Interview: Rachel Hildebrant

Translator Rachel Hildebrandt is the mastermind behind the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, a growing force in the diffusion of international literature among American libraries. Recently, Rachel agreed to answer some of my questions about GLLI and the outlook for books in translation. (Traduzione in italiano sarà presto disponibile.)

How was the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative born?

GLLI was the brainchild of a small group of translators and publishers who realized that librarians would make natural allies in their efforts to celebrate and promote international literature. Back in Winter 2016, we started out as a small email circle, and soon our base began to grow with the addition of an increasing number of librarians. We recognized early on the need to build connections with the professional associations in which librarians are active. I joined ALA as an affiliate member, and along with several librarians, I successfully proposed a session for the 2017 ALA conference on international literature and its importance to libraries. Since that time, our numbers have grown and our engagement is expanding.

What are GLLI’s short- and long-term goals?

In the short-term, one of our major goals is to situate ourselves organizationally such that we can become partners with libraries and library organizations of all kinds. We are exploring some options for fiscal sponsorship, which would provide us with umbrella nonprofit status. With this status, we would be in a good place to apply for grants and corporate sponsorships in order to create a sustainable base for us and to increase the reach of our efforts and projects. Our projects are varied, including: age- and genre-specific book lists for school, public and academic libraries; exploring options for new translated literature awards; pulling together library-focused pan-publisher catalogs across the international literature space; sessions and engagement at library conferences; developing platforms to promote self-published translations among librarians and library users. Long-term we would like to build connections with specific aspects of the library framework, such as partnerships with library venders, aggregators, e-content providers, and such. Ultimately we want to become the go-to resource for librarians seeking to globalize their collections and programs to meet the changing needs of their diverse populations of children, teen and adult users.

It’s very difficult to generalize about library use in Italy due to the great regional differences and the fact that many libraries do not maintain information about their users. One statistic regarding Italian state-run libraries mentions 1.5 million users (out of a total population of about 60.5 million inhabitants).  Can you shed any light on American libraries and their users?

American libraries have spent the past 20 years reinventing themselves. They still are repositories of countless books, but the library of today is just as much shaped by the services it provides, as it is by the number of books in its collection. Libraries have become community spaces and hubs unlike anything else we have today. They are homes to book clubs, artists in residence programs, teen services, legal services, computer labs, maker labs, writing spaces, you name it. Many libraries see themselves as the bridges between the diverse populations in their jurisdictions, and they are servicing individuals from diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Libraries are positioned to be truly communal spaces, and they conceive of themselves as havens, ports of call and safety, for anyone and everyone. Marginalized groups in particular  – immigrants and refugees, the LBGTQ community, ethnic minorities – will find allies in libraries. Library users truly are a cross-section of American sociey in the breadth of its diversity and nuances.

Do you think American readers are skeptical about reading books that have been translated? And if so, how do you think their reluctance can be overcome?

I don’t know that the real problem is that American readers are reluctant to read translated literature. What I feel is sooner the case is that they are not knowledgeable about where to find international works in general and the kind of works that would interest them specifically. They also are not aware that in the globalized world in which we live, they really NEED to be reading globally. We like to travel the world and send our children abroad, but we don’t read the world. With that said, unless you are a reader of international literature journals or a follower of certain presses, how is the average reader going to easily find these works? The vast majority of readers are not New York Times subscribers or even know that World Literature Today exists. On the other hand, I feel like many of the international works being celebrated in the major review platforms fall solidly into the literary fiction camp. To be honest, many US readers are avid consumers of genre fiction. This isn’t something for them to feel ashamed about, but it is something for the international literature crowd to consider. Yes, we need the dark, obscure, genre-breaking works, but to be honest, what is going to win the day for US readers are authors like Backman and Koch and Jonasson. At the same time, readers need to know that these works are non-Anglophone works so they can recognize their inherent diversity and learn from the alternate perspectives that are expressed by authors around the world. I think that the answer to overcoming skepticism is a complicated one. I do firmly believe that one answer is libraries, which have a long tradition of being tastemakers for readers, young and old. We have all been handed books by librarians at various in our lives – titles we had never heard of – and been enchanted, transformed, by those books. Librarians are curators and conveyors of information and collections within a truly demographic framework. It doesn’t matter what your bank account holds, you will walk out of a library with a treasure. That cannot be said of bookshops, however lovely they may be. To me, arming librarians with the resources to intentionally globalize their collections and the means of circulating and programming with these titles will go a long way to increasing the access points of American readers to global literature.

In your opinion, what makes a foreign title more or less attractive in translation?

This is a very difficult question depending on the perspective you are coming from. I am sometimes baffled by comments from publishers about the “suitability” of a work for the US market. Since I read a broad variety of works – and I know I’m not the only one who does so – my immediate reaction to that line of reasoning is: “But the US is such a diverse country that somebody somewhere will read it.” For example, although I’m not a poetry reader, that does not mean that a work of poetry won’t find a decent reception. The same reasoning applies to all kinds of fiction and nonfiction. In terms of the works themselves, obviously the quality of a translation – how lightly and easily it rests in its new language – plays a role in the attractiveness or quality of the newly rendered work. Because of my own background as an editor, one of my personal pet peeves is the editing process, which is often skimped on by publishers these days. Regardless of the quality of the translation, I am more likely to set aside a poorly edited work then one that feels “clean” to me.

As a translator, what are some of the challenges you encounter in rendering a foreign book for English-language readers?

Prior to moving into the literary translation space, I was an editor and a more general translator. Having now experienced translation from a couple of corners, one main difference between literary translators and other translators is the issue of style and voice. And not just subjective style, but what “works” in English. The most fulfilling experiences I have had with contemporary authors have involved equal measures of trust and flexibility. The authors who are aware that dogged adherance to their sentence structures and language choices will not necessarily produce a fine work in translation, are the most librerating and powerful partners. With such support, the rendering and localization of a text is an exciting and challenging process. For me personally, dialogue is a challenge. The text itself is often easy enough to reimagine into English, but casting it into distinct voices is a completely different matter. I often read these passages out loud to just “hear” if an English speaker would actually say something a particular way.

Your small press, Weyward Sisters Publishing, brings crime and noir fiction written by female authors in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to English-language readers. Do you know of other small presses working with translated literature and limited focus? What’s the outlook, in your opinion, for these highly specialized publishing houses?

Yes, I am aware of a few more limited-focus publishers. Le French Book publishes French crime fiction in translation, while Plamen, Pica Pica, Istros, Gallic, and Kurodahan all publish region-specific works in translation. I would like to think that the outlook for these presses is rosy. As a translator who has worked with and submitted works to other presses, I know the feeling that comes with the perception that you are up against the world. And since many of the presses in the international literature space are small, indie houses, the odds of “your” work getting picked up are relatively slim. Furthermore, as some publishers are rightly trying to diversify their source language base and favor other regions and languages, German and French works may find themselves falling increasingly out of favor. Nonetheless, regardless of the statistics, most US readers have not read all that many contemporary works from either of these languages. It may be that the specialized presses will, through their concentrations, excite new readers for these continuingly rich literary cultures.

Thank you Rachel for you time and insightful replies, and best of luck with your endeavors. 






Il Premio Letterario EWWA 2017/ The EWWA Literary Prize 2017

Hai mai notato quanti concorsi per la scrittura e premi di letteratura ci sono in Italia? (SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH) Chi non è del mestiere potrebbe pensare che sono un esagerazione, ma per i scrittori non sono mai troppi.

La partecipazione ad un concorso è un’opportunità per la crescita, se vinci o no. L’atto di scrivere o adattare un lavoro già fatto a dei criteri ti porta ad analizzare il proprio lavoro; ti spinge a lavorare al meglio; ti stimola a finire un testo rispettando una scadenza; ti offre la possibilità di confrontarti con gli altri; e ti amplifica le tue esperienze come persona e come scrittore. E nel caso che vinci o vieni scelto come finalista, avrai maggiore visibilità e considerazione per qualsiasi cosa che produci.

I premi sono di tutti i tipi: quelli ad alto profilo e quelli piccoli; quelli con tantissime regole e quelli che lasciano molto libertà; quelli che richiedono una quota per partecipare e quelli gratis. Il trucco sta nel trovare il concorso fatto per te e il tuo modo di scrivere.

Recentemente EWWA (European Writing Women Association), con il Patrocinio della Regione Lazio e la collaborazione di Amazon Publishing, ha annunciato un nuovo premio aperto a tutti (uomini e donne), senza preclusioni per quanto riguarda il genere letterario. Il tema è Storie di rinascita. Le sfide e le cadute, gli ostacoli e i traguardi nella vita di una donna. E il premio è molto interessante: il primo romanzo classificato verrà pubblicato sia in formato cartaceo sia in formato digitale da Amazon Publishing.  (Per il regolamento clicca qui.)

Amazon Publishing è la casa editrice di Amazon e produce dei libri belli, con delle copertine d’impatto, e un editing veramente professionale. L’opportunità di avere il proprio libro pubblicato da loro non va sprecato!

Have you ever noticed how many writing competitions there are? In Italy there are an incredible number. In the eyes of non-writers, it could seem that there are too many, but for writers there are never enough literary prizes.

Participation in a writing competition is an opportunity for growth, whether you win or not. The act of writing or adapting a piece in progress to specific guidelines helps you analyze your own work; it pushes you to do your best; it stimulates you to complete a piece within a set period of time; it offers you the chance to compare your work to that of others; and it adds to your experiences, as a person and as a writer. If you win or are chosen as a finalist, you will have greater visibility and be more highly regarded in the future, no matter what you write.

Literary prizes come in all shapes and sizes: high profile and virtually unknown, competitions full of rules and others that allow the writer incredible freedom, ones that require a fee and others that are free of charge. The trick is to find the competition that’s right for you and your way of writing.

Recently EWWA (European Writing Women Association), together with patronage from the Region of Lazio and in collaboration with the Italian branch of Amazon Publishing, announced a new literary competition open to all writers of Italian (whether they are male or female) and with no limitations regarding genre. As for the theme, the committee has chosen: Storie di rinascita. Le sfide e le cadute, gli ostacoli e i traguardi nella vita di una donna (Stories of rebirth. Challenges, disappointments, obstacles and accomplishments in the life of a woman.) And the prize on offer is very interesting: the first place novel will be published in both paperback and digital format by Amazon Publishing. (To read the rules, available only in Italian, click here.)

Amazon Publishing—the full-service publishing arm of Amazon—produces beautiful books, with impactful covers, and top-notch professional editing. Don’t waste your chance to have them publish your novel!


Le autrici milanese Elena e Michela Martignoni mi hanno parlato del loro lavoro. (Scroll down for English.) 

Da dove nasce la vostra passione per il rinascimento e la famiglia Borgia in particolare?

Michaela: Impossibile non amare il Rinascimento, epoca ricca di mistero, di arte, di fascino, di personaggi umanamente potenti, come Leonardo da Vinci o Michelangelo Buonarroti. Infatti, anche ai giorni d’oggi, gode di grande successo in tutto il mondo e ne sono una prova le fiction sui Tudor, sui Borgia, sui Medici. E’ anche l’epoca perfetta per costruire trame di romanzi.

Elena: Noi ci siamo occupate soprattutto dei Borgia che si prestano perfettamente a questo scopo: la loro storia nasconde segreti mai svelati, e le loro personalità sono così estreme, così passionali, così forti da aver ispirato decine e decine di opere. Da 500 anni il pubblico si interessa a loro e con sempre maggior interesse.

Non è frequente trovare due sorelle che scrivono in coppia. Come vi dividete i compiti? Quale sono i vantaggi/svantaggi di scrivere a quattro mani?

Michela: Noi abbiamo iniziato fin da bambine a raccontarci storie a vicenda, ed essendo sorelle abbiamo condiviso le stesse esperienze di lettura. Per noi è naturale scrivere insieme, e non vediamo svantaggi in questo. Certo non è facile perché a volte non siamo d’accordo sul taglio da dare alla vicenda, sulla descrizione di un personaggio o addirittura su un termine da usare e da ciò nascono  discussioni, ma il bene del libro prevale sempre.

Elena: Prima di scrivere abbiamo un lungo periodo in cui solo ‘discutiamo’ senza scrivere. Inventiamo la storia, stabiliamo la scaletta delle scene, il taglio e la lingua; poi ci  dividiamo i capitoli e, una volta scritti, ce li passiamo come in una partita di tennis, finché non siamo soddisfatte del risultato.

Credete che il vostro approccio a questo tipo di romanzo storico sia diverso per il fatto che siete italiane?

Elena: Sì. Noi notiamo differenza tra i nostri romanzi storici e quelli degli ‘stranieri’. Per noi scrivere un romanzo ambientato nel Rinascimento significa anche conoscere molto bene i luoghi e le abitudini della gente che ci vive: sono le radici della Storia. Ad esempio non potremmo mai scrivere un romanzo storico sulla Guerra di Secessione Americana perché non ci sentiremmo in grado di descrivere i luoghi, non conoscendoli, e le motivazioni delle due parti. Non basta studiare la Storia sui testi, secondo noi va anche capita e vissuta sul posto.

Michela: Per scrivere una storia in modo corretto, ci impegniamo nello studio dei luoghi. Quando scrivemmo un romanzo sulla congiura di Magione (Perugia) facemmo di tutto per entrare nel castello dove questa congiura si svolse, e non fu un’impresa facile perché la tenuta appartiene ai Cavalieri di Malta, ma alla fine riuscimmo anche ad assaggiare il vino che vi si produce! Dobbiamo vedere da vicino e in modo personale! Solo così si ‘entra nei personaggi’ e si possono descrivere fatti e uomini in modo credibile e rispettoso dell’epoca in cui vissero. Non basta studiare i libri di storia, bisogna sentire la storia nella pancia.

So che scrivete anche un altro genere sotto un altro nome: come siete arrivate a questa scelta e qual è venuto prima?

Michela: Noi scriviamo anche polizieschi e racconti noir sotto lo pseudonimo di Emilio Martini. Prima è venuto l’amore per la Storia, poi quello per il delitto. In realtà anche nei nostri romanzi storici sono presenti intrighi e omicidi… siamo attratte dal ‘nero’ che vive negli uomini.

Elena: Era sulla spiaggia che abbiamo quindi voluto misurarci anche con un genere contemporaneo come il poliziesco. E’ lì che il nostro protagonista è nato. Siamo già al sesto episodio della saga, più due raccolte di racconti sempre ‘neri’. Speriamo che un giorno anche un libro di Emilio Martini verrà tradotto in inglese.

So che alcuni dei vostri libri sono stati tradotti anche in spagnolo: come sono stati ricevuti dal pubblico nel paese di origine della famiglia Borgia?

Elena: Fu un’esperienza meravigliosa che ci ha regalato tanto.

Michela: Sono stati accolti molto bene, ed è stata per noi un’esperienza molto interessante vedere i nostri libri tradotti in questa bella lingua. Gli spagnoli amano il romanzo storico, e in Spagna la nostra scrittura risultava ‘esotica’. Esiste sempre il fascino della traduzione… Inoltre i Borgia sono considerati erroneamente una dinastia solo spagnola: sono originari di Jativa, ma da quando Rodrigo Borgia (il futuro papa Alessandro VI) si stabilì in Italia la famiglia si mescolò con il sangue lombardo di Vannozza Cattanei (bresciana o mantovana, non si sa con certezza). Cesare e Lucrezia crebbero e vissero in Italia e fanno parte della storia italiana.

State lavorando ad altri titoli sui Borgia?

Elena: Attualmente, stiamo facendo delle ricerche su Lucrezia. Ovviamente, lei fa parte dei romanzi che abbiamo scritto finora ma vorremo scrivere un libro su lei come una donna intelligente di carattere, costretta ad essere un pedone nella politica del Rinascimento.


Authors Elena and Michela Martignoni live in Milan, the glistening, modern Italian city perhaps best known for its high fashion and design industry. But do not be deceived: Milan’s colorful history stretches back more than 2500 years! I asked Elena and Michela a few questions about their work.  

Where does your passion for the Italian Renaissance and the Borgia family in particular come from?

Michela: It’s impossible not to love the Renaissance! Mystery, art, seduction, and human giants such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti… Centuries later, people are still fascinated by it. Just consider the successes of the various miniseries in recent years on the Tudors, the Borgias, and the Medici. The Renaissance offers so much in the way of a setting for a novel!

Elena: We’ve chosen the Borgias for many of our books because they seem perfectly suited to twists and turns of plot: untold stories waiting to be revealed, over-the-top historical figures full of passion and inner strength. People have been interested in them for five hundred years and there’s no sign that interest is waning.

It’s not frequent to find two sisters who write fiction together. How do you divide the work? What are the advantages/disadvantages of writing “with four hands”?

Michela: Well, we’ve told each other stories and shared books from the time we were children so it came naturally for us to write together. Honestly, we haven’t found any disadvantages. Of course, it’s not always easy because sometimes we don’t agree on how to write a part of a story, on how to describe a character, or even on what word to use. Inevitably discussions arise, but our shared desire to write a good book always wins in the end.

Elena: In practical terms, before we actually write anything, we spend a long time just talking about what to write. We invent the story, we make an outline of the scenes, we decide on the tone and language, then we divide up the chapters. Once they’re written, we pass them back and forth like a rally in a tennis match until we’re satisfied with the result.

Do you believe your approach to this type of historical novel is different from non-Italian writers?

Elena: Absolutely. We notice differences between our historical novels and those written by foreign writers. When we write a novel set in the Italian Renaissance we’re writing about places and a culture that are part of us. For example, we could never write an historical novel about the Civil War in the United States. How could we describe the places adequately, and how could we write about the reasons that drove the two sides without knowing them intimately?

Michela: We make it a habit to study the places where historical events took place in order to get them right in a story. For example, one of our books tells the story of the well-known plot against Cesare Borgia, hatched in the town of Magione near Perugia. We went to the site, convinced that we had to find a way inside the castle where much of the intrigue took place. We needed to see the rooms and, with our mind’s eye, imagine the characters in the spaces. The castle belongs to the Knights of Malta and, after many attempts (persistence is a family trait!), we were finally admitted inside. The caretaker even served us some of the wine they produce on the estate! As you might say in English, we like to get “up close and personal.” We think it’s the only way to actually get inside the head of the characters and describe events and people in a credible and respectful way. It’s not enough to study history in books, you have to understand it on a visceral level.

I know that you also write another genre under another name: how did it come about and which genre came first for you?

Michela: We also write detective and Mediterranean noir stories under the pseudonym Emilio Martini. Our first love is for history, with crime a close second. In reality, also in our historical novels there is plenty of intrigue and murder… we’re attracted to the dark side that lives in the hearts of men and women.

Elena: We were on holiday one summer and decided to try our hand with a contemporary genre. While we were sitting on the beach the protagonist was born. At this writing, we are working on the sixth episode of the saga, plus we’ve got two collections of noir stories on the market. We hope that at some point Emilio Martini book will also be translated into English.

Some of your Borgia books have been translated into Spanish, haven’t they? How were they received by the public in the land where the Borgia family came from?

Elena: Everything about it was a wonderful, enriching experience.

Michela: It was an honor to have our books translated into such a beautiful language and during our tour in Spain we were touched by the enthusiasm of our readers. The Spanish love historical novels, and in Spain our writing was seen as ‘exotic’ even though the Borgias are erroneously considered an exclusively Spanish dynasty. The truth is they came from Jativa (not far from Valencia) but from the time Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Alexander VI) settled in Italy, the family mixed with northern Italian blood. Cesare and Lucrezia’s mother, Vannozza Cattanei, was from either Brescia or Mantua (her place of birth is unconfirmed) and the Borgia children grew up Italian, part of Italian history just as any of the other notables of their times such as Raphael or Niccolò Machiavelli.

Are you working on any other Borgia stories?

Elena: We’re currently doing further research on Lucrezia Borgia. While she of course appears in our novels, we are planning a book that focuses on her life as an intelligent and headstrong woman forced to play her predestined role as a pawn of Renaissance politics.

Riassunto del 2016 / 2016 in Review

Al momento che scrivo queste parole, mancano pochi giorni alla fine del 2016: un buono momento per riflettere sugli ultimi dodici mesi e considerare cos’ è in arrivo. (Scroll down for English.)

In questo anno, sono stata molto impegnata con i vari progetti di traduzione e tre delle mie traduzioni sono attualmente disponibile sulle piattaforme online. Angelica: A Made in Italy Romance, The Lustful Youth of Rodrigo Borgia, Rodrigo Borgia’s Rose. La promozione continua ad essere la sfida principale e autori indipendenti intelligenti si affidano il lavoro ad un professionista, specialmente quando il libro è in traduzione.

Un progetto misto—ghostwriting, editing, e traduzione—per Chef Bruno Serato è stata un’altra impresa durante l’anno. Attraverso la sua associazione Caterina’s Club, Chef Bruno offre a bambini svantaggiati nel Orange County California una cena calda a base di pastasciutta ogni giorno (attualmente circa 2000 ogni sera!), sostiene le famiglie in difficoltà per trovare un appartamento dignitoso, e insegna a degli adolescenti come lavorare nella ristorazione. Per me è stato un grande onore aiutare Chef Bruno raccontare la sua storia: suo libro ‘The Power of Pasta’ sarà presto disponibile.

Attualmente ho due progetti sulla mia scrivania: la traduzione di un bestseller su Amazon, che è stato sottoposto ad un maggiore editing prima di concludere con la versione in inglese; e il mio progetto personale, la traduzione di un’autrice italiana del ‘800 che non è mai stata tradotta in inglese. Entrambi i progetti offrono delle belle sfide e delle opportunità—non vedo l’ora di continuare il lavoro nel anno d’avvenire.

Una traduttrice può trasformarsi in una specie di eremita che batte sulla tastiera del computer, immersa nell’isolamento, mentre rielabora e perfeziona ogni rigo finche o sia soddisfatta o arriva la scadenza, dipende quale arrivi per primo. Ormai da tempo, ho la mia strategia per affrontare questo rischio. Prima di tutto, mi impegno nel frequentare alcuni gruppi di scrittori. A Firenze siamo fortunati ad avere una comunità letteraria molto vivace in lingue inglese e la mia interazione quasi tutte le settimane con i scrittori—che hanno molto in comune con i traduttori, forse più di quanto uno può immaginare—mi aiuta ad essere concentrata e di fare il mio meglio. Inoltre, sono socia e (dal novembre) parte del consiglio direttivo di EWWA (European Writing Women Association), una rete in crescita che offre sostegno creativo e professionale alle donne che girono intorno alla parola scritta. I contatti e gli stimoli che derivano da EWWA sono inestimabile.

Nel complesso, aspetto di continuare sulla stessa strada nel 2017, e spero che i libri che sono passati fra le mie mani possano trovare successo e che le mie interazioni—di persona o online—con altri traduttori, scrittori, e lettori offrano incoraggiamento, sostegno e magari anche nuove visioni.

I miei migliori auguri a tutti per un anno nuovo prosperoso e significativo.


As I write this, there are only a few more days until the end of 2016: a proper moment to reflect on the last twelve months and consider what’s coming next.

My translation projects this year have kept me busy and three of them are now available on online stores: Angelica: A Made in Italy Romance, The Lustful Youth of Rodrigo Borgia, Rodrigo Borgia’s Rose. Promotion continues to be a challenge and wise indie authors entrust it to a professional, especially when it’s a question of promoting a book in translation.

Another endeavor in 2016 was a mixed project—ghostwriting, editing, and translating—for Chef Bruno Serato who, through the non-profit association Caterina’s Club, provides needy children in the Orange County California area with hot pasta meals every day (approx. 2000 each evening!), support for families in difficulty to move into adequate housing, and restaurant-hospitality training for teens. It has been an honor to help Chef Bruno tell his story in the form of the soon to be published ‘The Power of Pasta’.

I’ve got two projects on my desk at the moment: translation of an Amazon bestseller in its category, on hold until some additional editing is complete; and my pet project, translation of a 19th-century Italian author who’s never appeared in English. Both offer interesting challenges and opportunities and I look forward to continuing the work in the new year.

A translator can become a sort of hermit, pounding on her keyboard in total isolation, reworking and refining every line of a text until she’s satisfied or faced with a deadline, whichever comes first. For some time, I have my own well-defined strategy to combat this. First, I am committed to participating in writers groups. We are fortunate in Florence to have a very active English-language literary community and regular interaction with writers—who have more in common with translators than you might imagine—helps keep me focused and turning out my best work. In addition, I’m a member and (since November) on the board of directors of EWWA (the European Writing Women Association). This growing network provides creative and professional support for women who revolve around the written word. The contacts and stimulation that come from EWWA are priceless.

Overall, I look forward to continuing on much the same path in 2017, hoping that the book projects I’m involved in find success and that my interaction in person or online with other translators, writers, and readers offers encouragement, support, and if possible new insight.

Best wishes for a meaningful and prosperous new year!


Sta per essere rilanciato, nel contesto di una specifica e pianificata strategia promozionale, un libro che ho tradotto di recente. La promozione di un libro è di grande importanza per trovare successo in qualsiasi campo dell’editoria—tradizionale, partnership, o self.

(Scroll down for English)

Puoi scrivere un libro favoloso, e quel libro favoloso—nella sua lingua originale e/o in traduzione—può essere messo sul mercato. Ma se i lettori non sanno che esiste, è impossibile che trovi il successo. Quando un autore indipendente mi chiede di tradurre suo libro, spiego sempre che senza un piano di promozione, l’investimento nella traduzione è sprecato—sono soldi buttati via.

Come dice Kristen Tate, editor e consulente per la promozione, “Credo fermamente che un libro ben scritto può sempre trovare i suoi lettori. Fuori dalla propria porta ci sono lettori affamati di libri belli e sorprendenti. E’ sempre più facile trovare il pubblico che apprezzerà il genere di libro che scrivi, grazie alla sempre maggiore capacità e raffinatezza degli algoritmi di ricerca e consiglio, e anche alle comunità di lettori appassionati tipo Goodreads e altre piattaforme simili.”

Forse deciderai, come autore, di rivolgerti ad un professionista come Kristen, oppure forse ti senti sufficientemente preparato e capace con i social per farlo da te, ma in entrambi i casi devi essere pronto a mettere a punto via via la tua campagna promozionale per raggiungere i tuoi lettori. La tua formula va modificata e aggiustata finche non raggiungi i tuoi obbiettivi. Nel settore si parla in inglese di ‘traction’, cioè la trazione che porta alle vendite. E questo dipende non solo da una promozione efficace ma anche dal genere, il titolo e la copertina, la descrizione o sinossi, il prezzo, la qualità della storia e la scrittura, la tempistica. La giusta combinazione di questi fattori può portare al successo, e sono tutti fondamentali. E’ un po’ come creare una nuova ricetta. Se vuoi produrre una bellissima e gustosissima torta, ti servono gli ingredienti giusti nelle proporzioni giuste, e devi anche eseguire ogni passo della preparazione nel modo corretto. Per esempio, troppo poco lievito, e la torta sarà tristemente bassa; se non la lasci in forno abbastanza, l’interno non sarà cotto e quindi non sarà mangiabile. Molto probabilmente devi fare quella torta diverse volte prima di riuscirci bene. Se la tua “torta” non viene come vuoi, cambi qualcosa nella preparazione e riprova.

Una strategia di promozione non può salvare un libro preparato in fretta e furia—come la decorazione non può nascondere una torta bruciata—ma quando curi tutti gli aspetti della tua “torta”, troverai il risultato desiderato. Dopo aver investito tempo, energia e passione per scrivere il tuo libro, non merita altrettanto in termini di promozione?


One of the books I have recently translated is being re-launched within the context of an organized and thought-out promotional strategy, an essential element for success in publishing, whether it is traditional, partnership, or self.

You can write an amazing book and that amazing book—in its original language and/or in translation—can be made available for purchase. But if readers are unaware of its presence, success is impossible. I regularly stress with the entrepreneurial authors I translate that without a plan for promotion, their investment in translation is wasted. 

Editor and promotion consultant Kristen Tate says, “I’m a firm believer that every well-written book can find appreciative readers. They are out there, and they are hungry for books that will surprise and delight them. Thanks to the growing sophistication of search and recommendation algorithms, and to passionate communities of readers on Goodreads and other platforms, it is easier than it used to be to find an audience who will respond to the kind of fiction you write.”

Your promotion strategy may involve a professional like Kristen or you may be a savvy social media user and feel you have the necessary skills, but in either case it is important to be ready to fine-tune and adjust your campaign to your target readership until you get the results you desire. Traction for a book, followed hopefully by greater sales, depends not only on effective promotion but also on a number of other factors – genre, title and cover, description or synopsis, pricing, quality of the story and writing, timing – and success hinges on finding just the right combination. It’s something like creating a new recipe for a cake: you need the right ingredients and proportions, and proper execution of the various steps assures the result. For example, too little baking powder and the cake will turn out flat, or if you take it out of the oven too soon the inside will be uncooked and thus inedible. You’ll probably need to make that cake several times before you get it right.  If you’re not seeing results, make an adjustment and try again.

While a promotion strategy cannot make up for a poorly executed product, it is a critical factor that cannot be overlooked. Just like pretty icing cannot fully hide a burned cake. After having invested your time, energy, and passion in writing your book, doesn’t it deserve the same with regard to its promotion?

Perché pubblicarsi in digitale / “Let’s Get Digital”

L’internet è pieno di informazioni sull’auto-pubblicarsi. Perché dovresti, perché non dovresti. Come fare. Le tendenza e le prospettive. I forum e gli esempi di successo. Comunque, secondo me, ci sono poche risorse più valide del libro Let’s Get Digital di David Gaughran.

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Ho conosciuto David al Women’s Fiction Festival a Matera nel 2014. Era uno dei relatori, invitato per parlare della sua esperienza con l’auto-pubblicazione, specialmente per quanto riguarda la promozione dei suoi libri. Dopo la sorpresa iniziale — assomiglia Giuseppe Garibaldi in modo incredibile e ha uno spiccato accento irlandese — sono rimasta affascinata: la quantità di informazioni che offriva era semplicemente colossale.

Let’s Get Digital è un libro che chiunque che si auto-pubblica o che sta considerando l’auto-pubblicazione debba leggere. E anche gli autori tradizionalisti dovrebbero leggerlo. David ha un’altro titolo che l’accompagna, particolarmente per chi ha già un po’ di esperienze nel campo, Let’s Get Visible. Attraverso questi libri, fa capire in modo chiaro che l’auto-pubblicazione non è più una strada “alternativa” per chi vuole essere diverso, ma ormai è diventata una delle alternative. Quando un autore indipendente approccia l’auto-pubblicazione in un modo professionale con una preparazione adeguata, può anche guadagnarsi da vivere, specialmente se pubblica in una lingua di larga diffusione tipo l’inglese.

Ecco alcune delle mie frasi preferite dal libro:

“E’ meglio che uno scrittore scriva cinque libri invece di trascorrere cinque anni nel tentativo di scrivere il libro perfetto.”

“Quando un lettore decide di acquistare un libro, una buona copertina è la terza cosa in ordine di importanza per determinare la sua scelta. La prima è se ha già letto qualcosa che gli è piaciuto dello stesso autore, e la seconda è una raccomandazione da una fonte di fiducia.”

“… la presentazione più professionale, abbinata ad una narrazione eccezionale, non ti farà niente se nessuno sa del tuo libro.”

Attualmente, Let’s Get Digital è disponibile in inglese, in spagnolo (Digitalìzate: Còmo auto editar y por qué), e in francese (Passon au numérique: comment s’auto-publier et surtout pourquoi). Forse David prenderebbe in considerazione di farlo tradurre in italiano se riceve abbastanza richiesta. Chi lo sa!

Let's Get Digital

The internet is full of information about self-publishing. Why you should, or why shouldn’t. How to go about it. Trends and outlook. Forums and success stories. However there are few greater sources, in my mind, than David Gaughran’s book Let’s Get Digital.

I first came in contact with David at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera Italy in 2014. He was on the program to speak about his experience with self-publishing, especially with regard to marketing his books. After my initial surprise over how much he looked like the Italian historical figure Giuseppe Garibaldi and adjusting my ear to his thick Irish accent, I became fascinated with the wealth of information he had to offer.

Let’s Get Digital is an absolute must-read for anyone who self-publishes or is considering self-publishing, and even for those writers who are tried-and-true traditionalists. David also has a companion title which is particularly helpful for those who have already had some experience with their books, Let’s Get Visible. As he makes clear, self-publishing is no longer an “alternative” approach but it is one of the alternatives. And when an indie author approaches self-publishing in a professional way with adequate preparation and knowledge, he or she can actually make a decent living.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

“Writers are far better off writing five books than spending five years trying to write the perfect book.”

“A good cover is the third most important factor in a reader’s decision to buy a book. The first is having enjoyed reading something by the author before, and the second is a recommendation from a trusted source.”

“…the most professional presentation, combined with the best writing, will do nothing for you if nobody knows about it.”

Currently, Let’s Get Digital is also available also in Spanish and French. For readers in other languages, write to David to encourage him to have it translated. It can’t hurt to ask!




Eventi letterari a Firenze / Literary events in Florence

A Firenze siamo fortunati di avere durante l’anno moltissimi eventi letterari, sia in italiano che in inglese. Sono eventi per gli scrittori e per il lettori, e sono vivaci, stimolanti e estremamente vari.

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Proprio ieri sera ho partecipato alla tredicesima edizione del Open Mic at Tasso Hostel, un evento mensile (sempre il primo mercoledì) che offre uno spazio a persone che vogliono condividere le loro parole. Le parole possono prendere tante forme—racconti, brani da libri pubblicati e non, poesie, testi di canzoni, spettacoli comici—e il pubblico internazionale del Tasso Hostel dimostra sempre il loro sostegno a tutti, in qualsiasi lingua che siano. Ogni presentatore ha fino a otto minuti al microfono, per esempio ieri sera c’era, fra tanti altri, Lee Foust che ha letto un suo brano via Skype da San Francisco, l’autore Brendan Kiely che ha letto alcuni brani dal suo prossimo libro, una dimostrazione da Baret Magarian della sua incredibile padronanza con le parole, inoltre sono state lette due poesie in lingua originale (una in russo, una in italiano) con traduzione in inglese, e il conduttore per la serata, Lorenzo Novani, ha sbalordito il pubblico con la sua magia. Un’altra serata stupenda al Open Mic at Tasso Hostel!

Per quanto riguarda l’offerta di eventi letterari in lingua italiana, Le Murate è il primo locale a Firenze. Situato in uno dei quartieri più antichi di Firenze, il complesso è un ex carcere e grazie ad un abile restauro e ri-uso dei spazi, il locale è piena di energia e creatività, specialmente durante i mesi estivi quando lo spazio esterno ospita una gamma largissimo di eventi. Uno delle mie iniziative preferite a Le Murate è Le Parole nel Cassetto, il concorso letterario continuo per testi inediti. L’evento, diviso in varie serate/incontri, è appena concluso con la sua sesta edizione. Assolutamente da non perdere!

Un altro punto di riferimento a Firenze è la libreria TodoModo, dove presentazioni e altri eventi riempiano il calendario. Inoltre, c’è il Festival dello Scrittore, (il 6-8 giugno) che offre un ricchissimo programma di presentazioni, interviste e altri eventi, insieme al conferimento del premio Gregor von Rezzori-Città di Firenze per la traduzione migliore in lingua italiana di una narrativa straniera.

Il calendario di eventi in lingua inglese è altre tanto ricco. Nel arco del mese passato, ho seguito una presentazione al British Institute da una delle regine del romanzo storico, Sarah Dunant, e anche il primo Florence Writers Publishing Day che ha riunito scrittori di lingua inglese, operando in Italia, e degli esperti del settore in un evento esclusivo. L’estate in Toscana è anche particolarmente ricca di opportunità per il ritiro per scrittori di vari livelli, con lavoro intenso in un ambiente bellissima sostenuto da insegnanti/coach esperti. Inoltre, la rivista online The Sigh Press e la casa editrice The Florentine Press mantengono la loro presenza durante tutto l’anno con concorso, eventi e proposte.

La lista di tutti gli eventi letterari e organizzatori di essi a Firenze è troppa lunga da elencare qui. Per fortuna, la passione, l’entusiasmo, e la partecipazione sono in abbondanza e portano una freschezza alla città. Grazie a tutti quelli che offrono qualcosa per rendere questo possibile.




The literary scene in Florence, in both English and Italian, is vibrant, stimulating, and offers a wide range of events for writers and readers.

Just last evening I participated in the thirteenth edition of Open Mic at Tasso Hostel, a monthly event (held on the first Wednesday) that gives space to people who want to share their words. Words can take many forms—short stories, excerpts from books, poetry, lyrics, stand-up—and the international public at Tasso Hostel consistently shows their support for them all, no matter the language. Each speaker is allowed up to eight minutes at the microphone and this month’s edition included, among others, Lee Foust reading a piece via Skype from San Francisco, two separate poems in original language (one Russian, one Italian) and in English translation, author Brendan Kiely reading several excerpts from his upcoming YA book, a demonstration of Baret Magarian’s fabulous mastery of words, and the June host, Lorenzo Novani, and his magic. Yet another wonderful evening!

The past month has also included a reading at the British Institute by one of the queens of historical fiction, Sarah Dunant, and the first Florence Writers Publishing Day which brought together local writers and industry experts for an exclusive, full day event. Summer in Tuscany is generally ripe with opportunities for writers who wish to attend retreats, while online literary journal The Sigh Press and local publisher The Florentine Press maintain a year-round presence.

As for Italian language events, Le Murate is the primary venue in town. This former women’s prison in one of the oldest Florentine neighborhoods underwent a massive renovation earlier this century to create a multi-functional complex that pulses with renewed energy and creativity, especially during the summer when the outdoor space becomes host to a variety of events. One of my favorite ongoing initiatives at Le Murate is the ongoing ‘Le Parole nel Cassetto’ literary competition that calls attention, through periodic evening readings, to unpublished short works in Italian. Brilliant!

Another of my favorite reference points in Florence is the TodoModo bookshop, where readings and other events fill their calendar, and the Festival dello Scrittore, this year 6-8 June, offers a rich program of readings, interviews and other events along with presentation of the Gregor von Rezzori-Città di Firenze prize for the best foreign fiction translated into Italian.

The list of all the literary events and organizers in Florence is too long to list here, but the dedication, enthusiasm, and participation is abundant and refreshing. Thank you to all involved who make it so.

Intervista con un illustratore / Interview with an illustrator

Recentemente, ho intervistato Daniele Serra, l’illustratore di numerosi copertine e fumetti pubblicati in tutto il mondo.

Grazie, Daniele, per aver accettato mio invito. Come hai iniziato la tua carriera?

Più o meno 7 anni fa mi sono licenziato dal mio lavoro di grafico per intraprendere la carriera di disegnatore. Prima lavoravo di giorno e disegnavo di notte, quando ho incominciato a ricevere commissioni come disegnatore per copertine e fumetti e, soprattutto, quando ho firmato un contratto con la casa editrice americana DC Comics ho pensato che fosse il momento di tentare questa strada. Questa mia scelta la considero effettivamente un’avventura, all’inizio è stata dura, ho spedito il mio portfolio a centinaia di contatti ricevendo pochissime risposte, però a poco a poco le cose sono migliorate e ho trovato continuità nelle richieste, nel lavoro e nei risultati. Sono stato fortunato perché inizialmente penso sinceramente di aver avuto molte lacune, ma alcuni editori mi hanno dato fiducia e li ringrazio tutt’oggi perché senza di loro probabilmente non ci sarebbe stata una carriera.

Come procedi quando hai davanti a te un nuovo libro per il quale devi fare una copertina? Leggi la sinossi o tutto il libro, parli con l’autore, fai uno studio di altri libri del genere?

Dipende dall’editore, in linea di massima mi viene sempre data una sinossi e a volte un concept sul quale sviluppare l’illustrazione. Generalmente non leggo mai tutto il libro per il fatto che richiederebbe troppo tempo, anche perché lavoro spesso con case editrici straniere, di conseguenza dover tradurre l’intero libro diventerebbe improponibile.

Alcuni editori mi permettono di parlare direttamente con l’autore, altre volte ho contatti solo con l’art director o con chi si occupa del progetto; in generale il mio approccio è sempre lo stesso: prima di tutto eseguo alcuni sketch veloci che servono a capire cosa sarà rappresentato nell’illustrazione, già in queste bozze cerco di trovare l’equilibrio dell’immagine e le luci giuste; dopo questa prima fase presento l’idea al referente e da questo momento saprò se fare modifiche, cambiare strada o proseguire nella realizzazione dell’illustrazione vera e propria. Non faccio studi particolari su altri libri del genere, perché non mi occupo della grafica delle copertine e quindi non studio i font e le grafiche che in genere vengono utilizzate nei determinati ambiti, nel 90% dei casi mi limito a fare l’illustrazione che poi verrà inserita dal grafico della casa editrice nella copertina.

Come funziona il linguaggio delle immagini quando un lettore sceglie un libro? Ma, la copertina è veramente così importante?

Io penso che la copertina abbia una notevole importanza in un libro, almeno parlo per quanto mi riguarda. Sono molto sensibile agli input visivi e non posso, quando entro in una libreria, non essere attratto fortemente da copertine che mi piacciono. In qualche modo la copertina è la prima emozione che un libro dà al lettore, è il primo scambio emozionale, anche fisico, per questo reputo molto importante persino il tipo di carta utilizzata (quando parliamo di libri cartacei). L’immagine è universale e non richiede molto tempo per essere assimilata, al contrario di leggere un libro o guardare un film, quindi trovo sia uno strumento importante per presentare un libro e in qualche modo definirlo esteticamente.

Quando un libro viene tradotto in un’altra lingua, può rimanere uguale la copertina?

Sinceramente è una domanda interessante a cui non avevo mai pensato. Penso che un po’ dipenda dal libro in esame e anche se la copertina originale è bella o brutta! A parte gli scherzi, indubbiamente un libro tradotto prende nuova vita e si differenzia, volente o nolente, dall’originale, quindi perché no? Dargli anche una nuova veste grafica puo’ essere un modo per valorizzare ulteriormente il lavoro fatto dal traduttore e dalla casa editrice che compra i diritti.

 Quali sono i tuoi consigli per un autore indipendente che vuole ingaggiare un professionista per la copertina del suo libro?

Il mio consiglio principale è di studiare in primis l’illustratore a cui ci si vuole rivolgere, vedere i suoi lavori, capire il suo stile e scoprire se può essere in sintonia col proprio libro, dopodiché si attiva un lavoro di squadra dove ci si scambiano le idee e si cerca di arrivare a un risultato finale che identifichi nel miglior modo possibile il libro. Spesso non è semplice perché giustamente l’autore tiene molto sua “creatura”, di conseguenza bisogna essere sempre attenti a dare il meglio possibile, cercare di trovare un equilibrio tra quello che si vorrebbe fare e quelle che sono le richieste dell’autore. Devo dire che io mi reputo molto fortunato perché con tutti gli autori indipendenti con cui ho lavorato mi sono trovato benissimo, mi hanno sempre lasciato molto spazio se non addirittura carta bianca.

C’è qualcos’altro che vuoi condividere con noi?

Innanzitutto ne approfitto per ringraziarti dello spazio che mi hai concesso, prima ancora di essere un illustratore sono un lettore di libri, la letteratura è da sempre una delle mie maggiori passioni, insieme al cinema e alla musica rappresenta la fonte maggiore di ispirazione per i miei lavori. Penso che l’arte in qualsiasi sua forma sia una ricchezza fondamentale per l’essere umano, un bisogno che non deve mai abbandonarlo. Credo che sin da piccoli sia importante far germogliare la creatività e la propensione ad esprimersi attraverso strumenti diversi, che permettano di vedere il mondo e la vita sotto punti di vista differenti. Grazie!



Recently I interviewed Daniele Serra, an illustrator whose work appears on numerous book covers and comics published all over the world.

Thank you, Daniele, for taking time for this interview. How did you start your career?

About seven years ago I left my work as a graphic artist in order to move into a career as an illustrator. In the beginning, I worked as a graphic artist during the day and an illustrator at night, then I began to receive commissions for book covers and cartoons. When I signed a contract with the American publishing house DC Comics, I decided it was time to try working as an illustrator full-time. I considered it to be an adventure. In the beginning it was difficult: I sent my portfolio to hundreds of contacts and received very few replies but slowly things improved and I started getting a certain flow of requests for my work and also began to achieve results. Even though I had some important things to learn in the beginning, I was lucky because I had several editors who placed their trust in me. I still thank them because without their support I probably would not have had a career as an illustrator.

What steps do you take when you create a new book cover? Do you read the synopsis or the book itself, do you talk with the author, do you study the covers of other similar books?

It depends on the editor, but generally I’m given a synopsis and sometimes a concept upon which to develop the illustration. Usually I don’t read the book for the simple fact that it would take too long, also because I often work for foreign publishers and the text is not available in Italian. Some editors give me the opportunity to speak with the author while other times I only have contact with the art director or the person who’s handling the project.

My approach is generally the same. First I do a few quick sketches to give an idea of what will appear in the illustration. In this phase I try to find the right balance for the image and aspects of light. Then I present the idea to whoever is my reference person, who in turn indicates if there need to be modifications, a change in approach or if I can move on to create the actual illustration. I don’t make particular studies of other books in the genre since I don’t work on the graphics—in terms of font and layout—of the cover. About 90% of the time I only do the illustration, which is then utilized by the publishing house’s graphics team to create the cover.  

What can you tell me about the language of images when a reader chooses a book? Is the cover really all that important?

I think that the cover has great importance for a book, at least it does for me. I’m very sensitive to visual input and, when I enter a bookshop, it’s impossible for me not to be strongly attracted by a cover that I like. The cover is the first emotion that a book gives a reader, it is the first emotional and also physical exchange, and for this reason also the type of paper that is used is important (in the case of print books). Images are universal and don’t require much time for assimilation, as compared to actually reading a book or watching a film. So I find the cover to be an important tool to present a book and, in a certain way, to define it aesthetically.

When a book is translated into another language, can the cover image remain the same?

That’s an interesting question that I honestly have never really thought about. I think it probably depends on the book and whether the original cover is good or not! Joking aside, undoubtedly a translated book takes on a new life and is different—whether you like it or not—from the original. So, why not? Changing its appearance may be a way to play up the work of the translator and the publishing house that has purchased the rights.

What advice do you have for independent authors who want to engage a professional for their book covers?

My first suggestion is to study the work of the illustrator that the author wants to approach, understand what is his or her style and discover if it is in line with theirs and with the book. The author then needs to work with the illustrator, exchanging ideas in an attempt to reach a final solution that identifies the book in the best way possible. Often it’s not easy because the author, rightly, cares a lot about his or her “baby”. As a consequence the illustrator has to try and find a balance between what he or she envisions for the cover and what the author wants. I consider myself lucky because I’ve had good working relationships with all of the independent authors I’ve collaborated with and they’ve given me sufficient space to do my work, and sometimes even cart blanche.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?

I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity for this interview. Aside from being an illustrator, I’m a reader. Books have always been one of my primary passions, along with cinema and music they are one of the main sources of inspiration for my work. I believe that art, in all its forms, is a fundamental enrichment for a person, a necessity that must not be overlooked or forgotten. It’s important to encourage creativity and the ability to express oneself through various means from an early age, because they are a way to see the world and life from different points of view. Thank you!

Intervista con amore

Grazie a Amneris Di Cesare per l’intervista! (Translation in English below.) Hetherington

Lori Hetherington: come traduco la parola “amore”

Today we have the opportunity to meet Lori Hetherington, a familiar figure at EWWA events and the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera. Amneris Di Cesare conducts the interview.

  1. How did you become a translator? When did you decide to enter this profession? I got started more than twenty years ago when I began doing linguistic revision of scientific articles for some professors from the University of Florence and, a short time later, other professors asked if I could translate their works for publication in international journals. For many years I worked primarily in the scientific field, but I almost never got a chance to use interesting adjectives! My parents were both journalists and I have always loved writing and reading almost anything I can get my hands on. After many—I think probably thousands—of pages about scientific discoveries and experiments, I began to approach fiction and creative nonfiction translation and now the majority of my work is of this type.
  2. Do you work for a particular publisher? No, my translations are from Italian to English and I work mostly with independent authors who want to reach English language readers.
  3. What sort of qualities does a person need to be a translator? Is it necessary to have a university degree or special qualifications? I’d say there are two essential qualities: you need to be able to write your native language well and you need to read a lot. A university degree or other professional certificates may be requested by a publisher or editor or can help you have greater knowledge about the tools used in the profession, but they’re not mandatory in order to translate well.
  4. What kind of books do you translate? Do you focus on one particular genre? I like to translate the genres that I love to read, in other words women’s and literary fiction, historical novels, creative nonfiction, and a bit of romance.
  5. Is there a standard method for translation or does each translator develop their own personal approach? How do you approach a translation? Each translator has their own. It’s the final result that counts! When I’m presented with a new project, I first read the text several times from various points of view in order to enter into a sort of synergy with the voice of the author. Then I create an initial draft of the translated text, staying as close to the original as possible, giving very little attention to the structure of the sentences. In this way I transfer the original author’s precise words into English. And finally, I turn my attention to revision, working in layers until I’m satisfied with the new English version.
  6. Who was the first author you translated? In the beginning I translated authors’ proposals for publishers or literary agents—the standard “first three chapters plus synopsis” requested by most of them for submission. It was a great way to understand better what works (or doesn’t) in the English-language market.
  7. What translation project have you enjoyed the most? That’s like asking a parent which of their children they love the most! I have loved every project in a different way. If I didn’t feel close to them, I wouldn’t take them on in the first place.
  8. In order to translate a literary work, does a translator need to have the skills of a writer? The job of the translator is to rewrite the book in another language: the original author creates the story, the characters, and the setting but only in one language. The translator is driven by the author, but the translator has to choose what path to take.
  9. What elements come into play in determining the quality of a translation? The translated text needs to seem as if it were “born” in that language but the original author needs to be able to recognize it as his or her own child, at least in theory since the author is not always proficient in the language of the translation. The reader should be unaware of the hand of the translator.
  10. Is it more important for a professional translator to know the source language or the target language? One of the rules of the profession is that you translate toward your mother tongue. In other words, you translate a foreign text into your own language. I may be able to write more or less correctly in Italian but, even though I’ve lived in Italy for thirty years, I will never have the fluency that I have in English. In addition, by living in the country where my target language is spoken, that language is an integral part of my being on a daily basis, which helps my understanding of the nuances runs deep.
  11. When you are faced with a text to translate that is lacking in quality, what do you do? Have you ever refused a work for this reason? A good translator refuses a project that they feel they’re unable to do well. It may be because it’s a genre for which they don’t have affinity, a project that requires more skill than they have, or a text or author they don’t completely believe in. The quality of the source text is important because translation brings every tiny defect in a manuscript to the surface. The translation phase is not the most suitable moment to do major editing.
  12. Is it possible to make a living as a translator in Italy? Most of the translators I know translate a wide range of texts: websites, publicity or technical texts, magazine articles, books. A person can make a living in this profession by diversifying the types of texts they work on but, at the same time, creating specialization in terms of areas of expertise.
  13. Do you have interaction with the authors you translate? Do you ever ask an author to clarify aspects of his or her text? That’s when I do my best work! I like to work as part of a team and so when I consider taking on a project one of the questions I ask myself is whether I’d be able to work well with the author. For some translators the act of translation is solitary and they do their best work mostly on their own. I prefer it to be a collaboration.
  14. What book are you translating now? As usual I’m working on several projects, although each one is in a different phase. I’m working on the final production phase of a self-published book with authors Elena and Michela Martignoni entitled ‘The Lustful Youth of Rodrigo Borgia’. I’m nearly finished with the first draft of the first title in a romance series by Elisabetta Flumeri & Gabriella Giacometti, and I’m about to start on a project with an Italian chef who lives in the USA and has started a foundation to help disadvantaged children and families. This latter project is quite unique as it will require me to do translating, editing, and ghostwriting.
  15. Are there specific things an aspiring translator should do if they want to break into the field? What advice would you give them? I would advise them, first of all, to consider themselves an entrepreneur and to jump in with both feet. Attend workshops, book presentations, go to libraries and bookshops, enroll and actively participate in associations, such as EWWA, travel abroad. Practice every day like an athlete who’s training for a competition. Read constantly, join authors’, translators’ and/or readers’ groups on Facebook. When you have a passion—and to be a good translator you have to be passionate about your work—everything you do is linked, in some way, to that passion.
  16. With the advent of self-publishing, amateur or “do it yourself” translation is becoming more widespread. What do you think of translation platforms such as Babelcube and nonprofessional translations? Self-publishing does not necessarily mean “do it yourself”. It’s important to make one thing clear. With the tools available, anyone can self-publish any text and if the final product satisfies them, great. However, professional self-publishing of professional writers means engaging other professionals in order to offer a high quality product. There are extremely few authors (in other words, practically none) who are able to do everything—editing, cover design, formatting, promotion—themselves and in a professional way. Most indie authors identify where they are weakest and invest their resources appropriately since the help of professionals can be expensive. An I’ll-do-it-all-myself approach generally doesn’t give optimal results. With regard to platforms such as Babelcube, I think they can satisfy the needs of the first group of people I mention above.
  17. Thanks to both ebooks and self-publishing, increasing numbers of readers in Italy are looking to get their hands on foreign titles translated into Italian. Many small Italian publishing houses are, as a result, forced to turn to translators to get published novels onto the market as quickly as possible. However, it’s a costly endeavor and sometimes the smaller houses can’t afford it. What do you think about the increasing number of amateur and/or part-time translators who work with small publishers for quick translations? And, in your opinion, how will this phenomenon evolve over time? You’ve pushed one of my buttons! I know experienced translators who have been approached by publishers offering shameful contracts. Translators do not live on air alone and they have to pay their bills and buy diapers for their children just like everyone else. I believe that if a publishing house wants to give readers a quality product, they have to recognize the professionalism of translators: in economic terms including a percentage of royalties when appropriate, with adequate recognition and attribution, and by providing sufficient time to do a good job. Furthermore, if readers find translated texts that are poorly executed and/or the translator’s name does not appear on the title page, in my opinion they should stop buying that publisher’s books. I understand the difficulties faced by small publishers but the entire industry is undergoing great evolution and I think they need to be willing to make changes if they want to survive.

Thank you, Lori. Thank you for your stimulating questions. I hope that I have offered your readers a new way of seeing my profession.

Riassunto del 2015 / 2015 in review


Secondo il report del fine anno, mandatami dal WordPress, “Un trolley a San Francisco può contenere circa 60 passeggeri. Suo blog è stato visto circa 1500 volte nel 2015. Se il blog fosse un trolley, ci vorrebbero 25 viaggi per trasportare tutti.” (Per leggere tutto il report, vede il link in fondo del post.)

Ringrazio tutti che hanno dimostrato interesse alle miei attività nel 2015. Nel complessivo, l’anno è stato positivo e sono soddisfatta per quello che sono riuscita a fare. Ecco un riassunto:

  • Ho tradotto tre libri
  • Sono andata al Women’s Fiction Festival di Matera dove ho incontrato editori, agenti, e autori. Il Festival è un’opportunità eccezionale per conoscere degli esperti nel settore, confrontarsi in termini di esperienze e aspettative, e parlare di e trovare nuovi progetti.
  • Ho partecipato a cinque workshop di EWWA e, come la referente EWWA per la regione toscana, ho aiutato ad organizzare l’assemblea annuale di EWWA a Le Murate a Firenze. Al workshop sul auto-pubblicazione tenuto a Roma, sono intervenuta sul tema della traduzione.
  • Sono stata la moderatrice di una serata sulla poesia in traduzione, con la partecipazione di Elisa Biagini, Brenda Porster, e Andrea Sirotti al St. Mark’s Cultural Association a Firenze.
  • Ho revisionato circa 500 pagine di articoli scientifici per pubblicazione in riviste di alto livello, scritti da autori che non sono di madrelingua inglese.
  • Sono stata la consulente linguistica per l’organizzazione e durante i giorni di convegno del 53° TIAFT Meeting a Firenze.
  • Ho letto estratti delle mie traduzioni letterarie durante sei serate di ‘Open Mic’ a Tasso Hostel a Firenze.
  • Quasi ogni settimana, ho partecipato ad un gruppo di scrittori per affinare le mie capacità e ho dato sostengo agli altri scrittori del gruppo che vogliono fare lo stesso.
  • E in fine, ho trascorso tante, tante ore piacevoli a leggere manoscritti e libri sia in italiano che inglese.

Guardo avanti a 2016 con la speranza di altri 12 mesi di lavoro stimolante, e faccio i miei auguri che tutti possano godere pace, salute, e prosperità.

According to the year-end report sent to me by WordPress, “A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.”

Thanks to all of you who showed in interest in my services in 2015. Overall, it was a good year and I’m satisfied for what I’ve achieved. Here’s a summary:

  • I translated three books
  • I attended the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera Italy where I met with publishers, agents, and authors. The Festival offers exceptional opportunities to connect with experts in the field, compare experiences and expectations, and discuss and find upcoming projects.
  • I participated in five EWWA workshops and, as the Tuscan organizer for EWWA, helped organize the annual EWWA assembly at Le Murate in Florence. At the workshop in Rome on self-publishing, I spoke about translation.
  • I moderated a panel discussion between Elisa Biagini, Brenda Porster, and Andrea Sirotti on the translation of poetry, hosted by St. Mark’s Cultural Association in Florence.
  • I revised approximately 500 pages of scientific texts written by non-English speaking authors for publication in top-level journals.
  • I acted as linguistic consultant during the organization phase and duration of the 53rd annual TIAFT meeting held in Florence.
  • I participated in six ‘Open Mic’ events at Tasso Hostel in Florence, reading extracts from my translated works.
  • I participated, almost every week, in a writer’s group to hone my skills and help other writers do the same.
  • And finally, I spent many, many pleasurable hours reading manuscripts and books in both Italian and English.

I look forward to another stimulating year and wish everyone peace, good health, and prosperity. 

Click here to see the complete report.