Tuesday, February 9, 2010

National Lao American Writers Summit: August 13-15th

The National Lao American Writer’s Summit will mentor and support emerging Lao American writers. Held in Minneapolis at the acclaimed Loft Literary Center, during the Summit, nationally renowned Laotian American writers will conduct workshops with participants.

Readings, writing and informal social gatherings are scheduled and encouraged. Through this Summit, the organizers will provide a safe and instructive environment exploring the unique challenges and opportunities of emerging Laotian American writers.

This 3-day Summit is from Friday to Sunday, August 13-15th. Workshops will be from Friday to Saturday. A free public reading is on Saturday night..

Writing Workshops
Under the present plan, a nationally recognized Laotian American writer will facilitate each writing workshop using the open space approach. Workshops will consist of meaningful writing exercises and group discussions and opportunities for extended critique.

Community Panels
For emerging writers and non-artist participants, panels will highlight the current state of Lao American arts, opportunities and experiences of individual artists to examine the positive potential arts have on individual and community growth.

Resource Fair
Community members will have an opportunity to meet national, regional and local arts, philanthropic and refugee service organizations, publishers and researchers who can answer questions and advise writers and artists on significant opportunities.

Based on preliminary community discussions, we anticipate an audience of 100 to 200 people representing a wide range of states, particularly from the Minnesota, Texas, Washington, California, Illinois, Wisconsin and New York.

Lao Writers Summit: Background

There are approximately 200,000 ethnic Lao refugees in the US in the aftermath of the bloody war for the control of Laos (1954-1975). This war killed and displaced over half a million people.

35 years later, while many have successfully rebuilt their lives, nearly a third still live at or near the federal poverty level. Many are women who are widows, the elderly and single mothers with limited education and English fluency. Nearly 50% of Lao refugees are under 18, and less than 7% have bachelor's degrees. Many continue to live in linguistically isolated households. Less than 1 out of 100 have an advanced degree, particularly among Lao women. There are few Lao American books, journals, papers, films, TV shows or art exhibits after nearly 4 decades, causing a significant impact on internal and external community advocacy and awareness of key issues for social change.

There is a strong correlation between the arts and academic, professional and civic success among Southeast Asian refugees.

Minnesota has the third largest Laotian population. At least half of the Lao community resides in Hennepin County. The city of Minneapolis has the largest Lao population, followed by Brooklyn Park and other surrounding Twin Cities suburbs. There are several other areas with sizeable Lao populations: Olmsted County, Nobles County, Roseau County and Stearns County, as well as Mountain Lake, Warroad and St. Cloud.

Minnesota is home to several Lao artists, writers, educators and musicians, most notably award-winning, nationally recognized women artists like Malichansouk Kouanchao, Phouninh Vixayvong, Bounxou Chanthraphone and Saymoukda Vongsay among others.