Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blogs Noted: C. Marina Marchese, Seth Godin, Savita, Another Bourgeois Dilemma, Sandra Gulland, David Agren, Frederick Ruess, Fred Ramey

Red Bee Blog
By C. Marina Marchese, author of Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. I love what she's doing with honey and apitherapy-- and introducing the concept of terroir.

Seth Godin
Getting better at seeing.

Savita Blog
A nice design blog.

Another Bourgeois Dilemma
(Yeah, I have a lot of these. But not bike trips to Tuscany. I hate bike trips.)

Sandra Gulland
About research overload! By a brilliant novelist.

David Agren
Mexico City-based freelance journalist.

Frederick Reuss on Huffington Post
My fellow DC novelist and Unbridled Books author on "Secrecy and Censorship: Book Burning in the Era of E-Books" (Can a laptop spontaneously combust? Just wondering.)

Three Guys, One Book
A guestblog post by Fred Ramey about Unbridled Books.

More anon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Podcasting at and iTunes

Adventures in podcasting continues. Listen in to the free downloads at either or itunes. A few of the topics I'll be covering in the coming weeks: a talk about some literary journals (reprise of a talk I gave at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara, celebrating Literal); "Hell I Knew It Was Paradise" and "Lay Thine Hand Upon Him" from my memoir of Baja California, Miraculous Air; and, for writers, "How to Break a Block in 5 Minutes."

Here's the menu so far:

"Twelve Tips to Help You Hang in There and Finish (and Sell) Your Novel"
A blog post for "Madam Mayo," and a guest blog post for "Work-in-Progress" and the Writer's Center's "First Person Plural."

El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. Lectura de un extracto del prímer capítulo, "La consentida de Rosedale"
C.M. Mayo lee un extracto de la novela El último príncipe del Imperio mexicano, traducida por el novelista y poeta Agustín Cadena (Grijalbo Random House-Mondadori, septiembre 2010).

"The Writing Life: A Report from the Field"
A panel discussion at the Artlantic Festival at the Writers Center, May 22, 2010, with Yours Truly, David Taylor, Alan Elsner, Kevin Quirk, and moderator Jessie Seigal.

C.M. Mayo at the Library of Congress, July 20, 2009
A presentation of the the novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and an overview of the author's research in the various archives in the Library of Congress, among them, the papers of the Iturbide family, the Emperor Iturbide, and the circa 1920 copies of a substantial portion of the Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko archive in Vienna. This lecture was sponsored by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, which is the center for the study of the cultures and societies of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish Borderlands, and other areas with Spanish and Portuguese influence.

C.M. Mayo at the Historical Society of Washington DC, October 18, 2009
A presentation of the the novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, with special emphasis on Washington DC history (notably Georgetown and Rosedale, the historical estate in Cleveland Park) and an overview of the author's research in the Historical Society of Washington DC.

And more anon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guestblogger Kyle Semmel: 5 Quick Links "Out of Denmark"

One of the most vital aspects of Washington DC's literary scene is its international flavor. After all, the city is home to embassies from almost every nation on earth, many multinational agencies, from the IDB to the World Bank, not to mention the many universities with their language and international relations programs and so much more. I write about Mexico and translate Mexican writing, so I've long been a big fan of Washington DC's Mexican Cultural Institute, and I salute the community of Spanish language writers and Spanish translators. But many other embassies offer cultural programs in DC, and many other translators work with untold numbers of languages. That said, it is rare to find an event of such quality as one coming up tomorrow -- Thursday September 23, 2010-- at the nearby Writers Center (just over the border) in Bethesda MD. I asked the organizer, my amigo the writer and literary translator Kyle Semmel, to provide details. Over to you, Kyle!

It’s a good time to be a translator (as I am) of Scandinavian literature. But it’s an even better time to be a reader of Scandinavian fiction.

Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (translated by Reg Keeland) holds the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and his two previous novels still place first and second on the NYT's paperback bestsellers list. Larsson and a handful of other Scandinavian crime novelists —- Henning Mankell, Camilla Läckberg, and Karin Fossum, among them -— have won so many fans worldwide that readers might be surprised to learn that the literature of the far North isn't all dark nights and darker passions, serial killers and sinister plot twists.

For several years I've translated a number of Danish authors. And I'm pleased to say that three of Denmark’s leading authors—- Pia Tafdrup (whose travel essays I've translated a few of), Simon Fruelund (whose work I translate regularly), and Naja Marie Aidt—- will appear at The Writer’s Center, where I work as the communications and publications manager and interim director, as part of the 2010 Fall for the Book Festival. The event is made possible by a grant from the Danish Arts Council’s Committee for Literature and support from the Embassy of Denmark.

Come on out to The Writer's Center for this one-of-a-kind event. It's free, and you'll have the opportunity to see some of Denmark's finest authors-- before they're household names here in the States. Here are some quick links:

1. For the event at The Writer's Center
2. For Naja Marie Aidt (with English text)
3. For Pia Tafdrup (with English text)
4. For Simon Fruelund (a short story, my translation) at A River & Sound Review
5. For Danish literature in general: Danish Literary Magazine

-- Kyle Semmel

P.S. Check out Kyle Semmel's interviews with Danish writers Naja Marie Aidt and Pia Tafdrup for FIRST PERSON PLURAL.

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

Monday, September 20, 2010

San Francisco, 1905

A mesmerizing short film of a drive down Market Street in San Francisco, in 1905, just before the earthquake.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blogs Noted: Neuronarrative, Listen Well, Rose Rosetree, Mex Files, Farmer in the Dell, Obit-Mag, American Egypt

By David diSalvo

Debbie Stier
Publishing expert. A treasure of a blog for those interested in where, by digital Jove, is this all going?!

Listen Well
Mystic audio.

Mex Files
by Richard Grabman, author of Gods, Gapuchines, and Gringos: A people's History of Mexico

American Egypt

Deeper Perception Made Practical
By Rose Rosetree. Movie star auras! Gray slime! This is must reading for novelists. I am not kidding.

A Farmer in the Dell
For those who love exclamation points! But seriously, this is a charming and informative blog. And the food looks delicious!


More anon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest-blogger Kim Roberts: Top 5 Spoken Word Venues in Washington DC

The literary scene in Washington DC, which would be a shining beacon anywhere else in the nation or the world, crouches in the dense and noisy shadow of the national government and all its multitudinous personalities' to-ings and fro-ings and shennanigans from Capital Hill to K Street & etc. Alas! Anyway! I'm a jump-up-and-down fan of Kim Roberts' splendid work, both as a poet and as an advocate for poetry, and not only within the Beltway, but radiating far beyond. The author of three books of poems, including the forthcoming Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, January 2011), Roberts also edited the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010) and, for over ten years, has edited the acclaimed online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Her new book is Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Editions, September 2010, in partnership with The Word Works, Inc. and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC), for which there will be two -- both free and open to the public-- launch events:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm
As part of The Humanities Council of Washington, DC 30th Anniversary Celebration and Grantee Showcase. Exhibits, readings, performances, and film, with an awards ceremony, and a champagne and cake reception. Historical Society of Washington, Old Carnegie Library, Mount Vernon Square, DC. (202) 387-8391. (Free, but reservations required.)

Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Featuring Kim Roberts, with performances by Chris August, Twain Dooley, Gowri K, and Patrick Washington 15th Annual Baltimore Book Festival, Festival Stage, Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD.

Over to you, Kim!

Washington, DC is one of several cities at the forefront of the development of spoken word, notable especially for its development of youth poetry slams (we were the first city to have one!), the range of organizations that nurture women performers in particular (or were run by dynamic women performers such as Toni Blackman and Toni Asante Lightfoot), and for being the only city in the nation to offer monetary grants to support hip hop arts and culture. Lip Smack, arranged in a timeline format, covers the years 1991 to 2010. For more information, or to order a copy (for only $10!):

Want to hear the poetry? Here are my top five spoken word venues in the Washington DC area:

# 1. Busboys and Poets
Three combo restaurants and performance spaces, Busboys has named a Poet-in-Residence at each, and runs several popular ongoing reading series. The two locations in DC are at 14th and V Streets NW, where Derrick Weston Brown hosts the 9 on the 9th series, usually packed, and at 5th and K Streets NW, where Holly Bass reigns supreme over their Open Mic series. Busboys is also home to the DC Poetry Slam Team.

# 2. Sulu DC
A monthly showcase of Asian American and Pacific Islander American performers that takes place at Almaz Restaurant and Lounge in the U Street neighborhood. Events usually combine spoken word with live music, stand-up, and video. Try to catch Regie Cabico when he takes the stage.

# 3. mothertongue
Although this series has reduced its programs from monthly to about four showcases a year, it is still going strong. Performances take place at the Black Cat on 14th Street NW, and admission fees benefit a rotating series of area nonprofit social service organizations. This all-women performance venue has nurtured some of the region's top performers.

#4. DC Guerilla Insurgency
Although they run an indoor space in the colder months, the way to really experience this group is on warm nights when they converge on Dupont Circle. The insurgency specializes in poetry of confrontation and resistance, to a backbeat of hand drums.

# 5. Beltway Slam Team
There are two slam teams representing DC, as of this summer. The DC Slam Team meets monthly at Busboys, but a looser, more interesting group has formed that combines spoken word performers from DC and Baltimore. Meeting monthly at The Fridge in the Barracks Row section of the Eastern Market neighborhood. Try to catch Chris August or Sonya Renee.

--- Kim Roberts

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

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 15th in Mexico of 1865

This year marks both the centennial of Mexico's Revolution and the bicentennial of its Independence from Spain, the latter traditionally celebrated with "El Grito" (the shout) on the evening of September 15th, with a militrary parade and more celebrations to follow on the 16th. (Many Americans confuse Cinco de Mayo with Independence. In fact, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a temporary victory over the invading French Imperial Army at the city of the Puebla on May 5, 1862.)

A little awkwardly for a Republic, not one of the first but the definitive leader of Mexico's Independence was Agustin de Iturbide, known as "the Liberator" who crafted the Plan of Iguala, and then set himself up as emperor. As he was unable to pay the army (among other challenges), he had to abdicate soon thereafter and, to make a labyrinthical story short, he was executed by a firing squad in 1824.

For much of the past century, when modern Mexico was remaking its image in the wake of the Revolution of 1910, Iturbide was widely considered an embarrassment, almost a cartoon character-- an emperor, with a crown?! And it's not uncommon even today in Mexico to mention his name and get a chuckle. But in the 19th century, when Mexico was embroiled in revolutions and foreign invasions--- this a time when the monarchical form of government was still, and certainly in Europe, widely (if not unanimously) considered the most viable and stable model of government--- many people, and in particular, conservatives, and including the leadership of the Catholic Church, considered the martyred Iturbide a hero.

Ironically then, when Maximilian von Habsburg accepted the throne of Mexico-- with the support of the Church, not a few Mexican conservatives, and the backing of the French Imperial Army-- one of the first things he did, in 1865, was celebrate Mexico's Independence!

You might be shaking your head over this. Backed by the French Army, the ex-archduke of Austria celebrates Mexico's Independence?

But this was, in Maximilian's mind at least, a savvy politcal move, for he was also also celebrating Agustin de Iturbide--- that is to say, the hero of Mexican conservative nationalists--- and--- more irony--- Morelos, one of the original leaders of Independence (not an ally of the more conservative Iturbide, to be sure).

Why did Maximilian celebrate Morelos? Here's a key: Morelos's illegitimate son, Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, a general and ex-ambassador to the United States, had been a prime mover behind the offer of the throne. (Once the French occupied Mexico City, in the year before Maximilian arrived, Almonte had served as President of the Regency. When Maximilian arrived, Almonte became his Gran Mariscal de la Corte and his wife, chief lady of honor to the Empress Carlota.) In sum, Maximilian owed his position in Mexico, in part, to Almonte, and Almonte's ongoing support was necessary to keep the Mexican Imperial Army in line.

Maximilian's celebration of September 1865 was an elaborate one and it included a solemn ceremony in which the children and two grandsons of Agustin de Iturbide were elevated to the status of Imperial Highnesses.

Childless himself, Maximilan made a contract --- negotiated, though not signed, by none other than his wife, the Empress Carlota--- with the Iturbide family, in which the two grandsons of Iturbide would be handed over to his custody. Maximilian was to be "co-tutor" along with Josefa de Iturbide, a spinster aunt. The parents of one grandson, Salvador, had both died, and as Salvador was a teenager, he was sent to school in France. The parents of the two-and-a-half year old Agustin de Iturbide y Green, Angel de Iturbide (second son of the Emperor Iturbide) and Alice Green de Iturbide, an American from a prominent Washington DC family, were exiled, much against their will. They immediately went to Washington, to meet with Secretary of State Seward, and then to Paris, to lobby with U.S. Minister John Bigelow to try to get their son back from Maximilian.

Those of you have been following this blog know that the resulting international scandal is the subject of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. To read all about it--- as well as my extensive original research in the Emperor Iturbide and Iturbide archives in Washington DC--- I invite you to visit my webpage which includes videos, podcasts, genealogies, photos, a bibliography, and an extensive Reader's Guide.

This week also marks the publication of the novel in Spanish, translated by Mexican novelist Agustín Cadena as El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. It will be in bookstores in Mexico City this weekend, and in the rest of the Republic the week after that. The publisher is Grijalbo (Random House-Mondadori).

Here is the 3 and 1/2 minute trailer (double click to view the larger screen):

More anon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Guest-blogger Richard Goodman on 5 Wondrous Works of New York Art

It's an honor and delight to once again host my amigo, Richard Goodman , founding member of the New York Writers Workshop and author of French Dirt and The Soul of Creative Writing, apropos of his latest, A New York Memoir. Over to you, Richard!

A New York Memoir is, essentially, a long love letter to New York City. It covers a period of thirty-five years, beginning with my knock-kneed arrival at Port Authority in 1975 down to the present day. The book consists of fourteen essays that chronicle people I've met and the inspiration I've received as a writer living here. It shows what it's like being young here, growing here as an artist and person, and growing old here. The author Susan Vreeland said the book is "a heart laid bare." I hope so.

Now comes the hard part. Maybe even harder than writing the book. Five links to....New York? This produced some intensive head scratching, and I can't afford that with what little hair I have. Just thinking of five books about New York (no movies? no plays?) would make me bald. So, I'm resigned to the fact that any list I create will seem insufficient. Given that, I decided to list five links to works of art about New York, regardless of genre, that express what was, and continues to be, one of my chief, valued reactions to New York City: a sense of wonder. Here they are:

1. Weegee's photography
Born Usher Felig, he became, simply, Weegee. As a professional photographer, he literally covered the waterfront in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. His black and white photographs of basic New York City street life are raw, real and intimate. Henry Miller called Brassaï "the eye of Paris." For me, Weegee was the eye of New York.

2. Paul Mazursky's 1976 film, Next Stop, Greenwich Village
The wonderfully romantic vision of 1950s bohemian New York is obviously autobiographical. It's suffused with a protective tenderness. It's also passionate and, when the main character's-- a young actor, of course-- mother, Shelley Winters, is on screen, terrifically funny. I don't know of a better expression of what it's like to "embrace New York with the intense excitement of first love."

3. E. B. White's Here is New York
Which brings me to the author of those quoted words above, E.B. White, and his little gem of a book, Here is New York. I don't claim to have read even a quarter of the books written about New York, but of the books I have read, this is by far the best, the most true. White captures the soul of New York City. Though he himself describes it as "a period piece," he is, for once, wrong. See for yourself.

4. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
I read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man at the perfect moment: when I first arrived in New York. I identified with it totally. Yes, it's about a young black man who arrives in the city twenty or so years earlier than I did and who lives in Harlem and becomes involved with a white-directed socialist cause, but those are just details, details. The book is about the great impact New York has on a young man's psyche and how he contends with new emotional realities he never could have imagined.

5. Eloise
Finally, on an entirely different note, I offer you Eloise. Yes, that six year-old, obviously wealthy, privileged little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel where Fifth Avenue meets Central Park. Not the kind of existence I have even remotely had here. So, why Eloise? Because for many a child-- and I would suppose more girls than boys, but not exclusively so by any means-- Eloise is New York. This is probably true much more for my generation, and I really have no idea of how many kids still read Eloise, but I would bet that she, and Holly Golightly, have been responsible for the purchase of many a train and plane ticket to New York by eighteen year olds.

--- Richard Goodman

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

Monday, September 06, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Blogs Noted: Food Shark, Susan Coll, Paula Whyman, Susan Higginbotham, Wonders and Marvels, Staring at Strangers, and More

Food Shark
I totally want to eat here.

Wonders and Marvels
A gem of a blog. Be sure to read the page "about"--- paradigmatic, it seems to me.

The Morgue File
Free-- really free-- stock photos for bloggers. (This is where I found this photo of the ducks. What's with the ducks? Hope they're not going to the Food Shark.)

Staring at Strangers
From New York to Michoacan and Somewhere in Between by Jennifer Rose.

El Cosmico
Last I checked it hasn't been updated since February of 2009, but, well, great concept.

Michael Hyatt
Check out his posts The End of Publishing as We Know It and Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek.

Via Leslie Pietrzyk's Work-in-Progress blog:

Susan Coll for Bethesda Magazine
By novelist Susan Coll-- check out her latest, Beach Week, which is getting rave reviews.

Paula Whyman for Bethesda Magazine
Plus check out her Bethesda World News: News from the Center of the Universe

Medieval Woman
By Susan Higginbotham, novelist. Check out her post on Google.

P.S. Book humor!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Five Quick Questions for Agustín Cadena, author of Las tentaciones de la dicha

This Wednesday's guest-blog post is in a somewhat different format-- instead of the usual 5 links, there are 5 questions for Mexican writer Agustín Cadena, apropos of his splendid new collection of short stories, Las tentaciones de la dicha. As I noted in a previous post, I've long been an admirer of Cadena's writing, and have translated some of his stories, most recently for a collection edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo to be published by Small Beer Press. This collection-- Las tentaciones de la dicha-- has been published by Editorial Jus in Mexico City. And check out the trailer-- it's one of the best book trailers I've seen.

Q #1: You have been living for some time in Hungary. Has Eastern European literature influenced your writing? In particular, the vampire stories?

A: I am not fully aware of the influences that are affecting my writing. It's true that I have been living in Hungary for almost eight years, but I think my inspiration sources come mainly from English and Russian literature. In relation to vampire stories, it's interesting to note that they are not really common in Eastern European literature, as many people would assume. They come rather from British and American (and nowdays even Swedish) authors.

Q #2: Has living in Hungary changed the way you see Mexico and Mexican literature?

A: I think it has. I have become more tolerant.

Q #3: How would you describe the Hungarian literary scene? (And how does it compare to Mexico?)

A: Hungary has a strong literary tradition, but this has bloomed in times of political crisis. Hungarians seem to need some degree of stress to let out the best of themselves. And I am not sure this is a good time in this sense. Most people are just happy celebrating their membership to the European Union, and trying to get all possible advantages from it. Something similar happens in Mexico, I think, though with a different background. There is a crisis in México, of course, but the literary elites do not seem to realize it. They are just too busy getting fat on grants and privileges, traveling, forging alliances, and bullying the weak. The necessary stress is missing.

Q #4: Blogging is such a new form and a radical change for those of us born in the 1960's. But with "El vino y la hiel" you've been blogging for a few years now and you have a multitude of followers. What would you advise younger writers about blogging?

A: Keep writing, keep posting, at least once a month. And try to define your profile from the beginning. Choose a few topics and keep writing about that.

Q #5: Of all the stories in this new collection, in your opinion which would best lend itself to a "vook"--- a video enhanced e-book?

A: Maybe the last one: “The Castle”.

P.S. More Cadena links:

Interview for Tameme (in English and in Spanish)

"Lady of the Seas" a short story by Agustin Cadena translated by C.M. Mayo

Las tentaciones de la dicha (Editorial Jus)