Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 E-Mail Manifesto

I owe a lot of you e-mails. (I am owed a lot of e-mails, now that I think about it.) Isn't everyone overwhelmed, snowed under, treadmilling up to the nostrils in the stuff? Yet, so much of it really does matter. So many messages I sincerely do appreciate! Starting Monday, January 4, I will be responding to e-mail again in what I hope will be a more timely matter. Meanwhile, I will catch up as best I can. My personal guidelines for 2010:

---> E-mail checking once, max twice per day.

---> Answer e-mails from family and close friends first. Because they are first.

---> Remember: there are such things as vacations, weekends, and free evenings.

---> Be here now. This is not possible with a Blackberry.

---> Delete mass e-mailed jokes (sorry, but help me out here, OK?)

---> Ditto anything with an unsolicited attachment (people who send attached PDFs for their newsletters, etc, please use a link to the PDF on your website).

---> Always (unless it's totally spammy, i.e., from someone I don't know) send a thank you / congrats to anyone who announces a new book / show / anything that took time, know-how, and guts to share.

---> Send a real letter / note / curious postcard at least once a week.

More anon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

3 Most Frequently Asked Questions About the Writing Business

To my (happy) surprise, I am guest-blogging today over at the Writers Center blog, First Person Plural, with a re-posting of my answers to the three most frequently asked questions about the writing business. More anon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Compassion is the Way: TNR for Feral Cats / Gatos Callejeros

What to do about the feral cats? I'm in a Mexico City neighborhood that's been overrun. Given the scale of the problem and the scarcity of resources, what is the most compassionate and effective way to address the situation? Well, why reinvent the wheel? Herewith a batch of links:

"Compassion is the Way: The Care and Feeding of Feral Cats" by Nathan J. Winograd
A both knowledgable and commonsensical article. The author recommends a policy of TNR, that is, Trap, Neuter, Return. He writes, "TNR is not only humane, it is the most effective way to reduce the number of homeless cats. In addition, feral cat caregivers are a dedicated 'army of compassion,' and can be one of a shelter’s greatest resources in the community. Organizations on even the smallest budget can start a feral cat program..." Includes a section on humane trapping methods.

Feral Cat Program SPAN-NC Humane Trapping Instructions
More about humane trapping (forget the itty bitty cardboard box, folks... )

Myths and Facts about Spay and Neuter
Just in case your commonsense is still mired in the 18th century (meow).

Alley Cat Allies
Alley Cat Allies "introduced the practice of spaying and neutering entire colonies with Trap-Neuter-Return in the United States. Since then, Alley Cat Allies has led the progressive movement for the protection of these cats and continues to educate the public about the lives of cats." Includes a page for social networking for friends of feral cats including links to a yahoo listerv, meetup.com in various U.S. cities, MySpace, facebook, and more. Also check out their excellent resources, including "Starting an Organization to Help Cats." and "How to Implement a TNR Program."

"Sanctuaries: No Place for Feral Cats"
From the Alley Cat Allies website, a page about why sanctuaries (shelters) are generally not the best choice for feral cats.

The Amanda Foundation
Read about this Beverly Hills California-based nonprofit which runs (among many other programs) "mega feral spay/neuter days" with Stray Cat Alliance and Kitten Rescue. Also read about their "spaymobile," a fully outfitted surgery station in a truck, which they call "the answer to ending pet over population."

Lots more going on: Indy Feral in Indiana (note their flyer); SNAP-NC (North Carolina); Feral Cat Coalition; Feral Cats San Diego.

Ear Tipping vs. Tattoo
From Bloomington, Indiana's "Neuter Scooter" page. Their argument sounds good to me.

What's already being done in Mexico City? I asked three different veterianians here; so far none can tell me of any TNR programs for feral cats--- only rescue. The best-known organization is PNA Mexico.

Some other animal rescue organizations based in Mexico:

Refugio Franciscano, A.C.
Working to rescue dogs and cats since 1977. Offers a page about sterilization for dogs and cats. Lots of dogs and cats available for adoption. Gruesome stories, alas.

Los Cabos Humane Society
I know one of the founders; they do a splendid job with fundraising in the community. The annual cocktail party with silent auction is a military-style operation-- with flowers, live music, and hors d'ouerves galore. Flip-flops and an Aloha shirt, it ain't. Seriously, on multiple fronts, they are doing an excellent job and this has helped improve the quality of life for both animals and people in the area.

Amigos de los Animales (San Miguel de Allende)
Many heart-warming stories here.

More links:

Secretaria de Salud, Semana Nacional de Vacunacion
(Mexican Secretary of Health, National Vaccination Week)
Is there a feral cat TNR program? If so, I couldn't find it.

Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (USA)

My conclusion thus far: no need to kill the poor kitties, neither to let them starve, nor do you need to scrape together scarce resources to build and administer a shelter. TNR seems to be an effective, compassionate, and relatively inexpensive policy.

Key words: Feral cat colony management with TNR.

More anon.

P.S. If you have links / other information about this issue, and in particular, anything that is already underway in Mexico City, I'd be very happy to hear about it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taller Leñateros

A couple of weeks ago at the Feria Internacional del Libro in Guadalajara, I came across the brilliantly creative artist books published by Taller Leñateros, a publishing collective founded by poet Ambar Past and operated by Mayan artists in Chiapas. I bought both the Tzotzil-Spanish and Tzotzil-English versions of the children's book Bolom Chon. I'll post some photos asap. More anon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read 2009

#1. Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille by Rosemary Sullivan
Read my review / profile of Rosemary Sullivan for Inside Mexico here.

#2. Tras las huellas de un desconocido: Nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo by Konrad Ratz
A crucially important new work by Dr. Konrad Ratz, Austrian expert on Mexico's Second Empire. Covering a wide range of previously unknown or only superficially explored subjects relevant to Maximilian's life and brief rule in Mexico.

#3. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
The mega-paradigm shift explained by a leading networks scientist in plain, if elegant, English. Though this book first came out in 2002, it's well worth reading for the light it shines on the current financial crisis.

#4. My Grandfather's Finger by Edward Swift
An eccentric, elegant, and unblinkingly compassionate memoir of growing up in the thick of the Big Thicket.

#5. The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper
A story every American should read.

#6. The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
An epistolary novel that brings the French Revolution and not only Josephine, but many of France's most intriguing personalities to such life, it sometimes seemed hard to believe I was reading fiction. Gorgeous.

#7. Midday with Buñuel by Claudio Isaac
I was both charmed and moved by this poetic memoir by Mexican filmmaker and writer Claudio Isaac about his friendship with his mentor, the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, who died in Mexico City in 1983.

#8. Marcel Proust: A Life by Edmund White
Oh, writers...

#9. Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley
Mum and Pup of the title were William and Pat Buckley whom I-- and many millions of other Americans--- knew by their glamorous doings as chronicled in the likes of W. This is a headshaker of a memoir, but then it's about a very peculiar and supremely public couple, and by their son. Beautifully written. One of those few books that merits a re-read or three.

#10. Living by Fiction by Annie Dillard
What a splendid book. She's also a master of the intended diction drop-- which is sometimes hilarious.

---> Top 10 Books read 2008
---> Top 10 Books Read 2007
---> Top 10 Books Read 2006

Friday, December 04, 2009

San Miguel Author's Sala December 10th: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire & The World of San Miguel de Allende

It's my last reading for 2009, and I'm really delighted about the wonderful venue, the San Miguel de Allende's Author's Sala in the Posada San Francisco, across from the Jardin. If you're in San Miguel, come on by! Check out their line-up: the series is very eclectic and always fun.

C.M. Mayo reading, dicussing and signing The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire together with Robert de Gast, The World of San Miguel de Allende: An Uncommon Guide. this Thursday December 10th from 5:00pm - 7:00 pm. Cost: 70 pesos, includes wine reception. More anon.

P.S. Why attend a reading?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cosecha del FIL, Part 3: In Celebration of Literal: Latin American Voices / Voces Latinomericanas

The other day here at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara, I participated on the panel presenting Literal: Latin American Voices / Voces Latinoamericanos, the Houston-based bilingual literary magazine edited by Rose Mary Salum. Here's my slightly edited version in translation:

It's been a few years since I saw the first issue of Literal, and with each one I am only more impressed-- impressed not only that it is exists (for launching and continuing to publish a literary magazine for five years is no minor job); impressed not only that it has such a broad and original vision; but above all, impressed by its extraordinary quality.

Speaking as a writer, I am happy to see a new literary journal, and thrilled indeed to come across one of such style and quality as Literal. Just the mention of few of the Mexican writers and poets in its pages should say more than I ever could: Pura López Colomé, Alberto Blanco, Adolfo Castañon, Tanya Huntington Hyde, Fabio Morábito...

And speaking as a literary translator, I am delighted. We translators should all celebrate Literal, for there are so few publications of quality that are open to, never mind so actively promote literary translation. (It pains me to say this, but this is especially true in the United States, my own country.)

I am a writer and a translator of contemporary Mexican fiction and poetry, and in these two roles I have had the honor of participating in Literal. But in my talk today I would like to put on a different hat, as they say: that of editor.

As an editor, I am a great admirer of Rose Mary Salum. About ten years ago, I founded a journal called Tameme. Tameme had a somewhat different concept--- it was bilingual, everything in both Spanish and English presented strictly side-by-side; it published fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction (no interviews or book reviews); and it only included works by living writers from or residing in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. I don't mean to go on about Tameme; my point is that I know that editing a bilingual literary magazine is a path paved with satisfactions and strewn with surprises, some magical, and many, well, consternating. To launch and continue publishing any literary magazine is not easy. So to Literal, to Rose Mary Salum, my sincere respects.

I recall a conversation we had some years ago about Botteghe Oscure. This was a magazine founded by Marguerite Caetani in Rome (named after the street), and published from the late 1940s through 1960. She published in four languages: Italian, French, German and English and such writers as Dylan Thomas and Guiseppi di Lampedusa. Botteghe Oscure was an inspiration for George Plimpton, an American writer who was one of the founders of the Paris Review. Based for many years now in New York City, the Paris Review is one of the leading literary journals in the U.S. In my case, with Tameme, I can mention as inspirations The Paris Review and El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn , which was founded by Margaret Randall and

Sergio Mondragon in Mexico City in the early 1960s. El Corno Emplumado is perhaps best remembered for publishing Octavio Paz in English, but it has a fascinating history. Another inspiration was Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas / Nueva escritura de las Americas, founded by Roberto Tejada in Mexico City in the
early 1990s. After I founded Tameme (gosh, this was in the days before the Internet took off), I learned about the superb Two Lines, a journal of translations of writing and poetry open to all languages, founded by the California-based translator Olivia Sears. Two Lines has published many of the leading Mexican writers and poets.

I'm not going to go into the detail of the history of literary journals and their founding editors; I mean to say, we are--- as is anyone bold enough to start a literary journal--- part of this tradition. And Literal is a mega-bright star in the not-so-big constellation of bilingual magazines. I don't think it's possible to exaggerate the importance of Literal and the many reasons we have to celebrate it.

As an editor, I'd like to talk a bit about the work, which is so much more wide-ranging and complex than most writers and translators realize. As editor of Tameme, I have learned many lessons, some quite painful. To successfully publish a literary magazine, one needs a range of abilities and while many people have some or a few of these, it is rare indeed to find someone blessed with all of them. First and foremost, one needs the ability to recognize literary quality, to evaluate and select. Second, one needs courage, huge dollops of it, for not only is publishing a journal a public act--- and any public act invites criticism, even ridicule or worse--- one of the key abilities of a good editor is the ability to say, "No." No to friends, no to famous writers, no to wannabe writers, no to, well, all sorts of people. Believe me, when you launch a literary magazine you will find no shortage of manuscripts. If you're an arrogant narcissist, saying "No," is a click of the fingers. (Certainly we all know of some sadists who rather relish it.) But if you have a good heart, having to say, "No," can be one of the least pleasant parts of this work. I know Rose Mary Salum has a good heart, and I know this part of the work cannot be easy. In addition, an editor must also have managerial skills. To work with a board, with assistants, and designers, as with any team, requires such skills but in the case of working with writers and poets, well, are we not like cats? Try herding cats!

Then there are administrative skills. There are permissions to be complied with--- letters, contracts, payments. One has to choose a printer, after taking bids, calculating the cost of certain types of paper-- this thickness or that, acid-free or what. How many to print? Arranging shipment and warehousing.

And one has to be an expert in marketing. (Marketing! Goodness, can't you go to university and get a couple of degrees in this field?) To put it simply: how to bring the magazine to the hands of its readers? We don't want the boxes sitting unopened in the warehouse!

In sum, editing a literary magazine is like trying to juggle a watermelon, a few squealing mice, the aforementioned cats, a hippopotamus or three, and a block of cement. What is the block of cement? Why, distribution. God, distribution. I've been a member of a private e-mail discussion group for editors of literary journals and I can't quote or name names but believe me, I've heard the stories.... distribution... it's an unholy nightmare. But when I go into a Sanborn's, I always see a copy of Literal. And they're doing a fabulous job getting the word out with the website, the blog, and facebook and twitter. Rose Mary Salum, and the team at Literal, my respects!!


I don't have time to comment in more detail about Literal's extraordinary editorial vision. Suffice it to say that if you look at any issue's table of contents you will see the richness and originality of the selections. There are interviews with such outstanding figures as Junot Diaz, Oscar Hijuelos, Hernando de Soto, and Wangari Maathai; essays by Margot Glanz (on the Orient Express), David Medina (on GMOs), Alberto Chimal (on Edward Gorey--- speaking of cats!), John Mason Hart, one of the leading historians of Mexico, Maarten van Delden on Jose Martí, and fiction by Rosa Beltrán, Juan Villoro... I haven't yet mentioned the gallery section, with photography, sculpture, painting, and even an entire issue dedicated to the art of comics. Literal embraces not only Latin America but the world, ideas, art--- it is an intellectual magazine; intellectual in the best sense of the word.

In not only launching Literal but keeping it going stronger than ever for five years is an extraodinary achievement. As an editor, Rose Mary, my heartfelt congratulations to you. As a writer, as a translator and most of all, as a reader, my heartfelt thanks. May Literal have all the success it deserves and long, long life.

Translation of a talk given at the Feria Internacional del Libro, December 1, 2009.

Cosecha del FIL, Part 2: Pedro Angel Palou, Juan Villoro, Enrique Krauze, Teresa Carbajal Ravet, Tanya Huntington, Pedro Serrano, Carlos Lopez de Alba

A book fair is a crucible of serendipity. Holas to Juan Villoro, whose story "Mariachis" is in BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION*, (for which I translated a story by another Mexican writer, Alvaro Enrigue), and Sergio Troncoso, whom I just happened to see last month at the bodacious Texas Book Festival in Austin, here in Guadalajara for an event with the Goethe Institut. (Check out his blog, Chico Lingo, and in particular the piece about a real head-scratcher out of the Texas Library Association).

*BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION presentation is tomorrow, Dec 3 @ 6 pm here at FIL.

History: Pedro Angel Palou (whose short story about an unusual town in the state of Puebla appears in my anthology, MEXICO: A TRAVELER'S LITERARY COMPANION) is one of the big stars of the FIL this year with his new book, LA CULPA DE MEXICO: LA INVENCION DE UN PAIS ENTRE GUERRAS, which is featured in towering stacks (literally-- when I pulled out a copy I was afraid I'd make the whole thing topple).

Enrique Krauze was on a panel about Mexican leaders of yore-- every chair was taken and the smidgen of aisle-space was for the sardines. Translation: I tried, but I couldn't squeeze in.

More translators: after the LITERAL presentation yesterday, saw Teresa Carbajal Ravet, who is doing so much to promote translation-- check out her blog Sententia Vera: Your Bilingual Connection to the Spanish Culture.

And poets! An all-around charming presentation of Tanya Huntington Hyde's beautiful new bilingual RETURN / EL REGRESO (with a glowing introduction by Pura López Colomé), what a delight to see Pedro Serrano and his new issue of PERIODICO DE POESIA and to meet Carlos López de Alba, editor of the bilingual magazine REVERSO with a special issue on Novísima Poesía Mexicana / Up-and-Coming Mexican Poets.

New schedule for Madam Mayo:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs noted.
Wednesday: 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Except when not.

Click to follow on twitter: @madammayo

From the Niagara of New: 5 Blogs to Follow-- Nieman Storyboard, A Writing Life, Coffee with a Canine, Las Comadres, & She Writes

Today, apart from running all around the Feria Internacional del Libro (more about that in a moment), I'm guest-blogging over at the Writers Center's blog, First Person Plural, with a post on five excellent blogs to follow: Nieman Storyboard, Coffee with a Canine, Christina Baker Kline's A Writing Life, Las Comadres, and She Writes. Read on!

More anon.

P.S. New schedule for Madam Mayo blog:
Monday: Books
Every other Tuesday: Blogs noted.
Wednesday: 5 links or guest-blogger with 5 links
Friday: News & Misc.

Twitter: @madammayo

Cosecha de la FIL, Part I: Literal, Yankee Invasion, Tirofijo, Miriam Berkley, Trudy Balch and Gaby Brimmer, Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction


Here at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara:
Just participated in the press conference for the new anthology from Dalkey Archive, BEST OF CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN FICTION, edited by Alvaro Uribe and Olivia Sears, for which I translated the fabulous (truly, truly) short story by Alvaro Enrigue.

In the vast exhibition hall, I ran into Trudy Balch, who happened to have a copy of her translation of Gaby Brimmer's autobiography, so I'm taking that over to International PEN tomorrow morning-- that's when they take over stand #NN40, so if you're at the FIL, be sure to come on by.

Yesterday, at the presentation for Literal: Latin American Voices, Voces Latinoamericanos (much more about that anon), ran into translators Nick Hill and Jay Miskowiec, director of Aliform, who gave me a copy of the gorgeous new novel in English translation by Timothy G. Compton, Ignacio Solares's YANKEE INVASION and the hot-off-the-presses THE TRIUMPHANT VOYAGE by Eduardo Garcia Aguilar.

Also in attendance: Juancarlos Porras y Manrique, editor of Leon's elegant
TIROFIJO: REVISTA CULTURAL DEL BAJIO, among all sorts of things over at www.grupoochocientos.com (seriously, check it out, he's doing a million or, OK, maybe 800, amazing things). Miriam Berkley, the photographer of writers, a true treasure of the literary world, snapped some pix--- read more about her work in "A Literary Eye" by Larry Brownstein.