Tag: mentoring

Six months have slipped by

Well, here we are: just over six months since the end of my amazing year of being mentored.  And almost two years since I made that fateful, original application to Literature Wales to be mentored as an early career literary translator.

Wales Book of the Year

Earlier this month, the shortlists for the Wales Book of the Year award were announced. They gave me pause for thought and were, in part, what engendered this post. One of the authors shortlisted for best Welsh-language novel is Megan Angharad Hunter. Like me, she was a delegate at the mentoring workshop held at Tŷ Newydd in March 2020.

At the end of 2020, I said I’d only post again on this blog when there were developments with This House (which is my title for my translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn). However, Megan’s appearance on a Book of the Year shortlist prompted me to write a round-up of this year so far.

In search of a publisher – Publisher A

My year of being mentored kicked off with an industry weekend at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich in January 2020. There, one thing we did was practise making a pitch to three real-life independent publishers.

A few weeks later one of the three publishers emailed me to ask for a sample of This House and reviews and background material about the author, Sian Northey. Sian and I scrabbled about for anything in English about her work and I duly sent this off with the sample.

Then Covid-19 hit and this publisher wrote to say his outside reader was sick and that we might have quite a wait …

In November 2020, I contacted Publisher A to see what was happening. He said he’d chase it up.

In January 2021 he said he’d chase it up again.

In February he wrote a very polite and supportive email … of rejection.

Yn y Tŷ Hwn rights change hands

In 2019, Gwasg Gomer, the original publisher of Yn y Tŷ Hwn, announced it was to wind down its publishing side and concentrate on printing only. All three of Sian’s novels were published by Gomer, so we knew a change was coming.

Sian told me early in 2021 that Gomer was selling these titles to Y Lolfa. I contacted Lolfa’s managing director to introduce myself and my project, and also to find out when the rights would be legally transferred. The first of April, I was told – so I decided to wait until April before contacting any more publishers.

A changed submissions landscape, post-2020

By the beginning of 2021, I had already compiled a list of publishers to whom I wished to pitch This House. Of necessity, they are all publishers that will accept unagented submissions. I’d done much of my original research in the run-up to the subsequently cancelled 2020 London Book Fair. I’d noted which publishers would only accept submissions during certain ‘windows’.

When I updated my list in early 2021, I found that many of the ‘window’ periods publicised in 2020 had been withdrawn. Often these companies had put a note on their website saying they were swamped because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several I’d had my sights on are now inaccessible to me.

More detailed research into publishers I wish to target

In compiling my original list of publishers I was to target, I’d obviously already looked at their websites to make sure they had an interest in publishing novels and novellas, and a back catalogue that included translations into English.

To research the ones that were still accepting unagented submissions, I decided to buy two paperbacks from each. This was so I could see and feel their product for myself, both to judge the quality and (hopefully) to have something relevant to say about one of their books when the time came to pitch to each publisher. Using a combination of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ function and reviews on the Good Reads website, I hoped my selection of these pairs would result in novels I would also enjoy reading.

So far I have made three rounds of purchases this way. I’ve found quite a variety in the size and choice of typeface; cover design; paper quality; and thoroughness of proofreading.

In search of a publisher – Publisher B

Preparing to pitch to Publisher B, my purchases from them were a novel written in English and a novella translated from Dutch. I loved the novel and, although it wasn’t a translation, its setting was a Celtic country with enough dialect words in the dialogue to require a glossary. The novella had an interesting premise but it felt like an intellectual exercise stemming from that premise. Both books were nicely produced: good covers and reasonable typefaces and paper.

I pitched to Publisher B in April, once the rights for Yn y Tŷ Hwn had been safely transferred to their new owner. Straight after pitching, I received a polite email confirming receipt, which is always good.

In early June I asked if they were still considering it, and they still were.

As I was writing this blog post, I received a very polite and supportive email … of rejection.

In search of a publisher – Publishers C and D

While waiting for Publisher B to come to a decision, I pushed ahead and bought pairs of paperbacks from the next two publishers on my target list – in the hope that they don’t put the ‘closed’ sign on their websites anytime soon!

Publisher C

Publisher C’s books were a novel translated from French (but set in England) and one in Italian (but set in Finland). I was not impressed with the French one. It looked as if it had been self-published: the cover design had been thrown together, the paper was coarse and it was set in an unimaginative typeface. I found the story quite turgid and so didn’t finish it.

The Italian one – although weird – was a good read. It had also been produced with higher production values than the French one. However, the cover image was very unexciting. As I was reading it, I realised that not one of the Finnish words that should have had accents had any. None. Epic proofreading fail!

Publisher C has now been crossed off my list.

Publisher D

Publisher D’s books were translations from German and Arabic. When they arrived, they looked as if they’d come from different publishing houses. The German one had a cover as boring as publisher C’s Italian one.  (I’m starting to wonder if this is a thing: does a boring, monochrome cover signal to the discerning reader that there’s a complex European novel in translation within?) The Arabic translation’s cover, however, was really eye-catching and well-designed. The paper was different too: much better quality, and the page layout was nicer.

I’ve read the German story, which was slight but insistent, but I had trouble with a graphic description of cruelty to an animal in the Arabic one. I haven’t yet picked it up since.

Publisher D will definitely be pitched to.

Other translators’ blogs

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading the blogs of two other translators, both of which I learned about through the Translators Association.

Daniel Hahn’s Translation Diary gives a blow-by-blow account of his work on  Jamás el fuego nunca, a novel by the Chilean writer Diamela Eltit, for Charco Press.

Co-incidentally, Tim Gutteridge also translates from Spanish. His blog is an entertaining and educational read too.

A nugget

Now and again since the end of 2020 I’ve looked at seminars and presentations online about writing and translation. Not as many as I did in 2020, but then I’m not in full mentee-mode any more and I have my proofreading clients’ wants to attend to. Through Sam Jordison (of the independent publisher Galley Beggar Press), who gave one of  the  Warwick Thursdays talks, I learned this amazing sales statistic: the average number of copies of sold for a literary fiction title in English is around

Two hundred and sixty. 260! That puts the sales of Yn y Tŷ Hwn – over four times that for a novella in a minority language – in an interesting light.

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2021. Photo of phone calendar by Behnam Norouzi; photo of letter ‘A’ by Tanzim Akash; photo of letter ‘B’ by Dan Gold; photo of letter ‘C’ by Nikhil Mitra; photo of ‘D’ shape by Catcap; photo of figure ‘2’ by Possessed Photography; photo of figure ‘6’ by Clem Onojeghuo; photo of figure ‘0’ by Bernard Hermant – all on Unsplash. Photo of Y Lolfa in Tal-y-bont by ‘Ddraig Ddu’ from www.waymarking.com.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Time, tenses, and blurb-bingo

One year ago . . .

On 27 November 2019, I received a phone call from Literature Wales telling me of my success in being awarded this:

New opportunity for 2020. One place on the Mentoring Scheme will be ring-fenced for an early career translator/writer, working on literary translation from Welsh to English OR English to Welsh.

I was so discombobulated I had to take the rest of the afternoon off work. I started a new notebook straight away. The first page reads:

New project – new notebook. Got to get stuff out of my head so I can carry on with my paid work. Disbelief – I genuinely thought it would go to a bright young thing. When can I tell Sian?

The question about when could I tell Sian Northey, ‘my’ author, turned into ‘when can I tell anyone at all?’ My award was supposed to be a secret until mid-January 2020. That was when Literature Wales was going to announce the beneficiaries of its bursaries and menteeships, all together.

I can now fully sympathise with anyone who’s been told they’re going to get an honour or an award, but can’t spill the beans. Christmas get-togethers (remember them?) last year were spent replying, ‘Oh, you know, the usual’ to enquiries about how my work was going.

What really I wanted to say –  or scream, possibly – was,  ‘Fantastically well! I’ve been recognised as an emerging literary translator, and I’m going to be mentored throughout 2020!’ Then everyone would have congratulated me and, with any luck, bought me a drink.

Time and tenses

I knew a year ago that one of the things I have trouble with in my translations is tense. Now obviously I know the difference between a straightforward past tense and present tense. I just demonstrated it right there with ‘I knew a year ago’ and ‘I know the difference’.

My problem comes in two parts. The first is that – in common with many languages – tenses in Welsh (my source language) don’t necessarily map tidily onto tenses in my target language, English. The second problem is that I’ve never been taught English grammar properly. I’m like a musician who plays by ear.

My mentor has suggested many tense changes to my translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn. This is an example from the opening chapter; verbs are in bold.

In my first draft, I’d translated this passage:

Dynas gin oedd hi wedi bod erioed. Ond rhyw chydig fisoedd yn ôl, yng nghanol ei hantur fisol i’r archfarchnad cafodd ei denu – heb unrhyw reswm, bron – gan botel o single malt drud. Cyfiawnhaodd y penderfyniad trwy resymu y byddai‘n debygol o yfed llai o ddiod nad oedd yn arbennig o hoff ohono.

              Ond yn fuan roedd hi wedi ymserchu yn yr hylif euraidd.

as:

She’d always been a gin woman. But a few months back, in the middle of her monthly shopping expedition to the supermarket, she was drawn to – for almost no reason – a bottle of expensive single malt. She justified the decision by reasoning that she’d probably drink less of something she didn’t especially like.

              But before long she’d taken a liking to the golden liquid.

My mentor suggested this:

She’d always been a gin woman. But a few months back, in the middle of her monthly shopping expedition to the supermarket, she’d found herself – inexplicably – being drawn to a bottle of expensive single malt. She’d justified the decision by reasoning that she’d probably drink less of something she didn’t especially like.

              But before long she was growing fond of the golden liquid.

And at present it reads:

She’d always been a gin woman. But a few months back, in the middle of her monthly shopping expedition to the supermarket, she’d found herself drawn – almost inexplicably – to a bottle of expensive single malt. She’d justified the decision by reasoning that she’d probably drink less of something she didn’t particularly like.

              But before long she’d developed a taste for this golden liquid.

Is there a hack?

Well, perhaps not a hack, but at least some illumination. I turned to Editing Fiction at Sentence Level by Louise Harnby, a fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

Louise is excellent on which past tenses are needed in fiction. Here’s an excerpt from her book:

When past tense flops – understanding past perfect

Less experienced writers can end up in a pickle when referencing
events that happened earlier than their novel’s now. The crucial
thing to remember is that when we set a novel in the past tense,
anything that happens in the story’s past will likely need the past
perfect, at least when the action is introduced.

• What you want the reader to experience: Now – the present
of your novel
• What tense you should write in: Simple past or past
progressive (she stood; she was standing)
• What you want the reader to experience: Something that
happened before (i.e. in the novel’s past)
• What tense you should write in: Past perfect or past perfect
progressive (she had stood; she had been standing)

So all I need to do is go through 100+ pages of my Word version of Yn y Tŷ Hwn and check whether the tense of every verb matches its time …

Maybe that is what’ll be filling the Christmas get-together voids this year.

Blurb bingo

In readiness for our December meeting, my mentor has set me the task of writing a blurb for Yn y Tŷ Hwn that isn’t just a translation of the Welsh one, and that includes a quote relevant to one of the novel’s themes. I’ve never taken much notice of blurbs, so more discovery for me here. More literary fieldwork, so to speak.

Did you notice those novels in the main picture at the top of this post? I read all their blurbs. This is what my highly unrepresentative sample revealed about them:

  • blurb length varied from 70 to 170 words, excluding any quotes from the text itself or author biographical details
  • blurbs are nearly always in the present tense, regardless of whether the novel is mainly written in the past tense or the present continuous
  • some blurbs have a sort of headline sentence: a micro-blurb in a nutshell so you don’t even need to read the blurb
  • many blurbs incorporate quotes from the text
  • most blurbs give a geographical location, many give a time location –  sometimes indirectly –  and often they give the story set-up.

Then I played blurb-bingo with words that cropped up repeatedly. The winning words were powerful, moving, scintillating, literary and love.

My blurb for Yn y Tŷ Hwn

Here’s a sneak peek at my homework, before my mentor gets to see it; maybe it’s too long for a blurb at 140 words plus a quote. I quite like the micro-blurb bit (in bold), but I’m not convinced about the text quote. We’ll see what the mentor makes of it in December.

A  delicate but powerful novel about how decisions taken almost by chance have unforeseen consequences

Anna has lived alone for decades. She is marooned in, and cocooned by, an isolated house called Nant yr Aur in the Welsh mountains. Her only constant friends are farmer Emyr and his wife, Dora.

The arrival of Siôn, a young man who seems strangely at home in Nant yr Aur, leads to an unpicking of Anna’s past.

               She started to write a letter in her head to Siôn.

              ‘Dear Siôn,

              I had been expecting to see you before you left the other morning. I hope you will return to Nant yr Aur, because …’

She started to chew the end of the imaginary biro before resuming in her head.

‘… because your presence in Nant yr Aur felt right.’

As Anna’s relationship with Siôn develops, her perspective on the solidity of her past shifts. Uncertainty, distortion, illusion and subtle betrayal are gradually exposed. Ultimately, a quietly devastating revelation changes the lives of both of Siôn and Anna.

Sian Northey writes with economy and precision, setting out what the life of a middle-aged woman with an emotionally complicated past feels like from the inside.

Fantasy cover design

Oh, and while we’re on fantasy cover content, the watercolour of the red cottage is my choice of a front cover picture. It’s by fabulously talented landscape painter Rob Piercy.

Imagine the quote-strapline at the top – ‘By now there were new stars in existence, and their light had yet to reach Nant yr Aur’ – then, in big letters, the title ‘This House’. At the bottom, it should say ‘Sian Northey’ (of course), followed by ‘Translated by Susan Walton’.

I live in hope.

 

Words and images ©Susan Walton 2020 except for clock photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash; Glenmorangie photo by Anubhav Arora on Unsplash; bingo photo by Tomppa Koponen from Pixabay; cover of Yn y Tŷ Hwn ©Gwasg Gomer, used with permission; Cwm Dyli Cottage ©Rob Piercy, used with permission.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

There’s a deadline looming

That face is just about how I feel at this stage in my year of being mentored.

I had my second meeting with my mentor at the end of September, but because I haven’t had the concentration ability or the brain space since then I haven’t gone through their comments and suggestions. I have a deadline looming – my next commissioned translation – and that’s what’s taking centre stage at the moment.

Drws Du yn Nhonypandy

The backdrop of the story is the South Wales miners’ fight for a living wage in 1910, and their lockout and strike. The then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, sent in the Metropolitan Police to quash the miners and riots ensued. Troops were then added to the mix to reinforce the police presence. Because of this, Churchill’s name is still derided in many quarters in Wales.

South Wales Welsh and South Wales English

One of the challenges of translating Drws Du yn Nhonypandy has been the South Wales Welsh speech of all the characters. Myrddin ap Dafydd, the author and commissioner of all my published translations to date, always wants to retain some Welsh words in the dialogue, but I wasn’t sure how much additional ‘flavour’ to transfer from one language to the other.

The sorts of words Myrddin wants me to retain are the equivalent of ‘lad’, ‘dear’, ‘mate’ etc. These words are tags in the dialogue. They remind readers that the characters would really be speaking Welsh. They don’t hinder the action or understanding, but they give the reader a gentle nudge.

The original Welsh dialogue in Drws Du yn Nhonypandy is rendered on the page how people from the Rhondda speak. Here is an example:

“O’s rhaid iti ga’l cymaint o ddŵr ar y llawr, grwt?”

In standard English, that would be:

“Do you have to get so much water on the floor, lad?”

How much dialect and accent is too much?

Before I started editing the first draft, I asked Myrddin how far he wanted me to go in conveying the way people in the Valleys speak English. I suggested three levels.

One

The first level was to take our usual approach. That means that, in this book, I would include a sprinkling of Welsh words, including ‘crwt’. The word means ‘lad’ or ‘boy’ in South Wales Welsh (‘grwt’ is the mutated form of the root word ‘crwt’). This level looks like this:

“Do you have to get so much water on the floor, crwt?”

Two

A second, deeper level would be for me to reproduce the English accent of the Valleys. I suggested limiting this way of speaking to one or two peripheral characters. An example of such a character is Tal, a grizzled miner who is also a promoter and trainer of bare knuckle boxers. Here he is, in conversation with Moc.

“Elli drefnu gornest i Wil ’ma?”

“Dim problem, Moc. Ma fe’n fachan teidi gyda’i ddyrne. Gawn ni gwpwl o rowndie yma rhyw noson wythnos nesa, ife?”

“Na, un fowr y tro hyn, Tal. Lan ar y mynydd. Yn erbyn un o fois Gilfach-goch. Beth am bnawn Sadwrn?”

In the Welsh, both Moc and Tal speak in the same way. A standard translation would be:

“Can you arrange a bout for Wil here?”

“No problem, Moc. He’s a tidy with his fists, that boy. We’ll have a couple of rounds here one night next week, is it?”

“No, a big one this time, Tal. Up on the mountain. Against one of the Gilfach-goch lads. What about Saturday afternoon?”

Here it is again, but in this version I’ve rendered Tal’s speech only into a form of English with similar contractions and accent as in the original Welsh text:

“Can you arrange a bout for Wil here?”

“No problem, Moc. ’Ee’s tidy with ’is fists, your lad. We’ll ’ave a couple o’ roun’s ’ere one night next week, is it?”

“No, a big one this time, Tal. Up on the mountain. Against one of the Gilfach-goch lads. What about Saturday afternoon?”

Three

Myrddin and I agreed that the third level – to turn all the dialogue into South Wales-accented English – would be too much. There would be a danger of it becoming a caricature of the ‘look you, boyo’ variety. It would be difficult to read and a distraction from the story.

Whereas the readership of the story in Welsh will at least have heard the South Wales variety of Welsh, those reading the English could be from anywhere  in the world. English might not even be their native language.

Back to Yn y Tŷ Hwn –  I feel the influence of being mentored

As I progressed with the first draft of Drws Du yn Nhonypandy, I noticed that some of the lessons from the first meeting with my mentor on Yn y Tŷ Hwn are already spilling over into my paid work.

The mentor pointed out that, so long as an idea in the same part of the text, it doesn’t necessarily have to be placed in exactly the same order as in the original language. An example of this in Yn y Tŷ Hwn is:

Roedd ‘hel pricia’ yn hen, hen jôc rhwng y ddau. Rhy hen a rhy gymhleth i’w hesbonio i neb, bron iawn nad oedd hi ei hun, erbyn hyn, yn sicr o’i tharddiad. Ond pobl gwneud dryga oedd pobl hel pricia, a phobl ddiflas oedd pobl firelighters. A rŵan dyma’r ddau ohonyn nhw’n bobl firelighters.

This would translate straightforwardly as:

‘Collecting kindling’ was an old, old joke between them. Too old and too involved to explain and, by now, she wasn’t even sure herself of its origins. ‘Kindling people’ were full of mischief; ‘firelighters people’ were boring. And now here they both were: firelighters people.

but which my mentor suggests could be rendered as:

Long, long ago, this in-joke had grown between them (how it had started was lost to time). It was a way of reducing everybody to two sorts, the ‘kindling people’ (full of mischief) and the ‘firelighter types’ (boring). And now here they both were: firelighter types.

Just for the record, I have this passage rendered like this at the moment, but it may yet change:

The difference between ‘users of firelighters’ and ‘collectors of kindling’ was an old, old in-joke between them. Its origins were lost in the mists of time, but the gist of the joke was that ‘kindling people’ are full of mischief and ‘firelighter types’ are boring. And now here they both were: firelighter types.

November

I really do hope I can do some proper homework on my being-mentored project in November . . .

(The picture is for illustrative purposes only. It’s not even my office.)

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2020; Cheeky Tongue photo ©Ruth Elkin on FreeImages; cover of Drws Du yn Nhonypandy ©Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2020; the photo of the police lined up across the street in Tonypandy is in the public domain; photo of the toddler is by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash; the photo of boxer Amby McGarry is by Newmans of New York and was printed in the supplement to the National Police Gazette, #1565, Saturday, August 10, 1907; photo of kindling is by Alison Dueck on Unsplash; photo of me ©Chris Jones, 2012.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

First meeting with my mentor

At last!

I have had my first ‘meeting’ with my mentor – by phone. Going on a 125-mile round trip in person is still a no-no under lockdown rules in Wales. We planned, and started, to meet via Zoom. But the connection decreed otherwise, so we went #oldskool.

I, for one, am quite keen on using the phone. If you spend much of your working life sitting down, looking at a screen, it makes a nice change to be able to walk about while talking. And it was the talking that was important.

What I hope to achieve from the three mentoring sessions between now and January is to:

  1. turn a good translation into excellent and subtle storytelling
  2. know how to prepare a pitch to potential publishers, and
  3. gather the intelligence to make a list of who to approach, and to approach them with (1) and (2).

Before my mentor and I spoke

A few days ahead of the first meeting, my mentor sent me back the Word document of my translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn as it stood at the end of April. They had marked up the first third of the text with suggested alterations in Track Changes, and other observations and suggestions in Comments.

It was handy to be able to go through these ahead of the meeting. Most of the comments and suggested edits were self-evident, so we concentrated on stuff that hadn’t occurred to me before.

What we mostly talked about

The main thing the mentor highlighted – and which was new to me – was  that the language of the translation needs to be particularly carefully and finely rendered in the parts of the story that convey its themes, and for the images related to those themes. Themes they had flagged up in Yn y Tŷ Hwn include:

  • the distant influence of things, sometimes as yet unseen or unknown
  • the hidden parts of other people’s lives
  • time, idealisation and shifting perspectives
  • place or a person staying unmarked by time
  • transience and being trapped
  • age, family and repeated patterns.

And I thought it was about being in love with a house, and about profound and mental health-distorting grief!

Homework from my mentor

I now need to sit down and identify those places where the themes are on or near the surface, and polish those nuggets. The mentor also suggested that I read all of Sian’s novels and short story collections for adults. This is so I can imbibe their essence and see which themes recur throughout her work. That should keep me quiet for a while. (Note the bookmark propped up under the books in the photo: it was a freebie on joining the Society of Authors.)

Coincidentally, just after the email suggesting that I absorb The Collected Sian Northey, I saw on social media that Sian was at page proofing stage with her next short story collection, Cylchoedd. I asked to read this new work, with the offer of marking up the PDF proofs if I spotted anything (I am a professional proofreader, after all). She readily agreed, and I have. What serendipity!

What we talked a bit about

The mentor is very insistent that we concentrate on the quality of the translation, on the ‘literature’. In their view, everything else derives from that. Their priority is heavily weighted towards number 1 of my goals – of those labelled 1, 2 and 3, above. We did, however, squeeze in some discussion about potential publishers, and how to make a ‘pitch’.

As goals 2 and 3 are not being prioritised by my mentor, I shall continue my research into how to achieve them under my own steam. I’m under no illusions, though. It’s a tough world out there, and it’s going to be tougher still, post-covid. I read in Summer 2020’s edition of The Author that, ‘… more than half of independent publishers, according to a recent Bookseller survey, have warned they may not [still be in business post-covid]’.

Bonus support and an added possibility

The mentoring scheme from which I am benefitting is run by Literature Wales. There are two other partners involved, one of which is the Wales Literature Exchange. The Exchange is an agency facilitating the sale of translation rights, amongst other things. The officer from the Exchange has also read over my April version of Yn y Tŷ Hwn. They, too, commented on it and suggested tweaks to the text. Their note suggested that my translation as it stands would be good enough as a bridging translation. (A bridging translation is one done into a world language – such as English or French – and then used by other translators wishing to translate into a third language.)  I am chewing that one over. Watch this space …

 

Main photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash. Antique telephone photo by Boston Public Library on Unsplash. Photo of puffins by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Rabbit with a cocked ear photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash. Other images and words ©Susan Walton 2020.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

#StayAtHome and produce a finished translation

Translation finished . . . (well, as far as I can take it)

That has been the upside of staying at home in my case. Having made good progress with translating Yn y Tŷ Hwn during the course at Tŷ Newydd things ground to a halt because of . . . well, life. But then lockdown came. Although I still have my clients’ proofreading work arriving via email, lockdown meant there was also time to produce a finished translation (or as finished as I can make it at the moment).

My normal practice with translation is to go as far as I can myself and then have read-through sessions with my colleague Gwenlli, a.k.a. Amnis Translation, usually in her sunny kitchen. This time we did it on the phone – with me thankful that I have a headset. There’s nothing to beat reading your work aloud to a critical listener as caring and forensic as Gwenlli, with whom you can argue the toss about your turns of phrase.

So now the text is ready for my mentor – whoever he or she will be – to help me take to the next stage or the next level.

I’m not the only person who’s been creative during lockdown. The main image on this page is, at the moment, leaning against the sign for the next village. It’s been drawn by Barry Marples – talented chap, eh?

Remote learning

It’s not just children who’ve been having to do their learning remotely. In the spirit of this mentoring project, I’ve been working my way through the resources that were in the packs from the National Centre for Writing course. There are plenty of leads from them to follow up online. This research is expanding my knowledge about publishing, literary translation, and the literary scene.

Lockdown

I’ve been thankful for the sunshine for the state-sanctioned exercise sessions, mostly achieved by walking here.

 

I am very fortunate to live where I do. I know that. I’m fortunate in still having paid work, and knowing that my vulnerable relations and friends are being well catered for.

But in any event, things haven’t been as bad as I’ve been thinking they might be during a national disaster.  I’ve lived since I was ten years old within a few miles of nuclear power stations: close enough for anxiety about a Three Mile Island-type event. For much of my life I also lived through the latter part of the cold war, with the attendant threat of nuclear war. ‘Protect and Survive’ was the catchphrase.

I thought when a national disaster or crisis struck, I’d be sheltering in the ‘inner refuge’ of my ‘fallout room’ (watch the video if you don’t know what those terms mean) with no electricity, no water, and eating a meagre supply of stockpiled tinned food.

The corona virus situation is awful for many people, especially front line workers without proper supplies of protective equipment. However, for most of us, we have electricity; we have water; our rubbish is collected; there is fresh food in the shops or delivered to us; our post and daily newspapers arrive; we have endless broadcast entertainment and information; we have the internet and phones. We can go outside. Our government is not in a bunker. We are not in our ‘inner refuges’, supposing we could even make and provision them in time.

Comfort reading

Notwithstanding what I’ve just said, of course anxiety is taking its toll. I’m not alone, I know, in turning to comfort reading. In my case it’s Thomas Hardy. Melodramatic, I know; soapy, I know. But I love a Hardy novel. I picked The Return of the Native to sink into, partly because of the descriptions of the heath where it’s set. But I discovered I can’t even sink into comfort reading unhindered now. Starting to become a writer has made my brain work in different ways.

After reading the first few chapters one night by the fire, I woke up the next day reimagining Diggory Venn as a new age/convoy sound-system DJ, with the setting as a Battle of the Beanfield-era free festival. Instead of being set over a year and a day, I would set it over twelve  hours and a bit, at a Samhain party. That sort of event, especially at that season, can feel like a year. Venn’s father would have been a Forestry Commission worker, and Venn and Tamsin would end up opening a mountain biking course. Maybe I should give fan fiction a go?

Vehicles at Travellers’ School fundraising party, Clyro 1988

Artwork in main image ©Barry Marples 2020, used with permission;  beach video and words ©Susan Walton 2020; ‘Protect & Survive’ video copyright unknown; Clyro image ©Dave Fawcett of www.travellerhomes.co.uk – permission sought, but your website’s contact form doesn’t seem to work, Dave.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

© 2021 Saesneg Sue

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑