A Statement from ALTA President Ellen Elias-Bursać on COVID-19 and ALTA43

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Dear ALTA members, affiliates, friends,                                                      April 13, 2020

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone’s life this year, and for some of you I know this has meant far more than an inconvenience. The ALTA Board and Staff sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well.

I am reaching out to you in these trying times to share the thinking of the ALTA Board and Staff on how to honor our commitment to you, the ALTA community. We recognize how precious it is for all of us to convene as a community, and we have been considering how best to move forward responsibly, mindful of your health and safety.

After much deliberation, we have decided to hold a virtual conference this fall in place of this November’s planned gathering in Tucson. With real regret we have agreed to this and feel it is the most responsible way forward. The health and safety of our community is our primary concern.

While we could have postponed the conference altogether, we opted for a virtual meeting instead, because we feel strongly about the continuity of our mission: supporting the work of literary translators, advancing the art of literary translation, and serving translators, and the students, teachers, publishers and readers of literature in translation. We also believe that our work, as language and culture professionals, is needed to counter prejudice and xenophobia in our country and the world.

We felt we couldn’t ask you, our members and attendees, to continue to make plans for your travel to Tucson. You deserve certainty sooner rather than later. So, for the time being we are pausing applications for sessions and bilingual readings, and will open them again once we can tell you more about format and guidelines for proposals.

We will work with you closely as we move forward. As a first step, you will receive a survey asking you to share your own experiences, good and bad, with virtual events. We are also consulting with organizations that have experience with the virtual environment, as ALTA has never organized such large-scale virtual programming. While we’re very sad to miss our annual meeting, those few extraordinary days of creative and professional interaction, we are also excited about the challenge, through a virtual meeting, of preserving the ALTA traditions while exploring new possibilities. Let me reassure you that we will resume our regular annual conferences, hopefully as early as in 2021.

This year’s situation will have a serious financial impact on our organization. Our budget usually comes roughly half from membership dues and half from conference registration. We are actively pursuing every available opportunity for support from the Payment Protection Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, and sources of relief provided by the state of Arizona, and we are deeply grateful to the University of Arizona, which continues to take their commitment to ALTA seriously.

But I should also say that we will be turning to you for your support to help ALTA come through this difficult year. Please don’t wait too long to renew your ALTA membership! Take part in the November virtual conference! And please please please consider a charitable donation to ALTA this year.

We recognize that this is a constantly evolving situation, in both our translation community and the world at-large, and we will keep you informed as our plans develop for the November meeting. You’ll be hearing from us again soon!

Warm regards to all of you,


Ellen Elias-Bursać
President, ALTA

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