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Royal ears for young writers

Sue Guiney, author of Cambodian-based novel Clash of Innocents.

CHILDREN and teenagers from Siem Reap’s Anjali House read aloud their poems and prose in front of an audience including Princess Norodom Bopha Devi last Friday night at Van’s Restaurant in Phnom Penh.

Their stories were brought to light following a creative writing programme set up at Anjali House by British writer Sue Guiney and Cambodian national Boris Van.

Their partnership was established in London, after Guiney launched her novel set in Cambodia, Clash of Innocents, published by Ward Wood Publishing.

Over the course of five days, Guiney introduced the kids to poetry and short-story writing using the themes “my life and family” and “my dreams”. Guiney followed up the children’s work through her blog, and the results were presented last week at Butterflies Restaurant near Wat Bo in Siem Reap.

The children read a selection of their own works published in a special magazine. As they read, their own photographs from a previous project were screened to provide a backdrop and a frame for their words.   

“The project helps us to get a real insight into the kids’ lives and where they’re coming from,” said Sam Flint, director of Anjali.

Richard de Groot, a German volunteer who has been working with the young adults at Anjali for the past year said: “They’d never encountered a form of expression like poetry before.  But they loved getting their ideas and feelings down on paper. Sue showed them how to organise their words and ideas, and they had a lot of fun. They are all learning English at school, but this gave them the opportunity to work with words and the language.”

The children’s work invoked their fears of war and conflict, their ideas of love, and traditional legends and stories. The results were impressive, and demonstrated a sophisticated grasp of metaphor and rhythm. They were, in a word, inspiring. 

Friday’s event in Phnom Penh was organised with the help of Boris Van and his father Tuon Van. Princess Norodom Bopha Devi may have especially enjoyed the story about the princess who saved Cambodia.

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