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!