Monday, November 30, 2009

Feria Internacional del Libro, Guadalajara: Literal Magazine; Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

December 1

6:00 - 6:50 pm
LITERAL magazine presentation with editor Rose Mary Salum, C.M. Mayo, Tanya Huntington and Adolfo Castañón.
Location: Salon C, del área Internacional.

December 3, 2009

Book Presentation 1:00 - 1:50 (13:00 a 13:50hrs) The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Location: Salon Alfredo R. Pascencia, Salones planta alta de Expo Guadalajara

Roundtable Discussion 6:00 - 7:50 pm Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction
Alvaro Uribe (moderator), Christopher Michael Dominguez, Alvaro Enrigue, C.M. Mayo, Jorge Hernandez, and Vivian Abenshushan
Location: Salón 5 Expo Guadalajara

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogs Noted: The Long Now, Athleta Chi, Jennifer Howard, Shenandoah Breakdown, Maira Kalman

Athleta Chi
Cartwheels o' chi.
Maira Kalman
Drawings combined with story and the wry sense of humor.
Google Earth Blog
For cybertravelers.
The Long Now
And it's reeeeeally long!
Jennifer Howard
Excellent writer's blog.
Shenandoah Breakdown
By poets Heather Davis and Jose Padua.
More anon.

P.S. Please note Madam Mayo Blog's new schedule:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: guest-blogger or 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Karma Moffett's Tibetan Bell Experience

...activates the chakras... watch and listen. A book review anon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Videos Watched in 2009

Herewith the annual list of top 5 favorite videos I happened to view this year:

Tie for #1. "House" by The Electric Company
An animated video by Carmen D'Avino. A visual fiesta.

Going West
Books come alive in a very wacky way for the New Zealand Book Council.

#2. Design and Elasticity of Mind
A TED talk by MOMA Design curator Paola Antonelli.

#3. Manatee Makes the Bed
Just so, um, charmingly wierd.

#4. Novel trailer for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Video by Julia Sussner.

#5. Cirque de Soleil juggler Viktor Kee
Beyond Las Vegas: the Ukranian juggling sensation. What the human body is capable of! Holy smoke-a-roni!

---> Madam Mayo's Top 5 Videos Watched in 2008
---> Madam Mayo's Top 5 Videos Watched in 2007

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto). And the comments have been turned back on. More anon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Texas Book Festival

One of the perhaps surprising things about a book tour is that it's not all about the book; it's about meeting other writers, learning about their books, and, in this uber-connected age, learning about their websites and blogs. So I'm back (as of a couple weeks ago) from Austin's fabulous annual Texas Book Festival, where I participated on a panel --- "Imagination sin Fronteras: Wrestling with Mexico"--- with my fellow novelists Jimmy Santiago Baca (A Glass of Water), Barbara Renaud Gonzalez (Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me?), and Luis Alberto Urrea (Into the Beautiful North), moderated by poet and writer Katherine Oldmixon (so yes, we "wrestled" with Mexico in the cavernous Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol, a more than somewhat surrealistic experience...). I've been on a panel with Luis Alberto Urrea before: he lights up the room, literally. Though I'd heard of their work, this was the first time I met Jimmy Santiago Baca and Barbara Renaud Gonzalez-- two wonderful writers. And I also met with my amiga novelist S.Kirk Walsh, who was just back from a stay at Yaddo, and novelist (and blogger) Sergio Troncoso, down from New York City, and poet Sara Cortez, and many other members, including founding member Nora de Hoyos Comstock, of Las Comadres. As a "Latina de corazon" (after nearly 25 years married to a Mexican and living, mostly, in Mexico City, and writing about Mexico and translating Mexican work, etc.) I felt very welcomed by Las Comadres, and seriously impressed by what this nonprofit organization has achieved: 15,000 + membership and a national Latino Book Club. I did not see Southwest Review editor, Willard Spiegelman, but I did grab a copy of his splendid new book, Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness. Documentary photographer John Christian, whose haunting show, "Un viaje a Uxata," wrapped up last year at the University of Texas, also made an appearance. One writer I was especially sorry to miss: Edward Swift. When I think of Austin, I think of his wry and playful spirit. Check out his book, My Grandfather's Finger, and his art gallery in San Miguel de Allende here. Playful: that's Austin. When I got on the plane (connecting from Dallas), the change in vibe was palpable. Most amusing sight: The Grim Reaper and a bumble bee, strolling arm-in-arm down Sixth Street on Halloween.

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:

Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto).

And the comments have been turned back on.

More anon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Announcing New Schedule for Madam Mayo Blog

Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs Noted
Wednesday: Guest-Bloggers or my own 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

New features: you can now follow "Madam Mayo" blog via Networked blogs on facebook (see the widget over to the right) as well as Google (ditto).

And the comments have been turned back on.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guest-blogger Christina Baker Kline: 5 Quotes that Influenced the Writing of a Novel

What fun it was to run into my fellow VCCA resident, novelist Christina Baker Kline, at the recent Women's National Book Association Reading Group panel in New York City. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and the author of several novels, she has just published the intriguing Bird in Hand, which opens with a horrifying accident and then delves into the intricacies of betrayal. Read on!
Five Quotes that Influenced the Writing of a Novel

When I’m working on a novel I become obsessed with its themes, and look for inspiration anywhere I can find it. Paintings, photographs, films, poems, essays, novels – everything I take in is filtered through the lens of my current obsession. (I’ve written about some of the visual inspiration for my new novel, Bird in Hand, here and here.)

Recently I opened a file I kept while working on Bird in Hand. It’s filled with newspaper clippings, handwritten and typed pages, poems torn out of magazines, Post-it notes in soft yellow and acid green. One 2”x2” fragment – the bottom of a “To Do” list – has only this, in my handwriting: Don’t worry about starting. Just begin. No story is too large to tell. (Did I write these words, or was I quoting someone? Either way, I must have found them inspiring.)

Leafing through this file, I can trace the genesis of my ideas. The scrap of paper, for example, with phone numbers on one side and Four danger signs for a marriage: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, emotional withdrawal scrawled in black pen on the other. Below this I wrote, “Is [Bird in Hand] a love story or a tale of betrayal? Is it about finding your soul mate, or losing everything you hold sacred? How can the two stories be the same?”

Below are some passages I found in the file that shaped my novel-in-progress –- and why:

1) “I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or at least an unfortunate accident. I hadn’t learned that it can happen so gradually you don’t lose your stomach or hurt yourself in the landing. You don’t necessarily sense the motion. I’ve found it takes at least two and generally three things to alter the course of a life: You slip around the truth once, and then again, and one more time, and there you are, feeling, for a moment, that it was sudden, your arrival at the bottom of the heap.” -- Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

This novel-– which, like Bird in Hand, is about the accidental death of a child that sets in motion a series of events that changes the lives of the main characters-– had a huge impact on me. My own opening paragraph, I later realized, echoes the beginning of Hamilton’s powerful book.

2) “Those of us who claim exclusivity in love do so with a liar’s courage: there are a hundred opportunities, thousands over the years, for a sense of falsehood to seep in, for all that we imagine as inevitable to become arbitrary, for our history together to reveal itself only as a matter of chance and happenstance, nothing irrepeatable, or irreplaceable, the circumstantial mingling of just one of the so many million with just one more.” -- Alice McDermott, Charming Billy

Bird in Hand is about four people, two of whom betray their spouses. I was interested in writing about moral ambiguity, which McDermott so brilliantly parses in this novel. If you truly believe that your spouse is not your soulmate, and that your own happiness is vitally important, what do you do?

3) “Close to the body of things, there can be heard a stir that makes us and destroys us.”-- D. H. Lawrence, Study of Thomas Hardy

That people’s deepest feelings cannot be constrained by social norms or boundaries is an idea I wanted to explore in this book (and an idea that preoccupied Lawrence). Though two of my characters disrupt - and arguably destroy - other lives in their quest to be together, they are oblivious to all but their own happiness.

4) “It is a queer and fantastic world. Why can’t people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing.” -- Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

My four characters are constantly at odds. Their preoccupations, passions, and dreams are often in conflict. In developing this story, I wanted to give equal weight to each perspective. I was fascinated by the complexity of The Good Soldier, and at how skillfully Ford got to the core of his characters' motivations.

5) In truth, I did not read Chekhov’s short story “The Lady with the Dog” until after Bird in Hand was published. But this quote (from the Norton edition) is uncanny in its precise application to my story – down to the reference to birds:

“It seemed to them that fate had intended them for one another, and they could not understand why she should have a husband, and he a wife. They were like two migrating birds, the male and the female, who had been caught and put in separate cages. They forgave one another all that they were ashamed of in the past and in the present, and felt that this love of theirs had changed them both.”

At the end of the story, as at the end of Bird in Hand, the characters are on a precipice. Chekhov writes:

“And it seemed to them that they were within an inch of arriving at a decision, and that then a new, beautiful life would begin. And they both realized that the end was still far, far away, and that the hardest, the most complicated part was only just beginning.”

--- Christina Baker Kline

P.S. Baker Kline also hosts a blog, A Writing Life, for which Yours Truly recently provided this guest-blog post. Among Baker Kline's most popular posts: "My 10 Year Overnight Success."

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The reification of history as such recapitulates the ideology of the public sphere

Ya think so? That bit of gobbledygook is thanks to this nifty toy: Make Your Own Academic Sentence. More anon.

Guest-blogger Austin S. Camacho: Top Five Sites to Find Russia in Washington DC

The guest-bloggers are back here at Madam Mayo. It's been a long while since the last guest-blog post (short story writer Dylan Landis on 5 Magnetic Spaces, back in August), and an even longer while back to July when poet and childrens book writer J.D. Smith offered his top 5 mariachi links. If you've been following this blog for more than two days at a stretch, you know the reason is I've been on tour with my new novel. Enough said. This Wednesday: novelist Christina Baker Kline. Today: my fellow Maryland Writers Association member, and intrepid volunteer for more than one area writers association (bless him!), Austin S. Camacho, whose latest novel in his Hannibal Jones mystery series is Russian Roulette.

Hannibal Jones, the Washington DC, African-American private detective is forced to take a case for Aleksandr, a Russian assassin. He must investigate Gana, the wealthy Algerian who has stolen Viktoriya, the woman Aleksandr loves. Evidence connects Gana to Russian mob money and the apparent suicide of Viktoriya’s father. More deaths follow, each one closer to Viktoriya. To save the Russian beauty, Hannibal must unravel a complex tangle of clues and survive a dramatic shootout on Roosevelt Island, side-by-side with his murderous client.

So, the top 5 sites to find Russia in Washington DC? Herewith Austin Camacho's recommendations:

#1. The Russia House is a good place to start. The charming yellow stone building at 1800 Connecticut Ave. NW houses a group dedicated to promoting U.S. - Russia business, science, educational, and cultural cooperation.

#2. For those of us who are not international businessmen, the Russia House Restaurant and Lounge provides an elegant meeting place for Washington's integrated social scene. The caviar selection is impressive and, as I point out in Russian Roulette, they have one of the largest vodka collections in the District.

#3. I found a more official introduction to Russian culture at the Embassy of the Russian Federation not far away on Wisconsin Ave. NW. While researching my novel I found this stately building more welcoming than expected.

#4. The Russian Bazaar is neither a place nor an event, but a student organization at George Washington University created to promote Russian culture and awareness of Russian traditions. The Russian Bazaar brings together people from all over the former Soviet Union and others who are eager to experience diversity.

#5. But the official home of Russian culture in the U.S. is The Russian Cultural Centre on Phelps Place NW. The center’s primary goal is to help develop and foster positive relations between the US and Russia in the 21st century. Their motto: That Our Two Nations Never Again Polarize.

-- Austin S. Camacho

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

Blogs Noted: Mexico Today, Art Predator, Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art, Rachel Laudan, Mexico Cooks!, Cowgirl Yoga, Baker Kline, Page 69 Test

Mexico Today
News summary in English (mostly).
Rachel Laudan
Food witer extraordinaire based in Mexico.
Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art
Like the title says...
Mexico Cooks!
A culinary travelogue and gorgeous photos.
Cowgirl Yoga
Inspiring (but yoga in cowboy boots?)
Art Predator
I don't need to go to Burning Man, thanks, I'll just read all about it here.
Christina Baker Kline's A Writing Life
A novelist's take-- and her colleagues's.
The Page 69 Test
Wacky book promo confirming the holographic nature of the universe.
More anon.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sandra Gulland and Mistress of the Sun, Barbara Levine and Finding Frida Kahlo

If you're anywhere in the neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende this Thursday November 12, don't miss this! As part of the San Miguel Literary Sala series, Sandra Gulland will be talking about her latest and splendid novel, Mistress of the Sun, and Barbara Levine will also be talking about her book, Finding Frida Kahlo. This takes place at 5 pm in the Hotel Posada San Francisco (across from the jardin) and there's a wine reception to follow (donation 70 pesos). For further information, see the San Miguel Literary Sala website.

P.S. On Thursday, December 10th I'll be presenting my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, along with filmmaker and novelist Jan Baross.

More anon.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life"

Today I'm guest-blogging at novelist Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life" with this piece on how to break a writing block.

Christina Baker Kline's "A Writing Life" is an excellent and wide-ranging blog on writing--- one of the best I've seen in my nearly 4 years of reading blogs. Here are just a few of the recent guest blog posts:

Thirteen Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Done by Gretchen Rubin

Novelist Aimee Liu on Writing Like a Grownup

Q & A with Graphic Designer and Memorist Julie Metz on Judging a Book by Its Cover (Julie Metz's new memoir, Perfection, has one of the most arresting covers I've ever seen; she also designed the cover for Kingsolver's The Posionwood Bible.)

Baker Kline, an accomplished novelist, offers numerous posts herself. Here are two of her more recent:

What If: The Fear That Inspired My Novel Bird in Hand

My Ten Year Overnight Success

More anon.

Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction

New on my list of recommended books on the creative life: Annie Dillard's Living by Fiction, a book about... the world. I've had it on my shelf for years; finally re-read it last week. What a splendid book. She's also a master of the intended diction drop-- which is sometimes hilarious. More anon.

Update: Very fun: novelist Alexander Chee's personal essay, "Annie Dillard and the Writing Life".

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Red Room Blog Post: My Favorite Bookstore?

Photo: Yours Truly doing a reading and booksigning at the Bookworks in Albuquerque NM. Today over at the Red Room Authors Blog: "C.M. Mayo Celebrates a Batch of Bookstores": Vroman's, Kelper's, the Book Works, Bookworks (yes, they are two different bookstores), Blue Willow, Seminary Coop, Riverby Books, La Sombra del Sabino, and more.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dr. Julius Augustus Skilton and Maximilian's Portrait and Saddle

A fascinating new website now listed on my Maximilian page's links: Maximilian I Emperor of Mexico. It's about the American surgeon Dr. Julius Augustus Skilton and the upcoming auction of two items that have been handed down in his family: Maximilian's portrait and a Mexican saddle first given to Maximilian, then to Father Fischer (one of Maximilian's closest advisors) and then to Dr Skilton. You can see pictures and read all about the history of these items here. Dr Skilton was actually a Juarista. According to the website, after the U.S. Civil War, he "traveled on assignment for the New York Herald to Mexico. He is reported to have fled Mexico as he was sympathetic to the Juarez cause. In 1867 he returned to Mexico as Medical Officer and part of the escort of the Juarez family. He was also asked by the Mexican government [then the Republic under President Juarez] to exhume an examine the body of Maximilian before it was delivered to the Austrian Navy for its return to Austria." (For more about that horror show, see "La muerte del Emperador Maximiliano" por Dr. Szender Ede.) Later, in the 1870s, Dr. Skilton served as U.S. Consul General in Mexico. For anyone who wants to dig deeper, Dr. Skilton's papers are in the Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Carl A. Kroch Library at Cornell University and also the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

More anon.