Monday, March 31, 2014

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay presents in Minnesota at the start of National Poetry Month

It's a busy week for Lao American writer Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. This Thursday April 3, 11am-12:30pm she is guest lecturing at a Asian American Identities, Families, and Communities class at the University of Minnesota.

On Thursday, April 3, 4:30pm-6:30pm, Duangphouxay Vongsay is speaking at Metro State University on how her Lao-ness "made me an awesome artist." Come join the conversation.

On Friday, April 4, 7pm-9pm, she's performing at this month's Poetry for Thought at the Demera Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar 823 W. University Ave, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104. Come hear them. Free to the public!

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is an award-winning Lao American poet and playwright whose poetry, essays, plays, and short stories have been published by literary journals, lifestyle magazines, almanacs, newspapers, anthologies, and scholastic journals nationwide. Her play Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals was named Best Production of 2013 by L'Etoile Magazine and as Theater Mu's 45th world premiere is it's highest grossing production to date.

Her literary, theater, and advocacy work is made possible through generous support from organizations such as the Jerome Foundation, Mu Performing Arts, MN State Arts Board, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, Loft Literary Center, Joyce Foundation/Alliance of Artist Communities (IL), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (DC), Asian Economic Development Association, and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (DC).

She's lent her experience in literary arts and community engagement to the work and programming of organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (DC), Legacies of War (DC), the MN Historical Society, and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang, Laos. Vongsay holds an English degree from the University of Minnesota and pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies focusing on public policy and arts and cultural leadership at the University of Minnesota.

She currently serves on the Board for Intermedia Arts, Saint Paul Almanac, Saint Paul Foundation's Asian Pacific Endowment, Dispute Resolution Center, and the Asian Economic Development Association's Arts Advisory. She's the Lead Chair for the National Lao American Writers Summit and Chair of the Twin Cities World Refugee Day Celebration Committee. Get to know her at

Lao Heritage Foundation Pacific Northwest 7th Annual Benefit Dinner a success!

The Lao Heritage Foundation's Pacific Northwest Chapter held their seventh annual benefit dinner at the Foundry in Seattle, Washington on Sunday, March 30th. They were completely sold out. They are grateful for all the support and humbled by the generosity of our community times and again.

Those who had tickets were encouraged to "Bring your dancing shoes, dress for their amazing photo booth, explore their night market, and have your very own copy of the Xieng Mieng children's book signed by the author Nor Sanavongsay himself."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

1st Lao American writer included at Poetry Foundation website

Lao American writer Bryan Thao Worra became the very first Lao American poet to be featured on the Poetry Foundation website. Established in 2003 by a major gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the Poetry Foundation evolved from the Modern Poetry Association, which was founded in 1941 to publish Poetry magazine, now in its 73rd year.

Over 3,261 American poets are currently featured at the Poetry Foundation, including many Asian American poets, but Bryan Thao Worra sets precedent for the community as a Lao American writer.

On his blog at On the Other Side of the Eye, he wrote,  "I hope my fellow Lao Americans see this not just as a personal victory, but a community victory, and that we recognize the value of our words and the things we can change from sharing our voices. That comes with responsibilities, but also infinite potential worth fighting for."

Lao American Writers on Campus: 2014-2015?

The Lao American Writers Society is beginning outreach to see if different college campuses and institutions would be interested in having Lao American writers or artists speak to students during the 2014-2015 academic year. 

The 2014-2015 year is a significant one for the Lao community in the United States because it marks 60 years since the recognition of Lao independence by the United Nations and 40 years since the end of the Lao civil war and the start of the Lao diaspora. 2015 is also 20 years since the founding of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project.

Less than 40 books about the Lao American experience have been written by the Lao in their own words. Laos is a nation the size of Great Britain, or in the US, it's comparable to Utah, or just a little larger than Minnesota. Today, there are more Lao living outside of Laos than inside it, with expatriate communities scattered across Asia, Europe, and the Americas. 

Over 400,000 Laotians are resettled in the US. 

There's still a long way to go for the Lao: 9 out of 10 have not successfully graduated from college, and many continue to live below the federal poverty line. But for those Lao who are engaged in the arts, there is often a strong connection to lifelong success. The timely introduction of Lao American writers to these students may play a key role in Lao American cultural development over the next 20 years if history is any indication.

Several of our award-winning writers are available to speak with different classrooms in almost every region. They can work to provide a sense of how the Lao American community came to form in the US and where the arts have played a vital role in our reconstruction. 

The writers are available individually or as a group, and they'd be delighted to work with college institutions to meet their budget and specific needs. 

You can also mail the Lao American Writers Society at:

Lao American Writers Society
PO Box 907

Winchester CA 91724

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bryan Thao Worra calls for Lao Writers to "Ratchet Things Up A Notch"

This week, Lao American writer Bryan Thao Worra posted on his blog, "On The Other Side Of The Eye" that it was time for Lao American writers to "Ratchet things up a notch." 

He cited a recent conversation with Saymoukda Vongsay, saying that "as Laotian Americans, we need to ratchet things up a notch, not only within Lao science fiction, fantasy and horror, but in all of our books."

He said: "As proud as I am of Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals, Nor Sanavongsay's A Sticky Mess, my own DEMONSTRA, and so many others, I also know we can do better. Many of our recent films are in the same boat. As we approach the next horizon, mediocrity needs to be stomped on. Hard."
He goes on to discuss other key issues Lao American writers are facing, even with their success, closing with:  "This is a hard critique to write, but we owe it to ourselves and to our readers to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We may not always hit J.K. Rowling or Stephen King numbers, but when we create, we must do so passionately to the very limits of our abilities. It must be breathtaking in its risk, it must be an experience to encounter. We should never settle for less."

"Our very future depends on it," he says. But what do you think? Is he right on the money? Or are we doing fine with our current progress creating a Lao American literary tradition?