Friday, April 30, 2010

Liliana Valenzuela

Just back from Austin, where I gave a few talks about The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (currently being translated by Mexican poet, novelist, and blogger extraordinnaire, Agustin Cadena). It was a whirlwind visit, much, much too short but one of the highlights was that, after many years of nearly crossing paths, I finally got to meet writer and translator Liliana Valenzuela. Read more about her amazing work over at her website, . And below is a clip from a TV interview (in Spanish):

Staying Focused: Researching and Writing the Longer Book Project

Back in March I gave a talk for the Writer's Center's Leesburg First Friday series on "Staying Focused: Researching and Writing the Longer Book Project". At long last, I have posted the PDF of the handout.(See also "Resources for Writers.")

Here's a description of the talk:

To finish the marathon of writing a long book, more than talent, more than free time, more than anything, in fact, a writer needs mental toughness to avoid the myriad distractions, damaging self-talk, frustrations, and sometimes just plain old boredom along the way. C.M. Mayo, a long-time Writers Center workshop leader and author of several books, including a deeply researched travel memoir and, most recently, an epic historical novel based on the true story (and many years of original archival research), offers tips, tricks and more to inspire you to start, stay with, and finish your book.

More anon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Link Bait Generator vs Write Your Own Academic Sentence

Not that I'm not thinking of how the Mexico City Assembly just crunched over the neighborhood associations like a Panzer tank, the Euro meltdown, and the recent unpleasantness in the Weimar Republic of, um, Arizona, but: Link Bait Generator vs Write Your Own Academic Sentence. Anyway to combine these two?

Martin Solares: Instrucciones para dibujar una novela

El Centro Cultural del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo
le invita cordialmente a la conferencia ilustrada del escritor mexicano
Instrucciones para dibujar una novela

Para ver el volante con foto y dibujo, abrir este link:
Miércoles, el 28 de abril de 2010 a las 6:30 p.m.

“Si la novela es un animal evasivo, que sólo se muestra al que la ha perseguido, ¿qué tipo de rastros deja a su paso?

¿Cómo podría ser identificada, y cuáles son las formas que han aportado al arte de la novela algunos de los principales escritores latinoamericanos en el transcurso del último siglo?”

Martín Solares, novelista y ensayista mexicano, hablará sobre la geometría y costumbres de algunas de las novelas latinoamericanas más sobresalientes del siglo XX, y examinará las distintas formas literarias que han adoptado algunos novelistas, entre ellos Juan Rulfo, García Márquez, Roberto Bolaño, y César Aira.

Martin Solares estará en el Centro Cultural del BID luego de su participación en el PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature en Nueva York. La librería Pórtico tendrá a la venta su primera novela, Los minutos negros (Mondadori, 2006), y la traducción, The Black Minutes (Grove Atlantic, 2010).

La conferencia se ofrecerá en español. Auditorio Enrique V. Iglesias, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, 1330 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC (Metro Center, McPherson Square). Entrada gratuita. Para ingresar al edificio principal se ruega presentar un documento de identidad oficial con foto. 202.623.3558

More anon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Death Bear, You Are Fabulous

Read about Death Bear, the performance artist and energy-worker, in the LA Times.

Just had a conversation about art and money. I say, they do not necessarily go together. Follow the money and you'll end up in someplace like um, Wal-Mart's headquarters. Where I doubt they'd let Death Bear in the front gate to the parking lot. Not that I don't welcome money for my writing. But it gets complicated. Alice offers the Tulip Analogy. More anon.

Why Translation Matters

Edith Grossman's new book is on the top on my reading Himalaya.

P.S. I had a little to say about translations and editing translations in this recent post, about Literal, Tameme, El Corno Emplumado and Botteghe Oscure.

More anon.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Class and Conflict on the Other Side of the World

Here's what I'm up to this week, with three other novelists:

April 8, 2010 Denver CO
Associated Writing Programs Conference
Panel discussion: "Class and Conflict On The Other Side of the World"
10:30 AM to 11:45 AM
Scheduled Room: 210, 212 - Colorado Convention Center
R137. Class and Conflict on the Other Side of the World.
Panel Participants: Masha Hamilton, Thrity Umrigar, C.M. Mayo, Rishi Reddi.
As we become more globally linked, the role of fiction in providing a human and humane glimpse of "the other" becomes more important. But it is a challenging task. How do writers develop confidence to tell stories of cultures and countries where they don't reside? Why are such stories critically important? Authors—- who between them write about everywhere from Asia to the Middle East to Africa to Mexico—- explore this issue.

I'll post my notes on this soon. I plan to discuss a few scenes from The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire and, if there's time, talk a bit about the Reglamento y Ceremonial de la Corte, second edition, 1866. Read a few pages of that extraordinary tome here.

More anon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ten Reflections on the Occasion of "Madam Mayo" Blog's Fourth Anniversary

The fourth anniversary of this blog has just slipped past... It was March 31st. So, I've been blogging steadily for longer than I imagined, and it looks like I won't be giving it up any time soon. What have I learned / concluded, and what do I continue to ponder? A quick ten items:

1. Blogging is whatever you want it to be. And that morphs. I don't worry about this so much as I once did. I just blog.

2. Thanks to the robots (search engines, web-crawlers), when regularly added to, over time, a blog becomes an increasingly powerful magnet for web traffic. Translation: though there are readers following this blog via RSS feed, and more recently, google blogs and facebook networked blogs, many if not most of my readers on any given day happen upon "Madam Mayo" via a search. This blog gets hits almost daily for ancient posts such as "what to feed your dog" (2007), "Pug Discovers Crop Circle in Carpet" (2008) and "Michael Talbot's Holographic Universe" (2009). I also get several hits a day for Catherine Mansell Carstens-- a name I haven't written under for more than 10 years.

3. But blogging isn't necesarily all writing; it can integrate video, photos, widgets, hypertext-- the genre is getting rich, soupy, and ever-morphingly fascinating. So what does it mean to be a writer? Not what it did, I know that much.

4. Many more writers are beginning to understand the power of blogging. Bless 'em. (But would you all newbies please blog about something besides your new book?)

5. Integrating facebook and twitter does help boost traffic, yes.
Follow the tweets @madammayo

6. I'm finding it increasingly less interesting to even think about querying newspapers and magazines. I've written for the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Mexico, Inside Mexico, and the like, and until I started my blog, I assumed I would continue to do so. But I prefer to put my effort into writing books (long form) and blogging (short form). Maybe I'll rethink this. Sometime.

7. On several occasions, when pressed for time, and wanting to spend more on my fiction writing, I considered quitting the blog. But then I remembered point #1 (see above).

8. Because its archive of posts is so easily searchable, a blog can also be a cabinet of curiosities. I sometimes post links (such as 11 Cool Beans and Blogs Noted) just to I know I'll have them handy later. Yes, I could just "bookmark" them, but it's fun to think someone else might enjoy seeing them, too.

9. A really good blog is, alas, rarer than I had hoped. Here are a few of the few I've been following regularly for more than a year:

Apifera Farm
Donkeys, pie & art (and lots of lambs & lavender, too) by artist / farmer Katherine Dunn.

Buzz, Balls & Hype
Ruminations and more about the publishing biz by M.K. Rose advertising guru and author of potboilers (and owner of a very cute little white lapdog).

Christine Boyka Kluge
Gorgeous poetry blog.

Clusterfuck Nation
By James Howard Kunstler. His posts are sometimes a bit much of a curmudgeony downer, but for the zippy zingers, halleluja.

El vino y la hiel
By Mexican poet and writer Agustin Cadena.

Seth Godin
Squiblets du jour by an angel of art and compassion disguised as shiny-headed marketing guru.

David Lida
Photos and more about (mostly) Mexico City.

Founded by a DC area professor of political philosophy; very eclectic; love the fruit pix; could skip the torture parts, though.

Real Delia
By Delia Lloyd, political scientist turned generalist. "Tips for Adulthood" and more. An especially intelligent blog, and rich with links.

Right Reading
Eclectic, aesthetic & amusing, by California-based translator, writer, editor, designer Tom Christensen.

Derek Sivers
By the founder of CD Baby. A music business outside-the-box thinker.

Swiss Miss
By a New York-based Swiss designer. Astonishing fun, like a daily jelly bean in a wierdly yummy flavor.

Work in Progress
Announcements, guest-blogs, advice, reflections both practical and personal, by my amiga novelist Leslie Pietrzyk.

10. More anon.

The Bookshops of Mexico City

Many of my favorites are mentioned in this post by James Bridle at (My personal favorite is the Libreria Madero in the Colonia Centro.)

(Via StevenHartSite.)

More anon.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Writer's Life: A Report from the Field on May 22, 2010

On May 22nd, from noon to 1:00 p.m., AIW is hosting the panel, The Writer’s Life: A Report from the Field, featuring documentary film maker David Taylor; novelist C.M. Mayo; journalist Alan Elsner; and memoirist Kevin Quirk, in a lively discussion about their lives as professional working writers.

David Taylor co-wrote and co-produced the film "Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story," about the country as seen by people on the WPA Writers’ Project, aired on the Smithsonian channel and nominated for the 2010 Writers Guild Award. C.M. Mayo is the author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, an historical novel named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2009. Alan Elsner is the author of Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America’s Prisons, praised by the late Senator Edward Kennedy as making “an overwhelming case for reform.” Kevin Quirk is the co-author of Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for a New Life, 25 first-person accounts of passengers and first responders from the January 2009 plane crash and rescue that riveted the world.

This panel is one of many entertaining and educational events at Lit Artlantic, a regional three-day festival celebrating cross-currents in the arts. The festival is scheduled for May 20-22, 2010, at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, just a few blocks south of the Red Line’s Bethesda Metro stop. All festival events, including the AIW panel, are free and open to the public. For more information about the panel, visit the AIW web site, For information on the festival as a whole, call The Writer’s Center at (301) 654-8664 or visit their web site at

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Virginia Festival of the Book: History and Historical Fiction

A book festival brings writers to their readers (and vice versa), but for writers, so solitary by necessity, one of the best things about participating is that it's also a rare chance to meet colleagues. At Charlottesville's recent Virginia Festival of the Book, to promote my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, I was on a panel, expertly moderated by novelist Larry Baker, with historian A. Roger Ekirch (Birthright: The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped--- one of those stories so strange it couldn't be fiction), and historical novelists Ben Farmer (Evangeline, based on Longfellow's epic poem about the Acadians) and Mary Sharratt (Daughters of the Witching Hill, also based on a true story, about the powerful witches of Lancaster, England). Check out their websites; if you find the descriptions of their work even half as fascinating as I did, you'll be sure to look for their books. Much more anon.