Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < About C.M. Mayo < Interviews < or Sky Over El Nido < Q & A <
Originally at http://www.ugapress.uga.edu/FOC_mayo.html
Recaptured via archive.org's Way Back Machine
C.M. Mayo interviewed Nancy Zafris in 2008, apropos of serving as one of the judges for the Flannery O'Connor Award.

About C.M. Mayo

C.M. Mayo is the author of the forthcoming The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books) as well as the widely-lauded travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions), and Sky Over El Nido, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Founding editor of Tameme, the bilingual Spanish/English) chapbook press, Mayo is also a translator of contemporary Mexican poetry and fiction. Her anthology of Mexican fiction in translation, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, was published by Whereabouts Press in March 2006. Mayo's stories, essays and poems have appeared in numerous U.S. literary magazines including Chelsea, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Kenyon Review, The North American Review, The Paris Review, Southwest Review, Tin House and Witness. Other awards include three Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards and three Washington Independent Writers Awards. She has also been awarded residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and (for Sky Over El Nido) fellowships from the writers conferences at Wesleyan, Sewanee, and Bread Loaf. Currently she divides her time between Mexico City and Washington DC, where she is on the faculty of The Writer’s Center. Her website is www.cmmayo.com

Read an excerpt from Sky Over El Nido

Interview with Nancy Zafris:

NZ: You won the Flannery O'Connor award for Sky Over El Nido, so you're in a good position to share your experience and give some advice. First, how did winning the FOC help your writing career?

CMM: It gave it a huge boost. An award like this is a signal, like a horn blasting through fog. On the strength of it, I won fellowships to the Bread Loaf, Sewanee and Wesleyan Writers Conferences, and I'm sure it was a factor in fellowships for residencies at colonies such as MacDowell, Yaddo, and others. It attracted the attention of literary agents and it brought me opportunities to give readings, lead workshops, and so on.

My advice? If you think your work merits the award, enter the contest. After all, you can't win a contest you didn't enter. But it's important to keep things in perspective. Lovely as winning an award may be, it takes a lot of grit to keep at a writing career, year after year; and validation, in the end, has to come from yourself, not some external source.

NZ: How did you go about structuring your collection? Did you employ any helpful strategies you could share with us?

CMM: The first and last stories in Sky Over El Nido share their main characters, so it seemed natural to me to frame the collection with them. It was an intuitive arrangement, like playing around with a puzzle; very right-brain.

NZ: How do you read a story collection, from start to finish, or somewhat randomly?

CMM: Intuitively. Sometimes I jump around. Sometimes I don't.

NZ: What do you look for in a collection? What kind of surprises are happy surprises? What kind of surprises are unhappy ones?

CMM: I look for freshness and style, and if I don't find it in the first three sentences what I think of an an "eyespan" I rarely continue reading. (Because life is short and I have a veritable Himalaya of books to read!) Exceptional prose is not enough, however; I also look for writing that comes from a wise heart. I want to know more about what it means to be human. I think good fiction is an entertaining and highly efficient way to learn more about that ever-entrancing and all-encompassing subject.

NZ: What are you working on now?

CMM: The edits on The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, an historical novel based on a true story of Mexico in the 19th century, forthcoming with Unbridled Books.