17 Apr 2013
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A 23-year-old Chinese writer will take up the first Rewi Alley Writing Fellowship in New Zealand. Ms Huo Yan, a Ph.D student at Beijing Normal University, arrives in Auckland on April 29 for a two-month writing project that she hopes will include meeting local Chinese writers and experiencing Maori culture.
The new award is offered by the New Zealand China Friendship Association in partnership with the Michael King Writers’ Centre. It inaugurates the first regular and significant literary exchange between New Zealand and China, and is expected to include a New Zealand writer going to China in alternate years.
The chair of the Michael King Writers Centre, Sam Elworthy, said Ms Huo was one of China’s rising literary stars. “She has a track record of prize-winning short stories and the selection committee all found her prose startling, original and compelling. We expect her to have a big future as a writer both in China and around the world.”
The chair of the Auckland Branch of the NZ China Friendship Society George Andrews said Ms Huo’s was the most exciting proposal. “The fact she is only 23 augurs well for the future. Her fellowship continues our society’s proud tradition of fostering cultural links with China that began in the 1950s.”
Ms Huo was chosen by a joint panel of Michael King Centre trustees and New Zealand China Friendship Society members from a short-list of six put forward by the Chinese Writers’ Association. All applicants had to submit a writing proposal, an excerpt of published work, and their literary CVs. Ms Huo will stay at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport during the fellowship and will visit other parts of the country.
Ms Huo’s 2013 Fellowship will be matched in 2014 by a Shanghai Writers’ Association invitation for a New Zealand writer to visit that city. The Fellowship is then expected to develop into a reciprocal opportunity for Chinese and New Zealand writers to alternate with visits to each other’s country, year by year.
The award was named in honour of the poet, teacher, and social activist Rewi Alley, a New Zealand sheep farmer who went to China in 1927. It is funded from the Rewi Alley Friendship Exchange Fund set up by the Chinese Government in 2012. Alley led the movement to relocate China’s coastal industries from Japanese destruction during World War II. He also founded the Bailie Schools, which still exist in China’s northwest, and the co-operative movement known as “Gung Ho” or “work together”. He died in 1987.
Contact: George Andrews, NZ China Friendship Society: 09 307 9196; 021 631 261
Karren Beanland, Michael King Writers’ Centre: 09 445 8451; 021 496 488