Monday, October 27, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Flying Above Earth, Seth Godin, Nassim Taleb, Sakura Review, Babel Cube, Your Clothes

Just back Austin's totally bodacious Texas Book Festival-- will post anon.

New literary translation journal, Sakura Review

Speaking of translation, Babelcube is up to something that looks like a paradigm-morph...

Hat tip to Swiss-miss: Angel's view (takes a moment to load, totally worth it), Northwest coast of North America to Central America

And now to come smashing down to earth: Seth Godin on the media (my take, too, though I wouldn't have put this way-- so sad, but amusingly spot-on).

Food historian Rachel Laudan on her mother's cooking

Nassim Taleb interviewed for Stanford's Entrepreneurship Corner (podcast)

How the clothes you wear are more powerful than you might think (I mean you in the gray T-shirt)

COMMENTS always welcome.New literary translation journal, Sakura Review

Friday, October 24, 2014

Madero Conference in Mexico City's National Palace: From Spiritism to the Bhagavad-Gita and Other Esoteric Influences

Francisco I. Madero
It's in Spanish, of course, but it's worth noting here because 

(1) I know that many of you, dear readers, also read in Spanish;


(2) I'm speaking in the conference, December 2, together with Ignacio Solares, one of Mexico's most respected novelists, and; 


(3) this a major public reexamination of Francisco I. Madero, one of the most outstanding figures in Mexican history, for he was not only the leader of the 1910 Revolution, but President of Mexico from 1911- 1913.


All the lectures are free and open to the public and will take place in the Recinto Juárez of Mexico's National Palace.


FRANCISCO I. MADERO:

DEL ESPIRITISMO AL BHAGAVAD-GITA, Y OTRAS INFLUENCIAS ESOTERICAS

November 6, 2014

Yolia Tortolero
Nueve lecturas sobre Francisco I. madero y su creencia en el espiritismo

November 11

Lucrecia Infante
De espíritus, mujeres e igualdad. Laureana Wright y el Espiritismo Kardeciano en México

November 18

Alejandro Rosas
La Revolución de los espíritus
Manuel Guerra
Los escritos espiritistas perdidos de Francisco I. Madero

November 25

Carlos Francisco Martínez Moreno
Masonería, espiritismo e hindismo: senderos comunicantes en los tres pilares místicos de Francisco I. Madero

December 2

C.M. Mayo
Odisea metafísica hacia la revolución Mexicana: 
Francisco I. Madero y su libro secreto Manual espírita
Ignacio Solares
Madero, el otro


COMMENTS always welcome.


+ + + + + + 


SURF ON


+ Podcasts about Francisco I. Madero


+ Selected films and videos


Rare Book Adventures in Mexico City: Una ventana al mundo invisible


+ Dr. Arnoldo Krumm-Heller and Francisco I. Madero: Some Notes on Sources


+ An interview with Yours Truly about my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, for the University of Chicago Social Science Division newsletter.


+ I'm presenting the English edition of the book at the Texas Book Festival this Sunday at 11 am. 


+ Read more about the Spanish edition, Odisea metafisica hacia la Revolución Mexicana, which has been beautifully translated by Mexican poet and novelist Agustín Cadena.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Karen Thompson Walker at the Writer's Center

Karen Thompson Parker
An announcement / invitation from the Bethesda, Maryland Writer's Center:

Visiting novelist Karen Thompson Walker, who is the third recipient of The McLaughlin-Esstman Stearns First Novel Prize, will be reading 2:00 p.m., Sunday, November 16 at The Writer’s Center. The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing. 

Sun Freeman writes:

The quality of work we have seen in these annual competitions, funded very generously by Neal Gillen, has been very strong. Ms. Thompson continues the tradition, following in the footsteps of previous recipients Heidi Durrow and Ismet Prcic. It’s quite a coup to have her read at the Center. Her novel, The Age of Miracles, has been getting rave reviews. Nathan Englander calls it: “Pure magnificence. Deeply moving and beautifully executed.” New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani describes it as: “A genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair.” The web page for her book has several other quotes from critics lavish in their praise: http://www.theageofmiraclesbook.com/praise-reviews/ 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Which I Review the Review in RALPH

Francisco I. Madero
My latest is one very strange book or rather, two strange books for the price of one with bonus! the painting of "Gerbara and Eye" by Kelley Vandiver. Of late, I've been getting extreme reactions (though none hostile, yet, which is funny, because, come on you fundamentalists and conspiracy mongers, anyone notice the logo of the dancing, um, goat?). The reactions have been either:

(1) A taut black-out curtain of noninterest because:
(a) noididntseethesupercreepyeye
and/ or 
(b) Religious stuff? BO-ring
or: 

(2) Ardent embrace of one or both sorts:
(a) Esoteric / metaphysical / philosophical
and/ or 
(b) The crunchiest of poli sci let's rewrite the textbooks 
Seems we have a (1b) having segued into a (2a + b), with a wild cherry sense of humor on top, now that Carlos Amantea has reviewed Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual for The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities (that's RALPH to aficionados).
"Suspend your disbelief, dear reader, and spend a few moments with the Spiritist Manual. After its introduction by Mayo, I started in on it, expecting to be bored silly as I usually am by most ritualistic spiritual manuals— excluding writers like Blavatsky...and what some now refer to as the "Neo-Modernist Buddhists:" Jack Kornfeld, Mark Epstein, Jakusho Kwong Rosh, Alan Watts, and the late prison guru, Bo Lozoff. Despite my affection for these writers, it was with heavy heart that I embarked on the pages of The Metaphysical Odyssey. But, I am here to tell you: they were, if you pardon the expression, a revelation..."

A cyber shower of jpeg lotus petals upon you, don Carlos. I am sincerely honored.

+ Read the complete, super-crunchy review in RALPH here


+ More reviews

+ Excerpts from the book

+ P.S. Hey, y'all, I will be presenting this book in Austin this Sunday October 26, 2014 @ 11 am in the Capitol for the Texas Book Festival together with my amiga, M. M. McAllen, author of the excellent narrative history, Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico. 



COMMENTS always welcome.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Women Writing the West 2014 in Golden, Colorado: An Eclectic Community of Writers and (...Sigh...) a Sharper Focus on Publishing

It's been a happy adventure to have joined Women Writing the West. Since I mainly write about Mexico, I might seem an unlikely candidate for membership. What prompted me to send off my application year before last was that, first, as a veteran member of several other writers associations, I was impressed with the professionalism of their outreach and their dedication via things such as the Willa Awards, the annual catalogue, and conference, to actually serving the members (as opposed to just funneling dues into who-knows-what and endlessly yammering for donations... don't get me started...) 

Second, I'm working on a book about Far West Texas, and so, among so many other things, I'm trying to get my mind around cowboy culture. I assumed that Women Writing the West would have a preponderance of members writing about cowboy culture and indeed, this is the case, though I hasten to add, there are many other types of writers in this organization open to any and all women writers living in / writing about places west of the Mississippi.


But third, a perhaps more important reason: I was looking for more of a writing community in English. In Mexico City, I've got my handful of English language writing pals, of course, and a few Mexican writer friends as well, but outside of a very occasional visit to San Miguel de Allende, a five hour drive north, I don't have much chance to hang out with a community of English language writers. 


Fourth: Women Writing the West has an active listserv. Among the multitude of friendly and helpful posts there, I have been especially grateful for those from Susan Wittig Albert who has so generously shared her experience in successfully self-publishing A Wilder Rose. Though I have published several other books with publishers as varied as University of Georgia Press and Random House-Mondadori, my current book-- very niche: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution-- is self-published, and for this endeavor, Susan's advice has been golden.


And speaking of golden, I'm just back from my first ever Women Writing the West conference in Golden Colorado, which was splendidly organized, fun, friendly, and informative. As for publishing, I heard what I already knew, yet brought into sharper focus. More about publishing in a moment.


JUST A FEW LITERARY DENIZENS WITH WHOM I CROSSED PATHS:

Literary agent SANDRA BOND, who happens to be the agent of my friend Solveig Eggerz. (Hey y'all listen in anytime to my interview with Solveig here.) We had a nice little yak about Unbridled Books, which brought out my novel in 2009 and Solveig's poetic novel of Iceland, Seal Woman.



CORINNE JOY BROWN, author of several books, most recently a collector's item for collectors, Come And Get It! The Saga of Western Dinnerware. I don't think I've ever owned and don't recall ever eating off of any western dinnerware. (Once, I almost bought an Annie Oakley mug, but then I considered the weight in my luggage.) But I got my signed copy and started reading right away because it explores the deceptively simple question, crucial to me, what makes it Western? The author and I had a little chat about Crypto-Jews, that is, hidden Jews of northern new Spain (presumably Catholic conversos but in some instances not). Turns out, Corinne is the Vice President of Communications for the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies and the editor of its biannual journal, HaLapid. It so happens that I recently ran a guest-blog post by historical novelist Claudia H. Long on that very subject-- 5 Secrets About the Crypto-Jews of Mexico-- and have in hand two books of relevance for this very interesting topic: Kaltheen Alcala's The Desert Remembers My Name, and Rose Mary Salum's visionary anthology Delta de arenas: Cuentos árabes, cuentos judíos. So what is the connection of Cypto-Jews with cowboy culture? I am looking forward to Corinne's next book...


Another signed copy tucked into my luggage was HEIDI M. THOMAS' Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women. It was especially fun to meet Heidi, as we had corresponded over her excellent guest-blog post for this blog, A Roundup of 5 Things to Know About Old-Time Rodeo Cowgirls.

At the Willa Awards banquet dinner I had the good luck to sit next to a most fascinating conversationalist and writer: ANDREA J. JONES, author of Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado.


SARAH BYRN RICKMAN, author of Flight to Destiny, a novel about women pilots of World War II.


SUE BOGGIO and MARE PURL, co-authors of Sunlight and Shadow and A Growing Season, both available from University of New Mexico Press.


CYNTHIA LEAL MASSEY, author of historical novels and Death of a Texas Ranger: A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier. (Hey, Cynthia, I look forward to seeing you at the Texas Book Festival!)

CARMEN PEONE, YA novelist based on the Colville Indian Reservation, for the Sinyekst or Arrow Lakes band of Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state. On her blog, Carmen offers 5 reasons to join WWW.

DAWN WINK, a teacher based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose first novel, Meadowlark, is about early settlers on the plains of South Dakota.


SUSAN J. TWEIT, whose book of essays, Barren, Wild, and Worthless: Living in the Chihuahuan Desert, I read earlier this year and loved. (Read her
take on the WWW conference over at her blog. Excerpt: 


"...The conference background sound was the buzz of excited voices as participants gathered to greet old friends, meet new ones, and share ideas and tips on all aspects of writing. That excitement and sharing sums up Women Writing the West for me: community, not competition. A core value of the organization is to provide a supportive community to those of us engaged in telling and publishing stories about the West from a woman’s point of view."

Well, is that an eclectic community of writers, or what? 

As for editors, I only talked to one, and not about my own work, but about Mexican writing and translation: REBECCA WEBER MCEWAN, Editor in Chief of Fulcrum Publishing.



OK. 

SIGH. 
CUP OF CHAMOMILE TEA. 
FINGERNAIL CHEWING. 
MORE SIGHS. 
UM, PUBLISHING.

I had the honor of introducing JOYCE MESKIS, owner of the Tattered Cover Book Store for her talk, "Publishing from a Bookstore Perspective." The intro:



"The Tattered Cover Bookstore began in 1971 as a 950 square foot space and now, after 40 years, it has three locations in Denver and the metropolitan area. It has been called "the Queen Mother of bookstores," "Denver's book Mecca." The Denver Post calls it "a literary lighthouse." It's a must for any writer on a local or national book tour. You name the famous writer, they've read at the Tattered Cover, from Barbara Kingsolver to Kurt Vonnegut, Isabelle Allende, Buckminster Fuller, Annie Proulx-- and also many of you, members of Women Writing the West, who are here today.  
 Joyce Meskis wears two hats supremely relevant for the topic of this session. She is the owner of the Tattered Cover and, since 2008, she is Director of the University of Denver's Publishing Institute, a nationally-recognized summer certificate course, which during its 39 year history has graduated over 3,000 students."

Meskis started off with a riff of quotes about books and bookstores-- mind-tokes for book folks, shall we say, and for a moment we all got pretty high there. But then, 
after some eye-opening historical perspective on book-selling, she grounded us with the financial realities of keeping the doors to a bookstore open. I recall some rather uyy-inducing talk about nickels.

Then, in a later talk that same afternoon, LIZ PELLETIER gave us an hilarious but alas, realistic overview of what it takes to get commercial fiction on the bookshelves. (No worries, dear Liz, I won't repeat what you confessed that you said to grab the sales reps' attention, but... eew.)


IT WAS THAT; NOW IT'S EVER MORE THIS


So, we have the Wild West of e-commerce and self-publishing, and the old-fashioned way, that is, selling traditionally represented, acquired, edited, distributed and marketed books sold from shelves in brick-and-mortar stores such as Tattered Cover. Guess which system has lower costs? Guess which one is going to suffer an ever tighter squeeze?


I'm a bit irked at all this yammering in the blogosphere about amazon.com the evil bookstore-eating monster. Yes, it's grown into a monster. And yes, Jeff Bezos is an unusually  aggressive entrepreneur who doesn't always deal as if he were the heir to Mother Teresa. But all the changes in the book business, as in so many other businesses, boil down to this:


+ Operating out of the middle of nowhere is cheaper than paying for space in a city or downtown of an upscale suburb.
+ Bots are increasingly cheaper, faster and more reliable than human workers (and notably cheaper than the average human worker in a metropolitan area).
+ Many buyers prefer to shop on-line and receive their purchases by mail or, when possible (as in the case of ebooks), by instant electronic delivery, and again, bots are both cheap and good at all the things that have to do with making that happen. And when it is technically easy and economically attractive for them to do so, many sellers prefer to go direct to the customer, and lo, that it increasingly the case.
+ Buyers prefer to pay less rather than more. Yes, Virginia, demand curves are downward sloping. And the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. And Santa may or may not live on the South Pole, but google and you can watch him hohoho on YouTube until Kingdom Come.

And by the way, bots will drive our cars and take over much of the care for Alzheimer's patients, too, and probably sooner than we can imagine. Yes, it is kind of creepy to contemplate. Oh well! I guess I'll go work on my literary travel memoir. And then get some chickens.


UPDATE: Speaking of bots, see the NYT article Can You Uber a Burger?

COMMENTS are always welcome.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Writers Tool: StandStand the Portable Standing Desk

Hat tip to Swiss Miss: I am so psyched to learn about this Kickstarter project, the StandStand portable standing desk, because it looks like exactly what I need-- but at a fraction of the cost offered elsewhere. Plus, it's portable. I ordered the bamboo model, and fingers crossed, I'll be able to start using it in December.

The thing is, as a writer, I spent way too much time sitting down. Specifically, I'd like the option of being able to do email while standing (and maybe even hopping around some). Yes, I could balance the laptop on a cardboard box or a stack of books, but that's bulky, awkward, and definitely not easily portable.


+ + + + + + + +

SURF ON

+  My Uncool "Cool Tool": Grandma's Recipe Box for Internet Password Management
+ Why I am a Mega Fan of the Filofax
+ Guest-blogger Regina Leeds on 5 + 1 resources to Make  Writer Happy in an Organized Space
+ On Decluttering Your Writing
+ FOR CREATIVE WRITERS page over at www.cmmayo.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Guest-Blogger Historical Novelist Claudia H. Long on 5 Secrets About the Crypto-Jews of Mexico

Claudia H. Long
Delighted to once again host historical novelist Claudia H. Long, whose latest is The Duel for Consuelo. From her official bio: 
"Claudia Long is a highly caffeinated, terminally optimistic married lady living in Northern California. She writes about early 1700’s Mexico and modern day and roaring 20's California. Claudia practices law as a mediator for employment disputes and business collapses, has two formerly rambunctious–now grown kids, and owns four dogs and a cat. Her first mainstream novel was Josefina's Sin, published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. Her second one, The Harlot’s Pen, was published with Devine Destinies in February 2014. Claudia grew up in Mexico City and New York, and she now lives in California."


From the catalog copy of the new novel, The Duel for Consuelo:


"History, love, and faith combine in a gripping novel set in early 1700’s Mexico. In this second passionate and thrilling story of the Castillo family, the daughter of a secret Jew is caught between love and the burdens of a despised and threatened religion. The Enlightenment is making slow in-roads, but Consuelo’s world is still under the dark cloud of the Inquisition. Forced to choose between protecting her ailing mother and the love of dashing Juan Carlos Castillo, Consuelo’s personal dilemma reflects the conflicts of history as they unfold in 1711 Mexico. A rich, romantic story illuminating the timeless complexities of family, faith, and love."

5 SECRETS ABOUT THE CRYPTO-JEWS OF MEXICO
By Claudia H. Long

As practically everyone knows, the Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, at the time of the Muslim expulsion. Persecution had gone on for centuries, of course, but Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived in an uneasy peace until the expulsion edicts finally put an end to co-existence.  

But not all Jews left the only homes they had ever known. Contradictory edicts made it impossible to leave, mandatory to leave, requiring conversion, denying the merits of the conversion, all with the drumbeat of confiscation of wealth behind the acts. So not only were Jews required to leave or convert, they often were prevented from exercising either choice. 

Conversos (those who converted to Christianity) and their descendants were fiercely persecuted. Any hint of Judaizing, or secretly practicing their old religion, was ruthlessly ferreted out by the Inquisition, which led Conversos to the practice of haciendo sábado, or "doing the Sabbath." This involved ostentatiously working on Saturday so the neighbors could see them, eating pork in public, and putting on other displays of Christianity. Nonetheless, many continued their Jewish practices in secret. 

If they were "lucky" they converted and eventually got out. Some went to the New World, including Mexico and Peru. Mexico was something of a haven for the secret Jews, or Crypto-Jews at first. With so much novelty there was less time to spend ferreting out Jews, and more emphasis on political alignment.

All that changed in 1642. The Archbishop of Mexico became the Viceroy, his edict brought an end to the relatively safe lives of the Crypto-Jews

One of the ways that Crypto-Jews were "caught" was through denunciation by family servants

 Clues to Judaizing included reports of special dishes being prepared on Friday before sunset, to be kept warm on banked coals through Saturday, or preparation of meats involving draining all of the blood from the meat before cooking. 
Even cleaning the house on Friday, or bathing by women on Friday before sunset, all could lead to a denunciation.  The meticulous records kept by the Inquisition are a fertile source for recipes and housekeeping customs for Crypto-Jews of the era.

Some Jews only knew one blessing, many knew no Hebrew at all. Knowledge was passed down in the family, and with each generation the practices became more idiosyncratic, further and further removed from their origins. Tortillas and chocolate replaced matzo and wine during Passover. Burial practices, such as adding a pillow of dirt to the coffin replaced a burial in virgin soil. Fasting on particular dates following a death, such as the eighth or thirtieth day, replaced the traditional periods of Jewish mourning. These were examples both of adaptation to the New World and a loss of understanding of the actual rituals and traditions. 

The Duel for Consuelo picks up the thread at this point, in 1711, when Consuelo, who only knows one blessing, is called to account by the Inquisition in its last gasps for power.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A US-Mexico Border Memoir: Lisa G. Sharp's A Slow Trot Home

Lisa G. Sharp, author of the memoir
A Slow Trot Home
It was thanks to Women Writing the West that I first came upon the extraordinary writing of Lisa G. Sharp. Mexicans sit up and take notice when I mention that she's the granddaughter of the owner of the Greene Cattle Company, which had its headquarters in Cananea, a place synonymous with an infamous massacre in the years leading up to the Mexican Revolution. But to get beyond that: A Slow Trot Home, Sharp's memoir about growing up, first in her grandmother's house in Cananea, and then for most of her life on San Rafael, a working cattle ranch a scooch north of the border in a remote corner of Arizona, is one of the most beautifully written and moving memoirs I have ever read. The sweep of the land, the peace and violence of the sky, the people, both Mexican and American, and all the animals, come alive with a rare vividness. It's poetic prose that, in places, breaks open into poetry itself, as with this list in the chapter "Winter":

Frozen water troughs.
Short days.
Matches handy by wood stoves.
A dead calf half eaten by coyotes and vultures.
Dogs curled up by fire places.
Down comforters and flannel sheets.
Bare trees, dormant rose bushes, red berries.
Stews, soups, Christmas tamales.
Fires burned all day long.

By the end, as she returns to visit her mother's lonely grave, one understands what this is: an elegy for a world that is no more. Now the SUVs rumbling by might more likely carry birdwatchers or Border Patrol officers than ranchers or ranch hands. 9/11 changed everything on the US-Mexico Border. And in what had been velvet nights, electric lights from Mexico glow on the horizon.

Literati will note that this is self-published. I think that says far more about the state of publishing than it does this splendid book. I recommend it for anyone interested in a fine read, and especially for anyone interested in ranching culture and the US-Mexico border region.

From Lisa G. Sharp's blog:

Her visit to Cananea (Mexican history buffs, this is a must-read!)

Cowboys, Cattle and Copper (more about Cananea, with lots of photos)

If you're in Arizona, you can catch Lisa G. Sharp on her book tour this fall and winter.

COMMENTS always welcome.



+ + + + + + + +

SURF ON:

+ My review of the anthology edited by Sarah Cortez and Sergio Tronoco, Our Lost Border
+ A Visit to Swan House (The unique adobe teaching house on the US-Mexico Border in Presidio, TX)
+ Tijuana: A Touch of Evil
+ Cowboy Songs by Cowboys (podcast)
+ Guest-blog by Heidi M. Thomas: A Roundup of 5 Things to Know About Old-Time Rodeo Cowgirls

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ceci n'est ce pas une Newsletter October 2014

Just sent out my October 2014 newsletter, chock full of book news, the best from the blogs, the news about the Texas Book Festival, and more. Read it here. 

My one day only workshop on Literary Travel Writing will be this Saturday October 11 at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD

The Writer's Center
10 am - 1 pm (one day only)
Literary Travel Writing Workshop
Take your travel writing to another level: the literary, which is to say, giving the reader the novelistic experience of actually traveling there with you. For both beginning and advanced writers, this workshop covers the techniques from fiction and poetry that you can apply to this specialized form of creative nonfiction for deliciously vivid effects.
Register on-line

Visit my page FOR CREATIVE WRITERS for upcoming workshops and a rich array of resources for writers

+ Read more about my workshop
+ Recommended literary travel memoirs



Some of my work:

Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (travel memoir)

A Visit to Swan House (read article from Cenizo Journal on-line)

+ Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project #7: We Have Seen the Lights (listen to the podcast)

From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion (link to ebook)




Want to know when I'm giving another workshop or post a podcast or bring out a new book?  I welcome you to sign up for my newsletter. I'll be sending it out again sometime in November.

COMMENTS always welcome.