Sunday, February 28, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Nor Sanavongsay!

This weekend is Sahtu Press founder Nor Sanavongsay's birthday!

For his birthday present he'd love to see it if the community can help the 2016 Lao American Writers Summit: San Diego reach 50% funding this Sunday. Will you please help to spread the word?

The Lao American Writers Summit means a lot to him because it gave him the encouragement to finish his first book after 10 years and to create a publishing company that eases the way for others to share Lao American voices with the world.

And now we have a chance to make a difference in San Diego, where over 8,000 Lao are rebuilding their lives today!

Nor Sanavongsay is an award-winning Lao American illustrator and writer in the San Francisco Bay area and the founder of Sahtu Press. He has been a presenting featured artist of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, the National Lao American Writers Summit, the Lao Artists Festival of Elgin, among many others.

He is the author of children's books inspired by Lao folktales, such as "Xieng Mieng: A Sticky Mess". He has worked for numerous companies including Encyclopaedia Britannica, Sears, Zoosk, and Barnes & Noble among others. He has presented at Zappcon, Convolution, and the upcoming Silicon Valley Comic Con, and created art for events such as Diversicon and been featured in Strange Horizons magazine.

You can learn more about the 2016 Lao American Writers Summit at:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Top 50 Lao American Metropolitan Regions (2010 Data)

From time to time I get requests for community data, stats and figures on the Lao community.

One of the best go-to resources is the SEARAC Statisical Profile from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey especially when compared to the one for 2000 . Technically you should cite the Census 2010 for the data, linking to it is a bit of a pain because of the long URLs.

Dr. Mark Pfeiffer has one of my favorite lists of the Laotian commuity populations drawn from the Census 2010 figures over but I’m reproducing it here in the event the site ever goes offline in order to ensure a certain continuity of data availability.

Please note that there are always certain questions of methodology. To my knowledge these statistics take into account those who have self-identified as Lao, but does not include those who identify as other or exclude those who some might think should not identify as Lao for one reason or another. There are also consistent concerns from advocates for the Lao community that many regions have been undercounted, but that’s beyond the scope of this note. Consider this an introduction, rather than the last word on the issue.

Lao American Populations by Metro Area, 2010 Census
Compiled by Mark E. Pfeifer, PhD (

1. Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA Metro Area – 12,758
2. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area – 10,074
3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA Metro Area – 9,850
4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area – 9,131
5. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area – 8,676
6. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA Metro Area – 8,079
7. Fresno, CA Metro Area – 7,967
8. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA Metro Area – 7,120
9. Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN Metro Area – 6,210
10. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area – 5,806
11. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA Metro Area – 5,106
12. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI Metro Area – 4,762
13. Stockton, CA Metro Area – 4,266
14. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area – 4,212
15. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area – 4,036
16. Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA Metro Area – 3,456
17. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Metro Area – 3,403
18. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Metro Area – 2,870
19. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area – 2,721
20. Fort Smith, AR-OK Metro Area – 2,536
21. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV Metro Area – 2,502
22. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area – 2,482
23. Honolulu, HI Metro Area – 2,465
24. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX Metro Area – 2,441
25. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area – 2,429
26. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC Metro Area – 2,331
27. Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area – 2,317
28. Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area – 2,278
29. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO Metro Area – 2,253
30. Wichita, KS Metro Area – 2,182
31. Columbus, OH Metro Area – 2,103
32. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area – 2,012
33. Anchorage, AK Metro Area – 1,997
34. Modesto, CA Metro Area – 1,983
35. Visalia-Porterville, CA Metro Area – 1,978
36. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ Metro Area – 1,869
37. Merced, CA Metro Area – 1,810
38. Holland-Grand Haven, MI Metro Area – 1,788
39. Redding, CA Metro Area – 1,743
40. Rochester, NY Metro Area – 1,677
41. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metro Area – 1,627
42. Rockford, IL Metro Area – 1,485
43. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area – 1,425
44. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO Metro Area – 1,322
44. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA Metro Area – 1,322
45. Amarillo, TX Metro Area – 1,267
46. Worcester, MA Metro Area – 1,201
47. Greensboro-High Point, NC Metro Area – 1,159
48. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA Metro Area – 1,046
49. New Iberia, LA Micro Area – 1,011
50. Oklahoma City, OK Metro Area – 971

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Coming this April: Gods and Demons at Kearny Street!

I'm teaching a four-session workshop on Mondays in San Francisco with the acclaimed Kearny Street Workshop on speculative literature for emerging Asian American writers!

Our primary focus will be creating Asian American horror, and naturally also touching on science fiction, fantasy, and mythology.

"How can we interrogate our own diaspora through these genres and develop narratives that are true and authentic to our experiences? What new possibilities could it bring us?"

Space IS limited: I'm only taking on 13 students in this workshop series. But I hope to see you there! 

Over the course of the four sessions, the plan is: An overview of Asian and Asian American horror and speculative literature, where there's room to make our mark, and why?

We'll discuss techniques in traditional and modern ghost and monster stories. Where is there room for innovation, what's worth preserving?

We'll address topics in Morality, the Supernatural, the Cultural and the Political, from Kaiju to the Killing Fields. There'll be discussions of the  Macabre, Memories, and the Mythological. I'm hoping to make it about 1 hour lecture, 1 hour workshop and conversation for each of these.

The learning outcomes will include:

1) An appreciation for Asian and Asian American horror and what distinguishes the two from each other.

2) An understanding of professional techniques for structuring a story, understanding how to be transgressive and challenging without throwing your community under the bus or perpetuating AAPI stereotypes.

3) How to incorporate traditional elements of your heritage into a story and how to research the mythic and the historical for accuracy, while also knowing when to make departures.

4) An understanding of how to format and submit works professionally, and how to navigate professional resources available to you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cajun Sushi Hamsters, Murder, Aliens and Cats. An interview with Mary Turzillo

Mary Turzillo is a writer of many talents with a great sense of humor, imagination and poetry that I admire. I first ran into her work as a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and quickly realized we had many things in common as writers with roots in the Midwest.

Based in Ohio, her work includes the award-winning Lovers & Killers, which won the the very first Elgin Award for Book of the Year from the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She also received a Nebula Award for her novelette Mars is No Place for Children. Her short fiction has been appearing since at least 1994, and she's produced three poetry collections so far beginning with her 2007 debut Your Cat & Other Space Aliens.

Mary has been a professor at Kent State University, and written books on Anne McCaffrey and Philip Jose Farmer. Her husband is the science fiction writer and scientist Geoffrey Landis, who I also feel does wonderful and thoughtful work well worth reading. In Cleveland, she founded the Cajun Sushi Hamsters writing workshop.

I was very curious to see her perspective as a writer and poet, and I appreciate her taking the time out to discuss this ideas with me. Be sure to visit her website and check out her writing.There's much to learn from her style and technique, and I'm looking forward to seeing her next collections.

How did you first develop an interest in poetry? How would you describe your access to poetry growing up?

I was read to from a very early age (two or three) by my grandmother, grandfather, and mother. According to my grandmother, I swatted my grandfather because he didn't use enough emotion in his reading. A lot of books for very young children are in verse, as you realize.

Once I got into first grade, I conceptualized that words on paper were connected to spoken words and stories, and I resolved to write my own Things (I didn't see any difference between poems and stories, and I still don't, really). My mother happens to have saved my first poem, which I wrote down in second grade.

She bought me complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, which of course set the course of my imagination for the ensuing years.

Which poem of yours do you usually recommend to someone who wants to read your work for the first time?

Oh, how to choose? Let me recommend three, since poems are short. "The Emperor's New Spacesuit," "If You Loved Me" (my elegy to borderline personality disorder), and "The Hunter's Mothers." These are in Your Cat & Other Space Aliens, (VanZeno).

The book I'm proudest of is Lovers & Killers, from Dark Regions Press which won the Elgin award in 2013.

I also have a recently published Best of chapbook called A Guide to Endangered Monsters, from Night Ballet Press. It has all my favorites and prizewinners.

Do you prefer coffee or tea?

I like both, but lean a bit more to tea. My preferences change all the time, but right now I like Tulsi Red Chai Masala. And of course, like all cultured people, I love Earl Grey.

If you could have any legendary being for a pet or a companion, what would you choose?

Ganesha, because he is the the remover of obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, god of intellect and learning, Lord of beginnings, and the writer's best friend. And who wouldn't love a deity in the shape of an elephant? But maybe that's a bit blasphemous, because Ganesha is, after all, a god. So my second choice would be Gummitch, from Fritz Leiber's "Space-Time for Springers."

What aspects of life in Ohio did you find most conducive to writing? Did you feel there any distinctive challenges?

Cleveland is a real hub for writing of all kinds. My husband runs a blog called clevelandpoetics ( The clevelandpoets calendar shows at least one poetry event every night, sometimes several. We have at least ten local indy presses, and I'm not even counting college and university presses. Northeast Ohio is the happening place for poetry. I spent time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Pasadena, and it was hard to find much going on. Workshops, if there were any, were run by university prigs who wanted to charge huge fees, and who in my humble opinion needed a few lessons themselves, in humility if nothing else. As to readings in Pasadena and Boston? Oh, maybe a few here and there. A couple a month. Never open mic. But in contrast, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Akron have some wow stuff going on. Cleveland's slam team is prominent in the nation.

As far as fiction is concerned, in the internet age, geography is not a big issue. You read, you submit electronically, no problems.

Superman was born here. Roger Zelazny (who was a poet in addition to being a fiction writer). Vachel Lindsay. Hart Crane. Rita Dove. Paul Laurence Dunbar. Langston Hughes. James Wright. Ambrose Bierce. Gloria Steinem. Joe Eszterhas. Leigh Brackett. Harlan Ellison. Kenneth Patchen. John Scalzi lives here now. The list goes on.

Sometimes Geoff and I think the cornucopia of poetry opportunities is a lure that keeps us from writing fiction.

When did you feel Your Cat & Other Space Aliens was "finished" and ready to send to publishers for consideration?

Actually, it didn't happen that way. I do a lot of readings, mostly local in northeast Ohio, but also at cons, both in the US and the UK. A local poet and editor, Marcus Bales, had heard me read and had also read my stuff. He was inaugerating a press devoted to spoken word poetry, and he asked me to submit a group of poems. I gave him 96 poems, about half of which were already published, and he chose 69 of these to be in the book. In some ways, Marcus was a collaborator, in that he selected poems that he thought were the best and that worked together thematically. He didn't edit the poems themselves, but he definitely worked with me on concept. We came up with the title together and it really works for me.

I've never actually published a poetry collection that I submitted cold. I do have a couple of books I've lazily shopped around for various contests and publishers. I don't like fee contests; I am concerned that younger, less well-heeled authors are shut out of that process. Not everybody can shell out $50.00 every time they see a new call for a manuscript. I have five single-author collections in print, and all of them have been published because the editor came to me. I admit it, I'm lazy.

Anyway, Marcus published Your Cat & Other Space Aliens under his imprint of VanZeno, and I'm really happy with how it came out. He's a brilliant editor and incidentally a very fine satiric poet.

Marge Simon and I have four collaborative collections, and she placed them, being not only a genius poet but a woman who knows the indy poetry landscape better than anybody else in the known universe. She was a long-time president of the Small Press Writers and Artists Organization. We mull over where to submit (we have been rejected a few times, mostly because our concepts were pure hubris). And we mull over whether each book is finished. In fact, we're mulling that over right now with a book called Satan's Spawn.

I should mention that the brilliant and underappreciated poet Bruce Boston has edited two of my collections and also the collaborations Marge and I did. Bruce came up with the title of Lovers & KIllers, and he also did the cover. I couldn't be happier.

What's been one of the most unusual subjects you've tried to take on with a poem?

Jodi Arias. Marge and I are writing a collection of poems about murderesses. Jodi stands out as one of the strangest subjects for poetry that I can think of.

What's one of your enduring memories from the Cajun Sushi Hamsters?

Steve Swiniarski (A.K.A. S. Andrew Swann) brought the early manuscript of Forests of the Night to our workshop, and we gave him enthusiastic encouragement. We have a custom that a writer has to bring a bottle of champagne to the workshop when he or she sells a story. When Steve sold Forests, and was reminded of this, he confessed shamefacedly, "I'm not old enough to buy champagne."

How easy is it for you to determine if a piece should be prose or poetry? What was the most difficult example to choose from, so far?

Basically, the issue is whether I want to spend an afternoon first-drafting a poem, a couple of weeks making it into a story, or a year making it into a novel. If I can stab the subject quick and deadly, it's a poem. I have a poem I've never published about a certain genetic aberration, and I've written a novelette on the same theme. They go together. I've never sent the poem out, because it would be a spoiler for the novelette. I really should get that novelette in the mail --

Of course fiction needs more of everything. My poetry tends to be narrative, but a story or a novel needs a lot of threads and characters and incidents.

I say I can write a poem in an afternoon, but I've picked at poems, adding a word, removing a word, twisting a line, for years. You know how it is, right? You lie in bed trying to think of the exact right word.

Are there any frontiers in poetry that you feel today's poets could explore more?

Right now SFnal writers are dodging the whole form issue. We need to write form poetry, not just doggeral, but actual good villanelles, sonnets, tanka, sestinas, etc. I personally write a lot of non-form poetry, and I don't think it's in any way inferior to the hard stuff, but I think poets should experiment with form just to see how it feels. I think what a person learns from writing metered poetry or poetry that has some exterior shaping transfers to free verse.

I also think many speculative poets should browse in the vast ocean of poetry that's being published and performed today. There's so much. So much variety.

One good thing is that there seems to be no wall between speculative poetry and the poetry of the greater literary world. A lot of Billy Collins' work could appear in Asimov's. I sometimes meet poets who have no idea that their work is speculative and then a couple months later, at my suggestion, they submit to Star*Line and get an acceptance.

Bram Stoker Award final nominees announced!

The Horror Writers Association has announced this year's final slate for the Bram Stoker Awards. You can see the full list over at: but I'm going to highlight the finalists who made the slate in poetry:

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
Bruce Boston – Resonance Dark and Light (Eldritch Press)
Alessandro Manzetti – Eden Underground (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Ann Schwader – Dark Energies (P’rea Press)
Marge Simon – Naughty Ladies (Eldritch Press)
Stephanie M. Wytovich – An Exorcism of Angels (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel “Dracula,” the Bram Stoker Awards® are presented annually for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays and non-fiction. Previous winners include Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Joyce Carol Oates and Neil Gaiman.

A big congratulations to all of the nominees. Be sure to check out their work. They are all doing some very interesting things with poetry!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, James Hong!

James Hong is a familiar face to almost anyone who watched science fiction and action movies in the 1980s and 90s.

He was born on February 22nd, 1929 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and studied civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Southern California and worked briefly as a road engineer with the County of Los Angeles. He used sick leaves and vacation time to do films before quitting to be a full-time actor. At one point he was in the running to play the role of Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, but the role eventually went to George Takei.

With over 400 credits to his name, his body of work includes favorites of mine such as Blade Runner, Big Trouble In Little China, and many which fall under the category of guilty pleasures for me.

James Hong is also one of the founders of the East-West Players, the oldest Asian American theater in Los Angeles. He also served as president and charter member of the Association of Asian Pacific American Artists. Be sure to check out his IMDB credits and see some of the fun work he's been a part of.

Also, recently, the second volume of the Big Trouble in Little China comic book series has come out, with the plot described as "Lo Pan has been resurrected! To say he is in a bad mood would be putting it lightly. He has just come from the Hell of Those Killed by Idiots, the lowest rung of the ladder when it comes to honorable Hells, and for a sorcerer warlord like Lo Pan, it’s the worst humiliation imaginable! Worse than that, the body of flesh and blood that he waited thousands of years for has been taken from him and he once again is a lost spirit unable to partake in earthly pleasures. Jack Burton must pay!"

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Southeast Asian Superheroes coming to Silicon Valley Comic Con!

In cool news for the week, Nor Sanavongsay and I just got the heads up that our panel on Southeast Asian Superheroes just got accepted for Silicon Valley Comic Con.

Silicon Valley Comic Con was established by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is always looking for the next fun project. He wanted to create an atmosphere of fun and learning, and already it looks like they've gotten a great lineup for the the event. Cast members from Back to the Future, Dr. Who and Firefly, and Stan Lee are some of the people who've got our attention.

There are so many high-powered guests and celebrities scheduled for this, I don't know how many we'll actually get to meet in person, but our hopes are high.The event will be held at the San Jose Convention Center on 150 West San Carlos Street in San Jose on March 18-20th.

We'll have some exciting new sketches and discussions to share with everyone in a few weeks! See you there!

The Kalama Sutta and free thought

Kalama Sutta

Alam Hi Vo Kalama Kankhitum Alam
Vicikicchitum, Kankhaniye Ca
Pana Vo Thane Vicikiccha Uppanna, Etha Tumhe
Kalama Ma Anussavena, Ma Paramparaya,
Ma Itikiraya, Ma Pitaka Sampadanena,
Ma Takkahetu, Ma Naya Hetu,
Ma Akara Parivitakkena, Ma Ditthi Nijjhanakkhantiya,
Ma Bhabharupataya, Ma Samano No Garuti.
Yada Tumhe Kalama, Attanava Janeyyatha,
Ime Dhamma Akusala, Ime Dhamma Savajja,
Ime Dhamma Vinnu Garahita, Ime Dhamma Samatta
Samadinna Ahitaya Dukkhaya
Samvattantiti: Atha Tumhe Kalama Pajaheyyatha.

Tradition maintains that the Buddha outlined these principles in the Anguttara Nikaya section of the Tipitika, and it is accepted by both Theravada and Mahayana traditions. Although there's more to the rest of the sutta, this passage is among the more commonly recited, and often translated as:

Kalama Sutta
Do not believe in anything (simply)
because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they
have been handed down for many generations.
Do not believe in anything because it is
spoken and rumoured by many.
Do not believe in anything (simply) because
it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority
of your teachers and elders.
But after observation and analysis,
when you find anything that agrees with reason
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all
then accept it and live up to it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Speaking at University of California Davis: March 7th

The last time I spoke in the Sacramento area was 7 years ago. I'll be speaking at UC Davis for the very first time on Monday, March 7th for one night only for "Transitions: Refugee Memories & Imagination in Diasporic Expression." I'll be covering a wide range of topics, reading a few of my works, and challenging our expectations of post-colonial refugee literature. This will be free to the public!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week

"What is the sound of one dachshund barking?"
Dachshunds at the City of 10,000 Buddhas, Ukiah.

Friday, February 12, 2016

[Poem] Narrative of the Naga's Heirs at Uncanny Magazine

My new poem "Narrative of the Naga's Heirs" in Uncanny Magazine debuted in Uncanny Magazine this January, and it is now available online as free content. Be sure to check it out, and as always, thank you for supporting diverse voices in poetry and speculative literature! Quick Sip Reviews also did a nice review of my poem and the other works in this issue of Uncanny Magazine which really added to the larger discussions we've been having on speculative literature lately. Be sure to check it out.

National Lao American Writer's Summit Funding Drive is on!

This year is the first time we've ever done a National Lao American Writer's Summit outside of Minnesota, by popular demand. But it's also a very new process of trying to fund it and get the word out to the community. This year, I'll be one of the keynote speakers at the third National Lao Amercian Writers Summit, along with Channapha Khamvongsa, executive director of Legacies of War.

We've come a long way since the first one at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2010. We've found so many new writers, artists and community builders with stories to tell. Now, more than ever, we need to continue that work.

The San Diego organizing committee needs our help to make it possible. This is a cause that is obviously near and dear to my heart, so I hope you'll consider helping them out. They're almost 1/3rd of the way there, but in order to bring over a dozen nationally-recognized, award-winning Lao writers to the community in San Diego, they still need to raise at least $7,000. This will go a long way to making the best use possible of the acclaimed Centro Cultural de la Raza and the surrounding spaces.

We're making good progress but, we have just a little over a month to go. You can check out the donation page over at:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thao Worra Day 2016!

Continuing our annual tradition since 2007:

We're rapidly approaching February 14th, and some of you don't like the Romantic Candy-Card Industrial Complex. So, as always, I present the annual reminders of your options for alternate February 14th occasions to observe.

You can always celebrate these anniversaries:
1929: The St Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago.
1950: USSR and China sign peace treaty.
1963: First successful kidney transplant.

February 14th is also the birthday of:
1766: Thomas Malthus, the misanthropic British philosopher.
1817: Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist.
1819: Christopher Sholes, American inventor of the typewriter.

Once again, should  none of these strike your fancy, I hereby endorse the continued celebration of Thao Worra Day.Much as in the spirit of Festivus, the festival for the rest of us, you too may engage in the following activities to mark Thao Worra Day in good spirits and much amusement:

  • Send a nice note to someone you have just met or haven't talked to in a while.
  • Declare yourself Emperor of the World (or Empress) and see if anyone notices. But you have to give back everyone's stuff by the end of the day. Or before the cops come.
  • Treat yourself to a nice meal with someone you genuinely like, but in a completely non-romantic way. I totally approve.
  • Make sure all your electronic equipment is fully recharged, that it may go well for you.
  • Read a short poem out loud, even if no one is looking. No, it doesn't have to be one of mine.
  • Leave two chairs for my and a guest at your desk or table. For we may come by. But don't hold it against us if we don't. We do have a busy schedule, you know.
  •  Though Thao Worra Day is not for everyone, it is free for all to choose and participate in. If you do so choose to mark it, let me know how it goes!