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Monday, July 28, 2008

Blogging the Flan, Part II

Re: Last Friday's post on (pre-) judging the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. As one of three pre-judges, my task is to select 7-10 out of my portion of 122 book-length manuscripts (pictured left) to send on to the series editor, Nancy Zafris. All come to me without names, addresses or previous publishing credits, so I have absolutely no idea who the authors might be. So far: Round 1 eliminated 50 manuscripts. Round 2 eliminated 52. Top reasons for the thumbs down:

1. clumsy writing
2. lack of vividness
3. clutter
4. cliche
5. unconvincing / inept use of dialogue
6. frigidity
7. unconvincing characters and actions
8. lack of tension
9. bad taste

But there are 20 very promising manuscripts for Round 3. More anon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blogging the Flan, Part I

Light blogging this week because, among eleven thousand other things, I'm serving as one of the (three) pre-judges for this year's Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Our task is to select 7 - 10 semi-finalists each; Nancy Zafris, the series editor, will select the winners. Don't let anyone say Americans don't care about literature! Some fifteen boxes have yielded an unholy mountain of mansucripts, now piled up on the floor and chairs in my dining room (the table itself couldn't take all the weight). More anon.

P.S. "So You Want to Be a Writer" by Charles Bukowski.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

For $2, "Pug Discovers Crop Circle in Carpet"

I'm feeling especially limber today because I just took the Writers Center's "Yoga & Writing Workshop" with "Rock and Roll Mama" Lindsay Reed Maines. So what to do with all the pretzel energy? (And still procrastinate about just about everything?) I channeled a $2 dose of it (via PayPal) to on-line artist Yirmumah who claims he will draw anything (not you-know-what-rated, however) for $2. Among his on-line $2 works:
--->Godzilla on a Segway and
--->50 Foot Tiki vs City of the Undead.
My request? "Pug Discovers Crop Circle in Carpet." Come on, it was only $2.
More anon.

UFO Over the Potomac

And then I came inside and found a crop circle in the carpet. Just kidding. Flash fiction workshop this Saturday at the Writers Center.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Guest-blogger L. Peat O'Neil: 5 + Links on Walking and Literature

Goethe advised, "Plunge into the the thick of life." It might not be so poetic, but certainly, one could walk into the thick of life. Walk, run, swim, climb, sail-- what travel writing is all about is not only the adventure itself, but bringing to it the sharp awareness that one needs to later shape a narrative to share with others (which leads to the sometimes thrilling, sometimes soul-chilling adventure of publishing...) I met travel writer L. Peat O'Neil at a Washington DC Women's National Book Association-sponsored event in the Rosslyn, Virginia Olsson's Book Store, where I read from my memoir and she read from hers. I've been a big fan ever since, and in my travel writing workshops, I always avidly recommend her book, what should be every travel writer's Bible, Travel Writing: See the World, Sell the Story. Over to you, Peat!
Some day soon, if the yoga and creative visualization work, and I finish necessary edits, Pyrenees Pilgrimage will be available through The book is about my solo walk across France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean through the Pyrenees. A walk in the woods, French style.

Hah! Not so simple as that. I trudged and climbed, sweat and drank, following the French paths that feed into the Camino de Santiago de Compostello. I was walking away from Santiago and met several people on the trail near St. Jean Pied du Port who were headed to Spain. I even turned down an invitation to join a jolly group headed to the traditional pilgrimage destination. No, I was walking to the Mediterranean Sea.

An iconoclast, I like to look backwards to find out what’s ahead. On this journey, I visited landmarks, churches, chateaus and sites that illustrate the spiritual and political history of the region. I dug into ruins, sat in caves, scrambled up crumbling hillsides and meditated next to crosses honoring Resistance fighters shot dead by Nazis. A pleasure seeking pilgrim, I sampled local cheese, bread, meat and wine. I picked apples and cooked preserves. When my feet hurt, I rested and painted watercolors which lured the curious who sometimes became new friends. Lodgings ranged from bunks in mountain lodges to refurbished 17th century mansions. I stayed in schoolhouses converted to hostels and, when I arrived at the deserted seaside in October, I slept soundly in a room over a sports bar. Each walking day was different, but the repetitive rhythm of walking hundreds of kilometers alone hones a person’s spirit.

When opportunity presented, I conversed with the people of the region, learning much about animal husbandry, crops, the wars-- centuries of wars, legends, saints and ghosts. I attended an organ music festival and played the piano in a cellist’s home, slipped in a mountain stream and was patched up by an orthopedic surgeon who told me he had fixed similar broken wrists for Tour de France cyclists. I attended a Basque wedding reception and a funeral in Corbieres wine country.

I walked 40 days and 685 kilometers. I walked alone, wind and wildlife for company. One evening near St. Paul du Fenouillet, caught out after sundown, I witnessed boars wrestling with their tusks in the dusk. On the high plateaus east of Col de Mehatché, I stared up at circling Lammergeier and Griffon vultures soaring on thermals. One afternoon I carried a dead white owl found in my path to its final resting place.

The book should be out this fall on Amazon as an e-book.
Read an excerpt from Pyrenees Pilgrimage. And click here for travel information on the Pyrenees.

5 + links to aspects of walking and literature:

Interview with Rebecca Solnit, on Boston WBUR radio.
She’s the author of Wanderlust, a literary history of human perambulation. I devoured this book before starting my walk across France.

Kipnotes on Walking
Bibliography of narratives about walking journeys-– mostly literary, some how-to guides.

The Power Walk That Charges Your Phone
Here comes our future. A generator that harvests wattage from humans while they walk-- enough power to charge cell phones.

Run the Planet: Race Walking in Mexico
Race Walking in Mexico offers links to coaching and information sites for
walkers and runners.

Peace Pilgrim
Peace Pilgrim walked around the North American continent as a messenger of simplicity and peace.

My blog about walking.

Walk On!
--- L. Peat O'Neil

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yummy Bits Anon

Thanks for checking in. Otherwise engaged for a few days. More, and about Richard Peabody's Stress City, Gabriel Zaid's The Secret of Fame, and Werner Herzog's documentary on the South Pole, anon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Proyecto K in Condesa, DF

Artist Berta Kolteniuk has launched a "cultural laboratory" in Mexico City's Colonia Condesa. Check out the website with soundtrack & pix of "Proyecto K" gallery at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yes, Virginia, The Black Square is Actually Insured for a Wheelbarrow o' Bucks

Finally had the chance to read Sophy Burnham's audacious and deliciously literary work of art world sociology, The Art Crowd. Interestingly, this was published over 30 years ago and, though a New York Times best-seller, did not come out in paperback until recently, via the Authors Guild's back-in-print program. (Well, if the publishing "business" is crazy, moreso the art business.) Click here to read my post about Burnham's other back-in-print book, The Landed Gentry.

P.S. Watch her YouTube video: Advice to Writers.

P.S.S. And about that black square? I have in mind the one by Kazimir Malevich. That was back when. Now it's Jeff Koons & co. Evil ha ha.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Guest-Blogger Nani Power on 5 Interesting Facts About the Monarch Butterflies

This month is the pub date for the multi-talented writer Nani Power's latest, Feed the Hungry, a memoir with recipes, centered around a life of travel, eclectic dining, and her decidedly eccentric Southern bohemian family. It also includes a chapter on Mexico’s state of Michoacan, where her family went to see the annual Monarch Butterfly migration, and apropos of that.... over to you, Nani!
1) Between October and March, one hundred million monarch Butterflies migrate to Michoacan state in Mexico, specifically a town called Angangueo, which is a four hour drive west of Mexico City. There is only one hotel in town, so call ahead!

2) The Monarch Butterfly is that majestic orange and black creature you see flitting about in your garden. They love to eat Milkweed, which contains a resin which not only colors the wings orange but makes these butterflies poisonous to birds.

3) Be sure you don’t touch a Monarch in Pacific Grove, one of their stopping points along the way, or you will pay a five hundred dollar fine.

4) Monarch Butterflies are available on the internet for release at Weddings and other functions.

5) The flashy Monarch has been called the “Elvis” of the insect world. Thank ya, thank ya very much.

---Nani Power

P.S. Nani also gives writing and cooking workshops in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico--- and she has one coming up this November.

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

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Trailer for "Ya Basta" : A Film by Ricardo Ainslie

So, apropos of yesterday's post on vid-lit etc., I've been asking my writer amigos for links to their "trailers"--- on-line videos to promote their books. So far, no fish of that stripe in the net, but do check out this expertly made (if very scary) trailer for the documentary film "Ya Basta" by Mexican writer and film-maker Ricardo Ainslie.

Monday, July 07, 2008

VidLit Monday

It's both a new art form and a new PR tool: the book trailer, a subspecies of "vid-lit," so called after VidLit, a company that makes videos for books. Here's an example of a book trailer (not by that company, as far as I can tell), for James Howard Kunstler's novel, World Made By Hand, which certainly encourages the idea of a "movie based on." And here are several more examples of book trailers. Less-slick are Steven Hart's Thrill-a-Minute Skyway Cam video, apropos of his book, The Last Three Miles: Poltics, Murder and the Construction of America's First Superhighway and Gayle Brandeis's video for her new novel, Self-Storage. As I have a novel coming out next year, I'm interested in the form, but I'm also enchanted by the possibilities of incorporating sound and image (both still and moving) to fiction itself--- especially flash fiction. It's a very different concept than dramatizing the work, as in a movie-like trailer. Neither is it anything like an almost purely visual feast (e.g., Tufte's video about his sculpture, "ZZ Smile"), or even, as Internet film-maker Nick Askew does, a series of mini-documentaries on
P.S. Here's some ancient history: the 2005 National Public Radio piece on vid-lit.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Christine Boyka Kluge on The Poetics of Space

Bingo, I bought the book. Read what the ever-fascinating poet and visual artist Christine Boyka Kluge has to say here.