Tag: London Book Fair

To publication and beyond …

3TimesRebel Press published my translation into English of the Welsh novel Yn y Tŷ Hwn by Sian Northey as This House on 21 March 2024. A few days later the ebook version appeared for sale online.

This blog post is about what happened in the run-up to publication and beyond. So, in no particular order, here’s what’s been done, is being done, and will be done to publicise This House.

Social media

Social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram, are key to 3TimesRebel Press’ publicity for all its books. I wrote about the  ‘cover reveal’ for This House the in my January 2024 post.

Social media has underpinned all other publicity activity around This House. I’m not going to list everything, but take it as read that every step of what’s detailed below has been capitalised upon/maximised/publicised using social media.

Launches

Local launches

It seemed a no-brainer to have a local launch for This House. Our two nearest bookshops – Siop Llyfrau’r Hen Bost in Blaenau Ffestiniog (handily, owned by Sian’s sister) and Browsers in Porthmadog – were the obvious venues. Both are great in different ways, and both are, of course, independent.

We agreed with the shop owners to hold two different sorts of launch events on the same day. In Browsers we’d have a meet-and-greet, chatting and signing session during the afternoon. Then, on the same evening, a being-interviewed-with-light-refreshments session in Blaenau. The novelist Seran Dolma, whose debut novel, Y Nendyrau, is on this year’s Wales Book of the Year shortlist, agreed to interview us.

In my July 2020 blog post  I wrote:

And now I have a new thing to aim for: a launch event in Browsers’ new community space.

Almost four years later, this is what we walked into at Browsers (and how cool that they got flowers to match the cover design of This House!):

A room with pictures on the wall, and a vase of flowers in the foreground.

And this is the audience’s view of us in Blaenau, with Seran on the left:

People sitting with a window behind, looking out onto the street.

London launch

Sian and I agreed that we’d try for a launch in London. The London Welsh Centre seemed to us to be the obvious location. It’s central, and Sian sometimes teaches Welsh day-courses there.

Sian emailed and they agreed – and for free! We can have the bar space on a Tuesday evening, so that’s what we’re doing: 7pm on Tuesday 25 June (bar opens at 6pm). It’s free to attend – more details and how to book here. You’ll see if you click on the link that we’re to be interviewed by a former national poet of Wales: Ifor ap Glyn. I bumped into Ifor at a literary ‘do’ in Caernarfon and asked him if he’d take part. He agreed on the spot –  thank you, Ifor!

We’re so excited about this, and so looking forward to it. The event will be in English and is free to attend, but we’d like you to book so that we and the Centre know how many to expect.

PR/contact list

Sian and I revamped the PR/contacts list and a press release we’d prepared with the publisher in summer 2023 (when we thought publication was going to be in autumn 2023 – if you want to know why it didn’t happen then, go to January 2024’s post). Sian translated the press release into Welsh, so we have the choice of sending either or both languages, depending on who’s being written to.

As with social media use, this list and the press release have been central to our publicity efforts.

Outcomes from these contacts have been:

  • Sue answering a Q and A for the Americymru website
  • Sue and Sian writing an article for the Nation Cymru website
  • two features on the website of the Welsh-language magazine Golwg –  this one and Sue answering questions for the ‘Y Llyfrau yn fy mywyd’ (the books in my life) feature, which was also in the print version of the magazine.

Page of a magazine.

London Book Fair and Assembly of Literary Translators

London Book Fair was the week before our publication date, so I decided to go, armed with some advance complimentary copies of This House, which fortunately arrived in time. The day the parcel of books arrived from 3TimesRebel Press, Sian and I went to the pub to celebrate. Sian took this photo to record the momentous occasion; I am looking very unmomentous, I’m afraid.

Woman sitting eating crisps at a table in a pub.

Because so many literary translators are in London for the Book Fair, Ian Giles had kindly organised the Assembly of Literary Translators in south London for the day before the Fair. It was billed as a literary translators’ gathering for panels and conversation. I signed up for it, even though this meant paying for an extra night’s accommodation and subsistence. It was too good a professional development and networking opportunity to pass up.

(I’m going to talk about money later, but even with keeping costs to a minimum, this combined Book Fair and Assembly 5-day London trip cost just under £800.)

Online videos

The publisher asked us to film ourselves talking about This House and about the translation process. In the same session I was also to be videoed reading an extract from the book. Not being confident with filming ourselves, we asked our friend Llinos Griffin to film us.

No part of the conversation has appeared yet, but the publisher intends to use snippets from it on social media in the future, possibly during August for Women in Translation Month.

Translators Aloud

Post-publication, in April, the  publisher posted the recording of me reading an extract on the Translators Aloud YouTube channel. (You can hear Llinos near the beginning telling me in Welsh to speak up.)

Writing Wales

Writing Wales is a documentary series produced by Taz Rahman for the Just Another Poet YouTube channel. This work has financial support from the Books Council for Wales. Despite its description, the channel now presents videos of other writers, not just poets.

Another emerging Welsh to English literary translator, Emyr Humphreys, and I were asked to be subjects for the Writing Wales thread of the Just Another Poet channel. Our paths into  translating are very different, but we have both been mentored within formal programmes. We also both had books out in the first half of 2024. The Last Day, Emyr’s translation into English of Owain Owain’s Y Dydd Olaf, was published on 6 June. I wrote about his project in my January 2023 post.

Taz Rahman brought us together to be filmed in Aberystwyth in May, but the video has yet to be posted on YouTube.

Traditional broadcast media

Because Sian is a well-known figure in the Welsh-language literary life of Wales, Welsh-language radio and television needed no persuading to feature items about This House.

On the Sunday before publication, Sian and I recorded an in-depth interview with Ffion Dafis, who hosts BBC Radio Cymru’s arts programme. The interview was broadcast the same day.

Two days ahead of the publication date, Sian travelled to Llanelli to be interviewed on the Clwb Llyfrau (book club) feature on S4C’s afternoon magazine programme, Prynhawn Da. A piece I’d recorded at the television company’s northern outpost the day before was played out to set the scene for Sian’s live interview.

We have had no interest from the English-language broadcast media in Wales. With BBC radio, this may be a reflection of the regular airtime on BBC Radio Wales which is given over to an arts programme (half an hour a week) compared to that on BBC Radio Cymru (two hours a week).

A blog post for book clubs/reading groups

I think that This House would make a great book club/reading group choice. For a start it’s compact (always a plus!). It has suitable discussion points, including a life-changing event, moral ambiguity and a good twist. And it has an ending open to interpretation. There is also plenty to chew over because it is a translation.

I posted this post of extra resources for readers in early April, soon after publication. I thought it would be helpful to write an extra blog post for folks who want to get under the bonnet of This House.

A man looking under the bonnet of a large vehicle.

I’ve printed out the web address of this extra blog post on strips of paper, in readiness for our London launch. This launch will be the first event where we will be selling This House and Yn y Tŷ Hwn directly to attendees, so I will slip one of these strips into each book (and give them to anyone else who wants them) at that event. Hopefully, it will increase their reading enjoyment.

Literary festivals

On our PR to-do list are literary festivals. I have no personal contacts in this field, so Sian led the way in contacting the ones where she’d previously appeared. As a result of this, my first appearance not-as-a-punter was at Gŵyl Llên Llandeilo Lit Fest on 28 April. As we were mooching around the festival reception area, we spotted This House and Yn y Tŷ Hwn in the festival bookshop, keeping good company.

Books stacked up.

And what a lovely little festival Llandeilo was! We were well looked after, had our expenses paid, and enjoyed the whole experience. Bethan Mair was a kind and perceptive interviewer and, for an event conducted in Welsh with simultaneous translation, there was more of an audience than we’d expected.

However, as you can see from the photo below, one lesson we learned was that if there’s a screen offered, have something to fill it!

Two women either side of a table with a large blank screen behind them.

The next Sian’n’Sue festival appearance will be at the Gŵyl Arall festival in Caernarfon. The festival runs 4–7 July, and we’ll be in the garden of the Palas Print bookshop at midday on the Saturday. We’ll again be in conversation with Ifor ap Glyn, but this time in Welsh with simultaneous translation.

Reception

Personal comments to Sian and me have all been complimentary. (You’re not going to say to our faces that you didn’t like the book, are you?) Some have been extremely complimentary, accompanied by, ‘I’m not just saying this because I know you – I really, really liked it.’ Or, ‘It was very moving.’ Or, ‘It made me cry.’

Reviews from book bloggers and vloggers are starting to appear. Here are the ones we have picked up so far. Bob the Bookerer discusses This House on YouTube. He starts his review at 3:57. He describes Sian’s writing as:

… spare and quiet … she leaves a breath between moments … haunting …

There are also a couple of written reviews on Instagram. Good Book Club says:

Northey’s writing is beautifully precise … there’s a warmth that runs through the story, along with a hint of mystery that’s too tantalising to ignore.

… Perfect for fans of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, The Wall, and Lori & Joe.

Rachel says:

I liked how slow this book was and how a big focus of it was on memory.

We’ve also had a nice review on Good Reads, with a three-star rating.

Time and money

As readers of this blog know, I’m keeping a note of time and money in relation to this whole emerging literary translator endeavour.

Time

These are the mean number of hours per week logged on my worktime record as being spent on the project ‘adult literary translation’ since the start:

  • 2020 – 2.8 hours per week
  • 2021 – 1.5
  • 2022 – 2.4
  • 2023 – 2.5
  • 2024, so far – 8.6.

Over eight and a half hours a week is a lot of time. However, I know that unless something dramatic happens (Richard and Judy Book Club? Radio adaptation? Film rights?) this will reduce.

Financing events and actions around publication

For the events and actions to promote This House, this is the financial or in-kind income received to date, or that is promised:

  • Blaenau and London launches – the publisher will be contributing financially to the launch events; there is no room hire fee at the locations
  • London Book Fair – I was awarded a free entry ticket through my membership of the Society of Authors; in 2020 I had been awarded a ‘Go See’ grant by Literature Wales to go to the London Book Fair in that year, but of course that year’s Fair never happened so I still had it to spend
  • Assembly of Literary Translators – I paid the entrance fee; my travel costs had already been accounted for by travelling to London for the Book Fair
  • Writing Wales video – a small Literature Without Frontiers payment for participation in a filmed conversation about translation; my train fare to Aberystwyth was also reimbursed
  • Prynhawn Da on S4C– a small payment for participation; the cost of travel to the recording location was free because I used my bus pass
  • Gŵyl Llên Llandeilo Lit Fest – payment by the festival to cover expenses; accommodation provided for free; a small payment from Literature Across Frontiers for participating.
Income

To date, the total income received and promised from all sources into this project divided by the total hours expended on all aspects of it gives a rate of £8.98/hour, gross. When expenses ascribed to the project are taken into account, that’s currently £7.77/hour net. Obviously expenses are accounted for in my business tax declarations, but stuff still has to be paid for upfront.

My contract with 3TimesRebel Press specifies that royalties due on This House will be calculated to 30 April each year. For 2024, of course, 30 April falls far too soon after publication so I will have to wait until this time in 2025 to see what that income will be. It’s the same with ALCS and PLR payments: these sums arrive with a big time delay.

Words, and photos of community space at Browsers Bookshop, page of Golwg and books at Llandeilo, ©Susan Walton 2024. Photo of cartoon rocket by Andy Hermawan on Unsplash. Photo of Blaenau launch ©Siop Llyfrau'r Hen Bost 2024. Photo of Sue in the Brondanw Arms ©Sian Northey 2024. Photo of under the bonnet by cottonbro on Pexels. Photo of Sian and Sue at Llandeilo ©Siôn Aled Owen 2024. Video ©3TimesRebel Press 2024, and with thanks to Llinos Griffin and the Brondanw Arms.

 

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What a difference a month makes

… to misquote Esther Phillips and Dinah Washington, amongst others. When I posted in February I was anticipating, with some trepidation, going to the London Book Fair. Now I’m anticipating going to Tesco with some trepidation.

But let us backtrack three weeks, to happier times.

Actually, let us backtrack four weeks first, because this video should have been in the February blog post. It’s Sian Northey and me talking about literary translation (thank you BROcast Ffestiniog).

Mentoring course, Tŷ Newydd

Now let us backtrack three weeks, to happier times. I spent almost a week in early March in the company of this year’s cohort of writers being supported by Literature Wales. It was great meeting everyone else——  I was going to continue that sentence with ‘in the same boat’, but actually we’re not all in the same boat. The boats are very different: different projects, different stages. Even different media.

Wild daffodils, or Lent lilies, Tŷ Newydd

Kath Stansfield and Llwyd Owen were the course tutors. They gave workshops throughout the week on writing, but these were designed (mostly) to improve the skills of those writing fiction. The bodies supporting my menteeship see writing and translation as closely aligned. The idea is that working alongside writers is a useful way of channelling the creative aspects of what literary translators do: the creation of a new text from the original, as opposed to making a literal translation.

However, my view at the moment is that however un-literal a translation is, even translators cannot change how a character behaves, or tell the story from a different point of view. The author has already made those decisions. It would certainly be an interesting exercise to recast the narrative of Yn y Tŷ Hwn through Emyr’s eyes, rather than Anna’s, but that’s another story.

So, I decided to skip these workshop sessions and use the time to work – without distraction – on my translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn. I say ‘without distraction’, but Tony’s cookies were quite distracting every time I went into his kitchen to make a paned. And Jess, Tony’s cat, was quite distracting too.

Jess the cat sitting in a wickerwork chair in a garden

Jess, who hangs about in Tŷ Newydd’s garden

Despite distraction by cookies and cat, I almost finished the first rough draft of Yn y Tŷ Hwn (at this stage it still has all the highlighted, ‘not-sure-about-this-ask-someone-Welsh-first-language’ bits in it). However, I did take the opportunity to have one-to-ones with both tutors to discuss how to make a pitch to publishers. Of course, I also chatted to them and the other mentees over lunch. Lovely lunches – did I mention Tony?

The course was punctuated by the inclusion of a lot of interesting guest speakers, whose presentations took us from colonial India (Alys Conran reading from her latest novel,  Dignity) to hard-nosed stuff about career development and the work of the Welsh Books Council. Cartoonist Dan Berry gave a particularly interesting presentation about creating  comics and graphic novels, and set me off wondering if Yn y Tŷ Hwn could be rendered as a graphic novel. Hmm . . .  . . . ?

Trying to develop my career

While we were at Tŷ Newydd, news reached us that the London Book Fair had been cancelled because of the corona virus. Fortunately, the only money I’d spent upfront was for these t-shirts, publicising my new status as a literary translator as well as my Sue Proof business.

slogan t-shirts reading Translators do it with felicity … on the front and … proofreaders query whether 'felicity' should have a capital 'F'. on the back

Front and back of t-shirts printed specially for the London Book Fair

Literature Wales had awarded some of us  ‘Go See’ travel and accommodation grants to attend the Fair. We were told to keep the money, and to use it on other continuing professional development within the next six months. OK, I thought, I’ll go to Hay Festival for the first time ever. I thought I’d cruise around the festival site and check things out before booking any events, so I booked camping only. Camping booked 12 March, Hay cancelled 19 March. I might get to go next year.

The devil (or a devil)

cover of the book A Devil Comes to Town

A Devil Comes to Town

You know those stands of donated books in supermarkets, being sold for charity? Well, I was in Wilkinson’s about ten days ago and I spotted a copy of A Devil Comes to Town by Paulo Maurensig for £1 on one such stand. It’s a novella translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel and I’m reading it at the moment. It’s sort of appropriate for the times and appropriate for a recipient of a menteeship for literary translation. Some things are just meant to be.

The story takes place in a village where everyone has a manuscript tucked away in a drawer. The community is torn apart by competitiveness when a mysterious publisher shows up and establishes a literary prize. As well as that, disease is prevalent in the surrounding woods, and foxes are bringing it closer and closer to the village.

How interesting to read a translated work where I can’t go back to the original language – I don’t read Italian – to see whether a peculiar or unusual word in the translation reflects a quirk in the source language. I am also intrigued as to why the English title is A Devil and the Italian is The Devil. It’s called Il diavolo nel cassetto in Italian, which means (according to Mr Bing) ‘The devil in the drawer’.

Corona virus and lockdown

covers of the book Y Gemydd and the book The Jeweller

Y Gemydd  and its English translation, The Jeweller

Health permitting, my plan is to keep learning about literary translation while in lockdown. I have a ‘to do’ list as long as a child’s arm. Amongst other things, I plan to read Caryl  Lewis’ Y Gemydd in parallel with its English translation by Gwen Davies. And I’m working my way through the copy of In Other Words, the journal of the Translators Association, which was in the pack given to me on the Norwich course.

Pretty soon I’m also hoping to finish my work on Yn y Tŷ Hwn to the standard I normally present to the publisher who’s been commissioning me to translate children’s novels over the last few years. I’d like it to be at that standard in time for my first meeting with my mentor, however that is to be conducted.

Static images and words ©Susan Walton 2020; video ©BROcast Ffestiniog 2020.

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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.

plastic fish box on a pebbly beach

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.

the author Sian Northey

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.

covers of the books The Crown in the Quarry and The Red Dragon of the Welsh

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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