Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The all-important Canada Council Grant

It was requested of me to post about the process of getting a grant. Well, here's what I know: with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, you can get paid up to 18 cents/word for literary translation. Without, it may be half that, or less. But there are some pretty stringent rules surrounding these grants, specifically on the subject of who can apply for them. Briefly: as an author or translator, you may not apply for a grant. Coincidentally, usually as a translator you may not negotiate for the English-language rights for a French book from the book's publisher. I knew this when I set out, so I didn't try to negotiate with Leméac, I just contacted them to make sure that the English-language rights were still available, and they said something along the lines of "yes, but don't you come 'round here asking about them 'til you get yourself a publisher!"

Here are the criteria that the grant applicant must fit into. You can get an "emerging publisher" grant, or just a standard "block grant," but even the emerging publisher grant is only for publishers who have published between 4 and 15 books. So it's not like you can choose to self-publish and apply for this grant... unless you've already published 4 books.

Here is a pretty great little summary of the Canadian literary translation scene - including a list of potential publishers - found on the website of the Literary Translators' Association of Canada.

There are also provincial grants that you can apply for, but I really don't know much about them... I've got to look into that. But this site is a good resource for grants listed by province.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cattails as truck stop grub?

So I've been working on a "real" contract (i.e. one that pays the bills) all week and have barely looked at Crimes since my last posting... such is the life of a stay-at-home mom/freelance translator: I take what I can get. However, there is no lack of translation questions to look at in this novel, so I'll post about one from a few chapters back. Here's the issue:

Ce n'est pas en travaillant chez Miss Patate, à servir des quenouilles végétariennes et des frites à manger au cure-dent, que je me sauverai et que je deviendrai un être libre.

Miss Patate is the truckstop mentioned in an earlier post. This sentence is again talking about the food served there. Now, I'm no truckstop connoisseur, but I know that truckers aren't known for eating their fries with a toothpick, nor are truckstops often celebrated for bringing locally foraged eco-foodie delicacies into into their menus. The "quenouille" is a cat-tail, which is edible and can be made delicious, or so I've heard (see recipe here), but it's not liver and onions.

roasted cattails with hollandaise sauce
The truckstops that I've experienced have been mostly Husky gas-station restaurants and the like, which are renowned for their good, fresh coffee and their stick-to-the-ribs fare (mostly burgers and the like), not for their vegetarian cattails.
But it's not just the incongruity of the food vis-a-vis the establishment that is troublesome about this sentence. Literally:

"It's not by working at Miss Patate, serving up vegetarian cat-tails and fries to eat with toothpicks, that I'm going to get out of here and become free."

Does that sound unwieldy to anyone else?

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to get yourself a publisher for your literary translation:

Know someone in the business. Ouch! I hate to admit it, but the only reason that this translation is being published is because of having friends in high places... In my defence, this is true of the work of a number of celebrated writers, including Jack Kerouac and Emily Dickinson. But here was my process: I have a translation credit on a trilogy of plays that I co-translated with Shelley Tepperman, one of my profs from Concordia.

The plays were translated by Talon Books, so I figured that if I sent them my proposal for this novel, they might pick it up because I'm already on their register. The proposal included a cover letter, my CV and a writing sample of the prologue and the first 3 chapters (which you can check out here). Just for good measure, I also sent it to Anansi, and Oberon Press and a couple others too... Imagine my dismay when, in reply to the 5 proposals I sent out, I received 4 rejection letters. There was one that hadn't replied: it was Talon Books! I kept my hopes up for a good little while, until I realized that they hadn't even bothered to get back to me.

That year, I went back to Winnipeg for Christmas, and was telling my tale of woe to my friend from junior high, and she said, "Well, why didn't you pitch it to me?" She manages a small press that belongs to her friend; it's called Loon Books. I knew that she was running this company, but I also knew that the company specialized in childrens' books, and in books tailored to teach literacy skills to aboriginal children. The other end of the spectrum from Crimes horticoles. But she's taking it on (without a doubt, she accepted it because she wanted to support me, but also because she thought it would be a cool project) and we're negotiating a contract with Leméac, the French-language publisher. Yay!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Concoctions in the thousands?

So my publisher just contacted me about a timeline, to estimate a time of delivery and subsequent publication. I think I'm about half done an extremely rough (and when I say rough, I'm talking 24-grit sandpaper rough) draft of the book. What I've been doing is going through it and doing next to no research and almost no reformulation of phrases. If something makes no sense after a literal translation, I'll try to reformulate it, but it's mostly straight-up literal translation that I'm doing, and then picking out "problem areas" that will need some time and some serious thought to get them sounding nice in English. There's usually at least one "problem area" per page... Last week I was going through it so well, things were coming together quickly and I was feeling super confident, and then I came upon Chapter 18... wham! A brick wall. The entire chapter seemed to be filled with convoluted sentences that wouldn't cooperate and wouldn't contort themselves into comprehensible English whatsoever!

Here's an example:
Les préparations que mon père souhaite concocter dans ses mortiers industriels en inox sont millénaires.

Which is literally translated into: "The preparations that my father wishes to concoct in his industrial stainless steel mortars are in the thousands."

Good grief! what the heck do I do with that? Préparations is referring to concoctions (mixtures?) of opium from the poppies that he grows. An anglophone would never call it a preparation... but what would we call it? And mortar in English is hardly ever used without it's colocution, pestle. I doubt it would be confused with it's homonym in the domain of masonry, but would it be understood? And what the heck do I do with millénaires?

stainless steel mortar (and pestle!)

unprocessed opium

So after I finish this rough copy, I'm going to have to go through it with a fine-toothed comb -- probably many, many times -- reading it for style and comprehension and formulations that sound "too French." I've got a couple Francophone friends who have said that they would help me go over the "problem areas." So it should be done by - I dunno - next spring? I don't think that's too optimistic.