Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the News

Three Minute Egg has a great interview with me about Winter Ink!

I also have a new poem featured in the latest issue of Whistling Shade.

Northography also has a nice blurb about my recent NEA Fellowship.

I also have a new interview up at the Minority Militant!  Thanks, everyone!

Over 1,000 New Species Found in the Mekong

A recent CNN article discussed the findings of a report outlining over 1,000 species found along the Mekong river including the Laotian rock rat, a spider with foot-long legs, and a hot pink dragon millipede that produces cyanide. 

519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad have been found so far. They're finding new species almost at a rate of 2 per week, but even as we make new discoveries, some are disappearing thanks to human development and destruction of their habitats. 

For example, a bovine found in 1991 living in the Annamite Mountains of Laos has not been seen in recent years. Local cultural beliefs also endanger several of the species: The more exotic the animal, the more status it often bestows on the one who consumes it.

We can only hope that more is done to proactively protect these fascinating creatures and our region's heritage of unique biodiversity. Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to highlight other creatures in the near future on this blog.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Katie Ka Vang Chapbook Release!

Inviting you all to Katie Ka Vang's very first chapbook release this Sunday December 21st at 6PM at Blackdog Wine and Coffee Bar at 308 Prince Street. 

She has amazing opening acts and a possible eggroll fundraiser her niece might be doing. There are several reasons to attend this event including:

* Awesome opening acts: May Lee Yang, Victoria Vang and The Dirty Darlings (all whom are youtubeable)

* Get eggrolls

* Support Katie by buying her first chapbook, "Never Said" !!!

Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong-American Performance artist and writer. She was a 2007 recipient of the Jerome Naked Stages grant where she created a one woman show called 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, and is a 2008 recipient of Artist Initiative grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board.

She has performed in different theater companies, schools, open mics, etc. She was in two productions this fall, Sia(b) by May Lee yang; and Asiamnesia by Sunmee Chomet and ensemble.

For more information please check out her website on  

A Letter from Intermedia Arts

One of the great resources of the Twin Cities has been Intermedia Arts. It was a host to numerous events of great and historic significance to Laotian and Hmong artists and all communities. They've had a wonderful and magnificent vision and it's been exceptional working alongside their volunteers and staff over the years. They've recently issued an urgent request for help, however. A recent letter of theirs explains:
    For over 35 years, Intermedia Arts has served as a resource for our community. The work that we do supports hundreds of artists, arts participants and arts organizations each year. Intermedia Arts is a vital part of our culture and our community: we cannot—we must not—allow this work to disappear.

    So, What Are We Going to Do About It?
    We are going to act, and we need you to act with us. Intermedia Arts can survive this economy. We can even come out on the other side stronger and more sustainable than ever before. But in order to do that, we have to make huge changes in the way we operate, and we have to make them immediately:

    •In January 2009, Intermedia Arts will be moving our five full-time staff members to contract or hourly positions. The work that we do as an organization will be done by our Executive/Artistic Director, Theresa Sweetland; our board of directors; current staff members working as independent contractors, and community volunteers.

    •As of January 9th, we will open only for scheduled events, mostly in the evenings. We will be closing our gallery and eliminating our gallery and poetry library hours but will be expanding our rental programming in our theater, gallery and classrooms. Our building is a valuable asset to the arts community, and we encourage you to look to us for your upcoming rental needs.

    •We are currently working with other local arts groups and organizations to discuss ideas for sharing resources and sustaining our programs. We will also discuss the ways in which our building could be most valuable to the arts community as Intermedia Arts re-structures our operations and rebuilds our capacity.

    •Intermedia Arts has organized a meeting of small and mid-sized arts groups—SOTA: State of the Arts. None of us can do this alone.

    I know. It’s huge. It’s fast. It’s dramatic. But we—our staff, our board, our artists, partners, and funders—all of us, are absolutely committed to ensuring the future of Intermedia Arts. I know you are too.

    Calling On Our Community (This Part is About You)
    We can’t do this without you. Really and truly, whether Intermedia Arts closes its doors or not depends on you. Over the past three years, Intermedia Arts has taken on SASE's literary programs, and together we have developed something truly amazing. This is what I'm asking you to do:

    1. RSVP now. I need you here at Intermedia Arts’ Community Townhall: Rally the People! at 5:30PM on Friday, December 19th. I am asking you to make it a priority to be here, in person. You are our community; we need you to rally with us as we design our future together.

    2. Make a donation. Supporting Intermedia Arts is critical right now, and every dollar counts. We need your support to help us with our general operating expenses as we implement our plan for long-term sustainability. This isn’t about keeping Intermedia Arts open for another month; this is about keeping Intermedia Arts in our community for the long-term. Right now, that future depends on you. Don't wait: make your donation today.

    3: Email us. We need to hear your thoughts, your ideas, your commitment of support, your encouragement, your suggestions and feelings. Send us your questions, tell us what you think, and look to our website for updates, responses, community FAQs, and news each and every step of the way. Email:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Ink Book Release Party: Dec. 13th, 2008

Here are some initial photos from the Winter Ink release party on Dec. 13th at Open Book! A big thanks to everyone who came out to support all of us during the evening. It was a magical night. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mythic creatures of Laos and SE Asia!

It's not every day that we get a big break and come across a rare text like this. While visiting my colleague Phouninh today, she showed me a tattered but largely intact volume of art studying the traditional creatures of myth and legend from Laos and Southeast Asia.

I was unfortunately unable to get better shots at the moment, and want to make sure we get proper credit to the monk who gathered these together, and a larger history of the book, but I also couldn't resist showing you a sample of where we're going to be going in the coming years ahead now...

Clearly, many of the creatures and scenes are from the Ramayana and similar texts, however, others may not be. More research is clearly needed. :) But I'm very excited about coming across this text.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 NEA Poetry Fellows

I'm just starting to get a full understanding of all of the great poetry fellows recognized by the NEA.

But, in addition to myself, Jason Koo, a poet and teacher at Davidson College in North Carolina, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil and C. Dale Young are also among the Asian American poets who received fellowships. They were recognized from over 1,000 applications across the country. Minnesotan poet Anna George Meek also received a poetry fellowship. Fellowships last for a year and allow the recipients to carry out individual plans they proposed. 

Hopefully, we'll hear more about each of their plans as the year goes on!

Lol. And how do I feel?

In the News and Blogosphere

On The Other Side Of The Eye is reviewed by Linda Addison in Space and Time Magazine #106:
    On The Other Side Of The Eye by Bryan Thao Worra (Sam’s Dot Publishing); an enlightening and whimsical poetry collection that tells the devastating effect of the civil war in Laos, the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, on the human spirit: past, present and future. ‘What Kills A Man’ is a gentle list: Always small things / A round. / Holes…A motion. An emotion. Worra fills these pages with poetic fables using the wonders of Laos myth and world history in the song of aliens, immortality, moon and stars; from “The Deep Ones”: We grow with uncertain immortality/At the edge not made for man.
Hyphen Magazine makes a nice mention of me on their blog, courtesy of Claire Light

Write On Radio has an interview with me, along with Todd Boss. I come on around the 30 minute mark.

Twin Cities Daily Planet has an article by Alsion Morse up about Winter Ink and the book release on December 13th at the Open Book (1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis from 6 to 9PM).

Asian American Press covered my NEA Fellowship. There's a brief nod in the Star Tribune.

I mentioned this earlier, but Tales of the Unanticipated #29 also has an interview with me by Catherine Lundhoff, and it's out now.  Boston Progress Radio also a fun feature of me. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Officially Announcing: I'm an NEA Fellow in Literature

I can now officially say that I have been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as a 2009 Fellow in Literature for Poetry.

To put it in context, NEA Literature Fellowships are awarded to published creative writers of exceptional talent in the areas of prose and poetry to advance the goal of encouraging and supporting artistic creativity and preserving our diverse cultural heritage.

The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, and the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts.

This year, out of over 1,000 applications received from across the country, only 42 were awarded after being judged by 10 of the country's leading poets. The award for poetry comes only once every 2 years.

The award also comes with $25,000 for me to continue my work to study and advance awareness of Laotian American poetry. This is both a great personal victory and a community victory. 

I thank all of you who helped me and stood by me. And to my fellow writers who may find themselves at points of struggle, let me assure you: It's possible. Reach for it. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Influences: A Quick List

The other day I ran across a list of influences I cited in the past. Writers and musicians who have been some of the strongest influences on my writing. Today I put together a quick list of some of the pivotal collections of their writing that I particularly enjoy, some assembled by the authors themselves, others, simply collected together well.
  • Franz Kafka. The Basic Kafka.
  • Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths
  • Samuel Beckett. Endgame. Worstward Ho. Company. 
  • H.P. Lovecraft. Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre
  • Yusef Komunyakaa. Dien Cai Dau. Talking Dirty to The Gods 
  • Heather McHugh. Hinge and Sign 
  • Tadeusz Borowski. This Way for The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.
  • Adrienne Su. Middle Kingdom. 
  • Leonard Cohen. I'm Your Man.  
  • Tom Waits. Bone Machine. 
  • Khalil Gibran. The Madman. 
  • Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth. 
  • Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha. Steppenwolfe.
  • Shuntaro Tanikawa. Selected Poems.
  • Yevgeny Yevtushenko. The Face Behind The Face.
  • Graham Greene. The Captain And The Enemy.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Gift From The Sea.
Of course, there's always many, many more, but these are some that come with my highest recommendations.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"The Beehive Buddha" of Rochester.

Over the weekend I had the chance to go visit the Buddhist Support Society in Rochester to see an interesting case of pareidolia at the Khmer wat.

There, residents spotted a wasp or bee's nest that looks like an image of a sitting Buddha in monk's robes. The locals see it as a sign of good luck and fortune. The monks see it as a message for everyone to seek peace and serenity in their lives. They're having a celebration on December 6th and 7th. The Rochester Post has an article.

It took an hour to get over there, but it was clear everyone was very excited and in good spirits with the approaching holiday season and the end of the year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MN Center For Book Arts Winter Book: Winter Ink

The Minnesota Center For Book Arts has a great page about the upcoming book Winter Ink that I created with them. It's an amazing book, and I hope you can join us for the book release party on Saturday, December 13th at the Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis! 

The party is free for all to come help us celebrate this wonderful project! 

OTOSOTE for the Holidays!

As a quick heads-up, the holidays are fast approaching, and I know many of you are hoping to order On The Other Side Of The Eye for friends and family, and I really appreciate it! 

As the first full-length book of Laotian American poetry with a Midwestern, science fiction bent, your reception of it has been really affirming, and I'm looking forward to the next followups coming out soon: Winter Ink and Barrow

Many of you already know that when you order directly from me, I can sign and personalize your copy of On The Other Side Of The Eye, and you'll get bonus goodies included, including, depending on the number left over, a copy of my very rare chapbook: The Tuk-Tuk Diaries: My Dinner With Cluster Bombs

And as always, this year, On The Other Side Of The Eye comes in a very distinctive and unforgettable envelope. :)

However, for it to reach you by December 24th, I'll need to have received orders by December 10th to guarantee delivery!  Thanks again for all of your support, and have a wonderful holiday season! 

Boston Progress Radio and Bryan Thao Worra!

 I was just featured on Boston Progress Radio's popular Shuffled feature!

Boston Progress Radio is a community-based online radio station and blog focusing on independent Asian American music and art. Their goal is to build a space for Asian American artists to share their work, to offer their perspectives and to reflect on what connects us, what moves us, what powers us. It's worth checking out. 

Shuffled is a weekly column appearing every Thursday here on BPRLive. Each week, we welcome someone from the APA community to share some thoughts about the music they listen to. My five songs that emerged from a random shuffle of my mp3 player were pretty eclectic, with a special appearance by Anthem Salgado, whose Time and Money remains one of my favorite Asian American tracks of the 21st century.

Stop by and tell them I said hello!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A look at Winter Ink

At the November Book Roundtable at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, we finally got to see a look at this year's Winter Book, Winter Ink, which features a 10-poem set of original work by me and highlights the best work of Minnesota's master printers and artisans.

The members of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts really broke new ground in many ways for this, the 20th anniversary Winter Book and it's been a delight to collaborate with them. Having seen these in person, I can say that I'm deeply honored and impressed by the craftsmanship that has gone into the art and printing of these books. This is a preview of some of the work inside the Chapbook edition. The Standard and Deluxe Editions are even more amazing: 

Under the direction of MCBA Artistic Director Jeff Rathermel, Winter Ink is available in three editions, each letterpress printed under the supervision of master printer Paulette Myers-Rich. The frontice illustration of each edition is by Cathy Ryan, with additional illustrations by Georgia A. Greeley, Scott Helmes, Harriet C. Lievan, Sara Parr, Elizabeth A. Riggle and Patrick Vincent.

The Chapbook Edition ($30) is limited to 150 copies. It's composed of French-folded kozo paper pages between linen cardstock covers. Indigo Moriki and Navy Orgura Lace papers serve as end sheets. The Chapbook Edition was designed by Paulette Myers Rich and Jeff Rathermel and bound by MCBA staff and volunteers under their supervision.

The Standard Edition ($150) is limited to 50 copies and signed by me, and designed and bound by Sue Bjerke. It is composed of French-folded kozo paper pages stab-bound between soft Chiyogami covers. Cover art and end sheets incorporating original sumi brushwork are by Georgia A. Greeley. The illustrations are augmented by slip-sheets of olive Ogura Lace paper. The Standard Edition is presented in a tri-fold case covered in Indigo Asahi bookcloth and lined with Indigo Moriki paper.

The Deluxe Edition ($475) is lettered A through Z and signed by me, and designed and bound by Jana Pullman. It is composed of French-folded kozo paper pages with tipped in frontice illustration on gampi paper, bound in green silk and presented in a threefold wraparound case covered in poppy Asahi bookcloth. A suite of three additional prints by Cathy Ryan and Original sumi ink work by Michael Waltz are presented in a similar case. An additional poem of mine, the classic, "Wisdom" is presented with accompanying illustrations by Michael Waltz. The two components of the Deluxe Edition are presented in a green Asahi bookcloth-covered slipcase.

The release party is scheduled for Saturday, December 13th, from 6 to 9 PM with a reading at 7:30 PM at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN. Everyone is invited to come!

Here's the opening poem that helped me organize the rest of the poems in this collection, Ink: A Recipe, that makes its debut in Winter Ink.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Remarks on Outhine Bounyavong's "Mother's Beloved"

Outhine Bounyavong was one of the first Laotian writers translated into English since the end of the war for Laos in 1975. His most widely available collection is Phaeng Mae, or Mother's Beloved, a collection of 14 stories that emphasized Laotian virtues of simplicity, compassion, respect for the elders and other village beliefs. 

These short stories examined his own memories and how to behave with compassion and as part of the great chain of being.  He positions most of his stories as discussions on the lives of ordinary people, which allowed him a lens to examine the subtle textures of Lao culture. It was published in 1999 by the University of Washington Press. 

It also includes an interesting essay by Peter Koret that is essential for anyone starting to understand the current scope of contemporary Laotian literature around the world.

Bounyavong's story "A Voice From The Plain of Jars," covers familiar territory for those of us engaged with issues of UXO and leftover munitions from the War For Laos, but should be recognized as one of the first short stories to actively present the plight of Laotians who face the problem on unexploded bombs over 40 years since the end of the war.

In the coming months ahead, I hope to discuss more of these stories in greater detail and what we can learn from them and expect of ourselves in our own writing.

Interviewed in Tales of the Unanticipated #29

I'm interviewed by the amazing Catherine Lundhoff in Tales of the Unanticipated #29 this season. It's a good interview. Check it out if you can!

Milwaukee In November

A very special thanks to all of my readers and fans who made the trip to Milwaukee this month so exciting and enjoyable! 

We had an audience of nearly 50 who came to hear me present and I deeply appreciated meeting all of you at Wisconsin Lutheran College for my first public reading there. 

Milwaukee and I go a long way back, but this was a very special occasion.

During this time I also had a chance to complete Barrow and it's now in a final stage of editing at Sam's Dot Publishing. The text was finally finished at the Harry Schwartz Bookstore in Milwaukee. 

Later this month, we'll be getting a sneak preview of Winter Ink in its final stages just before its December release from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. 

I've got to express my thanks to Sam's Dot Publishing for being a great and patient press with my process. For those of you who've seen earlier drafts of Barrow I think you'll be even more amazed at the ambition of the new text.

I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum this month, and had the opportunity to see a great new exhibit of interactive art that really inspires me for some future projects in mind, and reminds me of the joys of 3 dimensional work. The exhibit runs until January, 2009 and I highly recommend it for anyone.

Time for me to get back to Minnesota, but thanks again everyone, and I hope it's not too long before I get to see you all once more!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reading at Wisconsin Lutheran College: November 11th!

I'm performing at the Raabe Theater at 3:30 on Nov. 11 at Wisconsin Luteran College in Milwaukee! I look forward to seeing many of my friends and readers there!

I'll be reading from my book On The Other Side Of The Eye and my newer books coming out this year, Winter Ink and Barrow.

As a side note, this is my very first reading in Milwaukee. Many of my early years were spent there as a child in the Shorewood neighborhood, so this is a very interesting moment for me.

I've read and presented my work in other cities in Wisconsin, but Wisconsin Lutheran College is the first college to bring me to Milwaukee. I appreciate them bringing me in to see their students.

In addition, I'm very interested in meeting writers and artists interested in contributing to a number of emerging projects for Bakka Magazine and others while I'm in Milwaukee!

Here is the campus map. I'll be reading in Building 2. Here are the directions to the campus:

LAO Talent Showcase 2008: Nov. 1st

If you're in Tennessee on November 1st, be sure to stop by for the L.A.O. Talent Showcase!

Featuring some great and amazing talent! You don't want to miss this!

3rd Annual Lao Educational Conference: Sacramento

An interesting conference coming up on November 1:

Two speakers include Dr. Phoumy Sayavong and an artist and inspirational speaker from Chicago - Chanthala :

For more information, you can check out ALEC: Annual Laotian Educational Conference

Thai Horror films to watch for?

There's some minor buzz going around that while we've seen most of the good that's likely to come out of Japanese and Hong Kong horror cinema, that Thai horror may become the next big thing in the US.

Granted, the titles some are citing leave a lot to be desired. Hollywood seems to have bought the remake rights to: Street Racing Grasue, Ghost Dorm, My Boss Is a Hobgoblin, Flying Gnome's Drain Pipe and Zombie Mule-Deer, so this may not exactly be a report to take absolutely seriously.

But here's a clip from the 2004 film Garuda.

Reviews suggest that by many contemporary horror and kaiju standards this one could have been a lot better, but in the wake of films like Shutter and films on the story of Nang Nak, there is a potential there that is worth keeping an eye on.

Creatures of Myth and Legend 2008 Roundup.

In the spirit of Halloween, Filipino American Heritage Month and National Humanities Month, it seems appropriate to offer a selection of mythological and rumored creatures for consideration besides the usual angsty Eurotrash vampires, werewolves, mummies and zombies who've all about outstayed their welcome in the public consciousness for now, as well as creepy long-haired Japanese ghosts.

From Tanzania, we have the Popobawa of the island of Pemba. First identified in the 1970s, he can be identified by his odor, and is a one-eyed flying ogre with a giant penis and a penchant for buggery. He attacks only men, for up to an hour. Seriously, I'm not making this up:

From the Philippines, the Manananggal is beautiful older woman, and one of the more repellent types of Aswang. One with leathery wings and a detachable torso that flies away legless. Manananggals are reported near the Visayan islands. They feed on pregnant women, using a proboscii to suck out the hearts of fetuses. Legends also say manananggals reproduce by spitting a black chick into another person's mouth.

The Tiyanak is a Phillipine creature that imitates a child, usually a newborn baby who cries in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by someone, it reverts to its true form and attacks. Aside from slashing people, the tianak love leading travelers astray, or in kidnapping children. Some say it is the spirit of a baby whose mother died before childbirth. You can apparently counter a Tiyanak by turning your clothes inside out. The tianak finds the method humorous enough to let you go and leave you alone.

The Bakunawa is a Filipino deity depicted as a serpentine creature with two sets of wings, whiskers, a red tongue, and a mouth ‘the size of a lake.’ Bakunawa lived in the sea at a time when the world had seven moons.  Being fascinated by their light, it would rise out of the sky into the sky and consume the moons. Thus, they were the cause of eclipses. To prevent the world from becoming dark, the people would run out of their homes, taking their pots and pans, to make the most noise they could in order to scare the Bakunawa so they would stop eating the moons and give them the moonlight back.

The Tikbalang is another Filipino creature that lurks in the mountains and forests. A tall, bony humanoid with limbs so long that its knees reach above its head when it sits down. It has the head and feet of an animal, usually a horse. It may be a transformation of an aborted fetus which has arrived on earth from limbo. The Tikbalang apparently enjoys slapping people, or hoof-stomping its poor victim while smoking a huge cigar. All sources agree that the Tikbalang can perfectly mimic the appearance of people familiar to you, and this transformation is heralded by the strong smell of tobacco.

But not all of the fun creatures come from Asia and the Pacific. Here's one from Europe.

The wolpertinger of Bavaria's Black Forest is a bunny that sports roebuck antlers,  jay wings, duck feet and fangs. It's obliquely related to the American Jackalope.

One of the few Asian reptilian mythological creatures that's consistently malevolent is the Yilbegän. This reptilian dragon is identified in the myths of two Siberian cultures – the Turkic peoples and the Siberian Tatars – as a polycephalous monster. In some legends it takes the form of a winged serpentine creature but in others it is a leviathan who rides an ox with 99 horns.

In Russia, we find Chuvash dragons, from Chuvashia, naturally. These dragons are winged fire-breathing sorts and shapeshift from dragon to human (and vice versa). The legends say the ancestors of the Chuvashians found a giant snake, which theydecided to kill,  but the snake pleaded for peace and was given wings by Allah – which is how the creature came to fly. Chuvash dragons can be polycephalous. The most famous is one called Veri Celen (literally, ‘fire snake’ in Chuvash) who was able to take human form in order to visit men and women in the night and sleep with them.

In Korea, we find the Imoogi. Depending on your source, Imoogi are immature dragons that must live for 1000 years before becoming a dragon or else cursed, hornless beings unable to become fully-fledged dragons.

We'll add more creatures soon. But this is a start on breaking away from the 'usual suspects' of horror! In the meantime, here's a scene that may or may not have been inspired by the legend of the Wolpertinger. ;)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

November Book Arts Roundtable: Winter Ink Preview!

The November Book Arts Roundtable is related to this year's Winter Book by the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts.

The book 'Winter Ink' features my poetry and the work of several of Minnesota's finest visual artists.

The roundtable is at 7 pm on Tuesday November 18 and free!

It's a special opportunity to get an advanced look at this amazing book and hear an explaination of some of the techniques involved in it's production. It is also an opportunity for people to meet those who have been involved!

If you can make it to the presentation, that would be great. No matter what, it will be informal and fun!

This will take place at 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis at the MNCBA building.

E-Books and Poets

Today, there are dozens of E-book formats vying for our attention, but the lead formats I'd bet on include: AZW (Amazon), MOBI (MobiPocket), LIT (Microsoft), PNPd (Palm eReader), and BBeB (Sony), and PDFs. 

PDFs are my preferred format for the way I get my e-books out to the community without much hassle.  PDF conversion is a fairly easy process. To convert the others into their appropriate formats:

AZW (Amazon): If you set up an account and then eMail your content to it's converted and a link to the converted file is eMailed to your registered eMail address at no charge. You can then download it and use your PC's USB connection to transfer the content to the Kindle. However, the free MobiPocket v4.2 Creator will convert many formats -- HTML, MS Word Docs, Text, and Adobe PDF into .PRC files -- nicely compressed and encrypted if you wish -- which, when transferred into the Kindle are directly readable.

MOBI (MobiPocket): Mobipocket is a company that makes Reader software called MobiPocket Reader and MOBI format eBooks. You can create books in the Mobi format here.

LIT (Microsoft): Any Microsoft Word 2000 or greater has a feature that lets you convert to this format for their Microsoft Reader also known as MS Reader, an eBook reader that is shipped with most installations of Pocket PC.

PNPd (Palm eReader): E-Reader is the new name for Palm Reader or Peanut. It is a viewer for electronic documents on PalmOS and other platforms and devices. You can create eBooks for this format using the Dropbook program.

BBeB (Sony): Printer for LIBRIe allows the user to print data stored on a pc in word, excel or pdf format into a file readable by the Librie. Possible usages include proof reading, text checking, or paperless document carrying.Unfortunately you cannot search or zoom books created by it!

Now, digital rights management is a whole different game, and so is the question of distribution and sales. But for those of us who are DIY this is an important step.

Interestingly, one of the strangest issues for the net is that while it is easy to find places to store your photos and videos, it becomes far more difficult to find places to store pdfs and other similar documents, although may provide one possible solution if hosting your pdfs/e-books on your own site is not immediately viable.  (Although that's a preferred method).

Storing the at is also possible but is recommended only for texts you intend to be in the public domain under the creative commons principle. 

To that end, here's a quick reminder of the Creative Commons idea:

October: Filipino American Heritage Month

Dating back to 1763, Filipinos established their first permanent settlement in North America near New Orleans. Since then, Filipinos have migrated across the country settling mainly in Hawaii and California, and metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Washington, D.C. and Seattle. In 2007, the Filipino American community was estimated to be at 4 million, or 1.5% of the United States population.

With that in mind, it seems appropriate to take time to note the passing this year of Robert Aspirin, a Filipino-Irish American science fiction and fantasy author who was born in Michigan and raised in Ann Arbor (where I spent much of my formative years in the 1980s) and the author of the Myth Adventures and Thieves' World series, among numerous other projects.

His work with Phil Foglio was a deep influence on me, and I'm sorry I never got to meet him in person. But that's how the arts are, sometimes, you get only fleeting meetings with the creators, but the work leaves you changed over a lifetime.

Of course, this is also a good time to give a quick shout out to my good colleagues Barbara Jane Reyes, Anthem Selgado, Patrick Rosal, Marlin Esguerra, Dr. Penelope Flores, Marlon Unas Esguerra and many others who've helped me in one way or another on my journey as a writer. Keep energized, keep creative!

Important Deadlines for MN Writers

It's that time of year again when the Bush Artist Fellowships are available.

Script Works, Literary Arts

Deadline: November 7, 2008

Performance-Based Work, Music Composition, Traditional & Ethnic Performing Arts

Deadline: November 14, 2008

Don't miss out! Also, the SASE/Jerome Grants for Emerging Writers are due on November 10th.
(Thanks to readers who noted an earlier goof in the deadline)

Good luck!

Asian American literary journal: Kartika Review

Kartika Review publishes literary fiction, poetry, and essays that endeavor to expand and enhance the mainstream perception of Asian American creative writing. The journal also publishes book reviews, literary criticism, author interviews, and artwork.

They turn their focus on works relevant to the Asian Diaspora or authored by individuals of Asian descent.

Kartika plans to sponsor readings, panel discussions, writing contests, and other creative activities for the Asian American community in Boston, New York City and the Bay Area.

Check them out!

Space Cowboys, Matchstick City: Anime & I

In Minnesota, this weekend was the annual Fallcon hosted by the Minnesota Comic Book Association and before that we had  the MCAD Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits a three-day event comprises manga drawing workshops, guest lectures by academic experts and professionals in the anime and manga industry and a cosplay fashion show.

So, this month seems like as good a time as any to talk about a few of my favorite manga and anime from Japan that were a part of my formative years.

First up: Akira, a Japanese animated film co-written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Next to Robot Carnival and Fist of the North Star, this was my first really serious introduction to everything that anime could be, and was one of the key films I saw during those years, next to La Femme Nikita and Heaven and Earth.


Even as I grew up with the Robotech series and the imagery of other cartoons from Japan such as Battle of the Planets (aka Gatchaman) and Voltron (originally called Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV) Akira changed my sense of how much social commentary, plot and characterization could be embedded into a 'cartoon' even as admittedly, it is also one of the few films where I think it makes less and less sense the MORE I view it. But the imagery remains spectacular and evocative. It's a great, trippy story that laid critical groundwork for anime in the United States.

Robot Carnival was another personal favorite of mine for the sheer depth and variety of anime styles it hinted we could encounter. Fist Of The North Star was basically shoved down our throats during the early 1990s and its hyperviolence was a portent of the schlock to come that made it difficult to wade through much of the early anime offerings in the US with a focus on outrageous gore and melodrama with nonsensical plots. I'm probably particularly hard on Fist Of The North Star because I just can't get over the fact that I sit through 2 hours of searching for some character's sister, who then never once appears in the remainder of the movie after she's found. (!!!)

For my money, I deeply appreciate the depth and variety within the anime series, Cowboy Bebop, where, in addition to the progressive narrative, we found each episode exploring a different musical and literary theme/genre. One episode might look at the mythos of the cowboy western, another might be an homage to the world of Batman. It remains a classic series to me.

Another notable film I enjoyed was the re-envisioned Metropolis, that in recent years reminded me of the stunning, sweeping visionary heights Akira promised we were capable of. It diverges heavily from the Fritz Lang classic it's inspired by, but that in a way is what also makes it engaging, because it is faithful to many of the themes and motif's of Lang's opus.

A trailer for Lang's original work with a 1980s soundtrack for a restored 1984 version:

A standout series I continue to enjoy viewing was the retro Giant Robo series. Giant Robo was inspired by Mitsuteru Yokoyama's manga series and was an homage to Yokoyama's career.

The series featured great characters and plotlines from the manga artist's entire canon of work, effectively creating an all-new story. Set in the near future, ten years after the third energy revolution, you follows the master of Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the Big Fire Group, a secret society bent on world domination. (aren't they all)

In 1999 I had the great fortune to be part of the Minneapolis Asian Children's Film Festival and to show a 10-film retrospective of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, from well-known classics like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service to Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle In The Sky and many others.

All of them were great. But for personal reasons, my favorite is really always going to be Porco Rosso.

Porco Rosso is the story of an anti-fascist aviator transformed into an anthropomorphic pig in 1920s Italy. Porco is a bounty hunter who fights air pirates and an American soldier of fortune. The film is a fascinating meditation the tension between selfishness and duty, and ever an abstract self-portrait of Miyazaki himself.

But the long and the short of it is, while far from comprehensive, these would be among the first I'd recommend to others with an interest in manga and anime. And now you know! :)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Interviewed in

I have a great interview appearing in the popular Catz Out The Bag column in the new issue of magazine thanks to the famously talented Catzie V. I deeply appreciate it.

It was lots of fun to do, and will hopefully give readers a few new insights into my work and process. Or at least see a few wild photos of me I don't let out too often. ;)

Myths and Legends: Southeast Asian Ghosts

As we enter into October, it seems like a good time to share a fun commercial from Thailand that provides a pretty good overview of several types of ghosts to be found in the region. A very special thanks to Soy Mountry for pointing this one out to me.

Reflections From Nina's: Oct. 1st

Thanks go to everyone who came to join us at Nina's on Oct. 1st. It was a great evening with exceptional performances by Sharon Chmielarz and Connie Wanek, and I as we read round-robin style at Nina’s Café, above Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul as part of the Nina’s Café “Verse and Converse” Series.

I think the poems from each poet interlocked nicely, with work initially touching on issues of finances, faith, time, death and life, animals and politics and other fun subjects. Todd Boss was a great MC and it was a chance to see many great poets, writers and readers gathered in the room, including Tim Nolan, Katie Leo and Joyce Sutphen, Patricia Kirkpatrick from Water-Stone Review and many others. Afterwards, a great afterparty was held at Costello's.

I'm looking forward to next month's Verse and Converse!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reading October 1st at Common Good Books!

Come hear Sharon Chmielarz, Connie Wanek, and Bryan Thao Worra read round-robin style at Nina’s Café, above Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul (corner of Selby and Western) 7pm-8pm on Wednesday, October 1, 2008.

The event is FREE and open to the public. The reading is part of the Nina’s Café “Verse and Converse” Series, and has the support of Common Good Books.


Sharon Chmielarz has had four books of poetry published and one chapbook. She also has poems appearing this year in The Laurel Review, The Iowa Review, The Hudson Review, Water~Stone, Whispering Shade, Kalliope, Ascent, Margie, and So to Speak. Her book The Other Mozart has been made into a two-part opera.


Connie Wanek is the author of two books of poems: Bonfire (1997) and Hartley Field (2002). She was also co-editor of the anthology, To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (2006). Her third book of poems, On Speaking Terms, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2009. Ted Kooser named her a 2006 Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. She lives in Duluth.


Bryan Thao Worra is a Laotian-American poet whose first full-length collection, On the Other Side of the Eye, was released by Sam’s Dot in August. His poetry appears internationally, and he is a recent Minnesota State Arts Board grantee.


See the complete schedule of upcoming readings at READINGS at

Creatures of Laos: Insects

Every now and then you run into something a little different. This is a lively look at the startling variety of insects to be found in Laos someone posted on Myspace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Winter Ink and the MN Center for Book Arts

Here are some images from the production of my new book Winter Ink coming out in December from the wonderful artisans of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. I'm really very excited about this unique project after having seen the results of this effort so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


In the coming weeks ahead, we'll be trying some new things out at On The Other Side Of The Eye while we contemplate new directions both for this blog and creatively across the board!

In the meantime, get ready as we continue to discuss more issues involving my new upcoming books Winter Ink and BARROW, some great readings including Common Good Bookstore, Wisconsin Lutheran College, the Arcana Horror Convention, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Twin Cities Book Festival and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts!

We'll also discuss the upcoming Legacies of War / Refugee Nation project in the Twin Cities in 2009, one of our most ambitious projects ever.

With October coming around the corner, expect our annual review of the strange and the supernatural of Asia, and in November we'll have our annual look at National Adoption Month.

Many other exciting topics will be posted here soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!

Today it's Leonard Cohen's birthday! His music helped me get through many tough and often lonely moments in my life, and his work has always demonstrated to me the importance of doing my own personal best to create challenging verse and ideas.

When we look at his body of work, even when he signs about love, romance, and all of the things you'd think a singer is supposed to sing about, he brings a thoughtful, brutally honest approach to presenting the real challenges of intimacy and relationships. We might well look to songs of his like "Bird on a Wire" or "Last Year's Man" or "Chelsea Hotel" for a good example of this. A love song from Leonard Cohen is always so much more than "that".

Monday, September 08, 2008

Beyond The Other Side Of The Eye: Call For Submissions

First, a big thanks goes out to everyone who supported the one-year anniversary of On The Other Side Of The Eye last month. There's been so much good news and progress made, and I'm looking forward to the coming years ahead with you.

I'm now announcing that to celebrate the 2nd anniversary in 2009, we're going back to where it all started with a very special art exhibit and a series of special events at the J&S Bean Factory at 1342 Thomas Ave. in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Between 2005-2007, at the J&S Bean Factory, I wrote and organized the final elements that would ultimately become On The Other Side Of The Eye, the first full-length book of Laotian American speculative poetry in the world. It's a great space in the Midway area of St. Paul.

This last weekend I learned another writer had also finished his first book there recently while enjoying the coffee, food and amenities at the J&S Bean Factory. If you get a chance to, stop by there, and tell them I said hello!

The exhibit, Beyond The Other Side Of The Eye, will feature the work of several artists who were inspired by the book, in both photography, illustration and painting, as well as poems and other mediums. There will also be readings and workshops throughout the month to celebrate!

There are still a few spaces open for artists who are interested in participating in the exhibit! If you're interested drop a line to me at and we can discuss the additional details!

Yes, there's still time to create additional work. The deadline for submission is July 1st, 2009. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! :)

Hyphen Short Story Competition - Deadline Extended

Deadline Monday, September 29, 2008

Hyphen magazine and The Asian American Writers' Workshop encourage you to enter the 2008 Short Story Competition. The winner gets $ 1,000, publication in Hyphen magazine, and a subscription to Hyphen and membership to The Workshop.

This is a great opportunity for emerging writers: the winner of the 2007 Short Story Competition, Preeta Samarasan, published her debut novel, Evening is the Whole Day, through Houghton Mifflin this past May and received prominent coverage in Poets & Writers.

Finalists will have their work judged by Samarasan and Monica Ferrell, whose novel, The Answer Is Always Yes, was published by Random House this past April.

Review their terms of entry and enter.
Deadline now extended to Monday, September 29, 2008!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Winter Ink Wordle.

Here is one graphic representation or tag cloud of all the words that appear within my forthcoming book, Winter Ink!

Call for Book Art: 9/5 Deadline!

Last minute call for art to go with my new book, Winter Ink, being presented by the Minnesota Center For Book Arts this December. We go to print next week, so we need your submissions fast!

From the Minnesota Center For Book Arts:

Open Call for 2008 Winter Book Art
Deadline: Friday, September 5th, 2008

Minnesota Center for Book Arts' 2008 Winter Book, Winter Ink, presents the work of poet, short story writer, playwright and essayist Bryan Thao Worra. Born in Laos in 1973 and now residing in the Twin Cities, Worra's work is known internationally and has been featured in numerous acclaimed anthologies including Bamboo Among the Oaks, Outsiders Within and Contemporary Voices from the East.

This call is for an illustration to use on the title page of the book. Specifics and criteria are presented below. Additional images may be selected for use in other segments of the Winter Book. If an artists' work is used in the publication, they will receive a free copy of the book.


* The size of the illustration should be no larger than 3 inches wide by 4 inches high. Work should be portrait oriented. The final size of the illustration may be resized proportionally by the Winter Book design team.

* Work may be created using any medium, but should reflect the title, "Winter Ink." Abstract images are preferred, incorporating techniques such as expressive mark-making, line drawing, ink painting and improvisational brushwork. Selected work will capture a mood, shape, action or represent in some manner the physical properties of ink. Illustrations should not be representational or renderings of actual objects.

* Work should be flat and high contrast (i.e. black and white). Selected images will be scanned to produce plates. Only physical originals will be accepted. If an image is created digitally, submit a hard copy.

* Artists may submit multiple entries.

Include your name, address, telephone number and email with each entry.

To be considered, illustrations must be received by 5pm September 5, 2008.

All entries become the property of MCBA.

Entries may be dropped off at The Shop at MCBA or mailed to:

Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Winter Book Design Team
1011 Washington Ave. South #100
Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Questions? Email Jeff Rathermel, MCBA's Artistic Director at

Monday, September 01, 2008

Creatures of Laos: Pangolins

Known as the Chinese Pangolin, this interesting creature can occasionally be spotted in Laos and Southeast Asia, from reports of different travelers who've encountered it.

A pilot for the US Forward Air Controllers in Tim Robbins' classic work, The Ravens mentioned the pangolin and other unusual creatures being brought to the base at Long Tieng during the mid-20th century.

Pangolins are nocturnal and very shy but can live in a wide range of settings, typically open country with large termite mounds.

Pangolins are usually on the ground and slow moving. But they're also agile climbers.

Pangolins get their preferred food from the mounds of ants and termites, using their claws and probing for insects with a long tongue which can reach up to 25 cm.

Pangolins dig burrows up to 3 meters long. Watch out for their strong claws.

You can tell the difference between an Asian pangolin and the African pangolins by the hair at the base of the scales of pangolins in Asia.

Creatures of Laos: Kha-Nyou: Laotian Rock Rat

First noticed by scientists in the mid-90s in the meat markets of Laos but widely identified for mainstream scientific communities in 2005, the kha-nyou is also known as the Laotian rock rat or rat squirrel.

The nocturnal kha-nyou seems quite tame and slow-moving, with a walk described as duck-like, an efficient method for scrambling up and across large rocks.

They're about 26 cm long with a 14 cm tail and weigh about 400 grams.

The kha-nyou is mostly found in parts of Laos with karst limestone, among the boulders on hills. Villagers in the area are familiar with the kha-nyou and consider them edible.

Back in 2005, a conservation biologist, Robert Timmins was quoted on its discovery by non-Laotian scientists: "It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables, and I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before."

People in the Khammouan region of Laos have known about the kha-nyou for a long time of course, and prepare it by roasting it on a skewer.

The kha-nyou belongs to a family of rodents thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.

There are still controversies about the kha-nyou, but so far, we know they're definitely NOT related to guinea pigs.

Right now, research strongly suggests that the kha-nyou is the only known survivor of the Diatomyidae family, and the closest relative still living in the world would be the Gundi, found in Africa:

And now we know.

We'll look again soon at other fun creatures you can find in Laos!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Catzie Interviewed in Bakka!

Lao Roots Magazine recently did an interview with the amazing Catzie Vilayphonh.

At the moment she is the Fashion Director for magazine where she also has her funky interview column, Catz Out The Bag.

I recently did an interview with her for Bakka Magazine that came out this month.

She's one of the best Lao American writers out there today to watch for.

Giant Lao Lizard Attack!

From a recent ABC Radio Australia report:

The mother of an Australian man who was lost for eleven days in a jungle in Laos says her son has described being chased by giant lizards.

Hayden Adcock went missing in the jungle for eleven days after he went on a trek to visit a waterfall.

He was rescued by local villagers last week and remains in a critical condition in a Bangkok hospital.

His mother Lynne Sturrock says her son has horrific wounds and says he was attacked by wild animals.

She says he had to climb over a cliff to escape from the lizards.

"He'd said he had never seen anything like them before," she said.

"I think they could be related to Komodo Dragons only not as big, but you know quite large because he has seen goannas in Australia, but these were horrible and larger and all of a sudden this group of lizards started chasing him."

To which I can only respond: Utterly fascinating! :) Speculations, anyone?

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's new novel announced.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu just announced that her novel, Sunny and the Leopard People, has just been acquired by Sharyn November at Viking (for the harcover) and Firebird Books (for the paperback). Both are imprints of Penguin.

A big congratulations goes out to her! Dr. Okorafor-Mbachu was a special guest at this year's Diversicon, joining the ranks of writers like Minister Faust, Mark Rich, Tananarive Due and myself. :)

To celebrate, here's an interview I did with her earlier this year:

Dr. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is the Chicago-based writer of Zahrah the Windseeker, a children's novel that takes place in a highly technological world based on Nigerian myths and culture.

Her recently released The Shadow Speaker (Hyperion Books, 2007) is set in the countries of Niger and Nigeria. It was a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award and a nominee for an NAACP Image Award. The Shadow Speaker was also a Booksense Pick for Winter 2007/08.

She is the winner of the 2007/08 Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa. Her winning unpublished children's book, Long Juju Man,  a story about a Nigerian girl's encounters with an irritating crafty ghost, will be published by Macmillan in 2008.

She will be a special guest at this year's Diversicon in Minnesota and is an active voice in the Carl Brandon Society among others. A warm and engaging writer with a great imagination and lively sense of humor, I've met her on a several occasions and had a chance to ask her a few questions:

What are you working on these days, artistically?
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu: I'm always working on something. :-). But for the last month, I've suddenly started writing a part two to The Shadow Speaker. I didn't intend to; sequels are not my thing. But my sister Ifeoma kept bothering me about it. She pointed out some interesting loose ends and points of possibility at the end of The Shadow Speaker that really got my mind churning. Soon things started to germinate and I just started knocking it out. Right now, I've got over two hundred very messy pages with holes, gaps, typos, inconsistencies, etc. But the story is here; it's ALIVE! I'm not sure if it's YA or adult, though. I'll worry about that when I finish.
I'm also working on an adult fantasy novel called Black Locusts. Its set in Nigeria's oil-rich but troubled Niger Delta. That one is far more polished.
What's been the biggest challenge for you, as a writer?
NOM: Finding time to write as my daughter's naps shrink and disappear. I used to get a lot of my writing done when she was asleep. I'd do all other work when she was awake, since it didn't require such deep concentration. Now that she's 4, her naps are almost gone and I've had to adjust. I teach four classes at two universities, too, and have some other things going on in my life that take up time. It's a grand juggling act. But I'm surprised to say that I'm managing.
How did you first get into writing?
NOM: I took a creative writing class in my sophomore year in college. Prior, I had never even thought to write fiction. But I was a heavy reader and I liked to write long colorful letters to friends.
What are some of your favorite themes and ideas to work with?
NOM: Identity, the environment, gender issues, the hero/heroine's journey, self-sacrifice and Africa-ness. 
Who's on your reading list these days?
NOM: Alice and Wonderland (since people keep comparing my books to it. I've seen the Disney movie a thousand times but read the book a long long time ago)
The Art of War (another reread)
The Name of the Wind (I've read Pat's earlier draft but not the finished polished perfect end product yet)
A Long Way Gone
Do you have any advice for emerging writers?
NOM: Keep writing and reading. I had to write about three novels (one that was 500 pages…and this novel introduced me to the world you'll find in both of my published novels) before I wrote something publishable.
When I was writing these, I didn't care about getting published. I was doing it for the love. This allowed me to really hone and develop my skills without the rejection process, editors, outside opinion and deadlines breathing down my back. Take your time.
I've loved reading since I was very young. I feel like much of what I leaned happened by osmosis, as I consumed book after book after book. You must read to be a writer. Also if you don't like to read, why should other people like to read your work?
Lastly, don't give up. Writing is much more challenging and time consuming than people think. There are sacrifices you have to make to produce written work. When you face those sacrifices, it helps to know this.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lao Puppetry In Action

A tourist traveling through Laos documented this cultural show in Luang Prabang. I've previously discussed some of the various forms that exist here, as we examine the possibilities for new expressive directions. The puppet element clocks in at 5:48 on this video.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bunraku Puppetry

Bunraku is Japan's professional puppet theater. Developed primarily in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is one of the four forms of Japanese classical theater, the others being kabuki, noh, and kyogen.

The term bunraku comes from Bunraku-za, the name of the only commercial bunraku theater to survive into the modern era.

Bunraku is also called ningyo joruri, a name that points to its origins and essence. Ningyo means "doll" or "puppet," and joruri is the name of a style of dramatic narrative chanting accompanied by the three-stringed shamisen. This exhibition from a show in Kyoto found on Youtube.

There are several other fascinating demonstrations of the techniques leading me to consider whether or not future puppoetics development will require working with several others in the future. I admit, I'm intrigued.