Melinda Szymanik, this year’s recipient of the NZCFS Shanghai Writers Residency Programme, has recently returned from her two months’ stay in Shanghai. Here’s what she has to say about her time there:
I was shocked when I got the call in May telling me I’d been awarded the 2023 Writing Residency in Shanghai, organised through the Shanghai Writer’s Association and the Michael King Writer’s Centre and generously supported by the NZ China Friendship Society. Most unexpectedly I was off to Shanghai for a two-month stay in the city. The programme brings together writers from all round the world and provides the necessities so you can, for a short while, experience life as a local.
The writing project I had applied with was a story set partly in Shanghai. I have never been to China before and here was an incredible opportunity to do research on the ground, to experience what my characters would experience. I also wanted to get a clearer picture of Shanghai’s history, particularly around the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
Alongside the many events I attended, I was able to explore the Shanghai History Museum over several visits and take a tour around the Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. Both of these places proved to be valuable sources of information. I also spent many hours wandering around on foot, getting a feel for the International Settlement and French Concession, seeing some of the buildings that would have been there in the time period I was writing about. I visited the Bund, Julu Road and Nanjing Road amongst others, and walked along Suzhou Creek several times. I took hundreds of photos.
I spent the rest of my free time writing, and wrote over 30 thousand words across my project, an early chapter book for emergent readers, two picture books, an essay style diary, and poetry for both adults and children. Shanghai was inspiring and fascinating. Even the occasional discomfort I felt as a stranger in a strange land proved grist to the mill. If you are a writer wondering if you should try applying for this residency, I thoroughly recommend it.