Sunday Submissions: WCN Emerging Translator Mentorships 2016

Writers’ Centre Norwich is looking for emerging Arabic translators to apply to the Emerging Translator Mentorship program that they took over from the British Centre for Literary Translation:

Writers-Centre-NorwichDuring the mentorship, just as before, experienced translators are matched with emerging translators for a six-month period. According to organizers, participants also receive:

  • A £500 bursary and reasonable travel expenses
  • Access to industry events such as International Translation Day and London Book Fair through showcase events.

Translator Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, who participated in 2012, later said:

The mentorship programme is very flexible. How often, or indeed whether, you meet face to face will depend on whether you’re located in the same country as your mentor or on the other side of the world (I believe the scheme is open to Anglophone translators worldwide, and this year there were both mentors and mentees in the USA, Turkey, and further afield).

Paul Starkey and I were able to meet up four times over the six months, and each time in advance I sent him a piece of work I considered as polished as I could get it. He’d give me an honest critique and help unpick phrases I was still struggling with. The other two months, he reviewed my work by email. Although I regularly translated literary passages during my degree, and did an MA in literary translation, this was the first time I had such personal and detailed feedback on my work. It was a real privilege.

Some mentees had a publishing contract, but I didn’t have one specific project to work on, so instead attempted one chapter or short story by a different author for each month, which was a good way to experiment with different styles of writing. My goals for the six months were to get at least one short story published and to pitch something to a UK publisher, both of which I managed, but I have to say, I still feel I have quite a long way to go in terms of getting to know publishers and – the holy grail – securing a contract to translate a novel.

Ruth also talked about who the mentorship scheme might suit:

It’s something that will suit people from a range of backgrounds. In our group, it seemed every stage was represented: linguists straight out of uni, postgrad students, freelance translators like myself and some who were switching to translation later on in life after pursuing a career in something completely different.

BCLT mentorships are available in 10 languages – all translating into English, which should be your mother tongue or at least you should write as well as a native speaker. This year, for the first time, there’s also a non-language-specific mentorship open to translators working into English from any language not already covered by the programme.

They stress that the programme is intended for Anglophone translators with promise rather than experience. Ideally, though, you’d have dabbled in literary translation a little already, as to apply you have to submit a short sample of your translation work (not more than 2,000 words) with a commentary.

It’s worth bearing in mind that to really make the most of the opportunity, you need to dedicate as much time to it as possible, including potentially taking time off paid work if you can. The mentorship comes with possible travel grants and a fixed bursary which was a great help especially with Arabic books being so expensive to get hold of in the UK.

Full details and guidance on how to apply are here, and the deadline for entries is Friday 30 July.