Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lao Minnesotan Arts Year in Review

It's a little late, but here's the Lao Minnesotan Arts Year in Review at the Twin Cities Daily Planet! Reprinted here just for archiving purposes, too, though:

It's been such a busy year already, I haven't had time to take us all on a look back at the year that was for Lao Minnesotan artists and our friends and family in 2012. But better late than never! 

Of course, the big event of the year was Lao Minnesotan Artists Heritage Month. For the very first time, the Governor and State of Minnesota issued a certificate of recognition recognizing the contributions of Lao Minnesotan artists in the month of August, 2012. This has also set in motion plans for a national Lao American Artists Heritage Month this upcoming year.

Award-winning writer Saymoukda Vongsay had a busy year of performances, but perhaps her biggest highlight was getting her play Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals greenlit for the 2013 Mu Performing Arts Fall season. She'll also be speaking soon during this year's MarsCon 2013. 
Lao Minnesotan artists celebrated their journey at the Harrison Neighborhood Center on March 10th, 2012 with the Lao Voices Mini-Festival. The Mines Advisory Group and Legacies of War presented "Surviving the Peace," a new documentary that examined the issue of UXO in Laos. Later in 2012, Secretary of State Clinton made a historic journey to Laos.
From April to July at the Gordon Parks Gallery, master weaver Bounxou Chanthraphone (Daoheuang) and Laddavanh Insixiengmay convened a special exhibit, Weaving to Survive. Madame Chanthraphone holds an NEA Heritage Fellowship in the Arts.  The exhibition simultaneously celebrated the weaving traditions of Laos and the extraordinary commitment that artists made to preserve their cultural heritage.

In May, 2012, Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan presented Refugee Nation for the first time in their home town of Los Angeles. Hopefully it will not be long before they return again to Minnesota, given the popular response to the Legacies of War: Refugee Nation Twin Cities exhibit in 2010.

2012 was a big year for the Lao Assistance Center, who received a Folk and Traditional Arts Fellowship Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board in order to assist 5 apprentices to work with a master Lao storyteller and build our community capacity and audience. The Lao American Storytelling Festival will take place this February in conjunction with the Beyond the Other Side of the Eye Exhibit at the Harrison Community Center. 

Award-winning Mali Kouanchao was recently selected to work with the Lao Assistance Center to "create a visual arts exhibit in North Minneapolis commemorating 30 years of the organization's work with the Lao Minnesotan Diaspora," thanks to the Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural Community Partnership grant. Kouanchao has also continued to devote time to finishing her Displacement: Never Free series examining the journey of Cambodian deportees, and also her traditional Lao beef jerky company Cool Jerk

Mali Kouanchao's sister, Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao has begun to blog more regularly at Kouanchao Corner here on the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Dr. Koaunchao was an early member of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project in the 1990s. She's a strong advocate for education on her blog.

Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong, one of the original founders of the SatJaDham Lao Literary project continued to do work with his award-winning, Minnesota-based company, Naiku, which seeks to accelerate learning with more effective educational assessment technology.

Chay Douangphouxay released a debut chapbook of poetry, Remission: Finding Light in the Midst of Social Darkness. The launch took place on Saturday, December 15, 2012, at the Regla De Oro Art Gallery. This was made possible thanks to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) and the Minnesota Humanities Center. Hopefully she will do more presentations in 2013 of her work.
As for me, personally, I was selected as a Cultural Olympian to represent Laos during the 2012 London Olympics as an artist. I also celebrated the 5th anniversary of my first full-length book On The Other Side of the Eye. I was able to announce a new book to be publsihed with Innsmouth Free Press, DEMONSTRA, featuring the work of artist Vongduane Manivong.

Little Laos on the Prairie continued to present great voices and views from across the community thanks to Danny Khotsombath and Chanida Phaengdara. Khotsombath recently left, so Phaengdara is looking for new regular Lao Minnesotans who want to help keep a community dialogue going.
Nor Sanavongsay, a 2010 guest of the Lao American Writers Summit in Minneapolis is launching a kickstarter this month to bring a classic Lao legend to life as a children's story book. Xieng Mieng is a project he presented in Minnesota during the 2001 SatJaDham Lao Literary Project Conference. Over 14 years in the making, it will be good to see this book finally in print.

At the invitation of the US Embassy to Laos, Miss Minnesota USA 2012, Nitaya Panemalaythong, recently made a historic trip to Laos and also raised over $5,000 to assist non-government organizations working with at-risk youth, especially girls in rural villages, to give them a chance at a bright future.
Nitaya Panemalaythong visits Lao youth in Laos
The goal of her trip was "to help promote business, charitable, and cultural ties between Laos and the U.S." Sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) it would appear a successful journey.
There were so many other events and milestones for the community but hopefully this will serve as a positive reminder of what we can all achieve with a passion and a love for the arts.

I'm looking forward to 2013!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Little Laos on the Prairie needs Bloggers!

Little Laos on the Prairie, the acclaimed Lao Minnesotan blog, is in need of committed Lao American writers who want to contribute fresh ideas to their blog.

The positions are open to anyone, any age. Must know and love Lao culture and community, locally, nationally and internationally.

Ideally, they should have a sense of curiosity, a unique point of view, passion for creating clarity for the Lao community and love being a foodie and taking great photographs of daily happenings.

They're asking for a commitment of least one post per week on your topic of choice. There's a weekly check-in on blog ideas, research topics, plan posts with the team. Your time can be more or less, according to your interests and passion. It must be a hobby, as we can barely pay for our own cup of coffee.

If interested, email: with a blurb about yourself, why you want to blog for them, and a simple piece of ‘Laosome’ writing.

Distinguished Raven FAC Memorial Scholarship Due February 28th!

I've mentioned it before but in order to keep it on everyone's radar: The Distinguished Raven FAC Memorial Scholarship is due February 28th.

This scholarship is meant to provide educational assistance to the descendants of those who served so ably alongside the Ravens in the defense of their country.  This assistance is intended to enable the individual to further their education and to reward the qualities that the Ravens and Laotian forces admire.  The funds are provided to assist with tuition, lab fees, books, and other direct educational expenses.

Descendants or legal wards of any Lao or Hmong individual who served in the Royal Laotian Military or Hmong forces in defense of the Kingdom of Laos between 1960 and 1975 will be eligible to compete for this scholarship.

The scholarship is sponsored and administered by the Edgar Allen Poe Literary Society (EAPLS).    EAPLS is a non-profit, last-man, veteran organization consisting of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) who lived in Laos, flew under the call sign "Raven" or its predecessor "Butterfly", and supported Laotian and Hmong forces during the Southeast Asia conflict between 1966 and 1973.

The award is presented "in memory of those Ravens, now deceased, who served and sacrificed that others may be free and prosper."

Please encourage eligible students to apply!

Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement seeking submissions! Deadline February 1st!

As a reminder:

The first deadline for submitting creative works to the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement at is almost here.

JSAAEA is an official publication of The National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual studies and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In 2013, as we enter the Year of the Snake we'd like to continue adding more creative voices to the journal. If you or someone you know has work that you'd like to contribute, send them to me at thaoworra @ gmail. com or you can go to the website at

Xieng Mieng Kickstarter coming February

This has been an interesting season for Lao American Kickstarters and other crowdfunding projects. One that I'm really looking forward to this year is Nor Sanavongsay's Xieng Mieng kickstarter which will begin on February 1st and will end on his birthday on February 28th. This is a project that he's been dreaming of doing for over 14 years. It's had numerous iterations, but I think he's ready to finally take this to its next step.

He keeps a website for the book at The character of Xieng Mieng gets mentioned in several poems of mine in my upcoming book, DEMONSTRA. While he's a public domain character, I really enjoy Nor's take and vision for him. 

Ultimately, Nor hopes to turn it into a 5-book series collecting and illustrating several of his favorite childhood stories of the Lao folkhero Xieng Mieng, who is known throughout Southeast Asia as the cleverest man in the kingdom. Book 1, which he hopes to fund through Kickstarter, would be a full-color hard-cover edition (hopefully at least 500 copies) that Lao American families and friends can enjoy as a great introduction to this beloved figure. 

Nor Sanavongsay is trained in both design and programming of interactive media. He’s created award winning projects for retail giants such as Sears, Motorola, and many others. During his rare off-hours, he donates his time to design posters and flyers for many community services across the US. His main website is at He has presented at SatJadham conferences as well as the National Lao American Writers Summit and the Lao Artists Festival. 

When the kickstarter goes live, I hope you'll all consider supporting him on this wonderful endeavor and help us set new standards for Lao American children's books!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kenji Liu's Videopoem: Migration: Like Paul Atreides


Kenji Liu posted his latest video poem, accompanying the publication of "Migration: Like Paul Atreides" in Eye to the Telescope, issue 7: Asian American Speculative Poetry, that I guest edited this month, where he used David Lynch's 1984 film Dune to discuss immigration. Be sure to check it out, and Eye to the Telescope!

Eye to the Telescope, a quarterly online journal, began publishing science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative poetry in 2011, under the auspices of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Its editors are selected by the current SFPA president and change with each issue. A big thanks to everyone who submitted work!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lao Horror, Lao Hopes: 10 Questions with Mattie Do

Reprinting this from an interview I conducted for Little Laos on the Prairie this weekend:

After her father immigrated back to Laos five years ago, Mattie Do and her husband made the decision to join him in Vientiane. In doing so, Mattie and her husband became acquainted with Mr. Anousone Sirisackda of Lao Art Media, eventually developing their relationship to the point of creating a film together. After two years of production, Mattie and Lao Art Media are getting ready to release Lao's first horror film, "Chanthaly," in Spring 2013. "Chanthaly" will be Mattie's first feature film. Currently Mattie, her husband, their two dogs and one cat reside permanently in Vientiane, Laos.  

Little Laos on the Prairie had a chance to catch up with her for an interview.

The natural question on everyone's mind is: How did you get your start?

Actually, "Chanthaly" is my start in filmmaking. I've never directed any short films or anything, and I never went to film school, although I worked for a film school a couple of years ago. But as a makeup artist. The great thing about being a makeup artist on small productions is that you actually get to send a lot of time close to the director, the actors and the camera. I was standing next to the monitor, staying on hand in case somebody needed touch-ups between takes. I really liked being on set, but I think I'm just about as surprised as anybody that I somehow ended up scrapping together a film of my own.

When my husband and I decided to make a movie here in Laos, we figured that his language barrier would prohibit him from really being able to work with the actors, so he dumped this heavy film directing text book on me and told me I had a few months to figure it all out while we worked the script through the approval process with the Ministry of Information and Culture. When I was working at the film school, I was able to sit in on a bunch of acting classes, too. So I got in touch with the professors and they were really great about giving me advice. So I did have some great resources.

I think I sort of anticipated that I could lean on my husband a little, but we ended up having such a small crew that I was kind of just left to it. We shot for a really long time compared to other Lao films. Almost 60 days of shooting over a six month period, so if something wasn't working we'd take a day to think it over and then try it again in a different way. The film is 95 minutes long and I've got something like 50 hours of footage from my trial and error process of making my first movie.

I think the whole time we were joking that if the film was just terrible, we'd throw the hard drives into the Mekong and never speak of it again.

Was your family supportive of your interest to get involved in film-making?

The crazy thing is, I'm not sure that my father entirely understands what I've been doing for the last year. I've explained to him that I'm making a movie, and he stopped by to watch us film a few times. He loves movies, and I just think that showing up at our house and watching us shoot with just a few lights and a Canon DSLR didn't match his expectation of what making a movie should look like. And he knows about the festivals and the interest that we've been getting overseas, but I still think he figures I've been making a home video.

I think at the end of the day, he'd support anything that keeps me here in Laos close to him. I have a really close relationship with my father, and that relationship really ended up being a big inspiration for the two main characters in the movie. "Chanthaly" is kind of a movie about a girl and her father at the end of it all.

My mother passed away in 2005, but I think she would be really proud of the movie. I get a little teary when I draw connections between the film and my relationship with her, but when I was growing up, she really instilled in me this idea that I could do anything I wanted to do. I didn't just have to be a girl or a wife. So all through my childhood, she really gave me a lot of opportunity to take on some pretty big responsibility. I think I ended up with a good sense of self confidence because my mother pushed me to work hard and excel.

"Chanthaly" is breaking a lot of ground for Lao cinema. What's something you've learned from the filming of "Chanthaly" that you hope to apply to future films you work on?

I think the biggest lesson was, just because you can shoot an entire movie in your house while living there, it doesn't mean you should. We ended up living surrounded by this giant pile of filmmaking gear for almost a year. It just never felt like we left work. I'd wake up in the middle of the night with the lights set up over my bed, stub my toes on the tripod while trying to get to the bathroom and think, 'What am I doing?' And then, even a small crew somehow generates a tremendous amount of dishes. So we'd wrap shooting at midnight and then my husband and I would have about two hours of housework to just make the house feel livable. Then it would start again in the morning.

Other than that, it was all learning. My husband has a film background, but spent the last 10 years working as a screenwriter. So when we started "Chanthaly" we were something like, I don't know, 80% sure we knew how to make a movie. "Chanthaly" was always supposed to be our training film. Get a bunch of people together, figure out who we could train and trust, make a whole bunch of mistakes and just enough profit at the Lao cinema to make a better second film which we would push out into the world. But in the end the movie is coming out really well. It's been a happy surprise, believe me.

I hope when we start filming my next movie in the spring, we'll be able to start strong and work a little faster. It was all so theoretical before "Chanthaly," but now I kind of feel like we've figured out how to make a movie.

Your film has been receiving very positive word of mouth from those who've seen it. In what ways are you hoping to challenge audiences about their expectations of Lao culture and particularly Lao horror?

This is all so cool, and so surprising for me. Our best hope for "Chanthaly" when we were making it was a Luang Prabang Film Festival premiere and a two week run in the cinema here in Vientiane. But now it's bigger than that, and we're kind of trying to figure out what that means exactly. I'm really excited that people like the movie though. About three months ago, my husband and I put together a rough edit of the film that ran about two and a half hours. I sat down and watched it with Nouth (who plays Chanthaly in the film) and it kind of dawned on us that it was actually a pretty cool story. It fit together, and I don't know. I just really liked it, if that's not a terrible thing for a director to say.

It's interesting that you ask about Lao horror and what the audiences might expect. Again, since we weren't ever thinking about this film having much of a life outside of Laos, we tried–and I don't know how successful we were at this–to really think about making a movie that would be scary for a Lao audience, understanding that a Lao audience has never seen a scary Lao movie. If that makes sense. And then we had to balance that with what we could actually do with our limited budget and resources, and with what a wary Department of Cinema would actually approve. So it's not a blood and guts horror movie, and it's not a monster movie.

After I got my approval, I sat down and read the script again and I thought, 'Wow, from a western horror standpoint, I don't know if this is going to be scary.' But then at the Luang Prabang Film Festival the audience was screaming and little kids were covering their eyes. So much of the film revolves around the ubiquitous spirit house and Lao superstition, and although the film gives a little bit of detail about that for an audience that might be unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Lao beliefs, there are a few things in the movie that are really terrifying to our Lao audience that might not even be unsettling for a foreign audience.

What attracted you to the story of Chanthaly, and did the script change along the way?

There were so many changes along the way. Two years ago, my husband and I sat down in the conference room at Lao Art Media and mapped out a story on the dry erase board. I'd thrown a lot of random ideas at him and he'd somehow made sense of it. Enough to get a basic outline together, and then we fleshed it out together. Once we had that outline, I took the idea to Lao Art Media and they gave me a solid rejection. Nobody thought the Ministry of Information and Culture would ever approve a horror film.

So we brought the Department of Cinema in on the development process. We'd put a call in two or three times a week for about three months before we even started writing the script. Then it took another four or five months or writing, adapting the script back and forth between English and Lao, before we got the story to where it is now. But after that, getting our approval was really easy. The Department of Cinema is really great, they genuinely want to promote Lao filmmaking and they really gave us some amazing input along the way.

I mentioned earlier about how I'm really close with my father, and so telling a story about a girl and her dad was always pretty personal. I based the idea for the story on a French ballet (if you can believe it!) and then I dumped a whole bunch of myself into that. So the film was always very personal. Like I mentioned earlier, it's kind of a film about me and my father.

What was your casting process like for "Chanthaly"? When did you realize you'd found your lead actress?

I actually cast my lead actress a few months before I decided to make a horror film. In fact, she was part of the film before there was a film to be a part of. I was working on Lao Art Media's 'Lao Dream Star' TV show, and Nouth was the presenter. We fought like crazy, and directing her on the TV show was so alternately frustrating and interesting, because she is such a crazy little thing. And she just looked great on camera. By the time we figured out how to work together, the TV show was over.

Nouth was actually the reason we wrote a story so centered on the Chanthaly character, because I knew that she could carry the film. There's so much of her in Chanthaly's character, we really wrote the part for her and never considered anybody else for it. It was the same with the character of Chanthaly's father, I cast Mr Soliphanh in the part, and then adapted the character around him. In the original outline for the story, the father only had one or two scenes, but Mr Soliphanh was so good that we just kept finding ways to add him into the story more and more.

I really have to brag a little about my cast. For the most part, my supporting cast was also amazing. They each brought so much to the characters on top of what was in the script. That's even more amazing considering that Lao doesn't really have any professional actors. There are so few Lao movies, no Lao sitcoms or soap operas even. And our film shoot was pretty strenuous. Like I mentioned we shot 60 days over six months. So it was a lot of work. But they all really came through. So I really have to brag about my cast.

I think that the best way to make a film in Laos, at least right now while we're really just starting to develop a film industry, is to cast first and then write your script to fit the cast. I know that's what I'll be continuing to do in the future.

Often, a film production can be an intense process, even from the beginning. How did you manage stress?
Well, we worked slowly. There was always this idea that it was better to make a good movie than a fast movie. It took us eight months to write the script. And we organized the production around being able to have the space to make mistakes and the time to fix them. We shot the entire film in my house, so there was no rush to finish at the end of the day. If the sun went down, we'd start again when it came back up. That sort of thing. We kept the cast and crew small so that we wouldn't have scheduling conflicts. We took long lunch and dinner breaks.

It's actually far more stressful now. The company that was supposed to help us through our post-production quit the film over personal differences and so my husband and I have been rushing to finish work that was supposed to have been finished months ago. So just like when my husband gave me that directing textbook and told me I better figure out how to direct a film, I had to tell him, 'Look, I know that you don't really speak or understand what my characters are saying in the movie, but you have to figure out how to edit my movie.' And he has.

Lao Art Media has been really great with me as well. They have really let me work on my own terms and set my own schedule. They have always stood behind me and defended my work. And now that we've sort of figured everything out, I think it'll all go much more smoothly next time. Fingers crossed.

What are you plans for "Chanthaly" in the near future, and will you be doing any follow-ups to this film?

I just need to finish "Chanthaly." It's so close. I've said this before, but the attention that my movie has gotten is just amazing especially since we've only shown the film once, and since it was only a rough edit of the movie. I really have no idea what will happen in the future, but we'll be showing the film in Vientiane next month at the Vientianale Film Festival and then we've received a couple of other exciting requests from other film festivals in North and South America. The film will hit the theaters here in Laos in March.

We're sticking to our original plan though. So the profit from "Chanthaly" in Laos is going directly into funding my next film which I hope to start filming in April or May. I'm submitting a couple of potential synopses to the Department of Cinema soon, so we'll have to see what they think about the new ideas. They're all quite different from "Chanthaly," but they're all still horror films based in Lao superstition and supernatural beliefs. Well, two of them are. The third is a zombie movie that my husband is really pushing for... but, it's probably a little too much for Laos at the moment.

But definitely another movie will start as this one wraps up. Editing has made me miss production, and it'll be good to get the crew back together to film something else.

Who do you look up to as cinematic role models?

My cinematic role model would have to be, without a doubt, Darren Aronofsky. I was awestruck when I first watched "Pi" (so many years ago!). I still think back on it now, and loved it so much. It became one of those films I was afraid to go back to because I remember loving it so much in my youth. His other films were also all amazing, and as always, resonated to me - then there was "The Wrestler" and "Black Swan." I've watched "Black Swan" so many times, I've lost count! The way those stories move, how the characters are able to express so much intensity with or without dialogue, the entire feeling of these two films - they just hit me to the core. Tears still spring to my eyes when Natalie Portman's "Nina" finds out she's been cast as The Swan, and I'm still breathless each time Aronofsky's Wrestler takes flight against the blinding spotlights and screaming crowd.

What would be your advice to emerging film-makers?

Well, if they're in Laos and thinking about making a movie, I think the best advice is to just get in touch with either myself or the guys out at Lao New Wave Cinema. There's no better way to learn how to make a movie than by making a movie. There's not so many Lao filmmakers here in Laos, and we're all pretty friendly. And always willing to answer questions or give a little bit of help. I think that's something really special about making movies in Laos at the moment. You get so much help from everybody working in the city. My husband and I helped 'At the Horizon' by doing the subtitles, and Anysay lent us lenses to help us shoot Chanthaly. In a few weeks, I'm actually acting in a short film for Lao New Wave.

But we're all on Facebook. We really just want to see more Lao movies get made, and we're more than happy to talk about how to avoid the mistakes that we all made on our first films.

If you're a Lao filmmaker and living outside of the country, come back and make a movie. There's a lot of opportunity for talented filmmakers to work hard and really be part of something unique and exciting. So much is evolving and changing here in Laos, and I really can't wait for more filmmakers to experience it for themselves. In the meantime, I hope I can keep trying to bring Laos to cinema screens abroad!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 Call for Submissions: Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement

It's the start of a new year, and we had a great 2012 at the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement at In addition to 7 academic articles and reviews in 2012, we had a great number of submissions in our creative works section from emerging Southeast Asian American writers.

In 2012, we featured poems by Tom T. Nguyen, Sery Bounphasaysonh, Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, Anchalee Panigabutra-Roberts, Jim Vongsouvanh, Danny Khotsombath and Phira Rehm. We didn't get any short stories or personal essays, however.

JSAAEA is an official publication of The National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans (NAFEA), with support from the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual studies and the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In 2013, as we enter the Year of the Snake we'd like to continue adding more creative voices to the journal. If you or someone you know has work that you'd like to contribute, send them to me at thaoworra @ gmail. com or you can go to the website at 

I'd like some new submissions in by February 1st, so we can get a head start on showcasing some amazing visions, voices and talents. I'm also going to point out that despite repeated requests, we have not received any work from Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Akha, Tai Dam, or Khmu writers. Not ONE poem, short story, or essay in 7 years. We'd really like to change this.

If you're looking for some writing prompts, consider that this is the 40th anniversary since the end of the secret bombings in Laos and Cambodia. It's also the 40th year of the American withdrawal from Southeast Asia thanks to the Case-Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. One can argue that had a pivotal effect on the lives of many of the Southeast Asian Americans living in the US today.

Additionally, it's the 20th anniversary since founding of Hmong National Development in 1993. It's the 20th anniversary of the Cambodian constitution (ratified in 1993) that took place after two decades of violence that included a genocide, an invasion, and civil war. For Lao Minnesotans, it's the 30th anniversary since the founding of the Lao Assistance Center.

With a little digging you can find any number of interesting and amazing anniversaries being celebrated this year.

But we're also looking for simpler stories, poems, and essays as well. Show us where your creative energies have been taking you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me! I'm looking forward to seeing what you all write!

Sword & Mythos Horror Anthology Now Open to Submissions

Innsmouth Free Press announced their Sword and Mythos anthology is now opens to submissions. Here is the cover by Nacho Molina Parra and the guidelines:

For those of you curious about how to approach the theme from a Lao perspective, here are some of my initial recommendations at Innsmouth Free Press.

Seriously, if you do multicultural lovecraftian horror and fantasy, this is the anthology to get it in.


Eye to the Telescope: Asian American Speculative Poetry Issue is live!

Guest edited an Asian American issue of Speculative Poetry at Eye to the Telescope, where contributors came up with some very interesting responses to what we might consider Asian, American and both. The nice thing about this was being able to challenge what we consider Asian American and what it could be.

Eye to the Telescope, a quarterly online journal, began publishing science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative poetry in 2011, under the auspices of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Its editors are selected by the current SFPA president and change with each issue; as a result, editorial policies change with each issue as well.

Among the writers who made the cut for this issue are Joy Panigabutra-Roberts, Mark Rich, Lisa Marie, Ching-In Chen, Juanita Sayaovong Vang, Robert Subiaga, Michael Janairo, YiWei Huang and Kath Abela Wilson, Neil Weston, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Kev Minh Allen, Tom T. Nguyen, Sery Bounphasaysonh, and WeiMing Dariotis.

As I point out in the introduction: "This issue contains the work of both established and emerging voices from across the country. We have poets who have roots in Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines; Hapa and Hmong voices. Several are transcultural adoptees, others have been immigrants or are the children of refugees. But in the final equation, each of them brought a distinctive voice and imaginative approach to their poetry. Some worked with the classic legends of old, others addressed futures that could be; others, well, that’s a surprise you’ll have to see for yourself."

A big thanks to the Science Fiction Poetry Association for giving me the opportunity to edit this issue.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Miss Minnesota USA 2012 has begun her visit to Laos

For those of you who've been following the matter, Miss Minnesota USA 2012, Nitaya Panemalaythong successfully touched down in Laos this weekend and is currently on her humanitarian mission at the invitation of the US Embassy to Laos. She has to date raised over $5,000 and over 118% of her goal to assist non-government organizations over there. Initial footage and reports indicate she is being very warmly received. She thanks everyone who has been involved in her journey!

As her official bio notes: "Nitaya Panemalaythong was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the USA as an infant in 1986. The family moved from Minneapolis, to other locations in Minnesota, to North Carolina, and back to Minnesota in 2004.

 In high school, Nitaya was a member of National Beta Club, a group that recognizes academic achievement, leadership, character, and service. She was also selected to her school’s honors acapella ensemble and graduated as a North Carolina Scholar. Currently, Nitaya works full-time and attends Normandale Community College. Her goal is to attend the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and to obtain a degree in finance."

Kundiman Asian American Fellows Applications

New fellow applications for the 2013 Kundiman retreat are now open, until February 1st. This year’s retreat will take place from June 19–23 at Fordham University, and its faculty lineup will feature Li-Young Lee, Srikanth Reddy, and Lee Ann Roripaugh. Be sure to consider it. Lao American poet Phayvanh Luekhamhan participated in the program as did Hmong American poet Andre Yang.

Diversicon 21 guests announced!

The 2013 Guests of Diversicon are announced:

Guest of Honor: Jack McDevitt Jack McDevitt often writes about attempts to understand and communicate about archaeology and xenoarchaeology. His 19 novels include the “Academy” series featuring Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins: The Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, Omega , Odyssey, and Cauldron; the Alex Benedict series: A Talent for War, Polaris, the Nebula Award-winning Seeker, The Devil’s Eye, Echo, and Firebird; and the stand-alone novels The Hercules Text, Ancient Shores, Eternity Road, Moonfall, Infinity Beach, Time Travelers Never Die, and The Cassandra Project. He has also published five story collections: Standard Candles (1996), Hello Out There, Ships in the Night, Outbound, and Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt.

Special Guest: Catherine Lundoff Catherine Lundoff is the award-winning author of the werewolf novels Silver Moon(Lethe Press, 2012) and Blood Moon (Lethe, forthcoming) as well as the collection A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace and Other Stories (Lethe) and the co-editor, with JoSelle Vanderhooft, of the anthology Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic (Lethe). In her other lives, she’s a professional computer geek, the spouse of her fabulous wife, and an occasional teacher of writing classes at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Special Guest: Roy C. Booth Roy C. Booth is a published novelist, short story writer, poet, comedian, journalist, essayist, game designer, screenwriter/doctor (film/radio/TV), and internationally awarded playwright—with 56 plays (including Force and Jedi Loathing Outside Las Vegas) published, and 750+ known productions worldwide in 28 countries. He is married to published playwright Cynthia Booth, and is owner/manager of Roy’s Comics & Games of Bemidji, MN.

Posthumous Guest: Cordwainer Smith (AKA Paul Linebarger) Cordwainer Smith (1913-1966) wrote Psychological Warfare, Norstrilia, and The Rediscovery of Man.

Posthumous Guest: Peter Cushing Peter Cushing (1913-1994) played Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, and Grand Moff Tarkin.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Poem: "Fragment of a Dream of Atlantean Yellows" coming to Innsmouth Free Press

My new poem "Fragment of a Dream of Atlantean Yellows" has come to the Innsmouth Free Press this week! As can be expected it touches on both Lao and Lovecraftian themes, and perhaps even a little steampunk or teapunk. But take a look for yourself. If you dare.

It will also be featured in my forthcoming book DEMONSTRA later this year!

Interviewed by Lantern Review

I was recently interviewed for the Lantern Review by Wendy Chin-Tanner, who previously interview Don Mee Choi, author of The Morning News Is Exciting.  The interview will be appearing on the Lantern Review's blog.

The format of the interview will be a little different than what some people are used to seeing but I think it will be fairly easy to follow. I'll post a link up to it when it's officially up!

Eye to the Telescope's Asian American Issue!

This week, my guest editorship of Eye to the Telescope will present new Asian American speculative poems by Joy Panigabutra-Roberts, Mark Rich, Lisa Marie, Ching-In Chen, Juanita Sayaovong Vang, Robert Subiaga, Michael Janairo, YiWei Huang and Kath Abela Wilson, Neil Weston, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Kev Minh Allen, Tom T. Nguyen, Sery Bounphasaysonh, and WeiMing Dariotis.

Thank you all for the interesting submissions!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Speculations Readings at DreamHaven

The SPECULATIONS READINGS SERIES continues monthly, mostly on Wednesdays, at DREAMHAVEN BOOKS, 2301 38th St E, Minneapolis. Each Speculations Reading event runs from 6:30-7:45 p.m. including a post-reading reception with free soda pop and cookies.

On Wednesday, January 23, JOHN CALVIN REZMERSKI reads his poetry from 6:30-7:30. Mr. Rezmerski was born in Pennsylvania, and again in Ohio, then again in Kansas, and three times more in Minnesota. By some accounts he has three lives left yet, but he is not taking any bets because he doesn’t believe in cats. He is a member of Lady Poetesses from Hell by virtue of the fact that he channels Grace Lord Stoke (via email), from whom he has learned a great deal. He has published twenty books, chapbooks, and anthologies, including _The Frederick Manfred Reader_, a screenplay, and three plays. He has performed his work for schools, libraries, bookstores, science fiction conventions, clubs, professional organizations, senior centers, museums, festivals, fairs, coffee houses, bars, and on television and radio, including National Public Radio’s _Whad’Ya Know_?, and collaborated with painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, dancers, theatrical troupes, and scientists. Over 35 years, he taught creative writing, journalism, linguistics, science fiction, and storytelling at Gustavus Adolphus College. His poetry books include _22 from TOTU_ and _Breaking the Rules: Starting with Ghazals_.

On Wednesday, February 20, MICHAEL MERRIAM reads his fiction. Mr. Merriam is an author of speculative fiction living in Hopkins, MN. He has published a novel, a short story collection, three novellas, and over 80 pieces of short fiction and poetry. His novella, _Should We Drown in Feathered Sleep_, was long-listed for the Nebula Award in 2010, and his novel, Last Car to Annwn Station, was named a Top Book in 2011 by Readings in Lesbian & Bisexual Women's Fiction. Michael is the co-organizer of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers, a member of the Artists with Disabilities Alliance, the Outer Alliance, the Steampunk Artists and Writers Guild, and Story Arts Minnesota. Visit his homepage at

Speculations is a co-production of DreamHaven Books and SF MINNESOTA, a multicultural speculative fiction organization that also hosts a midsummer SF convention, DIVERSICON, the 21st edition of which will be held August 2-4, 2013, in the Best Western—Bandana Square, with Guest of Honor JACK MCDEVITT and Special Guests CATHERINE LUNDOFF and ROY C. BOOTH.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Call for Submissions!

From the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival organizers:

We need your Lovecraftian submissions - shorts, feature films, trailers, and screenplays.

Click this link to go directly to WithoutABox and submit: (we're in the process of updating the text for this year, but you can definitely submit NOW).

Submissions are open for the Portland H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, May 3-5th. We're already working hard on our schedule, and will be making tickets available very soon... so if you've got a film up your sleeve, now is the time to let us see it! For more info about submissions, read our submission page at

Snake Bomb Coffee and I!

Came back from a trip to Minnesota and found a nice case of Snake Bomb Coffee waiting for me. It's going to be so hard to resist brewing them all into delicious pots of coffee. But as it is, these packages are going to good homes this year!

As a thank you to many of our backers who supported our DEMONSTRA kickstarter, they'll be getting a package of Snake Bomb Coffee as part of our appreciation. Also, I'll be holding a monthly writing contest now and giving a package of Snake Bomb to the lucky winner. Stay tuned for more details!

As many of you may know, Laos is the most bombed country of the 20th century. More tons of bombs were dropped on Laos than on all of Europe during World War 2.

Snake Bomb Coffee’s mission is to "raise awareness and support for economic, social, and environmental initiatives within Laos – including programs that remove unexploded bombs and provide anti-venom for snake bites." Proceeds from Snake Bomb coffee sales go to support effective programs in Laos.

You can visit them at:

Considering the number of poems in DEMONSTRA that address both UXO and snakes (legendary and regular) and the approaching Year of the Snake, we're happy to be introducing our backers to Snake Bomb Coffee.

They also have a nice fundraising program for non-profits and student groups available. This project has my full support and strongest recommendation. Now I'm off to go brew another pot of coffee.

Demonstra: Final days to order the deluxe edition!

We successfully raised the funds for this project on January 1st. However, because of holidays, payday issues, etc. by popular request we're extending the orders for the Deluxe Edition to January 15th if you e-mail me at for details. 

I can give you either the address for paypal or a snail-mail address for a check. We will honor all pledges made this way as if they had been made through the standard Kickstarter, except for sold-out limited pledge levels.

After the 15th, we have to close the books to move forward in getting this awesome project put together! 

In the photo below, you can see how much physically bigger the deluxe edition will be compared to the regular edition released by Innsmouth Free Press in 2013 (which will be the same size as On the Other Side of the Eye)

A pre-order of $20 for example, gets you a pdf copy and an author-signed copy of DEMONSTRA with the Kickstarter-exclusive cover. Your name will be included on the "Special Thanks" page. You'll get a handwritten thank you note from the author and artist. You also get a DEMONSTRA postcard and magnet of the cover. You'll also get a limited edition set of postcards featuring 13 legendary beings from Lao legend. You'll also get a certificate recognizing you as a supporter of the DEMONSTRA kickstarter. Plus you'll help to sponsor all of the forthcoming downloadable content including DEMONSTRA finger puppets and one-page role-playing game scenarios.

Additional rewards are available for people who chip in more to fund this edition. You can see what you'd get at higher levels of support by visiting Thank you for considering it!

Here there be zombies-and paint and lutefisk.

Andy Studevant has a great column at the MinnPost called "The Stroll" where he walks around different sections of the Twin Cities observing the art and architecture and other quirky features of the scenery. Well, he's on vacation this January and left the keys to me. So, I took his column for a spin around 2nd Street North in Minneapolis, starting with the famous Donny Dirk's Zombie Den. Be sure to check it out! And check out the rest of Andy's columns. They're a terrific read!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Innsmouth Inktank coming to Innsmouth Free Press

Later this month, I'll be heading up a new column at the Innsmouth Free Press, the Innsmouth Inktank, where  I'll take a look at the speculative poetry side of the Cthulhu Mythos, with interviews, essays, and ponderings as appropriate to the occasion. Be sure to send me news of your upcoming books of poetry and other tidbits of note!

Ten Nyakinee daughters / princesses?

Kumo and Yuyama's translation of the White Lotus Sutra contains an interpretation of the Nyak daughters (also known as Rakshasas or Raksasis): 

“At that time there were ten rākṣasīs. Their names were Lambā, Vilambā, Kūṭadantī, Puṣpadantī, Makuṭadantī, Keśinī, Acalā, Mālādhāri, Kuntī, and Sarvasattvojohārī. These ten rākṣasīs, together with Hārītī and their children and retinues, came before the Buddha and addressed him in unison, saying: “O Bhagavat! We also want to protect those who recite and preserve the Lotus Sutra and rid them of their heavy cares. Those who try to strike at the expounders of the Dharma through their weaknesses shall never be able to do so.”

They then recited a dhāraṇī in the presence of the Buddha, saying:
Iti me iti me iti me iti me iti me nime nime nime nime nime ruhe ruhe ruhe ruhe stuhe stuhe stuhe stuhe stuhe.

“Let troubles come upon our heads rather than distress the expounders of the Dharma. No yakṣa, no rākṣasa, no hungry ghost, no pūtana, no kṛtya, no vetāla, no skanda, no omāraka, no apasmāraka, no yakṣakṛtya, no manuṣyakṛtya, no fever; no fever for one day, for two days, for three days, for four days or even up to seven days or at any time; no one in the form of a man, no one in the form of a woman, no one in the form of a boy, no one in the form of a maiden, no one who may appear even in a dream, in any of these forms shall cause them distress.”

An alternate annotated translation by Martin Bradley reads as: "Whether they be yasha (yaksha) [who are comparable to gnomes] or a rasatsu (raksha) [who are cannibalistic demons] or hungry ghosts (gaki, preta) or a futanna (pūtana) [who are a class of demons in charge of fevers] or a kenda (ghanda) [who are hungry ghosts that are orange-red in colour] or an umaroga [who is a demon that eats the vital energy of human beings] or a abatsumara (apasonara) [who is a malevolent demon that causes fits] or a yashukissha (yakshakrtya) [who are similar to raksha cannibalistic demons] or a kissha (krtya) [who are something between a gnome and a human being], even if they bring about a fever for a day, two days, four days or if such a fever were to persist for seven days, even though these demons be in the form of a man, woman, a young boy, a young girl, even in dreams, they will not be able to torment the people who hold to the Dharma Flower Sutra.”

That translation identifies the daughters as: At the same time, there were the female cannibalistic demons (rasatsu, rakshasi). The first was called Ramba (Lamba); the second was called Biraba (Vilalamā); the third was called Crooked Tooth; the fourth was called Shining Teeth; the fifth was called Black Tooth; the sixth was called Wild Hair; the seventh was called Insatiable; the eighth was called Holding to her Necklace; the ninth was called Kōtai (Kunti) and the tenth was called the Usurper of the Life Force of All Sentient Beings. These ten women who were cannibalistic demons, along with the Mother Numen of the Demonic Children (Kishimojin, Hārītī)"

A third take, the Burton Watson translation, names them as follows: "At that time there were daughters of rakshasa demons, the first named Lamba, the second named Vilamba, the third named Crooked Teeth, the fourth named Flowery Teeth, the fifth named Black Teeth, the sixth named Much Hair, the seventh named Insatiable, the eighth named Necklace Bearer, the ninth named Kunti, and the tenth named Stealer of the Vital Spirit of All Living Beings. These ten rakshasa daughters, along with the Mother of Devil Children"

A fourth translation by Bunno Kato goes: "Thereupon there were female rakshasas, the first named Lamba, the second named Vilamba, the third named Crooked Teeth, the fourth named Flowery Teeth, the fifth named Black Teeth, the sixth named Many Tresses, the seventh named Insatiable, the eighth named Necklace Holder, the ninth named Kunti, and the tenth named Spirit Snatcher. These ten female rakshasas, together with the Mother of Demon Sons."

But in either case, it shows how different scholars can interpret the classics.

Kinnaly kings

According to the White Lotus Sutra, there are at least four kings of the Kinnaly, The Kinnaly King Of the Dharma, The Kinnaly King Of the Wonderful Dharma, The Kinnaly King Of the Great Dharma, and The Kinnaly King Embracing the Dharma. There will be slight differences in translation. The current research is progressing to see if there are more concrete names for them. In Kumo and Yuyama's 2007 translation, they are introduced with the passage "There were four kings of the kiṃnaras whose names were Dharma, Sudharma, Mahādharma, and Dharmadhara, and each had several hundreds of thousands of attendants."

In the Sublime Treasure King Sutra, one account suggests there are kings such as "the Wonderful mouth Kinnaly king, Precious crown Kinnaly king, Brightness and joy Kinnaly king, Happiness Kinnaly king, Wheel sublime Kinnaly king, Pearls and jewels Kinnaly king, Big paunch Kinnaly king, Firm diligence Kinnaly king, Wonderful bravery Kinnaly king, a hundred mouths Kinnaly king, Big tree Kinnaly king, and so on."

At least fifty were named among the hundreds of thousands of Kinnaly girls who attended including: Single mind Kinnaly girl, Deep meaning Kinnaly girl, Wind traveling Kinnaly girl, Water traveling Kinnaly girl, Space riding Kinnaly girl, Speed Kinnaly girl, Riches donating Kinnaly girl, Wonderful teeth Kinnaly girl, motionless luck Kinnaly girl, Defiled realms Kinnaly girl, Blazing universal light Kinnaly girl, Wonderful luck Kinnaly girl, Precious box Kinnaly girl, Discern riches Kinnaly girl, Beauty and sublime Kinnaly girl, Vajra face Kinnaly girl, Golden Kinnaly girl, extraordinary wonderful sublime Kinnaly girl, Wide forehead Kinnaly girl, Surrounds good knowing advisors Kinnaly girl, Worlds ruling Kinnaly girl, Spaces protecting Kinnaly girl, Sublime king Kinnaly girl, Pearl hair bun Kinnaly girl, Total retention pearl Kinnaly girl, Surrounded by wise persons Kinnaly girl, Hundreds of names Kinnaly girl, Lifespan giving Kinnaly girl, Buddhist Dharma protecting and upholding Kinnaly girl, Dharma realm guarding Kinnaly girl, Superior sublime Kinnaly girl, Kshana superior Kinnaly girl, Seeks for Dharmas and constantly upholding Kinnaly girl, Often seen Kinnaly girl, Fearless Kinnaly girl, Yearn for the liberation Kinnaly girl, Always secret Kinnaly girl, Total retention driving Kinnaly girl, Blade light and flame Kinnaly girl, Earth traveling Kinnaly girl, Guardian heavenly lord Kinnaly girl, Wonderful heavenly lord Kinnaly girl, Treasure king Kinnaly girl, Forbearance unit Kinnaly girl, Practice donating Kinnaly girl, Many dwellings Kinnaly girl, Weapon holding Kinnaly girl, Wonderful sublime Kinnaly girl, Wonderful mind Kinnaly girl, and so on" But this will be examined further to develop a full sense of who the key figures are in Kinnaly society.

Nak kings of the White Lotus Sutra

There are at least 8 Nak kingdoms within the Lao tradition, and one of the most prominent cities is known as Badan, which figures prominently in the legend of Phadaeng Nang Ai. The Ngaosrivathanas also have an account that lists many of the Nak connected to the cities of Laos in their exceptional work, "The Enduring Sacred Landscape of the Naga."

There were eight prominent Nak kings identified in the White Lotus Sutra. This may be an interesting point to start examining who else the Lao integrated into their tales as Nak kings, although typically, most Lao do not know or refer to them by name, with a few exceptions. The following names are romanized according to the Sanskrit spelling, rather than the Lao. (That research is forthcoming.)

The kings Nanda and Upananda are often spoken of in conjunction, said to be brothers responsible for the rain, bringing joy and good fortune.

King Sagara resides in the depths of the oceans, and his realm also encompasses the atmosphere. He is said to personify wisdom and the greatness of emptiness.

King Vasuki holds sway over the bodies of water that are not oceans. Lakes, streams, rivers, and similar spaces. He has many heads, and is said to be connected to the power of manifesting in many different incarnations and forms, and the limitless variations of observing the dharma.

King Taksaka, the Many-Tongued, embodies eloquence and the words that can divide but also bring people together. He is also believed to be poisonous, when required.

King Anavatapta, is the Nak King of the Great Cool Lake, whose waters could cool the searing flames of the Nak, but also the flames of emotional distress and suffering from being subject to the mortal realms. The lake of Anavatapta is said to be in the Himalayas.

King Manasvin, is a powerful entity, who is said to be coiled up and prepared to be unleashed when needed. His realm is said to represent the immense power of water to bring amazing benefits.

Finally, King Utpalaka, resides in the dark swamps, where the lotus blossoms grow. The muddy waters are reputed to symbolize the source of mortal life and death, while the lotus symbolizes enlightenment.

The interesting point to consider, however, is who are or were the Nak queens? The eight-year old daughter of Sagara holds a prominent place as a Nakanya who spoke at the assembly at Vulture Peak regarding the ability of women to attain nirvana.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Considering the monster

Clive Barker recently suggested "Monsters act out our rage. They act on their worst impulses, which is appealing to a certain part of us. They get punished for it, but we've enjoyed the spectacle of their liberation."

For many years, I've taken Ishiro Honda's view on monsters, where he suggests "Monsters are tragic beings; they are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, they are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy." Both views are somewhat incomplete, but an interesting point from which we might create interesting horror figures.

A noteworthy perspective was Stephen King's, who once said "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." More classically, Victor Hugo suggested "Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters."

Since we'll be looking at zombies significantly in 2013 thanks to Saymoukda Vongsay's Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals, it's important to bear in mind George Romero's quote: "I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters."

Francisco de Goya weighed in with the notion that "Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."

The wonderful thing about monsters is that there really is no last word on them in any generation. The very best monsters show us something about ourselves and about the world. These beings at their best return generation after generation but always find a way to speak to us, bridging both the past and the present.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New poem up at The Missing Slate Magazine

My poem, "Dreamonstration," which will appear in my forthcoming collection, DEMONSTRA, later this year, debuted today at The Missing Slate, a new literary journal in South Asia.

This particular poem covers everything from the legend of Jiang Yan to Antares and hobo sandwiches.

Ben Heine provides a wonderful illustration to accompany the poem.

Please be sure to visit them and to look through the work of the other writers there as well, such as Minnesotan writer Loukia M. Janavaras, who's currently living in Greece,  or Kate Hammerich, who has a poem, "The Deep Black," in this issue.

For more about the full legend of Jiang Yan, a good summary can be found here.