Every morning of the dense two months I spent in Shanghai, I woke to a spectacular city-scape, visible through the window of my nineteenth floor apartment. On my last morning, the cloudy air was soft and misty, even the high rise nearby brushed with haze, while the distant skyline dissolved into shadowy outline.. This is what two months in Shanghai was like. The compelling present taking up house-room, the companionship of other writers (local Shanghainese and the international visitors), the vital exchange of ideas and stories and the care and generosity with which we were looked after and attended to by our delightful hosts at the Shanghai Writers Association.
My writing task was a new draft of a screenplay about New Zealand missionary nurse, Kathleen Hall, regrettably still better-known and honoured in China than she is in her native New Zealand. The combination of being in China and the opportunity that a residency offers to give single-minded focus to a project provided me with both context and inspiration. I completed a new draft, which has been optioned by a NZ Film Producer, and it is my sincere hope that the time has come when Kathleen’s remarkable story will be realised on film.
One cannot live in a place even for a short time without it becoming part of the psyche, leaving its imprint on the essence of who you are. The opportunity provided by the Residency in Shanghai, the experience of living and writing in that enormous, vibrant, hospitable city is a rare gift, one to be treasured and always remembered.
Photo: New Zealand writer Frances Edmond with one of her hosts, Uyoung of the Shanghai Youxie who helped arrange her 2-month residency at the Shanghai International Writer’s Festival. France’s residency is courtesy of the Michael King Writers Exchange, funded by the Deng Fund