Translation-Related Events You Don’t Want to Miss at AWP19!

The Association for Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference, North America’s largest literary conference, starts this week! Be sure to check out this list of translation-related events before you arrive in Portland, and get planning!

Plus: don’t miss your chance to win a bundle of books at AWP19. Bookfair Bingo is back! Find out more here.

Are we missing any panels? Email us at rachaeldaum@literarytranslators.org and let us know.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

9:00 am to 10:15 am

C124, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R124. Getting Beyond 3%: International Literature and US Literary Culture. (Chad Post (Open Letter Books),  Elisabeth Jaquette (ALTA), Milena Deleva (Elizabeth Kostova Foundation), Rachael Small (Europa Editions), Will Evans (Deep Vellum)) It’s now been more than ten years since the NEA announced that only 3% of books published annually in the US are translations, with literary work accounting for less than 1%. This panel will address ways publishers and literary organizations have attempted to tackle these statistics, as well as discuss the importance, politics, and methods of bringing diversity to reading markets across the US, creating a literary culture that embraces international voices to help expand narrowing world views.

D135, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R129. Translators Are the Unacknowledged Ambassadors of the World. (Zack Rogow, Niloufar Talebi, Suzanne Jill Levine, Allen Hibbard) Percy Shelley said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Similarly, translators are the unacknowledged ambassadors of the world. In what sense is a translator an ambassador for a people, language, and culture to another? How does the responsibility of representing the insights of one society to another influence the translator’s choice of projects, and the way s/he works? Translators from Arabic, Persian, Spanish, and French discuss these topics.

F152, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R141. Twenty-five Years of Two Lines.(Olivia Sears, Forrest Gander, Cynthia Hogue, Sidney Wade, Edward Gauvin) For twenty-five years, Two Lines has been publishing world literature in translation, championing underrepresented regions and languages, and celebrating the work of literary translators. Founded in response to the lack of visibility for translators, Two Lines has published the best names in translation from its first issue on. Join past contributors and editors for a reading and discussion of the evolution of translation in the last two decades and of where this field is headed.

10:30 am to 11:45 am

C123, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R156. Translation as the Art of Reincarnation: World Perspectives on Creative Process. (Helene Cardona, Sidney Wade, Christopher Merrill, Willis Barnstone, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs) How do you find and give a new voice to a poem in a different language, infusing other cultures into your own experience? Working with Hebrew, Greek, French, Korean, Slovenian, Spanish, and Turkish, this panel’s poets, translators, and scholars discuss their roles as intermediaries, technicians, and alchemists dancing between languages to create inspired texts spanning cultural differences, geographic distances, and time.

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

B117-119, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R190. When Your Characters Just Stand There Smoking & Staring: Translation & Invention, Sponsored by ALTA. (Russell Valentino, Curtis Bauer, Gregory Pardlo) Novelist and translator Maureen Freely once noted that when translating an Orhan Pamuk novel set in Istanbul, the characters in her own Istanbul-set novel just stood there smoking, looking at her, while his had plenty to say. In translating his characters’ words, she found her own. This panel explores translation as prompt and liberation for when one’s own words refuse to come. Each panelist provides a reflection and offers examples of how translating has enabled and inspired new work.

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

A103-104, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R215. Where Literary and Professional Translation Meet. (Elizabeth Lowe, Jenny McPhee, Joyce Tolliver, Aron Aji, Becka McKay) Panelists will discuss the merits of including literary translation in the graduate professional translation curriculum. Literary translators who teach in these programs find that their knowledge and skills transfer readily to professional translation. These include writing practice, close reading of master translators’ works, and studying the models offered by award-winning translations. Panelists will focus on specific examples from their respective teaching and translation practices.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A105, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 R287. Tribute to the Life and Work of Poet Charles Simic on His 80th Birthday. (Biljana Obradovic, Danuta Hinc, Bruce Weigl, John Gery) Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1938, Charles Simic, who turned 80 in 2018, came to the US as a teenager barely speaking English, ended up being appointed Fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, winning a Pulitzer Prize among many awards, publishing over fifty books, including his own poetry, memoirs, criticism, as well as translations of Yugoslavian poets, and teaching English and Creative Writing at the University of New Hampshire for over thirty years.

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm

McMenamins Chapel Pub, 430 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217. Translator Happy Hour. Cost: Free. Event URL: website
Two local translators’ organizations, NOTIS and OSTI, invite all translators to join us for happy hour in a private room at McMenamins Chapel Pub. We’re proud to have this conference come to the Pacific Northwest and we can’t wait to meet you!
Contact: Shelley Fairweather-Vega
Organization: Northwest Literary Translators & OSTI
Organization URL: website


Friday, March 29, 2019

9:00 am to 10:15 am

A103-104, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F112. Creating Space for Translation: Writers Workshops, MFAs, and the Academy. (Katherine M. Hedeen, Aron Aji, Suzanne Jill Levine, Pedro Serrano, Elizabeth Lowe) This panel gathers together specialists in establishing literary translation writers workshops, MFA programs, and academic tracks. We will address both theoretical and practical issues, including distinguishing translation as a literary art and ensuring its visibility, how to foster translators/authors/co-creators, and what emerging translators need to learn to build a portfolio of literary translations to launch their careers.

A105, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F113. She-Radical: Emotional Ally vs. Emotional Labor. (Carolina De Robertis, Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, Carson Beker, Ashley Davis, Nancy Au) QTPOC often shoulder the bulk of emotional labor in classrooms, boardrooms, in academic and other professional settings. How can QTPOC writers, artists, and educators thrive in their professional worlds, in ways that acknowledge the struggles of their colleagues and mentees, while simultaneously asserting and prioritizing one’s own personal desires vital to nurturing one’s craft? How can speculative fiction, poetry, and translation inform the roles of mentors in interdisciplinary settings?

10:30 am to 11:45 am

E146, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F167. Local Learning for Literary Translation: Panel Discussion, Sponsored by ALTA. (Shelley Fairweather-Vega, Katie King, Tim Gregory, Mia Spangenberg) The Northwest Literary Translators is a group of emerging and established translators who meet monthly in Seattle. A panel of core members discuss our model for peer-to-peer support and grassroots education (workshops, guest speakers, readings, and translation slams), events which address both the business and craft of translation. In a field where formal training is rare, expensive, and typically geographically concentrated, our group provides resources for translators of all backgrounds.

F150, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F170. Don’t You Say a Word: Censorship and Its Silencing. (Niloufar Talebi, Carolyn Forché, Chris Abani, Glen Retief, Raad Rahman) Censorship today is not exclusive to authoritarian countries, but is rather a global phenomenon. In this panel we examine the history and variety of censorship, the trauma of silencing on writers, translators, readers, and societies. We shed light on how censorship contributes to the invisibility of literary and creative voices of certain cultures from the international stage, and we explore various modes of resistance toward freedom of expression and more equitable exchange of cultures.

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

E143-144, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F200. Writers as Translators, Translators as Writers. (Goeffrey Brock, Brooks Haxton, Mónica de la Torre, Bill Johnston, Jennifer Grotz) Readers, writers, and translators alike discover at some point that mastery of the source language alone can’t guarantee the success of a translation: A literary translation succeeds to the extent that it’s a compelling work of art in its target language. In this panel covering a variety of languages, traditions, and time periods, five esteemed faculty of the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference—successful writers and translators themselves—each examine poets or writers whose translation activity spurred innovation in their creative work or vice versa.

F149, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F204. Diana’s Diaspora: Diana Der-Hovanessian’s Influence on Armenian American Writers. (Arminé Iknadossian, Nancy Agabian, Lory Bedikian, Shahé Mankerian, Lola Koundakjian) Diana Der-Hovanessian, a renowned poet, translator, mentor, and cultural leader, opened a door for Armenian Americans to read and write themselves into being. Armenian American writers read and discuss her work, share insights about her character through anecdote and memory, and analyze her impact on American poetry, translation, and Armenian culture. A year after her death, they look at her legacy to inspire the future of Armenian poetry, including her emphasis on poetry by and for women.

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

A107-109, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F219. MANOA and The Contemporary Pacific: A Thirty-year Celebration. (Noah Perales-Estoesta, Alexander Mawyer, Frank Stewart, Pat Matsueda, Robert Shapard) MANOA and The Contemporary Pacific have published literature from Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas since 1989. They have influenced Americans’ awareness of international writing and promoted minority languages and communities of the Pacific hemisphere. Panelists will talk about introducing readers to thousands of authors and translators, representing familiar and unfamiliar Pacific and Asian languages, including Tibetan, Nepali, Nuosu, Native Hawaiian, Tahitian, Khmer, and Uchinaaguchi.

E147-148, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F239. Who Has the Rights? The How, Why, and Whom of Translation, Sponsored by ALTA. (Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Rajiv Mohabir, Sawako Nakayasu, E. J. Koh) Translation can be a confusing field to navigate, especially for new translators. This panel addresses ethical and practical aspects of translation, including why translation matters, who has the right to translate whom, how texts are chosen and permissions are obtained, what grants and fellowships are available, and what specific issues can arise from translating non-Romanized texts into English. Examples are drawn from the panelists’ work with Hindi, Japanese, and Korean.

Portland Ballroom 255, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2 F249. Act of Gratitude: Poetry International’s 20th Anniversary Celebratory Reading. (Sherwin Bitsui, Catherine Barnett, Jennifer Minniti- Shippey) This event celebrates twenty years of Poetry International’s commitment to increasing the presence of global literature translated into English, and to placing that work in conversation with exciting voices in English-language literature. Come hear acclaimed poets, translators, and members of our editorial staff read and discuss contemporary literature.

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

B113, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F259. Translating from Non-European and Overlooked Languages. (Frank Stewart, Alexander Mawyer, Sharon May, Tony Barnstone) World literature can’t be understood without translations from other than the “major” languages and countries. But translating from outside the mainstream poses challenges: applying Western valuation to non-Western work; imposing context on unfamiliar literary and cultural ideas. The dearth of American and global markets for such translations adds further challenges. Translators of Asia-Pacific languages join with editors of international journals to talk about publishing translations.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A107-109, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F292. Lost and Found: Strategies for Reviving Out-of-Print or Overlooked Books. (Stephanie Lenox, Carl Adamshick, Natalie Garyet, Matthew Hodgson) Franklin D. Roosevelt once wrote, “People die, but books never die.” As lovers of literature, we want this to be true. What happens, though, when a book falls out of print or copyright expires? This panel explores ways to give new life to overlooked books by examining the work of two Oregon-based presses. Discussion will include short readings from a little-known translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies and a reprint of Nella Larsen’s Passing, a rediscovered classic of the Harlem Renaissance.

B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 F297. Poet vs. Community vs. History.(Yanyi, Emily Yoon, EJ Koh, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Monica Sok) For Asian American poets, what is the relationship between bearing witness to history and giving voice to marginalized communities? Four writers talk about how their work as poets, editors, translators, and scholars allows them to uncover intimacies among seemingly disparate colonial histories and contextualize narratives of intergenerational trauma. They draw on multidisciplinary practices to explore how the individual pursuits of poets can build empathy and community.

5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Holocene Portland, 1001 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214. S**tholes of the World Unite: A Poetry Reading in Translation. Cost: Free. Event URL: website
Featuring an extensive list of some of our most recognized translator-poets reading poetry in English translation from s**thole countries, those named and unnamed. In solidarity and as a form of resistance to the imperialist, racist, and sexist ideologies which divide us, and in recognition of how English language translation plays a prominent role in making works of poetry available and creates international networks for political and social solidarity and change.
Contact: Katherine Hedeen and Jake Levine

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Irving Street Studio, 907 NW Irving St., Portland, OR 97209. The Future of Translation Party / Two Lines, The Literary Review, & Arkansas International. Cost: Free. Event URL: website.
Tonight belongs to translation! Join us for a party to celebrate twenty-five years of Two Lines Journal with performances by Gregory Pardlo, Mónica de la Torre, Jennifer Grotz, Curtis Bauer, Will Schutt, Aaron Coleman, and many others. Join Two LinesThe Literary Review, and Arkansas International for an evening of mingling, reading, and thoroughly enjoying literary translation. Stop by booth 6048 for an updated list of readers and timings of the program, or visit our website.
Contact: Two Lines Press
Organization: Two Lines Press
Organization URL: website


Saturday, March 30, 2019

9:00 am to 10:15 am

D135, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S127. Exophonic Writing in America. (Piotr Florczyk, Mónica de la Torre, Monika Zobel, Gazmend Kapllani, Piotr Gwiazda) This panel focuses on sharing writing and professional practices of writers who write in an acquired language. It addresses issues of acceptance and rejection by the literary community, the process of choosing a language to express particular narratives, feelings, or ideas, the ways in which self-translation becomes creatively generative, and strategies for finding publishers. Panelists discuss their writing processes in various languages and welcome questions from the audience.

F149, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S136. Embodying Writing / Performing Translation, Sponsored by ALTA. (Gabrielle Civil, Madhu Kaza, Sawako Nakayasu, Urayoan Noel, John Pluecker) Beyond merely transferring text from one language to another, translation invites a recognition and practice of embodiment. This can connect to performance in compelling ways. Here, diaspora translators discuss performing translation, embodying writing (in and as translation), and translating performance. Engaging Haiti, Japan, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, they reckon with race, gender, sexuality, nationality, power, and language justice—in representation and lived experience.

12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

F149, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S202. Politics and Pragmatics of Translating Asian Languages. (Charles Waugh, Bonnie Chau, Michelle Crowson, Anothai Kaewkaen) Four accomplished translators, working in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese, discuss the political and pragmatic difficulties posed by translating Asian languages. Panelists will address challenges arising from formal aspects of the languages, from the political dimensions and consequences of the work, and from working in a field underrepresented in US publishing, academic programs, and at AWP. Panelists will also present resources for aspiring translators and propose an Asian languages translators’ network.

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

B115, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S217. Fifty Years of FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. (David Walker, David Young, Stuart Friebert, Martha Collins, Kazim Ali) Since 1969, FIELD Magazine has been known as one of the country’s leading journals of contemporary poetry and poetics. In 2019, FIELD will publish its 100th and final issue. This panel, featuring two founding editors and three later additions, will discuss the magazine’s history and values, including its annual symposium of essays on the work of a major poet, its commitment to translation, and its openness to a wide variety of voices, both established and emerging.

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

C125-126, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S256. Property of the Imagination: Caribbean Literature in Translation, Sponsored by ALTA. (Michael Holtmann, Aaron Coleman, Carina del Valle Schorske, Kristin Dykstra, Linda Coverdale) Linguistically and culturally diverse, Caribbean literatures have developed out of shared but fragmented histories of colonialism, slavery, migration, and syncreticism. While these countries are geographically close to the US, they remain underrepresented in international literature. Four translators of writers from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Martinique, and Haiti share their translations and speak about what has drawn them into the luminescent world of Caribbean writing.

E143-144, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S264. How Do We Translate a Sense of Place Across Places? (Wendy Call, Marco Antonio Huerta, Cecilia Martinez Gil, Samina Najmi, Alison Mandaville) Words carry the imprint of the natural and built environments that inspired them: place names, landforms, plants, animals, foods, climate, and weather. As writers and translators move writing across languages, geographies, and borders, how do our word choices impact the resulting work’s sense of place? Five translator-writers address this question, with examples from poetry and prose rooted in the contemporary and historical landscapes of Azerbaijan, Mexico, Pakistan, and Uruguay.

4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Passages Bookshop, 1223 NE MLK, Portland OR 97232. Portuguese Translation Reading. Featuring Christopher Daniels, Hilary Kaplan, and Sean Nagus at Passages Bookshop.

4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

D137-138, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1 S295. Translating Others, Translating Ourselves: Creative Writers as Translators. (Sharon Dolin, Forrest Gander, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Don Mee Choi, Malena Mörling) Poets and fiction writers who translate are arguably the most creative of translators and the least self-effacing. Translation is more of a collaboration and re-creation in another tongue, according to Mark Polizzotti in his new book Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto. Five writers who are translators explore how creative the act of translation is, and also whether the work they translate has affected their own creative practice.

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It’s not too late: Apply for the Kenyon Review Translator’s Voice Summer Workshop!

1200x630 Translation instructors

Don’t miss your chance for a week of creative writing and literary translation this summer! Taught by Elizabeth Lowe and Katherine Hedeen, the Kenyon Review Translator’s Voice polyglot workshop is a chance not to be missed. Rolling applications for the Kenyon Review’s Translator’s Voice polyglot summer workshop are open! https://www.kenyonreview.org/writers/translation/

The week-long non-language-specific workshop offers an opportunity for aspiring and mid-career literary translators with a variety of professional backgrounds to couple their creative writing interests with their passion for working between languages. Writers focus on close reading and experimentation with language and style from a strong second language into English. The workshop is conducted seminar-style and activities focus on literary translation as a cross-cultural, creative endeavor, using theoretical readings and examples of works of master translators as guides.

The workshop is limited to 10 participants. Applicants are screened on a rolling basis and are required to submit a translation sample of 500 words of prose or three pages of poetry from their source language into English. This class is team taught by Elizabeth Lowe, professor of translation at New York University and founder of the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Illinois, and Katherine M. Hedeen, professor of Spanish and literary translation at Kenyon College.

Find out more here: https://www.kenyonreview.org/writers/translation/

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Don’t Forget: Bookfair Bingo is back at AWP19!

Coming to Portland, OR from March 27 – 30, 2019 for the Association for Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference to enjoy North America’s largest literary conference? For the fifth year in a row, ALTA is excited to present Bookfair Bingo, your chance to win a bundle of books in translation at AWP19!

Participants who get bingo by visiting the booths of participating presses will be entered each day of the conference to win a bundle of books generously donated by each of those presses. Stop by the ALTA booth (3056) at the bookfair to get your card and instructions to meet up with presses like Open Letter, Two Lines, Archipelago, Red Hen, and many more. And if you fill out a special bonus row featuring fabulous translation journals and organizations, you’ll get entered to win a subscription!

Don’t be shy: Stop by booth 3056 to say hello to ALTA staff, and tag us @littranslate on Twitter and Instagram!

Plus, we have a list of the translation-related events you’ll find there, including ALTA-sponsored events. Come on out and help us keep Portland weird at North America’s largest literary conference!

As part of AWP and ALTA’s literary partnership, ALTA is invited to submit 5 translation-related session proposals to the AWP conference. We want to hear from ALTA members who would like to submit a proposal for an ALTA-sponsored panel for AWP20! Submit your proposal using this form. Proposals must be complete at the time of submission, meaning they must include a title, a moderator, at least three confirmed panelists, a description of no more than 60 words, and a statement of merit of no more than 60 words. Proposals received before April 10 will be given full consideration by ALTA’s Programming Committee. Find out more here.

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Book your stay at ALTA42!

ALTA is pleased to announce that the block of rooms we have secured for ALTA42 attendees is open! The 2019 ALTA conference will be held from November 7-10 in Rochester, NY, at the Hyatt Regency Rochester and the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center in downtown Rochester. The Hyatt Regency is located Hyatt Regencyacross the street from the convention center. ALTA has secured a block of rooms in the Hyatt Regency for conference attendees at a special rate. For your convenience, we encourage you to book your hotel reservations in advance. The ALTA conference block of hotel rooms will be released to the general public on the cut-off date of October 18, 2019. Plus, when you book at the conference hotel, a portion of the proceeds go to ALTA, so show your support by booking your room in our block!

The Hyatt Regency Rochester is connected to the convention center via an enclosed skywalk, a 3-minute walk. Located on the Genesee River, the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center has 100,000 square feet of space with high-speed broadband wireless internet and enclosed walkways to hotels, dining, and a parking garage. Conference sessions and other events will be held there.

For information about rates, booking at the conference hotel, and getting to Rochester, NY, please see our ALTA42 Hotel & Travel page. Be sure to follow the instructions listed on the page to make sure you secure our special attendee rate! 

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Collective Conversations: An Interview with The Starling Bureau

Just in time for the London Book Fair, we now head over to the UK for the second installment of our literary translation collectives interview series. The Starling Bureau is based in London, and consists of Zoë Perry, Roland Glasser, Morgan Giles, Paul Russell Garrett, and Ruth Clarke. The photo below is from their recent event at London’s French and English bookshop, Caravanserail.

This month’s interview was conducted by the Northwest Literary Translators. 

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Tell us how the members of your collective first came together. How did you meet?

The five of us first met in 2012, at a week-long Literary Translation Summer School run by the British Centre for Literary Translation in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich (now the National Centre for Writing). In the years since then, we have come to know each other better through being active on the London translation scene, and by our involvement with organizations such as the Translators Association, the Emerging Translators’ Network, and the European Literature Network. The fact that we were all friends certainly made it easier to get the collective rolling. We all have quite strong personalities—which provides a useful creative friction—but we’re very supportive of each other. It’s a good balance.

Starlings! Why starlings?

We wanted our name to say something about what we do, how we do it, and where we’re based. Starlings are able to move synchronously, swiftly, and gracefully in imposing “murmurations” because each bird works in close communication with up to seven of its neighbors. This shared interaction optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort—a notion that fits our collective perfectly. And the starling is one of the most common bird species in London, our base.

Your collective seems to operate almost as a literary agency. Many translators end up doing that work for “their” authors on their own – what benefits and drawbacks do you see to doing it as a group?

One of the obvious benefits we quickly discovered was the variety of publishing contacts we had. We assembled a shared list of contacts, and surprisingly, there was very little overlap. So although we could do that work individually, our reach wouldn’t be as great. We’ve also pooled our knowledge on the kind of information publishers are after, and have focused our pitches based on that information. We workshop our pitches and our sample translations as a collective, allowing us to produce effective proposals for publishers.

Who’s your competition, and what advantages does The Starling Bureau have over them?

Agents might seem like a more obvious competitor, but in fact, they’ve been mostly supportive of the work we’re doing. Our biggest competition probably comes from more established translators, who are not necessarily seen as competitive. Publishers often have fixed relationships with translators from certain languages, preferring to work with a translator they’ve collaborated with in the past, over a translator they aren’t familiar with. One of the benefits of working as a collective is that we can raise one another’s profiles, and hopefully make these publishers notice our efforts.

Your members cover many different languages, but some major ones are missing – German and Russian, for example. Does that feel like a limitation or a blessing?

Our collective is first and foremost about us, a group of close colleagues, and though we were keen to cover a variety of languages (seven), we felt that being able to work together and trust and support each other was more important than covering every “major” language. Also, we represent far more than just languages, we each have individual interests in certain cultures, countries and genres. We have our own tastes, but we all feel comfortable pitching each other’s titles. Ultimately, it’s the books that are important, not where they come from.

From the beginning, we discussed our language range, and explored options for expanding it, but we soon realized that we hadn’t set out to become an agency, with a wide offer for publishers, but to promote our own work, and find a home for the foreign literature that we love!

Do authors approach The Starling Bureau and ask you to represent them? Or do you find them? How do you decide, as a group, which books to pitch?

The books we pitch might come to us from the author, agent or original publisher, from a friend’s recommendation, or simply from a bookshop splurge on a foreign visit.

For a book to be featured on our website, it needs to make it through the ‘internal pitching’ session, where we essentially pitch the books to each other and come to a (usually) unanimous decision on which ones to run with. These meetings are a bit like being on a judging panel for a literary prize, and the most convincing argument for a good book isn’t how many technical boxes it ticks, but how much passion comes across when you start talking about it.

How have publishers responded to your efforts as a group? Are they confused at all by the concept of a translators’ collective?

Most publishers respond very positively, although some source language publishers have been confused about the concept. Other translators understand that acting as an agent, scout, publicist, etc. is all part of a literary translator’s job, and that combining our efforts and energies makes sense, but it has been less clear to people in other aspects of the business. On the whole, though, we feel that the somewhat blurred lines—many people refer to us as an “agency”—do us no harm, and indeed act to our advantage.

Is The Starling Bureau open to new members?

No, we’re staying small for now. Kate Briggs gave a talk about This Little Art at the translation festival in Oslo, ‘Oversatte Dager’, where she celebrated the ‘little’ in the title of her book. Similarly, we’re happy to be This Little Bureau for the time being.

If so, what do you look for in potential new members? If not, why not?

We like to meet up in person for regular meetings, and everything we do is decided collectively, so keeping it small is also a practical decision.

Your website is lovely! Did you design it yourselves?

Yes, with some help from Squarespace!

The collective brings together not only our different translation experience and contacts, but also a great combination of other skills that shape what we do.


More information about The Starling Bureau can be found on their website, and you can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Questions by the Northwest Literary Translators, part of the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society, a group of emerging and established translators who meet monthly in Seattle. Find out more about them on their Facebook page, and check out their upcoming Spring Translation Slam!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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