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Alison Wong to join Shanghai International Writing Programme

Alison Wong to join Shanghai International Writing Programme

Award-winning novelist and poet Alison Wong has been selected to take part in an inaugural writers’ exchange with China this year.

She will be the first New Zealand writer to join the prestigious Shanghai International Writers’ Program in September and October, run by the Shanghai Writers’ Association. About eight writers from all over the world are selected for the opportunity each year. They get free travel, accommodation in Shanghai, time to write and absorb the culture of the largest city in China. With more than 14 million people, the city is renowned for its historical landmarks but has also been a showcase of China’s economic boom over recent years.

Alison is an established author who has received many awards for her work, including the 2010 NZ Post Book Award for Fiction for her novel As the Earth Turns Silver. She currently lives in Australia, although her writing is centred on New Zealand and she plans to return.

A third-generation Chinese New Zealander, she will work on a family memoir while she is in Shanghai and hopes to be able to visit her ancestral villages in Guandong for the first time before the residency begins.

Alison said New Zealand literature is relatively young and emerging, and multicultural New Zealand literature is even more so. She had spent time in China in the 1980s and 1990s which deeply influenced her writing, but she had never had the chance to meet Chinese writers.

“This is such an exciting opportunity to forge literary connections, to go on a personal and literary adventure which cannot but influence my writing and, I hope, contribute to wider conversation and understanding.”

The residency is part of a writers’ exchange arranged between the Shanghai Writers’ Association, the NZ China Friendship Society, the Michael King Writers’ Centre and the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The exchange is the first of its type between China and New Zealand and follows on from the inaugural Rewi Alley Fellowship last year when a young Chinese writer, Huo Yan from Beijing, held a two-month residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport, Auckland. Next year, a writer from Shanghai will have a two-month residency at the centre.

NZ China Friendship Society President Dave Bromwich said he was delighted with the selection. “It is exciting that the first recipient is a New Zealand-born Chinese woman whose remarkable first novel examines cross-cultural tensions in earlier New Zealand society.” Michael King Writers’ Centre Chair Catriona Ferguson said the exchange with Shanghai was an important new opportunity for New Zealand writers in a vibrant part of the world. “We are pleased to have been able to develop this partnership for the benefit of New Zealand writers.”

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