If Sandra Cisneros lives here, can I justify the trip to San Miguel de Allende?

Keynote speaker Barbara Kingsolver and an intensive writing workshop led by C.M. Mayo drew my daughter Kate and me to the San Miguel International Writers’ Conference this past February.   The conference sessions were so great, we did not even skip out once to wander the streets of San Miguel de Allende.  Given the allure of San Miguel, that’s amazing; although a visit a few months earlier helped keep us focused.   

As I walked past Sandra Cisneros‘ house on the river this morning, I thought:  Can I really justify traveling all the way to San Miguel to hear keynote talks by someone who lives right here in San Antonio?    

I think the answer is a definite maybe.  A five-day concentrated dose of writing workshops is an incredible experience.    

Plus, the writers’ conference is to blame for this blog.  I am hoping they are planning on prescribing an antidote, a session on how to keep prolific blogging from interfering with working on your novel.   

Note Added:  Button Boxes http://www.sandracisneros.com/buttonbox.php   

Exploring Sandra Cisneros’ website led me to her memories of  button boxes.  Never figured out what happened to Nana’s button tins. I wanted to inherit them so badly.  They were magical.  Seemed to contain buttons from two generations back.  Buttons so complex to assemble that there is no wonder there were buttonmaker unions.  I’d sit for hours creating button collages in her sewing room overlooking the giant fig tree in the backyard; yet, to this day, have absolutely no interest in replacing a commonplace button on a shirt.   

Aunt Billie
Marilyn Lanfear's "Aunt Billie"


Note Added on September 11:  Which, in turn, led me to the consummate button artist, San Antonio Art League’s Artist of the Year – Marilyn Lanfear.  She is being honored with an exhibit opening on Sunday, September 12, from 3 to 5 p.m.   

“Billie Patterson Moore died in the school explosion in New London TX”   

by Marilyn Lanfear

Mother-of-pearl and bone buttons on linen,
2005-07, 54” x 95.25”

Update on October 20:  Read about Marilyn Lanfear’s exhibit at Glasstire

Update on November 29:  Marilyn Lanfear’s exhibit, “What Is Lost; What Is Found; What Is Remembered,” opens at Blue Star on Thursday, December 9.   She refers to herself as “a storyteller” who creates:

a visual language that depends on and invites elaboration. I want the viewers to have associative memories and make my history into theirs.

Prodigious Poster in Pursuit of Parsimony

Reflecting on her four years of blogging, author C.M. Mayo writes:    

Blogging is whatever you want it to be.  And that morphs.  I don’t worry about this so much as I once did.  I just blog.   

C.M. Mayo’s blog led my daughter and me to the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference, which we now hope to make an annual pilgrimage.  But the conference also led me to wallow in the bog of blogging.      

A simple posting of very few words about a proposed product for preventing postmen from getting lost via Google map destination envelopes is highly appealing.


  I have been blogging eight weeks since San Miguel, and find myself inappropriately writing feature-length stories – a rant about John Edge’s claim that Austin had the best breakfast tacos in the U.S. turned into a more than a thousand-word restaurant review – obviously unsuitable for the attention span of anyone surfing the web.   I remain verbose, even though my favorite post of mine let the photo tell all and I am drawn to quick-read postings, such as Swiss Miss’ goggle map envelopes I discovered through a Mayo post.     

My blog also has a tendency to let politics slip in – Texas produces such rich fodder for ridicule – and I have even fired volleys at the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  Unwise for a freelance writer trying to make a living in Texas.  Biting one’s tongue while blogging is as difficult as doing so at well-lubricated cocktail parties.  Author Margaret Atwood describes this problem on the New York Review of Books Blog:       

Oops! I shouldn’t have said that. Which is typical of “social media”: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said.  But it’s like the days of Hammurabi, and those of the patriarch Isaac in the book of Genesis, come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or, now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.    

I fear blogging is a distraction diverting me from more serious writing projects.  Mayo dismisses this as not problematic (but she, of course, has several successful books under her belt):      

I’m finding it increasingly less interesting to even think about querying newspapers and magazines.  I’ve written for the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Mexico, Inside Mexico, and the like, and until I started my blog, I assumed I would continue to do so.  But I prefer to put my effort into writing books (long form) and blogging (short form).  Maybe I’ll rethink this.  Sometime.     

As Atwood began to build her website in 2009, her publishers were nervous:     

“That sounds wonderful, Margaret,” they said, with the queasy encouragement shown by those on the shore waving goodbye to someone who’s about to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel.   

Yet Atwood has embraced fully the technological advances affecting how writers communicate.   (I only wish while in San Antonio as part of Gemini Ink Autograph Series, she had convinced her friend, Colleen Grissom, to start a blog.  Reading things Colleen “shouldn’t have said” would be so entertaining.)   At the Texas Book Festival in the fall of 2009, Atwood spoke extensively of her progress from blogging to tweeting.  She regards her followers as though they are “33,000 precocious grandchildren.”     

On the subject of followers, Mayo shared one of her poetic tweets – “a tweet can be a form of poetry (twiku) or fiction (twiction)” – in “Twitter Is:”   

@c_m_mayo:  Following no one, having no followers, she was like the woman in the back closet, grumbling at the blankets, existing on mothballed air     

There’s no period at the end of that sentence because I’d used up my allotment of characters. Fster than a wlnut cn roll dwn t roof of a hen house, were gng 2 see t nd of cvlizatn   

 One of Mayo’s tweeters defined tweeting as:    

@lisaborders:    Twitter is a message in a bottle that sometimes gets answered  

If novelists such as Atwood and Mayo can confine their thoughts to 140 characters, surely there is hope for me to learn to curb my blogging output before my few followers dwindle to none.  Then again, here I am with a 700-word entry about the critical need for brevity in blogging.  

As one “grandchild” of Margaret Atwood tweeted:  “I love it when old ladies blog.” 

Note Added on April 28The Daily Beast‘s “Can the Author Survive the Internet?” 

James Wood….  said he finds looking through readers’ comments on blogs to be akin to a descent into Hades.  He added that his friend Andrew Sullivan is buckling under the strain of writing three hundred blog posts per week, which has interfered with his ability to concentrate on anything longer than a few paragraphs. 

I like readers’ comments (of course, mine are rather limited). 

Note added on May 3Margaret Atwood’s speech upon her acceptance of the American PEN Award. 

Note added on July 13:  C.M. Mayo now has a second blog for those seriously researching the “French Intervention” in Mexico and also provides podcasts online of some of her presentations on both her writing and writing in general. 

Note Added on September 5:  Here I am a few months later managing facebook fan pages, responding to yelpers and, yes, even tweeting for a restaurant client.