Monday, July 08, 2019

“Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

REST: My writing assistant demonstrates the concept. With snoring.

By C.M. Mayo
This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my  workshop page.)


Monday, July 01, 2019

Lonn Taylor (1940-2019) and Don Graham (1940-2019), Giants Among Texas Literati

By C.M. Mayo

Say “Texas” and the images that pop into most people’s minds do not include literary figures and their oeuvres. But trust me, as one who has been working on a book about Far West for more years than I care to count, Texas has one helluva literary culture, a long-standing and prodigious production, yea verily flowing out as if by pumpjacks, and if not all, a head-swirling amount of it is finer than fine, and there are legions of readers who sincerely appreciate and celebrate it, as do I. 

Know this: Lonn Taylor and Don Graham, both of whom just passed away, were giants among Texas literati. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Q & A: Diana Anhalt on her Poetry Collection "Walking Backward"

By C.M. Mayo
This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is devoted to a Q & A with a fellow writer.

We have never met, but I feel as if we have. I think this is always true when one has read another’s such wonderful writing. But I did “meet” Diana Anhalt, in a matter of speaking, when years ago, she sent me a selection from her powerful and fascinating history / memoir of growing up in Mexico City, A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965. When, sometime later, I read the entirety of that beautifully written book itself–which I admiringly recommend to anyone with an interest in Mexico–I wrote to her, and we have kept in touch ever since. Apart from writing poetry and essay, we have this common: a lifetime, it seems, of living in Mexico City, and married to a Mexican. By the time we found each other’s work, however, Diana and her husband Mauricio had left “the endless city” for Atlanta, Georgia. (But ojalá, we will meet one day outside of cyberspace soon!)

Her latest, just out from Kelsay Books, is Walking Backward. From her publisher’s website, her author bio:


Monday, June 17, 2019

Journal of Big Bend Studies: “The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero”

Nope, that is not Francisco I. Madero,
pictured right, but J.J. Kilpatrick,
subject of Lonn Taylor’s fascinating article
in this same issue of the
Journal of Big Bend Studies, vol. 29, 2017.
By C.M. Mayo

A belated but delighted announcement: my article, “The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero, Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution” which is an edited transcript of my talk about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution (which is about and includes my translation of Manual espírita), came out in the Journal of Big Bend Studies in 2017. 

Because I am a literary writer, not an academic historian, it is a special an honor to have my work published in an outstanding scholarly journal of the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

For those rusty on their borderlands and Mexican history, Francisco I. Madero was the leader of Mexico’s 1910 revolution– the first major revolution of the 20th century– and President of Mexico from 1911-1913. This was not only a transformative episode for Mexico, but also for Texas.
My book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual, came out in 2014 (also in Spanish, translated by Agustín Cadena as Odisea metafísica hacia la Revolución MexicanaFrancisco I. Madero y su libro secreto, Manual espírita, from Literal Publishing.) So far so good: it has been cited already in a number of scholarly works about Madero and the Revolution.

Yes, Metaphysical Odyssey, is a peculiar title. In the article, I explain why I chose it and why, much as readers groan about it, I would not change it.

> Read the article here. (I had posted an earlier only partially edited PDF at this link; in case you’ve already seen it, as of June 17, 2019, it has been updated.) And you can order a copy of the actual printed article with all photos, and of the complete issue from the Center for Big Bend Studies here.
A few of the photos, not in the PDF:

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Writerly Tool for Sharpening Attentional Focus or, The Easy Luxury of a Lap Desk

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my workshop page.)

My writing assistant presents the lap desk. He likes the lap desk.
It means we all sit together on the sofa.

As far as the need for equipment goes, writing is not like casting bronze sculpture. All you need is a pencil and paper–any scrap will do. The formidable challenge most writers face is managing their attentional focus, that is to say, their ability to actually sit down and, ahem, actually write. 

Sheer willpower isn’t the only thing needed, however. Habits, even tiny habits, can help enormously. Here’s where some writerly material tools can be useful… perhaps. I say “perhaps” because what works for one writer may not necessarily work for another.

What do I mean by “writerly material tools”? Well, you could have a special pencil and make a ritual of sharpening your special pencil– so there you have a pencil, and you have a pencil sharpener. Not a budget buster. If you don’t know what to do with your money, why, you could go gung-ho for such writerly material tools as a gold-plated typewriter with your name engraved in curlicues or, say, some rococo-rama iteration of George Bernard Shaw’s rotating writing shed. >>Continue reading this post at WWW.MADAM-MAYO.COM

Monday, June 03, 2019

“What Happened to the Dog?” A Story About a Typewriter, Actually, Typed on a 1967 Hermes 3000

Of late I have become an enthusiast of typewriting— the machine I am working on these days is a refurbished Swiss-made 1967 Hermes 3000, and quite the workhorse it is! (Ribbons? Kein Problem.) Of course I do most of my writing on my computer using Microsoft Word; WordPress for this blog; not to mention multitudinous hours spent with ye olde email program. But for laser-level attentional focus–and percussive energy!– the typewriter is something special, and as time goes by, the more I use it, the more I appreciate it. In fact, I now use my typewriter for one thing or another (drafts, notes, letters, recipe cards) almost every day.

Though I have yet to meet him in person, my mentor in the Typosphere is none other than Richard Polt, professor of philosophy at Xavier University and the author of some heavy-weight tomes on Heidegger, and, to the point, a practical manual I often consult, and warmly recommend to anyone thinking of buying a typewriter, or, say, hauling Grandpa’s out of some cobwebbed corner of the garage: The Typewriter Revolution. As “Richard P.” Professor Polt also maintains a blog of the same name. And now he, Frederic S. Durbin, and Andrew V. McFeaters, have put together a pair of anthologies, both just published, the second of which, Escapements: Typewritten Tales from Post-Digital Worlds (Loose Dog Press, 2019), includes a story of mine: “What Happened to the Dog?”

(Well, I guess it got loose, haha.)


Monday, May 27, 2019

Q & A: Donna Baier Stein on "Scenes from the Heartland" and "Tiferet"

By C.M. Mayo
This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is devoted to a Q & A with a fellow writer.
It has been more than a couple of years now since I participated as faculty at the San Miguel Writers Conference, but shining bright in my memory is a chat in the emerald cool shade of some palm trees there with Donna Baier Stein. And then we crossed paths again at the Women Writing the West Conference. Pequeño mundo! And at some point in between, to my great honor, she published an excerpt from my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, in her journal, Tiferet. Donna Baier Stein’s latest book is a collection of short stories inspired by artworks by Thomas Hart Benton– one of the greatest of the greats among American artists, and a personal favorite of mine. >>CONTINUE READING THIS POST AT WWW.MADAM-MAYO.COM

Monday, May 20, 2019

Why Do Old Books Smell? / Plus from the Archives: "What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz"

By C.M. Mayo

A most wonderful rare book about a 17th century American poet, whom I aim to write about, has arrived in my library. But phew, it STINKS. It stinks so nasty, I cannot even bear to read half a page of it.

Monday, May 13, 2019

BatCat Press' Call for Submissions, Plus from the Archives: "Out of the Forest of Noise: On Publishing the Literary Short Story"

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my workshop page.)

Now that anyone and everyone and their dog, cat, budgie, llama, and chartreuse polkadot giraffe can start a blog, or for that matter an online magazine (dub your blog an online magazine, pourquoi pas?), I am rarely asked, with that gaze of yearning, as I so often was twenty years ago, how can I get published? These days, um, lift a finger and click “publish.” 

Nonetheless it remains a fact that for most poetry, short stories, and literary essays, discerning readers will be easier to come by when said work is brought out not by its author, but by a print magazine or imprint of repute. (There are exceptions, but that would be another blog post.)

Back at the end of March I attended the annual AWP bookfair— this is the biggest litmag scene in the US– and what struck me about it was how little things had changed in the past 20 years. There were Poet Lore, the Paris Review, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction— a whole host of venerable litmags that have been around since forever. (In the case of Poet Lore, that would be 1889.)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Michael F. Suarez’s Ted Talk “Glorious Bookishness: Learning Anew in the Material World” / Plus, From the Archives: “Translating Across the (US-Mexico) Border”

By C.M. Mayo
My favorite rare book historian Michael F. Suarez, SJ gives this excellent talk for TEDxCharlotteville:
Poco a poco (bit by bit), since January of this year I have been migrating selected and updated posts from Madam Mayo’soriginal Google Blogger platform to self-hosted WordPress here at www.madam-mayo.comMadam Mayo goes all the way back to the Cambrianesquely Blogasonic Explosion, I mean, um, 2006… This past week I’ve worked a bit on the translation posts, among them:
Originally posted October 29, 2015
Edited Transcript of a Talk by C.M. Mayo
at the annual conference of the
American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)
Muchísimas gracias, Mark Weiss, and thank you also to my fellow panelists, it is an honor to sit on this dias with you. Thank you all for coming. It is especially apt to be talking about translating Mexican writing here, a jog from the Mexican border, in Tucson—or Tuk-son as the Mexicans pronounce it.
I grew up in Northern California and was educated in various places but mainly the University of Chicago. As far as Mexico went, until I was in my mid-twenties, I had absorbed, to use historian John Tutino’s term, the “enduring presumptions.” Translation: I had zero interest in Mexico.
You know that old saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans?
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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Q & A: Joseph Hutchison, Poet Laureate of Colorado, on "The World As Is"

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is devoted to a Q & A with a fellow writer.


The World As Is: New and Selected Poems 1972-2015 by Joseph Hutchison
Photo by C.M. Mayo. 
(My own fave is “Poem to Be Kept Like a Candle, In Case of Emergencies.”)
One of the blogs I’ve been following for a good long time is poet Joseph Hutchison’s The Perpetual Bird. We have never met in person but I feel as if we have; moreover, we have friends in common, among them, poet, essayist and translator Patricia Dubrava– and if my memory serves, it was her blog, Holding the Light, that first sent me to The Perpetual Bird. Here on my desk I have Hutchison’s collection of his works of several decades, The World As Is. From publisher NYQ Books’ catalog copy:   >> CONTINUE READING THIS POST AT WWW.MADAM-MAYO.COM

Monday, April 15, 2019

Texas Pecan Pie for Dieters, Plus from the Archives: A Review of James McWilliams' "The Pecan"

By C.M. Mayo

What’s a Texas pecan pie for dieters? It’s the same as the normal pie– loads of pecans, butter, and sugar– but it’s a tiny pie. And I happen to have the perfect tiny Texas pie dish for it– a work of art by Alpine, Texas-based ceramic artist Judy Howell Freeman. It’s one of the loveliest pie dishes I have ever seen. My photo does not do it justice.


Monday, April 08, 2019

This Writer’s Distraction Free Smartphone (DFS): First Quarter Update

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my workshop page.)

As a writer your foremost resource is your creativity applied by the sustained power of your attentional focus.

Your foremost writerly resource is your creativity applied by the sustained power of your attentional focus. The Muse can gift you with a zillion ideas every minute of the day, but if you cannot plant yourself in your chair and stay focused on your writing, your book will ever and always remain an unfulfilled wish, a ghost of your imagination. 

Most people have forfeited more than a generous portion of their attentional focus to their smartphones– to checking and scrolling through text messages, social media feeds, games, shopping, news, YouTube videos & etc. Ergo, I would suggest that if you want to get some writing done, don’t be like most people: consider your smartphone use. Very carefully.

And honestly. Yes, smartphones are gee-whiz useful. But when you consider how much of your time and attention they can so easily suck up, day after day after day, you can recognize how exceedingly dangerous they are to you as a writer.

Monday, April 01, 2019

AWP 2019 (Think No One Is Reading Books and Litmags Anymore?)

By C.M. Mayo

After attending for more years than I can count, I swore off the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs after Seattle 2014 in lieu of fewer, more narrowly focused, and smaller writers conferences. If you’re not familiar with it, AWP is huger than H*U*G*E, with an eye-addling and foot blister-inducing bookfair, plus endless panels, scads of receptions (free cheese cubes!), readings, and more readings, and even more readings. Finding friends at AWP oftentimes feels like trying to meet up at Grand Central Station at rush hour. Of the few panels that do appeal, dagnabbit, they somehow occupy the same time slot. Then try finding a table for an impromptu group of 13 on Friday at 7 PM! But sometimes, never mind, it all aligns beautifully and you can find friends and inspiration and new friends and all whatnot!


Monday, March 25, 2019

Q & A: W. Nick Hill on "Sleight Work" and Mucho Más

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. This year the fourth Monday of the month is devoted to a Q & A with a fellow writer.

I was delighted to get the announcement for Sleight Work from W. Nick Hill, a poet and translator I have long admired. Sleight Work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License. The author invites you to download the free PDF from his website and have a read right now!

Here is one of the poems from W. Nick Hill’s Sleight Work which seems to me the very spirit of the book:


by W. Nick Hill

I live in a desert at the mouth of a mine.

The rocks and geodes I leave out on the sand.

If something fits your hand

Go ahead with it.


Monday, March 18, 2019

"Silence" and "Poem" on the 1967 Hermes 3000

By C.M. Mayo
My writing assistant wonders…. um, why?
Truly, I am not intending to collect typewriters. All shelf space is spoken for by books!! Last week I brought home a 1967 Hermes 3000 because (long story zipped) my 1961 Hermes 3000 is temporarily inaccessible, and it was bugging me that my 1963 Hermes Baby types unevenly and sometimes muddily (which could be a problem with the ribbon, but anyway), and I had a deadline to type my short story “What Happened to the Dog?” for the anthology COLD HARD TYPE (about which more anon).

Well, obviously I had to buy another typewriter!

I dare not buy anything but a Swiss Hermes. The one I could find in my local office supply shop was a refurbished 1967 Hermes 3000 with a Swiss-German QWERTZ keyboard. I’ve had to get used to the transposed Y and Z keys; otherwise, kein Problem, and es freut mich sehr to have the umlaut.
A QWERTZ Swiss German keyboard
(American keyboards are QWERTYs)
Of my three Hermes typewriters, this 1967 3000 is by far the smoothest, easiest to type on, and most consistent. I venture to use the word “buttery,” in fact. 
Herewith, typed on the 1967 Hermes 3000, “Silence” and “Poem,” from my forthcoming collection, Meteor:
Typed today but originally published in Muse Apprentice Guild in, ayy, 2002. I think it was.
If you’re going to the Great American Writerly Hajj, I mean the Associated Writing Programs Conference, come on by my reading– it’s a free event– I’m on the lineup with Thaddeus Rutkowski, Cecilia Martinez-Gil, Tyler McMahon, Seth Brady Tucker, John Domini, Teri Cross Davis, Elaine Ray, William Orem, Jeff Walt, and Joan G. Gurfield for the Gival Press 20th Anniversary Celebration Reading on Friday March 29, 2019 @ 7 - 10 PM. Hotel Rose, 50 SW Morrison St, Portland OR. 

The following day, Saturday March 30, 2019 @ 10-11:30 AM, I’ll be signing copies of Meteor at the Gival Press table (Table #8063) in the AWP Conference book fair.

You can also find a copy of Meteor on And read more poems and whatnots apropos of Meteor on the book’s webpage here.
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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Slam-dunk (If Counterintuitive) Strategy to Simultaneously Accelerate, Limber Up, and Steady the Writing Process

By C.M. Mayo

This blog posts on Mondays. As of 2019 the second Monday of the month is devoted to my writing workshop students and anyone else interested in creative writing. (You can find my workshop schedule and many more resources for writers on my workshop page.)

Those of you who follow me here know that I am fascinated by attentional management and the creative process. Of late I have posted here on my advances in email management; finding time for writing (gimungous swaths of it!); and most recently, my distraction-free smartphone (which post includes an app evaluation flowchart to tailor-make your own, should you feel so inclined).

That last post about the smartphone appeared on the eve of the publication of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Because I am a fan of Newport’s books, especially Deep Work, which I recommend as vital reading for writers, of any age and any level of experience, I expected Digital Minimalism to be good. As I noted in that post, if nothing else, in broadening our ability to think about the technology we use, Newport’s term “digital minimalism” is an important contribution in itself.


Monday, March 04, 2019

"Round N Round" on the 1963 Hermes Baby

Uh oh (I can begin to see how this gets out of hand!) I just brought home a second vintage Swiss-made typewriter, a 1963 Hermes Baby, which is a sight lighter at 3.6 kilos (just under 8 pounds) and more compact than my 1961 Hermes 3000. It is in excellent working order, klak, klak!


He has not expressed himself verbally on the matter,
but it would seem that my writing assistant would prefer
that I use the MacBook Pro.
Also, geesh, it was ten minutes past suppertime.

From Meteor, my collection which will be out from Gival Press later this month:

>More about Meteor on my webpage.

>More about the Hermes Baby at the Australian blog ozTypewriter and at the Swiss Hermes Baby Page by Georg Sommeregger (in German, but Google translation available).

On the Hermes Baby I am also typing up my story (originally written on the laptop), “What Happened to the Dog?” for COLD HARD TYPE: Typewriter Tales from Post-Digtal Worlds. More about that anon.

Meanwhile, whilst strolling about the Rio Grande outside of Albuquerque, my fellow COLD HARD TYPE contributor Joe Van Cleave ponders the Typosphere, its relation to digital media, and the ultimately analog origins of the digital:

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>Your comments are always welcome. Click here to send me an email.