Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park & Arts Center in Solomons, Maryland, presented the following awards at Artsfest ’10 on Saturday, September 18, 2010. Over 150 artists presented their works in mediums such as jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and photography during the wonderful weekend event that attracted more than 15,000 visitors with record attendance on Saturday and Sunday, September 18 and 19, 2010.
Carmen Sanders owner of Carmen’s Gallery in Solomons, Maryland, Mary Oritt, Master Gardener with Calvert County Master Gardeners and Andrew Applegate, Executive Director for Asbury Solomons Island in Solomons, Maryland judged the event and presented the awards for Artsfest ’10.
The Arts Council of Calvert County Best of Show Award was presented to Richard W. Toft, from Accomac, Virginia. His traditional egg tempera work explores coastal life and traditions of contemporary realism.
The Dom & Sue Raino Merit Award was presented to Deborah Lovelace, glass artist from New Market, Maryland for her out of the ordinary glass jewelry and fused glass pictures.
The Chesapeake Highlands Memorial Gardens Best Demonstration Award was presented to Betty Seifert, Fiber artist from Lusby, Maryland. Her wonderful demonstration of spinning and weaving techniques enthralled visitors of all ages during her first appearance at Artsfest.
The Zahniser’s Emerging Artist Award went to Katrina Dill, a photographer from Prince Frederick, Maryland, for her photos of natural landscapes and unexpected scenes. Her designs, creative mattes and mounts also won praise from the judges.
The Jan Kleponis O’Brien Realty Best Display Award went to Cindy Blackburn, returning jeweler from Baltimore, Maryland, delighting visitors with her enchanting display of her spectacular jewelry.
Author Sharon Miner will be at Greenwell State Park on Sunday, Oct. 3, from 1pm - 3pm, to sell and sign copies of her new book, "Beloved Horses in Second Careers." One of Greenwell's beloved horses, Spot, is profiled in the book and appears on the cover.
Spot is the cornerstone of Greenwell's riding lesson program, popular with riders and campers alike. He is a favorite of riders with disabilities as he is so patient. Unknown to many, Spot led quite an interesting life before he came to Greenwell. Miner's book tells the story of Spot.
Miner's appearance is sponsored by the Greenwell Foundation and is part of an East Coast tour promoting the publication of her new book.
Sharon Miner is the author of adventure stories and mystery novels for middle grade readers and young adults. Miner, a professional horsewoman, always includes horses in her books. Read more about Miner and her books at her Web site
For more information about Miner's East Coast book tour, visit her blog
More about Spot:
Spot was born in Texas where he was used for cow cutting. He did the same later in California. He landed in Oklahoma and was sold to a man who lived in Maryland. Caitlyn Keyes was 13 years old and living in Southern Maryland when she saw an ad in a magazine for an eventing farm.
"The ad had a picture of this really cool looking registered Paint Horse named Lucky Leo. We ended up going to that farm (because my mom does saddle fittings) and she asked a girl who this horse was because I just wanted to see him. Well come to find out he just so happened to be for sale. Of course we bought him! "
"He then evented up to Training Level but could easily school Prelim, but he developed arthritis so he was retired from jumping. Then a year later he went to nationals in Pony Club in Kentucky for Dressage! Also, the whole time I owned him he fox hunted. I am so happy to hear that he is still a superstar."
-- Caitlyn Keyes, Summer 2009
More about Spot's role in the Greenwell Therapeutic Riding Program:
A few years ago, Gene and Colleen Lane spent time at Greenwell as park hosts. They lived in their motor home at the park and volunteered with several of Greenwell’s programs including the Therapeutic Riding Program. As TRP volunteers, Gene and Colleen assisted as side-walkers, walking alongside a horse and TRP rider during lessons. Now, Gene is a TRP rider himself.
Shortly after completing their park host service, life took a drastic turn. Gene suffered a fall and a stroke. He lost the use of his legs and one side of his body.
Therapeutic riding was suggested as a way to offer Gene an opportunity to improve his physical and cognitive abilities. At first, he wasn't sure what to expect but he says because of his experience as a Greenwell TRP volunteer, "I knew I would be better." Colleen says they both knew the difference riding would make because of their experience as volunteers in the program.
Since his injury, Gene has had to rely on others for assistance with everyday tasks and he spends a lot of time in a wheelchair. But riding is the first thing he has done for himself. Therapeutic riding has also taken his recovery to a new level.
After two months of riding, his balance and posture have improved, he is able to sit upright, his legs are straighter and his overall attitude is happier. And the horse he rides, Spot, can sense that Gene is getting more comfortable as time goes on as evidenced by the change in Spot’s walk and gait.
"Riding in the TRP is truly the highlight of my life," says Gene. He says riding Spot has enriched his life in so many ways, adding, "Spot is a lifesaver."
The Greenwell Foundation offers therapeutic and recreational horseback riding lessons for children (age 7 and up) and adults with developmental, physical, or emotional challenges. Lessons fees, donations, and grants combine to cover the cost lessons year-round.
“What would you like?” It is a question that appears in many forms throughout Olga Grushin’s novel, “The Line,” the story of a Russian family willing to wait outside a kiosk for a chance to buy a moment of hope, change, adventure and maybe even love. Grushin will read selections from the novel and discuss it during the College of Southern Maryland’s Connections Literary Series, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 19 at the La Plata Campus, Center of Business and Industry, Room 113.
Grushin was born in Moscow in 1971, at the age of 5 moved with her family to Prague, Czechoslovakia after her father, a pioneering Russian sociologist and philosopher, found himself at odds with the Soviet regime. In 1981, she returned to a Moscow very different from the one of her youth. She studied art history at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and journalism at Moscow State University where she won a Golden Pen Award for an article about the absurd abundance of Lenin monuments in a nearby town. In 1989, she received a full scholarship to Emory University, becoming the first Russian citizen to enroll in a four-year American college program. She earned bachelor degrees in sociology and religion.
Her first novel, the acclaimed “The Dream Life of Sukhanov,” was published in the United States and more than a dozen countries. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including “The New York Times,” “Granta,” “The Guardian,” “Partisan Review,” and “Vogue.” A citizen of both Russia and the United States and a resident of Silver Spring, Grushin is the 2007 recipient of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award.
Since 1990, the Connections Literary Series has held readings featuring national award-winning contemporary writers, poets and artists who share their work and time with residents of Southern Maryland. Tickets are $3
advance sale at the CSM box office and $3 at the door with a student ID, or $5 general admission at the door. Books are available at the CSM College Store.
In preparation for the November Connections program, Grushin discussed literary traditions and expectations and the importance of community and hope.
CSM: Your first novel was compared to the Russian authors Nabokov, Tolstoy, Bulgakov, etc. How do you work toward your own vision when readers and critics have so many expectations for your work?
Grushin: There is a natural tendency, I think, to compare people writing within a certain literary tradition to what came before them, so whenever a new Russian-American author appears, especially one writing about Russia, you will often find him or her being compared to Nabokov or Tolstoy.
Of course, it can be flattering, and I do indeed draw on the Russian tradition. I grew up reading the Russian greats, which formed my ideas of what true literature could do, and I pay tribute to the Russian classics in my books, whether openly or with hidden references and allusions. And, as it happens, Nabokov really is one of my greatest influences.
At the same time, though, I strive to speak with my own voice, to accomplish something original, to develop my own brand of storytelling. I love the idea of linguistic inventiveness, and the stories that attract me tend to combine the universal emotional and philosophical dilemmas underlying much of the 19th-century Russian literature with the stylistic experimentation characteristic of the 20th-century Western literature, a literature I’ve gravitated toward since coming to America two decades ago. I think that my straddling of two cultures and
two languages has helped me form my own style, which is neither purely Russian nor American.
CSM: In “The Line,” you use a composite of three Russian time periods (the repression of Stalin’s 1930s, the hopefulness of Krushchev’s late 50s-early 60s, and the stagnation of Brezhnev’s 1970s) to create the setting of this novel. What kind of freedom did this composite setting offer you as a writer?
Grushin: It was very liberating not to be unduly constrained by facts. This allowed me to borrow from whatever history best suited my story. “The Line” is based on a real event that took place in Leningrad in 1962, when people waited in line for an entire year to buy tickets to a concert by Igor Stravinsky. I briefly debated the merits of writing an actual historical novel. But I understood very quickly that what I was most interested in was telling a sort of fable, free of time, free of place, a universal tale about human dreams and hopes. I saw it as a dark
fairy-tale set in a Soviet dreamscape of sorts, a historical amalgamation to which the reader could hopefully relate without knowing much about Soviet history. And I think this particular story needed this kind of historical freedom, as there were plenty of narrative constraints I imposed upon myself in structuring the novel.
CSM: You have mentioned that your writing is greatly influenced by your father, who or what are your other influences?
Grushin: My father was not a literary influence per se-he did write books, but he was a scholar rather than a writer. His is the deepest influence on my approach to work and life in general: I’ve never known anyone as uncompromisingly devoted to his vision, as hard-working or as honorable.
As for purely literary influences, Nabokov and Gogol come to mind, followed by Chekhov: I’m indebted to both the realist and the fantastical aspects of the Russian literary tradition. And, of course, there are many things outside of literature that I’m interested in and that find their way into my writing. In “The Dream Life of
Sukhanov,” I used my studies of art to attempt writing a highly visual book which would, in some sense, merge the domains of literature and painting, while “The Line” draws on my early experiences with ballet dancing and my love of music.
CSM: In the beginning of the novel, an old man beckons Anna to the kiosk and tells her they are selling “whatever you’d most like to have. What would you like?” Could you talk a little bit about the power of dreams and hope in the novel?
Grushin: Hope is one of the two central themes of “The Line,” the other theme being time. At the heart of the novel is a family of four whose lives are drab, devoid of purpose or excitement. Then one day a mysterious kiosk appears in their neighborhood, with a promise of something wonderful, something new, and gradually all of them begin to long for a change.
Ostensibly the kiosk will sell tickets to a concert by a brilliant exiled composer, but over time this coveted concert ticket comes to mean something entirely different for each of my characters. I tried to make them complex and multi-dimensional, of course, yet at their very core, their motives boil down to simple, universal human desires: Anna, the wife, wants her husband’s love and familial happiness; Sergei, the husband, dreams of creating eternal art; their teenage son Alexander longs for travel and adventure.
The line itself is many things-a menacing mob, a Greek chorus, a sociological experiment, a means of killing time and so on; but most importantly, it is a physical embodiment of human hope: the idea of waiting day in, day out, come rain or snow, for something you want, something you think you want, though the actual act of waiting, of
interacting with the people around you, may change the very nature of your desire.
“The Line” explores the many ways in which individual hopes clash against one another and change with the passage of time, as well as the ultimate power of hope to transform people’s lives.
CSM: The novel is written from five distinct voices, four family members each with their own perspective of the events, and the communal line. Which voice was the hardest to write and why?
Grushin: They all presented different challenges. The grandmother’s voice was the most challenging from a technical point of view because it was indirect: she has no narrative of her own but is always overheard or
even dreamed about by the others.
Alexander’s story allowed me more stylistic experimentation: he is prone to fantasies, not to mention a few episodes of drunkenness, and his frequent sojourns into the in-between states of consciousness were fun to write.
Anna’s story was the simplest, perhaps, and the challenge there was to make sure that her parts of the book were not proceeding at a different, slower pace than the rest.
In general, whenever you have several voices there is always a danger that the reader will prefer one particular voice to the others and will want to stay with that character, so the main challenge, I suppose, was an overall one of making each voice distinct from the others and exciting in its own right.
CSM: Returning to the grandmother, how hard was it to blend her voice into the other stories so that it would complement rather than disrupt the flow?
Grushin: The grandmother, Anna’s mother, is the only character in the book who faces back, not forward. Maya was a prima ballerina before the Revolution, and has secret memories of a beautiful, bright past, as well as a mysterious connection to the returning composer. I wanted to portray her as someone living entirely in the past, and a past frequently misremembered or perhaps misrepresented. The trick was to tell her story in a continuous fashion without ever giving her a voice of her own: instead, her voice slowly seeps into the others’ dreams, is overheard through the walls, is mistaken for a neighbor’s radio, and so on, almost like the voice of a ghost.
I loved writing her bits, loved the technical challenge involved. I don’t think I’d ever be interested in telling a simple linear story in a simple linear fashion, as it would be boring for me as a writer. And, to be honest, when I write I don’t worry about how challenging it might be for a reader-I do what feels right for the story.
In Maya’s case, if it seems confusing to the reader at first, it’s intentional, as Maya is hidden from the other three family members as well: these sections are supposed to have the feel of dreams, surprising explosions of fairy-tale beauty and color in the midst of drabness. As the book goes on, Maya’s story gradually does come into its own, becoming more and more crystallized.
CSM: Could you talk about how community and friendship come into play not only in the formation and rules of the line but in the politics of the society in the novel?
Grushin: There are basically two opposite ideas that I was interested in exploring in my book. One is a notion of human loneliness: we can never truly know someone, not even someone we live with, and each and every one of us is essentially alone.
This premise is illustrated by my family of four. Each of them has his or her secrets; each of them sees the same events in an entirely different way. Their points of view, in the beginning of the book, are strictly segmented, isolated. Then the line comes into their lives, and with it, an idea of togetherness.
I envisioned the line as a system of mirrors: each character is a distinct mirror reflecting his or her own corner of the line from his or her own angle; yet gradually the reflections begin to merge into a coherent whole. The boundaries between their voices start to blur; their lives become less isolated; they are forced to form relationships, first with the strangers in the line around them, then, often through the mediation of these strangers, with each other. And of course there is a political aspect to the concept of togetherness, just as there is a political aspect to my exploration of change and hope.
This is not just any community; it’s a community that forms in the face of repression. On some basic level, this story, of hoping, of waiting, could have been set anywhere-say, waiting in line to audition for “The American Idol”-but the Soviet setting allowed me to explore additional aspects of oppression, danger and trust, and how the darkest times can bring out the worst and the best in ordinary people. Some will betray their fellow men; some will risk their freedom and lives to help one another.
Historically, the sense of community among like-minded people, the whole subculture of the so-called kitchen conversations, was very important in Russia, and it helped people through the worst times in Soviet history. This background lends drama to the universal story in “The Line.”
CSM: You are a fairly young writer. Which of your contemporaries do you admire and wish people would read?
Grushin: To be completely honest, I tend to read writers long dead. Some years ago, I embarked on a rather ambitious project: to read the whole of world literature in chronological order. I am still perusing Virgil. At my current pace it will probably take me another 200 years to get to the 20th century. I do, of course, read a living writer now and then, and I can mention a few names: David Mitchell, Jeff Talarigo and Paul Lafarge from my generation, and, from the older generation, John Banville, John Crowley, James Lasdun and Steven Millhauser. These are all wonderful writers.
CSM: You mentioned in another interview that as a child you were prone to retrospection and on your 13th birthday had wrote, “My life is halfway over, and I’ve achieved nothing.” What is your proudest accomplishment so far and what would you still like to accomplish?
Grushin: I’m afraid I still feel the same way I did at 13, except now my life really is halfway over. I suppose my proudest accomplishment so far is writing in a language not my own. But I would still like to accomplish absolutely everything. There are so many books I want to write.
CSM: What advice do you wish someone had given you when you started writing?
Grushin: None, really. I discovered everything about writing on my own, through reading and writing. I’ve never taken any writing classes or seminars, never been in any writing groups, never considered getting an
MFA. I do like reading books on writing, to learn how others do it and what works for them in terms of craft and daily writing rituals. In the end, though, I’m glad to have made both my own mistakes and my own
For information on Connections Fall literary events, call 301-934-7864 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7864 or visit the Connections website
Excerpt from “The Line” by Olga Grushin
“…Of course, on any other day, she would hardly consider wasting her
time waiting for God knew what. Today, though - today was different;
today, she realized suddenly, she wanted to be surprised; felt entitled
to a surprise, in truth. Making up her mind, she hurried down the line,
blinking at the snow; the descending sun made things bright and hazy,
breaking the city into blinding triangles of chill and brilliance. She
took her place at the end. A cake would be lucky, she mused-she loved
the anticipation of a sweet mouthful traveling down her tongue,
narrowing the whole universe to a pinpoint of one flaking,
sugar-sprinkled moment …”
Meet local authors and illustrators during Patuxent River Appreciation Days on October 9 and 10 at the Calvert Marine Museum. The museum and Schiffer Publishing are featuring James Tigner, Jr., Lois Szymanski, Susan Glick, Kristina Henry, Elaine Ann Allen, Jennifer Curtis Keats, and illustrator, Kelli Nash. They will be available throughout the two days for book signings.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
10:00 – 5:00: Jim Tigner, Jr.
Jim Tigner, Jr. is an antiques and collectibles dealer, specializing in postcards, paper memorabilia, ephemera, and postal history, with a long interest in the history of the Chesapeake Bay. An Annapolis native, Mr. Tigner has published several books with Schiffer Publishing, including Yesterday on the Chesapeake Bay; Memories of Chesapeake Beach & North Beach; Maryland, St Michael, Oxford, and the Talbot County Bayside; Greetings from Virginia Beach; Colonial Beach, Virginia; Chincoteague Island; Greetings from Hampton Roads, Virginia; Annapolis Reflections; Steamboat Days on the Chesapeake: Betterton and Tolchester Beach; and Rehoboth Reflections.
10:00 – 5:00: Susan Glick
Susan Glick lives in Maryland, where she teaches high school English. Her recent Jemma’s Got the Travel Bug features a young diamondback terrapin that responds to migrating animals by embarking on her own adventure. Susan will be offering a free craft for all the children.
10:00–12:00: Lois Szymanski
Lois Szymanski loves horses and writes childrens' books about her true experiences with them. She lives in Westminster, Maryland. Lois is author of her newest title, The True Story of Sea Feather to be released by Schiffer Publishing in November 2010 and author of Grandfather's Secret and Out of the Sea: Today's Chincoteague Pony (previously published by Cornell/Tidewater).
12:00 – 3:00: Kristina Henry
Kristina Henry is the author of Sam: The Tale of a Chesapeake Bay Rockfish, which is celebrating its 25th year in print. She has also written for The Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
10:00–12:00: Lois Szymanski
Lois Szymanski loves horses and writes childrens' books about her true experiences with them. She lives in Westminster, Maryland. Lois is author of her newest title, The True Story of Sea Feather to be released by Schiffer Publishing in November 2010 and author of the new Grandfather's Secret and Out of the Sea: Today's Chincoteague Pony (previously published by Cornell/Tidewater).
12:00–3:00: Elaine Ann Allen
Elaine Ann Allen is an avid environmentalist and the author of Olly the Oyster Cleans the Bay. While studying at Washington College she interned at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and has volunteered at the Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium in Manhattan Beach, California. Elaine has written several articles about sea life for Cecil Child magazine and enjoys educating the public about aquatic life and the importance of the environment. Those concepts are the primary focus in her debut book Olly the Oyster.
12:00 – 5:00: Susan Glick
Susan Glick lives in Maryland, where she teaches high school English. Her recent Jemma’s Got the Travel Bug features a young diamondback terrapin that responds to migrating animals by embarking on her own adventure. Susan will be offering a free craft for all the children.
2:00 – 5:00: Jennifer Keats Curtis
The author of Osprey Adventure, Jennifer Keats Curtis, strives to bring children closer to the animals in their own backyards through her writing. By combining language arts with science in stories, she teaches young children about important ecological issues and what they can do to help. She is the author of several children’s books with her current new release of Saving Squeak: The Otter Tale.
1:00 – 5:00: Kelli Nash
Kelli Nash resides in Baltimore, Maryland and has illustrated books for both Elaine Ann Allen (Olly the Oyster) and Lois Szymanski (Grandfather's Secret).
For more information or to pre-order books, please contact Maureen Baughman
at the Calvert Marine Museum Store at (410) 326-2750.
Mayo to Read from ‘The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire,’ Oct. 15
What would you do for love, power and success?
Would you accept a job and travel to a distant land?
What would you be willing to give up to secure your place in history?
These are just some of the questions author C.M. Mayo considers in the novel, “The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire,” which will be featured when Mayo launches this season’s Connections Literary Series Oct. 15 at the College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown Campus.
Mayo’s novel, named one of the best books of 2009 by “Library Journal,” is based on the true story of half-American toddler Agustín de Iturbide y Green, a great-grandson of Maryland's former governor George Plater and grandson of revolutionary war hero General Uriah Forrest. The novel recounts the political tumult and heartbreak surrounding the arrangement in which the child was made Heir Presumptive to the throne of Mexico by the recently installed Emperor Maximilian von Hapsburg, the former Archduke of Austria.
Mayo is the author of “Sky Over El Nido” and the travel memoir, “Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles Through Baja California, the Other Mexico.” She is the founding editor of “Tameme,” a bilingual Spanish/English chapbook and also editor of "Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion." She has received a Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and three Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards and Washington Independent Writers Awards. Currently she divides her time between Mexico City and Washington, D.C., where she
is on the faculty of The Writers Center.
As part of CSM’s Connections Literary Series, Mayo will read from and discuss her historical novel, “The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire,” beginning at 7:30 p.m., October 15, in Leonardtown’s Building A, Auditorium. Tickets are $3 advance sale at the CSM box office and $3 at the door with a student ID, or $5 general admission at the door. Books are available at the CSM College Store.
In preparation for CSM’s Connections program, Mayo discussed the role of emotional truth and the importance of character and place in developing historical fiction.
CSM: You've noted that you sought to tell the "emotional truth,” in that you wanted to explore the emotions and motivations of the characters and their historical acts. How did you discover each character and was it harder to imagine and write certain perspectives over others?
Mayo: The true story, simply told, makes no sense. What was the archduke of Austria doing sitting on the Mexican throne? Why did he take this half-American 2-year-old child and make him his heir presumptive? Why did the child's perfectly healthy parents turn him over to Maximilian? I believe the answers are in the nature of the characters themselves, and that is why, despite having done many years of original research, I wrote the story as fiction.
Each character was a kind of journey, some as easy as a jog to the corner, while others felt like a barefoot slog across the Gobi Desert, just endless, exhausting, and excruciating. (The Emperor Maximilian was probably the toughest; certainly, he was the strangest.) It was not a linear process by any means, but looking back, I see now that there were four basic steps in building each character: (1) reading deeply and broadly about them and their world; (2) imagining their physical presence, gestures, clothing, possessions, environment; (3) thinking
through their hopes and fears, personal, familial, financial, spiritual, etc.; and (4) generating vocabulary that reflects their character and passions, what novelist Douglas Glover calls "language overlay."
One technique I used, and that I recommend to my writing workshop students, is "random questions." For example: what's the name of your character's pet; what does she eat for breakfast; what does she say under her breath when she's seething mad; what's her biggest secret; fondest wish; who does she resent; what does she believe about God; if she inherited some property what would she do with it; what's her favorite flower; and so on. It might seem trivial, but there's always something good to harvest in there. I think we all know more about other people than we realize on a conscious level, but there are these techniques-these "keys" to unlock the door of the mind.
CSM: Likewise, since this is historical fiction and your object was to tell the story of Prince Agustin de Iturbide y Green, did you ever have a hard time letting go of any secondary characters? I am thinking in particular to the story of Lupe which is so beautiful and devastating and yet ultimately unfinished in that we never learn what happens to her.
Mayo: There are so many secondary characters in this novel, they jump in, they float off - Lupe, the kitchen maid-nanny who is abandoned and then runs away, is one of the more important, certainly. In a way, none of the characters' stories is finished, but this is because the main character of this novel is not a person, but an idea.
The prince is the novel's main character - not the prince as a person, however, but as an idea. He is, as is any heir presumptive to throne, the living symbol of the future. An idea this big lives in the minds of many people - therefore, the novel has a crowd of characters, from Lupe the nanny all the way to the Pope himself. So we see the prince from Lupe's eyes, as we need to, and then the story moves on, as the prince is seen from other eyes. Each and every character, each and every scene finds it focus on the prince.
CSM: How do accessibility and timeliness play a role in the language used in a historical novel such as this?
Mayo: The language in the novel was closely modeled on memoirs and newspapers of the time. Yes, though it was only 150 years ago, they did sometimes speak in ways that we in the 21st-century America would find strange. Many of the educated characters had a far more elaborate syntax and vocabulary than we come across today. Americans often used what I think of as a coy negative, e.g., "it was quite the opposite of an ironing board." "Toothsome" was a word I found often, but that is rarely used today, and I think, at least from context, readers can figure out what it means, and it's strangeness gives a touch of historical flavor, no?
I put in "natch" but, for some reason, which I still don't understand, my editor objected to that. You might have noticed that in chapter one, Alice's little brother calls her boyfriend, the Mexican Mr. Iturbide, "a greaser." Several readers have objected that this sounds too modern, but in fact, at that time, the 1850s, the wake of the US-Mexican War, the word "greaser" as a slur was in use and it strikes me as exactly the kind of thing a naughty little brother would say.
All I can say is, a novelist does need to do a lot of research, take a lot of care with the language, but it has been my experience that no matter what you do, someone will say, ah, but they wouldn't have said that, when, in fact, they did. It convinces some readers, but not others. Also, much of this is translated. Maximilian, for example, probably thought to himself in German, while he spoke French to Bazaine and Spanish to the Mexicans, yet I needed to render all of this in English. But that issue of the translations is an essay unto itself.
CSM: Phrases of French, German and Spanish are incorporated liberally throughout the novel. Could you talk a little bit about why you chose to do this and what it offered you as a writer?
Mayo: The novel is about what was a truly transnational episode in Mexico's history: the French, with aid of the Belgians, the acquiescence of Great Britain, Austria and Spain, and with the blessings of Rome, invade Mexico and then install upon the throne the ex-Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, many of whose personal guard, by the way, were Hungarian. They were not all speaking Spanish, I can tell you that. Maximilian and Carlota spoke in German to each other and in German to their German-speaking staff, but they used French for diplomatic correspondence and Spanish for anything official in Mexico. To have kept everything in English throughout the novel would have killed the flavor, flattened the cultural differences, which, really, were like the Himalayas.
CSM: On your website you talk about building this virtual reality for the characters to interact in, how did you go about creating the framework for 1860s Mexico?
Mayo: Reading, reading, and more reading--- biographies, histories, memoirs, newspapers, archives, you name it. I should also mention Torcuato Luca de Tena's "Ciudad de México en tiempos de Maximiliano" (Mexico City in the Time of Maximilian), and of course, extensive note-taking. In some ways, the fact that I have lived in Mexico City for more than 20 years was a hindrance. It was such a different place then, a compact city with crystalline skies. What we have today, in the spreading amoeba-like megalopolis of more than 20 million people, I think of as a motley combination of Los Angeles, Miami, Paris and Lagos. Nonetheless, traveling to the various sites in the novel, in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, as well as Washington, D.C. and many cities in Europe was crucial. I took a lot of photographs and notes, especially in Trieste, where I visited Maximilian's castle.
CSM: Could you talk about the role of food throughout the book?
Mayo: What you eat tells us who you are. What you serve your guests is equally revealing. It's a clue to a character's mood, relationship, social class, culture, and of course, it's fun to read about food.
One of my favorite scenes is when Princess Iturbide, very proud of her Mexican heritage, convinces Frau von Kuhacsevich to try the Aztec delicacy known as "huitlacoche," or corn smut (a black fungus that grows on the ears of the corn), which Frau von Kuhacsevich considered disgusting, "on a par with roasted maguey worms, mosquito paste, tacos of ant eggs and the like," until Princess Iturbide compared it to truffles. Truffles. Ah, with the right metaphor, suddenly huitlacoche became quite chic.
You probably noticed that apple pie plays a recurring role in the novel. This is the quintessential Yankee dish, of course. There's also a lot about whipped cream, a favorite of the wily German Jesuit, Father Fischer. Later in the book, as the Empire begins to fail, we see the price of lard and meat go up, and there are increasing shortages. In the penultimate chapter, Mrs. York, the well-to-do- wife of a banker, has to serve very weak tea to her guests. I don't go into it in the novel, but in the final months of the Empire, many people did starve.
CSM: Throughout the novel, you pose the question of the strength of the female characters in comparison to how the men view them. Was it always your intention to make this argument or was it more of an organic byproduct of your research and writing?
Mayo: I didn't have any intention here, it came out of the story itself. The Empress Carlota of the novel is very closely based on research. She really seemed to be a kind of Joan of Arc, unflinchingly courageous and with almost super human reserves of energy. The problem, of course, is that she was very young, only in her early 20s, and increasingly isolated and unstable. Similarly, Alice, the prince's mother, also took a proactive role; she fought desperately hard to get her son back. Both Carlota and Alice (the American mother of the prince) had in common a great sense of social self-confidence. As for the men's terribly condescending views of the female characters, these were, alas, typical attitudes of the time. If anything, I toned them down for modern readers.
CSM: You've noted that the story is in part the "idea of Mexico." How do you see this "idea" continuing to play out in terms of U.S./Mexican relations, immigration, etc.?
Mayo: I like to say the novel is the story of the end of an idea about what it might have meant to be Mexican. The conservative Mexican monarchists, the French and the Pope all thought Mexicans should be subjects of a crown. On the other hand, the Mexican Republicans believed that Mexicans should be citizens of a Republic. A subject obeys; a citizen participates - an enormous difference. Today Mexicans are citizens, but they did not become citizens in an historical process identical to ours.
We had George Washington, who headed a Republic that respected the separation of Church and State; Mexicans had Agustín de Iturbide, a general who set himself up as emperor and defender of the Catholic Church and who ended up before a firing squad. Then, after decades of strife, including the U.S. invasion at the end of the 1840s, the French invade and install Maximilian as Emperor - a second doomed attempt at a Catholic monarchy.
Mexico's struggles, both internally and against invaders, have been bitter, far more so than most of us realize. The image that we have of Mexico today is, in part, a construction of the 20th-century Mexican State, the tourism industry and the media. The longer I live in Mexico, and the more I read about its history, the more peculiar I find some of the popular images of Mexico that we have here in the U.S. Mexico is quite different, and socially and politically far more complex, than what most Americans imagine.
CSM: Lastly, could you talk about why you choose to tell the epilogue from John Bigelow's perspective instead of say Alicia Iturbide and why it is so meandering and brief?
Mayo: That is the "what does it all mean" chapter and I don't know, but I never got the impression that Alice thought deeply about things. It seems to me that she lived life very much on the material surface, and that her main purpose by this time - the early 1880s - was to establish her son in the life she wanted for him.
Bigelow, on the other hand, was not only a diplomat, but a philosopher and a journalist, someone who had an unusually broad perspective and the habit - as I found in reading his diaries - of reflecting deeply on his experiences. I think we can see Alice more clearly through his eyes than through her own. He did visit her in Mexico City, by the way-- this chapter is largely drawn from his diaries. His visit took place at the height of what is today called the Porfiriato, the rule (whether directly or behind the scenes) of Porfirio Diaz, one of the generals who had defeated Maximilian's forces and who much later, in 1910, was overthrown in the Revolution. And here, too, about Mexico's prospects, Bigelow was far more perceptive than Alice.
I can see why you would describe it as meandering, though I would call it an exploration in flashbacks. The chapter opens with the end of Bigelow's journey to Mexico--- his train is leaving Orizaba, on the way to the coast at Veracruz, where he will board the steamer to return to New York. The whole chapter, his visit to Mexico City and with Alice, is rendered as a flashback as he attempts to come to terms with Alice and her son, and times past, in his own mind.
Finally, one of the things that most impressed me about Bigelow was his consistent effort to find compassion for others. He disapproved of Alice, but, judging from his other writings, I feel confident that he would not have judged her harshly any more than he would judged anyone harshly--- for I do think he took to heart "judge not that ye not be judged." And this is precisely what I am asking of the reader for all the characters - whether Alice, Angelo, Pepa, Maximilian or Carlota or, for that matter, the bandit.
I don't try to excuse anyone but rather to show that they were human, they had their reasons - good reasons, if only in their own minds - to do and say what they did. Jumping to judgment is very boring, really. We can't see the complexity, humanity in a character when we do that. As Susan Sontag said, "The novel is an education of the heart." Can we see ourselves in the other? That's what it's all about.
Excerpt from “The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire” by C.M. Mayo
“And at night, everyone knows, the open country is the territory of La Llorona, the weeping ghost-woman. The nuns warned the orphans, ‘Stay in your beds at night or else…’ La Llorona’s filthy, rancid shroud and long, tangled, wet hair drags behind her on the ground, though her ghost-feet do not touch it. She flies, eyes like black roses, wailing for her murdered children, searching for them, and with her long cold fingers La Llorona takes whomever she finds.
Now, hurtling through the rain-drenched night in the back of this jolting, fish-tailing wagon, Lupe’s heart is beating like a hummingbird’s, and her knees are jelly. She had been so proud. It this why God is punishing her? Her one consolation - thanks to Holy Mary! - is that the driver of this wagon is a priest.”
Since 1990, the Connections Literary Series has held readings featuring national award-winning contemporary writers, poets and artists who share their work and time with residents of Southern Maryland. All readings begin at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $5, general admission. Tickets are available through the CSM Box Office, 301-934-7828. For information call, 301-934-7864 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. or visit www.csmd.edu/Connections
The College of Southern Maryland is debuting limited season tickets for productions during the 2010-11 season. A season ticket provides admission to as many as 24 events including festivals, concerts and theatre productions. Only 100 season tickets are being sold for the year.
This year the CSM arts is bringing top talent to Southern Maryland including The National Players, Tom Chapin, The Omaha Theater Company and Windham Hill recording artists among others. Events begin in September and continue until May, with various concerts and performances each month. In addition to plays, ticket holders also gain entrance to concerts such as the Jazz Festival, Latin music festival, the Barbershop Christmas and the music faculty showcase.
“With $100 you could choose to attend the dinner theatre production “Almost, Maine,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” “Tom Chapin,” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” Or for the same $100, you could purchase a season ticket and attend all of these shows plus 19 other events during the year,” said Keith Hight, CSM technical director. The total cost for tickets purchased individually for these events would be $200.
Along with admittance, season ticket holders may select preferred seating for productions in the La Plata Fine Arts Center Theatre. For the schedule visit www.csmd.edu/Arts
. For information on season tickets contact 301-934-7828, 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499, 443-550-6199, Ext. 7828 or email@example.com
PEM Talks return to the Calvert Marine Museum with the 2010-2011 series entitled “The Calvert Cliffs Conundrum.” Offering a holistic perspective on the issues surrounding the Calvert Cliffs, the talks will dig into the geology, paleontology, ecology, and sociology of these much debated landmarks. PEM refers to Paleontology, the Environment, and Maritime History, the three themes covered by the museum’s exhibits. The series kicks-off on Saturday, September 18, at 2:30 p.m. with a presentation by Dr. Susan Kidwell entitled Begin at the Beginning: The Geology and Paleoenvironmental History of Calvert Cliffs.
Dr. Kidwell, the William Rainey Harper Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, has written and lectured widely on the nature of sedimentary rock records as archives of environmental and ecological information. The formation of dense concentrations of shells and bones has been a particular interest. As a result, she started her research career with a detailed analysis of the Calvert Cliffs.
Famous for the abundance and diversity of their fossils, the Calvert Cliffs appear to be somewhat monotonous geologically –gray muds and sands that oxidize to yellows and browns in response to percolating modern rainwater. On closer examination however, this relatively thin stack of Miocene-age strata captures an extraordinary array of ancient coastal environments. Using well-known localities in the Cliffs as examples, this talk will stress how paleo-environments are inferred from outcrop evidence, providing a vivid picture of the conditions that fostered diverse life along this ancient coast.
“The Calvert Cliffs Conundrum” series is funded by Bob and Betty Currie, with additional support from Solomons Holiday Inn. Upcoming dates in the series include Thursday, October 21; Saturday, November 13; Thursday, January 20, 2011; Saturday, February 5, 2011; and Thursday, March 10, 2011. Visit the website at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com
for more information.
Join the Calvert Marine Museum in celebrating 40 years of excellence in 2010. The museum is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $7.00 for adults, $6.00 for seniors and military with valid I.D., and $2.00 for children ages 5 – 12; children under 5 are free. For a complete listing of museum activities and programs, visit the website at www.calvertmarinemuseum.com
or call 410-326-2042 for more information. Become a fan on Facebook.
This October for the very first time, Maryland Citizens for the Arts
is offering Bond Bill Training Sessions for Capital Projects.
These sessions are completely free and are open to all arts organizations and the general arts community. Attendees will learn all the necessary steps to apply for a capital project legislative bond bill through the Maryland General Assembly. There will be plenty of time for questions as well.
Delegate Adrienne Jones
Chair of the House Appropriations Capital Budget
MCA Board Vice Chair
Douglas R. Mann
MCA Board Chair
RSVP with the Maryland Citizens for the Arts, if you have not already done so, with the names of those attending, and which session you plan to attend. Space is limited, so please register early.
October 19, 10am-11:30am
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
October 26, 2pm-3:30pm
Lyric Opera House