International Translation: Words Without Borders Receives a $150,000 Grant

In News by Porter Anderson

Words Without Borders receives a major US$150,000 Mellon Foundation grant at a time of transition in its leadership and a promising outlook.

Image: From the home page of Words Without Borders, July 10

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

‘The Importance of Engaging Both Deeply and Widely’
Words Without Borders, the international nonprofit organization that publishes translated literature, has received a US$150,000 general operating grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Words Without Borders, founded in 2003 and based in the United States, classifies itself as “the largest digital platform for contemporary literature in English translation” and over the years has published work by more than 4,600 writers and translators without charge to readers.

As many as 140 languages and 143 countries reportedly are represented in the company’s archives, and its program called WWB Campus helps educators with curricular resources and training to bring international literature into their classrooms. Annually, the company says, its online magazine is visited by more than 700,000 readers, students, and teachers from many parts of the world.

Publishing Perspectives readers are very familiar with the site, organizers of which say this grant is the largest in the company’s history.

Karen M. Phillips

The outgoing executive director and publisher of the program, Karen M. Phillips, says, “In deeply divided times, this grant affirms the importance of engaging both deeply and widely with the world’s literary voices through the art of literary translation.

“We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for this meaningful support.”

Samantha Schnee, the program’s board chair and founding editor, says, “This historic grant from the Mellon Foundation will have a significant impact on WWB at a critical juncture.

Samantha Schnee

“It also communicates to the broader arts community that an organization focused on expanding access to international literature deserves attention and support.”

Phillips’ Impending Departure

Phillips has been roundly praised over the years for her work at the helm of Words Without Borders, leading the program with firm, practical consistency to its place in the American book publishing community as a reliable advocate for translation in a culture that at times has been slow to embrace international writings.

The Mellon Foundation’s funding, the company reports, “will provide operating stability through Words Without Borders’ leadership transition” as Phillips steps down this summer.

The changing leadership, the program says in its media messaging, “comes at a time of organizational strength, as Words Without Borders sets its sights on scaling up its impact and reaching a wider and more international community.

“The grant also follows Words Without Borders’ recent investments in the field of literary translation, including new grants and fellowships for early-career literary professionals; a 20-percent increase in rates paid to our contributing writers, translators, and editors; and an expansion of training opportunities for teachers looking to bring global literature to their students.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on ‘Words Without Borders’ is here, more from us on translation is here, and more on book publishing and Spanish is 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 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.com, 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.