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Editing Fiction

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Having already been involved in the editing of a few books and stories by various authors, and having enjoyed the process very much, I have recently begun to explore the world of editing on a more formal basis. First of all, I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and am finding it to be an active, supportive community. I then followed this by completing the SfEP’s ‘Introduction to Fiction Editing’ course.

Although many of the areas covered by the course inevitably also crop up whilst working on a translation, it was an excellent opportunity to take some time to consider these points and the approaches to them in more detail. Aspects such as plot, voice, point of view, dialogue, style, language and character are all integral parts of the task of translating a work of fiction, but the editing course presented them in isolation, bringing the author’s craft into sharper focus, rather than viewing it through the usual prism of a different language.

As a result of this training, I realised that I have become an even more critical reader than before, although I mean this in a positive sense. It has helped me to appreciate literature more fully, deepening the already great pleasure of reading a good book. In addition, it has highlighted further ways in which I can help writers to fine-tune their work to make the best possible impression on their readers. As an added bonus, it has given me new ideas and methods to try out in my own writing.

It is always advisable for any author to have a manuscript checked by an editor before submitting it to an agent or publisher, or prior to embarking on self-publishing. Even the most experienced writers can benefit from an impartial second opinion. There are several levels of service I can offer, from a short critique to a thorough copy-edit, to help you prepare your text for the next step. If you have written a story or book in English and would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your requirements.  

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Avana. The Druid’s Prophecy.

I am very excited to share news of Annie Lavigne’s newly published book ‘Avana. The Druid’s Prophecy.’

Inspired by Celtic folklore, ‘The Druid’s Prophecy’ is the story of a young Ulaid girl in ancient Ireland. Although half-goddess, half-mortal, she is unaware of the secret of her birth as she grows up under the care of Amorgen, the Great Druid. Avana’s journey from small child to young woman takes her on many adventures as she gradually comes to know herself. Torn between a yearning for knowledge of the Ancient Faith and the evil influence of the Shadows, Avana struggles to find the right path towards her true destiny. Light clashes with Darkness, while love and friendship battle with hatred and fear in this compelling coming-of-age saga which is the first novel in a trilogy.

It has been an absolute delight to work with Annie on the English version of this great story, and I have travelled on a journey of my own through traditional Irish mythology and the colourful world of fantasy. Highly recommended for age 16+ lovers of fantasy with a dash of romance!

Literary London

Last week I went on a whirlwind trip around London for a selection of literature-related events, in particular the London Book Fair and the Translators’ Association annual Translation Symposium. I listened to a wealth of words of wisdom and encouragement from eminent translators, authors and publishing professionals, and chatted with so many people who had all come together to celebrate a common love of literature. To list every event I attended and to relate all my interesting conversations would take far too long, so here are just a few of the main impressions I came away with.

First of all, despite the looming cloud of Brexit and the fact that the Translation Symposium took place in Europe House just across the road from crowds of demonstrators and TV crews outside the Houses of Parliament, literary translators remain a positive bunch. Everyone was clearly motivated by an irrepressible passion for sharing good literature across political, geographical and cultural borders no matter what. The Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair, which seems to grow with every passing year, as well as LBF’s decision to showcase literary translation by nominating a representative translator for each show (Jeremy Tiang was this year’s inaugural translator) bears witness to this.

The LBF seminar guide referred to authors as ‘central to our business’ and, of course, without authors, the world of literature would simply not exist. Fittingly, a large area was set aside for a packed schedule of author events. In the same guide, the tag-line for the Literary Translation Centre was ‘Making words travel’. Without translators, literature would remain hidden away in its own cultural ‘slot’ where no-one else can see it.

There was much discussion about self-publishing, which is becoming increasingly popular in our modern, digital era. Although it gives more control to the author, it also requires a range of additional skills, and demand for related services has increased accordingly, including editing, cover design, marketing, financial advice, and much more. There are all kinds of assistance available, both formally from professional bodies, and informally from friendly colleagues happy to share their own experiences.

Now I’m back at home in a much calmer Lincolnshire, it’s time to look through my notes, develop some of the ideas that I picked up, and put some of the things I learned into practice!

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Word of the week

Because translation is all about words, I have started a ‘word of the week’ post on my Facebook page. The process of translating something from one language into another is not merely a case of systematically replacing each word with its equivalent in another language. Even machine translation has moved on from there to a certain extent, although it still has a long way to go (not surprisingly this is a hugely controversial subject in the translation community, so I will discuss it more fully in a future post).

A translator, especially in the field of literary translation, must have a ‘feel’ for both languages – the language of the original text (the ‘source’ language) and that of the translated version (the ‘target’ language. This deeper understanding of language can only be acquired by using the language as much as possible, for example by living in a country where it is spoken, being immersed in its culture, talking with other speakers of the language, reading, watching TV and films, listening to the spoken word and songs, and so on. Then, with experience, you begin to realise that no words are absolute equivalents: they all have their own nuances, cultural backgrounds and connotations, variation in usage etc., so that every word becomes a subject in itself.

As a translator, I work with words all the time, juggling them and trying to find the best fit into the great crossword that is the translated text. As a result, I encounter so many fascinating words and am constantly adding to my vocabulary as well as learning new things about words I thought I already knew. So, I decided I would choose just one word each week – often Russian, but also English, French, or any other language – and share what I have discovered along the way. There are so many words in the world, and how they are used is changing all the time, so there will be plenty of material to keep me going for a lifetime of learning!

This week I have picked a rather weighty word to kick things off: Cудьба [sud’ba], meaning ‘fate’, ‘destiny’, or perhaps something else…

One Heart Is All I Have

Over the last few months I have had so much fun working with author Nataliya Lang on the translation of her new book One Heart Is All I Have. Having already translated The Driving School, a few years ago, I was very excited to be asked to work on another of Nataliya’s novels. Nataliya is a talented writer and a wonderful person who cares very much about her writing and ensuring that the characters’ emotions and psychology are properly explored and conveyed, at the same time as giving her readers a story to enjoy.

The narrator of One Heart is Anna, a young woman who is just embarking on a writing career and is looking for a subject for her new novel. By pure chance, she meets Eduard, a cantankerous woman-hater, in an airport waiting room, and is annoyed when their paths cross again and he ‘serenades’ her with his misogynistic songs one evening in a park in Leipzig. When Eduard suggests she should write a book about him, she boldly accepts the challenge and, although this leads to some gruelling emotional adventures, she also meets a selection of other interesting characters along the way. Agnieszka, a widow with a seriously ill son, Bertha the café proprietor, Laura the cat-loving housekeeper, the enigmatic Iola, and many more have all played a part in Eduard’s life. Intrigued by his complex personality, Anna sets about trying to figure out how a lovestruck student became an irritable middle-aged man and why he has such fond memories of the GDR with its bland cuisine and political prisoners.

Despite the psychological subject matter and the careful attention to emotional detail, the story is simply told and easy to read. The characters are serious yet entertaining and the accounts of their lives interweave with those of Eduard and Anna, gradually adding pieces to the puzzle that is Eduard. Not all the questions are answered, though, as the story is to be continued in Part 2. I can’t wait to read it!
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Silent listening

At a time of political tension between my homeland and a country whose people, language and culture I greatly admire and I have spent a large part of my life studying, I find myself thinking about the importance of communication.

Understanding is essential for communication, and to understand we must first listen. Reading is a form of silent listening which requires patience and cultivates empathy. By reading another person’s words, we are given access to their minds, allowing us to look through a window onto their thoughts so, the more widely we read, the more minds we visit and, consequently, the more detailed the picture of humanity which begins to take shape in our own consciousness.

Of course, language barriers can prevent us from reading literature from many countries and communities with which we are not familiar. However, in our modern world, there is an invisible army of translators constantly working hard to solve this problem. They are highly dedicated and motivated people hidden in attics, at kitchen tables, or in corners of coffee shops, eagerly tapping away on computer keyboards in their unprepossessing yet grandiosely ambitious task of making all of the world’s literature available to everyone.

Despite their efforts, though, writers and translators can only do half of the work. Books are there to be read. They are doors. Open them and step into the lands on the other side. Read. Enjoy. Understand.

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The Universal Draught

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This week, another exciting project is meeting the world for the first time. The Universal Draught is the product of my transatlantic collaboration and friendship with author Elena Lebedeva-Fradkoff.

Elena’s stories in this collection take their inspiration from the realm of dreams, blending the real and the surreal to form a curious concoction of images and emotions. From Midzuorsi, the enigmatic talking kitten, and Sasha, a young woman with strange powers, to a grotesque circus of confusing horrors in ‘The Mutant’, and a colony of giant wasps and waspish humans, the stories and their characters are blown along on a draught through the universe of imagination.

The book also contains a collection of stunning, and equally eerie, dream-like illustrations by artist Paul Kulsha, which perfectly reflect the mood and tone of the stories.

‘The Universal Draught’ is not light, easy reading. It is a deliciously challenging read encouraging those who step inside its world to think, imagine and dream along with its motley cast of characters.