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‘Climbing the Walls,’ Griffith Review

Last year there was a call for submissions for the best new writers in Asia under 40.

I was 39. At the Asia Pacific Writers conference in Singapore they changed it to 45 and I panicked! More candidates! More experience! Oh no. I wrote my story and hesitated countless times before submitting it. I almost didn’t do it.

I need not have worried… and received a ‘congratulations’ email which I read, re-read and then showed a friend to make sure I understood correctly.

Yes my story ‘Climbing the Walls’ was published this month in Griffith Review: New Asia Now. A huge accomplishment. A renowned Australian quarterly publication. You can buy it in book stores around Australia and some places in Asia as well as online at: https://griffithreview.com

 

You can now read my short story Climbing the Walls, Griffith Review

“Griffith Review49: New Asia Now showcases outstanding young writers from the countries at the centre of Asia’s ongoing transformation. They write about the people and places they know with passion, flair and insight.”

‘A Perfect Statue’, Imprint14. Hong Kong

‘A Perfect Statue’ is a short story published in Imprint 14 Anthology, Hong Kong. It is a modified passage from Romi’s upcoming book: ‘Hip Hop & Hope, from the slums of Phnom Penh.’

A Perfect Statue  by Romi Grossberg

And some photos that go with the story. Below is Kha during his solo performance and right is the last scene from the story.

‘Healing through Hip Hop in the Slums of Phnom Penh,’ Rupkatha Journal

Healing through Hip Hop in the Slums of Phnom Penh’, Rupkatha Journal, Special issue on Performance Studies, 2013

​”Local non-government organisation ‘Tiny Toones’ is the first and only of its kind in Cambodia, to use hip hop to engage with, and empower the most disadvantaged children and youth in Phnom Penh. Working with young people from backgrounds of drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, gang life, family violence and extreme poverty, it offers creative arts alongside education and life skills….”

Read Article: Healing through Hip Hope in the Slums of Phnom Penh

‘Rock, Paper, Scissors,’ Travel essay competition Top 20

I Must Be Off! Travel Essay competition, 2013

“… I look in to the street and see there are beggars everywhere, from five year-olds to this ancient looking woman I just encountered. They all look sad, with the same vacant look in their eyes. As I am watching a little barefoot girl in tattered clothes being shooed away by the expats next door, I am startled by a young boy that approaches my table….”

My first ever story writing competition, and I made the top 20 list.

Read it here: Rock, Paper, Scissors

Australia Network Interview

Kate Arnott from ABC’s The Australia Network interviews Romi Grossberg, Manager of Tiny Toones Cambodia.

Romi brought her Cambodian hip hop group from ‘Tiny Toones’ on tour to Melbourne Australia to perform on stage at Chapel Off Chapel. Tiny Toones is a local Cambodian NGO working with street kids using hip hop and breakdance as the primary tool to engage with the underworld of Phnom Penh in the slums. The former street kids and now the teachers. Also featured in the interview are – Beaver, Fresh and Diamond.

‘Wefree’ event. San Patrignano, Italy

In October I flew to San Patrignano, Italy with KK, the founder of Tiny Toones and four of our Cambodian teachers/mentors aged 16-21.

San Partignano is a drug rehabilitation community and completely self sufficient and sustainable up in the mountains near Rimini, housing 2-3,000 former drug addicts. Each year they bring together people from all over the world to celebrate WeFree Day – We are Free of Drugs in a 5-day meeting, learning and sharing of knowledge on the topic of drugs and young people through the creative arts. Hip hop and breakdance NGO’s from all over the world were invited to participate- Cambodia (that’s us), Uganda, Canada, Portugal, Columbia, Italy and more. I spoke in a number of different forums with an Italian translator by my side but to be honest the heros of this trip were without a doubt my kids and all the break dancers there.

 

6th International Conference on Drugs & Young People. Australia

“Given it’s currently National Youth Week, we are pleased to have the United Nations recognise this conference as supporting their International Year of Youth activities,” said CEO Australian Drug Foundation, John Rogerson.

I am very proud to be invited to speak at the ‘6th International Conference on Drugs & Young People: Making Connections’ being held in the Melbourne Convention Centre, May 2-4th 2011.

It is exciting and slightly terrifying to be speaking on such a grand stage to an enormous auditorium of people. I will speak on my experience of drug and alcohol and mental health working in Melbourne and my experience of drug and alcohol, mental health and the creative arts where I work in Phnom Penh Cambodia and am still currently based.

6DYP Day 1 teaser.

 

Tedx Phnom Penh

In Febraury 2011, Cambodia held its first ever Tedx in Phnom Penh.

As Manager of Tiny Toones I was asked to present. Of course I wanted founder ‘KK’ to do it with me even though I knew I would get a certain “no.” KK is a humble and shy man. I did however manage to convince him to be recorded on video which we shot on my balcony over endless laughs (the offcuts could make a video on its own!).

Those that know me know I would never go anywhere without ‘my kids’ – the beloved staff and students of this hip hop centre. When asked to perform, my first question was “can I bring my kids up on stage?” which was initially met with silence. After explaining who they were and no they are not little children but teens and older… I was given permission.

Below is the Tedx presentation we did. The performance by ‘my kids’ was choreographed by them under the guidance of KK.

… and yes I did write a story about the lead up to Tedx: the fear, anxiety, excitement and the ultimate performance. Sections can be read in imprint 14: ‘A Perfect Statue’ or for those who can’t be bothered reading, you can watch it on video here in the blog from when I performed the written story at open-mic in Thailand.

We called it ‘Dance Your Life Around.’

 

Kha’s unbelievable solo.

Kha and Slick’s ‘dance fight’

The team

And I couldn’t have done it without Shhort…

 

Tedx rehearsal… on my birthday

Me rehearsing on my 36th birthday at ‘sound check’.

Notice the notes in my hand? Yep, I was told off. No notes allowed! With 7 days until the real performance I assured them … no problem (with  a lump in my throat and sweaty palms).

The kids rehearsed… and dutifully bowed….

AND THEN…. they suprised me with a birthday cake! My whole gang and the organisors came out of the kithen with cake for me. 

which we all shared before going outside to play …

 

Interview by a Cambodian Princess

My interview was at the end of my working day. I hadn’t thought much of it.

At about 4pm I asked my kids in the centre to look at the radio interview request email so they could explain to me where exactly the station was. Four of them read the email and then looked me up and down and laughed.

“You can’t go dressed like that”

“Why not? It is radio, no one can see me”

“Don’t you know who Soma Norodom is?”

“Ummm, the lady who is interviewing me?”

“Think about it. What’s the name of the main road here, the really big one”

“Norodom”

Oh shit! She is Princess Soma Norodom.

Panic as I start running around the centre knowing I don’t have time to go home and change. I wash my face and take a clean ‘Tiny Toones’ work t-shirt. It’s the best I can do. I wasn’t nervous before. Now I am terrified. The segment is ‘Emerging Female Leaders in Cambodia. The Princess wants to interview me?

An hour passes of banter back and forth between Soma and I (yes we are on first name basis now) and we totally forget we are live until question time and people call in – and they did. We had an absolute blast. We discussed everything from ex-pat life in Cambodia, learning Khmer language, working with street kids, children’s rights and my upcoming TEDx talk. She is my age and one very cool and very smart lady. She is also nicknamed ‘The Rebel Princess.’

 

Later the same year I was asked to interview Soma for WuPP (What’s up Phnom Penh) magazine. She still tells people it was her favourite interview.