US National Endowment for the Arts: $1.2 Million in Translation, Creative Writing Fellowships

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Support for 24 translators is being announced today by the National Endowment for the Arts, which previously supported Jennifer Croft’s translation of Olga Tokarczuk’s ‘Flights’ among many other projects.

Translator and poet Valzhyna Mort, born in St. Petersburg and now an assistant professor at Cornell, is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts translation grant to support her work on translating from Russian ‘Air Raid and Other Poems’ by Polina Barskova. Image: Tanya Kapitonava

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

A Total $300,000 for Translation from 19 Countries
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in Washington today (January 16) has announced a total US$1.2 million in fellowships for translators and creative writers, in support of both American literature and the translation into English of literary prose, drama, and poetry by writers whose work originates in other languages.

In the translation fellowship program, particularly, we see the impact the endowment can have on translation, especially important as it’s frequently the translator who must fund his or her own translation of a full work or sample to attract a publisher’s attention.

Funded translators in this program come not only from many parts of the United States but also from the UK, Spain, Italy, and Hong Kong.

Some examples of the projects included in this round of grants include:

  • Jeffrey Angles’ work on translating from Japanese the collected poems of modernist poet Nakahara Chūya
  • Jessica Cohen—whose translation of David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar shared with the author the Man Booker International Prize in 2017—in translating from Hebrew the fictionalized autobiography Rose of Lebanon by the Israeli writer Leah Aini
  • Robyn Creswell’s translation from Arabic of the Egyptian writer Iman Mersal’s poetry collection Giving Up on the Idea of Houses
  • Suneela Mubayi, in collaboration with Rana Issa, on a translation from Arabic of a travelogue, Tickets to Malta, Lisbon, and Paris by the Remarkable Ahamd Faris
  • Frederika Randall in Rome for her translation from Italian of Italo Svevo’s A Very Old Man
  • Spring Ulmer for a translation from Greek of Yannis Ritsos’ poetry collection, Exercises 1950-1960

In a prepared statement today, the NEA chair Mary Anne Carter is quoted, saying, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support our nation’s writers and translators and their efforts to expand our literary landscape through their artistry, creativity, and dedication.”

NEA 2020 Literature Translation Fellowship Recipients

Translator Julia Powers, based in New Haven, receives a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to support her translation from Brazilian Portuguese of poetry by Hilda Hilst. Image: NEA

The work being translated comes from 19 countries, including Brazil, Egypt, and Japan. In most cases, the endowment’s literature program says, the works being translated are award winning and/or bestselling titles in their original languages.

Supported projects include a translation by Bill Johnston of the first two books in the novel cycle Nights and Days by the Polish writer Maria Dąbrowska and a translation by Nancy Naomi Carlson of two poetry collections by Congolese author Alain Mabanckou.

There are 24 fellowships announced this morning, each of $12,500 for a total $300,000 in this category.

  • Jeffrey Angles, Kalamazoo, MI
  • Nancy Naomi Carlson, Silver Spring, MD
  • Jessica Cohen, Denver, CO
  • Robyn Creswell, New York, NY
  • Marguerite Feitlowitz, Washington, DC
  • Gwendolyn Harper, Emeryville, CA
  • Brian T. Henry, Richmond, VA
  • William Maynard Hutchins, Todd, NC
  • Adriana X. Jacobs, New York, NY/Oxford, UK
  • Bill Johnston, Bloomington, IN
  • Elizabeth Lowe, Gainesville, FL
  • Rebekah Maggor, Ithaca, NY
  • Valerie Miles, Barcelona, Spain
  • Valzhyna Mort, Ithaca, NY
  • Armine Kotin Mortimer, Urbana, IL
  • Suneela Mubayi, New York, NY/Cambridge, UK
  • Greg Nissan, Tesuque, NM
  • Allison Markin Powell, New York, NY
  • Julia Powers, New Haven, CT
  • Frederika Randall, Rome, Italy
  • Sherry Roush, State College, PA
  • James Shea, Hong Kong
  • Kaija Straumanis, Rochester, NY
  • Spring Ulmer, Essex, NY

Since 1981, the endowment has awarded 504 fellowships to 445 translators, with translations representing 70 languages and 86 countries. Past recipients include Natasha Wimmer, whose fellowship supported her translation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, and Jennifer Croft, whose fellowship supported her translation of Nobel Prize-winner Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights—the work for which Croft and Tokarczuk won the Man Booker International Prize in May 2018.

NEA 2020 Creative Writing Fellowship Recipients

The NEA literature program’s announcement this morning in regard to creative writing fellowship recipients is focused on prose.

It features 36 grants of $25,000 each, for a total $900,000.

In this case, the fellowships alternate each year between poetry and prose, hence the focus on prose this year. This includes works both of fiction and creative nonfiction, the latter including memoirs and personal essays.

The endowment received nearly 1,700 eligible applications, the staff tells us. These applications were reviewed anonymously by a panel solely on the artistic excellence of the writing sample submitted

These fellowships are designed to allow recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement.

  • Renée Branum, Cincinnati, OH
  • Liz Breazeale, Denver, CO
  • Amy Knox Brown, Lincoln, NE
  • Marina Budhos, Maplewood, NJ
  • Jill Christman, Muncie, IN
  • Paula Closson Buck, Lewisburg, PA
  • Lee Conell, New York, NY
  • Michael Dahlie, Indianapolis, IN
  • Lindsey Drager, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Jonathan Escoffery, Long Beach, CA
  • Danielle Valore Evans, Baltimore, MD
  • Janalyn Guo, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Micah Dean Hicks, Oviedo, FL
  • Ben Hoffman, Chicago, IL
  • Vanessa Hua, Orinda, CA
  • Tara Ison, Tempe, AZ
  • Toni Jensen, Fayetteville , NC
  • Hester Kaplan, Providence, RI
  • Sonya Larson, Somerville, MA
  • Claire Luchette, Cleveland Heights, OH
  • Ling Ma, Chicago, IL
  • Greg Marshall, Austin, TX
  • Lance Olsen, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Karen Olsson, Austin, TX
  • Frances de Pontes Peebles, Chicago, IL
  • Meghan Phillips, Manheim, PA
  • Brian Ascalon Roley, Montgomery, OH
  • Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Ypsilanti, MI
  • Anjali Sachdeva, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Peng Shepherd, Las Vegas, NV
  • Maggie Shipstead, Los Angeles, CA
  • Joni Tevis, Greenville, SC
  • Emma Törzs, Minneapolis, MN
  • Sarah Viren, Tempe, AZ
  • Theodore Wheeler, Omaha, NE
  • Jennifer Wortman, Lafayette, CO

Since 1967, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than 3,500 creative writing fellowships totaling more than $55 million. Many recipients have gone on to receive the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction, including Anthony Doerr, Louise Erdrich, Tyehimba Jess, Jennifer Egan, and Juan Felipe Herrera.

The literary arts director at the National Endowment is Amy Stolls.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the National Endowment for the Arts is here, and more from us on translation is here. Porter Anderson is a former jury member in the National Endowment for the Arts’ programming in literature in Washington.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.