Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lao Minnesotan Writers Summit is a go!

In exciting news for Lao writers everywhere, the organizers of the Lao Minnesotan Writers Summit announced that a $10,000 award was recently secured for use in 2015.

The Minnesota Metropolitan Regional Arts Council approved an award to convene the Writers Summit, tentatively scheduled for April 18-20 in Minneapolis. The location will most likely be near North Minneapolis where many of the 12,000+ Lao Minnesotans reside since the beginning of the Lao Diaspora.

The grant requires the Lao Minnesotan Writers Summit to raise at least $1,000 in additional matching funds, while ideally raising $15,000 for the full budget. This activity is possible in part from an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

Organizer Bryan Thao Worra said "It is exciting to know that we will be able to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lao diaspora with an event like this." The organizers are convening this to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project. The summit will in part serve to remember the deeply influential project on the arts and cultural reconstruction of the Lao in Diaspora.

The national AWP conference takes place April 8-11th, and the timing for the summit was selected to allow community members the opportunity to attend both events. The timing is also very close to the Lao Minnesotan New Year.

The Lao Minnesotan Writers Summit will convene community writing workshops during the 9 months leading up to the gathering. In recent past years, Lao Minnesotans have been working together to present many new books and performances. This includes Saymoukda Vongsay's "Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals" to "The Wolf and the Moon" a collection of Lao folktales collected by anthropologist David Zander and the Lao Assistance Center, as well as Little Laos on the Prairie editor Chanida Phaengdara Potter and her mother.

It will be 5 years since the National Lao American Writers Summit took place in 2010 at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Many of the participants then went on to national acclaim and performing across the country. Spoken word artist Catzie Vilayphonh of the duo Yellow Rage has gone on to lead the upcoming Laos in the House Project in Philadelphia. Oscar-nominated director and artist Thavisouk Phrasavath received an Emmy for his film The Betrayal (Nerakhoon). Bryan Thao Worra went on to represent Laos during the 2012 London Summer Games as a Cultural Olympian. Artist and author Nor Sanavongsay released his debut children's book, "A Sticky Mess," based on the Lao folk hero of Xieng Mieng.

Thao Worra said "For my Lao American artist colleagues, I hope this serves in part as a vindication and a validation of your work, I hope that you see it as an affirmation that there is a space for the Lao voice within the world. Keep creating, keep innovating, keep reaching for the best within yourselves and all living beings."

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