Archive for the ‘Event and Exhibit News’ Category

AFCC (Part 2): Translating the Picture (Book)

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Having previously joined a few editions of AFCC as an attendee, I was invited to contribute this time to AFCC’s first Translation Forum as a panelist on translating picture books.

Lined up alongside more experienced translators Ajia (English to Chinese) and Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Portuguese and Spanish to English), Helen Wang (Chinese to English) moderated a rich sharing session on how pictures, and sometimes the story, were changed in translated versions. From how a risque calendar was changed to a picture of a volcano in The World in a Second, how the plot was tweaked in The President of the Jungle, to how word rhythm and sounds were integral to translating Uri Shulevitz’s Dawn and Where the Wild Things Are into Chinese, and how representations were made diverse and appropriate in The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out, it is clear how much creativity and attention is put into transforming a picture book for a new readership. Involving not just the gatekeepers of the original, but also the agents, translators, editors, designers and everyone else working on the translated edition, it is a process that might bring a better picture book into the world.

transpicbook

  Clockwise from top left: Moderator Helen Wang, Ajia, Andrew Wong, and Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Before we wrapped up the session, Helen kindly gave us the chance to voice our wishes as translators and for picture book translations, some of which we can certainly work on together.

– Push the boundaries of self-censorship by publishers (in China)
– Use our voices to make the translator’s craft and its importance known
– More adults sharing the experience of reading picture books with children
– Acknowledge the author, illustrator, and translator in reading sessions
– #TranslatorsOnTheCover
– More translations (in the US) and more from the wider, less represented world
– Support translated books so there are more of them!

Other than the sessions in the Translation Forum, I was particularly interested to hear how some publishers were looking at diversity and inclusion, the situation with translation in Southeast Asia, and how stories were being told and retold in this part of the world where there are many linguistic and cultural bridges to cross and build. There’s much to catch at AFCC, so I’m grateful that most sessions are available on demand till the end of the month!

A handful of us from SCBWI Japan were involved at AFCC 2022. Read more in Avery Udagawa’s wrap-up at AFCC (Part 1): Shifting Perceptions.

AFCC 2022 (Part 1): Shifting Perceptions

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

The 2022 edition of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content unfolded in hybrid format—partly online, and partly in-person at Singapore’s National Library. I joined in online, and while I dearly missed traveling to the Little Red Dot, I enjoyed seeing several colleagues grace my screen.

From SCBWI Japan Translation Group, Singapore-born Andrew Wong (top right above) spoke about translating the The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out, edited by Yoshimi Kusaba and illustrated by Gaku Nakagawa, in a session on picture book translation. Emily Balistrieri discussed aspects of translating Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki and Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, the latter in a panel on the translation of humor, moderated by Holly Thompson. I spoke about “shifting perceptions” of translations in English-language children’s book publishing, so that more human languages can be preserved and represented. It was a pleasure to do the Q-and-A with moderator and fellow J-E translator Malavika Nataraj.

A benefit of the hybrid format is that ticket holders can view online sessions on-demand for a month. I am beginning to watch this conversation between Eriko Shima and internationally beloved Japanese picture book artist Shinsuke Yoshitake. I hope they will discuss why translators are not (yet!) credited on the covers of English-language editions of Yoshitake’s works. Here is a New York Times piece that came out on this subject (vis-à-vis adult books) just as AFCC ended.

Here’s to shifting perceptions so that many more international authors, illustrators, and translators can be embraced and enjoyed by young readers everywhere!

Talking with Tang Yaming: Crossing Borders with Picture Books

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, and Andrew Wong, Tokyo

On February 26, 2022, SCBWI Japan hosted editor, author, and translator Tang Yaming, who spoke to us from his home in Tokyo. Born in Beijing, Tang worked as an editor for 35 years at Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, one of Japan’s top children’s book publishers, until retirement. He continues editing and making picture books, collaborating with Japanese and Chinese writers and artists, and publishing through Chinese publishers. Many of the works he mentioned struck us as deserving of translation into English, and his talk had much to offer everyone in children’s books.

 

Some of the many works Tang Yaming has nurtured, in Chinese and Japanese

 

In “Crossing Borders with Picture Books,” Tang Yaming drew on his experience of bridging the Japanese picture book industry with the world. With thoughts of the war in Ukraine hanging over us, Tang first reminded everyone that borders do in fact exist, however much we may hear in the kidlit industry that they don’t. Whether they are natural, national, or cultural, they exist. And Tang recognizes that it is his job as a publisher to cross (or bridge) those borders and help children gain a broader perspective of the world.

In 1983, Tang happened to serve as an interpreter for a group of representatives of children’s books visiting Beijing from Japan, and in this position, he spent a week with Tadashi Matsui, then president of Fukuinkan Shoten.

 

On the Great Wall of China: L to R, Tang Yaming; illustrator Satoshi Kako; former president of Fukuinkan Shoten, Tadashi Matsui

 

Before returning to Japan, Matsui offered Tang a job in Tokyo. Tang had no experience in children’s books and wasn’t sure how serious Matsui was, but decided to go to Japan to find out. He told us that he showed up at Fukuinkan Shoten totally prepared not to have a job, but was determined to stay and study in Japan, even if it meant working as a cook at a Chinese restaurant. It turned out the job was his for the taking. He became the first foreign full-time editor in Fukuinkan Shoten and in Japan’s publishing industry, and thus began his career as an editor of children’s books. Japanese society was just entering the era of globalization, and Matsui’s goal in hiring Tang from China was to bring cultural diversity to children’s literature in Japan.

Taking examples from Japanese long-seller picture books such as Sūho no Shiroi Uma (Suho’s White Horse) and Ōkina Kabu (The Gigantic Turnip), Tang explained that Japanese creators who had deep personal connections to Mongolian and Russian culture were central to the creation of both books, and this was even before Japan underwent a phase of internationalization in the 1980s.

Tang then shared his tale of crossing borders during the production phase of Shika yo Ore no Kyodai yo (Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! 2004), for which he sought a Japanese writer and Russian artist to shape a poetic ode to the circle of life through the lens of the indigenous people of Siberia. This story had been percolating in him for decades since being captivated by the beauty of Siberia’s harsh natural landscape as a young soldier sent to the Soviet border.

 

Picture book Shika yo Ore no Kyōdai yo (Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! 2004)

 

In 1969 during China’s Cultural Revolution, Tang had been sent from Beijing to Siberia during the Sino-Soviet border conflict. He’d managed to avoid fighting, and was instead deeply impressed by Siberian flora and fauna. Decades later at Fukuinkan, he decided that the beauty of the nature of Siberia was what he wanted to create a book about. In searching for an author, he found Toshiko Kanzawa, a writer who had spent her childhood on Sakhalin, one of the Kuril Islands north of Hokkaido. Kanzawa had the background Tang was seeking. She knew about the native people on the island and the cultures of people of the northern territories. To write the book, Kanzawa traveled to Siberia to learn about the indigenous tribes on the continent, and it was about them that she wrote. Tang was delighted with Kanzawa’s story and writing. He pointed out that she had even included native language in the text.

The next job was to find an illustrator. Until the 1980s, we learned, Japanese picture books were illustrated almost exclusively by Japanese artists. Yet Tang was convinced that no artist could draw Siberia unless they had actually seen it. He eventually discovered an artist by the name of Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin who lived in Siberia and was devoted to portraying indigenous peoples. Pavlishin agreed to illustrate the book, and Tang was excited when the artist finally contacted him to say that illustrations were ready.

Tang flew from Niigata, on the Japan Sea side of Honshu, to Khabarovsk on the Eastern edge of Russia, and then traveled to Pavlishin’s home, where Tang discovered, after a night of obligatory drinking with the artist, that only three pictures had been completed. When he finally got a look at the art, however, Tang knew he’d chosen the right artist because the illustrations were exactly as Tang remembered Siberia.

 

Tang Yaming in Siberia; Left: Tang Yaming and far right: illustrator Gennadiy Dmitriyevich Pavlishin with a woman in traditional clothing

 

The story of Oh Deer, My Brother Deer! made a powerful impression on attendees. The story was from ages that have come and gone; Kanzawa’s childhood home of Sakhalin was lost to Russia after World War II. Tang had begun working in Japan when Sino-Japanese relations were at their best. He traveled with ease from China to Japan, and from Japan to post-Cold War Russia, where he had no problem finding his artist at home. He showed us a photo of himself with Pavlishin and a woman from an indigenous tribe of Siberia in native costume.

For attendee translators, writers and illustrators, many of us who live and work in a culture different from the cultures we were born in, cultural diversity is what we thrive on, so the explanation of how Tang produced this book was especially interesting. In the credits at the back of the book are further notes of diversity: acknowledgments of two translators who must have helped out in translating the book for the sake of the illustrator and ironing out other details. One was Kazuya Okada, a Japanese living in Khabarovsk, Russia, and the other Valentina B. Morozova of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

Once-retired after 35 years with Fukuinkan Shoten, Tang has continued to be involved in the publishing business in China, initially by translating Japanese picture books on China so that Chinese children can read about their culture in picture books in their own language. After explaining that in China picture books are sometimes considered wasteful—too much space on the page lacking text—Tang also offered an astute observation that a country’s picture book industry usually starts blossoming when the economy starts growing, opining that that occurs when people start having deeper pockets and the idea of education shifts toward a more holistic one.

Still, Tang noted that an understanding of the market’s tastes and needs is crucial in publishing. For example, while he strives to make picture books that both adults and children can enjoy, he demonstrated how a deeply rooted mindset that children should be educated by adults and that good manners are important drove the China sales figures for a series on manners and etiquette to 900,000 copies—over ninety times the sales figures in Japan where originally published. He also shared how books concerning nature and social issues are selling well because people can relate to them as more young families move to cities in search of better wages.

 

Chinese editions of the Kaisei-sha picture book series on manners

 

However, Tang also noted some misses, such as a carefully crafted informational series on toilets, which covers the history of their development. We might have thought that the pandemic would have boosted sales of this somewhat niche but important topic about the most visited hygiene facility. But Tang heard parents say that their children are busy learning other things and they don’t have time to learn about toilets.

Returning to Tang’s comment connecting economic growth and the picture book industry, it struck blogger Andrew that that reality could have been the reason behind his own lack of exposure to picture books and local literature during his youth a few decades ago when his country was caught up in climbing all sorts of world rankings.

Besides further discussion on making books that venture into foreign places, during the Q&A, Tang also acknowledged the importance of portraying and handing down local history and culture to future generations. Both lines of thought seemed to converge toward finding the stories or voices that need to be heard before they are lost to marginalization, poverty, modernity, and urbanization. This is an idea that echoes strongly with the translator in both of us bloggers, along with the fact that it’s only natural that some stories are more suited to certain markets—which is one more reason to admire and celebrate the work behind successful translations!

Decades ago, when Fukuinkan Shoten president Tadashi Matsui hired Tang Yaming to create some diversity at Fukuinkan Shoten, it was a hopeful era. Matsui could never have foreseen the changes occurring in the current global situation. For us at SCBWI Japan, Tang Yaming’s talk was the perfect moment to be reminded of the wealth of culture we inherit in a book like Oh Deer, My Brother Deer!, as well as the importance of our role as writers, illustrators and translators in ensuring this attention to culture endures.

 

Editor, author, translator Tang Yaming

 

Deborah Iwabuchi runs Minamimuki Translations in Maebashi, Gunma. Have a look at her high-tech operations at Minamimuki.com.

Andrew Wong is a freelance linguist and translator of The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out. The happy introvert also keeps a text-heavy blog on books and other stuff at Tales from 2 Cities (or more).

This post first appeared on the SCBWI Japan blog.

Voicing a Story

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

We were recently treated to a double header on voice and character with two (yes two!) award winning kidlit creators, Traci Chee and Avery Fischer Udagawa. Attending both sessions, I saw how their approaches toward characterization and narrative were different by nature of their roles in the creative space—a writer shapes characters from scratch to best convey a narrative, while a translator recreates a story and the experience of reading it in another language.

A strong voice draws readers (that includes publishers too) and drives a story, and both Traci and Avery touched on how writers create voice. Using various techniques to put sentence length and vocabulary to work with non-textual cues, and sometimes with how the text falls on a page, to create tone, pace, and atmosphere, authors and translators use basically the same tools for a text-based narrative.

c06-c

Voicing and Tone: – PianoBuyer.com

But unlike authors, translators work on an existing text. Even so, Avery cautioned against being too concerned about fidelity. Taking an example from music, she mentioned how the notes of an accurately tuned piano may sound fine, yet they are different from the sound that flows from a voiced piano. My take on this would be that when a pianist (translator) plays music scripted by a composer (writer), a performance focused on hitting the right notes alone would sound sterile as compared to a nuanced expressive one.

Avery used submissions from a workshop at SCBWI Japan Translation Day a few years ago to show how two translations of the same passage can sound very different. This reminded me that a translator’s reading of the original, their interpretations and choices, affect every aspect of the translation. Indeed, no two translations from workshops over the past six editions of Translation Day have given off quite the same vibes.

Having shown how translation is a highly subjective endeavor, besides reading the story in rakugo-style and asking family members for input, Avery shared how communicating with Temple Alley Summer author Sachiko Kashiwaba sometimes influences her, for example encouraging her to trim her sentences (when in doubt) to reflect Kashiwaba’s often tightly phrased emails. While Avery mentioned that Kashiwaba doesn’t write herself into her stories, this experience suggests how personal connections between the writer and translator are simply precious and can sometimes prove instrumental in fine tuning the voice, narrative or otherwise.

We had already dipped into the depths of characterization and voice in the preceding workshop with Traci Chee, and together the two sessions made me think deeper about the tools available to (re)create characters and the story world, and about the clues lying there in the pages waiting to be discovered and conveyed. For more on Traci Chee’s illuminating workshop on voice in her book, We Are Not Free, watch for Mari Boyle’s write-up at the SCBWI Japan blog.

Participants in the Voice and Character event (photo taken after Avery’s session)

A Translator’s Takeaways from an Illustrator’s Presentation

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo, Japan

I took the chance to join last week’s SCBWI Japan session with Dow Phumiruk, as she took us through her journey of transitioning from pediatrician to award-winning picture book illustrator.

The session began with Dow sharing her background and how she came to illustrate for children. It was not surprising to hear that her success came from much hard work and perseverance, but her reminder to steel ourselves with the ability to see criticism objectively (it’s about your work, not you) would have been heartening to hear for anyone who is a content creator. She also made a special note of the importance of joining a community made up of the competition, like SCBWI, because this is where we can find support and a critique group to help ready those manuscripts for submission.

So what did the translator in me take away from it all?

Dow spoke about the amount of research she would do and reading manuscripts out loud to get the feel of the text, which we all know are so important. She also mentioned some projects where text was just so sparse. Those challenges for the illustrator would eventually translate into more visual information further down the road. So, translators would enjoy the luxury of having more clues in the form of the illustrator’s portrayals and interpretations that would already have passed through the hands of editors, book designers, and everyone involved in creating the finished piece.

And then came a lesson in reading illustrations. Dow dug deeper into her methods, for instance, showing how she warped images of textures from everyday life to apply, literally, textural overlays to add depth to her artwork and how white space or layout is sometimes used to create focus. That felt like a lesson in training the eye to see what’s not immediately apparent, a prompt to look out for hints everywhere.

Besides covering how she actually drew, Dow took some time to talk about perspectives in her work and mixing them up. Sometimes, after I read with children, they would say how the views on every page kept changing and how that was so interesting, so the point she made on perspective certainly echoed. For those of us working with text, the idea of perspective seemed to link more closely to reading widely to get familiar with how tone, rhythm, and flow work in the language of children’s literature.

Dow also mentioned book signings and marketing events after publication, another aspect of being in this line. The fact that she didn’t bring her dry pediatric persona to those sessions drew a few laughs. For translators, even though we might not get the same level of attention or visibility as authors or illustrators, we would do well to be on the lookout for ideas and methods for reaching and interacting with more readers. I’ve recently noticed translators coming together with the original authors to talk about the translations, so wouldn’t it be great to also hear from the illustrators of translated picture books too?

Overall, the session was fascinating, thanks to Dow’s immense generosity in sharing her methods and stories from creation and pitching to publication and marketing. You would probably have left with some takeaways regardless of whether you write, illustrate, or translate. Naturally, since we create for the same readers – children.

Takeaways from AFCC 2021

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

A tinge of uncertainty seemed to hang over the start of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) 2021 when an email from the Singapore Book Council notified me that the hybrid event would be moved entirely online. Joining remotely from Tokyo, I wasn’t affected by this change, but as I caught up on the event’s recordings, which remain available to attendees until the end of June, I could sense that children’s content creators from the UK across Asia to the US were glad to see a familiar face or form new connections with people on the other side of their screens.

As with past editions, AFCC 2021 offered something for every breed of children’s content creator. Sessions on diversity, mental well-being, and accessibility in children’s books mixed with those on digital content, market entry, and distribution that were presided over by writers, illustrators, publishers, book sellers, and digital creators, and a handful of translators too.

From Japan, Mariko Nagai helped to envision poetry not as “Poetry” but as “poetry,” and Oscar nominee Koji Yamamura talked about his process and the differences between animation and picture book illustrations.

Lawrence Schimel who traverses both writer and translator realms spoke at length about producing picture books that are sensitive to their audiences. On writing about disabilities, he demonstrated how he sought to embrace disability and difference as normal, for example, by not needing to mention them in the text and leaving readers to see the pictures as they are. While this approach was made possible by the stories, reframing “the other” as part of the “normal” came across as both refreshing and liberating.

Screenshot edited by Andrew Wong

 

Speaking about translated works, Lawrence noted how visual cues were sometimes adjusted in translations of his books. For instance, a no-parking sign was changed from an “E” (proibido estacionar) in the Portuguese version to a “P” (no parking) for the English version. A quirkier change was how a pack of margarine was magically transformed into butter for the Swiss version of another of his picture books. He also appreciated how sometimes a translator of his work would come up with a much better expression than he had, like the German title Hundemüde (dog tired) for the English title Bedtime, Not Playtime!.

The conversation continued into how translations are often published in and processed through dominant languages and how decisions in translation can sometimes be influenced by the political relationships between or among the languages. In tune with embracing minority representations, Lawrence also asserted to keep words from a foreign language in regular style instead of italicizing and “othering” them.

Because this idea of the “other” is deeply entwined with translation, it was only natural that the topics carried on into a panel involving not two or three, but six (yes!) literary translators. Lawrence was joined by Avery Fischer Udagawa (Japanese-English) in Thailand, Helen Wang (Chinese-English) in the UK, Vertri (Hindi-Tamil) in India, and Nur-El-Hudaa Jaffar (Indonesian-Malay) and Shelly Bryant (Chinese-English) in Singapore.

Screenshot panel by Andrew Wong

Moderated by Shelly Bryant, the lively roundtable kicked off with the question of access to translated works. This part of the chat covered how there are many translated classics around us and what needs to be done for everyone to see more translations, from getting past the numerous gatekeepers of the publishing industry to giving translations the space and attention they need as literary works that are both relevant and important. On bypassing the dominant English gatekeepers, I quickly noted that Epigram Books in Singapore are looking for translations, particularly of stories from Southeast Asia.

Besides sharing experiences of working with cultural differences, such as how it is considered normal (or at least not weird) in Japan for the whole family to sleep side by side on futon in the same room, Vetri, Nur-El-Hudaa, Lawrence, and Shelly also touched on an interesting topic, of bridge languages, which normally would be dominant languages such as Chinese, English, Spanish, or, in the case of India, Hindi.

This discussion on bridge languages linked to a separate session on books featuring dialects and vernacular languages. Writer/publisher Yulia Loekito spoke to field linguist Alexander Coupe about using Javanese in her picture books. In one example, Yulia used Bahasa Indonesia, the dominant language, for the narrative and the vernacular Javanese for the dialogue so that readers can experience the diversity of spoken tongues and Javanese children can reaffirm their identities. In another one, she used different scripts (Javanese and romanized Bahasa Indonesia) to create a bilingual text, which works to bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps between readers of the two languages and preserve the Javanese script at the same time. Lawrence also spoke about how bilingual texts faced the need to be pretty much parallel in content. This illustrated a key difference from a translation – translations do not give readers the luxury of access to the original nor are they as strictly bound by it.

Screenshot by Andrew Wong of bilingual book by Yulia Loekito

The idea of preserving languages and their wisdoms came up again when Daphne Lee and Joel Donato Ching Jacob spoke about retelling folktales for today’s children. Conversations with someone on the same wavelength can sometimes reveal unexpected connections, so I wasn’t surprised when they stumbled upon a similarity in the much-loved Malaysian trickster mouse deer Sang Kancil and the Philippine pilandok while they discussed various versions of the Pontianak in the region. But while they both agreed that folktales from minority peoples need to be passed on, Joel opined that it might be hard to find such own voices because they might be busy with putting food on the table.

To that end, I found that what storyteller/writer Rosemarie Somaiah had to share from her experience during this pandemic – be kind, first to yourself, and also to others – emanates through my takeaways from AFCC 2021. Embracing the less represented among us; sensitivity to portraying cultural nuances; awareness of political perspectives in dominant languages; reaching out to help those stories waiting to be told. A clear guiding light from AFCC shone through the apparent uncertainty – when we have the breathing space to find and spread kindness, we’ll pull through this pandemic together better.

Creative Exchange Featuring Translators!

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

SCBWI Japan had a Creative Exchange on Friday, May 14, 2021. Below is a picture of all the participants. It was exciting to see the diversity of (fascinating and brilliant!) ongoing projects. Along with English books, we had several works by non-Japanese being written in Japanese. One book was entirely illustrations—suitable for universal readership.

Pertinent to this blog, three projects were Japanese-to-English translations being pursued on spec. Let’s take a look at them.

Amy Lange Kawamura is translating Kaeru Fukushima by Yasushi Yanai, published by Poplar, for the SCBWI translation contest. This nonfiction children’s story is about frogs endangered due to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as about the people who left the prefecture and have yet to return. Amy asked the group for ideas on the book’s English title. The word kaeru in Japanese can mean both “frog” and “go home,” and frogs are typically used in Japanese messages about—going home. The question for this title was which nuances should be retained to draw interest to the book.

Avery Udagawa is translating portions of DIVE!! by Eto Mori, published by Kadokawa Shoten. The YA novel is about a struggling diving club whose future hangs on whether or not it can produce Olympic contenders. The story begins with the arrival of a new female coach. Much to the dismay of her teenage charges, she starts off by rejecting the athletes’ forms and not even letting them in the water. Avery’s concern was the format of her excerpt. Japanese books often have very short paragraphs, and Dive!! ends one chapter with a string of them only a line long each. She also asked the group for comments on her interpretations of teenage conversations.

Holly Thompson’s latest translation is Chibi ryū (Tiny Dragon) by Naoko Kudo, published by Doshinsha. Here’s Holly’s description of the work: “A lyrical story of a newborn water dragon that befriends, questions and learns from all sorts of living beings until large enough to cradle and love the world.” The narrative’s opening is accompanied and encouraged by a choir of mosquitoes chanting ara yoi yoi! and hoi sassa! Holly wanted to know how the group felt about leaving the untranslatable chanting in the original language and what it might add to the story.

SCBWI Japan Translation Days 2020 on Zoom

By Susan Jones, Kobe

The year 2020 has thrown all of our best laid plans awry. Thankfully, SCBWI Japan did not allow that to derail the organization of Translation Day, a biennial event eagerly anticipated by members old and new. The current circumstances meant that the event was held completely online via videoconference. In the capable hands of Translator Coordinator Avery Udagawa who moderated and organized the event along with Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, and Naomi Kojima, everything was executed like clockwork.

Unlike past Translation Days, participants enjoyed two half-days instead of one jam-packed day. While this may have been planned to accommodate the time zones of participants from around the world, the result was that participants had time to reflect and digest information between the two days. Holding the event online also meant that it was easy to record and share with participants for a time after the event, and share links and other information concurrently with the presentations and discussions. This format made the event more inclusive than ever with participants and speakers calling in from Japan, the US, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, and the UK.

Editor-publisher Beverly Horowitz

A Conversation with Beverly Horowitz

Day One began with a conversation with Beverly Horowitz, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. She shared important information for translators regarding the type of books she looks for when sourcing works in translation. In a nutshell she is looking for “a perfect book in any language.” That is to say, if the book is captivating in one language it will likely be captivating in translation provided it is translated well.

As for the process of new title acquisition, she uses a combination of visiting foreign rights fairs such as the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, accepting pitches from foreign rights agents, and connecting directly with publishers. She said that an important point for translators wanting to pitch a book to an agent or publisher is to first make sure that the English publication rights are available.

When talking about the difficulty of pitching works in translation, she mentioned that in the North American market “a vision of the broader world is not part of everyday life” and this limits the appeal of works in translation. There is certainly the impression that translated works might somehow be perceived as difficult or unrelatable—one reason why translator attribution on the cover may often be missing.

Emily Balistrieri on Translating Kiki’s Delivery Service

Emily Balistrieri was another featured speaker on day one. He gave us a fascinating view of his experience translating Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing winner Eiko Kadono’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (Delacorte Press, 2020).

Translator Emily Balistrieri

Balistrieri described some of the translation challenges this project presented such as the description of how Kiki came up with the name for her delivery service and how that description had to be changed slightly since the name is “Witch’s Delivery Service” in Japanese. And “The Infamous Phone Number” episode in which he made Kiki’s phone number 1-800-KIKI-CAN in the original translation, but had to change course when readers began actually calling that number and reaching—well, not Kiki’s Delivery Service, but an entirely different sort of service. (Moral of the story: localization is not always the best choice.) Translation of special effects, puns, and even poetry added to the hurdles presented and handily cleared in Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Translation Workshop

Capping off day one was a valuable opportunity for children’s book translators: Emily Balistrieri’s critique of participants’ translations of an excerpt from Eiko Kadono’s 『大どろぼうブラブラ氏』. From rookie mistakes to more nuanced observations, it was a great way to compare translations and discuss why some choices were better than others.

Click image to enlarge this spreadsheet Emily Balistrieri prepared for the workshop, which compares different translators’ renderings of a name, a phrase, and a food.

A Conversation with Arthur A. Levine

Day two started off with important insights from industry veteran Arthur A. Levine, founder of children’s book publisher Levine Querido. His own childhood peppered with translated books such as Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Mazel and Shlimazel: or The Milk of a Lioness and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, he understands and has a deep love for good books no matter where their origin. But it took time to learn how to publish translations well. From finding the perfect source material via a network developed over thirty years, to working with translators and editors, it is a process he has honed throughout his successful career.

Editor-publisher Arthur A. Levine

Levine had some useful observations about how translations are currently received in the Anglophone market. Like Horowitz, he addressed the issue of translator credit. While it is standard to recognize the translator on the title page, it is still not common to find their name on the book cover. One reason, he says, is practical; it is more information for the reader to remember about the book. Another reason is intuitive; readers may pass over a translation for being “difficult” or not something they would choose for pleasure reading.

Finally, Levine shared his own philosophy regarding translated works: “The reader should have as close to the same experience of reading the text as the reader of the original.” Long experience allows him to discover the right translator for a project, and he encouraged translators to “let your passions be your power” when it comes to deciding what to translate and pitch to publishers and agents.

Andrew Wong: Translating The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out

Andrew Wong shared his experience of translating Yoshimi Kusaba’s adaptation of a speech by Uganda President José Mujica in The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out (Enchanted Lion, 2020) for the US market. This project held a significant challenge: the text of Mujica’s original speech was in Spanish, and it was adapted for the children’s book by Kusaba. In other words, Wong’s job was to translate a translation. Translators are well aware of “lost in translation” tropes, but Wong went the extra mile and consulted the original Spanish text to ensure that the book’s message and voice were portrayed clearly and accurately.

Click image to enlarge this slide by Andrew Wong, about the themes in José Musica’s iconic speech.

Wong also faced the problem of biases in the illustrations which were not apparent at first glance. Not only did the publisher successfully lobby the illustrator, Gaku Nakagawa, to make some illustrations more diverse, but that also had a positive impact on the original Japanese publication which began using the new illustrations as well. A translator’s influence on the original work in later editions is certainly not unheard of, and this is an encouraging example.

Panel: Translator Rights from a Range of Perspectives

The final session on day two was an in-the-trenches look at four different paths of Japanese to English translation in the children’s book market. Translators Andrew Wong (The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out, Enchanted Lion, 2020), Holly Thompson (Grow, Grow, Grow Tome Sweet Potatoes and The Puppets Are Back, Miyoshimachi Library, 2020), Avery Udagawa (Temple Alley Summer, Restless Books, 2021), and Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi (1945←2015: Reflections on Stolen Youth, Koro Color, 2020) each described a recent project from inception through publication. From translator’s rights to projects changing mid-course, their stories showed that there is certainly more than one route to successful children’s literature translation, and their work gives hope to those aspiring to follow their lead.

Clockwise from top left: Andrew Wong, Holly Thompson, Deborah Iwabuchi, Avery Fischer Udagawa

One of the highlights for many people who attend Translation Day is the opportunity to meet other members in “water cooler” moments. In a more organized version of that idea, time was allotted for a Speed Share session in which every participant introduced themselves and their current project in thirty seconds. It was a wonderful way to connect with every participant. Instead of repeating the same session on day two, a special Translator Opportunities session (for participants only) provided a wealth of information about who is currently accepting submissions and proposals—indispensable information for those pursuing publication of their work.

The online format of Translation Day hardly seemed to be a hindrance; in fact, it was directly instrumental in allowing participation from people around the world who otherwise might not have been able to attend. All credit goes to the organizers’ impeccable planning and tireless efforts in achieving a fruitful experience for all.

Announcing SCBWI Japan Translation Days 2020

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

SCBWI Japan Translation Days 2020

Two days of online presentations, workshopping, and conversation for published and pre-published translators of Japanese children’s and young adult literature into English.

Dates: Saturday, November 21, 2020, and Saturday, November 28, 2020

Time: Meeting Room Opens 8:30 a.m. Sessions 9 a.m.-1 p.m. JST

Place: Remote via Zoom

Fee: 3,500 yen for current SCBWI members; 5,000 yen for nonmembers. One fee covers both days.

Translations of text for workshop with Emily Balistrieri due by November 6, 2020. Fee payments due by November 18, 2020.

Registration: To reserve your place and receive event details, send an email to japan (at) scbwi.org

This event will be in English. All dates and times are Japan Standard Time (JST).

***********

SCBWI Japan Translation Days 2020: Schedule

DAY 1: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2020

8:30 Meeting Room Opens

8:50 Opening Remarks

9:00-9:45 A Conversation with Editor-Publisher Beverly Horowitz

As Senior Vice President and Publisher of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, Beverly Horowitz played a critical role in publishing Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono and Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki, both translated by Emily Balistrieri, with US releases in July 2020 and March 2021, respectively. She responds live to questions generated in advance, regarding what it takes to publish Japanese children’s books in English translation.

9:45-10:00 Break

10:00-10:15 Speed Share

Participants join a lightly structured “speed share” of their current projects.

10:15-11:00 Emily Balistrieri on Translating Kiki’s Delivery Service

As the latest translator of Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, 2018 winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (“little Nobel”), Emily Balistrieri shares about the process and issues involved in bringing this iconic work to life in a US edition, now also finding its way to the UK.

11:00-11:15 Break

11:15-12:45 Emily Balistrieri: Translation Workshop

Emily Balistrieri critiques participants’ translations of selected excerpts from『大どろぼうブラブラ氏』, a title by Eiko Kadono as yet unpublished in English.

Participants interested in receiving feedback during this workshop must submit their translations of the workshop text by November 6, 2020. Names will be removed. Participants are not required to submit translations in order to join the workshop. 

12:45-1:00 Closing Remarks for Day 1

 

DAY 2: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2020

8:30 Meeting Room Opens

8:50 Opening Remarks

9:00-9:45 A Conversation with Editor-Publisher Arthur A. Levine

Arthur A. Levine founded Levine Querido in 2019, after a 23-year tenure as the President and Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. Translations he has published include two Moribito books by 2014 Andersen laureate Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano, which won a Batchelder Award and Honor, respectively. He responds to questions in a pre-recorded interview about what it takes to publish Japanese children’s books in English translation.

9:45-10:00 Break

10:00-10:15 Submission Opportunities

Participants learn about submission opportunities for those who join in this event, from interested publishers.

10:15-11:00 Andrew Wong on Translating The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out

As translator of The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out—an adaptation by Yoshimi Kusaba of a speech by José Mujica, illustrated by Gaku Nakagawa—Andrew Wong shares about the collaborative process of bringing this work to life in a US edition, published in August 2020 by Enchanted Lion.

11:00-11:15 Break

11:15-12:45 Panel: Translator Rights from a Range of Perspectives

Translators’ working conditions impact the flow of Japanese children’s and YA literature into English. What have translators with different lengths of careers, working for different kinds of publishers in different places, on different types of books, experienced as helpful conditions for translating well? How have they learned about their rights and negotiated for what they need? A panel discussion with translators Deborah Iwabuchi, Holly Thompson, Avery Fischer Udagawa, and Andrew Wong.

12:45-1:00 Closing Remarks for Day 2

***********

SCBWI Japan Translation Days 2020: Speakers and Panelists

Emily Balistrieri (he/him) is an American translator based in Tokyo. Emily translated the middle-grade fantasy novel Kiki’s Delivery Service by 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award-winner Eiko Kadono. Other works include The Night is Short, Walk on Girl by Tomihiko Morimi as well as two ongoing light novel series: Kugane Maruyama’s Overlord and Carlo Zen’s The Saga of Tanya the Evil. His translation of Shaw Kuzki’s Soul Lanterns, a middle-grade novel dealing with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, will be released in March. Follow Emily on Twitter: @tiger

Avery Fischer Udagawa (she/her) serves as International and Japan Translator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her translations from Japanese to English include J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, “Festival Time” by Ippei Mogami in The Best Asian Short Stories 2018, and “Firstclaw” by Sachiko Kashiwaba at Words Without Borders. Her reviews of children’s literature in translation appeared throughout the inaugural year of the #WorldKidLit Wednesday column, Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, 2019-2020. @Avery Udagawa

Beverly Horowitz (she/her) is SVP & Publisher of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Horowitz began her career in Editorial, but to learn all aspects of the publishing business, she held positions as Publicity/Promotions Director, and as Academic Marketing and School & Library Marketing Director in various publishing houses. After gathering this experience early in her career, she returned to her passion for editorial work at Delacorte Press/RHCB. In addition to the administrative aspects of her job, Horowitz has never stopped being an editor. Authors she works with include Louis Sachar, E. Lockhart, Judy Blume, Onjali Q. Raúf, Bryan Stevenson, Rob Buyea, Abdi Nor Iftin, Ruby Bridges, Adeline Yen Mah, as well as debut authors. She also has acquired many novels for translation. Throughout her career, Beverly has been an advocate of First Amendment rights and has fought against censorship.

Deborah (Stuhr) Iwabuchi (she/her) was born and mostly raised in California before moving to Japan right after graduation from University of the Pacific, Callison College. After ten year teaching in Maebashi, she moved into translation where she has happily been ever since. Translations of books for young people include The Sleeping Dragon by Miyuki Miyabe, Rudolf and Ippai Attena by Saito Hiroshi, Love From the Depths by Tomihiro Hoshino, Reflections on Stolen Youth: 1945←2015 compiled by Naomi Kitagawa and Motomi Murata, and an as yet unpublished biography of Ruth Gannett (author of the Elmer books) by Akie Maezawa. minamimuki.com

Arthur A. Levine (he/him) founded Levine Querido in April 2019, after a 23-year tenure as the President and Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. He founded Arthur A. Levine Books in 1996, coming over from Knopf Books for Young Readers where he had been Editor in Chief. His determination to bring a diverse selection of “The Best of the World’s Literature for Young People” to American readers was the guiding principle in all of AALB’s publishing since its beginnings, and continues to be the guiding light at Levine Querido. This mission resulted in the introduction to North American audiences of the work of great writers such as J. K. Rowling, Markus Zusak, Nahoko Uehashi, Daniella Carmi, Luis Sepúlveda, and Jaclyn Moriarty. Arthur sees this search for great writers from around the world as a continuum with Levine Querido’s search for diverse, powerful, unique voices and visions from the multitude of cultures closer to home. In addition to overseeing the company, Arthur edits between eight and ten books annually.

Holly Thompson (she/her) is author of the novel Ash; three verse novels for young people: Falling into the Dragon’s MouthThe Language Inside, and Orchards—winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; and picture books One Wave at a TimeTwilight Chant and The Wakame Gatherers. Picture book translator and editor of Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, a collection of 36 Japan-related short stories including ten in translation, she also writes for magazines on Japan topics. Graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, she serves as Co-Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan, and teaches creative writing at Yokohama City University, UC Berkeley Extension, and Grub Street in Boston. www.hatbooks.com

Andrew Wong (he/him) is a Singaporean Chinese living in Tokyo. Weaned on a fare of comics, mystery and adventure stories mixed with kungfu dramas and movies, a stint in Taiwan kindled his interest in Japanese pop culture and language. After studying the language in Scotland and Tokyo, living in Japan with children opened his eyes to the world of Japanese works for children. A translator by trade, he keeps a blog to share stories and contributes to the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog. Translator of The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out (2020). talesfrom2citiesormore.com

japan.scbwi.org

ihatov.wordpress.com

 

Translator Andrew Wong on the SCBWI Summer Spectacular 2020

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

When nature gives us a pandemic, SCBWI takes its summer conference online to keep us at home!

While its virtual nature removed the physical part of meeting people, the SCBWI Online Summer Spectacular opened up five days of sharing to the world. And how the global SCBWI family responded—with more than 4,000 participants from across many US states and over 40 countries, from Alaska to Australia!

Kicking off with a rare cross-Atlantic pre-recorded chat between two giants, Sir Philip Pullman and Arthur Levine, and rounding off with a panel of agents from a diversity of backgrounds, what struck me most was the candid conversations between the speakers. It was as if everyone was—as executive director Lin Oliver said time and again—having friends over for dinner (or whatever meal fits your time zone). It wasn’t just the presenters, but I also caught glimpses of the people in and around these long-time friends and colleagues. Whether it was a family member passing by in the background returning just to wave hi, or an agent coddling his baby while speaking, I felt completely at home among very real on-screen people.

Lin Oliver (center top) with panel of agents and ASL interpreter Brian Truitt at SCBWI Summer Spectacular 2020 (Source: Official Conference Blog).

As a first-time attendee, it was a joy for me to hear what creators of children’s books had to share about their passion for their craft, how literary agents chose the right time and fit of a press for a story, and what editors and publishers do to place a story in a market. I was in awe of the spontaneity of Jason Reynolds and Judy Blume, and I was left amazed by the masterstrokes and concepts of Caldecott-winning illustrators LeUyen Pham and Dan Santat.

Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds in conversation, with ASL interpreter Vania Mollinedo, at SCBWI Summer Spectacular 2020 (Source: Official Conference Blog).

Jane Yolen was also on hand to talk about how the flow and choice of words matters in poetry and picture books with her daughter and editor Heidi Stemple. Like their session, many others also recognized the importance of collaboration. In such exchanges, whether it was between writers and illustrators or writers and their editors, there was also an unshakable trust to leave the other person room to do what they could to create the best possible work together. Publishers and agents too, spoke of long-term relationships with creators, and I certainly agreed when someone mentioned how vital a local critique group is for our creative pursuits.

Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, with ASL interpreter Jennye Kamin, at SCBWI Summer Spectacular 2020 (Source: Official Conference Blog).

Even though there was very little about translation per se over the five days, I found a common thread through the many sessions: connections. Stories connect people. First in their creation, and then when they are read. And when a story strikes deeply, it evokes emotion, and sometimes it compels action. I often start on the receiving end. The resonance with a Japanese story drives me to create an interpretation for readers of another language, English. This process of translation, like other creative processes, calls for collaboration with the right person in publishing who connects with the work on the other side. When that connection happens, it may only be a matter of time before the story translates into still another language that makes new readers feel at ease and welcome in the book’s pages. While I haven’t heard of any translator enjoying the luxury of having an agent to handle the business side of things and find those vital connections, perhaps some translators grow into agents of a kind themselves.

The Summer Spectacular also inevitably touched on Black Lives Matter, when Lin Oliver asked Jason Reynolds and Nic Stone what they hoped to see come out of the movement. To paraphrase Reynolds simply, life will go on for those on the inside, and it comes down to what those on the outside want to achieve now, because they are the ones who can make things better.

The idea of the “other” constantly reminds me of the necessity of translation. How stories build understanding. How inhabiting characters from other cultures helps us realize that we are not so different from each other. That we are all in this together.

In all, the Summer Spectacular was a deeply gratifying and inspiring five-day conference, made possible by human endeavor despite the raging pandemic. If you missed what was a truly spectacular event with a stellar lineup, you can still sign up and catch the recordings from wherever you are until the end of the month!