Posts Tagged ‘AFCC’

AFCC 2016 (Part 2): A Harvest of Knowledge About Japanese Children’s Content

At Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016 in Singapore, Japan featured as Country of Focus. Offerings included a Japan Booth and Japan-related sessions over three days of the conference.

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

IMAG2588_1Helping out at the Japan Booth and attending some sessions on the final day of the Country of Focus: Japan program at AFCC 2016 was enough for me to gain a harvest of knowledge on Japanese children’s content. I can only imagine how much more I could have learned from a full three days. Here are some quick impressions from the sidelines.

Right: AFCC Country of Focus poster with illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki. Photo by Andrew Wong.

The Japan Booth treated passersby to a selection of some 200 books. Drawn by the cover illustrations and exhibition panels, the curious stepped in to pick up the books. Some pored over them quietly, taking in the colors and stories in the pictures; others opened up to chat about writers, artists, and their own stories of Japan. Between sessions, Kazuo Iwamura’s and Chihiro Iwasaki’s works would sometimes create overcrowding in part of the booth. Many visitors were ready to take the books home with them after they had taken a look, even though they did not read much Japanese. (Singapore library users will be happy to hear that the books in the booth will soon inaugurate a brand new Japanese-language collection.)

FB_IMG_1465289078441

Books and panel on display at the Japan Booth. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

Naomi Kojima offered a popular hour-long session on Japanese picture books. She almost ran a half-marathon, racing through more than a dozen picture books in a room packed to the wall with eager listeners. Giggles and laughter accompanied her commentaries on Noboru Baba’s Ju-ippiki no neko (Eleven Cats) and Aju Kato’s Jicchorin no aruku michi (The Jicchorins Take a Walk) as everyone joined her in admiring the titles.

FB_IMG_1465288854406

Table covered with books toured by Naomi Kojima in just one hour. Photo by Holly Thompson.

Besides books, multi-talented musicians Toshihiko Shinzawa and Satoko Yamano charmed listeners with songs written for children and adults alike, and they demonstrated how adding music to picture books and vice versa can create new ways to enjoy both media. The International Library of Children’s Literature‘s Chihoko Tanaka captivated children and parents with lively performances of Japanese rhymes and folk tales, while award-winning manga artist Miki Yamamoto helped visitors create their very own folded peek-a-boo cards.

FB_IMG_1465288783432

Miki Yamamoto (upper right) helps visitors create peek-a-boo cards. Photo by Naomi Kojima.

This year’s focus on Japan coincided with the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties, and a new chapter in literary collaboration began with an underwater launch of bilingual books (more on this here) as stingrays looked on in the Sentosa aquarium.

Festival participants got to hear Akiko Beppu, editorial director at Kaisei-sha, liken the work of an editor to that of content producer, linking author and reader and envisioning each book in the store from the start. Doshinsha’s chairperson Kyoko Sakai was on hand to share the techniques and psychology behind kamishibai, a form of storytelling theatre that uses large picture cards in a wooden stage. She made a brief but serious mention of kamishibai’s appeal and its sad history of use in wartime propaganda, and said she wanted the tradition to be used for peace and harmony.

Kamishibai stage (Doshinsha.co.jp)

Kamishibai stage. Image by Doshinsha.

Ms. Sakai’s message drew parallels with Yumiko Sakuma‘s remarks in her closing session: some authors in Japan now are working to bring up topics of war and peace in children’s books, because the country’s pacifist constitution is under threat. Ms. Sakuma also highlighted two other trends in Japanese children’s literature: a focus on unconventional relationships and less-common afterschool activities, and stories about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. She ended by stressing the need for even greater diversity in content for children in Japan.

Covering the recent changes and challenges in Japanese children’s books, Ms. Sakuma’s words proved a thoughtful closer. Like the other sessions, her speech offered hints of the hopes and dreams that we want children to cherish and chase―to help them on their way to shaping the future.

AFCC 2016 (Part 1): Japanese-English Bilingual Picture Book Launched in Singapore

ST_20160528_NAJAPAN_2322659

At Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016 in Singapore, Japan featured as Country of Focus. Events included a launch for the picture book Monster Day on Tabletop Hill (above right), written by Japanese author Akiko Sueyoshi*, translated by Cathy Hirano, and illustrated by David Liew. AFCC Publications: ISBN 978-9810993542. Photo by Kua Chee Siong/The Straits Times.

By Malavika Nataraj, Singapore

Monster Day on Tabletop Hill coverWhen an award-winning author, translator and illustrator all come together to create a book, the result can be nothing but special. That’s the first thought that comes to mind while reading Monster Day on Tabletop Hill. Author Akiko Sueyoshi’s latest work, in collaboration with acclaimed translator Cathy Hirano and sculptor-turned-illustrator David Liew, is a lively story about Forky, the little fork boy who lives in a mug-cup shaped house.

Forky is out playing in Sugar Cube Park on Monster Day, when he hears bells clanging, announcing the arrival of the guardians of clean, Grandpa Sweep-Sweep and Granny Wipe-Wipe, who sweep-sweep and wipe-wipe at everything that’s in their path, determined to get Tabletop Hill as clean as can be. It’s a particularly distressing day for carelessly wandering creatures and monsters, who may well be swept away into nothingness, never to return.

While dodging this bustling pair, Forky chances upon a glowing pumpkin in the middle of a field. And out of this pumpkin house comes a delightfully motley crew: little biscuit bats, musical chocolate skeletons and . . . the four Marshomon.

Monsters though they are, Forky isn’t afraid of the Marshomon at all, joining in their dancing and inviting them all out to play in Sugar Cube Park, where they shoot at lollipops till scrumptious ice-cream and juices ooze out.

Their wonderful adventure must end, however, when the ominous bells clang once again and the doors to Pumpkin House begin to close. A pacey and engaging read, Forky’s adventure will keep little readers in thrall from beginning to end.

Monster Day on Tabletop Hill spread 1Illustration © David Liew

This book is one more feather in the cap of award-winning children’s author Akiko Sueyoshi, who is no stranger to picture books. Her most popular story, the long-selling Mori no Kakurenbō (Hide-and-Seek in the Forest), was first published in 1978. Since then, she has won several awards for her work, including the Shogakukan Children’s Publication Culture Award in 1999 for Amefuribana Saita (When the Rainflowers Bloomed) and two Newcomer Prizes for Hoshi ni kaetta shōjo (The Girl Who Returned to the Star), as well as the Noma Award for Children’s Literature for Mama no kīroi kozō (Mummy’s Little Yellow Elephant).

Monster on Tabletop Hill is written in prose, in Sueyoshi’s typically concise style and filled with little details that set the mood of the story. The work of Cathy Hirano, translator of the Moribito series with two Batcheldor Awards under her belt, means that both English and Japanese audiences can enjoy this bilingual picture book in the best possible way. Hirano’s contribution to Sueyoshi’s story is subtle but evident; the translation is simple and energetic, faithful to the mood and setting of the original Japanese text.

Monster Day on Tabletop Hill spread 2Illustration © David Liew

Bright and quirky illustrations by David Liew—known to fans as Wolfe, the illustrator of the Ellie Belly series written by Eliza Teoh—bring this delightful little story entirely to life. The expressions on Forky’s face, the chocolate skeletons with their instruments and a grinning pumpkin house all add significant depth to the text.

The whole story with its joyful illustrations, written simply but so engagingly, carries with it an air of a fun celebration, where monsters with swirling scarves dance to the beat of drums and lost hats can be the beginning of a friendship. Sadly, the monsters must soon return to their pumpkin lair and we are forced to say goodbye to little Forky. His romp with the Marshomon and the other monsters is over far too soon.

Malavika Nataraj is the author of Suraya’s Gift: The Story Catcher Children and is an aspiring Japanese-to-English translator.

Akiko-Sueyoshi- AFCC 2013*Editors’ note: It is with great sadness that we report the death of Akiko Sueyoshi (1942–2016), the author of Monster Day on Tabletop Hill. Ms. Sueyoshi passed away due to cancer on May 28, 2016, two days after her final picture book was launched at AFCC. We understand that she was able to view the finished book before her death. News of her passing in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japanese is here. A description of her life and works in English is here. Her photo at left appears on the website of AFCC, where she spoke in 2013. After a full life in which she gladdened the hearts of countless children, may she rest in peace.

Japanese Children’s Literature “Dream Team” to Speak in Singapore

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Pinch me! I cannot believe that next month, I’ll be at the National Library in Singapore for Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016, rubbing shoulders with . . . AFCC 2016 Speaker Highlights

 

These are just a few speakers set to appear in the Japan: Country of Focus track at this year’s AFCC. A full list of Japan presenters is here. This dream team includes:

Akiko Beppu, editor. Ms. Beppu nurtured the Moribito fantasy novels by Nahoko Uehashi, which became bestsellers and the basis of manga, anime, radio and TV versions (the TV dramatization is airing in Japan over three years). In a show of confidence and initiative, Ms. Beppu commissioned a full English translation of the first Moribito novel. This move helped overseas publishers read the novel in its entirety and appreciate its true quality. Result? Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness were published in English and other languages, won a Mildred L. Batchelder Award and Batchelder Honor, and paved the way for Uehashi to win the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—a biennial award also dubbed the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

Cathy Hirano, translator. Originally from Canada, Hirano has spent her adult life in Japan and become a leading translator of children’s and YA books from Japanese to English. She translated the middle grade realistic novel The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, which won a Batchelder Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction. She translated Moribito and Moribito II, leading to Uehashi’s Andersen Award, a Batchelder, and a Batchelder Honor—becoming one of few translators to produce multiple Batchelder winners in different genres. Her first translation of the fantasy novel Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara won so many fans that when it fell out of print in the U.S., it became a collector’s item and got republished, with a sequel. She is translator of Hanna’s Night by beloved printmaker-illustrator Komako Sakai.

fuji-2_320_320Kazuo Iwamuraauthor-illustrator, created the long-selling Family of Fourteen picture book series. This series—partially translated into English for the Japan market by the amazing Arthur Binard, and order-able from anywhere—portrays a clan of fourteen mice who bathe, sleep, cook, sing and play in ways quintessentially Japanese. It’s impossible to watch them savor their homemade bento lunches, doze off in their snug communal sleeping area, or view the full moon (from a special platform in a tree) without admiring Japan’s best traditions around family, nature and childhood. Mr. Iwamura’s books will make you want to move to Japan.

Kyoko Sakai, editor, shepherded the Family of Fourteen books and many works of kamishibai, for which her company Doshinsha is known worldwide. Yumiko Sakuma, translator, has brought famous children’s titles into Japanese, including the Rowan of Rin series from Australia and the book Of Thee I Sing by U.S. President Barack Obama. Dr. Miki Yamamoto, manga artist, has created stunning works such as How Are You? and Sunny Sunny Ann, and the wordless picture book Ribbon Around a Bomb. Satoko Yamano, singer,  is well-known for performing children’s songs in Japan, as is Toshihiko Shinzawa, singer. 

Naomi Kojima, illustrator, created the classic picture book Singing Shijimi Clams. Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974), artist, illustrated the novel Totto-chan: Little Girl at the Window, which is one of the world’s most-translated children’s titles. Iwasaki will be discussed by staff of the acclaimed Chihiro Art Museum, located in Tokyo and in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture.

Holly Thompson, Mariko Nagai, and Trevor Kew, authors who write from and about Japan in English, will speak about their vocation of writing between cultures.

Staff of the extensive International Library of Children’s Literature, part of Japan’s National Diet Library, will speak—as will representatives of Bookstart Japan, which provides picture books for newborn babies in more than half of the cities and towns in Japan.

I get to speak too, and I am quaking in my boots.

These folks have created a treasury of Japan children’s content, and helped to build the publishing world and literate society that support it. If you can be in Singapore on May 25-29, 2016, come hear this incredible dream team. Such a line-up of speakers is rare to see even in Japan!

Illustration © Naomi Kojima

Upper right: Logo for AFCC 2016 Japan: Country of Focus. Above: Illustration from Singing Shijimi Clams © Naomi Kojima

Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016 to Feature Japan

AFCC 2016 Country of Focus- JapanThe next Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC)—set for May 25–29, 2016, in Singapore—will feature Japan as Country of Focus. A slate of speakers from Japan will offer sessions in a full program rarely seen even within Japan.

SCBWI will introduce AFCC at an event in Tokyo on November 9, 2015. Of Asia and Children’s Books: The 2016 Asian Festival of Children’s Content will feature AFCC Chair Claire Chiang, who will describe the festival. Vice Director of the Chihiro Art Museum Yuko Takesako will present the 2016 Country of Focus: Japan offerings. Finally, Australian author Ken Spillman, Philippines-based agent Andrea Pasion-Flores, and Brunei Darussalam Library Association President Nellie Sunny will give a taste of AFCC with a panel on children’s books and publishing in Asia.

All with an interest in Asian children’s content are welcome, regardless of ability to attend AFCC.

For further reading, write-ups of past AFCCs by SCBWI Japan members are here:

AFCC 2015: SCBWI Japan blog post and SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog post

AFCC 2014: SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog series

AFCC 2013: Carp Tales Spring 2013 issue, pp. 5–7 (PDF)

AFCC 2012: Carp Tales Summer 2012 issue, p. 11 (PDF)

AFCC 2011: Carp Tales Spring/Summer 2011 issue, p. 11 (PDF)

AFCC 2010, inaugural conference: Carp Tales Spring/Summer 2010 issue, p. 13 (PDF)

To reserve a place for the November 9 event, please email japan(at)scbwi.org by November 8.

 

 

 

Inspired at AFCC 2015

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Last month I attended Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) 2015 as a delegate. I enjoyed exploring Chinese literature for children, as China was the country of focus.

ty

Cover of Chinese picture book about a laborer’s holiday reunion with family in the countryside. Published in English by Walker/Candlewick as A New Year’s Reunion by Li Qiong Yu, illustrated by Zhu Chen Liang.

At AFCC 2015, I learned of intriguing Chinese picture books in a talk by author Mei Zihan. I learned at publisher Zhao Wuping’s talk that Japanese children’s books have fans in China: Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window ranks near J. K. Rowling titles in international bestsellers.

English translation of Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Dorothy Britton, published by Kodansha USA. Cover illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki.

English translation of Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Dorothy Britton, published by Kodansha USA. Cover illustration by Chihiro Iwasaki.

I learned of a project by publishers in China, Japan and Korea to create picture books about World War II. Many listeners hoped that the books will become available in English.

9784338180085

Hide-chan to yobanai de (Don’t Call Me Hide-chan), a Japanese picture book by Makoto Obo about the occupation of Taiwan. Published by Komine Shoten.

As a translator, I appreciated a debate about how to make the cultural bridge between West and East a “two-way bridge,” with Asian stories reaching non-Asian audiences. I drew inspiration from English > Chinese translator Chang Tzu-chang (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo) who fervently believes that children in the “global village” need world literature.

I heard Chinese > English translator Teng Qian Xi describe translating for a new anthology:

Lion

Lion Heart, Painted Thoughts: Children’s Literature from Singapore and China, a bilingual anthology published by Pan Asia.

Teng Qian Xi’s talk showed me that Chinese > English translation involves similar challenges to Japanese > English, such as handling reduced “compactness” when ideograms become long phrases.

Finally, I saw friends and colleagues! Watch the SCBWI Japan blog for a combined AFCC 2015 wrap-up by author Suzanne Kamata, illustrator Naomi Kojima, and myself of SCBWI Japan.

AFCC 2016 will feature Japan as country of focus. A large cohort of Japan-based speakers will appear, so plan a getaway to Singapore in 2016!

AFCC 2016 country of focus

Click to visit AFCC website.

Scholastic Picture Book Award Competition Open to Asian-Themed Books in Translation

The Scholastic Picture Book Award 2015 competition is open. Entries of unpublished, Asian-themed picture books up to 500 words will be accepted until December 19, 2014, at 5 p.m. Singapore time.

Picture book text must be in English, but works in languages other than English may be considered, if an English translation is submitted with the original text and illustrations.

Here is a Japanese version of the entry form and competition rules: Japanese Translation Scholastic Picture Book Award 2015 Entry Form

Japanese authors and illustrators who seek a translator for this competition are encouraged to email SCBWI Japan Translation Group: japan (at) scbwi.org

For a nominal fee, a member of SCBWI Japan Translation Group will translate the text plus bio(s) of the author and/or illustrator and a summary of the book. The translator will also provide a translator bio. The translator will request an introduction to the publisher if an English-language version of the book is slated for publication.

We hope that many Japanese picture book creators will participate in this competition!

Scholastic絵本賞2015では、現在絵本の作品を募集しています。

  • アジア在住のアジア人であり、18歳以上の絵本作家、イラストレーターであれば誰でも応募できます。プロ、アマを問いません。
  • 0歳から6歳を対象とした、アジアに関連する内容、お話の絵本(長さは最大500ワード。日本語としておおよそ原稿用紙4〜5枚程度以内)を2014年12月19日17:00(シンガポール時間)まで受け付け中です。

原稿は英語が原則ですが、翻訳があれば応募できます。日本語原稿と一緒に、英語の翻訳を提出してください。未出版、未契約の作品に限ります。

詳しくはこちらをごらんください。日本語応募要項

SCBWI Japan Translation Groupでは優秀なネイティブ文芸翻訳者が英訳のお手伝いをします。ご希望の方は japan (at) scbwi.org 宛にメールでご連絡ください。

翻訳料は¥10,000となります。絵本の本文、作家やイラストレーターのプロフィール、本の短い要約など、必要な資料を英訳いたします(翻訳者のプロフィールも付け加えます)。

英訳が出版される際には担当した翻訳者を出版社に紹介し、できるだけ優先されるよう、推薦してください。

ひとりでも多くの日本人作家やイラストレーターが応募してくださいますよう、応援させていただきます!

SCBWI LA 2014: A Translator’s View

SCBWI Summer Conference 2014

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Last month I attended the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, thanks to a generous Tribute Fund Scholarship. I soaked up info from keynote speeches, panel discussions, break-out sessions, intensives, a manuscript critique, and socials, and talked up translation and the SCBWI Japan Translation Group.

Theme Building, Los Angeles International Airport

Theme Building, Los Angeles International Airport

Children’s Book People Everywhere!

This conference was a meet-up of 1,235 children’s book people at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles.

The first person I met was my roommate, illustrator and fellow Tribute Fund recipient Marsha Riti of Austin, Texas. This piece of hers shows how excited I felt!

"Feisty Tricycle" by Marsha Riti

“Feisty Tricycle” by Marsha Riti

I soon also met up with friends whom I see too rarely in Asia, beginning with SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor Holly Thompson.

Avery Fischer Udagawa, SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor Holly Thompson, Writer Li-Hsin Tu, Illustrator Kazumi Wilds

Translator Avery Fischer Udagawa, writer Holly Thompson, writer Li-Hsin Tu, illustrator Kazumi Wilds

One of many delights of SCBWI LA was the International Social for members of all non-US regions worldwide. Special thanks to International Regional Advisor Chairperson Kathleen Ahrens of Hong Kong, Assistant International Advisor Angela Cerrito of Germany, and International Awards and Publications Coordinator Christopher Cheng of Australia. It was a bonus delight to connect with Kenneth Quek of Singapore, Director of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content!

Oodles of Opportunities

I met few translators in LA. 😦 On the upside, I found many chances to study craft and ask how to publish more translations. To quote my bit of SCBWI Japan’s blog coverage, I valued . . .

Chances to improve my work: I took part in a one-on-one manuscript critique with SCBWI President Stephen Mooser, who has authored more than 60 children’s books. He reviewed the first ten pages of my middle grade novel translation as writing in English, providing feedback on how I could improve my language. I also took a half-day intensive on novel revision with Linda Sue Park, a Newbery Award-winning author. From her I learned several ways to make a completed draft “strange” to myself, in order to spot where to streamline the language. Every segment of her intensive applied both to writing and to translation.

Opportunities to ask editors how they acquire translations: I attended break-out sessions by Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books; Mary Lee Donovan, editorial director at Candlewick Press; Dinah Stevenson, publisher of Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Each of these editors fielded a question about how/whether she considers works in translation and how these might be submitted. So did Arthur Levine of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., and Andrea Welch, senior editor at Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Andrea’s half-day intensive on picture books exposed me to numerous new ideas, and again applied 100 percent to translations.

CIMG4519

Discovery while jet lagged: Source text + bobby pin + laptop = setup to prevent over-editing a first draft

 

Time to network with members of the We Need Diverse Books Campaign: The We Need Diverse Books campaign took the US children’s lit world by storm in May, showing the need for main characters of color and of diverse cultural backgrounds (among many kinds of diversity). Since translations are a source of diversity, I was thrilled to talk with authors Lamar Giles and Meg Medina, leaders in the We Need Diverse Books initiative. I also hung out at a We Need Diverse Books lunchtime chat and heard a panel by Lamar Giles, Meg Medina, Linda Sue Park, authors Sharon Flake and Suzanne Morgan Williams, and agent Adriana Dominguez. Their discussion galvanized me to bring more books from overseas to young readers. Kids deserve to explore stories from their whole world!

I got mine!

I got my button!

US Children’s Publishing in Microcosm

SCBWI LA was my best glimpse to date of the US children’s publishing world. This was partly due to “state of the industry” keynotes that detailed trends in the US market—noting, for example, that picture books are aiming younger as chapter books take off, or that contemporary realistic YA fiction still has a place, or that literary MG novels are in demand. (Hooray!)

I heard these updates and more in presentations by Justin Chanda, vice president and publisher of three Simon & Schuster children’s imprints, and Deborah Halverson, editor of SCBWI’s detailed and ever-evolving Market Survey. While neither of these speakers mentioned translations, both spoke to the need for diverse books and provided big-picture info useful to translators.

I also got an overview by looking around in the socials and sessions at this large conference, and seeing how many US authors there are. This conference was larger than one small town I lived in as a child! I learned that lots of people are creating content for US readers in English. Their work for the highly competitive US market sets the standard for translations from overseas, as well.

Conference-goers in costume to celebrate Tomie dePaola's 80th birthday

Conference-goers in costume to celebrate Tomie dePaola’s 80th birthday

We love Strega Nona!

We love Strega Nona!

Finally, insofar as SCBWI itself represents US children’s publishing, I found reasons to take heart: SCBWI has established a new Translator category for members! In addition, an Advisory Board meeting after SCBWI LA included a discussion of initiatives to support translation. I see these as encouraging signs.

Meanwhile, stocked with info from LA plus the fuel of renewed and new friendships, I am ready to return to work!

P.S. When I got home, my daughters pored over picture books I had bought in LA and claimed illustrators’ postcards to use for crafts. It was a treat to watch creators’ efforts feed hours of play!

 

CIMG4530

Six-year-old’s expansion on postcard by Ryan Jackson

 

For even more info on the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference, click here for the official  blog coverage and recaps.

We Need Diverse Books Campaign Features Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

We Need Diverse Books- Moribito

Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign spurs me  on as a translator, and not just because Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit appears on the campaign website this week (click image above)!

Cathy Hirano, the translator of Moribito and its sequel Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi, shares the following from a talk at AFCC 2014 by Stacy Whitman, founder of Tu Books and part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team:

  • 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, and
  • more than 50% of U.S. children aged 0 to 5 years are people of color; yet
  • less than 10% of children’s literature in the U.S. contains ethnic content.

In her address at AFCC, Stacy noted that translations—by definition a source of diversity—remain a tough sell in the U.S. Cheryl Robson of Aurora Metro Books, speaking in a panel with Cathy and Stacy, described a similar situation in the U.K., where only 3 to 4% of published books are translations.

Something must change. There are more than 190 countries in the world besides the U.S. and the U.K. Young readers of English deserve to know this, and to lose themselves in diverse narratives from a vast planet.

Also, the U.S. and U.K. book markets affect the reading lists of children worldwide. All children deserve to find themselves in the books they read.

Who can help them do this? Publishers, booksellers, buyers. Reviewers, educators, parents.

And translators. We often operate by accepting commissions, but we can inform publishers of promising titles, promote published translations, and nurture future translators by visiting schools. We can also buy, give, and request children’s lit in translation. We can join the groundswell of demand for diverse books.

Above all, we can translate well. We can help each other to draft, critique, revise, critique, and re-revise stories that engage readers. We can educate ourselves about our language pairs and the larger publishing world. We can network both with other translators, and with partners throughout the industry. Because we are, in a way, agents. We conduct business a little bit like illustrators. We examine our source texts with the eyes of editors. And we are, first and foremost, writers.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign shows that the translator’s vocation matters, even if it rarely puts money in the bank and sometimes draws glazed looks. (Can’t Google do that?)

Diverse stories change how our children view the world, which they will lead tomorrow. It’s enough to make me slug some coffee and get back to translating a fifth grade “date” in Tohoku.

AFCC 2014 (Part 3): Tips for Translators’ Websites

afcc-logoPaul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

3. Bill Belew

Imagine this. You’ve finished a translation of a Japanese children’s book that you’ve been working on for months, and it’s ready to go. The publisher is telling you it is time to reach out and tell people about this hilarious book that is finally available in English. But you have two problems. Bill BelewThe first is that hardly anyone comes to your website, so promoting it on there is not going to be very effective, and second, no one in the English-speaking world knows anything about this author, even though he/she is a big name in Japan. So how do you get the word out? How do you go beyond friends and family and create a global readership that craves the books you translate and publish, even though they’ve never heard of them before?

According to Bill Belew, you can do it, but it takes time, so it is better to start early. Having spent more than 20 years teaching in universities in Japan and the US, Bill woke up one day and decided that he was going to become a professional blogger. He started out in 2006 with no experience and ‘no love’ from the Internet world, and now he travels the world telling people how he grew his readership. Bill gave a talk at AFCC 2014 on strategies for building a global audience. I was so impressed that I signed up for his full-day workshop the next day. Here are just a few things I learned from him.

Facebook and Twitter do not attract new readers to your website. A lot of people wonder whether it is better to use Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or one of the other social networks which seem to pop up every six months or so. Bill’s answer, and one that was met by a sigh of relief from a lot of people, was that if you rely on those platforms for attracting new readers to your website, you are wasting your time.

Promoting content from a social network platform such as Facebook or Twitter involves ‘pushing’ content on people, known as ‘push marketing,’ and there is a very poor return for the effort required. It is different if you are marketing something that everyone already knows or wants, but it is rarely effective in the case where you are promoting something as complex and personal as a book.

Focus on creating good content. The alternative to push marketing is ‘pull marketing,’ and the idea behind pull marketing is if you create enough quality content it will pull people to your website via the search engines. It is common sense really. Getting search engines to find you involves creating content that is matched with the product that you want to market and is of interest to potential readers.

At AFCC 2014. Back: Kenneth Quek (Festival Director), translator Paul Quirk. Front: author Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), author Mariko Nagai (SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor), illustrator Naomi Kojima (SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator), and translator Cathy Hirano.

At AFCC 2014. Back: Kenneth Quek (Festival Director), translator Paul Quirk. Front: author Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), author Mariko Nagai (SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor), illustrator Naomi Kojima (SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator), and translator Cathy Hirano.

Solve your reader’s problems. With regard to the type of content, the best kind of content is content that solves people’s problems. Perhaps there are parents who want to get their hands on Japanese picture books but they don’t know where to start looking, or librarians looking for reviews on the latest Japanese picture books, or publishers looking for ideas on what to publish next. The more specific you are with the content you provide, the easier it will be for people to find you.

Connect with others.The second way of getting found, through links to your website, comes about by sharing the love. If you link to other people with similar ideas to yours, then there is a good chance they will return the favor. Do it 10 times or 100 times and you might create 10 or 100 different ways people can find your site. This might involve blogging about people in the industry, or reviewing other people’s books, or having people do guest posts. The more people who link to your site, the higher up you will go in the search rankings, which will give you access to more readers.

And remember . . .

  • Stick to your themes—always check that your content is aligned with your themes before you hit Publish.
  • Don’t give up—it takes at least three months before the search engines learn to trust a new website, but a lot of people give up if they don’t see results after one or two weeks.
  • Update more often. Try updating at least once a day; if you can write more, then write more. No one is going to complain that you write too much if no one is going to your website.
  • Write shorter articles. 300-500 words is a good length. Write longer if it is an important article, but you can also split it up into multiple articles.
  • Think about what content you want to share on Facebook, i.e., try not to spam family and friends—but do send them important updates about upcoming book releases etc.
  • Connect up the articles. Try to link with other articles on your own site as well as those on external sites.
Visual artist Nayantara Surendranath from India saw me juggling at the AFCC wrap-up party (well it's a good conversation starter…) and just had to have a go.

Visual artist Nayantara Surendranath from India saw me juggling at the AFCC wrap-up party (well it’s a good conversation starter…) and just had to have a go.

So Bill’s message is that if you want to create a successful website or blog it’s going to take a lot of old-fashioned hard work, but if you are passionate about the content you are creating, then it doesn’t need to be that hard. Just keep writing about what you love, and keep hitting that Publish button.

You can get more tips from Bill at billbelew.com, and if you have a chance to attend one of his presentations or workshops in future, I highly recommend it.

Personally I found Bill’s talk very inspiring and I’m sure if I do everything he suggests, I’ll eventually be able to build a strong readership. But to tell you the truth, like most people who are into translating children’s books, I do it in my spare time, so if I spend too much time on a blog (and it can get quite addictive), I find my translation productivity goes down the drain. Perhaps a good solution might be to create a collective blog with some like-minded people. In any case it is certainly nice to think that if you continue working hard for long enough, people are sure to come your way. Good luck blogging everyone!

See Parts 1 and 2 of this series

AFCC 2014 (Part 2): Found in Translation

 

afcc-logoPaul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

2. Translator Cathy Hirano

Cathy Hirano, who has more than 25 years’ experience translating Japanese children’s literature—and is the translator for Nahoko Uehashi, winner of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing—gave a presentation at AFCC 2014 about the need to provide more Asian content to the world’s children. Cathy-Hirano_130_162_90_s_c1This is a brief summary of some of the topics she covered.

Motivation for translating children’s books 

One of the unfortunate things about the business of translating is that translators can only do one job at a time. Most translators interested in children’s books have to fit their book translations in between other better paying jobs, and many people would ask, why bother?

To answer that question, Cathy discussed the importance of giving children exposure to different cultures through books. By reading books with protagonists from other cultures, children (and adults) can see that, although people may have a different idea of what is ‘normal,’ it doesn’t matter which country they live in, or what language they speak, everyone is capable of laughter, of shedding tears, of feeling pain, love or sadness; they just have different ways of expressing it.

So while it may not be well paid, the translation of literature for children is important. It enables children from different parts of the world to better understand each other.

moribitoGoing beyond the translation 

In the second part of her talk, Cathy gave examples from Uehashi’s Moribito series focused on bringing fluency to a text. In the case of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, Cathy was blessed with enthusiastic editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, who approached the books as if they were actually written in English. Nahoko Uehashi also played an important role in the translation, remaining open to ideas for altering the book for its North American readership. Cathy’s role morphed into the position of mediator, with the final translation becoming a collaboration among author, editor, and translator. Although this collaboration created more work for Cathy, the end result was a book which flowed a lot more smoothly and captured reader’s hearts.

In the audience for Cathy’s talk, there were quite a number of young people interested in translating children’s literature from Asia. Many of them went up to Cathy at the conclusion of her talk to thank her for inspiring them.

Personally, I also felt very inspired from listening to Cathy’s talk and meeting her in person. She is incredibly passionate about translating and promoting children’s literature and it really comes across when she talks. I found myself wondering, does she get all this energy from translating children’s books, or is she able to translate all of these children’s books because she has so much energy . . . ? It might be a bit of both.

The Bear and the WildcatAnd now, having read some of the books that she has translated, I know that she picks great books to translate (other titles she has translated include Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara, The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, and The Bear and the Wildcat also by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai). If you haven’t read these then you really should grab a copy.

One other thing worth mentioning: Cathy didn’t have copies of the Moribito series to show people at the AFCC, but an anonymous donor sent four copies of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit to make sure that Cathy had some available. Of course these sold out in no time, and Cathy donated the money from sale of the books to AFCC, for the cause of promoting children’s literature from Asia.

See Part 1 of this series.