Ming Lauren Holden is an activist, actor, translator, educator, humanitarian aid and development worker, theater artist, and writer who was raised on a zebra ranch on California’s central coast. Ming has worked in the international development sector on four continents in thirteen countries since 2003. She studied Literary Arts at Brown, earned her MFA at Indiana University, and is pursuing a PhD at UCSB.
Holden was invited by the United States Embassy to Suriname on a diplomatic speaking engagement under the U.S. Speakers Program to speak about creative writing and theater as tools for empowerment for Women’s History Month in 2014. In 2011, she founded the Survival Girls, a self-sustaining theater group for young Congolese women in the slums of Nairobi. Her book about the experience, the nonfiction novella, The Survival Girls, came out in 2013. Ming also won the USAID worldwide essay contest for inclusion in the USAID Frontiers in Development publication alongside work by Bill Gates, Indra Noori, Paul Collier, and others. Ming’s writing about the Girls was also nominated for the AWP Intro Award for Nonfiction.
Holden served the Mongolian Writers Union as its first-ever International Relations Adviser during her year as a Henry Luce Scholar in Mongolia and worked towards the formation of a Mongolia PEN Center. She has since returned to Mongolia to work for The Asia Foundation on a literary translation and advocated for an exiled Chinese writer in Turkey at the Writers and Literary Translators International Congress 2010, where she was the youngest presenter and one of the only Americans. She is also the recipient of the Herman Wells Graduate Fellowship, Indiana University’s most competitive graduate award, designated for “leadership abilities, character, social consciousness, and generosity of spirit,” and the Woon-Joon Yoon Memorial Fellowship, for “students who have exemplified tolerance and understanding across racial and religious lines through service, personal commitment, academic achievement and future potential.”
Ming is the winner of Bellingham Review‘s 49th Parallel Poetry Award, Chattahoochee Review‘s Lamar York Nonfiction Prize and Glimmer Train‘s Family Matters Fiction Prize. Her nonfiction has also placed as a finalist or runner-up for the annual nonfiction prizes at Arts & Letters, Passages North, Ruminate, and Crab Orchard Review. While an undergraduate at Brown University (’07), Ming co-founded and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Brown Literary Review. Her poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism, interviews, photography, and literary translations have also appeared in The Daily Beast, Alchemy, Box Of Jars, Cerise Press, The Best American Poetry Blog, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Jai-Alai, The Huffington Post, Molotov Cocktail, Peaches and Bats, The Poker, Prospect, The Rumpus, the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, the Santa Barbara Independent, Slice Magazine’s blog, and others.
Ming has worked in community development in Russia (at the Silver Taiga Sustainable Forestry Foundation); Syria (with Every Syrian); Turkey (independently); Ecuador (at the CEMOPLAF family planning clinic); Bolivia (at the Rio Beni Health Project); Mongolia (at The Asia Foundation and the Mongolian Writers Union); Kenya (independently; at the UNHCR; and with the Golden Globe Foundation); Suriname (through the American Embassy); and also in California (at People Helping People and The Odyssey Project) and in New York (at Archipelago Books).
A recipient of the University of California’s Special Regents Fellowship, Ming was a part of the pilot Graduate Affiliate Fellow program at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UCSB, where she is currently earning a PhD in Theater and Dance. She most recently served both as the Instructor of Record for the Odyssey Project, which brings incarcerated youth and UCSB undergraduates together for a theater workshop, and as director of the concomitant show at Santa Barbara’s Center Stage Theater.
Her upcoming memoir Refuge (Kore Press, 2018) will be available for pre-order in February 2018, and out on June 1.
Author photo: Shyn Midili