Ticket to Bologna: Daniel Hahn Announces Editors’ Translation Trip

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Translator Daniel Hahn is organizing a UK editors’ trip to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019 with support from Words Without Borders,’ Arts Council England, the British Council, and Book Trust.

At the service center and illustrators’ exhibition entrance to Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018. Image: BCBF

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

Deadline for Application: November 19
Organized by translator Daniel Hahn, a new program is open for applications from UK children’s book editors who would like to scout for foreign-language books in the spring at Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Hahn tells Publishing Perspectives that the response has been quick, positive—and even envious, from some quarters.

Daniel Hahn

Another example of how translators are leading the way in providing opportunities and guidance to publishers for translation, this program is designed to take eight editors to Bologna on April 1 and will include not only the costs of flights, accommodations, fair admission, and a per diem, but also a small fund for the participating editors to use in commissioning sample translations of work they find of interest.

“I’ve had a good reaction so far,” Hahn tells us. “We’re only a couple of days in and already several convincing expressions of interest from a range of publishing houses, so I’m very confident we’ll be able to pull together a really strong group for the trip.”

The program is being funded by Arts Council England in a one-time grant, which follows a two-year effort from the reading charity Book Trust called “In Other Words” and other programs looking to bring more translated children’s literature into the UK market.

In his initial statement of rationale, Hahn was quoted, saying, “Over the last few years, many great UK children’s publishers have expressed an eagerness to acquire more work in translation for our market. Following a number of successful introductory schemes … we’re keen to move on to the next step in helping publishers find their way into this exciting new field.

“So we’d welcome expressions of interest from any editors, whether very junior or very senior, working in any area of children’s/YA trade publishing, who wouldn’t otherwise be going to Bologna 2019 but for whom this first exploratory trip might be a valuable opportunity.

“The only stipulation is that they don’t already have extensive experience publishing work in translation but have an interest in doing so.”

At Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018. Image: BCBF

‘It Feels Promising’

That last line from Hahn, of course, reflects his frequent interest in emerging talent and interest in the translation market, by widening the industry’s attention to editors and their pivotal role in translation.

“There have been various people from other parts of publishing–translators, agents, and librarians, at last count–saying, ‘And what about us?'”Daniel Hahn

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Hahn is the translator who used some of his own winnings from the International Dublin Literary Award to found the TA (for Translators Association) First Translation Prize to honor both debut translators and their editors.

That awards program produced its first winners—Bela Shayevich and Fitzcarraldo editor Jacques Testard for the English edition of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-Hand Time—on March 1, and has become a new landmark in the translation community for self-generated promotion of international literature. It’s Hahn who has led the way in recognizing the importance of including editors in these efforts: they’re the gateway figures at publishers, after all, and often can use support in advocating for translation projects inside their respective houses.

Hahn says he’s “feeling reassured,” having been uncertain what the response would be when he announced the program on Wednesday (October 17)—only to find that he’s getting interest from publishing professionals beyond editing.

“This is an experiment, so I had no idea whether people would take to it,” he says to Publishing Perspectives.

“There have been various people from other parts of publishing—translators, agents, and librarians, at last count—saying, ‘And what about us?’ So I’ll have to think about how we might make this sort of thing useful to more people, if this year goes well. It feels promising just now, though.”

Editors from the UK who are interested in applying for the Bologna trip are asked to submit a statement of interest—no more than 400 words—to Hahn (danielhahn02@gmail.com). It should include information on what a given applicant hopes to gain from the trip and what sort of work he or she would be looking for in Bologna.

After the trip, Words Without Borders—the translation nonprofit program and magazine having its 15th anniversary gala on October 30 and just covered here for its October edition on India’s Dalit literature in Hindi—will produce a special edition on children’s literature.

“Many great UK children’s publishers have expressed an eagerness to acquire more work in translation for our market.”Daniel Hahn

And BookTrust is to produce a set of resources to help non-English publishers pitch to the UK editors, as well as a guide to help UK editors spot international excellence. Those resources will be launched at an international networking event for publishers.

In a statement to the news media, Jill Coleman, the director of children’s books work with BookTrust, is quoted, saying, “The lessons learned from ‘In Other Words’ have been distilled in this highly practical guide, which will support the connections made between publishers at the Bologna Book Fair and beyond.”

A few days before the deadline for submissions to the project, the British Council is to hold an open publishers’ event in London focused on making foreign-language acquisitions easier and more likely successful.

While the program for the morning event is yet to be announced, Cortina Butler, director of literature for the council, is quoted, commending “this initiative to take UK editors to Bologna and broaden their network of international contacts in children’s publishing.”

Butler goes on to say, “Creating opportunities for more children in the UK and around the world to learn about other countries and cultures through reading is a vital part of cultural relations. Attendees at the event on November 14 will also be able to see our new exhibition Drawing Words, showcasing the work of UK children’s illustrators, which will be touring the world over the next 18 months.”

At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018. Image: BCBF


Read more of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of translation, the TA First Translation Prize, and Daniel Hahn here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He 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 also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.