39-year-old Lao youngest winner of Mekong River Literature Awards

Two members of the Writers’ Association of Laos won the Mekong River Literature Awards this year, including 39-year-old KabkeoThammavong, who was the youngest recipient of the prestigious prize.
The 9th edition of the literature awards was hosted by Vietnam, and Mr Kabkeo returned to Laos last Monday after receiving the prize in Hanoi. He was recognised for his book “The Sky After Rain”.

Writer Kabkeo Thammavong receiving his award in Vietnam.

Mr Kabkeo began writing the 260-page book last August and completed it in November. “I did not write just one book. I had written eight books since 2011 before my ninth book won an award,” he said.
But the road to success wasn’t easy. At a young age, he worked as a labourer and grew rice. At the age of 14, he decided to leave his hometown to go to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to find his destiny.
“At that time, I had no job and no money. I went to a temple and survived there by finding some food. I also studied in the temple’s school. That was the beginning of my life in Vientiane,” he said.
Several writers and poets from Laos submitted their works for the Mekong River Literature Awards this year but there were only two winners. “After my success at the Mekong River Awards, my dream is to write a story for submission to the SEA Write Award or Southeast Asian Writers Award,” he said confidently with a smile.
Mr Kabkeo said he also wrote “The Sky After Rain” to inspire students and young people from poor families who do not have many opportunities so that they would “get up to fight for life”. He added, “This is the meaning of ‘the sky after rain’.”
He said, “It will inspire people to read, especially those who are discouraged in life because they were born poor. This book tries to say no matter how poor we are, we should fight impoverishment, and when we have a chance, we can achieve our dreams.”
Mr Kabkeo explained his family did not have much when he was a child in Savanakhet province in southern Laos. “But nothing is hard. For example, if we do not pass an exam, we can do it again and again until we pass,” he said.
“Before I became a writer, I was heartbroken because of my girlfriend. She did not marry me and she left me to marry someone else,” he said. “Before this happened to me, I hated reading books. But after breaking up with my girlfriend, I liked to read stories every day as it helped me sleep well.”
He said talent alone is not enough to succeed in writing. “What is needed is the talent that comes with self-knowledge. Talents accounts for only 10 percent of writing, and the remaining 90 percent writers have to find on their own. The writers should learn by themselves,” he said.
The Mekong River Literature Awards, which are given away every year, recognise the works of writers from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The awards ceremony is held by rotation and Myanmar will host it next year.
The SEA Write Award is hosted by Thailand, and there is only one prize for the 10 Asean countries each year, whereas there are two winners from each country in the Mekong River Literature Awards.
The Mekong River Literature Awards was founded by Vietnam in 2008, and at that time, only writers from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were eligible. Since the Greater Mekong Sub-region includes six countries, China, Thailand and Myanmar were later included.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 3, 2018)

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