Reflections on the Warwick Translates Summer School

Attendees of the Warwick Translates Summer School 2019

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Warwick Translates Summer School. Last year I participated in the BCLT Summer School on the Spanish strand, so this year I took my place on the German workshop with the amazing Katy Derbyshire.

We had been given a selection of texts to prepare before the event, and while I say prepare, this wasn’t to translate in advance but rather read through and understand. We had one long text to work on every morning – an excerpt from a book – and then each afternoon we looked at a shorter text from a “literary-adjacent” field. These ranged from biographies for a museum to a humorous newspaper column and even included my favourite: a children’s picture book!!

It was great to be working in such a supportive, encouraging environment, taking a line or a sentence at a time to produce a finely honed translation. There’s always a fear that your suggestion is going to be wrong or you’re going to look ridiculous. Within the larger German group, we split down into smaller groups of 3-5 people which allowed suggestions to be put forward in relative safety; if it was a silly suggestion, at least you were only saying in front of 3 other people! But this also meant that it felt like a safe place to put forward more daring solutions and learn from others whether they thought those solutions were successful or not. I can imagine group dynamics play a large part to creating that security, but in this I was very fortunate to find myself with a roomful of lovely and talented people.

In addition to the workshops themselves, there were also a number of lunchtime and evening sessions, some of the most useful being about how to pitch to publishers and conversations with publishers and editors.

One of the things I have learnt in this industry is how important it is to talk to people and make connections. This was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to forge those connections. Working alone in an office with a computer can sometimes feel quite isolated so it’s great to know that there are others out there at the end of an email.

It was a very intense few days with lots of information but I left with my head full of ideas and the conviction that this is the area I want to work in. It’s now down to me to move my business forward and make it work for me.

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