Gulf Coast Prize in Translation Submissions Open!

The 2019 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation is now open to short prose, fiction and nonfiction, in translation! The winner receives $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will each receive $250. All entries will be considered for paid publication on Gulf Coast‘s website as Online Exclusives.

The 2019 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation will be judged by artist and translator Christine Pichini. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2019.

The $20 contest entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast, beginning with the issue in which the corresponding prize winners are published.

Find out more about the prize and submit here!


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Meet the 2020 Emerging Translator Mentorship Program Mentors!

2020 Mentors

Clockwise from top left: Kareem James Abu-Zeid, Mara Faye Lethem, Marian Schwartz, Jennifer Feeley

ALTA is delighted to introduce the 2020 Emerging Translator Mentorship Program mentors! The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to establish and facilitate a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. ALTA’s Emerging Translator Mentorship Program was founded by former ALTA board member Allison M. Charette. This applications for the 2020 mentorship program cycle will open September 9 on our Submittable page.

This year, we’re excited to offer four mentorships: Non-language-specific, non-genre-specific, with mentor Kareem James Abu-Zeid; poetry from Hong Kong, with mentor Jennifer Feeley; Catalan poetry or prose, with mentor Mara Faye Lethem; and Russian prose, with mentor Marian Schwartz. Find out more about them below!

The four 2020 mentorships are offered by ALTA in partnership with AmazonCrossing, the Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation, the Institut Ramon Llull, and The Russian Federation Institute for Literary Translation.

Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. His work has earned him a National Endowment for the Arts grant (2018), PEN Center USA’s Translation Prize (2017), Poetry Magazine’s translation prize (2014), the Northern California Book Award in Poetry (2015), and residencies from the Banff Centre and the Lannan Foundation, among other honors. He has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and has been a Fulbright Research Fellow in Germany, and a CASA Fellow in Egypt. The online hub for his work is

Mara Faye Lethem has translated novels from the Catalan by Marta Orriols, Jaume Cabré, Albert Sánchez Piñol, Marc Pastor, Toni Sala, Eduard Márquez, and Alicia Kopf, among others. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe Paris Review and McSweeney’s, and been recognized with two English PEN Awards and two International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award nominations. She writes the New Catalan Fiction catalogue each year for the Institut Ramon Llull, and wrote the application that earned Barcelona designation as a UNESCO City of Literature. She lives between Brooklyn and Barcelona, and is currently working on a novel by Max Besora.

Jennifer Feeley is the translator of Not Written Words: Selected Poetry of Xi Xi (Zephyr Press and MCCM Creations, 2016), for which she won the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize and which received a 2017 Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award in Literature and Fiction. She is the translator of the first two books in the White Fox series by Chen Jiatong (Chicken House Books), and her translation of the selected works of Shi Tiesheng is forthcoming from Polymorph Editions. She was awarded a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship to translate Xi Xi’s novel Mourning a Breast.

Marian Schwartz is a prize-winning translator from Russian whose most recent publications are Leonid Yuzefovich’s Horsemen of the Sands (Archipelago) and Olga Slavnikova’s The Man Who Couldn’t Die: The Tale of an Authentic Human Being (Columbia University Press).  She is currently translating the four volumes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III (University of Notre Dame Press)the second volume of which will be published in November 2019. In 2014 she received the Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature and in 2018 the Linda Gaboriau Award for Translation from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

For more information, please see our website for details, as well as introductions to former mentees and their accomplishments.

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Collective Conversations: An Interview with Cedilla & Co.

This month we move to New York City, where we find Cedilla & Co, one of the first, if not the first, in this new wave of literary translation collectives, which has certainly blazed a trail for the many others that have sprung up since. The collective comprises nine members covering eleven languages.

This week’s interview conducted by the Emerging Translators’ Collective.

Cedilla & Co

L to R: Alta Price, Allison Markin Powell, Jeremy Tiang, Heather Cleary, Julia Sanches, Marshall Yarborough (past member), Jeffrey Zuckerman

1) Let’s start with the basics. How did the collective form?
Julia Sanches (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan & French):
The idea for Cedilla started with a conversation Sean Bye and Julia Sanches had one Saturday afternoon over coffee while both were translating the book projects they were contracted to do, outside their New York City office hours. They were lamenting the fact that they had day jobs at all, as well as the unpaid labor translators are often expected to do in order to get to what they actually want to do: translate. They thought: how nice would it be to have an agent? They wouldn’t have to pitch projects, negotiate rates, pore over contracts; they might be able to place stories in a wider variety of journals and magazines; hell, they could democratize literature in translation..! And then, drat: neither could afford to lose 15% of their fee. Eventually, it occurred to them they could put together a group of translators who’d function as agents for each other’s projects, an idea that riffed off a collective agency model for actors in the UK. Cedilla has since changed in ambition and scope, but that was the initial inspiration.

2) The translators of Çedilla & Co. are such an impressive bunch. Do some of you take on specific roles, or is it an all-hands-on-deck operation?
Alex Zucker (Czech): It is an impressive bunch. I am continually in awe of my fellow members’ knowledge and skills, and especially hard work. As for whether or not members have specific roles, I would say it varies from one situation to the next, though there are some things certain members clearly enjoy doing, so the others are happy to let them take the lead on those. When one of us has an idea, they bring it to the group, and if enough other members want to do it, we do it; if not, we don’t. We all have a lot on our plates at any given moment, so it’s understood that nobody is obligated to do anything they don’t have the capacity for. Some members are more gung ho about organizing events—and of course those of us who live in New York City also have more opportunities to do so. Others are expert at contracts, so we tend to lean on them more for advice in that arena. Certain members see to the website and newsletter, others are more active in reaching out to publishers, building relationships with editors, and so on.

In the liner notes for The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix, there’s a story about a musician who was confused when he played with the band for the first time, so he asked Gil what was going on, and Gil said, “If you feel like playing a solo, just stand up and play. If you don’t feel like playing a solo, don’t stand up and play. If somebody else is already standing up and playing a solo, and you feel like playing, stand up and play. If the band is playing the melody of the arrangement, and you feel like standing up and playing, just stand up and play.” That’s what Çedilla feels like to me, and I usually function (and feel) better in improvised formations than institutional ones, so a collective like this is a healthy place for me. 

3) I noticed you offer services to industry professionals. What does that aspect of the collective look like? Are you moving toward becoming an agency of sorts?
Allison Markin Powell (Japanese): A number of us provide reader reports, which is not so unusual, but we also offer what we call ‘market intelligence,’ which is basically information that each of us has acquired from our years of experience working within foreign publishing industries. In addition to offering our inside and up-to-the-moment take on what the literary landscapes look like in these countries, often their publishing worlds do not function in exactly the same way as they do in the U.S. or the U.K., so we can consult on these differences. In reverse, we can provide a foreign publisher or agency with in-depth research or reporting on, say, editors at English-language publishers who have acquired literary noir in translation. And while I don’t think we’re ready to hang out our shingle as an agency yet, we have been exploring new models for our relationships with both publishers and authors, as well as with agencies themselves.

4) Is there a general translation ethos among the members?
Jeffrey Zuckerman (French): There are nine of us, and we cover twelve languages, so I think it’s safe to say that we all have different vantage points when it comes to the word-by-word, page-by-page practice of translating. The ethos we do share is that we work not within a vacuum but within a larger network of English-language editors, foreign-language publishers, brilliant authors, shrewd publicists, and remarkable readers. In such a context, we see the greatest value in cultivating cooperation and collaboration among all parties in order to bring brilliant books to as wide a readership as possible—and every way in which we can support one another only helps to improve the end result for everyone involved.

5) How do you cultivate community among yourselves? And the wider publishing community?
Jeremy Tiang (Chinese): We meet once a month, taking turns to host, and while we usually have a lot of business to discuss — which we do as efficiently as possible — this is also an opportunity to catch up with each other, which is a crucial part of feeling like a community rather than a bunch of people on the same e-mail list. Often, there is cake. Those who aren’t able to be there will Skype in. Being New York based, we are able to attend many literary events in person, where we can meet fellow translators, editors, booksellers, and others in the industry. We also organize about three readings of our own each year, including one at the ALTA conference. While we do stay connected to those farther afield, there’s no substitute to gathering people in physical space.

6) At ALTA 2018, you mentioned that doing social media is a time sink. What other ways are you communicating with potential translators & readers?
Sean Gasper Bye (Polish): Plenty! We have a quarterly newsletter, composed by the fabulous Alta L. Price, showing projects newly sold, new publications, articles by or about us, upcoming and past events and so on. We hold a few readings a year to showcase new work. As you mentioned, we’ve also hosted panels at ALTA talking about our work and that of other collectives. We produce occasional catalogs of new and recent work to give out at book fairs and our events. Above all, each of us is constantly in touch with our own contacts one-on-one, talking about the work of the collective. I find we’ve successfully built up our profile in the community without the need to post constant updates across however many social media platforms.

7) What are some of the successes you’ve celebrated so far?
Alta L. Price (German & Italian): The answers above have addressed many of these, so—aside from the concrete victory of having placed projects from Arabic, Chinese, and Polish with U.S. and U.K. publishers—I’d say our less tangible triumphs are equally important, including readings and related public events heightening the visibility of our profession. Each of our quarterly newsletters has triggered queries, many of which have led to excerpts in magazines, so we’re succeeding in bringing new voices into English. We thrive on seeing our work get reviewed in major publications, hearing from editors in search of foreign voices, meeting readers during events we’ve organized at local bookstores, and sharing new authors we’ve discovered while abroad. The collective benefits from our individual wins as well: getting NEA and PEN Heim grants, being long- and shortlisted for (and sometimes winning) awards like PEN Translates, the BTBA, the TA First Translation Prize, etc. help us prove translation’s power. Staying in close contact as many of our members hop all over the globe for residencies, book fairs, and research work is another success, as it broadens our geographic and cultural reach while also bringing us together as living bridges connecting countries and cultures.

8) What does the future of translation look like?
Heather Cleary (Spanish): More and more translators are seeing the value in sharing ideas and resources, and are finding ways to do this formally (as collectives and through other kinds of professional groups) and informally (getting together locally to workshop and discuss projects). I think this will continue in years to come; hopefully these conversations will lead not only to more and better translations, but will also foster better working conditions and—as a result—make translation an option for a broader range of individuals, voices, and approaches. You thought I was going to say something about computers, didn’t you?

9) Being in New York, I imagine you’re often approached by potential members. How does one go about joining Çedilla & Co.?
Cedilla is the perfect size for us—more members would change the dynamics and complicate the logistics getting together for meetings or readings. Besides, every collective coheres around particular needs. We wanted our collective to have a wide range of languages, for example, even at the expense of being able to consult with each other on nuances of translating a particular language. Rather, we encourage translators to establish their own collectives by finding colleagues they’d love to spend more time working with, and by drawing on the aspects of each collective that work best for them to create something that perfectly fits their needs. And we’re more than happy to cheer others on!

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Last Chance to Apply to Bread Loaf in Sicily!

Only one spot left! If you want the chance to work with 2018 IPTA judge Geoffrey Brock on your poetry translation this September in lovely Sicily, check this out! Bread Loaf in Sicily is offering a small group workshop in Erice, a beautiful mountaintop town in Western Sicily. There, you’ll get feedback on your poetry translations while attending BL_Sicilyreadings and craft classes and experiencing exquisite Sicilian cuisine, all with a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Translations may be from any source language translated into English. Don’t miss your chance — apply for the last available spot today!

Bread Loaf in Sicily
September 22 to 28, 2019
Apply now to secure your spot!

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Collective Conversations: An Interview with the Boston-Area Literary Translators

If you’re not from Boston — or even if you are — this may well be the first you’re hearing of the Boston-Area Literary Translators, who have hitherto largely operated in the offline world. Our featured literary translation collective for July has no online presence at all, which feels rather radical in this day and age. Here’s a rare glimpse into their inner workings.

This month’s interview was conducted by the Third Coast Translators Collective (TCTC). 


Left to right: Ellen Elias-Bursać, Jim Kates, Mark Schafer (above), Mary Berg (below), Sekyo Haines

Your official name is Dolet, for Étienne Dolet. Tell us about the meaning behind that, and how long the group has been in operation.

Our listserv is, indeed, named “Dolet” after Étienne Dolet (1509-1546), but in fact we don’t really have a proper official name. Étienne Dolet was chosen for the listerv because, as the story goes, he was strangled and burned with his books by the Catholic Church for an inaccurate translation (and his attacks on the Inquisition). We often refer to ourselves as the Boston-Area Literary Translators, but, again, not an official name.

We have been in operation since just after the 1992 ALTA meeting in Pittsburgh, when the group formed. Some of the first to join were Cola Franzen, Jim Kates, Kirk Anderson, Lisa Sapinkoff, Carolyne Wright, Mark Schafer, Elisabeth Oehlkers Wright, Ellen Elias-Bursać, Dick Cluster, Mary Berg. Currently we have 48 people on our mailing list, of whom 30-35 are active members. About 10-15 usually attend each meeting.

As one of the oldest continuously meeting literary translator groups, what are your secrets for sustainability and longevity?

Our members said, in response:

The meetings are informal. 

The food is good. 

We aren’t very regimented – sometimes we meet every month, sometimes every 6 or 8 weeks, depending on who offers to host.

Sometimes we get together in New Hampshire in the summer and pick blueberries (and even then we read each other work once we’ve picked the blueberries).

Recently some of our newest members have been hosting, which has been greatly appreciated. 

The feedback from colleagues has been invaluable. 

We support each other by coming to one anothers’ readings and events.

One of our members says he has built Cola Franzen’s voice into his work by now, after years of discussing the translation of poetry with her at our meetings, and even though she died last year he still carries on conversations with her about his work as he’s translating.

People can come to the meeting even if they don’t have work to share just then.

We love discussing languages.

What is the mission of your group? And what’s its vision for the future?

Our mission is to keep each other company as we work as translators, and our vision is to bring our work to the public in various ways, something we’re just starting to do more of. 

You have (that we know of) no online presence. Has this been intentional? How can a fellow Bostonian translator reach you?

Word of mouth has always been the way we’ve brought new people in. You’re right, we’ve never had a Facebook page or website. I guess we were never sure what we’d put on it. The address of the person hosting the next meeting? It feels more private sending that sort of information around by email through our listserv. But that does limit accessibility for those who don’t realize we’re here. Sometimes people find us by asking around. We are hoping ALTA will create a page on the website listing all the collectives and the email of a contact person for each one.

How often do you meet and what is the focus of your meetings?

A member offers to host the gathering, the host sends out an invitation over our listerv, the people planning to come let the host know what they will be bringing (in terms of food), we meet either at 6 pm for dinner mid-week or on a weekend for brunch, and after we eat we read to each other from what we’re currently working on, usually choosing material that offers an interesting translation problem for discussion. Each reader reads from either one page of prose, or one or two poems, and offers copies for the group in both the original language and their translation. Usually 10-15 people come. 

What languages do you work in? 

We almost always have a mixture of Romance (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian), Slavic (Russian, Polish, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian), and Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), but have also had members who have worked from Germanic languages (German, Swedish), Arabic, Vietnamese, Farsi, Bengali, Antillean Creole, Hebrew.

Do you do any community-oriented work–as in, translation events open to the public? Or do you just gather together for mutual support? 

We are looking for good places where we can hold readings. We held several great readings at Cambridge Public Library but had to stop using their space because we aren’t a Cambridge-based NGO (their requirement). Now we’re talking with several bookstores in the area. Brookline Booksmith has recently inaugurated their brilliant Transnational Literature series organized by Shuchi Saraswat which has been presenting authors and translators. Boston University holds a lecture series on translation every spring and has for over 40 years. Our members regularly take advantage of both of these and many of us have been asked to speak at one or the other of them. 

How many original members are still active? How do you recruit new ones?

There are three original members still active: Jim Kates, Mark Schafer, and Ellen Elias-Bursać. We recruit by word of mouth. There is no application procedure, we’re open to beginning translators as well as experienced ones. Recently we’ve all been making an effort to get word out about the group at various translation gatherings, such as the conference on translation held last September at Boston University, and those efforts have brought in new members, which we are all delighted about. Also, when we’ve organized readings we include some regular members, but always bring in people who haven’t been in our group to take part as well. 

What is particularly enticing about writing and translating in Boston?

The BU spring seminar on translation has been ongoing for over 40 years, so there has always been a core of people engaged in discussing translation issues. The people teaching in the language and literature departments all over the city as well as the non-academic members of the Boston-area community, many of them involved in publishing, have provided a steady stream of participants. Also it’s important to say that we don’t just include people from Boston. Two of our members come to meetings regularly from New Hampshire, several have joined us from other parts of Massachusetts such as Amherst, Northampton, and Gloucester, and we have members in Rhode Island and Connecticut as well. 

What are some essential translator resources you’ve found invaluable over the years?

Each other, first and foremost. And the stimulation offered by readings, talks, bookstores (hooray for Brookline Booksmith), libraries. We all miss Schoenhof’s, the Harvard Square bookstore specialized in foreign languages. 

Do you have any hard rules for translation? An extension, perhaps, of rules in writing?

Reading out loud to each other. We have no hard rules for translation.

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