Tag: Aberystwyth

One year on

The year 2021 slips away; 2022 starts to gather pace.

We are now one year on from when I finished my period of being mentored, and finished the final version of This House.

This House is a translation into English of Sian Northey’s first novel, Yn y Tŷ Hwn, which I worked on throughout 2020. I was posting monthly on this blog during 2020, but decided to post just six-monthly updates from then on, to document my search for a publisher.

You can read my experiences with Publishers A, B, and C in my mid-2021 post, here. When I left off, I was about to pitch to Publisher D.  Unlike with Publishers A and B, I did not get a polite letter of rejection. I got …

… nothing. One presumes one is rejected after a certain time has elapsed since the pitch.

The search comes closer to home

Publisher E

I decided to take a different approach. With Sian Northey’s help, we approached a publisher based in Wales. As Sian is a well-known figure on the literary scene in Wales, there was no need to persuade this publisher that Yn y Tŷ Hwn was ‘like’ anything. It would be aware of Sian’s work and likely readership. I was aware of the quality of its products.

Nevertheless (can you tell what’s coming?), we got a very polite and  super-supportive email … of rejection.

Publisher F

Although Publisher F’s website says it does not intend to publish novellas (This House is novella length), I’d met a representative of this publisher at a seminar, pre-Covid-19. I wrote to this editor. They said Publisher F would be happy to consider This House. Progress!

Again, because they were already aware of Sian as an author, there was no need to sell This House as being ‘like’ anything this publisher already produces.

Publisher F told me in December 2021 that This House had cleared the first hurdle. It is now being considered by the entire editorial panel. We wait.

The joker in the pack – Publisher G

Per the well-known law of sod, while This House was being considered by Publisher F, Publisher G – a UK-wide publisher – tweeted in late November that it was opening a submission window during December. The call for submissions included literary novels and novellas.

I let both Publisher G and Publisher F know of my situation, and both said they would allow simultaneous submissions on this occasion, so I submitted to Publisher G at the end of December.

There was no time to investigate this publisher’s products ‘in the flesh’, and in any case it would seem that it is just now expanding into literary fiction – there don’t seem to be any literary fiction novels or novellas available on its website.

Once more, we wait.

The champagne is still on ice

In my last monthly post of 2020, as my year of being mentored under the Literature Wales scheme drew to a close, I wrote:

So maybe now, at the end of 2020, I can put the bubbly on ice, but not pour it for a while yet.

Well, at the end of 2021 the bubbly remains on ice, one year on from that. Will Publisher F make me an offer? Will Publisher G?

What next?

I have a few things in progress on the literary translation front. I’ve entered the John Dryden Translation Competition with an excerpt from This House. A win in this competition would raise my profile with those publishers I approach in the future. However, I won’t know whether I’ve been successful until much later in the year.

Again, to raise both my profile and Sian’s, I shall shortly be submitting my translation of a short story from Sian’s latest collection, Cylchoedd, to the Asymptote and Trafika Europe journals/websites for literary translations. If it is accepted by either or both, this will be a small lever in furthering my search for a publisher for This House.

Whatever else happens (or doesn’t) …

… I have a successful proofreading and copy-editing business. I also regularly translate children’s novels and other books, for money. I’ve recently finished the English version of Rhedeg yn Gynt na’r Cleddyfau, an adventure story set at the time of the Rebecca Riots in Wales. It’ll be out in 2022.

I’ve just started the translation of another children’s novel which will also come out in 2022, to coincide with the centenary of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru. It’s set during the Second World War, and starts with children of ‘undesirables’ being sent out of Germany on one of the last Kindertransports before war is declared. They end up with their exiled father in Aberystwyth, in Wales, but I can’t say more than that or I’d spoil the story.

My creativity comes out in other ways too. During the autumn of 2021, I’ve been doing part of an environmental art project. I shall restart this soon, when the weather improves.

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2022. Photo of hourglass by Paula Guerreiro; photo of letter ‘E’ by  Girl with red hat; photo of letter ‘F’ by Hello I’m Nik; photo of letter ‘G’ by Scott Evans; photo of champagne by Thomas Owen – all on Unsplash. Photo of Cylchoedd cover ©Gwasg y Bwthyn 2020; photo of  Rhedeg yn Gynt na’r Cleddyfau cover ©Gwasg Garreg Gwalch 2021.

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A birthday, a BIG birthday

Birthdays

That’s me on my fifth birthday. Jelly and ice cream were probably on the menu, and I’m wearing an up-to-the-neck pinafore over my jumper because I’m a messy eater. I’m still a messy eater – some things never change. This month has seen me turn sixty. In terms of creativity this is, hopefully, a good thing. According to something I read recently (but of course now can’t find – hey, I’m over sixty), our brains are at their most creative when we’re children and when we’re over sixty. Of course we’re creative when we’re kids, but why once we’ve passed our sixtieth birthday? Well, our brains start ‘slackening’; our neural pathways are less fixed. So perhaps the brain of that woman with grey salon-cut hair will, in time, return to the creative ability of the little brain under that black hair with the wonky fringe.

Urgency

Being this old means I have a certain self-confidence in my abilities. As above, it may also mean I’m going to get increasingly more creative, but what I certainly don’t have is a long time. There is an urgency to this menteeship project; I don’t have a lifetime in which to build a career or to find stuff out. This urgency means the learning curve about what I need to do and with whom I need to connect to even start the prospect of getting a literary novella in translation into print is pretty steep. (But at least now –  being sixty and self-employed – I’m not losing time to period pains, hormonal migraines, menopausal crises in confidence, and office-incubated colds.)

Small networking, big storms

Having now joined the Society of Authors, I went on the bus (new bus pass – yay!) to my first SoA event in Aberystwyth, in the aftermath of Storm Ciara. Storm C had deposited a lot of the beach on the prom. Crunchy underfoot.

One take-away from this event was that maybe I should pitch Yn y Tŷ Hwn in terms of themes, rather than story, character, or quality of writing. The speaker, Philip Gwyn Jones of Scribe, said that novels are being pitched as if they were non-fiction these days.

Irish fish box on Aberystwyth beach

In the teeth of Storm Dennis off I went on the bus again to a one-day seminar at Bangor University, ‘Women in Publishing’, where Caroline Oakley of publishers Honno  gave a presentation about the advantages of being published by a small press. In essence, her message was that agents’ lists are ninety-nine per cent full and most publishing houses won’t look at you unless you’re represented by an agent. In contrast, small publishers will deal with the author directly and are more willing to take risks, she said. She added that these days they often network with the local bookshop community too.

Big networking coming up

Notwithstanding this ‘small is beautiful’ stuff, I’ve been advised to attend the big beast –  the London Book Fair – coming up in March. To this end, I applied to Literature Wales for a ‘Go See’ grant to cover the cost of attending. Having done this – and so in anticipation of possibly going – I’ve been working my way through the list of exhibitors on the LBF website and noting possible publishers and agents with whom I might begin a conversation. Now I’ve been awarded the grant, the prospect of actually going is scary but hopeful in equal measure. I’ll report how I get on in my March post. At least my new senior railcard will come into play as I commute  from where I’m going to be staying (thank you John and Jo!) into central London for the three-day jamboree.

Introductions

I reckon it’s time to introduce in a bit more detail the book I’m translating, Yn y Tŷ Hwn, if you haven’t read it, and its creator, Sian Northey, if you don’t know her. First, here’s Sian.

Sian, ‘my’ author – a lovely portrait by Dylan Williams

And here’s a paragraph from the book, the title of which translates as ‘In This House’. The context is that Anna, the main character, and Ioan have lost their only child as a three-year-old, twenty years ago. This paragraph has been arrived at by way of a two-and-a-half-page train of thought.

         Fe adawodd y dillad am y tro a’u clirio, fisoedd lawer yn ddiweddarach, pan nad oedd Ioan yno. Fe daflodd bob un dilledyn, heblaw un hosan fechan oedd wedi disgyn tu ôl i’r tanc yn y cwpwrdd crasu. Flynyddoedd yn ddiweddarach y cafodd hi hyd i honno a methu’n lân â’i thaflu. Gosododd hi yn ei drôr sana ei hun, a fanno oedd hi byth, yn fach a glas, a theigar dewr yn sgyrnygu arni. Neu’n gwenu arni efallai.

         His clothes were left for the time being and only cleared, months later, when Ioan wasn’t there. She threw out every item, except for one tiny sock that had fallen behind the tank in the airing cupboard. Years later she found it, and couldn’t bring herself to throw it away at any price. She placed it in her own sock drawer, and there it stayed, small and blue, with a brave tiger snarling at her. Or maybe smiling at her.

This is typical of the meditative nature and interiority of the book, and typical of Sian’s writing. I draw your attention to these four points:

  1. The language is straightforward. The Welsh is not ‘high’ or ‘literary’ or ‘posh’. I’ve had to look up a handful of words in the dictionary as I translate, but that is all.
  2. Sian is excellent at ‘show don’t tell’ and at conveying emotion. How people act in her stories often tells you more than what they say.
  3. Details are telling. For instance, that ‘small and blue’ – she puts it where it is, on its own, rather than saying ‘one tiny blue sock’. And the fact that ‘small and blue’ is contained its own clause underlines that it has been contained within a closed drawer for decades.
  4. A trademark Sian-ism is a statement that is immediately contradicted, or doubted, as with that ‘… snarling at her. Or maybe smiling at her.’ In this way she reminds us that things aren’t always as they appear; there’s always more than one way of looking at things, or interpreting them.

Oh, and …

… here comes a shameless plug for the two commissioned translations I’ve been doing over the last few months. Both were published in February. The Crown in the Quarry is an adventure story for older children, using as a backdrop the fact that national treasures and works of art were hidden in the slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog during the Second World War. The Red Dragon of the Welsh is a look at the history and culture of Wales’ national flag.

My latest commissioned translations

 

Images and words ©Susan Walton 2020, except the portrait of Sian by Dylan Williams, and the Welsh text from Yn y Tŷ Hwn ©Sian Northey 2011, reproduced with the permission of Gwasg Gomer.

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