Archive for the ‘Event and Exhibit News’ Category

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).

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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

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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

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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!

In Isolation but Connected: May 2020 SCBWI Japan Remote Creative Exchange

At SCBWI Japan’s Remote Creative Exchange on 30 May 2020: Translator Andrew Wong, writer Mari Boyle, and illustrator Naomi Kojima, all in Tokyo; translator Avery Udagawa in Bangkok, writer/translator/Exchange moderator Mariko Nagai in Tokyo, writer Suzanne Kamata in Tokushima; writer Amy Lange Kawamura in Fukushima (photo added after Exchange), writer Alana Matsui in Tokyo, and writer/translator Holly Thompson in Massachusetts. Several of the participants contributed manuscripts for friendly discussion by all.

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

At SCBWI Japan’s first-ever Remote Creative Exchange on 30 May 2020, translators connected with writers and illustrators in the U.S., Thailand, and various parts of Japan. Joining from the comfort of my balcony in self-imposed Covid-19 lockdown in Tokyo, while muting wailing sirens and brushing off intermittent distractions, I gleaned invaluable lessons on the craft of translation.

When reading and writing stories involving other cultures, we are faced with a culture gap—both between story and reader, and between translator and text. I hadn’t realized that I had no point of reference for elements in my novel translation that I had not experienced first-hand, either as a child or as an adult. Lacking the linguistic tools to play with, what lay before me seemed like a crevasse. And then, at the exchange, my fellow creators gave me the means to start twining the rope and looking for possible anchors on the other side.

Unlike picture books where imagery comes visually, in textual narratives, intermittent illustrations may prove able guides in some works, while others rely solely on the reader’s imagination to recreate the story world. Some stories may never truly manifest in only the words of a different language, but at our exchange, there were good suggestions of how to recreate a sufficient replica using other cues.

Another topic we discussed was dialogue. When Japanese gender inflections and verbal style combine with social norms to create consistent character voice, translators like me are often left floundering with the flatness of English speech. For instance, we work with only two English defaults for the many ways to say and you in Japanese. Add to that verbal styles in gendered speech, and we see the whole mesh needing to be re-coded. What is already there? Or can be read? How much should be explained?

Also, will kappa and seto go down as well in English as ramen and natto?

Well, if the Bard apparently completed three of his famous tragedies when the bubonic plague hit London in the early 17th century, then we can stay creative and connected in self-isolation today, especially with technology. But watch out for those gaps!

Mari Boyle’s post on the SCBWI Japan regional blog covers this Remote Creative Exchange from a writer’s perspective.

Takami Nieda On Bringing GO into English

Takami Nieda (holding her translation of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro) after speaking to SCBWI Japan on June 22.

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

On June 22, 2019, translator Takami Nieda dropped by in person to share her seven-year journey of bringing Kazuki Kaneshiro’s young adult/adult novel Go to English-language readers. The evening began with the opening basketball sequence of an award-winning film based on Go. In this sequence, the term “zainichi” sets the tone for high-schooler Sugihara’s raw, roller-coaster story of love and life.

A third-generation Korean Japanese himself, Kaneshiro positioned Go to explain itself to its original intended readership, the Japanese. So there were few difficulties, Nieda noted, in providing background information—something a translator would often have to add. Nieda did point out some challenging terms she dealt with like oyaji, which she translated as “father” sometimes and as “old man” at other times; ofukuro, for which she chose “mother” over “mom”; and the rhythmical puzzle posed by a reworded version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”

The novel’s short time span means Sugihara, a high school student, stays safely within the YA category as defined in the Anglosphere, but the gritty, edgy, often violent original is not considered a YA work in Japan. Coupled with the fact that a title like Go isn’t exactly easy to spot in the digital abyss, we appreciated that, by adding a subtitle to the English-language edition, publisher Amazon Crossing may have helped more readers of YA to find the book. (The book now sells in English as Go: A Coming-of-Age Novel.)

Nieda shared some of Go’s reader figures, which demonstrate its broad appeal: readers above 25 are spread over several age categories. However, while digital downloads have been strong, the title has lacked presence in English-language bookstores. So Nieda went on to talk about other roads for Go to travel, including as a text for studying the relationship between Korea and Japan. (It has won a Freeman Award for Young Adult/High School Literature and also has clear uses in university classrooms.)

There were concerns over the weight of some violent sequences, but those were assuaged by the idea that some sequences could actually be perceived as physical manifestations of affection.

Very early on, Nieda quoted Chimamanda Adichie to remind us of the danger of a single story, and on closing she again drove home the need for stories from diverse perspectives. Certainly an inspiring message for creators of children’s works in SCBWI Japan!

An additional write-up of this event by writer Cam Sato appears at the SCBWI Japan main blog.

Takami Nieda in Tokyo on June 22, 2019

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

Translator Takami Nieda on the YA-Adult Crossover Novel

Time: Saturday, June 22, 2019, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Audio Visual Room B

5-53-67 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

(near the United Nations University; map)

Fee: SCBWI members 800 yen; nonmembers 1,200 yen

RSVP: To reserve a place, email japan (at) scbwi.org by Thursday, June 20

This event will be in English.

Takami Nieda’s translation of Go: A Coming-of-Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro, has won acclaim in the US as adult fiction—and a Freeman Award for YA/High School Literature. What has made it strike a chord with readers in two traditionally distinct categories?

Nieda introduces a searing story of anti-Korean discrimination in Japan, which features two teens and is by turns romantic and violent, not unlike Romeo and Juliet, the source of its epigraph. Nieda discusses the translation issues she encountered, the experience of working with a crossover book, and her hopes for Go’s future.

Kazuki Kaneshiro graduated from Keio University. In 2000, he won the Naoki Prize for Go, which tackles issues of ethnicity and discrimination in Japanese society. The novel’s film adaptation went on to win every major award in Japan in 2002. Many of Kaneshiro’s works have been made into films or manga, and Kaneshiro has been adept at working synergistically across multiple formats and genres.

Takami Nieda was born in New York City and has degrees in English from Stanford University and Georgetown University. She has translated and edited more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction from Japanese into English and has received numerous grants in support of her translations, including the PEN/Heim Translation Fund for the translation of Kazuki Kaneshiro’s Go. Her translations have also appeared in Words Without BordersAsymptote, and PEN America. Nieda teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College in Washington State.

japan.scbwi.org

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 in Yokohama

By Emily Balistrieri, Tokyo

SCBWI Japan held Translation Day 2018 on October 20 in Yokohama. The fifth in this biennial series of single-day conferences for translators and translation-lovers alike had a fantastic line-up of speakers with both inspiring and practical wisdom to share.

Kicking off the day was a pre-recorded Skype interview with Takami Nieda whose translation of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro was published by AmazonCrossing this past March. Go is a great example of a book that while not particularly marketed for teenagers in Japan fits perfectly in the YA category in English. Nieda discussed that as well as how nice it was to work with AmazonCrossing. People unsure about Amazon as a publisher might be interested to know that she found the editors friendly and the editing process rigorous.

For aspiring translators, Nieda recommended attending a short translation program, such as the British Centre for Literary Translation summer school or the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, and pairing with another translator for peer editing. It also sounded like she would recommend having a day job because it allows you to pick and choose your projects more.

After the participants in the day got to know each other a bit and receive some SCBWI, SWET and submission news, the second session began. In another pre-recorded Skype interview, publisher and managing director of Pushkin Press Adam Freudenheim talked about publishing translations in the UK. People often observe a lack of demand for translations, but he said the key is finding your market. Pushkin’s (and Penguin Random House’s) series of six novellas translated from Japanese—including Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, which was a centerpiece of this event—has been doing great. Sometimes finding your audience can be tricky, though: Freudenheim shared that the collection of Akiyuki Nosaka stories translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori originally published for children as The Whale that Fell in Love with a Submarine has been doing much better repackaged and expanded for adults as The Cake Tree in the Ruins.

In response to questions about the nuts and bolts of publishing translations, Freudenheim said that it’s easier to publish longer translations or otherwise take risks when there are subsidies or grants available, often from source countries’ governments. If translations can be co-funded by American and UK publishers, that also helps. He noted that it’s possible to be successful approaching Pushkin cold and emphasized sharing your passion for the book when pitching in addition to the whats and the whys.

Before lunch Louise Heal Kawai, translation of Ms. Ice Sandwich among many other books, spoke on the importance of networking, which is how she ended up on that project. She also shared how she localized Mieko Kawakami’s punny nickname for a girl whose fart smells like tea! (Let’s just say that’s what you get when the book’s protagonist is a boy in fourth grade.)

After a sunny lunch break, during which participants could practice her networking advice, Kawai led a translation workshop on an excerpt from the sequel to Ms. Ice Sandwich, Ichigo jamu kara ichigo o hikeba (which can be variously translated as If You Take the Strawberries Out of Strawberry Jam or Strawberry Jam Minus the Strawberries, among other ways) from the volume Akogare (Longing, or Longings or Yearning). Although there were plenty of challenges regarding the Japanese, including the name of a candy bar that was actually fictitious and finding the correct tense, the main exercise turned out to be writing in voice for a sixth-grade girl. Words like “adept,” “disgusted,” and “smitten” were frowned upon, while choices like “super popular,” “stuff like that,” and the exchange “No way,”-“Yes way,” got the nod.

One of the challenges in translating books from Japan, especially for young people, is packaging them for English-language book categories. Author and SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor Holly Thompson led a session explaining some of the most common definitions of middle-grade and young-adult fiction, which can seem strict but do offer room for crossover success. Participants broke into groups for an exercise in classifying novels as MG or YA based on the opening pages. Drugs and sex references were the most obvious markers of YA besides older protagonists, while MG books seemed immediately to contain more family references and simpler vocabulary.

In the last session, Thompson was joined by Japanese Board on Books for Young People president (not to mention prolific translator) Yumiko Sakuma and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa in a discussion about Japanese book categories vs. US/UK book categories.

In Japan, the consideration is less about age-appropriate vocabulary than age-appropriate kanji. Then, even if a child is the protagonist, you can simply decide as a marketing strategy that it’s a book for adults if you want adults to read it, too, as happened in the case of Tonneru no Mori 1945 (The Tunnel of Trees 1945) by Eiko Kadono, winner of the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Sakuma also explained that to some extent there’s a belief that it’s better not to set ages for books because kids all read at their own pace. Given what people throughout the day noted appears to be a more fluid mindset about especially protagonist age in Japan, it can be a challenge to make English categories fit.

After this nine-to-five Saturday of kidlit translation immersion, surely even the most exhausted of the participants were feeling inspired to get going on some new projects.

 

 

#CantWait for SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018

Translation Day 2018 info with prior Days’ write-ups

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

If you follow Japan kidlit in English online, you may have seen me shout out SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 in Yokohama on October 20—here, say, or here, here, or here. I #cantwait for this event! Here’s why:

  • This will be the fifth biennial SCBWI Japan Translation Day.
  • This will be the fifth time we have welcomed a master translator, of an author relevant to children’s or YA literature, to work with us on craft.
  • This year’s master translator will be Louise Heal Kawai, renderer of Ms. Ice Sandwich by rising literary star Mieko Kawakami. This novella is told in the voice of a fourth grade boy. Louise will tour us through it and workshop another passage from its source volume Akogare (Longing), specifically the story 苺ジャムから苺をひけば. Psst: This story unfolds when the boy from Ms. Ice Sandwich is in sixth grade, and is told in the voice of his female classmate from Ms. Ice Sandwich. It has yet to be published in English. Cool! Or should I say, icy!
  • What else? We will screen not one, but two, prerecorded Skype interviews with luminaries in our field. The first is with Adam Freudenheim, publisher and managing director at Pushkin Press, who has helped launch several landmark Japanese titles in English translation, from The Secret of the Blue Glass to The Beast Player to Ms. Ice Sandwich. Our second interview will be with Takami Nieda, translator of the novel Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro: a searing Romeo-and-Juliet story about a Korean-Japanese teen who falls in love with a Japanese teen. Nieda fell so in love with Go that she made a Twitter account to ask the author to let her translate it—and it worked (eventually)! COOL!
  • Just interviewing Adam and Takami spurred me to send out more work and plunge deeper into my translation and translation advocacy projects.
  • Once I edit my starstruck self out of the interviews a bit, I know they will have the power to inspire others at Translation Day too.
  • Speaking of inspiring, how icy is it that author Holly Thompson has gathered excerpts to share with us in a workshop on age categories in US book publishing? We will get to see if we can identify chapter books, middle grade novels, YA novels, and/or adult books by their innards—and discuss how we think Japanese books slot into the US categories (which also influence the UK and beyond) and vice versa. Is Ms. Ice Sandwich adult or middle grade? Is Go adult or YA? Need there be an or? Hmmmm . . .
  • Speaking of hmmmm, did you know that category differences affect English-language books traveling into Japanese too? JBBY President Yumiko Sakuma—herself the translator of 200 children’s books from English into Japanese, from Flat Stanley to Of Thee I Sing—will be on hand to share stories.
  • Speaking of stories (of stories), grant funding supported the translation of Go and the publication of Ms. Ice Sandwich . . . and pssst, a new grant from SCBWI may be ready to announce on the occasion of Translation Day. This grant has been years in the making. You can find it now if you search SCBWI.org assiduously, OR you can take a hint by removing the H from the name of this cool American dessert product or this ubiquitous Japanese beauty product. Warning: the news may make you dance, or even ice dance.
  • Speaking of dancing, we have a celebration this year, of Japan’s Eiko Kadono winning the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (aka “little Nobel”)—a feat that required nomination by JBBY, and which surely benefited from the translation by Lynne E. Riggs of Kadono’s iconic Kiki’s Delivery Service. Anyone up for throwing confetti??
  • And speaking of confetti, you will definitely want to throw some when you hear the list—our longest yet—of English-language children’s book editors who are open to receiving submissions from SCBWI Japan Translation Group. This openness does not grow on trees, especially if (like most translators) you are unagented.

So dust off your Rolodex, shred some rough drafts for confetti, buy a copy of Ms. Ice Sandwich to have Louise sign, and bring your dancing shoes . . . because this Translation Day will be chill. Note: You do not need to have submitted a workshop translation to join us for the day. Next note: If you are in SWET, you can enter at SCBWI member price. Next next note: Even the nonmember price is a great deal, thanks to a generous regional grant (grant again!) from SCBWI.

#CantWait to see you at SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018!