A New Translation Grant!
One of the duties of the PEN Translation Committee, of which I’m now a co-chair, is to administer the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, an annual award of from $2,000 to $4,000 given to 10-14 translation works-in-progress. The latest winners were announced several weeks ago, and you can read excerpts from the winning projects here. The winning proposals include poetry, essays, and fiction from major languages such as Spanish and French and underrepresented languages such as Indonesian.
What the PEN/Heim Translation grants do not include are books for children. But three years after the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators added a membership category for children’s and YA translators — a good move to boost the organization’s international membership — SCBWI has now added a Children’s Book Translation category to its annual Work-in-Progress grants. While the SCBWI grant amounts are lower than those of the PEN/Heim grants, they include travel to the Annual Conference in Los Angeles and showcasing the work with agents and editors.
When I first read the grant guidelines, eager to submit a sample translation of a middle grade novel that I’ve worked on, in one form or another, for three years, I saw they read, “You must have a complete draft to submit.” Right away (and in my new role as the PEN Translation Committee co-chair, having discussed the issue at our bimonthly meeting), I wrote the SCBWI translation listserv the following:
When I looked at the guidelines, it seemed that the application requires the translator to have completed the entire translation, although the application only requires the first ten pages and a synopsis of the rest. The guidelines emphasize that for all categories except nonfiction, they expect the project to be submission ready—not only a completed draft but one that is beta read and possibly having gone through at least one pro edit. I’m concerned that this will basically rule out submissions for any translation project except a picture book because, in fact, very few translators complete entire book-length projects on spec. The proposals have much more in common with nonfiction that with a work of fiction. For this reason, the PEN/Heim Translation grant only requires a synopsis, statement of the project’s merit, and 10-15 sample pages, and the idea of the grant is to give the translator money to complete a draft and to highlight the merit of the original book and the translation for publishers.
I immediately received a clarification from my SCBWI International contact, the talented and energetic translator and translation advocate Avery Udagawa, who wrote: “you need not have translated the full book. All you need to — or can — submit is 10 pages.”
So translators of children’s and young adult books — please submit to this new award. The submission period is from March 1-31, 2019 and more information may be found here. I realize that it makes for longer odds for everyone, but the more projects that are submitted, the more the people at SCBWI, agents, and editors realize how important it is to have books for young readers from around the world available in translation. And even if you don’t win, entering puts you name in front of editors as someone who translates from that language, so you may receive a call for a project that they’ve acquired, even if it isn’t one you brought to their attention. In fact, only one of my six published translations, Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World), is a project I found rather than one that came to me.
Happy translation, and good luck!