Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Year In Review!

Where does a year go? 

Considering my year began by getting rear-ended by a 7-year veteran of the FBI's Violent Crimes Division in Minneapolis, it's all turned out all right, even after also getting laid off by work after Labor Day following 3 years with them.

I thank everyone who's been a part of a truly wonderful 2008. So what did we get done this year?

Travels: I traveled widely this year including Chicago, Colorado, Iowa, all over Wisconsin, Michigan and California. One of the big highlights was wat-hopping with some great photostudies of Lao American temples in the Midwest as a result. 

Publications: The biggest achievement of course this year was the release of my second book, Winter Ink, the 20th anniversary Winter Book of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts under the direction of award-winning master printer, Paulette Myers-Rich.  

I got the greenlight for my new book of speculative poetry, Barrow, which will come out in 2009. New poems of mine were published in Whistling Shade, the upcoming Grinding Up Stones, and the new anthology, Language for a New Century.  

A poet asked to translate my work into Bengali, my poetry was included in a Canadian college textbook about Laos, and On the Other Side of the Eye is taught in several classrooms across the US now, including California. 

In the meantime, I also got some great work done interviewing some amazing Asian American writers and artists, and continued my research on puppoetics and the creatures of Laos (mythological and cryptozoological) and my haiku reviews project.

Reviews, interviews and shoutouts for 2008: Lao Roots, Bakka Magazine, 2.1.5. Magazine, Write On! Radio, 3 Minute Egg, the Star Tribune, Whistling Shade, Hyphen Magazine, Northography, Boston Progress Radio, Angry Asian Man, Asian American Press, Tales of the Unanticipated, The Adventures of Johnny Northside, Slant Eye for the Round Eye, Towers Magazine, the Carl Brandon Society, Dark Parables,  Minority Militant, the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Thanks, everyone!

Events: Hardly a month went by without doing a reading somewhere. 

This year opened with the historic Asian American Poetry Triple Header featuring the work of Lee Herrick, Sun Yung Shin and myself at the Loft Literary Center.  

Another major reading was in July with Ed Lin and Saymoukda Vongsay for the popular Eye The Other Bust!: Crime and Love reading where Saymoukda debuted her very first chapbook, No Regrets.  

Ed just won the Member's Choice award from the Asian American Literary Awards for his new novel, This Is A Bust, so that made this reading all the more special. 

In August, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of On the Other Side of the Eye on 08-08-08 at the Amazon Bookstore with Katie Ka Vang, Brandon Lacy Campos and Saymoukda Vongsay reading with me.

In addition, I had key readings at UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara, Viterbo, UW Green Bay, the Association for Asian American Studies conference, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Diversicon with the award-winning Dr. Nnedi Okorafor, Patrick Henry High School, and Common Good Books. 

Another highlight was a reading with the MOSAIC Asian Story Telling Alliance at Java Jack's Coffee Cafe with David Zander, Kao Kaliya Yang among many others.

There were also some very nice panel presentations at the Loft Poetry Festival, the Arcana horror convention and Asian Pacific Heritage Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. 

Awards: Although On the Other Side of the Eye was passed over for the Rhyslings (which is ok, because they don't do book-length collections of speculative poetry) and a few other minor awards, it all works out. 

As most of you heard, my year's highlights are receiving the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant at the beginning of the year and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature at the end to continue my work with all of you.

And what's on the schedule for 2009? 

It's gonna amaze you.  :)

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 www.myspace.com/emptyyks  

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: Community@intermediaarts.org.

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!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Laotian American Writer's Festival?

For 10 years, the Chicano and Latino Writers Festival featured local and national writers through support from the Friends of the St. Paul Public Libraries in Minnesota and others in the Twin Cities.

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder what books and writers would be part of a Laotain American Writer's festival. 

There are several in the US who would certainly be good candidates, ranging from current figures such as Phayvanh Luekhamhan, Catzie Vilayphonh, Saymoukda Vongsay,Dr. Bounsang Khamkeo, Soudary Kittivong-Greenbaum, TC Huo, Kongkeo Saycocie, Ova Saopeng and other writers from the SatJaDham network. Khampheng Manirath, a traditional story teller from Laos currently lives in Iowa, and would potentially bring much to a festival.

Abroad, a short-list of Lao writers to consider includes: 

Douangdeuane Viravongs, the daughter of the late Maha Sila Viravongs and widow of short story writer Outhine Bounyavong. She has published various poems and novels and transcribed numerous traditional stories, of which the best-known is Kam Pha Phi Noi ('The Little Orphan and the Spirit’). She runs the family bookshop/publishing house Dokked Publishing in Vientiane and maintains the Maha Sila Viravongs Library, an important repository of rare books and documents.

Dr Thongkham Onemanisone is the founder of the Lao Writer’s Association. He is the first Lao writer to receive the prestigious SEAWrite Award in 1998 for his work Pheua Hak Pheua Nang ('For Love for Her'). Dr Thongkham's numerous other works include Phoum Pannya Sisawat ('Sisawat's Wisdom', 1997), Nithan Suphasit ('39 Moral Tales', 1997), Dhamma's Path Poems (2000), The Memory of SEAWrite Award Poems (2003) and Sharp, Decisive, Hot and Salty Poems (2004); the Lao Language Dictionary (1992) and Lao Language: Terms and Meanings (1997) and numerous poems and articles for daily newspapers and magazines.

The novelists Phieu Lavanh (b 1954), Bounseun Songmany (b 1956) and Damdouane Pomdouangsi (b 1958) are also frequently acknowledged as key writers, but curiously there are few extended details about their lives and work.

Several years ago, poet Thongbay Photisane visited the US as part of the University of Iowa's International Writer's Program. At the time, he directed and edited the only monthly literary magazine in Laos, and served as second secretary of the Lao Writer's Association, editing its newsletter. He was the author of the short stories "The Life of Love," "The Love of the Luang Prabang Song," "Life and Family" and "Song of Man," which have appeared in Vannasin magazine, the monthly publication of the Lao Ministry of Information and Culture; these were also published as a book.

From the Hmong community, prominent writers would include Kao Kaliya Yang, author of The Latehomecomer,  Mai Neng Moua, the editor of Bamboo Among the Oaks, writer May Lee Yang, Katie Ka Vang, Pacyinz Lyfoung and the members of the Fresno-based Hmong American Writer's Circle or contributors to the Paj Ntaub Voice Hmoob literary journal. 

Dr. Dia Cha author of Folk Tales of the Hmong and Dia's Story Cloth, Dr. Gary Yia Lee, author of Dust of Life,  and Houa Vue Moua, the author of Trails Through The Mist also deserve strong consideration. Dr. Lue Vang's Grandmother's Path, Grandfather's Way is also a particular classic. I'd also certainly enjoy a festival featuring Soul Vang and Pos Moua, the author of Where the Torches Are Burning.

Of course, no list is going to be complete and comprehensive. But I'd love to hear your suggestions about who would make great writers to add to a festival of Laotian American writers. It's promising that in the last few years we've seen a particular upswing in the number of books available where we could consider such festivals viable.

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: http://www.wlc.edu/directions/

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popo_Bawa

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 YourKindleName@free.kindle.com 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 http://www.Scribd.com 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 http://www.archive.org 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! :)

Northography.Com Reading: November 14th.

For several years now, one of my favorite websites for Minnesota writers has been Northography.Com, which gathers together novice and experienced writers alike to respond to a weekly stimulus, many often selected from the artistic offerings of other Minnesota artists, or items with a more timeless and universal quality.

I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in connecting with other Minnesota writers. Several writers who've met through Northography have gone on to collaborate together on their own projects and readings, to great success.

The Laotian American writer Saymoukda Vongsay and I are regular contributors, and you find many talented figures here. Whistling Shade, one of my favorite Minnesota publications, has been a longtime supporter of Northography since it first launched.

It's still a rare thing to see a full, official Northography reading in the Twin Cities, which makes Friday, November 14th exciting!

Doors open at 6:30pm and from 7 to 10 PM to feature 13 of Northography's contributors, reading for just 5 minutes each:

  • Aaron O'Keefe
  • Kevin Zepper
  • Dylan Garcia-Wahl
  • Diana Lundell
  • Mary Kay Rummel
  • Norita Dittberger-Jax
  • Gary Dop
  • Seth Berg
  • Lou Ann Muhm
  • Pat Barone
  • Bryan Thao Worra
  • Sharon Chmielarz
  • Linda Back Mckay

  • The performance is at the acclaimed Intermedia Arts at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408. We'd love for you to join us!

    Don't Forget: The SASE/Jerome Grants for Emerging Writers are due November 10th, and if you're eligible your should really try to apply!

    Looking forward to seeing you!

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Interviewed in two.one.five

    I have a great interview appearing in the popular Catz Out The Bag column in the new issue of two.one.five 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!