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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Washington Independent Writers Conference: Panel on Travel Writing

Quick blog post before I run out the door to AWP with Tameme: Just finalized the line-up for the travel writing panel at the Washington Independent Writers conference, which takes place this June 9th at the George Washington University's Cafritz Conference Center, Washington DC. Yours Truly, Sara Mansfield Taber, L. Peat O'Neil, and--- drum roll--- Candida Mannozzi, owner of Candida's World of Books, one of the most unusual and charming and altogether Washingtonian venues in Washington. Get on Candida's mailing list and you'll be invited to readings and signings of books on Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Italy, Iceland--- and maybe all in the same month. In the meantime, WIW's website has profiled my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion here. Gracias, guys! Pictured left is the cover of L. Peat O'Neil's Travel Writing: See the World, Sell the Story (2nd Edition). I always very highly recommend this book to my writing students. L. Peat O'Neil has sold more travel stories than any one I know--- and now she's learning Chinese. And here's the cover of Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf, Sara Mansfield Taber's luminous travel memoir of her quest for the DNA of the best bread in the world. The writing is as delicious as the subject.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

AWP Mega Pow-wow

Later this week is the Associated Writing Programs' annual conference--- this year in Atlanta, Georgia. Tameme will be there in the bookfair at table #239. We'll have the new chapbook, award-winning Mexican writer Agustin Cadena's short story "Carne verde, piel negra / An Avocado from Michoacan." Also on hand will be my book from Whereabouts Press, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. I'll be on two panels:

March 2, 2007 @ 10:30 am- 11:45 am
"Translation as Collaboration (With the Living and the Dead)"
Mark Statman (chair), with C.M. Mayo, Bill Zavatsky and Zack Rogow.

March 3, 2007 @ 1:30-2:45 pm
"Beyond the Book"
"The music industry experienced a major revolution in the distribution of content. What are the lessons for publishers and creative writers trying to deliver words to an audience? Are books the be-all and end-all "delivery system"? This panel examines a variety of content delivery systems, including websites, podcasts, audio CDs, DVDs, and "vidlit", as well as time-tested print technologies such as chapbooks, pamphlets, and broadsides. Panel participants discuss the benefits, costs, synergies, and suprises of publishing in these ways."

The Miraculous Air paperback is due out in late March... more anon. Back blogging after March 5th.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jim and Judy Tolbert's Baja Books & Maps in San Jose del Cabo

Just back from Jim and Judy Tolbert's splendid second annual all-day Baja Book Event--- readings (I read my translation of Araceli Ardon's story from Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion), book signings, and cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped Medjool dates! This all took place on Sunday at the gorgeous, brand-spanking-new--- they had just painted the sign the day before--- Baja Books & Maps showroom, which is just outside San Jose del Cabo's downtown. The line-up included Yours Truly, Bruce Berger, Michael Mercer, Wendy Rudell, Garth Murphy, and Ed Vernon. The readings were in the palapa-shaded upstairs deck, overlooking the sea. Alas, at the end of the afternoon, I had to hit the highway La Paz and so missed Ed Vernon's slide show, but I have his magnificent book, "Las Misiones Antiguas"--- a photographic and written record of every single mission and several "visitas" on the nearly one thousand mile-long peninsula. This is truly a major contribution to the literature on Baja California. New books to read: Bruce Berger's Facing the Music, Garth Murphy's The Indian Lover, and Wendy Rudell's The Raw Transformation. Jim and Judy, you are bringing something very special to Los Cabos.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Novel is a Mandala

A few months ago when I started reading Judith Cornell's Mandala, I realized, aha, the novel is a mandala. I'm intrigued that Vikram Chandra has been saying this very thing about his new novel, Sacred Games. As for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire: one more chapter to go. I think. More anon. Off to Baja California.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Miraculous Air in Paperback & Lubuto & More Shakespeare Juju

Just got the good news today: the paperback edition of my book, Miraculous Air (Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California the Other Mexico) will be out earlier than I had expected: by late March. The publisher is Milkweed Editions, I'm thrilled to say. I'll have a few of the hardcover edition to sign at my reading this Sunday in San Jose del Cabo--- and plenty of copies of the anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Plus, the new Tameme chapbook.

My Washington DC amiga, librarian Jane Kinney Meyers, and Lubuto volunteer Debbie Chungu will discuss the amazing and necessary and brilliant and seriously inspiring Lubuto Library Project on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU 88.5FM, on Wednesday, Feb. 28 during the 1pm to 2pm hour.

Via Pabu's Alice: Baja Willy! La conquista cultural del sur. Ni modo.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Shakespearean Juju & Baja California & Pure Sea Glass & BOMB

The novel... drafting the penultimate chapter... Maximilian goes to Orizaba and the question is, To go or not to go? To abdicate or not to abdicate? And these are not the same question because one could go and not abdicate... leaving a regency in place... There was a memento mori as well... not a skull, but a flintlock that had belonged to a conspirator who'd planned to assassinate him in Tlalpan. So, I was rereading Dr Basch's memoir about all of that when, lo, I came home, opened my e-mail and found a message from my long-lost very first editor, at Mexico City's El Inversionista magazine, newspaperman turned Mexico's Shakespeare expert, Martin Casillas de Alba. He's got a blog, too: Juego de espejos.

Judy Tolbert at Baja Books & Maps has the link up for the 2nd Annual Baja Book Event-- this is a big reading--- I go on at 12--- in their all new showroom in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur. Here's a photo of Bruce Berger, Jim "Jaime" Tolbert, and Yours Truly at last year's reading.

Maribeth Fischer has announced the upcoming Writers at the Beach: Pure Sea Glass at Rehoboth Beach, Delware March 16-17th. I'll be on a couple of panels, giving a travel writing workshop, and a reading from Miraculous Air and Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. This is a most unusual conference: it's got a great line-up of authors, including poet John Hoppenthaler, essayist Lisa Couturier, novelists Carolyn Parkhurst, and Leslie Pietrzyk, literary agent Candace Furman and the editor of Tin House magazine --- and it all benefits the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

BOMB: "The Americas Issue Border Crossing: Mexico & the US" winter 07, includes an interview w Margo Glantz in Mexico City by Alvaro Enrigue; poetry by Monica de la Torre, Coral Bracho, & many others. Plus photographs by Juan Rulfo. Wow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why Does the Novel Matter? & A Little Livy

My Mexico City amiga Maria O. urged me to read Karen Armstrong's The Spiral Staircase. I found this memoir so extraordinary, so lucidly written, that when I recently saw Armstrong's new book, A Short History of Myth, I had to read it at once. Here is the part I most want to remember:
"[A novel] can be seen as a form of meditation. Readers have to live with a novel for days or even weeks. It projects them into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional realm is not 'real' and yet while they are reading it becomes compelling. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book aside. It is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down the barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with other lives and sorrows. It teaches compassion, the ability to 'feel with' others. And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do so, it can change us forever."

This afternoon I happened to be reading the Roman historian Livy (because some of the characters in my novel would have read Livy). I want to remember this passage, about Hannibal's men crossing the Alps:

"The dreadful vision was before their eyes; the towering peaks, the snow-clad pinnacles soaring to the sky, the rude huts clinging to the rocks, beasts and cattle shriveled and parched with cold, the people with their wild and ragged hair, all nature, animate and inanimate, stiff with frost... In the narrow pass the marching column was rapidly losing cohesion. There was great confusion and excitement among the men, and still more among the terrified horses, as the tribesmen came swarming down the rocky and precipitous slopes, surefooted as they were from long familiarity with their wild and trackless terrain... Terrified by the din, echoing and re-echoing with the hollow cliffs and woods, the horses were soon out of control, while those which were struck or wounded lashed out in an agony of fear... In the confusion, many non-combatants, and not a few soldiers, were flung over the sheer cliffs which bounded each side of the pass, and fell to their deaths thousands of feet below. But it was worst for the pack-animals. Loads and all, they went tumbling over the edge like falling masonry."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Drama in the Desert

Los Cabos painter Diane Varney's "Baja Desert Garden Blog" is back--- check out her amazing backyard. (Bummer about that bunny.)

More news: I'm about to go to San Jose del Cabo for the Baja Books & Maps mega-reading on Sunday the 18th. Details here. I'll be presenting my anthology of Mexican fiction and literary prose, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, which includes magnificent works by Agustin Cadena, Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsivais, Angeles Mastretta, Pedro Angel Palou, Juan Villoro and many more. I'll also have on hand Tameme's new chapbook of a lovely short story by Mexican writer Agustin Cadena. Bruce Berger and Ann Hazard will also be there, I hear. Lobster tacos, ho!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brevity, Miraculous Air, Reading HRH Princess Stephanie of Belgium

From Dinty W. "living between panic & desire" Moore:
"The Spring 2007 Global Warming issue of BREVITY, the journal of concise literary nonfiction, has poked through the ice. Brevity 23 features ten outstanding essayists--- Robin Behn, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sandi Wisenberg, Anne Panning, Patricia O'Hara, Grace Talusan , Christopher Cocca, Joy Beshears Hagy, Mary Akers, and Leslie Stainton--- exploring childbirth, urban sprawl, catachresis, candy cigarettes, and beyond. We are also proud to announce our new Book Review section, including review essays by Lee Martin, Patrick Madden, Kim Dana Kupperman, Porter Shreve and Todd Davis. Plus an adhesive new Craft Essay by Shane Borrowman. Please visit."
Full disclosure: Brevity published a little something of mine a while ago, "Into the Sierra de San Francisco" an excerpt from my memoir of travels in Baja California, Miraculous Air. The book is about to be reissued this spring by Milkweed Editions.

Almost done with the first complete draft of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, set during the second Mexican Empire. Read more about that on my Maximilian page. As I like to say, not all the writing is on the page. To write, one must read. This week brought an extraordinary book in the mail--- one I had been wanting to read for a very long time: HRH Princess Stephanie of Belgium's 1937 memoir, I Was to Be Empress. Princess Stephanie was the Empress Carlota of Mexico's neice. Of a visit to the Castle of Bouchout in Belgium, she writes:

I can recall my last visit, which I paid in my mother's company during the year 1899. The Empress's suite was awaiting us in front of the castle and conducted us to her apartments. There she stood, deathly pale, but still amazingly beautiful. I ran up to her to kiss her hand. She embraced me, obviously delighted to see me once more. When we had seated ourselves, the Empress began to speak garrulously, but everything she said was confused, for her mind was unhinged. Suddenly she turned her large dark, sorrow-laden eyes upon me. "Tu viens d'Autriche, chere enfant? Comment se porte ton beau pere, l'empereur?" she inquired. Thereupon she rose to her feet, took me by the hand, led me to the life-sized portrait of Emperor Maximilian, curtsied humbly before him, and said, "Et l'autre, ils l'ont tue!" It was really heart-breaking.
More anon.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writers Center 30th Anniversary & AWP in Atlanta

Long live the Writers Center! Last weekend was the Writers Center's 30th Anniversary. Robert Olen Butler read his imagined missing 18 minutes from the Nixon White House Tapes--- no exaggeration, this was the best, the funniest reading I have ever attended. Many rounds of applause for founders Al Lefcowitz and and Jane Fox, and also for director Greg Robison and the staff, who are all doing a great job. In attendance: Jim and Kate Lehrer, novelists Ann McLaughlin, Kate Blackwell, poets galore, and the evervescent Wendi Kaufman, aka The Happy Booker. If you are anywhere near the Washington DC area and want to try a writing workshop, folks, the Writers Center is the place to come.

The Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Feb 28- March 3, 2007 Conference in Atlanta Georgia is now online at This mega-powow will have over 300 events, including presentations from Lee Smith, C.D. Wright, John Barth, Michael Martone, Anne Beattie, Charles Wright, Kay Gibbons, Terrance Hayes, Elizabeth Spencer, Les Murray, Tayari Jones, Coleman Barks, Rita Dove and many others. I'll be there at the Tameme table in the bookfair-- we've got our first chapbook ~ cuaderno just out: Mexican writer Agustin Cadena's "Carne verde, piel negra ~ An Avocado from Michoacan"-- and I'll also be on two panels. More about those anon.