Last Chance: ALTA Awards and Conference Submissions Closing Today!

Session submissions are closing today for ALTA’s annual conference, ALTA42: Sight and Sound, being held this year in Rochester, NY from November 7-10! To see the full call for sessions and find out more about the conference, check out our website, and see proposal guidelines here. Please note that only ALTA members may propose sessions, but participants need not be ALTA members. Sessions are recommended to have at least two other participants already committed to participating. If you want to see your panel, workshop, or roundtable this year in Rochester, be sure to submit by the end of the day today, April 15!

The 2019 ALTA award submissions portals are also closing today. The following prizes are accepting submissions until end of day today, April 15:

Please note that we only accept submissions through our Submittable portal. The deadline for awards submissions is today, April 15 at 11:59pm EDT, so get submitting!

We look forward to considering your submissions!

And some other opportunities:

As part of our literary partnership with the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), ALTA is invited to submit 5 translation-related session proposals to the annual AWP conference. We want to hear from ALTA members who would like to submit a proposal for an ALTA-sponsored panel for AWP20 from March 4-7, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas! Proposals received before April 17 will be given full consideration by ALTA’s Programming Committee.

We’re also extending a special invitation for theater translators to submit excerpts of dramatic translations to potentially be featured as dramatic readings at this fall’s conference. Submissions are due May 4.

We are now accepting proposals for the Bilingual Reading series at the conference. The Annual Alexis Levitin Bilingual Reading Series runs throughout the conference during the day, and occasionally at an off-site location or in the evening hours. Readers are organized into sessions during which each reader has a strict 12 minutes to present their work. Applications are due May 28.

2019 ALTA Word Press 898pix x 189pix

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Don’t miss your chance to submit to Transference!


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“Site 0257 – Basswood Tree – Kalamazoo, Michigan – 5:35 a.m.” by Bill Davis

Transference is open for submissions! This journal, published by faculty in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University, focuses exclusively on poetic translation. The journal publishes translations from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek, Latin, and Japanese into English. Transference features translations and accompanying commentaries on the art and process of translating poetry.

If you want the chance to give your poetry translations a home, make sure to submit by April 30!


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Living Translation: A Report from 2018 Travel Fellow Elina Alter

Each year, 4-6 emerging translators are awarded $1,000 each to travel to the ALTA conference, where they participate in panels, workshops, and readings. At the conference, ALTA Fellows are invited to read their translated work at a keynote event, giving them an opportunity to present their translations to an audience of translators, authors, editors, and publishers from around the world. Applications to be an ALTA Travel Fellow are open this year until April 15, so apply today!

Elina Mishuris Pic

Elina Alter was awarded a Travel Fellowship to attend the 2018 ALTA conference in Bloomington, IN.

Several years ago, there was a small bookshop in St. Petersburg; you found the entrance by walking through two linked courtyards, and perhaps by ringing a bell. The shop had a funny name, a couple of couches, and some adjoining rooms used, I think, for literature-adjacent purposes; talking, eating, sleeping. The books were in Russian, many of them translations, and I sat on a couch there once reading a new literary magazine and waiting for the summer rain to end, and one of the women working there made me a cup of tea.

For Russian literature, like all literatures most of the time, translation is crucial. It’s the way an art develops; ideas arrive at your shore via a curious, concerning, or enticing stranger, and are “answered” in your own language or languages, and so on. In Russia, this continuity and development was stymied for much of the twentieth century, because totalitarian governments are not interested in conversations or ideas. Readers of Russian did not have Ulysses in full until 1989. Daniil Kharms, one of the century’s most original writers, translated into English by Matvei Yankelevich, among others, was not even known to most Russians until the Soviet Union ended.

Traveling to the American Literary Translators Association conference last fall, thanks to ALTA’s generous fellowship for emerging translators, I thought about the writers who are important to the people I know, many of these writers first encountered in translation. Some person or people had thought and felt deeply enough about their work to build a vehicle for it, sending it forth in hopes of its finding a port. And in Bloomington, a lovely university town with a forest growing on its campus, I found these people—translators, writers, publishers and editors I admire—very un-metaphorically present, and eager to talk. Like earlier Fellows, I kept realizing that someone I had been read reading for years was beside me balancing their phone and their coffee, or in the next room reading a poem.

As other Fellows have suggested, the pleasures of ALTA, like the pleasures of a good bookstore, are artistic, social, intellectual. Also, it’s a fun place to be. Listening to the other Fellows—Aaron, Brian, Lizzie, Maggie, and Mariam—was like walking into a series of surprise parties: unexpected, immensely gratifying and memorable. And one of ALTA’s particular strengths, I learned, is that its events address not just the translations themselves but the translation-adjacent questions: research and criticism, trivia, logistics and politics. And so the conference is both welcoming and galvanizing: a site of happy encounters and serious enthusiasms. It’s a celebration from which one goes out refreshed, wanting to work.

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Collective Conversations: An Interview with The Northwest Literary Translators

While ALTA is proud to serve literary translators all over the USA – not to mention farther afield – local communities are also essential, as these can be more cohesive than is feasible in a nationwide network, particularly in a country this large. Serving this need, a number of translation collectives have sprung up centering on a single city or region; this month, we hear from The Northwest Literary Translators.

The interview was conducted by The Smoking Tigers.

Northwest Literary Translators

The Northwest Literary Translators selling books at a translation conference in Seattle, September 2018. Left to right: Zakiya Hanafi (Italian), Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Russian), Lola Rogers (Finnish), Wendell Ricketts (Italian). Photo: Katie King.

Please introduce yourselves. What are you “northwest” of? How many are you? What is your primary objective as a group?

The Northwest Literary Translators are a plucky troop of aspiring and established literary translators living in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. We have a loosely organized core membership of about ten people, but we’ve been known to gather sixty people at a time for our most popular events.

We like to think of ourselves as a support group for literary translators, with both a social and an educational mission, providing each other with information and inspiration. We share our experiences and discuss both the business and the craft of literary translation, give each other advice, and cheer each other’s successes.

As they say in the comic book world, what is your origin story?

The group is the brainchild of two mad translators with dreams of conquering the world (just kidding!). Our first event was a translation reading night in May 2016, inspired by the bilingual reading series at ALTA. Shelley Fairweather-Vega was due to organize a social event for our local chapter of the American Translators Association, called NOTIS (the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society). She thought having a reading in a bar might qualify as a social occasion, and serve her ulterior motive: bringing together some of the local literary translators she had met at ALTA that year and drawing out of seclusion some she hadn’t yet met. The plan worked, and one of the local translators to fall for it was Katie King, who later proposed that she and Shelley work together to organize a more lasting group for literary translation in Seattle. The rest is history.

Please walk us through your peer-to-peer translation process.

Several times a year we devote our monthly meeting to a Feedback Forum. Two or three members volunteer to bring in a work in progress, and discuss any trouble they’re having with it, and we all offer suggestions. With our different languages and areas of expertise, we’ve come up with some very interesting solutions. We’ve discussed all kinds of work, from poetry to screenplays, and all kinds of problems, from translating jokes to translating intimate, confessional narratives.

It’s clear from Googling your name that you do a lot of outreach work. Can you describe more of what you do in your community in terms of education and promotion?

Every time we meet—once a month during the academic year—new people attend, alongside our regulars. They include students, practicing translators without experience translating fiction or poetry, writers and avid readers from Folio, the private library where we meet, and scholars we’ve brought in from the University of Washington. Our Facebook group is open to anyone who can demonstrate even a passing interest in literary translation and has a connection to our region, and it has members who have yet to attend one of our events. And we try to advertise the most popular events, like our spring reading night and translation slam, very widely.

What tips do you have for other translator communities in terms of running outreach?

Building relationships is vital! We would not be where we are today without NOTIS and Folio. NOTIS provides a budget and all sorts of administrative help – we use their event calendar, member database, blog, and so on to reach our public. And Folio gives us access to a beautiful, inspirational meeting space and a diverse community of “book people” in Seattle. They advertise all our events to their members, and they have connections with the local press. Any group that wants to do outreach needs to ensure their events are presented as inclusive, not intimidating, to people who might be a little wary of translation and/or Literature with a capital “L”. We’ve brought in comic-book lovers with our recent session on translating comics, and opera lovers with a talk on translating for opera. And we try to serve refreshments. That helps.

What are the particular challenges of being a region-based translators’ collective? And what challenges do you face particularly from being in the Northwest?

Seattle is the most highly educated big city in America, according to a recent report, and it’s a UNESCO City of Literature. It’s also linguistically diverse and growing quickly. Those things help our profession and our group thrive here. Seattle is home to AmazonCrossing, the most prolific publisher of literature in translation in the US for the past several years, and multiple smaller presses who are interested in translation. But it’s not London or New York, and there’s nowhere near the number of publishers or agents that certain other cities enjoy. While we meet in Seattle, we try to cover the same wide swath of the country that NOTIS does: the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Idaho. That works better on Facebook than it does in person. There’s a newer group in Portland, Oregon that seems to be thriving, and we are cheering them on.

What aspects of your work do you feel most excited about? (It could be any kind of contribution including specific translated works.)

As the organizers of the group, we’re most proud of how much we are growing, how new members discover us all the time and seem very happy to have found us. We’re glad we’ve been able to consistently organize new events and draw a crowd. And our members are having individual success, too. Mandy Olson won the Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York in 2017. Zakiya Hanafi was selected to help judge the Italian Literature in Translation Award this year. Tim Gregory finished his M.A. in literary translation in 2018. Melissa Bowers’ translation of Liv Strömquist’s Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva vs. The Patriarchy appeared on The Guardian’s list of best graphic novels of 2018. Katie King is about to defend her doctoral dissertation on the subject of creating translation hubs on university campuses. I think we get a mention in her text.

How does one join Northwest Literary Translators?

Join our Facebook group and check the NOTIS event calendar and come meet us the next time you’re in Seattle on a third Thursday. Membership in NOTIS is encouraged, but optional – and at $40 per year, $15 for students, it’s a bargain.

Does Portland really have awesome bookstore owners like Candace and Toni of the Feminist Bookstore in Portlandia? If not, what’s the book culture like over there? What’s Folio like?

In the interest of preserving harmony between our Portland and Seattle factions, we would like to respectfully point out that both cities have extremely awesome bookstores (though, sadly, fewer than before). That Portlandia bookstore is real, and Shelley used to shop there for zines when she was a buyer for the public library system in Portland. But the biggest bookstore in Portland is Powell’s Books, a huge independent, vast enough for its own culture and ecosystem. Seattle has old-fashioned newsstands, bookstores that double as publishers (like Fantagraphics for comics and Chin Music Press for East Asian literature), and independent icons like Elliott Bay Book Company and Third Place.

What’s next for Northwest Literary Translators?

Our April event is a talk by translator Lyn Coffin about her career. Our annual Spotlight Your Work reading night will be in May.  In the long run, we’d like to forge even more local relationships, possibly with public libraries. And we’d like to help other regional groups get off the ground, in part by helping literary translators take advantage of the infrastructure already available through local ATA chapters.

For more information about The Northwest Literary Translators, visit their Facebook page.

Questions by The Smoking Tigers, a complaint of experienced literary translators working from Korean to English. Find out more about them on their website, or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. And read their Collective Conversations interview here!

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Finding Community and Belonging at ALTA 2018: A Report from 2018 Travel Fellow Maggie Zebracka

Each year 4-6 emerging translators are awarded $1,000 each to travel to the ALTA conference, where they participate in panels, workshops, and readings. Applications to be an ALTA Travel Fellow are open this year until April 15.

Maggie Zebracka Photo

Maggie Zebracka was awarded a Travel Fellowship to attend the 2018 ALTA conference in Bloomington, IN.

In 2013, I trudged through a blizzard in Boston alone, getting lost several times between the AWP conference center and my hotel, even though the two buildings were located on the same street. Then, I underestimated how frigid and windy a gray spring in Toronto can be during the ACLA. A year later, I hoisted myself up spectacular hills in rain-drenched Seattle for yet another AWP. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy my experiences, but until I went to my first ALTA in 2018, I had resigned myself to the probability that it would be a long time before I felt warm at a conference.

I was thoroughly unprepared for how welcoming ALTA would be. From the intimate bookfair to the accessible and informative panels to the conversations that took place in the hallways, I was continuously surprised by the generosity and encouragement of the established translators I met and the inclusive community I encountered. It was as if the conference existed in a separate world where it was possible for an international collective to have gathered, almost improbably, in the quaint and lovely Bloomington to discuss this difficult little art. I was especially glad to have the opportunity to connect with several other Polish translators whose work I’d followed and admired for several years, from behind a computer screen. Reading and discussing Polish poetry with them—which is something that happens too rarely, I’m sure, for many of us who translate from a “minor” language—was definitely one of the highlights of the conference weekend.

Further highlights were all the events associated with the Fellows Reading—the pre-reading practice with Elizabeth Harris, the reading itself, and the meet-up with the previous ALTA Travel Fellows afterwards. I feel so fortunate (and more than a little awed) to have been part of such a fantastic cohort. Their stylistically, linguistically, and thematically diverse work reminds me just how privileged we are as translators to be able to bring all these different voices into a shared language and—in the case of the reading in particular—into a shared physical space as well.

The other readings I attended introduced me to the captivating performances of Jeremy Tiang, Bill Johnston, Kenny Lerner, and Peter Cook and the brilliantly inventive translations of Alina Macneal, Kerry Carnahan, and Larissa Kyzer, all of whom made me want to race back to my hotel room to revisit all those difficult phrases I’d temporarily given up on in my own work. For me, that’s the measure of a successful conference—one that is personally and professionally enriching and that re-affirms your love of the craft.

If the conference had been twice as long, I would have happily stayed. By the time the car was pulling away from the Indiana Memorial Union, I was already making mental plans for next year in Rochester.

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