Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reading October 1st at Common Good Books!

Come hear Sharon Chmielarz, Connie Wanek, and Bryan Thao Worra read round-robin style at Nina’s Café, above Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul (corner of Selby and Western) 7pm-8pm on Wednesday, October 1, 2008.

The event is FREE and open to the public. The reading is part of the Nina’s Café “Verse and Converse” Series, and has the support of Common Good Books.


Sharon Chmielarz has had four books of poetry published and one chapbook. She also has poems appearing this year in The Laurel Review, The Iowa Review, The Hudson Review, Water~Stone, Whispering Shade, Kalliope, Ascent, Margie, and So to Speak. Her book The Other Mozart has been made into a two-part opera.


Connie Wanek is the author of two books of poems: Bonfire (1997) and Hartley Field (2002). She was also co-editor of the anthology, To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (2006). Her third book of poems, On Speaking Terms, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2009. Ted Kooser named her a 2006 Witter Bynner Fellow of the Library of Congress. She lives in Duluth.


Bryan Thao Worra is a Laotian-American poet whose first full-length collection, On the Other Side of the Eye, was released by Sam’s Dot in August. His poetry appears internationally, and he is a recent Minnesota State Arts Board grantee.


See the complete schedule of upcoming readings at READINGS at

Creatures of Laos: Insects

Every now and then you run into something a little different. This is a lively look at the startling variety of insects to be found in Laos someone posted on Myspace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Winter Ink and the MN Center for Book Arts

Here are some images from the production of my new book Winter Ink coming out in December from the wonderful artisans of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. I'm really very excited about this unique project after having seen the results of this effort so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


In the coming weeks ahead, we'll be trying some new things out at On The Other Side Of The Eye while we contemplate new directions both for this blog and creatively across the board!

In the meantime, get ready as we continue to discuss more issues involving my new upcoming books Winter Ink and BARROW, some great readings including Common Good Bookstore, Wisconsin Lutheran College, the Arcana Horror Convention, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Twin Cities Book Festival and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts!

We'll also discuss the upcoming Legacies of War / Refugee Nation project in the Twin Cities in 2009, one of our most ambitious projects ever.

With October coming around the corner, expect our annual review of the strange and the supernatural of Asia, and in November we'll have our annual look at National Adoption Month.

Many other exciting topics will be posted here soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!

Today it's Leonard Cohen's birthday! His music helped me get through many tough and often lonely moments in my life, and his work has always demonstrated to me the importance of doing my own personal best to create challenging verse and ideas.

When we look at his body of work, even when he signs about love, romance, and all of the things you'd think a singer is supposed to sing about, he brings a thoughtful, brutally honest approach to presenting the real challenges of intimacy and relationships. We might well look to songs of his like "Bird on a Wire" or "Last Year's Man" or "Chelsea Hotel" for a good example of this. A love song from Leonard Cohen is always so much more than "that".

Monday, September 08, 2008

Beyond The Other Side Of The Eye: Call For Submissions

First, a big thanks goes out to everyone who supported the one-year anniversary of On The Other Side Of The Eye last month. There's been so much good news and progress made, and I'm looking forward to the coming years ahead with you.

I'm now announcing that to celebrate the 2nd anniversary in 2009, we're going back to where it all started with a very special art exhibit and a series of special events at the J&S Bean Factory at 1342 Thomas Ave. in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Between 2005-2007, at the J&S Bean Factory, I wrote and organized the final elements that would ultimately become On The Other Side Of The Eye, the first full-length book of Laotian American speculative poetry in the world. It's a great space in the Midway area of St. Paul.

This last weekend I learned another writer had also finished his first book there recently while enjoying the coffee, food and amenities at the J&S Bean Factory. If you get a chance to, stop by there, and tell them I said hello!

The exhibit, Beyond The Other Side Of The Eye, will feature the work of several artists who were inspired by the book, in both photography, illustration and painting, as well as poems and other mediums. There will also be readings and workshops throughout the month to celebrate!

There are still a few spaces open for artists who are interested in participating in the exhibit! If you're interested drop a line to me at and we can discuss the additional details!

Yes, there's still time to create additional work. The deadline for submission is July 1st, 2009. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! :)

Hyphen Short Story Competition - Deadline Extended

Deadline Monday, September 29, 2008

Hyphen magazine and The Asian American Writers' Workshop encourage you to enter the 2008 Short Story Competition. The winner gets $ 1,000, publication in Hyphen magazine, and a subscription to Hyphen and membership to The Workshop.

This is a great opportunity for emerging writers: the winner of the 2007 Short Story Competition, Preeta Samarasan, published her debut novel, Evening is the Whole Day, through Houghton Mifflin this past May and received prominent coverage in Poets & Writers.

Finalists will have their work judged by Samarasan and Monica Ferrell, whose novel, The Answer Is Always Yes, was published by Random House this past April.

Review their terms of entry and enter.
Deadline now extended to Monday, September 29, 2008!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Winter Ink Wordle.

Here is one graphic representation or tag cloud of all the words that appear within my forthcoming book, Winter Ink!

Call for Book Art: 9/5 Deadline!

Last minute call for art to go with my new book, Winter Ink, being presented by the Minnesota Center For Book Arts this December. We go to print next week, so we need your submissions fast!

From the Minnesota Center For Book Arts:

Open Call for 2008 Winter Book Art
Deadline: Friday, September 5th, 2008

Minnesota Center for Book Arts' 2008 Winter Book, Winter Ink, presents the work of poet, short story writer, playwright and essayist Bryan Thao Worra. Born in Laos in 1973 and now residing in the Twin Cities, Worra's work is known internationally and has been featured in numerous acclaimed anthologies including Bamboo Among the Oaks, Outsiders Within and Contemporary Voices from the East.

This call is for an illustration to use on the title page of the book. Specifics and criteria are presented below. Additional images may be selected for use in other segments of the Winter Book. If an artists' work is used in the publication, they will receive a free copy of the book.


* The size of the illustration should be no larger than 3 inches wide by 4 inches high. Work should be portrait oriented. The final size of the illustration may be resized proportionally by the Winter Book design team.

* Work may be created using any medium, but should reflect the title, "Winter Ink." Abstract images are preferred, incorporating techniques such as expressive mark-making, line drawing, ink painting and improvisational brushwork. Selected work will capture a mood, shape, action or represent in some manner the physical properties of ink. Illustrations should not be representational or renderings of actual objects.

* Work should be flat and high contrast (i.e. black and white). Selected images will be scanned to produce plates. Only physical originals will be accepted. If an image is created digitally, submit a hard copy.

* Artists may submit multiple entries.

Include your name, address, telephone number and email with each entry.

To be considered, illustrations must be received by 5pm September 5, 2008.

All entries become the property of MCBA.

Entries may be dropped off at The Shop at MCBA or mailed to:

Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Winter Book Design Team
1011 Washington Ave. South #100
Minneapolis, MN 55415.

Questions? Email Jeff Rathermel, MCBA's Artistic Director at

Monday, September 01, 2008

Creatures of Laos: Pangolins

Known as the Chinese Pangolin, this interesting creature can occasionally be spotted in Laos and Southeast Asia, from reports of different travelers who've encountered it.

A pilot for the US Forward Air Controllers in Tim Robbins' classic work, The Ravens mentioned the pangolin and other unusual creatures being brought to the base at Long Tieng during the mid-20th century.

Pangolins are nocturnal and very shy but can live in a wide range of settings, typically open country with large termite mounds.

Pangolins are usually on the ground and slow moving. But they're also agile climbers.

Pangolins get their preferred food from the mounds of ants and termites, using their claws and probing for insects with a long tongue which can reach up to 25 cm.

Pangolins dig burrows up to 3 meters long. Watch out for their strong claws.

You can tell the difference between an Asian pangolin and the African pangolins by the hair at the base of the scales of pangolins in Asia.

Creatures of Laos: Kha-Nyou: Laotian Rock Rat

First noticed by scientists in the mid-90s in the meat markets of Laos but widely identified for mainstream scientific communities in 2005, the kha-nyou is also known as the Laotian rock rat or rat squirrel.

The nocturnal kha-nyou seems quite tame and slow-moving, with a walk described as duck-like, an efficient method for scrambling up and across large rocks.

They're about 26 cm long with a 14 cm tail and weigh about 400 grams.

The kha-nyou is mostly found in parts of Laos with karst limestone, among the boulders on hills. Villagers in the area are familiar with the kha-nyou and consider them edible.

Back in 2005, a conservation biologist, Robert Timmins was quoted on its discovery by non-Laotian scientists: "It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables, and I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before."

People in the Khammouan region of Laos have known about the kha-nyou for a long time of course, and prepare it by roasting it on a skewer.

The kha-nyou belongs to a family of rodents thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.

There are still controversies about the kha-nyou, but so far, we know they're definitely NOT related to guinea pigs.

Right now, research strongly suggests that the kha-nyou is the only known survivor of the Diatomyidae family, and the closest relative still living in the world would be the Gundi, found in Africa:

And now we know.

We'll look again soon at other fun creatures you can find in Laos!