Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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.

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