An interview with writer and activist Mali Phonpadith
AAP staff writer
Mali Phonpadith is a Lao American writer/poet based in Washington DC. The co-founder of Reflections Within, Phonpadith has been writing poetry, short essays and short stories for over 20 years internationally. She has over 400 pieces of written work and was nominated as Best Poet of the Year by the International Society of Poets in 2007.
Phonpadith has been a tireless activist within the community, and often volunteers many hours and resources to the causes she loves, including the Young Professional Leadership Group, the International Society of Poets, the National Association for Women Business Owners, the Lao Heritage Foundation, Arts of Falls Church.
She is also an active volunteer with Teatro de la Luna. In August she will be coming to Minnesota to participate in the national Lao American Writers Summit gathering at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.
Asian American Press had an opportunity to interview her recently.
Asian American Press: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Mali Phonpadith: I spend a lot of time with my family, friends, and clients listening to their hopes, goals and dreams. They become my inspiration on so many levels- including ideas for my creative writing.
I do my best to give of my time to non-profit organizations that speak to my passions. This allows me to live a life where I am thinking bigger than myself, knowing that my support and actions to these causes will have significant impact on others and communities.
AAP: How did you get started writing?
MP: I was 12 years old. I had recurring dreams, the same one for almost two months: black feet, muffled sobbing in my ear, and sirens in the background. My mother told me later that I was recalling the day we escaped Laos. At that moment, it hit me! So much takes place in our lives that we forget, repress, or push aside. I did not want to live my life without documenting meaningful experiences so that’s when I started “journaling” … later, in High School, my English teacher pointed out that my writing was not necessarily “journal entries”, they were poetry.
AAP: How do you find time to write?
MP: In the evenings- it’s a part of my daily ritual, like carving out meditation time. I also schedule a creative writing day onto my calendar when I have a deadline- such as assignments from my editor as I work to publish my first book.
AAP: Why are you excited by the Lao American Writers Summit?
MP: I am excited about the Lao Writer’s Summit because I believe every person (writer/artist or not) wants a sense of belonging and community. This is an opportunity to bring like-minded, passionate writers together to share ideas, learn from one another, and teach each other new ways of expression. I am excited to bring the Lao people together and have a more powerful voice through our writing. I am excited about expanding my own personal network of creative minds.
AAP: What’s one of the best things someone has said to you about your writing?
MP: “Everytime I read something you write, I wonder if you someone entered into my mind because you are the voice, I am not able to speak.”
AAP: Do you have any advice for younger writers?
MP: Share your work. Include others in your life that you trust to provide constructive critism and positive feedback. Be open to others’ work so you can learn of different styles. Like any craft, practice and write from the heart. ο