Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Upcoming at the Loft Literary Center

In January, keep an eye out for the following events at the Loft!

The Education Open House:
Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 6:00 pm-8:00 pm

An evening full of listening, learning, and deciding! Here's what is in store for you:
* Mini-class presentations by a number of Loft teaching artists
* Winter/spring term student reading cohosted by Greg Breining and Jorie Miller
* Mix and mingle opportunities--with teaching artists, Loft staff, and prospective students
* Light refreshments

Take advantage of this time to figure out which creative writing class you'll take next, get your questions answered by Loft staff, be inspired by the words of current Loft students.

The Magazine Mingle
Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 5:30 pm-7:30 PM

The Loft Literary Center and the Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Association team up for the eighth time to host a casual networking event that also celebrates the breadth of Minnesota’s magazines.

Editors and freelance writers gather for inspiration, education, and networking. A unique event to meet magazine professionals in a casual setting. Magazines from around the state will be on display. Put faces to names. Meet new folks. Light refreshments. Cash bar. Fabulous door prizes. Register at mmpa.net. Registration discounts when you register early and bring a colleague or two.

In February, you'll also want to reserve out some time for the Loft's Literary Love Fest as local literati shine as they riff about love. Or hate. Or the departure of an ex. Family. Community. Whatever makes their hearts go pitter patter around Valentine's Day. Featuring multiple readers and genres. Always a good time. Writers sharing the love include Phebe Hanson, Klecko, Tim Nolan, Jim Northrup, and Shannon Olson. This will be held at Kieran's Irish Pub, 601 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis. This is a Raking Through Books event cosponsored by the Loft, Kieran's, and the U of M Bookstores on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 starting at 5:30 pm.

Upcoming MN State Art Board grants available

The Minnesota State Arts Board has several grant application deadlines in January.  Eligible individuals and organizations are encouraged to apply.

Folk and Traditional Arts - grants to support the artistic traditions and customs practiced within community and/or cultural groups by identifying, documenting, preserving, presenting, and honoring Minnesota's folk arts and traditions.  Application instructions and forms are available on the Arts Board Web site:  http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/machf-fata.htm
Application deadline is January 7, 2011.

Minnesota Festival Support - grants to sponsoring or presenting organizations to feature Minnesota individual artists and Minnesota arts groups in arts festivals, or in the arts components of broader, community-based festivals.  Application instructions and forms are available on the Arts Board Web site:  http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/machf-mfs.htm
Application deadline is January 7, 2011.

Operating Support - general operating support grants to high quality, established arts organizations that produce, present, or exhibit works of art; to nonprofit organizations that provide a broad range of services to artists; and to community arts schools and conservatories that make arts learning available to Minnesotans of all ages and abilities.  Application instructions and forms are available on the Arts Board Web site: http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/operating-support.htm
Application deadline is January 21, 2011.

New Minnesota State Arts Board jobs available

The Minnesota State Arts Board is seeking qualified candidates for the following program positions

Program officer, arts learning and access

The program officer will manage Arts Board grant programs and services that expand access to the arts and promote lifelong learning in the arts. The program officer will manage several Arts Board grant programs including Arts Learning, Community Arts Schools and Conservatories, and Arts Access. The program officer also will manage the board’s professional development initiatives and its annual participation in the national Poetry Out Loud program.

Program officer, artist assistance

The program officer will manage Arts Board grant programs designed to support and promote the work of individual artists (Artist Initiative, Cultural Community Partnership, Folk and Traditional Arts, and Minnesota Festival Support).

Program associate, outreach

The program associate will help to increase awareness and understanding of, and participation in, Arts Board programs and services by helping to build relationships between the board and constituents that could benefit from its programs and services; helping to develop and implement strategies to promote Arts Board grant programs and services; and providing technical assistance to potential applicants.

How to apply

Interested candidates are invited visit the State of Minnesota employment Web site and review the Arts Board job postings and the minimum and preferred qualifications for each position.

Qualified candidates are encouraged to submit a resume and cover letter as directed in the job posting. Individuals who are interested in, and qualified for, more than one position may submit an application for one or more of the positions.
Applications must be submitted no later than January 3, 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

LAO Report on UXO and Convention on Cluster Munitions: 12/30

Save the Date -- Thursday Dec. 30th, 2010!

Join the Lao community and Jack Rossbach for an interesting presentation that will include the report from LAO about the successful 1st Meeting of States Parties for the Convention on Cluster Munitions Held in Nov. 2010 Laos (1MSP) along with more general information about the wonderful people of Laos.

1MSP is an international effort to ban cluster munitions (121 Countries formally attended).

Come and celebrate with notable Lao community members, Nobel Peace Prize winning Laureates and other fine individuals. Artifacts, Photos and video from 1MSP will be present. Bring friends, family and anyone else that you can convince this is a good time. Entertainers welcome. As always we will have a pot luck dinner with hopefully Lao food so bring something even if it is only yourself.

When: Thursday, December 30th 5:00-9:00PN+.

Where: The Lao Family building located at 320 University Ave. W., St. Paul (Near Western and University before Rice). Contact at Lao Family Yao Lo 651-221- 0069 for additional information.

Who: Jack Rossbach, Coordinator of the Minnesota Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions in partnership with the Lao community calls the annual meeting to order while celebrating his birthday, much to the dismay of his children. Contact Jack for additional information. Home 651-488-0524 or jack2ros@yahoo.com

Whoops. This blog needs a new post! :)

Welcome to December, everyone and my apologies for not keeping the blog updated in the last two months. As a quick recap of the year in review, we've recently successfully held and taken down the Legacies of War exhibit in Minnesota and the full staging of Refugee Nation with Ova Saopeng, Lidet Viravong and Leilani Chan. I'm currently focusing on gathering oral histories from Lao Minnesotans and will also be doing some side projects in California as well.

I'm also continuing to serve as the community liaison for the Minnesota State Arts Board to assist Minnesotans in accessing the wonderful and exciting opportunities that are available to them. Be sure to check out http://arts.state.mn.us regularly to see upcoming grant deadlines in particular. With the right planning and timing, you can plan anything from festivals to exhibits and readings to keep this a vibrant community.

Stay tuned for a few updates documenting the Fresno community. I think you'll enjoy them! Stay warm out there!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

[MPLS] 2nd annual Dead Poets & Writers Halloween Party

Here ye all dead poets, writers and spooky story tellers! All writers are welcome to the Loft's 2nd annual celebration of all things literary -- and spooky!

Come dressed as your favorite dead writer and bring something to read. (Can’t muster a costume? Come anyway.) The event is early, so party-goers are encouraged to bring their children prior to trick-or-treating. This will be a night full of words, memories, and fun.

Cosponsored by the Loft and Kieran’s Irish Pub. At Kieran’s Irish Pub, 600 N. 1st Ave., Minneapolis

Family Style Open Mic: Yellow Rage 10-Year Anniversary Show and Fundraiser for the Fong Lee Family

Catzie Vilayphonh and Michelle Meyers celebrate 10 years of Yellow Rage on Friday, November 19 at 7:30pm at the Asian Arts Initiative. This will be at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street in Philadelphia.

That's during their Family Style open mic, except in November, there will be no open mic. Instead, they're putting together a showcase of amazing artists who will come to Philly and reminisce/celebrate with them. Unfortunately, I'll be in LA at that time, but I strongly encourage everyone in the area to go and support them.

In addition to being their 10 year anniversary show, November 19th will also be a fundraiser for the Fong Lee family. As some of you may know/remember, over the past year, organizers in Minneapolis/St. Paul have been working tirelessly to mobilize around the Lee family as they pursue justice. Fong was a Hmong youth who was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen. Andersen was later acquitted of his murder although the evidence appeared to indicate that some shady handling of the crime scene took place, that the incident was misrepresented in court testimony, and that discriminatory and prejudicial information was highlighted throughout the case.

Mai Neng Moua reading October 30th in Minneapolis.

Franklin ArtWorks is presenting readings by Mai Neng Moua and Marlon James on Saturday, October 30, 2010, 2pm at Franklin ArtWorks, 1021 E Franklin Ave in Minneapolis. This event is free and open to the public, and I'd recommend it.

Mai Neng Moua's writings can be found in publications such as Bamboo Among the Oaks and Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: 150 Years of Minnesota Poetry. Her awards include the Bush Artist Fellowship, the Jerome Travel Grant, and the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series in Poetry & Creative Prose.

Marlon James was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1970. His first novel, John Crow’s Devil (Akashic Books, 2005) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His most recent novel, The Book of Night Women (Riverhead, 2009), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The NAACP Image Award, and The Minnesota Book Award, and was New York Magazine’s third best book of the year.

Reading Tuesday, October 26th

As part of Intermedia Arts new Beyond the Pure reading series, I'll be reading at Color Theory for the 21st Century: Readings by Writers of Color on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 7PM at Intermedia Arts. They're asking for a $5 suggested donation to support the series.

This reading will also feature some of my favorite Twin Cities writers including Sha Cage, e.g. Bailey, Beverly Cottman, Ibé, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria and May Lee Yang. I'll also have copies of BARROW available at this reading.

This will also be the last day you can see the Legacies of War exhibit, which will be having its closing reception from 3 to 5PM with guided tours and reflections from everyone who's been involved, and some great refreshments. I hope you'll join us!

As Minnesota's premier multidisciplinary, multicultural arts center, Intermedia Arts builds understanding among people by catalyzing and inspiring artists and audiences to make changes in their lives and communities. They are a nationally recognized leader in empowering artists and community leaders to use arts-based approaches to solve community issues. From graffiti art to digital technology to performance art to spoken word, they work from the community up to unearth and enliven new and emerging artists and art forms while challenging and exploring the role of art in our lives.  Intermedia Arts is a catalyst that builds understanding among people through art.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Refugee Nation closes this weekend

The last four Refugee Nation shows begin Thursday night in Minnesota. This is the only nationally touring Lao American play in over 35 years.

And, this is the only production in the country to feature the full cast of the play as it is meant to be seen. People have come from across the country just to see this production in Minnesota, including California, Milwaukee and Iowa. It has received great press, but more importantly great audiences here in the Twin Cities who've helped make it not just a play but an experience. It has touched the lives of over four hundred people already through workshops, special performances and across the airwaves.

Don't miss it, and a big thank you to everyone who's been a part of this journey and who helped to spread the word!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Legacies of War: Our Shared Journey

One of the exciting interactive parts of the Legacies of War Exhibit coming to Minneapolis this month is ‎"Our Shared Journey," an interactive piece in the Legacies' exhibit, captures the journey of our immigration - from Laos, to refugee camp and our new homes in the U.S.

Exhibit goers can add their stories and memories to the map during the MN exhibition. What's your family's story? - Where did you come from? How did you get here? If you don't know, it's time to ask.

Article in Star Tribune: Living in war's shadow

A good article on the upcoming Legacies of War and Refugee Nation events at Intermedia Arts this month came out in the Star Tribune this week. We were also listed as an A-List event by the City Pages, so thanks for that.
There are a few parts that should probably be clarified including: A figure of 25,000 is given for the community estimate of Lao, while Hmong are considered between 60,000 to 70,000+, along with an indeterminate number of Tai Dam, Khmu and Mien, among other possibilities in Minnesota. Laos, as a nation the size of the United Kingdom (or Utah), has over 160 cultures living within its borders and nearby, so this can understandably get confusing sometimes.

Also, the 8 eyed bug I refer to is one of dozens of types of UXO remaining in Laos, particularly The BLU-42/B WAAPM (Wide-Area Anti-Personnel Mine) a spherical anti-personnel fragmentation minelet. This was fitted with several surface and trip-wire sensors for detonation, an anti-tampering device, and a self-destruct system.

You can see an example of this particular cluster bomb at the exhibit, thanks to Jim Harris who helped to provide several examples for us.

Also a clarification has been requested: The refugee camps were located outside of Laos, including Thailand. The biggest waves of refugees arrived in the 1980s, however, there are some who arrived in limited numbers during the 1970s. (including myself).

A big thanks is owed to Channapha Khamvongsa who has been instrumental in raising awareness of UXO in the community through Legacies of War. Please be sure to check them out. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

[MN] Refugee Nation Tickets Now Online!

If you're interested in buying your tickets in advance for Refugee Nation, you can visit:

Tickets are $10 each. It's taken over three years to finally bring Refugee Nation to Minnesota. They're only here until October 17th! You don't want to miss this! :)

Refugee Nation tells the stories of a community created by a U.S. led secret war in Laos. Intricately connected to the Vietnam War, Laotian refugees struggle to create a future as their American descendants struggle to understand their past.

Since 2005, collaborators Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng have been collecting oral histories from family and community members across the country to create an interdisciplinary theater performance that explores a growing part of the Asian American Diaspora that is yet to be included as part of the American experience.

Through theater and movement they re-construct the stories of families trying to rebuild a community that has been spread like ashes across the U.S. and the world.

More than just a telling of Laotian American history, the two-person performance eloquently touches upon issues relating to the refugee experience, assimilation, generation gap, and mental health using drama, film, music, and audience interaction, and personalizes these issues through a genuine Laotian American perspective.

The result is a product that not only brings to light the hidden stories of Laotian Americans around the U.S., but one that is able to unite people from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, and histories by relaying the ideas of change, loss, struggle, healing, and the unrelenting strength of the human spirit.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Approaching One Year of BARROW!


Released in October 7th, 2009 BARROW is my current collection of science fiction poetry exploring language, tradition and myth. It asks where the narrator fits within those words and worlds.

The release was held at the True Colors Bookstore in Minneapolis on the same day as the Twin Cities Book Festival and several other great events.

BARROW includes some of my work that has appeared previously in other journals such as Whistling Shade, Northography and Tales of the Unanticipated. BARROW also debuted some new work as well. Some, such as My Autopsy, Thank You, were written during my first years at Otterbein College. I'd mentioned it last year that it's refreshing to still feel confident about older pieces even after so much time had passed.

Even more so than in On The Other Side Of The Eye, BARROW featured more poems discretely about the people in my life. It continued to traverse a lot of ground as a transcultural adoptee and as a Lao American. It also featured the cover artwork of Vongduane Manivong, who's since taken the plunge as a full-time artist in Texas.

In October, I'm sure we'll be doing lots of special promotions to celebrate. Stay tuned! :)

Chicago: Laura Kina's Sugar

This month, if you're in Chicago, you may want to check out: Laura Kina: Sugar

Set during the 1920’s-1940’s, Laura Kina’s SUGAR paintings recall obake ghost stories and feature Japanese and Okinawan picture brides turned machete-carrying sugar cane plantation field laborers on the Big Island of Hawaii. Drawing on oral history and family photographs from Nisei (2nd generation) and Sansei (3rd generation) from Peepekeo, Pi’ihonua, and Hakalau plantation community members as well as historic images, Kina’s paintings take us into a beautiful yet grueling world of manual labor, cane field fires and flumes.

September 10 - October 28, 2010
Opening Reception: September 10, 2010 6-9pm

Woman Made Gallery
685. N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
Tel: 312-738-0400
Gallery Hours: Wed., Thurs., Fri. 12-7 p.m.; Sat., Sun. 12-4 p.m.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Refugee Nation coming to Minneapolis!

REFUGEE NATION: Co-presented with Pangea World Theater
October 8-17, 2010, Based on stories of Laotian Refugees
Written and Performed by LEILANI CHAN & OVA SAOPENG
Intermedia Arts

A mother lives alone in the darkness. A father struggles to forget a lost war. A son battles in the streets of urban America. A daughter searches for answers in her community. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas war. What can we learn from the wounds of a war over 30 years ago in the hope to find healing?

Refugee Nation tells the stories of a community created by a U.S. led secret war in Laos. Intricately connected to the Vietnam War, Laotian refugees struggle to create a future as their American descendants struggle to understand their past.

Since 2005, collaborators Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng have been collecting oral histories from family and community members across the country to create an interdisciplinary theater performance that explores a growing part of the Asian American Diaspora that is yet to be included as part of the American experience.

Through theater and movement they re-construct the stories of families trying to rebuild a community that has been spread like ashes across the U.S. and the world.

More than just a telling of Laotian American history, the two-person performance eloquently touches upon issues relating to the refugee experience, assimilation, generation gap, and mental health using drama, film, music, and audience interaction, and personalizes these issues through a genuine Laotian American perspective.

The result is a product that not only brings to light the hidden stories of Laotian Americans around the U.S., but one that is able to unite people from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, and histories by relaying the ideas of change, loss, struggle, healing, and the unrelenting strength of the human spirit.

Support the Loft at Borders in Minnesota this weekend!

If you visit a Borders Books in Minnesota on the weekend of September 11-12, 2010, you can help the Loft celebrate 35 years. The Loft will receive a percentage of sales that weekend for every purchase made with a Loft voucher. Customers that weekend will also be invited to round up their purchases so the Loft can supply more scholarships for youth to take summer creative writing classes.

On Saturday, September 11, 2010 each of the seven metro-area Borders stores will host a free short writing class at 1 p.m. led by a local author. Learn more about the weekend event and be sure to print out your voucher before visiting your local Borders. Only purchases made with a voucher will benefit the Loft.

You'll also have a chance to win a free class at the Loft!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Issue 5 of Innsmouth Free Press: October 4

Issue 5 of Innsmouth Free Press is scheduled to be online October 4. Suspenseful stories that will be appearing in this issue include:

  • Kenneth Yu - The Music of Senor Lorenzo 
  • Paul Jessup- The Night We Burned Our Hearts Out 
  • Tom Hamilton - The Changeling 
  • Martin Hayes - Beneath the Cold Black Sea 
  • Jarrid Deaton - Borgan's Deli 
  • Julio Toro San Martin - The Green World 
  • James Lecky - The Song of Tussagaroth 
  • Cheryl McCreary - Nibbling 

As usual, I've been contributing Monster Bytes this season to the Free Press, from a profile on the Prince of Yuggoth, to story on a strange bee attack and anti-graffiti measures in that storied harbor. The editors have been keeping wonderfully active and prompting some fun explorations of H.P. Lovecraft's fictional landscape. I look forward to seeing what emerges with the new issue.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lao American Writers Summit a success

On August 13-15th, we reached well over 120 people throughout the first national Lao American Writers Summit.

Over 14 award-winning Lao American writers and activists from across many disciplines worked with both Lao and non-Lao community members including Hmong, European American, African American, Thai and Tongans to discuss the importance of art, community and the approaches Lao American culture uses to remember our history and traditions.

Of course, support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council was a significant part of helping us to obtain support from many other organizations and foundations, including the Jerome Foundation, the national Association for Asian American Studies, the national Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the Center for Lao Studies, Asian American Press, and the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota.

We were able to energize and inspire our youth audience, who comprised a majority of the participants, as well as elders who'd never been to facilities such as the Loft Literary Center and the Open Book.

Many of our elders were excited at the opportunity to come forward and tell our stories and their journey, including one elder who'd lived in Minnesota for years, quietly working on a history of the Lao people and a dictionary. He hadn't realized there were so many writers and artists across the country and he was overjoyed that there was a young generation who wanted to continue the study of art and culture.

We learned many things from the process and have discovered many ways to improve our process. But most importantly, we had unfettered opportunities to speak our hearts and share our experience.

We're all looking forward to providing a full overview of the Summit, which was even selected as a literary event of the week by the Pioneer Press, and picked up by Asian American newspapers and bloggers in California, Tennessee, Georgia, Vermont, Philadelphia, Illinois, Washington D.C., New York and many others. But I feel the most important consequences of the Summit will bloom over the course of the next several decades within both our elders and the younger generation.

Thanks to everyone who came and I look forward to working with all of you again in the coming years ahead.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Legacies of War Celebrates Convention on Cluster Munitions

Legacies of War joins the thousands of cluster bomb survivors in Laos and around the world to celebrate the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention on Cluster Munitions is the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in more than a decade; 107 countries have signed the treaty and 37 countries have ratified it.

Lao PDR, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history, and one of the first countries to sign the treaty, will host the convention's First Meeting of State Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR, in November 2010.

Legacies of War is a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace.

"We are pleased that the First Meeting of States Parties will be held in Laos, which accounts for the most cluster munitions casualties worldwide, as a result of massive U.S. bombings during the Vietnam War-era. We would encourage the U.S., who hasn't signed the treaty, to attend this historic meeting in November," said Brett Dakin, Board Chair of Legacies of War.

On average, the U.S. spends $2.7M per year, compared to the $17M per day (today's dollars) it spent during the 9 years of bombing (1964-1973). "Legacies of War is calling for an increase in U.S. funding to $10M per year over the next 10 years in order to make a significant dent in the current cluster bomb problem in Laos and save thousands of lives in the future," Dakin added.

The meeting will create an action plan to be used by all states to complete the legal obligations of the treaty, including support for clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance.

As a lead up to the First Meeting of States Parties, campaigners around the world are holding public events in August to mark the official Entry into Force of the treaty. On August 1, the "Beat the Drum" campaign featured drumming events in 70 countries to welcome the treaty into force and highlight the treaty's significance in communities affected by cluster bombs. Although the United States has not signed the treaty, events are being held around the country to participate in the international campaign. In Portland, OR, drumming circles, student groups and local musicians will join forces for a large drumming event on August 14.

Cluster bombs have a devastating effect on civilian communities as many bombs fail to detonate at the time they are dropped. Laos has been hit particularly hard by cluster munitions, which have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1974, after the war ended). Each year, there are 300 new casualties in Laos; 40 percent are children.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MN State Arts Board's Artist Initiative Grants!

The next application deadline for the Minnesota State Arts Board's Artist Initiative grant program is Friday, August 27, 2010.

Artist Initiative grants support and assist artists at various stages in their careers. The program encourages artistic development, nurtures artistic creativity, and recognizes the contributions individual artists make to the creative environment of the state of Minnesota.

Several things about the program are different this year:
— Artists, working in any discipline, are eligible to apply
— The grant range expanded; artists may request from $2,000 to $10,000
— Projects will need to include a community component
— Applicants will need to apply online, using the Arts Board's Web based forms

Many things about the program are the same as they have been in previous years:
— Artists, at any stages in their careers, may apply
— Grants must be used to fund a specific project that will enhance the applicant's artistic or career development
— Artists will have a one-year period to expend the grant funds.

Visit the Arts Board's Web site to apply:

A series of grant information sessions will be held in communities throughout the state, the schedule will be posted during the last week of July.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

1 Month til Lao American Writers Summit!

It's hard to believe but we're closing in on the Lao American Writers Summit!

It's been a strange, strange little road to get to this point, but I'm taking the time out to say how proud I am of everyone involved for trying to make this an amazing gathering and a celebration of the Lao American writers and the artist's spirit.

An important part of our process is to remind community members that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. If you really want to come, while registration would be helpful to help us pay for food and the summit materials, pay what you can, and we'll figure out a way to make it all work.

This is an event for our community, and if you like writing and art, and ever thought of telling your story or helping someone else tell theirs, this is a space for you.

Also, thanks to the generous support of the Minneapolis Foundation, we're pleased we can offer free registration for the first 50 Lao American teenagers in Minnesota who are interested in acting, film, spoken word, art and writing who want to participate. We're also extending the offer to Lao American college students from across the country to show support for our youth.

To register a youth email: info@laowriters.org with the name of the youths you'd like to register.Please do so by August 1st so we can make the best preparations for it.

This summit will feature Oscar-nominated film-maker Thavisouk Phrasavath, and many other award-winning Lao American artists and writers from across the country, including Lao actors who've appeared on Lost and Pirates of the Carribbean, HBO's popular show Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam, and more.  They've all presented widely, including the Smithsonian, the Mall of America, and colleges and high schools around the world and across the US. This is a historic gathering, and we hope you'll join us!

Monday, July 19, 2010

2 weeks until the Convention on Cluster Munitions!

The Convention on Cluster Munitions may sound like an unusual thing to celebrate, but for Laotians around the world and others affected by these deadly weapons, it's a meaningful and important step towards creating a safer world!

The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Cluster Munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles.Cluster Munitions are the leading cause of unexploded ordnance in Laos, where 33% of all UXO fatalities are children. Many of their parents today weren't even alive during the war for Laos that ended in 1975.

The Convention was adopted in Dublin by 107 states on May 30th, 2008 and signed later that year on December 3rd to go into force on August 1st, 2010 as a binding international law. The United States and the Obama administration is not a signatory to the convention.  The First Meeting of States Parties is scheduled to be convened in Vientiane, Laos, 8 - 12 November 2010.

You can learn more about UXO in Laos by visiting www.legaciesofwar.org

Juxtaposition: CROSSOVER

Be sure to catch the CROSSOVER Annual Student Exhibition 2010 during FLOW Northside Art Crawl on Saturday, July 24, 3-8pm@ Juxtaposition Arts, 2007 Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis.

There will be art to see and buy by Juxtaposition youth artists and this summer's STEP-UP Apprentices, Community Power environmental art by North High students, mural and pocket park unveiling with FLOW Northside Arts Crawl and Urban Homeworks, community wish tree, real-time painting demonstration, live t-shirt printing, birthday cake to kick off the Juxtaposition's 15th Anniversary year!

The FLOW Northside Arts Crawlis now in its fifth year on West Broadway, showcasing  hundreds of unique Northside Artists. Come to look, listen, make, taste, move and buy Northside! Go to www.FLOWnorthside.org for event details, performance schedules, locations, artists, parking and shuttle information.

Asian Media Access @ FLOW Northside Arts Crawl

The fifth annual FLOW Northside Arts Crawl occurs once a year showcasing various art for the public to see. There will be art booths and exhibitions, musicians, and many exciting activities to participate in. Asian Media Access will have an exhibition booth at this event from 3pm to 8pm on July 24th.

FLOW takes place along W. Broadway. Asian Media Access will be in the New 5 Points Building (KMOJ Building) on W. Broadway and Penn. Ave. N.

The AMA booth will have a media exhibition, origami,calligraphy, and other fun activities. Moreover, this is a good chance for you to learn more about Asian Media Access and Northside arts organizations and make connections or reconnect with the local community. There will also be food, drink, concerts and performances at FLOW!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A wish, a dream, a journey.

I dream of at least one Lao American writer in every state by 2020.

That's one reason why I do what I do amid a cosmos of stories.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Speculations Reading Series Summer Schedule!

The SPECULATIONS READINGS SERIES, hosted by the multicultural speculative fiction organization SF MINNESOTA, continues monthly, mostly on Friday nights, mostly at DREAMAVEN BOOKS in Minneapolis. The readings are free, and include a reception with complimentary soda pop and cookies.

On Thursday, July 29, from 6:30-8:00 p.m., WILLIAM F. WU and ROB CHILSON read their fiction at the LOFT LITERARY CENTER, 1011 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis. Mr. Wu will also be Guest of Honor, and Mr. Chilson Special Guest, at DIVERSICON 18, a multicultural speculative fiction convention, also hosted by SF Minnesota and occurring July 30-August 1 at the Best Western-Bandana Square, St. Paul. (Weekend-long admission to Diversicon 18 is $40 Adult.)

William F. Wu has published over a dozen novels, includig the six-volume YA series "Isaac Asimov's Robots in Time" (Avon). He is best known for the science fiction-Western novel Hong on the Range (Walker, 1989), adapted into a comic book trilogy for Image Comics (1997). He has written over 50 short stories for such markets as Analog SF (with Rob Chilson), Asimov's SF, Amazing Stories, Omni, Twilight Zone Magazine, and Pulphouse, and the anthology series Borderlands, Wild Cards, and Tales from Jabba's Palace, and his story collection, Wong's Lost and Found Emporium and Other Odditties (Pulphouse Monthly, 1992; the title story was made into a Twilight Zone episode). A Ph.D. in American culture, he has published the nonfiction book, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940 (1982), and essays on the "yellow peril" in speculative fiction and "Science Fiction in China: Producing the Model 'A.'" He has taught college writing classes and led creative writing workshops for writers of all ages. His collection of Jack Hong stories from Pulphouse is now available as an ebook. He lives in Southern California. Visit his website: www.williamfwu.com

Rob Chilson is the author of seven novels, including As th Curtain Falls (1974), The Star-Shrouded Kings (1975), The Shores of Kansas (1976), Men Like Rats (1989), Rounded With Sleep (1990), and Black as Blood (1998), and over 60 stories in such markets as Analog (including nine with William F. Wu), Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, Universe 7, Year's Best SF (Gardner Dozois, ed.), and Year's Best SF (David G. Hartwell, ed.). He lives in Kansas City, Kansas. Visit him at www.robchilson.com

On Friday, August 13 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. TERRY FAUST reads his fiction at DREAMHAVEN BOOKS, 2301 38th St E, Minneapolis. Mr. Faust writes that he "started writing screenplays for my short personal films back in the '80s but I realized that prose was much easier on the pocket book and just as much fun. I'm a freelance photographer, photo instructor, inventor, and in 2010 I can honestly say--novelist." His novel Z is for Xenophobe is forthcoming from Sam's Dot Publishing. His short fiction has appeared in two issues of Tales of the Unanticipated, with a story forthcoming in the anthology Northern Lights (Michael Merriam, ed.). He lives in Minneapolis!

We hope you can join us!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cha: Call for submissions

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal is now accepting submissions for "The China Issue", an edition of the journal devoted exclusively to work from and about contemporary China. The issue, which will be published in June 2011, will feature poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, scholarly works and visual art exploring the modern Middle Kingdom.

They are looking for submissions from a wide range of Chinese and international voices on the social, political and cultural forces shaping the country. Please note that they can only accept submissions in English. Distinguished Chinese scholar and poet Yibing Huang joins Cha as guest editor for the issue. Huang has graciously agreed to lend his extensive knowledge of Chinese literature and keen critical eye to help select the pieces and shape the issue.

If you would like to have work considered for "The China Issue", please submit by email to submissions@asiancha.com by 15th April, 2011. Please include "The China Issue" in the subject line of the email or your work will automatically be considered for one of the regular issues. Submissions to the issue should conform to the guidelines available at: http://www.asiancha.com/guidelines.

Friday, July 02, 2010

3rd International Conference on Lao Studies:July!

The Third International Conference on Lao Studies registration closes Monday, July 5th. The conference is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, July 14th at 9AM and end on Sunday, July 16th at 12 noon.  The conference venue is the Charoen Thani Princess Hotel in Thailand. The conference schedules, including the film festival, and abstracts are available online. For those who wish to submit their presentation for publications, please follow the instructions online at http://www.laostudies.org/conferences.

Lao American Writers Profile: KP Phagnasay!

One of the writers who will be speaking and presenting at the Lao American Writers Summit is KP Phagnasay from Fresno, California.

Khetphet Phagnasay was born in Laos. His family escaped in 1979 from the communist government to find a better future in America. KP earned his B.A in Theatre Arts from California State University, Fresno, then pursued his MFA in Acting from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, where he studied Asian Theatre forms. KP is an Actor, Director, Playwright, and Acting coach for over 15 years. As an acting coach, he has taught at various studios in California and Hawaii.

He has worked and trained in many of the theater organizations, and talent agencies, and has helped cast talents, and translators for many projects like Lost (Thai- Laotian actors) , Finding Hope Now (Asian cast), California Babies First (South-East Asian mothers) , San Jose Juvenile Center (Vietnamese voice over/translator) various other commercials , and voice overs for non specific roles.

As an actor, KP has been featured in commercials, film/television such as Lost,Hawaii, Northshore, independent films and local theatre.

KP worked on the feature film Finding Hope Now as both the Acting Coach and as an actor. KP is well known with various non-profit organizations often sitting as consultant, or committee member to groups such as FIRM, Stone Soup, and Asian Fest, Better Healthy Community Initiative, California Arts Endowment, and South-East Asian Writers/Artists, LA’s East-West Players Asian Theater Company, working with, training and developing acting workshops, and performance pieces that most relate to the Asian community and Culture.

He has toured with PASSAGES (stories of Refugee experiences) production- (honored by the State of California) in Japan and various cities, and sang lead in a Chinese Opera Group in China and Hawaii. He also tours with his one man show focusing on growing up in Laos through the eyes of a 5 year old child.

Staying loyal to his heritage and to all Southeast Asian refugee generations and other Asian communities, KP keeps his focus on bringing out the talents of those communities for many issues and offerings. KP constantly works to bridge the gap to bring all talents into the mix.

We look forward to seeing his work and presentations at the summit! For more information, you can visit: www.laowriters.org

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lao American Writers Profile: Mali Phonpadith

Mali Phonpadith is one of the Lao American writers joining us for the Lao American Writers Summit in August in Minneapolis.

Emerging writers and even more established writers could learn a great deal from the way Mali makes efforts to balance the creation of her art with innovation, community and a professional life. She has been particularly successful with efforts to organize events to raise support and awareness of the importance of the arts in the Washington D.C. area where she resides.

As a Lao American writer/poet, she is the co-founder of Reflections Within, LLC and she has been writing poetry, short essays, and short stories for over 20 years internationally. She has over 400 pieces of written work and was nominated as “Best Poet of the Year” by the International Society of Poets in 2007.

You'll have more opportunity to get to know her and her journey during the Summit, along with the stories of writers and artists like Thavisouk Phrasavath, Catzie Vilayphonh and Ova Saopeng.

Mali has been a tireless activist within the community, and often volunteers many hours and resources to the causes she loves, including the Young Professional Leadership Group, the International Society of Poets, the National Association for Women Business Owners, the Lao Heritage Foundation, Arts of Falls Church and is an active volunteer with Teatro de la Luna.

You can get a sense of some of Mali's work at www.reflectionswithin.com

Saturday, June 26, 2010

National Poetry Slam coming to MN in August!

As if we're not excited enough about the Lao American Writers Summit coming to Minnesota in August, hundreds of performance poets representing teams from across North America will compete over five days of spoken word competition at venues across downtown Saint Paul during the 21st annual National Poetry Slam (NPS) August 3-7.

Poetry Slam is the competitive art of spoken word performance poetry. Dubbed the “Superbowl of Slam” by competitors, NPS is the world’s largest annual Poetry Slam event. In addition to the tournament, which leads to a championship, a five-day festival of poetry will include competitions, workshops, open mike events, showcases and more. Each competitor has three minutes to perform a poem of his/her own construction.

* Aug. 3-5, up to 84 teams will compete in preliminary rounds held at 7-9 p.m. and from 9-11 p.m., nightly, winnowing the field down to 20 teams.
* Aug. 6, the top 20 teams compete in one night of four semi-final bouts.
* Aug. 7, the top four teams face off in a finals competition at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

Tickets and the Schedule of Events will be available in July at www.nps2010.com. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Supporting the legacy of Manophet.

In 2008, when Legacies of War visited Xieng Khouang to learn about the bombings that wiped out much of life in the region, they met a man named Manophet who survived the bombing and worked all his life to rebuild his home and community. Community members were heartbroken to hear of his sudden death last month.
In the hope that his legacy will live on through his children, school and soccer team, efforts are being made to help make these children’s dreams come true, including a fundraiser to support Manophet’s soccer team as they raise money to represent Laos in Sweden at the Gothia Cup, an International Youth Soccer competition. In Minnesota, they are hosting two benefits, one at the St. Paul Ten Thousand Villages store, and one at Pepito's Parkway Theater.

If you're looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, come to Pepito’s Parkway Theatre for music, dancing and food at the Community Fest on June 27th. The event will also host book signings and a silent auction. 100% of proceeds goes towards Manophet’s family, students and soccer team. The event runs 2-5 p.m at 4814 Chicago Ave. So., Minneapolis. Admission is $5/Adult and Children under 12 are Free.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to provide a donation can make a check payable to the “Manophet Memorial Trust”, which will provide basic food, housing, clothing, education for Manophet's sons or payable to the "English Development School” to help keeps Manophet's educational and recreation programs open for students & soccer players. Mail contributions to: Lynn Tchida, Event Chair, P.O. Box 17288, Minneapolis, MN 55417. For more information, contact Lynn at 763-245-0376 or by email at lynn.tchida@gmail.com.

FLOW Northside Arts Crawl returning to Minneapolis

FLOW is a self-guided art tour featuring visual and performing artists showing at businesses, studios and organizations along West Broadway in North Minneapolis on July 24th.

Planned highlights for this year include: Visual Art, Sculpture, Wearable Art, Dance Performances, Theater Performances, Live Music, Spoken Word, Art Making Activities, Art in Real Time and the “Let It Flow” Youth Talent Show. No word yet if we're going to see a recreation of the Northside living chess tournament, but it should still be a fun day.

FLOW is still currently accepting applications for Northside artists who want to be a part of this year’s event. Visual, literary, and performing Artists of all ages are encouraged to go to www.FLOWNorthside.org to apply.

This is the fifth year for the celebration, which always has an interesting grass-roots vibe to it. I strongly encourage you to participate, and to invite your friends. FLOW is an arts crawl that shines a light on the Northside community through the arts. It aims to unite, celebrate and transform in collaboration with the broader communities that surround us, and that's not a bad set of goals to have.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Photostudy: Boun Phra Vet 2553 MN

It's been a while since I've done a Lao American photostudy, but here are some scenes from the recent Boun Phra Vet celebration in Minnesota at the Wat Lao in Farmington.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Asian Arts Initiative presents: MY EYE SITS AT YOUR HEART

Asian Arts Initiative presents MY EYE SITS AT YOUR HEART: Seeking Truth and Claiming Identity, an edition of the Family Style Open Mic Series on Friday, June 18, 7:30 p.m. The event will be held at  Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street in Philadelphia. There's a $5-10 sliding scale admission.

Hosted by YELLOW RAGE (Michelle Myers and Catzie Vilayphonh), the popular monthly Asian American open mic series FAMILY STYLE welcomes extended “family” from all communities and cultures. June’s open mic features spoken word poet jenny c. lares and the theme “Seeking Truth and Claiming Identity”!

jenny c. lares is a poet and host based in Washington, DC. She is the Founding Co-Director of Sulu DC, an underground network and home for Asian American and/or Pacific Islander focused spoken word and multidisciplinary artists in the Washington, DC area. She is also one of the hosts of a weekly open mic at Busboys and Poets along Washington, DC’s U Street Corridor. She is currently working on her website, but for now, you can visit and read her blog: www.jennylares.wordpress.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 20th is World Refugee Day

Although the Twin Cities celebrated World Refugee Day on June 5th in a ban nok celebration I've been more than a little horked off about, the official UN celebration of World Refugee Day is June 20th!

If you get a chance, take time out to learn more about a refugee community in your city or state and see where they've made progress and where they could still use a hand. There are more than 16 million refugees around the world. The US is home to only a few of them, much to many people's surprise.

Next year, 2011, is the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on Refugees, which is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states. We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go!

Top policy questions about Laos?

Questions I think we need to be asking, no matter where we live this year:

What is the current timeline, details and implications of mandated agreements to be developed between the LPDR and the United States on the deportation of Lao-born individuals or individuals born in the refugee camps. Will we see sudden enforcement and deportation of Laotians to Laos? And how will cases for those with medication and additional special needs be handled? Will there be a blanket policy or a case-by-case review for those who had originally come to the US seeking asylum?

Will there be efforts to ease family reunification, especially with immigration reform gaining momentum.

How is the US assisting development of the Lao judicial systems and what is the nature of increased counter-narcotics assistance. Given that many narcotics charges carry death sentences, this should be an issue of interest. If you can't guarantee fair trials, should any nation be implementing death sentences?

Where are US efforts headed regarding UXO clearance considering that the US is responsible for at least 74 million leftover munitions in Laos.

We also need discussions on how Lao can effectively provide strategic philanthropic support in-line with US policy, which, given recent developments over the years must be of concern to us.

There are of course many others, ranging from environmental development and deforestation issues to efforts to support schools, libraries and the arts in Laos, but these are some that I think should definitely be on our radar.

Upcoming at the Loft: Gene Yang, William Wu, Robert McKee

The Loft Literary Center has some exciting events coming up. This week it's the arrival of Gene Yang for the Graphic Novel Conference. Gene will also be giving a free reading on June 18th at the Loft (1011 Washington Ave. S in Minneapolis at 7:00PM.) The conference is also free and gathering some really great and amazing voices together.

Gene Yang began publishing comic books under the name Humble Comics in 1996. His novel, American Born Chinese, was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and was the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. The Eternal Smile, with Derek Kirk Kim, was published in May 2009. He lives in California’s Bay Area with his wife and children and teaches computer science at a Catholic high school in Oakland.

On Thursday, July 29th, we've got the arrival of William F. Wu, who will do his reading at the Loft.

William F. Wu has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, which include Omni Magazine and the best-selling 1996 STAR WARS: Tales from Jabba's Palace. He published his first story in 1977. His more than fifty published short stories have been nominated for the Hugo Awards and his work has been nominated for the Nebula Award twice and once for the World Fantasy Award. With a Ph.D. in American Culture, Wu has taught college writing courses and led creative writing workshops for writers of all ages. His most acclaimed book, Hong on the Range, was chosen for the Wilson Library Bulletin's list of science fiction "Books Too Good To Miss" and was a selection for the American Library Association list of Best Books for Young People, the New York Public Library's Recommended Books for the Teen Age, and was also a Young Adult Editor's Choice by Booklist Magazine.

Rob Chilson, the author of 7 novels including As the Curtain Falls, The Star Shrouded Kings, The Shores of Kansas, Men Like Rats, Rounded with Sleep and Black as Blood and over 60 stories in such publications like Analog, Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, Universe 7, and Years Best SF. You can visit him at www.robchilson.com

In September, the big event is Robert McKee coming in for four days. Robert McKee is a legend for his seminars on story-telling. This is the first time he is ever presenting in the Upper Midwest.

For over 25 years, Robert McKee's Story Seminar has propelled and inspired over 50,000 screenwriters, filmmakers, TV writers, novelists, industry executives, actors, producers, directors, playwrights, advertising executives, journalists, attorneys and politicians...anyone who works with a narrative story. Participants in Robert McKee's Story Seminar have won: 32 Academy Awards (106+ Nominations); 158 Emmy Awards (500+ Nominations); 21 WGA Awards (77+ Nominations); and 17 DGA Awards (48+ Nominations). It's pricey, but Loft members get a $100 discount, and I'd consider it a serious investment in your craft. If you get a chance, don't miss it.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Diversicon 18, 2010!

Seth Lyons has presented the art for Diversicon 18, honoring the work of the prolific Dr. William F. Wu, author of Hong On the Range as well as posthumous guests of honor Fritz Leiber and Sir Arthur C. Clarke!

Diversicon is July 30-August 1, 2010 at the Best Western-Bandana Square (1010 W. Bandana Blvd. St. Paul, MN) This year's Guest of Honor is author William F. Wu and the posthumous guests of honor are Fritz Leiber and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. For further information you can visit www.diversicon.org

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thanks, Philadelphia!

A big thanks to everyone who came to join us on May 21st at the Asian Arts Initiative and to Catzie Vilayphonh and her friends and family who gave me a whirlwind tour of the amazing opportunities and directions the Asian Pacific American community is taking in Pennsylvania.

I had the opportunity to see many of the impressive Khmer and Lao Wats, as well as observe the Philadelphia Lao New Year celebration and the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration at the park. 

The new Family Style Open Mic format that the Asian Arts Initiative uses is a wonderful showcase of talent from both established and emerging voices. They also give out great door prizes and really help youth grow in their understanding of our collective heritage. Almost a hundred people showed up on a Friday night to see artists dancing, singing and sharing poems and experimental artwork. 

There's challenges here, make no mistake, but I'm left with a sense that there's amazing room to grow and flourish. With time and a commitment to excellence, I have no doubt they will!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Organization Profile: Asian Arts Initiative

It's always great to see good Asian American organizations out there, and the organizers and activists in Philadelphia have their hands full. This week I'm speaking at an event organized by the Asian Arts Initiative!

At the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia, they are artists and performers, youth and parents, poets and writers, directors and actors, and musicians and dancers. They believe that the arts can provide an important political and cultural voice for the Asian American community in Philadelphia. They serve as a community arts center where artists and everyday people are developing means to express the diverse experiences of Asian Americans.

They have five main programs: An arts gallery, performances, artist workshops, Chinatown projects, workshops just for youth and the ACT program: Artists in Communities Training, a professional development course designed to give artists facilitation and teaching skills needed in school and community settings.

ACT is a six-week series of intensive workshops on educational models and strategies, a hands-on teaching placement, and opportunities for future residencies in schools and community settings.

Very interesting stuff, and with more support in Philadelphia, they could really accomplish even more amazing things!

I look forward to showing you all more pictures when I get back!

Pan Asian Dance Festival, May 23rd, 2010

Asian Media Access (AMA) in collaboration with MN Sunshine Dance Group and Pan Asian Artists Alliance, will present “Pan Asian Dance Festival” on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010, from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, 12600 Nicollet Avenue, Burnsville, MN.

From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, families can take part in Asian craft making, street art, face painting, and other family fun activities. The cultural dance performances, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, will feature a diverse display from the Asian community including Indian, Chinese, Hmong, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Laotian, and Vietnamese dancers.

Locally known dance groups such as CAAM Chinese Dance Theater, Ragamala Dance Group, and Changmi Korean Dance will perform fascinating dance performances. The festival aims to celebrate and unify the diverse Asian communities in MN, educate and share the arts and traditions of Asians, and build intergenerational and intercultural bridges across all barriers.

612-376-7715 or david.kang@amamedia.org.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Annual Asian American Literary Awards

Since 1998, The Asian American Writers' Workshop has presented the highest literary honor for writers of Asian American descent Applications for the upcoming Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards are due Friday, June 11, 2010.

They also are presenting:

Lifetime Achievement Award. The Workshop has also recognized notable writers and cultural figures for their contribution to Asian American literature through a lifetime achievement award. Past winners of this award include Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, and Sonny Mehta.

Members' Choice Award. The Asian American Literary Awards Ceremony also features the Members' Choice Award. Initiated in 2000, the Members' Choice Award allows Workshop members to choose their favorite title of the previous publishing year. In order to participate in voting for this award, you must be a current member of The Asian American Writers' Workshop.

Questions to a poet...

Lao American writer Catzie Vilayphonh recently interviewed me and these were some of the answers that came out of the process. Thanks, Catzie!

So, what do you do when you’re not writing?
If I'm not writing, I'm getting ready to write. But that covers a wide range of activities. My old teacher J. Patrick Lewis always reminded me that writing is 90% thinking, so I look at the work of other artists, journey through the community and take a lot of pictures. I'm also a big gamer and enjoy talking with my colleagues in the science fiction, horror and fantasy writing community.

How did you get started writing?
Growing up in Michigan in the 1980s I attended a number of Lutheran and Waldorf schools where we were often encouraged to write stories. During this time, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Frontiers and Call of Cthulhu, among other role-playing games were really popular among my classmates and I found I much more enjoyed the story-telling process as a creator.

As a poet, most of my work really began in the last years of high school in Saline, Michigan, and at Otterbein College in Ohio. A College advisor invited me to a coffeehouse at The Roost, and another to a Quiz and Quill reading in the Philomathean Room in Towers Hall, and making a long story short, I took to it like a fish to water and wrote ever since. Along the way, my college introduced to the work of writers like Pablo Neruda,Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Heather McHugh and Shuntaro Tanikawa. These were the key poets I'd read in my early years.

Do you find other Lao supportive of your work?
The roots of Lao culture treasured poetry as an intellectual pursuit and that's carried through. My poetry's very different from the classical forms but it's well within the spirit of the tradition, too. My work is supported by the modern Lao community in much the way other poets are supported by the modern Lao community.

What’s one of the best things someone has said to you about your writing?
A manuscript of mine was being judged for a competition and one judge dismissed it as: "It's chaos." But another defended it saying, "Yes, but it's controlled chaos."

How do you find time to write?
Good scheduling, good discipline.

Why are you excited by the Lao American Writers Summit?
It's an arrival. After 30 years to have the opportunity to gather together and consider where we'll really go next, possibly together. Nothing's set in stone. But we want to open possibility.

What’s a personal project you’re really looking forward to?
Trying my hand at a few more novels and short stories. That's going to be something newer.

Do you have any advice for younger writers?
Look below the surface. Connect with an aim for truthfulness. Don't "kitchen sink" your work, have some faith in your readers intelligence. Be the writer you want to be, not what others want you to be. That's a start.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Pieces Accepted for Innsmouth Free Press

As I've mentioned before, one of my current sidelines is writing Lovecraftian flash-horror vignettes for the Innsmouth Free Press. Three new pieces that will be coming up include two articles about Tcho-Tcho refugees, and a profile of a local doctor doing business between Arkham and Innsmouth. These should be up in a few months.

In June, the long-awaited Multicultural issue of the Innsmouth Free Press is anticipated, and will feature my short-story, A Model Apartment, examining what happens when a Southeast Asian refugee painter travels to the famous haunted city of Arkham, Massachusetts. I'm looking forward to that. In the meantime, they're also always looking for new contributors, so if you're interested, I'd encourage you to consider it!

U.S.Embassy provides counter-narcotics assistance to Laos

United States Ambassador to Laos, Ravic R. Huso, signed an Amendment to the Letter of Agreement last week on behalf of the U.S. Government for bilateral cooperation with the Government of Laos in support of counter narcotics and law enforcement.

Now if they'll just increase the amount of money for UXO removal in Laos and efforts to support and develop a sustainable habitat end environmental system for Laos, considering the rapid rate of deforestation going on there.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Future of Midwestern Poetry Panel

On Friday, May 14th, I and several amazing poets from the Midwest are taking part in the Poetry Society’s “ Centennial Event, A Celebration of Midwestern Poetry, co-sponsored by Rain Taxi Review of Books:

Dobby Gibson, Sarah Fox, G.E. Patterson, Sun Yung Shin, Michael Walsh, and Bryan Thao Worra, with Robert N. Casper

This will be a panel discussion, featuring emerging Twin Cities poets, on Midwestern poetry in the 21st Century. Admission is free. It will be at the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts Gallery,Open Book, 1101 Washington Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

I'm not reading poetry this time around, but will be engaged in a discussion with these poets and the audience regarding a few key questions:

What are some of the general attributes (thematic, aesthetic, philosophical) of Midwestern poetry? and how do we think our generation of poets are continuing and contributing to the Midwestern poetic voice, or challenging them? And is it useful in our work?

For me in particular, I look forward to these questions, even as I know it's a sprawling one. Having grown up in Michigan, learned most of what I know of poetry while in Ohio, and applied it in Minnesota and now around the world, when they ask me, are such categorizations useful, and do I feel connected to other poets in the region or the Twin Cities, this isn't as easy as you might think.

Lol. I'm planning on being VERY frank for this panel. Well, not Frank Chin-level Frank, but still... Don't miss out on this one. It ought to be a hoot.

You can visit the Poetry Society of America at http://www.poetrysociety.org.

The Poetry Society of America, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910 for the purpose of creating a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment, and understanding of poetry. Through a diverse array of programs, initiatives, contests, and awards, the Poetry Society of America works to build a larger audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the art, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lao and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is here, and the Twin Cities Daily Planet has been kind enough to print one of my blogs on the subject.

There's many ways to talk about our experience in Laos and where it fits within the larger story of the United States of America and the Laotian community around the world. 35 years since the end of the war in Laos, we've seen some amazing progress and growth and it is also easy to see where we can still focus our efforts to create a sustainable community that brings out the best in all of us.

While I strongly believe it's important to remember those of us who are citizens who helped make America what it is today, we must also remember those who are not considered citizens, whose contributions saved lives and taught us all so much.

MN Asian Pacific Leadership Awards Announced

Congratulations to the 2010 Asian Pacific Leadership Awards recipients: Mali Kouanchao, Excellence in the Arts, Mao Heu Thao, Leadership, Kaimay Yuen Terry, Leadership and Dixie Lee Riley (posthumously) for Lifetime Achievement. The results were recently announced by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

The awards will be presented at the annual dinner this month. For this year, the Council has put together a program that will explore the roots of the Asian American & Pacific Islanders community.

Noted scholar Dr. Franklin Odo, formerly director and founder of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian Institution and a curator with the National Museum, will be the keynote speaker at the dinner.

Karen Lyu, the nationally renowned jazz singer, will perform and end the evening. The evening will also see the presentation of the Leadership Awards to deserving local heroes who dedicated so much of their time and talent to bettering and advancing the community.

The Annual Dinner is Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront, 11 East Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN. Dinner is $40.00 per person.

For inquiries or to RSVP contact the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans at 651-757-1740 or kao.ly.her@state.mn.us. (Parking in the Crowne Plaza ramp is complimentary on a first come first serve basis).

A profile of Mali Kouanchao appears at Asian American Press this month.

Congratulations, everyone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laotians and Immigration Reform

Over at the Twin Cities Daily Planet is a new commentary of mine regarding immigration reform and its meaning for Laotians and why we need to make certain our voices are present within the emerging dialogue.

Obviously, there's much more that can be written, and many places we could have started from, but these are just a handful of the concerns we, and many other communities in similar situations, need to address.

Great Twin Cities Poetry Read

If you're in town on Friday, April 30, be sure to check out the Great Twin Cities Poetry read, featuring exceptional poets from across the Twin Cities at 7:30 p.m., Rm. C1095 at Normandale Community College (9700 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431).

The evening will feature new, fresh, and “unclaimed” poems that will soon be published in the anthology of poems, Poetry City U.S.A, Vol. 1. There will be at least 32 poets reading in addition to opportunities for audience members to read their own work as well if the time is there. It's a great way to close out National Poetry Month.

A big thanks to Matt Mauch and everyone else at Normandale Community College for bringing everyone together!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cha in South China Morning Post

A big congratulations to the editors of Cha who were featured in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. It's always wonderful to see them getting coverage, because they've worked really hard to create a fine space for poetry, art and literature overseas, something that's ridiculously difficult anywhere in the world.

One of my favorite poems that I've written, Zelkova Tree, first appeared in Cha's premiere issue. Cha holds the distinction of the first Hong Kong-based online quarterly journal dedicated to publishing quality literature and reviews written in English, and photography and art. They've been generously open to publishing the work of established and emerging writers/artists from around the world. This month's cover is particularly beautiful and I'm glad they're continuing to hold themselves to very high standards.

The Kartika Review has also put out a new issue, with some great work in it, including a few poems of mine, as well as work by Barbara Jane Reyes and an interview with Ed Lin, who has a great new book out. And finally, The Lantern Review is also up and posting some fun posts now, and I expect that they will become another great journal to submit work to in the future.

April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month

While we spent most of April highlighting some great Asian American poets and celebrating Lao New Year, let's also not forget that April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month.

And while I find it patently offensive that there are grilled cheese sandwiches for over $6 in Minnesota, I salute those who can make a truly fine grilled cheese.

In the spirit of the month, here is a scene from Benny and Joon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P8RU6Mc-LU

I promise, it's not how I make MY grilled cheese sandwiches. Often.

April 30th Reading: Claire Light, Ed Lin, Joel Tan!

In Berkeley novelist Ed Lin and poet Joel Tan will be reading with Claire Light on Friday April 30, 7:00 pm at the acclaimed Eastwind Books at 2066 University Ave. Berkeley, Calif. This is a great lineup if you can catch it.

Eastwind Books of Berkeley has been serving the book reading community since 1982. Their titles encompass: Asian American Studies, Asia Studies, Martial Arts, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Language Learning (including Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Thai, Khymer and Korean). They also promote through special events the latest works by Asian American writers and writers about Asia.

And the last time I checked, you can also find copies of my books there, too. ;)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing a Southeast Asian mystery novel

If someone wanted to write a mystery novel set in Southeast Asia, what might I suggest?

There are already too many tropes we've overused in fiction emerging from the region. So here are some tips to consider:

I'd avoid tourist murders and tourist murderers. It's overdone.  There's plenty of Thai on Thai or Lao on Lao murders, thefts, scams and hustles in the big city and the villages that have taken place in real life or that can be written plausibly. A story shouldn't be interesting only because a falang was involved.

Avoid country mouse/city mouse stories and old world/new world East/West stories.

The supervisors and officials on the take is getting old. Which isn't to say it doesn't happen, but everyone's written about it. if you can't find a way to make it really interesting, leave it be.

Shamans, witch doctors, fortune tellers are colorful enough, but stop making them so integral to solving a case. This also applies to crimes during new years, major festivals, holidays or other special events.

If I wanted a cookbook, I'd get a cookbook. The same goes for primers on Buddhism and differences between East/West philosophy and politics.

And investigators really have to stop being the reincarnation of someone else important or significant to the plot, or using the supernatural to solve the crime. This isn't to say it's not a part of the culture, but it's really tiresome to see detectives who are doing no detecting, who would somehow be incapable of solving the crime except for divine intervention, coincidence or deus ex machina.

A Lao or Thai murder mystery can be a simple affair: Someone has gotten killed somewhere by someone who knows how to make it difficult to identify the killer's identity and motive. The outcome should usually be the victory of the investigator, using logic, reason and perhaps a little luck to identify, confront and apprehend the criminal and get back to doing whatever it is the investigator does at the beginning of the story.

This is a simplification but I think it's important to discuss the basics and encourage more Lao and Thai to write good mysteries and push ourselves to work that relies less on ornate and exotic trappings, excessive use of the supernatural and more on crime, law and the effort to bring order to their society.

Southeast Asian mystery novels...

Though it's only starting to arrive in the United States, over the years there's been a growing body of work featuring detectives set in Laos and Thailand  by expat writers. Most quickly leave readers with a jaded sense of "seen-one, seen-em-all," frequently covering the same territory.

This particularly concerns me because we may grow tired of Southeast Asian mysteries before native Thai and Lao writers even get a chance to fully explore our own region and all that might be accomplished within the mystery and thriller forms on our own terms.

Several writers have gotten a lot of traction out of Thailand and Laos. The big five of mystery writers tend to be considered Dean Barrett, Christopher Moore, Colin Cotterill, John Burdett and Stephen Leather. And there are several interesting books between them. But they often bring an unmistakably falang take on the countries their mysteries are set in.

John Burdett's made a name for himself in recent years. His primary character is the philosophizing smart-ass Thai detective, Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a leuk krung. The majority of Jitpleecheep's adventures take place in, near, or relating to the red-light districts, with lots of exotic deaths and kinky eroticism.

Christopher Moore has been one of the very first to successfully write in the genre, creating a recurring character in Bangkok, Vincent Calvino, who's half Jewish and half Italian, an ex-New Yorker who became a private eye in Thailand, abandoning his law career and acting like Sam Spade with papaya salad near Patpong.

And then we have Colin Coterill, who sets his series in Laos with Dr. Siri Paiboum, a Paris-trained physician and aging widower who is also the country's only coroner in the 1970s. And apparently is a reincarnated Hmong shaman.

Dean Barrett writes books like "Murder at the Horny Toad Bar and Other Outrageous Tales of Thailand." The title alone should give a sense of the field's challenges. Very rarely do we see writers like S.P. Somtow or others getting much acclaim, encouragement or introduction to readers beyond Southeast Asia.

The very nature of mysteries and thrillers is to examine the underworld and to present an image of a corrupt society, and the hard-boiled noir detective novel requires a look at the 'worst' of a society. But most of what we've gotten so far leaves me wanting something more, and to see how native Thai and Lao writers would write about solving crime in their own countries.