Monday, February 24, 2014

Kundiman to offer first Fiction Intensive

To "create community between writers across genres," Kundiman is sponsoring its first weekend Fiction Intensive. The goals of this Intensive are to "create a space of generative writing and contemplation on craft for Asian American writers wishing to take their study of fiction to the next level."

You can visit the website at The faculty this year are: Catherine Chung and Porochista Khakpour. Kundiman is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American poetry.

Sone Vannathy: Muay Thai champion

Recently Unified Weapons Master debuted a new armor designed to be flexible, lightweight but effective in unarmed combat situations, or about as close as you can get to being Batman in real life. But more interestingly, one of the people they had to test this new armour system was Sone "The Arch Angel" Vannathy, a Lao Muay Thai fighter living in New Zealand. You can find a number of videos of his fights on youtube, and scattered around the web. I'll try to see if we can get an interview with him later for Little Laos on the Prairie.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

[Poem] Swallowing the Moon

Some see an anonymous man or a thief of sheep.
Some a goddess like Hina-i-ka-malama or Chang’e.
Perhaps a princess of rabbits or a magician’s jealous head,
Her face painted with bells.
A criminal from the Book of Numbers.
A cook. A witch. A home for the dead among those stones.

A zoo hungers
With bellies for cosmic lights:
Nak, lung, serpentine Bakunawa.
Wolves, frogs and old gods seeking a bite!

We chase with fireworks, bold arrows, bullets, hoots,
Our clamor of mortals who wish to journey to heaven
And return eternally
Mischievous ravens and spiders,
Master marksmen and demigods.
Defenders, uncontested, unsung.

Become more than lucky monkeys with fire and pens.

From DEMONSTRA (Innsmouth Free Press, 2013)

CNN Travel: Black magic traditions of Thailand

A few years back, CNN did a quick overview of superstitions and beliefs regarding the supernatural in Thailand. While far from comprehensive, it may provide a good introduction for many who are just starting to understand the culture and who are looking for interesting ideas for horror stories set in the region.

Building a meaningful Lao youth education program

My article on building a meaning full Lao youth education program is up at the Twin Cities Daily Planet this week. In Minnesota there are at least five components that we've strived to fund each year to varying degrees of success. Sometimes only a few elements were able to be fully-funded or implemented but it's a model we felt had a strong possibility of success.

We'd love to hear what other approaches you think are important, and more importantly, successful for improving students academic performance in school. Be a part of the dialogue!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Haikus for Gambia: Celebrating 49 years of The Gambia independence.

Today is the 49th year of Gambian independence in Africa, and Lao Minnesotan poet, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay and I both had haikus featured at Haikus for Gambia as 49 Minnesotan poets joined in the international celebration.

The project was organized by Ibe Kaba, who has frequently collaborated with both of them on performances and other community building activities.

The Gambia is a West African nation surrounded by Senegal, except for a short strip of Atlantic coastline. The smallest country on mainland Africa. Farming, fishing and tourism are its main trades since declaring independence from on February 18th, 1965 from the United Kingdom. The Gambia was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, from which it withdrew last year in October, 2013. About a 1/3rd live below the International Poverty Line. Four poets with roots in The Gambia include: Lenrie Peters, Tijan Sallah, Sally Singhateh and Phillis Wheatley.

This year marks the 230th year since the death of Wheatley,whose most famous book was Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (published 241 years ago 1773) Twenty years old at the time, Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and, notably, only the second woman in America, to publish a book.Wheatley is know to have written only one poem regarding her journey as a slave and her roots, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" but many consider this a pivotal poem in the creation of African American literature.

In Wheatley's story, and the story of The Gambia, we can see a remarkable journey that's been, and yet will be.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

[Poem] The Dream Highway of Ms. Mannivongsa, Part IV


Zombie Kabuki in Seattle.
It’s all the rage.

They love their coffee in this city,
But she recalls the snakes and bombies,
And dilapidated dinosaur museums of old Savannakhet
Whenever she idles through.

“How many battles did it take to write The Art of War?”
She debates with the foxy lady
Who’s secretly a black magic woman born to bewilder
Like a bard’s imperfect actor upon the stage
Or a stone-faced troll beneath a bridge
No gruff goat has ever known.

The world has its Wendigo, Shoggoths and Jabberwocky,
But winged Kinnaly remain aliens to a galaxy 
Hammering a new apocalypse
For beautiful children who will grow up strangers
To the inked page,
To bricks, to mortar, to boundaries.

If she had kept the first camera obscura of Mozi,
Ms. Mannivongsa might have changed the cosmos,
But what is an attachment to memories
Or all of these shiny electric brains?

She prefers the dance of the mermaid and the monkey
Free from modernity.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 Horror Writers Association Events of Note (In-Progress)

The Horror Writers Association recently noted the following events coming up in 2014 that will be of interest to its members, writers and others with an interest in horror and speculative literature.This list will be expanded as more event dates are confirmed and opportunities present themselves.

Toronto Comicon
Metro Toronto Convention Centre

MARCH 28-30
Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center

APRIL 12,13
LA Times Festival of Books
USC campus

MAY 2-4
DFW Writer's Conference 14'

MAY 8-11
World Horror Convention
(Bram Stoker Awards Banquet)

Scarefest 2014

The Stanley Hotel Writer's Retreat
Estes Valley Public Library

Should you wish to participate in any of these events please contact Angel Hiott at

Friday, February 14, 2014

[Poem] Her Body, My Monuments

Fierce as a thirsty Nak
In April

Nestled in a dress
The hue of sleepy That Dam
On Chantha Khoumane

Her lissome stride
Awakes dreamers

The colors of the world,
The children of rivers,

Our sandalwood city
Where talaats greet the moon,
Phi dance with dreams

And the future begins to stir
Not with a yawn, but her laugh,
A gaze

           That has known stars the way
           Others know flowers.

From On The Other Side Of The Eye, 2007

[Poem] The Needs of Romance

There‟s a Lao boy who needs poems
To win over the lovely sao Lao down
His street before the sun
Is gone
And night changes her outfit
To the shade of a slinky summer moon.

The bookstores there can feed him
The old standbys,
But she knows
The warbling of the dead
When she hears it,
So that‟s not going to get anyone
Any further
Than a closed door the color of lonely.

He needs words to tell her:
Every road in his life leads only to her.

Every hair on her head is a monument
To a beautiful nation, and every inch
Of her perfect skin is a song that ends in love.

He needs ways to praise the marvels that are
Her hands, her arms, her every limb
That beckons him: Explore

The great jewel of her bright life,
A fierce dancing fire alive to his touch.

He wants to feel his breath with hers near
The nocturnal edge of eternity and its vast oceans,
So pure and feminine against his continents of hope.

Slipping rhythmically between the great arcs and curves of
Her magnificent Laotian body, he needs words
Profound, deep, relentless as the memory of old countries

Where this must have been so much easier to say
Than today.

But where is he going to find these words,
If no one will write them?

From Tanon Sai Jai, 2009

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Upcoming Doing Literature Discussion: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

On Saturday, March 8th, 2014 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, the ongoing "Doing Literature" discussion group will meet at the Hemet Public Library at 300 East Latham Avenue to discuss the novel Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson.

 First published in 1980, Housekeeping was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and awarded the PEN/Hemingway Award for best first novel. Time magazine listed the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

The tale revolves around three generations of women and a meditation on literal and figurative housekeeping. The discussion is free, and while it is helpful to have read the novel, it is not necessary to participate. Interested participants can also visit the website at and on twitter @hemetliterature if you want to get additional updates and posts.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Five Flavors" nominated for a Rhysling Award

My poem, "Five Flavors," which first appeared in Expanded Horizons in December, 2013, has been nominated for a Rhysling Award (Long form). I want to express my deep thanks to those who nominated me for consideration.

 "Five Flavors" was inspired by the Sabaidee Thai Grille in Sacramento. If you get a chance, you should stop by. This poem is also featured in DEMONSTRA, from Innsmouth Free Press.

As a little background about the awards: Nominees for each year's Rhysling Awards are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work in each of two categories: “Best Long Poem” and “Best Short Poem”. All nominated works must have been published during the preceding calendar year of the awards year.

The Rhysling Awards are put to a final vote by the membership of the SFPA selection from all nominated works, presented in the Rhysling Anthology. The winning works are regularly reprinted in the Nebula Awards Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., and are considered in the SF/F/H/Spec. field to be the equivalent in poetry of the awards given for "prose" work— achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

Saymoukda Vongsay featured in 1-Minute Theater Festival

Lao American writer Saymoukda Vongsay announced that her work is among 50 playwrights who will be presenting during the 2nd Annual One Minute Play Festival in Minneapolis being presented by presented by Walking Shadow Theatre Company & Mixed Blood Theatre.

It will take place from February 15 – 16, 2014, with performances starting at 8:00 P.M. at Mixed Blood Theatre (Located at 1501 South 4th Street.)

The One-­Minute Play Festival (#1MPF) is America’s largest and longest running short form theatre company in the country, founded by Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D’Andrea."

The organizers explain:
"#1MPF is barometer project, which investigates the zeitgeist of different communities through dialogue and consensus building sessions and a performance of many moments. #1MPF works in partnership with theatres sharing playwright or community-specific missions across the country. #1MPF creates locally sourced playwright-focused community events, with the goal of promoting the spirit of radical inclusion by representing local cultures of playwrights of different age, gender, race, cultures, and points of career. The work attempts to reflect the theatrical landscape of local artistic communities by creating a dialogue between the collective conscious and the individual voice."
Tickets are $15.

Vongsay has not indicated what her play will be about, but Twin Cities residents most recently packed the house for her acclaimed play "Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals."

Saymoukda Vongsay is a Lao American poet and playwright whose passion is arts advocacy. Her work has been published by Altra Magazine, The Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, St. Paul Almanac, Lao American Magazine, and Bakka Literary Journal, to name a few. Vongsay writes the series Pushing the Pen, published weekly in the Asian American Press, interviewing literary artists from across the nation.

She has taught and performed spoken word poetry from the Midwest to the East and West coasts, as well as in Italy and Japan. Saymoukda is a co-founding member of the Unit Collective of Emerging Playwrights of Color and an active participant with Pillsbury House Theater’s Chicago Avenue Project. She is a 2011 Jerome Foundation/Mu Performing Arts' New Eyes Theater Fellow, winner of the 2010 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry (NY), and an advisory board member of the 2010 MPLS Asian Film Festival. She recently presented the full-length play, Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals, a commission by Mu Performing Arts. Saymoukda is pursuing an interdisciplinary Masters degree in Public Policy, Social Work, and Creative Writing at the U of MN.

She Walks in Shadows: All-woman anthology inspired by H.P. Lovecraft

I had the distinct honor of being the first person to donate this exceptional crowdfunding campaign for an all-new anthology of stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, She Walks In Shadows This anthology will be produced by Innsmouth Free Press, maker of bizarre books, (including my latest book DEMONSTRA) and delivered in the fall of 2015.

As the editors explain: "Do girls just not like to play with squids? That's the question an editor asked on Facebook. What followed was a long discussion on Lovecraftian fiction and women. And the need for an answer. 

 The answer: Women do write Lovecraftian fiction. We aim to prove it with your support. More than a dozen female authors have gathered to write original Lovecraftiana and place it in a single volume under the title She Walks In Shadows."

Already, they've secured some amazing women writers for the project who will be writing stories based on various women established within the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft and many writers since. They also have a number of wondrous perks and rewards for those who back the project at higher levels, such as a custom ukulele from the talented Karina Melendez:

But long story short: This is a great project that will break some amazing ground by the time it's all done and over, but they need to raise $8K to really do it right. If we can throw over $200,000 for a board game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, $8K really shouldn't be impossible to clear.

Let's make it happen for them! They have until March 13th to raise the funds.

[DEMONSTRA] Idle Fears

In the shade of a Cali wat Lao I debate with Ajahn Anan
What the secret Rakshasa Sutra must really look like.

In Lao we call them Nyak or Yuk or Yak. It depends.
When they’re hungry, what do names matter?

I ask: “Does a zombie have Buddha nature?”

He informs me the mindless craving for brains
Complicates things.

He suspects Frankenstein’s Monster is closer to Nibbana
But don’t quote him on that.

An American werewolf in Luang Prabang
Would stand no chance against a real Lao weretiger.
Both should still try to observe the five precepts as best they can.

If he was going to make a special wat for robots
He might name it Wat Lao Robobuddharam
But they would surely have to learn
To get beyond artificial binary worldviews.

“You aren’t going to turn this into a poem, are you?”
He asks.

“That’s nothing to be afraid of,” I assure him.

New poem to be part of Haikus for Gambia

Recently, my good friend Ibe Kaba invited 49 local Twin Cities writers to write a haiku each for Gambia, and on her 49th independence anniversary, February 18, 2014. My work is among those featured.

According to Ibe, we'll metaphorically "throw the poems in the air and have them land everywhere! On billboards, the radio, in newspapers, the Internet...everywhere! It’s as simple as one haiku, as big as 49 of them! As simple as one small country wrapped around the Gambian River, as big as changing the African narrative!"

Saymoukda Vongsay, Guante, Carolyn Holbrook and Rodrigo Sanchez Chavarria are among those represented.

The main website is located at:

Stay tuned!

Lao Poet's "Light" wins National Canadian Literary Award

Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao just finished a write-up of Souvankham Thammavongsa's big win of the 2014 Canadian Broadcasting Company's Bookie Award for Best Book of Canadian Poetry in 2013. Thammavongsa's 3rd book, Light, (Pedlar Press, 2013)  received over 40% of the final vote from over 1,000 voters internationally.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ripping Time, Rocking Space: An interview with Ross E. Lockhart

Last year during the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles I had the good fortune to meet author, anthologist and editor Ross E. Lockhart at the famous Whale & Ale.

I was quite familiar with his 2011 anthology, The Book of Cthulhu and its 2012 follow-up, The Book of Cthulhu II, both from Night Shade Press (alas, now defunct). In 2013, his anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper came out from Word Horde Press (and is currently under consideration for the final ballot of the Stokers this month). Lazy Fascist Press also put out his rock-and-roll novel Chick Bassist. Ross has been a very busy, very, very naughty boy.


If it's weird and unusual, Ross Lockhart probably knows about it. He holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and SFSU (MA) with an extensive background in horror, fantasy and science fiction editing for small presses. As we get ready for the next H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, I had a chance to interview him about his work.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started on all of this? What was one of the hardest things for you to learn?

I mention in my introduction to The Book of Cthulhu that I stumbled into discovering Lovecraft through Erol Otus's artwork in the AD&D book Deities and Demigods, and even though I'm no longer a gamer (I simply don't have the sort of attention span that handles hours'-long gaming sessions well), I do continue to draw inspiration from gaming circles as well as literary ones. As for hard lessons: Get it in writing! Always!

What's your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story?

It varies a bit, but "The Festival" and "The Cats of Ulthar" are perennial favorites, and I never seem to tire of the intricate puzzle box that is "The Call of Cthulhu."

What's your newest book about?

My last book was Tales of Jack the Ripper, an anthology examining the weird fictional legacy of arguably the world's best-known serial murderer. Next up will be Children of Old Leech, which I am co-editing with Justin Steele. Coming this summer, CoOL is a tribute to Laird Barron's carnivorous cosmos, with a lineup which should excite and enthrall most serious seekers after horror.

What's your advice for beginning writers who want to write a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos that's really true to Lovecraft's vision?
Dig deeper than Lovecraft. His essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" makes for an outstanding reading list, and don't neglect the works of recent post-Lovecraftian Mythos authors, many of whom you will find in my own anthologies The Book of Cthulhu I and II.

What's a project you really hope to take on in the next few years? I'll be continuing to grow my publishing company Word Horde and releasing killer, must-have books and stories by the best storytellers in the business. And some things I've got cooking are dream projects, so stay tuned!

Where else can we find you throughout the year? I live in Petaluma, CA, a city that still holds on to its small-town charm and has a lot of parades. Typically, I'm in the park with my dog or at the local bookstore. I hit what West Coast conventions I can, and any excuse to visit Portland is a good one.

What's your favorite music to listen to as you write your books? I listen to a lot of older jazz and swing when I'm working, particularly Monk and Mingus, and I'm convinced Blossom Dearie's "Rhode Island is Famous for You" is secretly about HPL. If I'm cooking, Black Sabbath is my go-to kitchen music. If I'm driving, I listen to a far more eclectic playlist: Recent favorites have included Dreams in the Witch House, Djinn and Miskatonic, Ghost, Grimes, Nacho Picasso and Blue Sky Black Death, The Slow Poisoner, Ol Time Moonshine, and The Ziggurat.

Be sure to visit Ross E. Lockhart at his website:

Thao Worra Day 2014!

Continuing our annual tradition since 2007:

We're rapidly approaching February 14th, and some of you don't like the Romantic Candy-Card Industrial Complex. So, as always, I present the annual reminders of your options for alternate February 14th occasions to observe.

You can always celebrate these anniversaries:
1929: The St Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago.
1950: USSR and China sign peace treaty.
1963: First successful kidney transplant.

February 14th is also the birthday of:
1766: Thomas Malthus, the misanthropic British philosopher.
1817: Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist.
1819: Christopher Sholes, American inventor of the typewriter.

Once again, should  none of these strike your fancy, I hereby endorse the continued celebration of Thao Worra Day.Much as in the spirit of Festivus, the festival for the rest of us, you too may engage in the following activities to mark Thao Worra Day in good spirits and much amusement:

  • Send a nice note to someone you have just met or haven't talked to in a while.
  • Declare yourself Emperor of the World (or Empress) and see if anyone notices. But you have to give back everyone's stuff by the end of the day. Or before the cops come.
  • Treat yourself to a nice meal with someone you genuinely like, but in a completely non-romantic way. I totally approve.
  • Make sure all your electronic equipment is fully recharged, that it may go well for you.
  • Read a short poem out loud, even if no one is looking. No, it doesn't have to be one of mine.
  • Leave two chairs for my and a guest at your desk or table. For we may come by. But don't hold it against us if we don't. We do have a busy schedule, you know.
  •  Though Thao Worra Day is not for everyone, it is free for all to choose and participate in. If you do so choose to mark it, let me know how it goes!

    Sunday, February 09, 2014

    [Poem] Pastimes

    Unamerican football is the national sport of Laos.
    But they’re open to other games, too,
    From top wars on the smoking peaks near Saisombun
    To volleyball sets in Tai Dam villas.

    The hopeful children know
    Their own version of roshambo
    And sepaktakraw,
    Their limbs wild arcs and fire,
    Tiny tornadoes upon the green.

    But it’s difficult to get a satisfying game
    Of chess or dominoes out here anymore.

    Golf will never catch on in riddled Phonsavan,
    And cross-country track and field games are
    Ill-advised. Especially with cleats.

    Crosswords can be resolved but are rarely seen,
    While cryptograms fuel grave suspicions,
    No matter how benign their modern code.

    Hide and Seek seems particularly pointless
    In the blasted zones of disjoint and hole.

    A novice monk named Boun Lom
    Is playing tic-tac-toe with me
    In the shade of his struggling wat,
    Trying to get the upper hand,

    His humble zero in the center ever thwarted

    In a game he doesn’t suspect he can’t win.

    ~The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: Our Dinner With Cluster Bombs, 2003

    [Exhibit] Arena 1: Ghosts

    If you're in the Santa Monica area this month, be sure to catch the  ARENA 1 Gallery presentation of GHOSTS – a group exhibition, curated by Michael EB Detto and Sayon Syprasoeuth, which gathers new work from six artists exploring the aftermath of the catastrophe, the genocide, or the war. It will run until March 1st at 3026 Airport Avenue in Santa Monica, California.

    ARENA 1 is an exhibition space founded by Santa Monica Art Studios directors Yossi Govrin and Sherry Frumkin. Based in an historic hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, ARENA 1 invites internationally known as well as newly established curators to develop innovative and compelling exhibitions.

    For this exhibition, the curators ask:
    "How should we treat the Ghosts each of these leaves behind – in real life, as metaphor, as a tool? The very own substantiality each one thing in itself exhibits, its innate properties, its relation to subject, time space, and language are altogether qualities which suddenly start to dissipate when we have to deal with ghosts. It is hard even to agree on one word for them: there are specters, phantoms and wreath, genie and spirit, the apparition and many other denominations to describe a phenomenon that tends to blur the demarcation line between subject and object, past and presence, here and there."

    Initiated by Michael Detto’s project “Cambodian Ghosts”, Sayon Syprasoeuth and Michael Detto invite artists to a dialogue about their art and the ghosts of the past, and to present their work in this context. There will be an exhibition walkthrough and conversation with the artists discussing the themes (amongst others) ethics and art, beauty, style and the challenges of an aesthetics of evil, and about the ghost in art. Be sure to see it, if you can.

    A Mysterious Dragon Boat of Indochina, 1930

    While conducting some research for a number of Steampunk projects coming up, this unusual image was spotted on auction in Ebay in France, a dragon boat design in Indochina, from ca. 1930. This one has a significant bit of curiosity to it because there's so little known about it.

    It's such a distinctive design, but so far there appear to be no other photos or references to it in the usual sources, other than this one image. This is surprising, but hopefully we'll find out more about its history and ultimate fate during those turbulent years. For now, we must content ourselves with its beauty and the joy of its mystery.

    Saturday, February 08, 2014

    Ask a Poet: 2/2-8/14

    So, this week I had a few interesting questions from writers and poets from as far away as Kenya to around the corner. I thought it might be interesting to share a few of them with you, and a brief version of my responses, to spare all of you the more long-winded version the original questioner endured.

    One thought that I've particularly been mulling over was the realization: I'm not as concerned about a poet's verse following the rules as I am about their verse following their souls.

    But on to the questions:

    I've been sending my work out, but I'm getting so many rejection letters, it's depressing. Do you ever get those? How do you handle it?

    I've gotten them. I still get them. In fact, I got a very snippy rejection this week, from a journal who shall remain nameless. But you develop a thick skin about this sort of thing. You often should bear in mind that the poem may not be the problem, it's whether it fits with the journal in question.

    Over the long-term I always expected that a poet's career naturally includes getting enough rejections to wallpaper a room. Or what kind of poet are you?  The Michael Jordan quote applies here: "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

     I'd feel suspicious if I always got accepted, because that would tell me I'm not taking any risks. Of course, I'd also feel suspicious if I ALWAYS got rejected because there may be something I need to look at about that poem or my process, because even for the worst poets, CONSTANT rejection is pretty rare. I don't want to suggest there's a journal for EVERY poem, but there are homes for a great many of them. One's job as a poet is to find a good home for as many good poems as you can.

    Do they appreciate poetry in your country? In mine, it's seen at best as a hobby, certainly not a profession.

    Well, in the old days in Laos, poets were considered "The Eyes of the City." Lately, in communities around the world, it can certainly feel like we're keeping a lot of them shut.

    But for me, I don't see poetry as either a hobby or a profession, but a state of being.

    The self is such an onion. Peel away all of these layers we have. At my core, if you take away my language, age, name, nationality, so many different markers of being, and I'm fairly certain, poet would be one of the last things that's left.

    You've been published around the world. When did you first feel you were ready to be published abroad?

    I often tell emerging writers, don't be afraid to seek an international readership. For me, it actually came up because I was having so many difficulties being printed in the US, even by journals that were supposedly seeking poems and writing from Asian Americans or from local residents. I got fed up, and decided to send some poems to several journals abroad and got accepted there.

    London Ghetto Poets, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Poetry Niederngasse in Switzerland were among the first foreign journals to print my work, and I think that's an even more validating experience than publication in many US journals, because your work has touched someone whose cultural frame is potentially so much more different than yours.

    So I say: Submit to journals abroad. You learn a lot that can improve your writing back home. There's some people who think you have to build up your writing domestically first, and that has worked for some writers. But I don't believe in that approach, myself.

    And finally, a Lovecraftian question:
    Why are so many people attracted to H.P. Lovecraft's stories where humans are a tiny, insignificant mistake?

    I find that these stories resonate most with Americans as a really mind-blowing proposition. It's a very big contrast to their literary traditions that position them as the center of the Universe. Others suggest that Lovecraft was a nihilist. But for me, I've found the work interesting because it dovetails with a more realistic assessment of humanity's place within the great chain of being. This is a mindset that you can also often find within certain philosophies and artistic movements in Asia. Although some believe we're apex entities compared to some forms of grass, bacteria, and now, apparently, immortal jellyfish, well, when the stars are right, you tend to see things in perspective.

    Discussing Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" in Hemet

    On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, the ongoing "Doing Literature" discussion group will meet at the Hemet Public Library at 300 East Latham Avenue to discuss Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

    Join us to consider why this has remained such an enduring work of 20th century literature! The discussion is free, and while it is helpful to have read the novel, it is not necessary to participate. Also as a reminder: We have a microblog up at and on twitter @hemetliterature if you want to get additional updates and posts.

    Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Igbo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

    Born in 1930, Achebe aimed to depict his culture as it had existed before colonization. In its own words, on its own terms. This includes the oral traditions and customs, the sense of guardian spirits and other beliefs. When it was originally written, this was a very radical suggestion and one hailed as innovative.

    Things Fall Apart was unflinching in showing the uneasy balance between things within the traditional culture that needed change even as the novel critiqued colonization. It did not romanticize either the pre-colonial or the colonial era. For writers in many cultures, this demonstrated an approach that many have since sought to emulate in whole or in part to create a vibrant body of literary work that can stand the test of time.

    Throughout the remainder of his literary career, Achebe's novels would focus on various traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christianity and the West, as well as examining African values. Achebe's style draws upon the oral traditions of his people. This can be seen in the straightforward narration and incorporation of Igbo folk stories, proverbs, and oratory methods. Achebe's body of work also includes short stories, children's books, and essays. From 2009 until his death in 2013 at the age of 82, he served as a professor at Brown University in the United States.

    Friday, February 07, 2014

    Best American Poetry: Reading Tarot for Writing

    This week, writer Benebell Wen has been holding forth on the intersections between Tarot and literary practice. This Friday is her final entry and she's done a very nice job all week of showing different ways you can understand the connections and the possibilities between the Tarot and creative writing.

    Of particular note is that one of my poems, "Leuk Lao" gets a nice nod here. Be sure to check it out!

    Over the years I've written more than a few poems regarding different elements of the Tarot and other methods of divination, including a few that show up in my latest book DEMONSTRA, notably "The Dream Highway of Ms. Mannivongsa."  Benebell Wen definitely took an interesting approach in examining why poets may want to consider adding the Tarot to their repertoire of creative techniques from time to time.

    Lao typically used other forms of divination, soothsaying and divination than the Tarot, but I wonder what a Lao version of such a deck would look like. Would we swap out the major arcana, how would we interpret other symbols more common to Europe than Asia, etc. Perhaps that will be a side project for the coming year. If there can be Tarot decks for Hello, Kitty, the Cthulhu Mythos, and Steampunk, let alone any other number of topics, I would certainly suggest Lao culture could be represented within a traditional deck.

    Benebell Wen is the pseudonym for a certain literary journal editor, writer, corporate lawyer, and fashion designer. Benebell is also a professional tarot reader and has been a practitioner for over 15 years. Her book, Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Tarot for Personal Growth will be coming out Fall, 2014 from North Atlantic Books. She is a mentor and senior reader with the American Tarot Association. Read more about her work at When she is not practicing tarot or dabbling in any of the other areas of interest, she is a feng shui practitioner and student of the I Ching. She resides in Oakland, California.

    Meanwhile, I suppose I really should see about getting one of my poems in their main anthology one of these days.


    Rosarium Publishing has announced an exciting new venture, an anthology of Southeast Asian steampunk stories set in the retro-future that never was:
    "THE SEA IS OURS is an anthology of Southeast Asian steampunk. We are looking for steampunk stories that are set in Southeast Asia (SEA), or secondary worlds that evoke Southeast Asia, with Southeast Asian protagonists, in any of the countries that make up the region: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. We are seeking historically and technologically-innovative stories.

    Steampunk, for the purposes of this anthology, is defined as an aesthetic that combines technofantasy, anachronism, retro-futurism, an alternate history/world, and the evocation of an incipient industrial revolution. How does the steampunk aesthetic look, feel, sound, smell, or taste like in these regions? What kind of technologies would grow in resource-rich SEAsia? What do our historical figures, our Parameswaras, Trung sisters, Lapu-Lapus, do in such a world?

    Submissions are encouraged to explore various levels and kinds of technologies, not just steam technology. Locals myths can also find their way into these stories; what does the mix of technology and fantasy look like in such worlds? We welcome exploration of all kinds of stories: from the extraordinary to the everyday. What changes does accelerated technology create for the local landscape and societies? If historical events are given a steampunk twist, how do their outcomes change, or stay the same?"
    You can view the full guidelines for the anthology here: Stories are due June 30th, which will be coming up fast!

    Thursday, February 06, 2014

    Vintage poster: Exposition Coloniale, Marseille, 1922

    An interesting promotional poster for the Exposition Coloniale in Marseille, 1922. In this particular case, illustrating the replica they made of Angkor Wat and a traditional dancer from Indochine. This of course, could be one reason why the Lao poet is traveling in Europe during the timeline of the upcoming re-release of Chaosium's Horror on the Orient Express

    Here we have another example of the Exposition Coloniale promotional poster that was also used in 1922. This one features a Lao woman, and if you look closely, a traditional Lao-style Buddha with his arms in the distinctive "Calling for Rain" position that is found almost exclusively in the region.

    Here, we have an example of the front page coverage of the Exposition Coloniale in 1922 by Le Petit Journal Illustre, which was particularly enamored with the Cambodian exhibit.

    DEMONSTRA reviewed at Martian Migraine Press

    A big thanks goes to Scott R. Jones who recently gave DEMONSTRA (Innsmouth Free Press, 2013) a glowing review at Martian Migraine Press in "Bending, Curving, Humming Cosmic: Bryan Thao Worra’s Sublime DEMONSTRA"

    Among the highlights of his review:
    "DEMONSTRA is clever, insightful, compassionate, often funny, sublime. Worra brings a very human eye to the world he sees, and that world is filled with, yes, Lovecraftian critters and deities, rampaging kai-ju, giant robots, and the occasional zombie, but also the cultural warping of the Lao diaspora, the god-forms and spirit beings of Laotian belief systems, wrestling sages, surreal road trips, and the meathook realities of wars public, secret, and internal."

    Thanks again, Scott! I appreciate it when a reviewer really gets it, especially when it comes to poetry.

    Scott R. Jones' fiction and poetry has been published in Broken City Mag, Innsmouth Magazine, and Cthulhu Haiku 2. He is the author of the short horror story collection SOFT FROM ALL THE BLOOD and THE ECDYSIASTS, a book of literary flash fiction. He’s currently polishing up a book of essays that detail an auto-ethnographical approach to R’lyehian spirituality, When The Stars Are Right, due out in early 2014 from Martian Migraine Press. You can follow him on twitter at: @PimpMyShoggoth

    And remember: You can get a copy of DEMONSTRA by visiting Innsmouth Free Press.

    The Vietnam War as American Science Fiction and Fantasy

    In 1990, H. Bruce Franklin wrote an interesting paper, "The Vietnam War as American Science Fiction and Fantasy" which appeared in Science Fiction Studies #52, Volume 17, Part 3. It won the Pioneer Award in 1991. I think there are very interesting points made within it that any of us who are composing Lao American science fiction can and should take into consideration. Franklin argues there was an "overt interplay between SF and the war. For American SF very explicitly defined the war, which unalterably redefined American SF."

    As a little background, H. Bruce Franklin has written over 19 books. He is a pioneering figure in the serious academic study of science fiction, particularly his texts Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century, and War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Franklin also has books addressing the Vietnam war: M.I.A., or Mythmaking in AmericaVietnam and America: A Documented History as well as Vietnam and Other American Fantasies may be of interest. An interesting connection to Laos exists with Franklin. He was fired while a tenured professor by Stanford in 1972, for his role in a student occupation of their computer center in protest against the Lao invasion the university's connections to the Vietnam War. He later went on to teach as a tenured professor at Rutgers.

    One of the interesting footnotes in Franklin's work reads:
    "In British SF, the Vietnam War has generated similar images of American troops as alien invaders, dating at least from J.G. Ballard's 1966 "The Killing Ground'' through Brian Aldiss's 1987 "My Country 'Tis Not Only of Thee,'' each of which imagines England as another Vietnam. Ballard's story is told from the point of view of an officer of the British National Liberation Army, whose ragged half-starved guerrilla band, "living for months in holes in the ground,'' desperately resists an overwhelming army of American invaders, armed with a technology "so sophisticated that even the wrist-watches stripped off dead prisoners were too complicated to read'' (pp. 140, 142). Despite a US "puppet regime in London,'' the British insurgents can maintain their struggle because "thirty years after the original conflict in south-east Asia, the globe was now a huge insurrectionary torch, a world Vietnam'' in which England is merely a "remote backwater'' for the Americans' "global war against dozens of national liberation armies'' (pp. 139-40). Aldiss's story projects a British civil war between a communist north and a capitalist south, which US intervention degrades to a puppet nation of "slimeys,'' the GIs' equivalent of "gooks.''
    There's a lot to go through that I'm still processing, but I consider it an interesting find and one I want to keep in mind as our other Lao writers and I continue exploring the limits and possibilities within speculative literature.

    What are some other interesting essays and ideas you've found?

    Wednesday, February 05, 2014

    New poem accepted: "Discussing Principles of Art with Laotians"

    In good news for the day, my poem, "Discussing Principles of Art with Laotians" has been accepted by the Hong Kong-based literary journal, Cha! It will appear in the March issue this year!

    This will be their 6th anniversary issue! I appeared in their premiere issue, so it's an honor to be featured there again. Where does the time go?

    In the meantime, be sure to check out their other issues at:

    Souvankham Thammavongsa's "Light" a candidate for Canadian Book of the Year (Poetry)

    Lao Canadian poet Souvankham Thammavongsa's book of poetry "Light" is a candidate for Best Book of the 2013 (poetry) in the CBC Bookie Awards. True to Lao form, apparently, she didn't tell us we had the opportunity to vote for it, and voting ends at midnight. If you like her work, consider voting for this collection.

    I guess this is going to be a big year for Lao literature!

    Souvankham Thammavongsa’s third book of poetry, Light, "examines the word that gives the collection its name. There are poems about a sparkle, about how to say light, about a scarecrow, a dung beetle, a fish without eyes. Known for her precision and elegance, for her small clear voice, for distilling meaning from details, for not wasting words, Thammavongsa confirms her gifts with these new poems. Light is a work that shines with rigour, humour, courage and grit."

    A new copy sells for about $17 in the US.

    Monday, February 03, 2014

    Call for submissions: Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement 2014!

    Looking for creative submissions for the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, preferably by March 15th before we reach the Year of the Horse. As usual, I'm particularly looking for interesting pieces from Khmu, Tai Dam, Lue, Iu Mien, Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese, Karen, Khmer, Rhade / E De, Bru, Nung, Deng, and Akha writers.

    You can send work to them here: or contact me and I will see that it gets to the right editors.

    The Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (ISSN 2153-8999) is an on-line and freely accessible interdisciplinary journal providing a forum for scholars and writers from diverse fields who share a common interest in Southeast Asian (SEA) Americans and their communities.

    JSAAEA is an official publication of The National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the department of Bicultural-Bilingual studies and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

    Wolves and Wonders: An Interview with J.Damask

    I recently finished interviewing J. Damask, a Singaporean speculative fiction writer. The interview is now up at Asian American Press. We discuss werewolves, young adult fiction, her research process and more.

    Because of space considerations for the paper, it's brief, but I hope it sparks an interest in how Asian writers besides those in Japan and China are writing in English and addressing issues such as lycanthropy in their horror and urban fantasy fiction. Be sure to check her work out at:

    Saturday, February 01, 2014

    [Theater] The Brothers Paranormal reading at La Jolla Playhouse, Feb. 24th

    A reading of THE BROTHERS PARANORMAL a play by Prince Gomolvilas is coming to La Jolla, California on Monday, February 24th.

    Directed by Jeff Liu, the tale revolves around two Thai-American brothers who "launch a ghost-hunting business in order to capitalize on the nationwide increase in sightings of Asian-looking ghosts. When the siblings end up investigating the home of a couple that claims to be haunted by one very terrifying spirit, everyone’s notions of reality, fantasy, and sanity clash against the shocking truth."  

    It's free admission and starts at 7:30PM. Reservations are required. Space is limited with only 70 seats at La Jolla Playhouse 2910, La Jolla Village Drive La Jolla, California 92037.