Posts Tagged ‘SCBWI’

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!

Nanette McGuinness Talks with Emily Balistrieri, Translator of Andersen Award Winner Eiko Kadono

By Nanette McGuinness, San Francisco

SCBWI member Emily Balistrieri is the translator from Japanese into English of Overlord, by Kugane Maruyama, and The Refugees’ Daughter, by Takuji Ichikawa, among other titles. His translation of Kiki’s Delivery Service will be released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in July 2020, after author Eiko Kadono won the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award in Writing. Emily translates books and manga for children and adults, video games, and anime subtitles from Japanese into English, and his latest children’s translation is a bilingual storybook in the “Mashin Sentai Kiramager” universe published by Kodansha in Japan.

Nanetta McGuinness (NM): I’ve read that you started out as a Russian major in college. What then drew you to Japanese and how did you decide to become a translator?

Emily Balistrieri (EB): Switching focus to Japanese was very dramatic because I canceled my study abroad in Russia. I still feel sad about that sometimes. But I just realized that if I was reading manga, into anime, obsessed with Haruki Murakami (this was in 2005ish), watching Takeshi Kitano films, listening to J-pop, playing Japanese video games, etc., there seemed to be a pretty clear path in Japanese, whereas I wasn’t sure what at the time what I would do with Russian. Thinking of it that way, it’s almost embarrassing—like picking which sport to play based on which local team gets more winning headlines. But I guess you have to pick somehow.

NM: I’m in awe of those proficient in a language that uses such a different character system, let alone such a fascinatingly different culture. The wonderful Cathy Hirano, who also works in this realm, has said that “translating between Japanese and English requires “fairly strenuous cultural and mental gymnastics.”* Can you talk about your experience and what it’s like translating from Japanese to English?

EB: I know that in some languages, the nitty-gritty of how well you can preserve the exact punctuation is a thing people consider. In Japanese, it can sometimes be, “Should these sentences even be in this order?” And there are plenty of instances when a question mark in Japanese is not a question mark in English.

As far as the characters go, it’s possible for people to be very creative with them. A great example is Hideo Furukawa’s new book where he takes the kanji for “forest” 森, which is made up of three “trees” 木, and adds three more 木 at the bottom (to make the pyramid shape bigger) for the title that is “pronounced” (and searchable as) おおきな森, “big forest”: the official English translation of the title is FFFFForesTTTT). One of my favorite parts of Japanese is rubi, characters placed over other (usually more complex) characters to show how to pronounce them. It gets interesting when, instead of writing the actual pronunciation, the author might put a word borrowed from another language, an explanation, or other somehow relevant text. In The Saga of Tanya the Evil, author Carlo Zen uses rubi at one point to make a euphemistic conversation about torture explicit to the reader. So the writing system can be front and center at times, but usually it’s easier to deal with than the grammar, at least for me.

The subject-object-verb order of Japanese (“I from Japanese to English translate”) is pretty easy to get used to. It gets tougher when a rarely used phrase pops up—one that you probably studied for a test at some point, but see so infrequently in the wild that you can never remember it properly. Similarly challenging are archaic forms, which some use to create atmosphere in the same way you might find Shakespearian flourishes in English. More common, but often frustrating, are sentences that come with a ton of qualifiers before the subject; they can contain info that, at least to an English reader, seems totally off-topic in the paragraph or just feels super wordy compared to what is actually being said. On the other hand, sometimes the way writers are able to layer in details is impressive, but it can still be a challenge to replicate in English.

NM: Kiki’s Delivery Service is a beloved Miyazaki anime classic with millions of fans worldwide, and its author, Eiko Kadono, won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 2018. So it’s very exciting that the book that inspired Miyazaki will be back in print for English-language readers. What was it like to labor in the shadow of such an iconic work and by a lauded, living author?

EB: Honestly, I tried to just take it one page at a time (in the turn-of-phrase sense, not literally, haha) and capture the spirit as best I could. Kirkus Reviews was kind enough to call the translation “descriptive and whimsical,” but of course that’s all Eiko Kadono’s writing; if the English readers are as charmed as Japanese readers are, then I did my job right.

NM: I think I saw that Kiki’s Delivery Service is actually part of a series. Has there been any discussion about translating and publishing more of the series into English?

EB: Yes! There are six books in the main series and then two other volumes. There hasn’t been any discussion (at least not involving me) yet, but maybe if the first book does well, we’ll be able to continue? I sure hope so because a lot happens. Imagine if only Anne of Green Gables had been translated into Japanese and none of other volumes! (Anne is an extremely popular character in Japan; there is a classic animated TV series and even a prequel series made to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the first book’s publication.)

NM: There are a number of differences between the Kiki’s Delivery Service film and the book—as generally happens when switching genres. Did you watch/rewatch the Miyazaki film when you were working on the translation? If you didn’t, it might be interesting to readers to hear why; if you did, could you talk about some of the differences between the book and the film?

EB: I deliberately avoided the movie (although I can still sing the English ending song from when I watched it as a kid), even in Japanese with no subtitles. Incidentally, I avoided the more recent live-action version, too. I didn’t want to be influenced by the way the characters were portrayed there, since this is specifically a translation of Kadono’s work.

Hayao Miyazaki kind of takes his inspiration and runs with it. Kadono has been quoted as saying that when she first saw the movie she was surprised how different it was. But she said she made sure before production started that he didn’t change the title or Kiki’s view of the world.**

NM: It’s always a fascinating process doing a retranslation.*** How did you prepare? Did you avoid looking at the first translation from 2003 so as not to be influenced, or did you read through it to know what you thought worked best? Were you able to have any contact with Lynne E. Riggs, the first translator, or with author Kadono?

EB: It was my first time translating it, so it never felt like a retranslation to me, even though that’s what it ends up as. I definitely avoided the previous translation because I wanted to come to the text completely fresh. A strange coincidence is that I have known Lynne Riggs for years because she is one of the founders of the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators. I knew she had translated Kiki, so I never imagined that I or anyone else would be doing it. I feel almost a bit guilty, but I try to think of it as a sort of torch-passing. I definitely look up to her as a wordsmith community organizer here in the Kanto region (I’m sure she wishes I had more energy to help). She and the other members of SWET have a huge wealth of expertise and experience between them, so their events can be really inspiring.

NM: You’re listed on the title page of the book as the translator: congratulations! As a translator, I know how rare it is for an American publisher to do this. How did that come about? Once you turned in your translation to Delacorte, did you have any input on revisions?

EB: Thanks! I think “name on the interior” is how Delacorte does it. I went ahead and asked if the cover was possible, but it wasn’t this time. Never hurts to ask! The editing process was a bit irregular because the editor who brought me on was different from the one I did the bulk of the work with (Alexandra, if you’re reading this, please don’t be a stranger!), who is different from the one who finished the project. So I essentially did two rounds with them, and I know they made some other adjustments as well. Still, I’m used to just crossing my fingers after I submit a manuscript, so it was nice to be able to have so much back-and-forth for a change. I’m excited to see the final version.

NM: What are you currently working on? Any dream projects or books you’d like to translate next?

EB: Overlord and The Saga of Tanya the Evil are both ongoing series, so I’m always working on those, although they’re not for kids. I am chipping away on a masterpiece of a YA science-fiction novel about a first crush by Tetsuya Sato called Syndrome (and I’m pitching it, too, so please get in touch if this sounds good—it’s fantastic).

Other than that, here’s something to look forward to: I’m working again for Delacorte, to publish Shaw Kuzki’s Soul Lanterns. The protagonist is a 12-year-old girl living in Hiroshima 25 years after the atomic bomb, and the story is about how she and her classmates wrap their head around the horrors of the bomb and war, in general, by connecting with the adults in their community who experienced it firsthand. Kuzki is a second-generation A-bomb survivor, herself, so she’s an important voice to amplify in English. I really hope it’ll be a book that kids can read and discuss at school.

Thank you very much!

*“Catching up with Cathy Hirano,” SCBWI Japan Translation Group, May 14, 2011, https://ihatov.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/an-interview-with-cathy-hirano/ 

** In a Japanese-language interview she did after winning the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2018, https://www.bookbang.jp/article/554311 

*** Kiki’s Delivery Service was first translated into English by Lynne E. Riggs in 2003 for Annick Press, with illustrations by Akiko Hayashi—nearly two decades after it was published in Japan.

Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also named a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book and a 2020 GLLI YA Honor Book. Her most recent translations are Little Josephine: Memory in Pieces (Life Drawn, 2020), Super Sisters (Papercutz, 2020), and Undead Messiah #3 (TOKYOPOP, 2020).

Cross-posted from SCBWI: The Blog with permission.

World Kid Lit Month Interview: Helen Wang Talks with Cathy Hirano

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

To ring in World Kid Lit Month 2017, SCBWI: The Blog has an interview in which Helen Wang, a master Chinese-to-English kidlit translator, interviews Cathy Hirano, a master Japanese-to-English kidlit translator. The interview features Hirano’s latest publication, a translation of the chapter book Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa, illustrated by Jun Takabatake. Enjoy!

 

Are You an Echo? Showcased at Tokyo Event

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi Japan

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From left: Toshikado Hajiri, Michiko Tsuboi, and David Jacobson

On February 4, the illustrator, one of the translators, and the author of Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko spoke at an SCBWI Japan event in Tokyo.

Author David Jacobson (above right) began by telling how he was introduced to the works of Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930), by friends who were Kaneko fans. He began to do research and work out a plan and funding for a book of her poetry.

The first order of business was finding a translator. The “translator” turned out to be an aunt-niece team: Michiko Tsuboi, based in Japan, and Sally Ito, an ethnic Japanese born and raised in Canada. Both of the women had already translated Kaneko poems for “fun,” according to Tsuboi. Jacobson found in these two women the enthusiasm for Kaneko’s work he felt was needed to translate her poetry. He also wanted a feminine interpretation of the “motherly” and “girlish” language Kaneko used in her poems.

Jacobson, Tsuboi and Ito first met in person when they, with illustrator Toshikado Hajiri, took a trip to Senzaki (now Nagato City) where Kaneko spent her life. Thus motivated to get on with the project, their real work began.

Tsuboi told us about the endless emails and Skype sessions she, Jacobson and Ito shared. From my point of view as a translator, one of the most interesting points was how Tsuboi and Ito were so involved in Jacobson’s narrative of Kaneko’s life. Tsuboi mentioned how shocked she was when her Canadian niece criticized Jacobson’s work at times, but seeing that the author was paying attention, she joined in with her own unvarnished opinions. In the end, all three of the group were credited for narrative and translation. In the process, the story of Kaneko’s life became the prominent feature of the book. But Jacobson was determined to include many of her poems.

are-you-an-echo-cover-1024x855Tsuboi said her role in translating the poetry was to convey the nuances of Japanese culture to her niece, and Ito’s job was to make the poetic interpretation. The two thought the simple poems would be easy to translate, but they ended up in endless arguments about wording and interpretation.

As a reader thoroughly enchanted by Are You an Echo? I enjoyed the back story about the trip to Senzaki, the arguments and critiques and endless rewriting. As a translator and writer, I was in awe of the dedication to the work and the ability of all involved to set their egos aside, to create a book that so eloquently honors the tragedy and unique sensitivity of a little known poet.

The event on February 4 continued with a showcase of works by SCBWI Japan members, including Ginny Tapley Takemori, translator of The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui.

Children’s Literature Translation FAQ and Model Contract

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Further to my post about the “3 Cs” for translators (copyright, compensation, credit), here are two places to learn more about arranging children’s book translations.

1) A Model Contract for Literary Translations | PEN American Center

This document gives clear guidelines and links to PEN’s comprehensive Translation FAQs. I highly recommend reading the Model Contract and Translation FAQs top to bottom if you are a translator or hope to hire a translator. This will save you much wondering and puzzlement!

PEN Model Contract

2) Translation: Some Frequently Asked Questions | SCBWI

I wrote this far-less-comprehensive FAQ (posted 2 September 2015) to address basic procedural questions about children’s book translation. The page links to recent articles and book lists.

SCBWI FAQ article

Thanks for reading!

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014 in Yokohama

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By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Thirty-one translators and future translators from throughout Japan (and beyond) gathered on October 18, 2014, at Yokohama International School for SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014. This event was packed with sessions guaranteed to satisfy and inform Japanese-to-English translators of all interests and levels.

We participants gained valuable insight into many aspects of translation. Along with learning about theory, new trends, new equipment, resources available to us, and advice for doing a better job, we were encouraged by the need for translated children’s literature in the world as a whole, and in the English-language market in particular.

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Cathy Hirano discusses the importance of and barriers to children’s literature in English translation.

Cathy Hirano, translator of the Moribito series by 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi, began the day with a moving talk about why she translates for children and teens in a translation-resistant environment. Juliet Winters Carpenter followed with a talk about translating voice, based on her work translating A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, which won the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award Grand Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association.

A Skype session followed with Daniel Hahn, program director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, about pathways to publication in the UK. Located in Karachi at the time, Hahn gamely used video, audio, and instant messaging to describe ways to approach British publishers.

Daniel Hahn appears via Skype from Pakistan.

Daniel Hahn appears via Skype from Pakistan.

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Juliet Winters Carpenter discusses developing characters in her translation of A True Novel.

After lunch, Carpenter offered a workshop in which she critiqued translations of two excerpts from A True Novel. Fifteen translators had submitted versions of one or both excerpts in advance, and Carpenter considered each submission in turn. Later, Carpenter selected and edited several translations of one passage for the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog:

One Passage, Seven Translations—Minae Mizumura

After Carpenter’s workshop, Alexander O. Smith, translator of the Batchelder Award-winning novel Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe, demonstrated how he uses voice recognition software to translate first drafts. Finally, Lynne E. Riggs and Avery Fischer Udagawa spoke about resources offered by the organizations SWET and SCBWI.

Lynne E. Riggs introduced SWET and the book Japan Style Sheet, a guide to publishing in English about Japan.  Avery Fischer Udagawa next described SCBWI and its resource The Book, focused on children’s publishing.

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Alexander O. Smith (seated far left), among others, offered an impromptu seminar during lunch.

SCBWI Japan’s biennial Translation Days (see reports from 2010 and 2012 in PDF) are characterized by the intimacy of a small gathering. The YIS venue provides us with an ample, comfortable room and the equipment for presentations and workshops. Talks and breaks and lunch are all held in the same space, so there is a great deal of mingling. Friends enjoy time together, and we get to know people we usually only see on email lists and Facebook. At this year’s sessions, about half of the participants were “old hands,” and about half were younger translators and graduate students thinking about a career in the field.

Speakers at Translation Day are top professionals in our field. Some had traveled quite a distance to be there this year, and all had prepared well for their presentations. That, one might assume, would be sufficient, and yet each and every one of these talented people spent any free time they might have had answering questions and giving advice to anyone who cared to approach them. Most of us translators work in relative isolation, so we appreciate (more than words in any language can express) these rare opportunities for enrichment and networking.

Participants were delighted with this event, and non-SCBWI members commented on how impressed they were by its organization. The program was coordinated and emceed by SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa. Avery, based in Bangkok, together with Regional Advisor Holly Thompson, traveling in Massachusetts, and Assistant Regional Advisor Mariko Nagai in Tokyo, miraculously planned and executed Translation Day. YIS teacher and SCBWI member Trevor Kew kindly and efficiently took care of logistics. Many thanks to all in charge, to all who spoke and to the many translators who attended!

Most of the group at the end of a productive day—translators from all over Japan and beyond.

Most of the group at the end of a productive day—translators from all over Japan and beyond.

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An Interview with Laura Watkinson

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

LW photoHow can translators of children’s literature advertise their skills? How can they bring deserving titles to light? Why do they join SCBWI?

I had the privilege to ask these questions of Laura Watkinson, an accomplished translator into English from Dutch, Italian and German. Passionate about children’s and young adult literature, Laura co-founded the Dutch chapter of SCBWI in 2008. Her translation from Dutch of Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak won the 2012 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for Eerdmans.

Laura graciously answered my questions in time for Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2013, which took place this week in Singapore. I shared Laura’s response in a talk on promotion of translations, and her words “network, network, network” became a catchphrase throughout the AFCC Translation Seminar.

Below are my questions followed by Laura’s responses, which she sent by email from Amsterdam. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your expertise to help bring Asian stories into English. Your words were appreciated by listeners from Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, India, and elsewhere.

What are good ways for translators of children’s literature into English to let the publishing world know of their skills and interests?

Translators come from such a range of different backgrounds. Some have studied languages, creative writing, or literature, or have worked in publishing, whereas others have picked up foreign-language skills later in life and gradually moved into translation or made a mid-life career change. So the paths that translators take into the publishing world and the links we have with publishers differ from translator to translator.

I’ve heard of translators who have graduated from Masters courses that have allowed them to create a body of work and make contacts in publishing houses, so that’s one possible approach. I’ve also come across translators whose first commission has resulted from a chance meeting or a lucky letter that happened to land on the right editor’s desk at the right time.

Soldier BearI can’t emphasize enough that there’s no single established route into translation. That’s great, because it means we’re free to make our own opportunities and steer our own career paths. One thing that really does matter is to build up a network of fellow translators and publishing professionals, which is where an organization like the SCBWI comes in. A chat over lunch at a conference can result in a commission for a translation project a couple of years down the line. Other friendly translators can help out with advice about translation queries, contracts and chances for work and training.

In short, I’d say: Network, network, network. I’ve mentioned going to conferences, but there’s also nothing to stop translators making submissions of work to publishers in the same way as authors do.

Find a book that you love and make sure it hasn’t already been translated, then translate an excerpt. I’d say between five and twenty pages if it’s a novel—and make sure you start at the beginning of the book, not the “best” bit. When you think you’ve completed your translation, put it in a drawer, come back to it a few weeks later when you’re feeling fresh, and proofread it and proofread it over and over again until you’re happy that it’s the best you can do. Then write a letter to the publisher to explain why you’re so crazy about this book and why you think it would be such a great title for that particular publisher’s list. This would be the place to describe the “best” bit of the book. You could also write a synopsis of the book and provide some relevant info about the author and about yourself. Finish your query letter by offering your services as a reader (I’ll say some more about that later) and mention that you’d be delighted to help out with any queries that the publisher might have about the book or about other titles in the language(s) that you work from. If you don’t hear back from them, you can always resubmit elsewhere, but if you’re polite and you appear helpful, the publisher may well be interested in the book and in you as an expert.

Book fairs are also handy places for picking up contact details and catalogues, but don’t necessarily expect to talk to a publisher unless you have an appointment. Of course, you can always write to the publishers you’ve targeted and suggest setting up a meeting at an upcoming book fair . . . If Bologna (the biggest children’s book fair) is too far for you to travel, the SCBWI has a list of international publishers that you can write to directly. Books like The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market and the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook are also very handy, containing a wealth of information about publishers you could contact.

Don’t forget to get in touch with the original publishers of the book too and let them know that you’re planning to contact English-language publishers with a sample of one of their books. Not only can they tell you if there are already translation plans for the book, it’s an excellent way to make an important new contact. They’ll want to hear if you’re planning to translate an excerpt, as you’ll need permission for any publication that might result. Also, foreign publishers often take English samples of books along to book fairs with them when they’re trying to sell the translation rights. Publishers will pay for these sample translations and you may even end up translating the whole book if an English publisher likes your sample.

You founded the Dutch chapter of SCBWI—as a translator. What do translators gain from interacting with writers and illustrators? And vice versa?

My SCBWI friends in are a great bunch. SCBWI The Netherlands logoWe have similar attitudes to work and to fun. I don’t think any of us followed our career paths with the idea of making lots of money, but we’re all motivated by great stories and by meeting other people who are working hard to convey their ideas to young readers. So there’s a lot to talk about when we meet up. When you’re working as a freelancer, it helps to have friends you can contact for advice and support. “Do you think this clause in this contract makes sense?” “Does the editor have a point here?” “What do you think about this title?” Whether we’re translators, illustrators or writers, we’re there for each other when it comes to commiserating—and, of course, celebrating!

In addition, I’m also a member of the Society of Authors in the UK, which has a section for translators, the Translators’ Association, and a special group for children’s writers, which translators are welcome to join. They provide legal advice and vet contracts, organize events, and have an online forum for translators and a register of members. You don’t have to be a UK resident to join. The Society of Authors also has a model contract and recommends a minimum rate for translation. It’s important to know which clauses matter in a contract and to maintain community standards of pay and recognition.

Some other valuable organizations for translators are the British Centre for Literary Translation, the American Literary Translators Association, and the European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations. I’d recommend googling around and reading blogs and signing up for as many newsletters about translation and children’s books as you can. There are lots of interesting workshops and conferences out there—and they’re a great opportunity for getting yourself out of your office and making new connections. And Outside In World is a great website that’s dedicated to children’s literature in translation.

Once a translated book is published, how can the translator contribute to promotion?

Good old Twitter and Facebook help here, as does a blog or 153website. I was once involved in a “blog tour” to publicize an adult novel that I translated for Peirene Press in the UK, Jan van Mersbergen’s Tomorrow Pamplona. The publisher has built up a relationship with a number of book bloggers and she invited them to submit questions for the author and translator. We then went on a virtual tour of the blogs, answering questions as we went, and readers who were interested in the interview followed us from blog to blog.

I also took part in a panel discussion about translation at the ALA conference in Chicago, which focused on the traslation of Heartsinger, published by Arthur A. Levine Books. Marianne Martens chaired the discussion, and publisher Arthur A. Levine, editor Cheryl Klein, and author Karlijn Stoffels all took part. That was a great experience and raised the profile both of the book and of the translation process.

What benefits come from having a Web presence?

If you have a website, people always know where to find you. It’s also a good place to keep potential clients informed about what you’ve been up to lately. I’ve found that some of my clients, particularly authors that I work with directly, often communicate with me through Facebook or Twitter these days, rather than emailing. Both Facebook and Twitter are good for staying up to date with what’s going on with publishers and fellow translators. I’ve also had plenty of queries and even offers of work arrive through FB, Twitter, and, of course, my website.

When Bibi Dumon Tak’s Soldier Bear, which I translated for Eerdmans, won the ALA’s Batchelder Award for the best translated book, my SCBWI friend Roxie Munro sent a happy message to me via Facebook only minutes after the publisher had contacted me with the good news—and her message was followed by lots of other lovely comments on Facebook, Twitter, and via my website. These things matter, particularly when you’re used to working in isolation.

Translators often work “behind the scenes,” but do they have power to bring stories that deserve to be translated to light? 

Absolutely. That’s something very important that translators have to offer to publishers. We often hear that publishers would love to publish more books in translation, but they need people with language skills not only to translate the text, but also to help with making the selection. This is why some publishers employ readers, many of whom are also translators, to read foreign-language books and write reports on those books. Such reports will typically feature a brief plot summary, some background information about the author, an assessment of the book (interest for the foreign market, accessibility, originality, style, suitability for the publisher’s list), and a recommendation of whether the publisher should commission a translation. So, in our role as impartial readers, translators are an essential part of the assessment process. The publisher may encounter a book at an industry book fair, such as the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and then request a report from a trusted reader, but equally the recommendation may have come from the reader, who has happened upon a book that he or she feels is a good match for the publisher. That recommendation may not make it to the translation stage, or even to the reading stage, but this is definitely an area where translators can influence the process and help to bring great literature and fun stories into other languages.

As an example, one of my recent projects is a book for Arthur A. vdi9789045111964Levine Books, which is now in the final editing stages: Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis. The book features a number of accounts by Jewish people who, like Anne Frank, went into hiding during the Second World War, but they survived to tell their own tales. I translated some publicity material about the book and thought it sounded like a perfect candidate for translation. Editor Emily Clement at Arthur A. Levine had also heard about the book and she asked me to write a report. I was very enthusiastic and the book made it through the various stages and was selected for publication. It’s been a beautiful title to work on and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished book.

I’m also absolutely delighted to be translating a classic Dutch children’s book for Pushkin Children’s Books in the UK. Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King was published in 1962 and was voted the best Dutch children’s book ever in a “winner of winners” poll of books that had won the award for best children’s book of the year. Astonishingly, it has never been translated into English. Adam Freudenheim from Pushkin is committed to publishing some of the best children’s stories from all around the world and he was really excited when he found out about this title. Publishers really do want to hear from enthusiastic readers and translators!

Thank you, Laura Watkinson, for reaching out from Amsterdam to encourage translation of stories from Asia!

Visit the Cynsations blog to read another interview of Laura Watkinson by SCBWI Assistant International Advisor Angela Cerrito.

Translator in the Classroom

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Translators, like children’s authors and illustrators, can offer school visits!

HS Tomo Visit

Preschool kamishibai visit

HS Skype visit

In the past year I have offered visits at international schools in Japan and Thailand. The visits have been a great way to meet readers and entice them to explore new stories. They have also shown me that students and teachers are keen to learn about translation as a vocation.

In planning visits, I observed school presentations by noted authors and illustrators, including author Jack Gantos and illustrator Keith Baker. I listened to author Holly Thompson present about school visits at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Singapore. I also referred to the School Visits section of the SCBWI Publication Guide, now called The Book (members can download).

I learned that effective visits offer a concrete connection between my work and what students are learning in the classroom. To this end, I performed kamishibai for grade four students who read Allen Say’s picture book Kamishibai Man, and discussed translating “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba for Tomo: Friendship through Fiction–An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories with a high school class about to read stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa in translation.

I learned that co-presentations with an author can highlight both the content and the translated nature of a book. Shogo Oketani and I took turns reading, in his Japanese and my English, from the original and translated versions of J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965, for elementary and high school students in Japan after J-Boys was nominated for a 2013 Sakura Medal.

ES/HS J-Boys visit

Finally, I learned that my visits can interest readers in translations besides my own, such as winners of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and the Marsh Award. I have shown students covers of books that they did not know were translations–such as the Babar, Pippi Longstocking, and Inkheart books–and asked them to guess where they came from. This exercise is a fun icebreaker!

I now take a page from Holly Thompson’s book by considering visits even as I translate. What props or activities could help me bring a work to life? What images from my research should I save for a PowerPoint? What passages would illustrate a particular translation challenge?

I encourage other translators to learn about and offer school visits in 2013. Observing author/illustrator visits and surfing the SCBWI website are ways to begin.