble with--- and it is what divides all the writers worth reading from those who are not worth reading. Wayne Karlin is one of the truth-tellers. You read him and your spirit is enlarged, and you want immediately to re-read him, for savoring. Line by line, he is lyrical, precise, deeply insightful, and breathtakingly vivid. he has long been among the best writers we have in this country--- in fact, I believe he is among the best writers we have ever had. And this amazing book is moving, utterly involving, and finally unforgettable."

In the panel Karlin talked about the nature of the novel, how it is "a mirror we holdup to ourselves." He went on: "writers, even when they are creating situations of the utmost fanstasy mine their lives for what they've learned, what they've experienced... I believe as Conrad did, that a writer's main job is to give the reader surrogate experiences."

Indeed: "a vivid dream," to use John Gardner's term. Or a "virtual reality."

Read an excerpt from The Wished-For Country here.

Karlin is also the author several other novels, including Marble Mountain and Prisoners. He is also a translator of Vietnamese and has edited anthologies of Vietnamese writing, and his latest book, a work of nonfiction forthcoming in September 2009, is Wandering Souls, about an American soldier who, long after the war, returns to Vietnam.

Frederick Reuss recently published Mohr, a novel inspired by the true story of his uncle, a German writer and playwright well-known before the Nazi persecutions. From the publisher's catalog copy:

With the sort of enthralling narrative step that always marks his work, Reuss allows their story to rise from a cache of photographs he uncovered in Germany—photographs from the 1920s and ’30s of the exiled Jewish playwright and novelist Max Mohr; Käthe, the beautiful wife he left behind; and Eva, their daughter, who would live through it all but would never really understand what had happened.

The interplay between Reuss’s revealing prose and the real faces in nearly 50 photographs offers a reading experience that may be unprecedented in novels...

In the panel Reuss said, "Paradoxically, I feel that in creating Max and Käthe and Eva Mohr as fictional characters, I have come to know them more intimately that if I had stuck to facts."

Read this profile of Reuss and Mohr in the Washington Post; Colleen Mondor's review in Bookslut; and about his earlier novels, Henry of Atlantic City, Horace Afoot, and The Wasties, here.

More anon.

The Writer’s Center Announces Undiscovered Voices Fellowship

I'll be offering a new workshop at the Writer's Center this September 27th, a one day ony Dialogue Intensive. Meanwhile, here's some great news:

The Writer’s Center Announces Undiscovered Voices Fellowship
New Program Offers Writers Opportunity to Take Workshops for One Year

BETHESDA, MD (July 8, 2009)—The Writer’s Center announces the formation of a new initiative: the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship.

Because The Writer’s Center believes writers of all backgrounds and experiences should have an opportunity to devote time and energy toward the perfection of their craft, we are accepting applications from promising writers earning less than $25,000 annually to apply for our Undiscovered Voices Fellowship. This fellowship program will provide complimentary writing workshops to the selected applicant for a period of one year, but not to exceed 8 workshops in that year. We expect the selected fellow will use the year to make progress toward a completed manuscript of publishable work.

The selected fellow will be able to attend writing workshops offered by The Writer’s Center free of charge. In addition, the fellow will give a reading from his or her work at the close of the fellowship period (June 2010) and will be invited to speak with local high school students on the craft of writing.

To apply, candidates should submit
a) a cover letter signed by the candidate that contains the statement: “I understand and confirm I meet all eligibility requirements of the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship.” The cover letter should include information on the impact this fellowship would have on the candidate.

b) contact information for two references who can speak to the candidate’s creative work and promise

c) a work sample in a single genre:

· 8 pages of poetry, no more than one poem per page

· 10 pages of fiction, double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt

· 10 pages of nonfiction (essay, memoir, etc), double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt


· 15 pages of a script or screenplay

These items should be sent in hard copy to The Writer’s Center, Attn: Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, 4508 Walsh St, Bethesda MD 20815. The deadline is September 15, 2009.

About The Writer’s Center
The Writer’s Center, a 501(c) 3 established in 1976, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest independent literary centers. We provide over 60 free public events and more than 200 writing workshops each year, sell one of the largest selections of literary magazines in our on-site bookstore, and publish Poet Lore, America’s oldest continually published poetry journal. The Writer's Center is supported in part by The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

More anon.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Susanne Igler's Carlota de México

Carlota de México, Dr Susanne Igler's excellent biography of Mexico's Empress Carlota was published in Spanish by Planeta in 2002 as part of the Grandes protagonistas de la historia Mexicana series edited by Mexican historian José Manuel Villalpando. It offers a complete overview of Carlota's life, from her childhood as the princess of Belgium; her marriage to the Austrian Archduke Maximilian; brief reign as Empress of Mexico; psychotic breakdown in the Vatican; and the long years of her widowhood as a mad yet coddled recluse in Belgium. Igler's biography opens thus (my translation):
A Fairytale Princess

Mexican history is rich in surprising, dramatic, and even grotesque personalities, yet few have so excited the imagination, both collective and artistic, as the woman who, for a fleeting moment, was the Empress of Mexico. Today, more than 130 years after the Mexican State's struggle to define itself, there is abundance of films, soap operas, artistic testimonies, novels, plays, historical debates and -- yes!--- even restaurants named apropos of Maximilian's empire; more than the fleeting and superficial nature of this historical episode would suggest...

The work is amply illustrated with reproductions of portraits (including a charming one of Carlota as an toddler by Winterhalther), and photographs, and includes a chronology and bibliography. This is an important addition to any collection on the Second Empire.

P.S. A bibliography for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel about the Second Empire, is here.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe

One of the books that has most influenced my writing, and in particular, my ideas about narrative structure, is Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe. When I came upon it a few years ago, I was already a fan of Canadian novelist Douglas Glover and his notion of the story as net. In other words, even without the scaffolding of a formal plot (ye olde Fichtean curve), a net of images can cohere and indeed so powerfully resonate in the reader's mind that the net is the story. A satisfying story. It was directly--- literally, less than an hour--- after reading Glover's essays on the story as net and the novel as poem (now collected in Notes Home from a Prodigal Son) that I sat down wrote the one that became the title story for my first collection, Sky Over El Nido. In this story the images, woven throughout, have to do with flight: birds, nests, eggs, airplanes. What's the "plot"? A fistful of air.


Later, before beginning to write my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, I happened upon Talbot's The Holographic Universe, an elegantly lucid and very accessible overview of some of the (then) most cutting-edge theories in quantum physics and in particular, those of David Bohm. If the universe itself is a hologram, or has holographic characteristics, then this could explain why nets of images--- the suggestion of the whole in each of its parts--- can resonate with such strange power in a reader's mind.

Does my novel have that power? You decide. But one of the several paradigms I worked with while writing it was, again, the story as a net and, to borrow the title of one of Douglas Glover's essays, "The Novel As Poem." Yes, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a poem. And the main character is not a person but an idea--- the prince as living symbol of the future of the empire. Where does such an idea live? In many minds--- ergo, the novel has a crowd of characters, indeed, a net of characters, woven in among each other's minds and actions.

Just of few of the fleeting and repeating images: the Totonac bowl, Egypt, birds, sweets, twilights, composers, asparagus.

(Though indeed it does have a plot, and I worked with various paradigms--- Fichtean curve, Syd Field's three acts, and others--- while constructing it.)

Last night, I happened upon this video of pychologist Jeffrey Mishlove's interview with Talbot. It's well worth watching in its entirety. Sad to say, Talbot died of leukemia in 1992.

More anon.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

American Independent Writers: The Summer Membership Drive

For anyone (especially but not necessarily) in the Washington DC area who is serious about their writing, whether it be fiction, speechwriting, journalism, or freelancing of all stripes, here's a great offer: If you join American Independent Writers (previously Washington Independent Writers) in July or August, they'll waive the $45 initiation fee. I've been a member for several years now and highly recommend it. Read more about AIW and its many benefits here.

P.S. I'll be speaking at AIW's July 16 "PubSpeak" about The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. And ASAP, I'll be posting something here on this blog about the AIW conference in June, and the amazing panel I moderated, which featured novelists Frederick Reuss, Wayne Karlin, and Olga Grushin.

One Day Dialogue Intensive September 27 @ The Writers Center

Save the date: I'll be offering a new workshop, a one day only "Dialogue Intensive" at the Bethesda MD Writers Center this September 27 from 1- 4 pm. The link to register should be on-line shortly.


One of the most powerfully vivid ways to show character, relationship, conflict and/or mood is through the use of dialogue. For both beginning and advanced nonfiction writers, this workshop focuses on the use and misuse of dialogue, with a series of mini-lectures interspersed with brief exercises. The goal is that by the end of the workshop, your dialogue will be of notably higher quality.


C.M. Mayo is the author of the novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books); Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions), and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press), which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. For more about C.M. Mayo and her work, visit

Translating Bhima (Francisco I. Madero)

New ongoing project: click here to read.

UPDATE October 15, 2011: Spiritist Manual, my translation of Francisco I. Madero's secret book, will be published in November 2011 as an e-book by Dancing Chiva. Visit the book's website, which incudes a biographical note on Francisco I. Madero, Q & A, and resources for researchers.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Guest-Blogger Lucina Kathmann, Author of a Forest of Mathematics / Un bosque de matemáticas

This week's guest-blogger, writer Lucina Kathmann, is a long-time resident of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She works hard for the International PEN San Miguel Center's many programs, including a reading series, and in fact, just this morning, I received her e-mail announcing the San Miguel PEN 30th Anniversary Celebration this Saturday July 18 at Bellas Artes. 5 pm: Film, Breaking the Maya Code, with film maker David Lebrun present, 100 pesos and 8 pm: (even if you haven't gone to the film) Wine and cheese fiesta in the patio with reminiscences of San Miguel PEN, 1979-2009. (Want to join San Miguel PEN? Check it out here.)

Kathmann has recently published a most unusual book for tweens, teens and, as she puts it, "imaginative adults": A Forest of Mathematics/Un bosque de matemáticas. In this novel / math book, with illustrations by Fabian Nanni, animal characters in a forest present negative numbers, Cartesian coordinates, exponents, fractions, decimals and percents through "real-life" (of the forest) situations, worksheets included, and a young dragon whose wrongdoings are redeemed through math. Apropos of its publication, I asked Lucina to contribute five relevant links. Over to you, Lucina!

Hello Madam Mayo and Madam Mayo readers. Here are some recommended websites that come from my recent history.

When I was writing A Forest of Mathematics, I wanted to emphasize important steps recommended by the mathematician, who is the Bear, as “Bear Steps.” I did not want an artist's conception of a bear's paw print; I wanted accurate paw prints. This site has nice accurate black and white schematic prints from most mammals, both forepaws and rear paws. It will fill most “paw print needs.”

#2. Microsoft's Equation Toolbar
A Forest of Mathematics is a math book. It has a lot of special requirements, in particular in representing fractions and decimals. When I got to long division I was really stumped. How do you write say, 55 divided by 22? I finally had to learn to use an equation toolbar. If you don't have one and need one, I think this will help you.

#3. Decimales
The family of my editor in Argentina protested because they use commas instead of periods for decimal points. My kids in Mexico said they used periods. I investigated and found sites supporting both conventions, but I think the movement of history in Latin American mathematics is toward periods. I sent some website citations supporting my decision. Here is one.

#4. Chiron Books
Chiron Books has republished my bilingual story book Payshapes and the Bear, originally published in 2000 in Salta, Argentina, copies unavailable for years. The book has new stories and Spanish/English text on facing pages, better for language teaching. Chiron publishers Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin have recently won two prizes for their own children's novel Anna's World. Their website is spectacular and I know they have more technical feats in mind, so I recommend following their doings.

#5. How to List Your Book on
Chiron Books is already on the job with online distribution for Payshapes and the Bear, but my publisher for A Forest of Mathematics, Biblioteca de Textos Universitarios of the Catholic University of Salta, Argentina, does not have any way to distribute books. So I have gone through the rigamarole to put A Forest of Mathematics on myself. Pat Perrin from Chiron Books told me how. Here's where you start.

-- Lucina Kathmann

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