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Monday, June 30, 2008

This is Not My Pug

This is Pixie Pie who is featured on today's Pug-A-Day website, whose widget I feature on my sidebar. I mention it because yes, this is the risk of incorporating widgets on one's website--- the source of the content is external and surprise, surprise, while you're out at the drycleaners, say, the infortuitously posed Pixie Pie can show up on your page. Well, pats to this cutie and, as Scarlet might have put it, tomorrow is another pug.

The Amazon.com Carousel Widget, That Embeddable Chunk o' Code

Madam Mayo has discovered widgets. You might have noticed the Pug-A-Day widget over on my sidebar. New on the sidebar is the amazon.com widget featuring my books as well as a few anthologies (by Lee Gutkind, Monica De la Torre and Michael Wiegers, Dinty W. Moore, Richard Peabody, Andrei Codrescu and Laura Rosenthal, and Robert L. Giron) that include my stories, essays, poems, and / or translations. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog and you'll find the widget for pug books. I was amazed at how easy it was to do these.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Trajan: The Movie Font

Via Right-reading, an amusing and well-done 2 minute video by Kirby Ferguson. Music by Windom Earle.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mexico City Video in Production

Skip the cafe! Wake up with these sound tracks for my upcoming video on Mexico City: Gerhard Daum's Lalaland and Prometheus Bound. More anon.

Lit-bloggers, Update Your Links Pages: The Writers Center Has a Blog

The Bethesda MD Writers Center, a nonprofit founded in 1976, and one of the premier independent literary centers in the country, has just launched a blog. Check it out at thewriterscenter.blogspot.com and read the Writers Center's communications and publications director, Kyle Semmel's welcome here.

Apropos of the July 26th one day "Flash Fiction" workshop I'll be leading at the Writers Center, Kyle has posted my bit on "Giant Golden Buddha" and 364 More Five Minute Writing Exercises. Said archive includes writing exercises contributed by several fellow Writers Center members, friends, and instructors, among them, Leslie Pietrzyk, Lisa Couturier, Basil White, Kim Roberts, Deborah Ager, Mary Quattlebaum, and Robert Giron. More anon.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest-blogger Sandra Beasley on 5 Poets Turned Prose Writers

One of the myriad delights of a stay at an artists's colony is meeting the other artists. A couple of years ago, I met Washington DC-based poet Sandra Beasley at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (aka Not the Real World). Sandra gave a reading of her poetry--- such brilliant work that I was not in the least surprised when I later learned she'd won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize for her book, Theories of Falling. Read more about her poetry on her website, www.sandrabeasley.com and check in with her doings and thoughts and recommendations on her blog, one of the best "po-blogs" in the Blogosphere, Chicks Dig Poetry. Over to you, Sandra!
In mid-July I will be making a foray into the world of prose writing when my column, "The Art of the Bluff," appears in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine. This new feature in the magazine, called "The XX Files," will be comprise short essays written by a rotating set of urban, female writers. During my initial drafts I found myself struggling to develop the "muscles" it takes to turn life material into a 750-word essay instead of a lyric poem. I turned to other poets-turned-prose-writers for inspiration. So I would like to use this space to share the work of 5 poets who have branched out into writing elegant, funny, scorching, or heartbreaking works of prose as well.

#1. Alfred Corn
I met Alfred during a stint at Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and his ability to discern and articulate both the legacies and the failures of his fellow poets. Listening to his stories as we wandered the grounds of Sweet Briar, I realized that he is one of those rare souls who understands a poetry "community" in the real-time context of everyday interactions, travels, loves. Most of the poet-bloggers I know are still in the "building" stages, and their blogs become a platform for their careers; Alfred, with ten books to his name, certainly doesn't need the exposure. Instead, you can enjoy his blogposts as complete mini-essays--most recently on trips through Budapest and Warsaw.

#2. Lucia Perillo
With her fourth collection, Luck is Luck, which won the Kingsley Tufts Award, Perillo vaulted to the forefront of contemporary poetry. But only those with the opportunity to meet her in person realized that her success came while she was confronting the severe wheelchair-bound stages of Multiple Sclerosis-- a particularly painful diagnosis given her previous identity was as a park ranger in the Cascade Mountains, a lover and wanderer of nature in all its rigors. In her 2007 essay collection I've Heard the Vultures Singing, Perillo confronts the hard truths of living with chronic illness in spare, unsentimental essays that should be read by anyone who has considered writing about medical issues.

#3. John Lundberg
I have no idea how John (who I have a faint but fond memory of from UVA days) ended up writing for the Huffington Post. But ever since discovering his work there, I've been fascinated. Lundberg spins off minor pop-culture references to poetry (as in when Obama was accused of being "a poet, not a fighter," or when teenage vandals broke into Robert Frost's home) into full-blown discussions of the myths, trends and politics that constitute today's poetry world. I wish more of the bloggers at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, took up the challenge to write such complete and timely essays.

#4. Katha Pollitt
Pollitt also writes in a political sphere, as a longtime contributor to The Nation, and she is known primarily for her views on feminism. She has a knack for expressing a distinct and persuasive opinion in a brief space-- of all of these writers, she is the one with the power to Change Your Mind on a pressing issue. But the poet lives: her 1982 poetry collection from Knopf, Antarctic Traveller, has a cult following and she continues to be a lively contributor to the Women's Poetics Listserv. She has also branched into straight memoir, with the fall 2007 release of Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories.

#5. Richard McCann
Richard is That One Professor--the one who pokes and pokes at your work until the truth comes out of hiding. I came to my MFA program at American University infatuated with Ghost Letters, his poetry collection that won the 1994 Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books, only to realize that Richard had found even greater impact as a prose writer. Mother of Sorrows, a 2005 collection of short stories, gave hope to DC writers that there was still a market for lean, witty, sensitive tales of childhood. His individual essays from The Resurrectionist, a manuscript-in-progress on the topic of living with a liver transplant, have made appearances in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and elsewhere.

--- Sandra Beasley

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Novelist Leslie Pietrzyk to Read at Riverby Books on Capitol Hill

When it comes to Capitol Hill, fuggeddabout all those Congress Critters and the dog's breakfast they've made out of things. Think positive! Think Pietrzyk! Tomorrow evening my amiga, novelist Leslie Pietrzyk, will be reading in the venerable A Space Inside Reading series curated by Monica Jacobe at Riverby Books on Washington DC's Capitol Hill. Click here for the relevant info. More anon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Combining History and Fiction: Eggerz PubSpeak in DC

One of the things I love about Washington Independent Writers is the Pubspeak series. This next one, on Thursday July 17, looks especially fascinating:
Combining History and Fiction:
Is it a Genre or a Sneaky Means for Imposing History on Readers? Your novel’s set in a particular time. Is it historical fiction? Solveig Eggerz, author of the novel Seal Woman, discusses this vaguely defined genre, exploring the importance of authenticity, research, and the relationship between historic timelines and the personal timelines of characters.


Seal Woman is set against the backdrop of Germany, Iceland, and Poland, 1930-1959. The main character, Charlotte, escapes bombed-out Berlin to work on a farm in Iceland. She’s part of the 1940s migration of some 300 Germans, most of them women, to Icelandic farms.
Read about the event at www.washwriter.org

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Edgar Soberon's "Cazador de Nubes" (Cloud Hunter)

San Miguel de Allende-based painter Edgar Soberon's "Cazador de Nubes" (Cloud Hunter) will be featured on the cover of my forthcoming audio CD, a reading of my essay, "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion". Check out an entire gallery of Soberon's vividly gorgeous work here. I've been a big fan for a while now. Another one of his paintings, "Aguacates" (Avocadoes) graces the cover of Tameme's first chapbook, a short story by Mexican writer Agustin Cadena. More anon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Guest-blogger Clara Rodriguez on 5 Latino Stars of Early Hollywood

One of the many writers I was fortunate to meet at last January's AWP bookfair in New York City was Fordham University Sociology professor Clara Rodriguez, whose new book is Heroes, Lovers & Others: The History of Latinos in Hollywood (Smithsonian Institution Press). It's one of those rare books that is both armchair-reading fun and serious scholarship. Once upon a time, long before Salma.... long before even Ricardo Montalban... who were the Latino stars of the "silents" and early "talkies" era? Over to you, Professor Rodriguez!
#1 Myrtle Gonzalez (1891-1918) was the industry's first Latina star. A native Mexican Californian, she was the daughter of a Los Angeles grocer. Her first film was "Ghosts" in 1911. Between 1911-1917, she starred in more than forty films, many of them westerns and often portraying "vigorous outdoor heroines." She was one of the screen’s best-known leading ladies and was given the title at Universal of “The Virgin Lily of the Screen.”

#2 Antonio Moreno (1888-1967) was a huge star during the silent era. Born in Spain, he starred in a number of major silent films and had made at least 29 such films by 1929. He played the role of Cyrus T. Waltham, the son of a wealthy department store mogul and the handsome hero and love target of his co-star, Clara Bow, in the film It (1927). This is the film which is credited with introducing the term “the ‘it’ girl” into Hollywood.

#3 Ramon Novarro (1899-1968) was another one of the silent screen's handsome leading men and marquis idols. Born José Ramon Samaniegos in Durango, Mexico, he changed his name and went on to become a "guaranteed money-maker for MGM" and to star in many major motion pictures, e.g., "Ben Hur" (1926) and "Mata Hari" (1932) with Greta Garbo.

#4 Dolores Del Rio (1905-1983) is considered "the first Latina superstar." She was one of the top ten moneymakers during the silent era and after leaving Hollywood, she returned to Mexico and went on to become the "First Lady of Mexican Theater." The daughter of a banker in Mexico, she was "discovered" by a film director and brought to Hollywood as the female "Valentino." During her career, she played a wide variety of leading roles.

#5 Lupe Velez (1908-1944) was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and educated in a convent school in San Antonio, Texas. Her first major role was opposite Douglas Fairbanks in the silent movie "The Gaucho" (1928), where she played what was to be the first of a long line of "fire-spitting vamps." Already a star in the late 20s, she was able to successfully make the transition to sound movies in the thirties because her voice was "husky and cartoon-like" -- a clear asset in the comedic characters she played. Her career skyrocketed in 1939 when she began her "Mexican Spitfire" series. She was to make eight films in this series before committing suicide in 1944.

---Clara Rodríguez

--->For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.(and check out the recent guest blog post by Daniel Olivas on 5 influential writers in Latinos in Lotusland)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Kindle: Madam Mayo is Simultaneously Impressed and Underwhelmed

Last January, I read Jeff Gomez's Print is Dead, and decided to open my mind to the wondrous possibilities of non-book-bound narrative. Soon thereafter, at the AWP bookfair in New York, writer and editor Tamara Sellman showed me her light-as-mushroom-dust Kindle and I was impressed. So, a few hundred smackos slapped on the credit card and the Kindle, amazon.com's newfangled electronic reading device, has arrived. I have to admit, however, that it's been sitting on a hall table, unused for more than a month.

The impressive:
--->The box it comes it is charmingly designed.
--->The apparatus is exceptionally lightweight--- goes in a shoulderbag, no problem.
--->Nice leather cover.
--->Love the elastic band on the cover, too.
--->Keyboard super easy to use.
--->The Whispernet thing is kind of cool.

The underwhelming:
--->The screen. It's OK for a screen that isn't back-lit. You need a light to read it, just as you would for an actual book. Whoever came up with the term "electronic paper" gets an A+ in Hot Air.
--->The blog thing. Pay to subscribe to blogs? I think not. And to read a blog without being able to follow links (i.e., surf the 'Net)? What, pray tell, is the point? In any event, a number of the very few blogs available for a Kindle subscription are just plain crappy. "Overheard in New York?" Puh-lease. I'll admit I've read that one in the past, and found it hilarious. But recently it's just turned into very boring, very repetitive p**n. Not even hilarious p***n, OK? As for the other blogs, such as Huffington Post, I sometimes read them on the 'Net--- but that's where they're free, and I can surf the links.
--->Newspaper subscriptions, such as the New York York Times, come without pictures, without ads, and abbreviated (!!!) articles. Madam Mayo shall continue recylcing her ginormous piles of newspaper, merci beaucoup. Alas.
--->The price. Ouch.
--->Whispernet. I realize that sounds like a contradiction, as I did say it's cool. But it's limiting. Whispernet doesn't cover the planet, exactly (mostly major US metropolitan areas) and it's just one danged more thing to have to figure out. And I don't want to have to haul around so many different gadgets--- cell phone, camera, video camera, laptop with a highspeed wireless connection, and (sigh), a Kindle with a Whispernet connection... umbrella... Chapstick... address book... notebook... Chiropractor emergency contact info...

Read what Seth Godin has to say about the Kindle here. Jeff Gomez expounds in multiple posts here. More anon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Born Standing Up

Jerry Seinfeld calls Steve Martin's new memoir, Born Standing Up, "Absolutely magnificent. One of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written." Yes, it is absolutely magnificent. But no, it is so much more: It is one of the best books about being an artist--- of any kind--- ever written.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Guest-Blogger David Lida's 5 Secrets of Mexico City


Guest-blogging today is my amigo and fellow blogger, David Lida, author of the just-released First Stop in the New World (Riverhead Books), a street-level panorama of the D.F.--- this head-bangingly wacky fabulosity of a megalopolis otherwise known as Mexico City. Adapted from his book, Lida here offers a tips about his adopted home unknown to most tourists--- and even to many residents. P.S. Lida will be doing a discussion and book signing in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 16th, at 7 p.m. at the Mount Pleasant Branch Public Library, 3160 16th St. NW. For more about the author and his book, check out his web page with its built-in photo blog: www.davidlida.com Over to you, David!

Five secrets of Mexico City

1. Had your fill of Frida’s house and the Museum of Anthropology? How would you like to go to a cake museum? On the second floor of an enormous bakery called the Pastelería Ideal (Avenida 16 de Septiembre #18, Centro Histórico), there is an exhibition hall in which the very aroma of sugar is so strong that it could send a diabetic to the hospital. There are six and seven-tiered wedding cakes, with green, blue or peach-colored icing. There are cakes that weigh 240 pounds, can be divided into 1,100 portions and cost over a thousand dollars. Cakes that sport spurting, functioning fountains. Cakes that serve as immense platforms, atop of which are staircases comprised of six progressively smaller cakes. There’s a section of white wedding cakes, in the midst of which you feel as if you were in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg after a snowstorm. There’s also a section of cakes for children, with football or soccer fields on top, or with icing illustrations of well-known cartoon characters. A few days after a notable earthquake in 1999, I visited the Ideal and asked if any of the cakes had fallen. “No,” the woman at the cash register said. “They just danced a little.”

2. Continuing in the alternative museum vein, there is a store on the corner of Avenida Insurgentes and Calle Chihuahua in the Colonia Roma called Uniformes Oskar, that has been selling uniforms since the 1970s. The mannequins have not changed a bit since the store’s opening, and as such, are truly bizarre. There’s a chambermaid, for instance, in a striped uniform, with a sad face, long lashes and only one hand. A black waitress has green-painted lips. All the mannequins look like shipwreck survivors, their wigs uncombed and askew. Some are in disturbingly suggestive poses, like the two on top of the showcases inside, who wear nothing more than abbreviated smocks. One, handless and reclining, her arms open in an invitation, shows a lot of modestly crossed leg. The other is bald, open-mouthed and on her knees. Breton or Artaud would be perfectly at home here.

3. If you are the sort of person – or are having the sort of day – where you are willing to have two or three drinks with your lunch, at most Mexico City cantinas you will be served, free of charge, botanas – small plates of food that are the Mexican equivalent to tapas. Served at the traditional Mexican lunch hour (between two and five p.m.) they are enough to make an abundant meal; in fact, in most of them they won’t stop serving until you’ve cried uncle. Among the best cantinas for botanas are La Mascota (on the corner of Mesones and Bolívar in the Centro Histórico), La Mansión de Oro (Avenida Universidad 123, in the Narvarte neighborhood), and La Auténtica (on the corner of Avenida Cuauhtémoc and Calle Álvaro Obregón in the Colonia Roma).

4. Now, to combine the cantina and faux museum themes: Many cantinas are decorated to reflect a passion for bullfighting, with posters of promising corridas and stuffed heads of defeated animals adorning the walls. At La Faena (Venustiano Carranza 49, between Bolívar and Isabel la Católica, Colonia Centro) – the bullfight cantina por excelencia – there are a series of showcases, inside of which are an exhibition of bullfighter’s costumes. Some belonged to well-known matadors, like Juan Belmonte and El Soldado, while the rest are those of forgotten novices. The suits are so decrepit that they seem to be crumbling into dust before your eyes. Some hang by themselves, while others take on the form of the mannequins that wear them (such as the banderillero with the grotesque expression who stands guard on top of the men's room). Connoisseurs of homoerotic art will note that the figures of Carlos Arruza and Manolo Dos Santos appear to be on the brink of a passionate kiss, while a couple of toreros are in what may be suggestive situations with their boyish dressers.

5. Since the crime wave resultant to the peso crash of 1994, Mexico City has taken a terrible rap as being a horribly dangerous place to live. Of course, like most big cities, you have to watch your back here, but there is certain evidence that the perception of peril is exaggerated. While offenses often go unreported, the most reliable crime statistics – in Mexico City and around the world – are for homicides, because you have to be rather ingenious to make a cadaver disappear. According to FBI’s numbers, you are more likely to be murdered in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Las Vegas or Dallas than in Mexico City. These figures are proportionate to their populations. In 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans – which, at the time had only one-one-hundredth the population of Mexico City – had a nearly equal number of homicides.

--- David Lida

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

Monday, June 09, 2008

Chapultepec Castle


New on my Maximilian page: Chapultepec Castle photo album. Miramar Castle anon.

Guest-Blogger Jane Kinney Meyers: 5 + Links About Lubuto

There are many people with a grand vision. There are multitudes with grit. But precious few have both a grand vision and the grit to realize it--- in the case of my amiga, Washington DC-based librarian Jane Kinney Meyers, a unique kind of library specially geared to bring hope and enlightenment to some of Africa's most vulnerable children. So I am honored to have her guest-blogging today with the latest news and links about Lubuto. Over to you, Jane!
The first Lubuto Library is up and running well, offering many enriching programs to street children in Lusaka, Zambia. As we expected, the beautiful library based on vernacular designs has turned out to be a magnet for Zambians who have wonderful offerings for those children, who were hitherto impossible to reach. Those programs include: reading, storytelling and read-aloud; visual arts; motivational mentoring; drama and other performing arts; health & HIV/AIDS; environment; book-making; and photography in nature. Outreach workers for the library go out onto the streets and tell children about this wonderful new place that is especially for them... and they are coming in big numbers and loving what they find there.

We are now working on plans and financing for building the next 5 libraries, elsewhere within Lusaka and Zambia. And actor Danny Glover, a UNICEF Ambassador, has told UNICEF he would like to go to Zambia in support of the Lubuto Library Project. What a wonderful drama program HE can offer the street kids!

Our new website went ‘live’ recently, with a photo gallery coming soon. It is at www.Lubuto.org.

An 11-minute edit of the wonderful opening event for the first Library, featuring Zambia’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda reading the classic children’s book Caps for Sale, while it was dramatized by participants in our performing arts program, is on YouTube and also available through our site at http://www.lubuto.org/opening.html

While so many positive things are happening in Zambia, we keep close ties with our friends who help vulnerable children in next-door Zimbabwe, which has recently reached an all-time human rights low. Despite the extreme difficulties there right now, Zimbabwe’s vibrant people still keep up the most wonderful website I’ve seen from anywhere in Africa, at: http://www.kubatana.net

I am always hitting up publishers for donations of books that we want for Lubuto Libraries, and although I’m a librarian, I haven’t kept up with developments in the publishing industry. I am once again about to head out to the annual ALA conference (where we will also make a presentation on the Lubuto Project) and to prepare to hit the vast publishers’ exhibits I found the following site with information on who owns whom in the book publishing industry useful: http://people.brandeis.edu/~lamiller/publishers.html

I was hoping that the two Zimbabwe links could count as one so that I could throw in a link to the Internet Public Library, run by Lubuto’s good friends at Drexel University’s i-School. Prof. Denise Agosto there has been publishing information about how Lubuto Libraries are models for library services for disadvantaged youth, and others in Drexel’s library school have supported Lubuto in many ways. [But I should also throw in that we also get lots of help from libraries, library schools and students at the University of Alabama, University of South Carolina, University of Maryland and University of Pittsburgh, and others!] http://www.ipl.org/

---Jane Kinney Meyers


--->For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.
P.S. Please consider making a donation to Lubuto. For donations of books, also urgently needed, please check the donation guidelines here.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Writers Center Is Holding an Open House This Saturday

Check it out at www.writer.org The Writers Center is in Bethesda MD, just over the line from Washington DC. (I'm leading the one day "Flash Fiction" workshop Saturday July 26. For more about that, and to register, click here.) More anon.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Guest-blogger Daniel Olivas: 5 Influential Writers in "Latinos in Lotusland"

I'm a big fan of Daniel Olivas's, for his writing, his generous and entrepreneurial spirit, and his blogging--- yes, he blogs, too, every Monday for the excellent La Bloga (Chicano, Chicana, Latino, Latina literary news, views & more). His latest book is Latinos in Lotus-Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, (Bilingual Press), which includes stories by Jennifer Silva Redmond, Rigoberto Gonzalez, and--- well, I'll stop now and let Dan have la palabra. Over to you, Daniel!

In spring of 2005, after receiving a “green light” from Bilingual Press, I set upon the waters of the Internet the following call for submissions:

“I am editing an anthology of short fiction by Latinos/as in which the City of Los Angeles plays an integral role. I am interested in provocative stories on virtually any subject by both established and new writers. Stories may range from social realism to cuentos de fantasma and anything in between. Los Angeles may be a major ‘character’ or merely lurking in the background. I'd like to see characters who represent diverse backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, profession, age, sexual orientation, etc.”

What happened next both surprised and delighted me. My call for submissions quickly spread like a happy virus through the Web, showing up on numerous literary sites, personal blogs, and even on the home page of the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. With the exception of several pieces I solicited from authors I knew, submissions started pouring in over my virtual transom from writers who found my call on the Web or learned of it through an e-mail from a friend, agent, or writing instructor. It was almost overwhelming. After making some tough decisions (I received more than 200,000 words of fiction and whittled it down to 115,000 words), I chose the pieces that make up Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press, 2008) .

Though I could sing the praises of all 34 authors whose short stories and novel excerpts are included in the anthology, under the tough guest-blogging rules of Madam Mayo, I must focus on five. So, here are five contributors to the anthology who have been important influences on my own fiction writing:

#1. JOHN RECHY
John’s contribution to the anthology is an excerpt from his novel, The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez. This book moved me to such an extent that it became one of the primary inspirations for my first full-length novel, The Book of Want, which is being read by a press right now. In fact, his protagonist, Amalia Gómez, makes an appearance in my book.

#2. LUIS ALBERTO URREA One of the most beautiful novels in recent memory is Luis’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter. After I reviewed his novel for the litblog, The Elegant Variation, I hounded Luis for a story. The man is very busy and crazy with travel. But Luis finally sent me a searing short story entitled “The White Girl.”

#3. KATHLEEN ALCALÁ
One of my favorite genres is the cuento de fantasma, stories steeped in the supernatural. Kathleen is a master of this genre and so I bugged her for a story. She sent me the creepy “Do You Know the Way to the Monkey House?” which is not really a cuento de fantasma but, rather, a plausible story that shows that real life can be stranger than the fantastical.

#4. HELENA MARÍA VIRAMONTES
Without a doubt, one of my favorite short story collections is Helena’s The Moths. Her honest, poetic but often brutal language permeates my own fiction…I don’t pretend to reach Helena’s literary heights, but I try. So when her agent, Stuart Bernstein, offered Helena’s story, “Tears on My Pillow,” how could I refuse?

#5. LUIS J. RODRÍGUEZ Luis has emerged as one of the leading Chicano writers in the country with ten nationally published books in memoir, fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, and poetry. One of my favorite books is his collection, The Republic of East L.A. I asked him if I could use a story from that book, a story entitled, “Miss East L.A.” He said yes but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Luis’s agent, Susan Bergholz, for making it all work out.

--- Daniel Olivas

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

Monday, June 02, 2008

Writers Conferences: A Short List of Recommendations

Last Saturday, when I gave my "flash fiction" workshop via Dancing Chiva in Mexico City, one of the many and, it seemed, most burning questions was, how can I find a good writers conference? They're popping up all over like Starbucks, judging from the ads in Poets & Writers magazine, so I would not pretend to be able to comment on the merits of each and every one. I can recommend several I've attended myself; several where I have and will serve on the faculty, and also a few I have no personal experience with but I do know and highly respect some of the faculty--- so I'd say they're a good bet. If you visit the websites, you'll get an idea of the variety of focus, cost, length, and character. Which is the best? The answer depends on what you want--- and your budget, both in terms of time and money.

In the U.S.
Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Middlebury, Vermont
The most distinguished literary writers conference in the United States, no question. In rural Vermont.
Sewanee Writers Conference, Sewanee, Tennessee
A close second to Bread Loaf. Very similar format.
New York State Summer Writers Institute, Saratoga Springs, NY
At Skimore College, just up the road from Yaddo.
Squaw Valley Writers, Squaw Valley, California
Washington Independent Writers
A wide variety of writing--- more than just literary--- and they always have a good agents panel and pitch session.
Writers at the Beach, Delaware
F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, Rockville MD
Writers At Work, Salt Lake City, Utah
Hassayampa Institute for Creative Writing, Prescott, Arizona
Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, Gambier, Ohio
Writing It Real, Port Townsend, Washington (State)
With Sheila Bender

In Mexico
San Miguel Writers Conference, San Miguel de Allende
Under the Volcano, Tepoztlan, Morelos (near Cuernavaca; about an hour from Mexico City)

Anywhere with a telephone
The Writers Telesummit
A new concept--- I'm giving the session on travel writing.

P.S. Dancing Chiva maintains a links page with more resources for writers. My next Dancing Chiva workshop, Techniques of Fiction, is scheduled for October 18. More workshops and events here. And more anon.