Tag: Yn y Tŷ Hwn

Climate change …

… but not the global emergency sort

The cultural climate in relation to Wales and the Welsh language also seems to be warming, if this newspaper headline is anything to go by.

I’ve been aware of an increasing media focus* on Wales and Welsh in the last few months. Even before Wales qualified for the football World Cup.

This recent Radio 4 programme in the series One to One is only the latest. It explores what it means to be a Welsh person in England (Emma Garland), and English in Wales (Mike Parker).

A cynical person might think

that this sudden interest in Wales is a move to set against the growing interest in independence for Wales.

Is it a deliberate policy of trying to neutralise the feeling of being ignored/abandoned by Westminster?

An uncynical person

might interpret it as a realisation: ‘Wow, it’s 2022 and now we’re more attuned to diverse voices and cultures within the UK, we can see that we’ve got this whole home-grown one right in our midst.’ Or – depending on your degree of Unionism – ‘We’ve got this whole home-grown one right next door to us’.

Whatever the reason

my fervent hope is that BBC-listening, heavyweight-newspaper-reading and politics-following publishers will clock all this and think: ‘Yes, we think novel-reading people are ready for a gem of a story translated from Welsh. It’s not an oddity, it’s interesting. Let’s take a look at this Susan Walton and her translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn from the Welsh.’

 

Climate change (the emergency sort)

A little aside: if you are interested in the accelerating change in the earth’s climate (and who isn’t?) you might like to take a look at my other blog, where I post my original writing: ’Sgwennu Sue.

I’ve been writing the words: ‘Pan fydd yr holl iâ’n toddi, bydd y môr yn cyrraedd fan hyn and ‘When all the ice melts, the sea will be up to hereover and over and over on PostIt notes.

Starting to open up …

It’s now eighteen months since I finished my period of being mentored and when I finished the final version of This House, a translation into English of Yn y Tŷ Hwn by Sian Northey. Now, as covid repercussions diminish, some publishers are starting to open submission windows, and in-person cultural events are happening.

Submissions, submissions

In early January, when I last posted on this blog, This House had already been rejected by publishers A–E, and was awaiting an outcome from publishers F and G. It was swiftly rejected by G, and the outcome from F is still unknown after six months, so I’m presuming it’s not wanted.

Multiple submissions

Over the next few months, I’m not going to wait for the outcome of one submission or query before making the next. This means multiple submissions and queryings – but my spreadsheet is my friend. Bids H, I and J have already been sent.

 

Raising awareness of the Books Council of Wales

The other new tactic is to make submissees aware of possible Books Council grants that are available to publishers.

It’s only recently dawned on me how ignorant publishers outside Wales are about these. Because many source countries whose literature is translated into English help with this process financially, I’d presumed that publishers would automatically assume the same thing would be true of Wales – not so, it seems.

Meanwhile, on the border …

Hay Festival

I had rolled over a booking for two nights’ camping at Hay Festival since 2020, the year of being mentored. I decided to take the plunge this year, albeit without plunging into the enclosed performance spaces: I’m still being very cautious where I take my nose and windpipe.

Still, my main reason for going was to cruise and chat, and this I did – round the town and round the festival. And very interesting and enjoyable it was, especially watching an episode of Radio 3’s The Verb being recorded. Daniel Morden’s opening a – re-telling of the legendary origins of the bard Taliesin – was magnificent.

Whilst flâneuring about, I had the pleasure of running into one of my Sue Proof anchor clients. It was lovely to see her in person and have a chat over lunch.

The dark underbelly

The photo is of a commercial unit just next to the campsite I stayed on. It shows the other side of Hay. The campsite supervisor told me that these are dead books. This is the dark underbelly of ‘the town of books’: when Amazon divests itself of stock, it sells them to the warehouse chap. When he doesn’t sell them in Hay, this is how they end up.

In other news

My latest commissioned translation for the publishing house Gwasg Carreg Gwalch came out in the spring. It was chosen by the Books Council of Wales as one of its books of the month for May. That’s it in the front: Faster Than the Swords.

My next commissioned translation, Fleeing the Fascists, is almost done and will be coming out in September. This is the cover of the Welsh original, but the English will likely have the same design.

 *Long footnote

As well as the ‘One to One’ programme mentioned above, between February and June 2022 on BBC Radios 3, 4 and 6Music, I noticed:
—  Welsh comedian and national treasure Tudur Owen had a two-part dramatised story on Radio 4, and was a guest on both Start the Week and The News Quiz
—  a couple of months later, there was an entire Start the Week programme on the theme of Welsh identities
—  mention of St Dwynwen’s Day (the Welsh lovers’ day) was shoe-horned into a question in Counterpoint where Bryn Terfel happened to be singing the music in the question (but not in Welsh, nor was it Welsh music)
—  Katherine Stansfield’s poem ‘Beware Welsh Learners’ was on Poetry Please; it finishes with a line in Welsh: ‘Bore da, bore da.’ (Kath was, co-incidentally, one of the tutors on the course I attended at Tŷ Newydd)
—  there was a three-part series on Radio 4 from Jeremy Bowen called This Union: Being Welsh
—  Free Thinking on Radio 3 had an entire programme called ‘Speaking Welsh’
—  the 6Music Festival came from Cardiff this year, with Welsh being used as an equal language to English in the trailers for the event
—  Cerys Matthews presented a programme on Radio 4 called ‘Youth Unites’, celebrating the centenary of the Peace and Goodwill messages sent by the youth of Wales to the youth of the world by the Urdd Gobaith Cymru (oh, and guess what the topic is for 2022? –  the climate emergency)

On top of the i newspaper trumpeting Wales’ soccer achievements with its headline in Welsh, there have been these newspapery events:
—  The Sunday Times changed its style guide for naming our highest mountain – it’s now Welsh language first for Yr Wyddfa
—  to the bafflement of most of the UK press, Guto Harri, newly appointed Director of Communications for Boris Johnson, gave his first press interview to Golwg 360, which is a Welsh-language news website
—  the English translation of Manon Steffan Ros’ Welsh bestseller The Blue Book of Nebo was selected for inclusion in a list of children’s and YA books in The Guardian
—  The Bookseller recently devoted multiple spreads to the literary scene in Wales.

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2022. Photo of i newspaper ©Non Tudur, 2022. Photos of ‘can’t wait to be independent so we don’t have to deal with this crap anymore’ t-shirt, ‘when all the ice melts’ PostIt note, The Bean Box cafe in Hay on Wye, and dead books in Hay on Wye ©Susan Walton 2022. Photos of letter ‘H’ by Nikhil Mitra, letter ‘I’ by Michael Dziedzic, and letter ‘J’ by Zyanya BMO, all on Unsplash. Photo of Books Council of Wales books of the month from that organisation’s social media accounts. Video of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s Peace and Goodwill message from that organisation’s YouTube channel. Cover of Ffoi Rhag y Ffasgwyr ©Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2022.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

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 to take a break

This post is a bit different from the others. By mid-September it was time to take a break. A couple of weeks of settled weather were forecast, and the reproduction rate (the R) for coronavirus was once again on the rise. My part of the world may be in lockdown again within weeks.

So, half of this post is about my progress as a mentored emerging literary translator, and half is about taking a break from this work and from my paid work.

September is #WorldKidLitMonth

The World Kid Lit initiative was launched in 2016 as a way of highlighting diverse, global and translated children’s books. They say:

We would like to see more diversity in English-language publishing to give a richer and more realistic representation of the multicultural and multilingual world we live in. We aim to make it easier for readers to find international books, whether in translation from other languages or originally published in English elsewhere.

This post appeared on the World Kid Lit blog while I was having time off. It features The Moon is Red, one of the books for older children I’ve translated for the Gwasg Carreg Gwalch publishing house.

How nice to have my efforts with the trilingual dialogue described thus:

… flavours of both Welsh and Basque are kept, particularly in the terms of affection … I also really enjoyed Susan Walton’s portrayal of the dialogue, really bringing the North Walian accent alive.

The original Welsh – Mae’r Lleuad yn Goch – won a Tir na n-Og award in 2018. Hmm … now if only there were awards for translated children’s books …

 

Second meeting with my mentor

Until about four days before this was due to happen, our second meeting was going to be in person. However, with Wales’ First Minister urging people not to make unnecessary journeys because of the rising coronavirus R,  we decided once again to meet virtually.

As ‘homework’ for the session, I’d drafted a ‘pitch’ letter for my mentor to advise on. This led on to a discussion about the themes of the book. The mentor said that I need to choose three or four out of maybe a possible dozen or so themes I could draw out of the text. But the mentor also emphasised that I need to be able to talk and write in depth about all the themes, not just those selected for the pitch.

The other topic that we discussed at length is the ongoing task of identifying other works of art (especially other novels) that Yn y Tŷ Hwn is like. This is what is expected when pitching to publishers or agents. Researching this – more or less since the start of the project – has been quite time-consuming and I haven’t really come up with anything better as a description than ‘A modern-day Brief Encounter’.

I was encouraged by the mentor telling me that some of the books I’d been considering for the ‘it’s like’ role but had discounted, might, in fact, work. These include A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray and The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade, translated by Samuel Rutter. The tutor is going to put on their thinking cap to try to identify closer matches, and I am going to continue researching.

Anglesey Coastal Path

My long, long-time friend celebrated a big birthday by walking the entire Anglesey Coastal Path. All 130 miles of it.  While I was having time off. So the natural thing to do was to join her for a couple of days. And for another couple of days I did other stretches of the path. I camped on Anglesey – or Ynys Môn, as I think of it.

We both saw what I think was probably the same pod of Risso’s dolphins off Trwyn Eilian, but on different days. Fortuitously, a chap with a long lens was taking photos of them when she saw them. He has kindly allowed both of us to use his photos in our blogs. Her blog is here. (This friend is also the friend I imagine as the ideal reader of a translated Yn y Tŷ Hwn, so reference to her in this post is not entirely irrelevant.)

A new tent, sad clothes, and secret necklaces

One outcome of camping on Anglesey was discovering that the tent I’d bought to go to Glastonbury in 1981 was no longer waterproof. In any case, my travelling companion and I are getting a bit old and stiff to be crawling in and out of a small, Toblerone-shaped tent after a day’s hiking. So I bought a bigger, modern tent from eBay, to see us out.

What I didn’t foresee was that the new tent wouldn’t fit through the trapdoor to the attic. I had to find another home for it in my very small house. One of the built-in bedroom cupboards seemed the best option.

I shuffled clothes about and made space. But while I was moving some of my lovely clothes, I began to wonder if I’d ever get to wear them again. Will life ever be the same again, and even if it is, will I be too old and fed-up by then to want to get dressed up?

I’ve got lovely jewellery too. The opportunities for wearing jewellery have disappeared. But I’ve decided, regardless of the level of casualness/antiquity the top-half clothes I’m wearing, that I’m going to wear a different necklace every day, underneath, secretly. One of these.

 

Images and words ©Susan Walton 2020, except for the photos of Risso’s dolphins ©George Boyer 2020, reproduced with permission; the image of a thinking woman by Tachina Lee on Unsplash; and the photo of coloured strands by Anand Thakur on Unsplash.

 

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Holding a thought through a deluge of work

The illustration at the top of this post is part of a painting called Holding a Thought. It was painted by K. I remember him doing it, and the state of mind he was in when he did it. I’ve been in a similar state of mind for much of August 2020.

As I said in the last post, K had ideas coming out of his ears, but for a while there was so much going on in his earning-a-living life (and he had the pressure of being self-employed) that months were going by when there was no space or time to realise a big project he had in his head.

He painted Holding a Thought to express how this felt – he was holding this precious thing that might easily get engulfed by shades of quotidian life.

It’s been a year …

My diary for 28 August 2019 reads:

I was awake and couldn’t go back to sleep. Got up and started my application to be mentored into translating adult literary fiction. Back to bed about 7 and woke up at 10. In the meantime the fucker announces he’s going to ask the queen to prorogue parliament – timing and duration to get a no-deal Brexit through.

Both of those events seem a long time ago now. A very long time ago.

Holding a thought

I learned of my application’s success in late 2019, and in January 2020 I went off to the Norwich industry weekend. Tŷ Newydd gave me the space to more or less finish my first draft, and lockdown meant I could polish it.

I had my first ‘meeting’  with my mentor at the end of June and made good progress on further finessing the text in July.

But my a golden thought about my translation project has been almost swamped during August. K’s painting came into my head – it illustrates the feeling exactly.

Proofreading

The reason the golden thought has been so flattened is proofreading. I’m not complaining at all about having had a bonanza month. It is, after all, my living; I am self-employed too.

During August I have proofread just shy of 195,000 words in five separate jobs for four clients. Two of the clients were new, which always means more auxiliary work around the job. I think that’s the most proofreading I’ve done in one month since I started my business in 2008.

So – as I say – not complaining at all. Meanwhile, the Yn y Tŷ Hwn project box has hardly been opened. But I’m holding that thought.

The ‘arias’ – a step by step example

In July’s post, I mentioned my metaphor of ‘arias’ for the parts of the text that ‘carry’ the rest. I have done some work on those in August, so I thought I’d illustrate the various iterations that one of them has gone through. It’s in the first chapter.

Here’s the Welsh original:

Duw a ŵyr yn union pam y cychwynnodd hi yno’r diwrnod hwnnw. Roedd ei chyfarfod wedi’i ohirio, roedd ganddi bnawn rhydd o’i gwaith, roedd hi’n braf, roedd wedi clywed cân o’i phlentyndod ar y radio, a honno wedi mynnu aros yn ei phen trwy’r bore. Efallai mai dyna pam. Hoffai feddwl mai ffawd oedd o i gyd, cyd-ddigwyddiad wedi’i gynllunio gan rywun, gan rywbeth.

Starting points

My first attempt, done in 2012, well before I was awarded the menteeship, ran:

God knows why, exactly, she headed there on that day. Her meeting had been postponed, she had a work-free afternoon, it was a beautiful day, she’d heard a song from her childhood on the radio, which had stuck in her head all morning. So maybe that was why. She liked to think all this was fate: co-incidences arranged by someone, something.

The first draft for the present project reads:

Goodness knows exactly why she headed there on that day. Her meeting had been postponed, she had a free afternoon, the weather was fine, she’d heard a song from her childhood on the radio which had been stuck in her head all morning. Maybe that was why. She liked to think it was all fate, a coincidence engineered by someone, by something.

Following an edit on paper, I didn’t change this passage. I had marked up on paper a change from ‘the weather was fine’ to ‘the weather was gorgeous’, but had then ‘stetted’ it (the ‘stet’ mark means ‘leave unchanged’).

It still remained unchanged when I read that version of the text aloud to my critical translator friend, Gwenlli. It does the job. It’s a good, accurate translation.

Mentor input

Then I received input from both my mentor and from the officer from the Wales Literature Exchange, a partner organisation in the mentoring project. The Exchange officer first: they suggested replacing ‘engineered’ with ‘orchestrated’, which I rejected.

I rejected it because ‘engineered by someone, by something’ brings to my mind William Blake’s painting The Ancient of Days.

In my head, if you’re going to have a higher intelligence, it would have dividers, not a baton.

The only change my mentor suggested was to delete the ‘on’, to give ‘headed there that day’ rather than ‘headed there on that day.’ This I accepted.

The mentor had also attached a long comment about the importance of this passage in terms of underlining the theme of chance/accident in the novel, especially as it occurs in the first chapter. They also advised me, generally, to pour my expressive energy into tightening up the wording where the themes are uppermost in the text (which is how I developed the metaphor of ‘arias’).

Further prose tightening

Following the mentor’s advice, I had another go and came up with:

Goodness knows exactly why she headed there that day. A postponed meeting had freed her for the whole afternoon, the weather was gorgeous, a song from her childhood had been on repeat in her head all morning. Maybe that was why. She liked to think it was fate, a coincidence engineered by someone or by something.

I then decided to treat the passage like a poem. I printed this wording out on a slip of paper and carried it about in my handbag, sneaking a look at it now and again to see if I could catch it off guard. I’ve found this process to be helpful when translating poetry; it seems to work like jump leads to connect the subconscious brain to the thinking brain.

The result was one change: ‘circling’ – ‘a song from her childhood had been circling in her head.’

I think I’ve clinched it.

‘Circling’ links her interior with the exterior – she’s sitting with a  nostalgic song going round in her head, in a place where she might, by chance, see a buzzard circling on a thermal.

Images and words ©Susan Walton 2020, except for the image of Holding a Thought ©estate of K. Nathan, reproduced with the permission of A. Nathan and I. Nathan;  the Welsh text from Yn y Tŷ Hwn ©Sian Northey 2011, reproduced with the permission of Gwasg Gomer; and the image of a pound coin by Brett Jordan on unsplash.com. The image of The Ancient of Days is in the public domain.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

© 2022 Saesneg Sue

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑