24 January 2009

Spotlight on.......Honey S. Lapcharoen

Today's interview is with Honey Lapcharoen. Honey and I were in the same program at college, lived in the same dorm- but didn't really become friends until our junior year. I would have a difficult time putting into words how I feel about Honey. To say that she has been my mentor, my trusted and great friend, and a sounding board for me feels like an understatement. I have learned so much from her in so many different arenas of life: spirituality, self-confidence and assuredness and respect. The list could go on and on. She is one of the most deeply insightful, bright, beautiful people I know.

Tell me about all of your interests, ie. baking, cats, art, music, poetry, etc.......
My love of music fuels all of my other interests. It scares me to think about how lost I'd be without my personal soundtrack. I love to write, to work in the garden, to cook, and I do all of those things while listening to my favorite bands. I connect some of the most important experiences of my life to particular songs, lyrics, and voices.

I've written poetry on and off since high school, but only recently became serious about writing poetry as something to share with others. I love watching television when the writing behind it exceeds my expectations.

I consider myself a spiritual person. I'm a Buddhist by choice and I've found that amazing things happen when I pray. I'm also a cat person because cats rule and dogs drool.

You are working on your PhD....what are you writing about and how has your writing process changed since you began the project? What is the mission of your thesis?
I'm writing my dissertation about an amazing Japanese American artist named Roger Shimomura. I first saw his work in a magazine, and was completely overwhelmed by how much I related to the issues of Asian American identity he critiques in his art. My dissertation explores how I, as an Asian American viewer, make connections to aspects of his work that communicate an "Asian American" experience. The difficulty with my thesis is that it relies on an overtly subjective-critical perspective. Using the "personal" perspective in academic work is challenging, so I've had to read the work of theorists who specialize in autobiography, narratives and alternative methods of research. Art remains a discipline which benefits from a variety of perspectives including psychoanalysis, sociology, history, critical theory, and philosophy, so I have a great deal to work with. Ultimately, I'm trying to write a paper which adds something informative and unique to the discussion of ethnicity and identity. I want it to be simultaneously personal and intellectual.

Before I started work on the dissertation, I never wrote anything longer than 20 pages. Writing a paper 150 pages or more was a daunting prospect for me. I used to be the kind of writer who edited every sentence before it ever showed up on the page. I don't do that anymore. I just write whatever babble comes to my head and edit everything later. Editing takes a lot of practice, and I've had many opportunities to edit the writing of others. All of that outside work enabled me to see the strengths and shortcomings of my own work.

You've teamed up with a film maker-- what are you working on?
Mika Johnson is a person that I've known for over 7 years. He's made a few short films, but started work on a feature film script about four years ago. He wanted to hear my opinions about his story's synopsis, so I agreed to give him feedback. Before I realized what was happening, I became completely involved in his project. His film is called "AMERIKA: a notebook in three parts," and tells the story of a Japanese woman who comes to the United States in search of her father and her true destiny. Mika is a fantastic director and photographer, but I found that his writing lacked the poetry of his visual palate and imagination. So I volunteered my time and helped him basically re-write and edit his script. I'm now the co-writer for AMERIKA, and the writer for Arcanum Productions, the company he started with his wife. It's been an exciting and frustrating time because we're trying to find funding to make the film. But overall, it's been one of the most rewarding endeavors I've ever been a part of.

How do you structure your day? What is your creative process?
I can't really focus on writing until I have a cup of coffee in my hands. If I smoked, I'd probably be on a pack a day by now. I'm not a morning person, so I don't usually do any writing until after noon. Sometimes writer's block hits me and I'll find any excuse in the world to distract me from the void in my brain. My most productive and fruitful artistic experiences happen between the hours of midnight and 3am. And needless to say, I don't sleep soundly.

With writing, I make lots of notes by hand and type them up later. Music also helps to motivate me. You know that feeling you have when you're listening to an upbeat song while you're on the treadmill? The one that makes you want to run faster? When I listen to the right song, I physically write faster and think more clearly. It's strange.

You started off studying one thing and gradually, that thing kept morphing. Can you talk about how your life as a student has brought you to where you are today.

When I was at Syracuse University I realized that I enjoyed speaking and thinking about the impact of art, rather than making art itself. Critical Theory seemed like a natural fit, because it combined extravagant thinking with academia. I eventually went to NYU for an Arts and Humanities Education degree, because it heavily focused on Critical Studies. The Doctoral program in Art Education was more of the same.

But when I was in the thick of graduate school, I sometimes felt completely inferior to everyone around me - students, professors, other visual artists. I was the youngest person in my doctoral program and I'd often be sitting at a table with only two professors and two graduate students who were over 10 years older than me. There was pressure to speak and think in a particular "post-modern" way. I was able to keep up, but there were times when I would doubt my own sincerity. Now that I've had some time outside of the academic environment, I realize that I want to speak and think in a way that incorporates what I've learned without limiting the way I communicate that information.

What books, mentors, teachers, people, etc. have had the most influence on your development as a writer?

My mom is the biggest influence on my life. She represents everything I want to be in terms of her confidence, strength, and resolve. I've been exceedingly fortunate in the support I have had from teachers and friends throughout my life, but there's nothing more important to me than the support of my mom. In terms of writing, I am most inspired by Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." That novel speaks the breadth of the universe using the fewest amount of words. It's remarkable.

What are you currently reading?
I'm embarrassed by how many books I'm reading concurrently: Revolutionary Road, Blood Meridian, The Hunger Games, 2666, and Fantasy Lover-a romance book ;)

What are you inspired by?
I'm inspired by people who aren't afraid. I'm always afraid and I hate it.

What is your dream project?
I recently started writing a novel and if I finish it, publish it, and sell it, that will be my dream project.

What words do you live by each day??
I say a particular prayer every day and those are the words I live by. The prayer isn't from any text, it's something that I created a long time ago, when I was still finding my way. It works for me. But for something a little less enigmatic:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

You have been a very grounded, spiritual presence in my life, how does your spirituality affect the way you approach your creativity?
It's difficult for me to think of myself as a creative person, because I don't think that I have much of an imagination. I have a very pedestrian nature that impedes my ambition. But prayer has allowed me to see the scale and impact of my life on the world. Without getting too narcissistic, I have come to realize that my choices are significant, and the positive and negative energy that I reveal to others always finds its way back to me. I no longer believe in coincidence of any kind. Everything has significance and profundity, and I remain open to its possibility.

Honey S. Lapcharoen is a writer, editor, and artist from Silver Spring, Maryland. She holds a B.F.A. and M.A. in Art Photography and Arts and Humanities Education respectively, and is currently writing her Ph.D. on the work of Japanese American artist Roger Shimomura through New York University's Art Education and Visual Culture department. Her writing has been published in Beyond Race Magazine and at the Asian American online magazine iaLink. She is the co-author of the upcoming independent film "AMERIKA: a notebook in three parts" and is the lead writer at Arcanum Productions. She is a Cancer (moody) and a cancer survivor (thyroid), and she spends her free time pulling the tails of her cats.

Thank you Honey!