Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Theoretically speaking, of course.

This week in college has had us plowing through the theory, both literary and translation.  Needless to say, we're much more interested in the latter, but as much of the theory is broad-strokes cultural stuff or 20th-century, I really feel like we ought to be able to make it work for us. The grande dame of the TCD Italian Department came up with a simple yet brilliant solution to the problem of how to make literary theory pull its weight for the literary translator. (Needless to say, this is more of an academic issue than a practical one, but bear with me, it is a degree course.)
The best application of literary theory is to the source text and its literary, historical and social milieu; in better understanding the source text, the translator will produce a target-language text more in keeping with the original. Too much attention is often given to the end product, and a sound method (note: 'a' sound method) is to use whatever literary tools in your arsenal to learn the most you can about your text before you do anything with it. 

This is something of a relief to an extremely international group wading through more than their fair share of theory with little direct return on their investment.

To this end, I'm thinking of focusing one of my essays on divergent translations of Joyce's Dubliners – taking Italian and French examples of a short story and seeing what the different languages allowed. This way, I can have a suitably theory-heavy approach to the Joyce, and let my languages do the walking, if you will. I might choose a different text, but to be quite honest, we're rather limited by ready availability of texts in the required languages.

I was thinking about hitting up my fine friends at the Ireland Literature Exchange for some copies of translations of Irish works hot off foreign presses, but we shall see.

If anyone has any suggestions of more contemporary texts which might suit – particularly things that defy genre or standard language – do please speak up!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Frankfurt, new clients and, oh, That One.

With apologies for the previous untruths about daily blogging re: translation. I'm a bad person. No, truth be known, I'm a busy person, and not as much as a night owl as I would like to be.

Frankfurt was a blister-inducing trip, studded with regular espresso and bumping into old friends. Ten meetings in a day and a half was good going, though I was shamed by the former chair of the Society of Young Publishers, now part of the fantastic SelfMadeHero lot with their Manga Shakespeare. He informed me with bleary-eyed authority that really one must do the hotel bar circuit by night to add to your boozing and schmoozing Frankfurt cred. He's probably right. Next year...

Meanwhile back at the ranch, and as a direct result of Frankfurting, we have a new client for translation. We also gained two further clients today (that's three new clients in one day, about which I am quite pleased) : foreign-language reads for a major literary imprint, and fact-checking for a well-established guidebook series.

And tonight, of nights, I shall be consorting with That One, and tomorrow, taking my second half-day of annual leave since starting Parkbench in June. That's right, folks: I will be up all night with the Democrats Abroad at an undisclosed location in Dublin City Centre.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Creole Chameleon Wives

Folks! I have just made my way again to Book Trust's snazzy-looking website, where Independent Foreign Fiction Prize winner Daniel Hahn is blogging his way through his newest Agualusa translation. The site, a sub-site on translation run by a very dedicated chap at Book Trust whom I had the pleasure of meeting some months before I packed up and quit London life, is a great resource of info on all things translation.

I first came across Hahn when I reviewed The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa for the TLS, which you can read a chunk of if you like. I was absolutely blown away, both by Agualusa's spellbinding writing, and by Hahn's translation, which was powerful and light-handed all at the same time. I've gone back to Hahn's translation of Creole and, soon, will go forwards with My Father's Wives. I saw Hahn speak in Hampstead Heath Waterstone's as part of a great translation series set up by a foreign lit fan on their staff who merits an honourary TA membership for his efforts. It was a rainy weeknight a while back, and a packed house. I was thoroughly taken aback by how young Hahn was, grumble... Also, do have a look at Agualusa's own site, of course (PT/ENG/GR/FR).

At any rate, please do follow along as he goes. Am going to come up with a way to work this into the MPhil. It's all about the Venn diagram of Parkbench and the MPhil these days, I'm afraid.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Joyce on the jacks

Nothing like leaping in at the deep end, I always say.

Today's translation mystery was a nice little chunk of Ulysses, which we started off discussing and in my case, attempting to translate in the wrong direction. I have no intention whatsoever of working out of my mother tongue into French and Italian, but that is precisely what this morning required.

Go on, have fun with this. I dare you.

Asquat on the cuckstool he folded out his paper, turning its pages over on his bared knees. Something new and easy. No great hurry. Keep it a bit. Our prize titbit: MATCHAM’S MASTERSTROKE. Written by Mr Philip Beaufoy, Playgoers’ Club, London. Payment at the rate of one guinea a column has been made to the writer. Three and a half. Three pounds three. Three pounds, thirteen and six.

Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone. Hope it’s not too big bring on piles again. No, just right. So. Ah! Costive. One tabloid of cascara sagrada. Life might be so. It did not move or touch him but it was something quick and neat. Print anything now. Silly season. He read on, seated calm above his own rising smell. Neat certainly. MATCHAM OFTEN THINKS OF THE MASTERSTROKE BY WHICH HE WON THE LAUGHING WITCH WHO NOW. Begins and ends morally. HAND IN HAND. Smart. He glanced back through what he had read and, while feeling his water flow quietly, he envied kindly Mr Beaufoy who had written it and received payment of three pounds, thirteen and six.

Obvious issues arose around terms like 'asquat', 'cuckstool' (except for the Germans), all the –ing terms for the Dutch were problematical, 'costive', and, well, by the time we hit 'the laughing witch who now', we were ready for a mid-morning drink.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dante is NOT LOST.

On Monday, I began my first week back at university. I'm back at my alma mater, doing, predictably, an MPhil in Literary Translation. I believe, though I could be wrong, that it's the only such MPhil in the world.

It's odd, going back to college. A week ago, I spoke to a pensions advisor and registered for university in the same morning. Going forward? Backward? Hard to tell.

When I got there, though, I felt right at home. I'm having classes in the very same rooms in which I did my undergraduate degree, which certainly helps, but really, I've come to remember why I got into this lark in the first place.

It's all thanks to Dante. When I sat back down in Room 4097, I had a flash of my first day of second year: Dante in the original, with one year of Italian language classes under our collective belt. The professor, an amazing woman and force to be reckoned with, beloved of Italianists the world over, read the first lines of the Divina Commedia.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

'And here, ladies and gentlemen, we will have to stop. Many of you will be reading the approved translation alongside your Italian. This is FINE, but in places, the translation, like all translations, lets us down.'

We were cowed. To begin with the greats so soon after beginning the language, to study under this professor, to be stopping already to question the legitimacy of a world-renowned translation. We were, we thought, completely out of our depth.

'Your translation will likely translate smarrita as 'lost'.                     This is wrong. When you're wrong, you're wrong, and                           THIS is WRONG.'

Just so that we're clear. Ahem. Dante, she went on to explain, was a true believer, and as such, he never lost The Way. He was human, and as we would learn, was more than aware of his own sins, so it is understandable that he would feel that he wandered, nay, strayed from the diritta via, but he was never lost. It was key that we understand this as we began to follow Dante through his journey.

*  *  *

Since the course began in earnest, we've been encouraged to keep a log; ideas and challenges met along the way (am trying to abandon the metaphor, really), themes we'd like to explore and the like. I propose, provided that it doesn't bore people to tears, to do that here. I figure that many of the experiences of a new translator will be common among a lot of Parkbenchers and others, so I'd really appreciate your feedback as I go along.

Something that grabbed me today was about dictionaries. Our lecturer commented on his difficulties in learning Arabic thanks in part to a lack of reliable dictionaries. This, of course, came from a francophile perspective. The French, of course, benefit from a mighty tradition in dictionaries. A glut of good dictionaries is a mixed blessing, he mentioned in an offhand sort of way, because it provides a seemingly endless supply of carefully attributed and explained near-synonyms.

This was something of a revelation. Of course I know about the French dictionary tradition and their importance in codifying and recording the development of the language, but I had never connected this to my constant use of my growing collection. Despite the fact that I have been studying French for the last seventeen years, I still find myself reaching for a dictionary more than I do for Italian,  nine years on.

Live and learn. And look it up.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Great blurb for Parkbench from Irish independent Gill & Macmillan

‘The Irish publishing industry has long cried out for such a comprehensive, flexible and professional service. With today’s extremely busy scheduling, I can’t emphasise enough the range of valuable skills Parkbench Publishing Services brings to the Irish publisher.’

Michael Gill, Chairman, Gill & Macmillan

Friday, 22 August 2008

Beirut, we have a problem.

So, two months in to Parkbench life and work is building up and being sent out. We have three jobs out on the hop; Parkbench freelancers have taken on a proofing job, a Hiberno-English / Dublinese edit and a German reader's report.

In between juggling my own editorial jobs, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of Parkbench's most established and successful translators last week here in Dublin, and we got chatting about plans for approaching publishers and making new contacts in the translation world.

As part of my efforts to mount a post-ferragosto  attack on publishers abroad, I have been building up some contacts outside of Europe. For obvious reasons, the Arab world is looking like a good place to start, and so, in addition to more serious research, I joined up to a few interesting groups on Facebook.

And herein lies the rub: a little help, perhaps, with this message from the Arab Publishers' Association?

فقدت حركة النشر في لبنان والوطن والعربي
الزميل الاستاذ عبود خير الله عبود
الامين العام السابق لاتحاد الناشرين العرب
نائب رئيس نفابة اتحاد الناشرين في لبنان
صاحب ومدير دار الجيل والمختار في لبنان ومصر وتونس

Friday, 1 August 2008

It's that time again.

Time for a small rant about job applications. Most people in publishing, not to mention most freelancers, have spent an enormous amount of time completing and sending job applications – it's a high-turnover industry – so you'd think we'd all have it down to a science ...

Starting from the premise 'looking for a job is stressful and everyone makes mistakes', I'd like to highlight some very common mistakes in applying for a job:

1. Typos.
If you are applying for an editorial job and your application contains a typo, grammatical screw-up, spelling mistake or error of fact, your application goes in the bin.
It is of course unfortunate that this may be the only job in the world for which this is the case, but if you can't be bothered to proof-read your application to be a proof-reader, woe betide the novelist who gets you tinkering with her masterpiece.

2. Misspelling or omitting the addressee's name. This is insulting, and falls in with the above. If a name is listed with an advertisement, use it – to do otherwise infers that you have not read the ad properly, or that you assume that I am not the person making the decisions.

3. Apologising. A simple 'Apologies for the delay in getting back to you ... ' will do it. I don't need to know that you spilled a latte on your laptop, that your dog was hit by a car, or that you've been praying to the porcelain god since gastroenteritis hit. I need to know that you know that you've taken a while to respond to my email, that's all. Ideally, we'd all respond to emails the nanosecond that they arrive, but ideally, I'd be swanning around the south of France with nice glass of wine right now. You get the idea.

4. Ask questions. This doesn't make you look unsure of yourself, or of your prospects of getting hired. It's just professional, and it speaks to your ability to see the bigger picture. I've asked for your CV; you can ask for more information about the job.

And with that, over and out, my friends. Enjoy the Irish Bank Holiday weekend!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Competition for freelancers!

Happy days, folks – have a peek at this

It's a great competition from Freelance Folder, to whom we link on the right, there. 

Join up and enter, I say!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Freelance Perk, no. 1

Freelancing involves many quality-of-life perks, most of them unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but highly helpful to your peace of mind and, well, quality of life.

Foremost among these to me is what you can do with the extra hour or two that you're not commuting. I have been inordinately lucky in the past in terms of commute, rarely racking up more than half an hour in each direction, but most would lose a full two hours per day. Now, I have that extra hour or two for me, or for Parkbench, as required.

As I can place my feet on the floor and be dressed, caffeinated and at work in fifteen minutes, I try to use that extra time (rather than sleep). As I say, many of these gift hours go straight back into work.

This summer, I'm taking advantage of my extra hour to cook nice meals for myself, himself and friends. Staying in, the new going out tra la... you get the idea. Freelancers eat lunch alone bar meetings and the odd lunch date (no, we can't go across town for your lunch hour, that's two hours to us!), and it's great to be able to work at home and plonk these leftovers on a plate for your lunch al desko.

Maybe stick one of these in the oven for a friend for dinner... When's the last time a nine-to-fiver had time to bake something when they got home? Or run to the fishmonger at lunch?


How about some of these for dessert, no?

It may seem like silliness, but when funds are low, going out on the town is a bad idea. It's hard to go from working at home to socialising at home; it feels like you're still at work. Taking your lunch break to make your place the place to be is worth it. Alternate the twelve-hour days with the eight-hour ones that include nice meals with people you like, and you'll be out on the town again in no time.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Live and Learn, no. 2

'Learning curve' is an overused phrase, so I'll put it in a box down the garden. Meanwhile, I've learned a great truth of freelancing.

Freelancers don't get paid on time.

Many clients are like clockwork, no problems, but even the best slip once in a while. I've coded invoices, and yes, I've put them off. I tell you what I've never done: handed in work late.

Thing is, if clients pay late, Parkbench freelancers get paid late, and that is not where we want to be, you'll doubtless agree. I'd be more straightforward than most when it comes to issues of money (though I know that we in the arts are supposed to be beyond such concerns!) but it's a good issue to highlight for all of us, I think.

Any tips?

Some people swear by terms of service agreements. Beyond the most basic good faith agreements regarding hiring and farming out work, I've found resistance to freelance contracts in the publishing world. Late fees for non-payment? If you've failed to get the fee you earned in on time, how do you intend to get in your interest?

Along similar lines, I've had some emails in from freelancers offering to do work for free by way of a test for me. Work for free? No, no, no. Let your experience and your references speak for themselves, hey? Have a little faith.

The same is true for students. As someone about to embark on an MPhil, are students of publishing and translation openly looking to build their portfolios for nothing? Sure, there's a baseline of experience you have to build, but beyond that, you have to wonder...

Sheesh. More positive post to follow. I'm thinking of a post on freelancers and food...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Nominations for Best Irish Bookshop

The Guardian is now accepting nominations for the best Irish bookshop for their bookworm-generated guide. Judging by the breakdown of other regions covered across the UK and across the world, they're meaning to include shops across the island of Ireland.

Do it do it!

I'm thinking of the Winding Stair, but it's much diminished in hours and ambiance since the swank, chain-owned restaurant moved in. I liked the dirty windows and the grimy teapots of yore... I go to Reader's in Dun Laoghaire a good bit, but mainly to sell. Books Upstairs is good, and they have an online service through their fantastic website. My own neck of the woods is disturbingly bookshop-free, so will have to have a think.

Comments, please!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

New translation press
and a recommendation

Well behind in the blogging, me. What a couple of weeks! It's been busy but productive: there's a copy-edit, a foreign read and a longer-term copywriting project lined up for Parkbench freelancers. I've had a couple of reviews on, including the superlative Guantanamo by Dorothea Dieckmann.

I went looking for more on Dieckmann, and I didn't find much in English (not being a German reader myself) bar a great review by acquaintance Martin Riker of Dalkey Archive. I did, however, come across a notice about Tim Mohr's being nominated for the Three Percent prize for his translation. Tim Mohr has been raising a lot of eyebrows - my own included, I must admit - as this appears to be his first translation, and it is extremely commendable. Well, ok, the real reason we're all intrigued is that he's a staff editor at Playboy. He is not, however, as Michael Faber and Guardian readers discovered, the writer of Star Trek parodies.

I then had a look around the University of Rochester's Three Percent translation resource website, where new press for literary translation, Open Press, has launched.

And, as it turns out, I'm not alone in admiring parkbenches - although some Dublin benches are more famous than others...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Grab Bag

Hey folks, just wanted to post a couple of interesting bits and bobs I've seen over the past week. In no particular order:

I'm reviewing the latest from Sicilian bestselling author, Andrea Camilleri - and having a great time, too. The best bit is seeing how the very talented translator, Stephen Sartarelli has rendered the doggerel nonsense dialogue that the star of the show, Inspector Montalbano, has with his less illustrious colleagues. The Camilleri 'Fans Site' (sic) is a great one, in that it has a whole page dedicated to the trials and tribulations of translating -whoa- a work written in dialect, in this case, Sicilian. The age-old question is, 'How do you render dialect into another language and culture?', and these translators have a good whack at answering it.

Also, staying on a positive note, I thought that this was a lovely article in the NYT about author Naguib Mahfouz, who died in 2006. It's a review of a new book published posthumously, Cairo Modern, has been translated by William M. Hutchins. It's published, tellingly, by the American University in Cairo Press, which says to me that no one else would publish this Nobel prizewinner - though maybe I'm being unfair.

This is where things start getting silly, with this nasty, snobby heap of mucus-smeared... ugh. You'll get the idea. Guardian blogger, Chas Newkey-Burden, rants about how distasteful he finds second-hand books. Needless to say, readers took care of him. But two questions remain: 1. how does one become a Guardian blogger? and 2. is Chas Newkey-Burden a real name?

While I was there, I did the unthinkable; I clicked an ad that appeared in the margins. I'm a bad person, I know. But you would have, too! It read: Novel Writing Software. Character pro software helps you build better characters. For windows.

Really, I'm speechless. Where to begin?! So, I went through to the site and learned that yes, in fact, there is such complete twaddle as novel-writing software. Created, tellingly, by Typing Chimp Software, this package is described as, and I quote, 'the industry standard for building the perfect character every time!' (my emphasis).

Over and OUT, my friends, over and out.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Translators' Fora

Hey there. Not sure what you fellow translators are in to, but I signed up for Proz. The jury's still out on whether it's worth paying membership fees to this sort of jobs website, but as part of their free membership, you get to take part in their fora (or 'forums', if you must).

Yes, yes, this is anoraky, but it will also soon be my new profession, so it's good to know that there are many others out there, wadding up paper and chewing on pen lids over the correct translation of every possible sticky term in every speciality and every language pair you can think of. If you sign up to their 'Kudoz' system whereby you get points towards a better rating on the site for helping your fellow translators, you get emails whenever a query pops up in an area you're supposed to be good at. So this morning, I got a Dante query. When I had accidentally ticked the 'architecture' box, I got a very unanswerable question about air shafts.You get the idea.

It's a great tool to keep you sharp and keep you thinking. You needn't only sign up for things you know a great deal about - guesses are allowed, so long as you tag them as such, so if you're a foodie, or you build model trains, or you're a champion shi-tzu breeder, sign up for having an 'interest' in them, and guess away.

The best part, though, is having a daily connection to a whole world of translators, and their speedy help, when the time comes.

No, I'm not being paid for this little plug - it's just the first good site I've found. Any other recommendations, please let me know!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Editing On-screen:
Live and Learn, no. 1

Well, well, well. You'll never guess what I learned today.

I learned that if you're editing on-screen in Word using 'Track Changes', and you decide to double-check or indeed change the document's 'language' from US to UK English,
Word tracks a change in every single paragraph to read: 'Formatted: English (UK)' and no amount of panicked clicking 'Undo' will fix it. Somehow, I just don't think that the editor would appreciate the extra hundred changes...

Good trick, huh? Nothing like 30 minutes of unbillable glee as you sort that lovely piece of nonsense out, one Comment at a time.

Any quick fixes for this one, folks? Please speak right on up.

Monday, 16 June 2008


Greetings from Dublin on this lovely Bloomsday!

Well, it's official: 

Parkbench Publishing Services has launched 
and is 100% ready for business.

The press release went into Book2Book today, the emails streamed out over the weekend, and I'm just going to sit back, relax and wait ... no, no, no. I am of course going to keep on slugging through email introductions and making the Parkbench name known as the place to go for foreign reads, literary translation and editorial freelancers.

Having put in rather a lot of work over the last week, I was extremely irritated to see that my word of the day today - of all days - was 'dilatory'.
Clearly, it was intended as a personal affront, and general bad ju-ju. I'm having none of it. I am certainly not dilatory in my efforts, and will be ploughing through my aforementioned copyedit while reviewing two books and finding work for all my twenty-plus freelancers. 

I'd better get cracking. 

Friday, 13 June 2008

Google Analytics:
Fascinating Timewaster, no. 1

Like all freelancers, I have to spend a lot of time online for work: looking for work, securing work, talking about work. I have a website to think about, this blog, a Facebook presence, papers to read, that sort of thing. I’ve been quite strict with myself about keeping working hours for work, and being online is no different.

And then, my Web Dork introduced me to Google Analytics. (I'm not bothering to link to anything Google . . .)

He needs it to work wonders with my Google rating, and he’s doing an A+ job. Am I the last person on Earth to know about Google Analytics? Probably. But now, I’m mesmerised by it – and unlike the Web Dork, I don’t need this information at all. For example:

They don’t like me in Holts Summit, Missouri
– or rather, they’re looking for some other kind of Parkbench. I see a theme: in places where the weather can be warm and people like to be outside, like Sydney, Melbourne, and, well, Holts Summit, MO, I’m getting false hits: garden furniture.

But folks in London, Dublin, L.A., Edinburgh, Galway and, oddly, Halifax think that is worth a good ten or fifteen minutes, about which I’m very pleased.

Aside from the overall popularity of the site, date trends and the statistics it provides, Google Analytics provides new website owners a great sense of curiosity: ‘Who do I know in Barcelona, or Morristown, North Carolina?’ ‘Is that who I hope it is, having a look at the website from Edinburgh?’ ‘What publisher is based in Blackrock, County Cork?’

Hmmm. Back to work.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Ah, so this is how it works

So far, things have been a little bit like this: make lists, lots of lists, of all the things you have to do.

Start with the boring stuff: bank, tax, accountant, insurance, professional associations, university admin.

Then try to knock off a few big-picture items each day.

Make lists of people to email about work, and get through as many as you can each day.

Network actively through acquaintances, friends and the Internet.

Drop everything and rearrange your plans because work has come in!

Make plans around the work, because, you know, you have a life, too.

Oh, wait, the work gets rearranged. Re-rearrange everything accordingly.

Return to original boring stuff, big-picture, emails and networking.

Is this frustrating? Initially, yes. But really, this is the test of How Things Work. I have learned, even on job number one, that being a freelancer requires a bit more adaptability than your average 9-5. This may seem startlingly obvious, but in practice, it has a lot more impact than you might expect.

Consider this: your friend's in town for the weekend, you had a night out planned on Friday and guests all of Saturday, followed by a nice literary event on Sunday afternoon. Well, think again. Now, rather than having a solid two days' work under my belt before the weekend ensues, I will have none. So where to get the extra 16 hours' work? Out of the time that I might have been relaxing next week. Besides, I'd rather relax with my friend from out of town, right? Right. So really, nothing lost.

Remember: you signed up to this lark so that you could organise your own time -- so organise it.

Monday, 9 June 2008

And so it begins . . .

I am happy to report that I just accepted the first job for Parkbench, a week ahead of our 16 June launch date!

A middle-of-the-road non-fiction copy-edit is what I'll be cutting my freelancing teeth on, on-screen, thank you, and I can't wait. More to the point, work begets work, so I should be able to pass things along to the rest of the Parkbench freelancers in due time.

Nice as well to be starting out with a good, independent Irish publisher on a title that is, in one sense, within my realm of expertise. As the Good Editor said on the phone, tongue in cheek to be sure, 'may this be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership'! May it, indeed.


Sunday, 8 June 2008

Dublin Writers Festival

While wading through the red tape that is setting up a new business, I'm very much looking forward to a break in the form of the Dublin Writers Festival. I'll aim for Lloyd Jones in a panel with John Boyne, headed up by Claire Kilroy, but I'm stuck on the Friday between the IMPAC Winner (tba - but here's the shortlist) and Tom Stoppard, who's a bit of an idol of mine and equally, clearly, of the guy running the Festival blog. If I thought that McGuinness was going to discuss the Ibsens he's put to bed after so many years, I might run back up to Dublin for that one - we shall see!

Meanwhile, tomorrow will cover the Tax Man and requirements for being self-employed, the Companies Registration Office to relocate my place of business to our new home address, and the good, old-fashioned bank, comparing deals for business banking. No one ever said it was going to be glamourous!

The great news, however, is that we're now up to nearly twenty editors, proofreaders, literary translators and foreign readers on the books and ready for work at Parkbench!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

First Freelance Days

Greetings, all. Just a note to say 'hello', and that Parkbench has the movers in. I'm heading over to Dublin to set up shop, as it's from Dublin that I'll be running the agency. On the assumption that we're all new here, please check out the profile and website links alongside here to learn more about what we do.

This blog will be a space for news, discussions of translation and freelancing in the media and in the blogosphere and general chat. Although I'll be Irish-based, the freelancers on my books will be everywhere, so I'll try to keep the focus as international as possible. There will be some interesting times ahead, and some not-so-interesting times as Parkbench learns to wrestle with bureaucracy and scope out work for its huddled masses of editorial folk and translators.

It's been a busy couple of weeks, as you can well imagine. A freelance editor friend of mine warned me to expect to be balancing my laptop on one knee atop a pile of suitcases, and she wasn't wrong. There was a landslide of work, handovers, last goodbye drinks, work dos and Parkbenching it behind the scenes, but so far, so good - not that I'd want to tempt Fate.

Equally important was my own 'handover' from life in-house in publishing to life out-of-house. I was lucky to have made a good few contacts in London publishing while I was here, so I had to touch base with all of those. Keeping up with even incidental acquaintances is key, even though it's time consuming; I've set up contact lists of people and noted when I should likely get in touch. My existing contacts will be, directly or otherwise, the ones who give Parkbench its first jobs, so this has to go smoothly. It's easy to have these first connections seem casual or haphazard, to approach close former colleagues 'on the offchance that . . . ' but it really pays to be completely professional from the get-go.

What's slightly harder is building up contacts in a new area; though I have a language degree and have made a point to keep up with international types in publishing, it's daunting to enter a new direction in your career. I was pleased to have been invited to the Translators Association 50th anniversary celebration away on down in Chelsea - and very worth a visit it was, too. Expecting to have a glass of wine, mingle a bit, swap some cards and hit the road, I was thrilled by the warm welcome Parkbench received from some of the great and the good of the translation world. As a newbie, and a newbie hoping to shake things up a bit at that, I wasn't quite sure how my plans would be received; would lifelong freelance translators balk at the idea of agency work? Would they question the idea of handing responsibility for reader's reports and sample translations back to the foreign publishers and agents?

The reality was much simpler; not only did they 'get it', they loved it. From one quick chat with a multinational French translator, I was busily propelled around the room, handing out cards and explaining the set-up again and again. The group was older than I expected, but even the most experienced were keen to get involved, and before I left, I had half a dozen experienced, and in some cases, prize-winning translators on the books. Obviously, the proof is in the client list, but it's great to be able to go forth and conquer with the backup of a stellar stable of freelancers. Now to pony up for the membership fees!

Membership of the Translators Association, from what I know so far, gives you an 'in' to a supportive group of colleagues and all the typical lecture series and training that such professional bodies offer. Most importantly, it provides a killer contract-vetting service for members, ensuring that all TAers get the best possible deals for their work. There are, of course, plenty of such organisations to choose from depending on where you're based - I'll certainly be checking out the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association, too, so any top tips gratefully received as I consider my options.