Industry Notes: ‘Words Without Borders’ at 15; Riggio, Kinney at BookExpo, BookCon

In News by Porter Anderson

Promoting literature that would be ‘shipwrecked without a translator,’ Words Without Borders observes its 15-year anniversary while BookExpo announces Len Riggio and Jeff Kinney as speakers.

At BookExpo’s BookCon 2017 in New York City. Image: Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Words Without Borders’ ‘Great Explorations’
The 15th anniversary of Words Without Borders is designed to look back at the work of 15 authors, including Chinese writer Can Xue in translation by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping.

In media materials on the anniversary, the nonprofit organization writes, “Founded on a commitment to diversify the literary landscape, Words Without Borders has published [more than] 2,400 writers from 134 countries, translated from 114 languages.

“These include four Nobel Prize winners and writers like Elena Ferrante, Svetlana Alexievich, Han Kang, and László Krasznahorkai who reached readers of English through WWB before becoming international sensations.”

And in a prepared statement, founding editor Samantha Schnee is quoted, saying, “This anniversary issue looks back to the beginning of a ‘great exploration’ for us at WWB. The 15 writers here reflect the dazzling variety of international voices the magazine has brought to readers of English in the past decade and a half.”

Interviewed for one of London Book Fair’s “Five-Minutes With” pieces in 2015, Schnee was asked which imprints she most admired.

“There are a number of excellent independent outfits popping up over the past five years,” she said. “And Other Stories, Comma Press, Deep Vellum (based in the US), HispaBooks (based in Spain) and Tilted Axis all do an excellent job of championing literature in translation from other languages. Harvill Secker, Portobello, and some of the larger, more established imprints do a great job, too.”

Words Without Borders describes its mission as “fostering global understanding through the translation, publication, and promotion of contemporary international literature. …Our publications and programs open doors for readers of English around the world to the multiplicity of viewpoints, richness of experience, and literary perspective on world events offered by writers in other languages.

“We seek to connect international literary writers to the general public, to students and educators, and to print and other media and to serve as a primary online location for a global literary conversation.

In her commentary on the 15th edition, Schnee—herself a translator who chairs the PEN America Heim Translation Grants jury and is a trustee of English PEN—writes, “As we embark on the next 15 years of discovering and publishing in English the work of the world’s great writers, we’re inspired by the words of Ariel Dorfman, writing about the work of Juan Forn, the Argentine writer he recommended to us:  ‘And if the reader feels seduced by this story, please remember all the other narratives I had to leave adrift and shipwrecked without a translator, and that look forward to calm eyes, avid eyes.'”


BookExpo and BookCon: Len Riggio and Wimpy Kid

Both BookExpo (May 30 to June 1) and BookCon (June 2 and 3) have announced new details this week, BookExpo naming Barnes & Noble’s Len Riggio as the trade show’s first grand opening keynote speaker and BookCon releasing news of an “interactive experience” based on Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid The Getaway.

Riggio is to talk on May 30 at 9:15 a.m. at the Midway Stage in a presentation sponsored by Ingram. He’s to be introduced by American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher.

Len Riggio

The session reflects BookExpo’s effort this year to renew its emphasis on booksellers, and Riggio is said to be planning to address “his unique perspective on the bookselling industry and will focus his talk on the importance of brick and mortar stores, serving the modern reader, how bookstores best serve their communities, and the overall changing landscape of book retail today,” according to organizers.

And BookCon, the public-facing two-day weekend follow to BookExpo, has announced that Wimpy Kid series author Jeff Kinney’s June 3 appearance will feature a walk-through installation relative to The Getaway.

The book is the 12th in Kinney’s series and was the No. 1 bestselling frontlist book released in the U.S. in 2017, according to Bookscan. In the book, Greg Heffley and his family go on a holiday vacation to a tropical island and nothing goes as planned.

“As we spoke to fans around the country about what they’d like to see more of a BookCon, more children’s book authors and interactive family programming was one of the most common responses,” says Brien McDonald, BookCon’s event director, in a prepared statement.

BookCon 2018 is also to feature speakers including Taye Diggs, Chuck Palahniuk, Angie Thomas, David Baldacci, Bill Clinton, James Patterson, Diane Guerrero, Abbi Jacobson and V.E. Schwab.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.