Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Khop Jai Lai, Lao American Writers Summit 2017

It was a Summit to remember as nearly 400 people gathered throughout the weekend at the National Lao American Writers Summit in Seattle, Washington at Highline College. It was a wonderful example of how communities can come together with a great intergenerational representation. Hats off to the Pom Foundation, the Kinnaly Traditional Dance and Music Troupe, AANAPISI, and the Lao Community Service Center of Washington for making it happen.

I personally learned much throughout the process including some great conversations on the nature of leadership and community building that leaves me optimistic for what's still up ahead. It was enjoyable seeing so many diverse voices and meeting new, emerging writers in our community. I have a feeling they'll go far.

There were several faces I missed seeing from previous years, but it reminds me that whenever we gather, we must make the most of our time as artists, as fellow Lao and human beings. You never know when the next opportunity will be to meet. On a lighter note, in true Wacky Races fashion, at least five Lao American artists had a zany time trying to catch their planes. Shoot. I think we need to get a gumball machine for the next year we gather.

My role in this year's Summit was reasonably subdued, but included a poetry workshop and a discussion on writing and finishing our books, and why our stories matter. I also had the honor of doing the opening remarks on Saturday morning before the keynote speaker Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. I received a nice shoutout from the other keynote speaker, Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, especially regarding the tenth anniversary of my book On The Other Side Of The Eye. 

There were some exciting things to see such as Kohk and Sakm Ninja Foods, Buatique, and Bousa Design exhibiting there, as well as the spoken word artist Alina Amkhavong, the artist Sengsay Sayaseng, and Sarky and the Green Room. We also saw the return of Cooking With Nana. You can see more of my pictures from the weekend over at Flickr. There's a lot to process still, and I'll share more thoughts on the whole gathering in the coming months ahead.

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