Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Translation Controversy: Who Gets To Translate Who... and What?

A recent article by Allison Braden in Asymptote, Translators Weigh In on the Amanda Gorman Controversy, catches you up:

On March 1, The Guardian reported that Amanda Gorman’s Dutch translator, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, had quit. Amanda Gorman, the poet who catapulted onto the world stage after an astounding performance at U.S. President Joe Biden’s January inauguration, had approved Rijneveld, an acclaimed Dutch writer, themselves, but the announcement that Rijneveld would translate Gorman’s book The Hill We Climb provoked backlash.

Chief complaint amid the backlash was voiced by activist Janice Deul,

who called the choice “incomprehensible.” She wondered why Meulenhoff, the publisher, hadn’t chosen a translator who was more like Gorman: a “spoken-word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black.”


Haidee Kotze, a professor of translation studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, argues in a Medium post that Amanda Gorman’s identity was part of her message and that her translators should be part of the message, too: “It’s about the opportunity, the space for visibility created by the act of translation, and who gets to occupy that space.”

It's a parallel debate to not only who gets to write what story, but who gets published, and who gets the opportunities in our industry. It's about diversity, and equity and inclusion.

Corine Tachtiris on Twitter @tachtco put it this way:

Mar 12 White translators: let's take any energy that was going to go to any further discussion of AG's translators & use it for concrete actions toward equity and inclusion for translators of color, esp. Black translators.

Read the full article here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 25, 2021

One Point, Two Point, Three Point Perspective

While clearly a fundamental art skill (so certainly not news to all of you illustrators) this short article, Learn the Basics of Perspective to Create Drawings That Pop Off the Page, has helpful examples for the rest of us, sharing one point

two point

and three point perspective

It also suggests an exercise - for illustrators, to think about how adding another perspective might shift a drawing you're currently working on. And maybe try it.

And for those of us who don't illustrate, the same question is a pretty enticing metaphor: What if we added another point of perspective to what we're writing? How fascinating might that be?

Check out the full article here - and the Leonardo DaVinci sketch that shows one of those three perspectives...

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Have You Explored SCBWI's Equity and Inclusion Resources?

 The SCBWI Equity and Inclusion Library aims to serve writers, translators and illustrators of works for children and teens. Designed as "a living document" and open to feedback for comments and suggestions, the library of resources serves a global audience.

With resources these eight categories so far (Economic Justice is in the works):

Resources for Asian and Pacific Islander Creators

Black Lives Matter Resources

Disability Awareness: Increase Access and Opportunity Resources

Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Resources

LGBTQIA+ Children's Book Creator Resources

Native, First Nations, Indigenous Creators Resources

Resources for Women Creators

And a list of General Inclusion Resources, there's a wealth of information to explore.

So, go explore!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

P.S. - Cheers to April Powers, SCBWI's Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, for making this a reality!

Friday, March 19, 2021

BookBub Shares 30 Ways You Can Use Video to Engage With Readers

Certainly inspiration here for all of us writers, translators, and illustrators who create work for children and teens: 30 Ways Authors Use Videos to Engage with Readers

A few highlights:

2. Show a sneak peek of an upcoming release

7. Introduce new characters

9. Create a relevant tutorial

11. Join forces with other authors

Go check out the post by Leila Hirschfeld and see all the other ideas and examples.

Then, think about how you might leverage video to reach and engage with readers!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Dates for the Summer 2021 SCBWI Conference: July 30, 31, and August 1

It's a conference with many aliases...



The Summer 2021 SCBWI Conference

and, maybe even we should consider:

SCBWI's 50th birthday party!

All sessions will be virtual, and you can see them in real-time or watch the recording for one month following the event.

We hope you'll join your community for this conference-sized celebration of SCBWI’s 50th year of bringing illustrators, translators, and writers of works for children, tweens, and teens inspiration, education, opportunity, business, and so much more!

Save the dates!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Trouble with #OwnVoices

 This Twitter thread/conversation is getting a lot of attention...

YA Author Rin Chupeco wrote,

"I am no longer using #ownvoices for my books and I encourage others to do the same. Originally conceived to celebrate us, it’s now instead used by publishers as a cudgel to deny bipoc authors book deals, forcing them to come out to defend the truths in their books.

I suggest you read the full thread. It's upsetting (especially if you didn't know this was happening) and important to listen to.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

SCBWI's Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer April Powers is Interviewed on the Podcast of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)

Available as both an audio podcast and on video, April Power's interview with IBPA's member liaison Christopher Locke, How Independent Publishers Can Support DEI & Be Antiracist, covers so much of interest to publishers and those of us who write, translate, and illustrate work for children and teens.

Have you considered if DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) is really all we want to aim for? April suggests we add Belonging, Civility, and Antiracism as well.

How about the distinction between #OwnVoices and Lived Experience?

Or ESL (English as a Second Language) vs. LOTE (Languages Other Than English)?

The interview runs 44:40, and is thought-provoking and well-worth listening to.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Nanette McGuinness Interviews Award-winner Helen Wang on the Translation of "Dragonfly Eyes" by Cao Wenxuan (Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Children's Writing)

Helen Wang translates from Chinese to English. In 2017, she won a Chen Bochui Special Award for Children’s Literature in China and the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation in the U.K. for Bronze and Sunflower by 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing winner Cao Wenxuan. Her new translation of another Cao Wenxuan novel, Dragonfly Eyes, was just released in the U.K. by Walker Books, with Candlewick due to release it in the U.S. in 2022. A curator at the British Museum, Helen Wang earned a Ph.D. in archaeology and B.A. in Chinese.

Nanette McGuinness: Congratulations on yet another fabulous translation of a wonderful book! What was it like working with Cao Wenxuan a second time and returning to his vision and world view? Were you able to communicate directly with him at all or did you work through your editor?

Helen Wang:I didn’t communicate directly with Cao Wenxuan during the translation and editing of Bronze and Sunflower or Dragonfly Eyes (we don’t have each other’s contact details). As I was commissioned by Walker Books, I raised with my editor Emma Lidbury anything I couldn’t resolve myself. Otherwise, I did the translation independently, and at the end, checked a few things I wasn’t sure about with a friend.

Cao Wenxuan and I have met several times at public events (e.g., at the Bologna Children’s Bookfair, the Shanghai Children’s Bookfair) and a few other occasions. We always exchange a few words, but he has a big fan club and lots of people wanting to talk to him. He is a VIP in China and has a breath-taking schedule, and while he never seems rushed, he doesn’t hang about for long.

Nanette: Dragonfly Eyes was published in China in 2016. How long did you get to work on the translation? Is that typical for your book translations or different—and if so, in what way and why?

Helen: The translation and editing process took a long time! The Chinese publisher sent me a copy of Dragonfly Eyes in the summer of 2016, and asked if I’d write a reader’s report. Emma Lidbury at Walker Books then commissioned me to translate it, we set up a contract, and I submitted the translation at the end of 2017. The original schedule was to publish it in 2019, but the date was rescheduled first on the UK side, and then the Chinese publisher asked us to wait while the author made a few changes. It was eventually published in January 2021, over three years after I submitted the translation. That’s a long time, and it was difficult to hold the story in my head. At one point I got cold feet and asked a bilingual friend if she would read the Chinese and English versions at normal reading speed (not close editing) and highlight any areas that didn’t ring true. I paid her to do this from my fee. The delays meant going through the translation several more times than we might have, but however time-consuming that was, it was always enjoyable working with Emma towards the best we could achieve.

My experience is that the editorial process in China will almost always include a close checking of the translation against the original, whereas the English language side does not usually include this. There are more English readers at Chinese publishing houses than there are Chinese readers at English-language publishing houses, and the same is probably true for all non-European languages.

Nanette: Dragonfly Eyes rings very true, with a clear sense of character and history, a strong voice for all the characters, and a vividness to the settings and descriptions of physical details, such as food and clothing. Sometimes that kind of writing can be easier to translate, as there's a good “roadmap” in the original, but sometimes it can be very tricky. Did you need to do research on any of the book's 20th century locales, lingo, or the historical times you were translating about, in order to make sure you kept the vocabulary and voices true to their time and place? Or was it fairly clear from the original?

Helen: Cao Wenxuan is a wonderful storyteller, both in his books and in real life, so there was a clear “roadmap,” as you call it. When I’m translating, I spend a lot of time online, looking up all kinds of things—text, images, videos etc. When I knew I would be in Shanghai in November 2017, I planned to walk around the city centre and check out some of the locations in the novel. I asked Cao Wenxuan (indirectly) if there were any specific places I should check out. My intermediary responded in the most amazing way, and arranged for Yin Jianling, another much-loved children’s author, to meet me at my hotel two hours after I got off the plane from London. Yin Jianling is a lovely person, and Shanghai is her city. We spent the late afternoon walking around Shanghai, and took the bus to another part of the city for dinner in a place I would never have found on my own. I can’t thank her enough, because I’m sure some of the warmth of that afternoon and evening made it into the translation. I also talked to Paul Crook, who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, and whose own parents were accused of being spies.

Nanette: One of the excellent choices you made in the translation—and there are many, as it reads beautifully—was to maintain the relationship names in Chinese (Nainai for grandmother, for example). For those of our readers who aren't translators, can you share anything about how you made that choice? For example, did you consult with the editor or Cao Wenxuan, or were you given free rein?

Helen: Thank you. English speakers have no problem reading and pronouncing Chinese relationship names, so I think it feels quite natural to use them, at least for the immediate family. It doesn’t always work, though, because Chinese relationship names are very specific: it’s not simply a case of brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, but their exact position in the family in relation to the particular characters. It’s notoriously complicated, and I hear some people with extended families use apps to help work it all out! Sometimes in a story the same character can be referred to in many different ways, and it can be hard to keep track, especially if there’s a change of narrator or a switch in the point of view. In Dragonfly Eyes, we don’t know the names of all the members of the family, but we know the relationships. The original narrative explaining the family names is quite fun in Chinese but felt cumbersome and wrong in English. My initial suggestion was to draw up a family tree at the front of the book, but this didn’t work either, so in the end I created a very simple table, which I hope works for readers. Emma doesn’t read Chinese, so we did as we had done with Bronze and Sunflower: I translated the first chapter or so very directly, then the next one a little more freely, and so on until we found a balance we liked, and then I continued solo.

Nanette: Has winning the Marsh Award for translation or working with books written by an Andersen Award winner (an award also known as the "little Nobel")—that is, Cao Wenxuan—changed your life as a translator or the kinds of projects and books you're being offered? If so, how?

Helen: I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to translate Bronze and Sunflower (thank you, Anna Holmwood, translator of Jin Yong’s martial arts novels, for recommending me). Winning the Marsh Award was a public validation with a cash prize, which somehow made it much easier for my friends and colleagues to understand why I spend quite a lot of my spare time translating children’s books. Previously, they had asked if I translated to keep up my Chinese, or for money, or looked askance at me, or complained that I was always too busy. That changed after the Marsh Award. I spent some of that money treating neglected friends to lunch, which was lovely. I put the rest of it towards learning more about the international children’s book world: for example, I went to the IBBY Congress in Athens in 2018 and to the International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) Conference in Stockholm in 2019. I do get approached and asked to translate books, but I tend to be selective—if a book is going to be part of my life for weeks, or months, or years, I’d prefer it to be something I’m going to enjoy reading over and over again.

Nanette: What's next for you? Any interesting books that you're working on now? Are there books that you wish would be translated from Chinese into English that haven't been yet?

Helen: At the moment I’m working on a wonderful new middle grade book by Qin Wenjun. It’s set in contemporary Shanghai, and each chapter left me wanting to know what would happen next. I have been commissioned by the Chinese publisher to translate this one, and the rights are available. I’ve recently translated some picture books and samples of middle grade books for Books from Taiwan, which you can browse on their website. I usually have a few books on the go that I would be very happy to recommend to publishers. There are many more Chinese children’s books that I would love to see translated! Since 2000, there has been a strong focus in China on developing children’s books - there are some stunning picture books coming out, and some very interesting middle grade and young adult books too. In 2016, I started the blog/website Chinese Books for Young Readers with Minjie Chen of the Cotsen Children’s Library, at Princeton, and Anna Gustafsson Chen, prolific translator of Chinese literature into Swedish. Between us, we write about things we find interesting, and hope our readers do too.

Nanette: Thank you very much and congratulations, once again!

Read more SCBWI: The Blog interviews with translators of Hans Christian Andersen authors:

Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of 60 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German, and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her recent translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her most recent translations are For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Chloe & Cartoon, Brina the Cat #2: City Cat, and Alter Ego.

Thanks to Nanette and Helen for this wonderful interview!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Kacen Callender Talks Social Media Expectations... And How It Unfairly Makes Authors Feel Responsible for How Well (or Not Well) Their Book Sells

This recent post by National Book Award Winner (for King and the Dragonflies) Kacen Callender, WIP: Social Media Expectations is important reading.

Just recently at #NY21SCBWI the evaluation of an author's social media presence as a marker of a submission's potential -- something considered in the acquisitions process -- reinforced this industry advice: that we, as creators, have to be on social media, have to drive interest in our titles, for them to succeed.

Kacen describes that pressure in this way:

There’s an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) suggestion from publishing companies and professionals that, if the book doesn’t do as well as the author might’ve hoped, then it’s actually the author’s fault. They should have found a “street” team ("fans" paid to hype the book up online in a way that seems organic and natural), created their own pre-order campaigns (paying for swag, artists to draw their characters, etc.), pitched themselves to different media outlets, learned Photoshop to create graphics, paid someone to create a book trailer, hyped themselves up in a constant competition for attention online… the list goes on and on.

Kacen calls this out as gaslighting:

The gaslighting is this: the publishing companies and industry professionals know that the authors don’t actually control how well their book is going to do. They put that responsibility on the authors, when the responsibility is really meant to be on the publishing companies. That’s why we go with traditional publishing, isn’t it? That’s why so many of us don’t self-publish. We don’t have the necessary marketing skills. (I certainly don’t, anyway.) The marketing/publicity is ultimately publishing’s responsibility. The publishing companies have their budgets, and they spend those limited budgets on the books they expect will earn back a specific amount of money. Authors really don’t need to do anything to find that financial success. Case study A: Suzanne Collins. Where? Nowhere, that’s where. She doesn't do any publicity or marketing, from what I can see. Yet the Hunger Games series is—well, you already know. Clearly there isn’t actually a correlation between authors needing to do marketing and publicity and a book’s financial success.

There's so much more in the piece, and I encourage you to read it. And then, consider your relationship to the social media you do, and how much pressure you're putting on yourself to sell books via your engagement on social media. The math of social media effort to book sales, as Kacen points out, doesn't really move the needle.

I'll note that much of this centers on book sales, which is just one marker of a book's success. Connecting with an individual reader, making them see their own life, and maybe others, in a new way, is a huge part of why many of us create works for kids and teens. And maybe sharing that passion for crafting stories that help kids and teens find themselves and their place in the world is something that social media can help with. Maybe it's not all or nothing.

Everyone will find their own balance with creation and promotion -- and it's worth considering the pressure we put on ourselves and how much leverage our efforts may really have in each realm. Including our presence with and activity on social media.

Applause to Kacen for the courage to stand up and share their take on social media expectations.

What do you think? Share here in comments.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,