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Federal Writers’ Festival, Australia

What an amazing experience to be invited as a guest speaker to the inaugural Federal Writers Festival amongst so many known published authors from around Australia, Asia, the Pacific, Canada and the U.S.

The opening speaker was Kerry O’Brien with his latest memoir. He is one of Australia’s most respected journalists, having been awarded six Walkley Awards during his career.

On stage I was able to talk about the different aspects of my life and my writing. I had free range to talk about my first book ‘The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ (and then sold 10 copies), about my latest book ‘The Key’ on emotional intelligence for teenagers and my memoir ‘Hip Hop & Hope’ that I had just finished writing and handed over to my editor Laurel Cohn who was in the audience.

What a fantastic festival. The hall was packed, the people were friendly and interested and the ‘in betweens’ and ‘afters’ full of delicious food and wine. Thank you to Philip McLaren for the foresight to put this together in such a gorgeous location up in the hills.

 

Asia Pacific Writers Conference, Indonesia.

On Tue 24th Oct at Ganesha University, a 3 hour (or more realistically, 4 or 5 hour) drive from Denpasar airport in Bali (through stunning mountains I might add), I was on a panel as part of the 3-day Asia Pacific Writers and Translators 10th anniversary conference.

This was my 5th one.

The topic of this 90 minute panel was:

Belonging and Writing:
Exile, Homecoming and Return Narratives.

Just a small topic!

I was one of three on the panel and last minute became the moderator also as ours had to head back home south to Sanur. I was worried that being both moderator and panelist would be a little tricky with Osamah Sami on the panel – an award-winning actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian, with a memoir Good Muslim Boy and movie Ali’s Wedding. A lively and confident personality as you might expect, but also a humble young man born in Iran to Iraqi parents who moved to Australia as a teenager. The panel was rounded off with writer and PhD candidate from Queensland Australia, Sophie MacNeill.

What unfolded quite naturally was a juicy discussion on ‘home’, ‘exile’, ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ from a Muslim Iranian, Iraqi Aussie, a born and bred Australian Aussie of Irish decent, and a Jewish Australian expat living in Asia. As you can well imagine then, questions of belonging and identity were about as straight forward as our panel’s participant’s stories. ​The audience seemed to really enjoy the discussion and had plenty of questions for us. Thanks to everyone for coming down and thanks to the panel for their honesty and courage in their stories. The 3-day conference was as always, full of incredible authors, editors, translators and publishers. Northern Indonesia was such an incredible place to host such an event, most of us having never adventured to this area before. Here is (some of) the 200-strong gang from over 23 countries.

Every year I take a photo of me with the AP banner, so here is this year’s….

There are many workshops on offer throughout the conference. I feel so fortunate to be meeting with such experienced people in the industry. I went to ‘Editing: An Insider’s Guide’, hosted by Cate Blake from Penguin Random House and Ian See from University of Queensland Press in a small group where we had the opportunity to listen, learn, share and ask questions.

‘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.

Byron Bay Writers Festival

I was sitting in my Phnom Penh apartment on skype with my friend  – Australian author and mentor Kate Veitch, when she convinced me to come to the Byron Bay Writers Festival (it wasn’t really that hard).

She both put me up and put up with me and ferried me around to readings, panels (of course she was on numerous) and workshops on the beautiful Byron Bay grounds and in town.  If you’ve never been to this festival, stick it on your list!

On the left is Kate, Laurel Cohn in the middle and myself. Kate had booked me in to Laurel’s workshop on storylines which was incredible and a year later I asked Laurel to edit the first draft of my book.

There was even time to hit Mullumbimby Farmer’s Market and enjoy the sunshine over good coffee.

Gorgeous Spring weather for the 3-day festival (plus 2 days of workshops).