ALTA Conference is back in person in sunny Tucson

On November 8, I left a cool and overcast upstate New York for Tucson which offered sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. Aside from the welcome change in climate, I was underway for ALTA46, the 46th annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association. This was ALTA’s first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic, and attendees were clearly ready to see each other again face-to-face. While my interest in literary translation in general is what took me to the conference, I was actually wearing a second hat: that of the GLD’s Digital Events Coordinator (DEC), a role I share with Katrin Rippel Galati. As a DEC, I was also looking for ways to connect with fellow literary translators into and from German.

The conference took place at the University Park Marriott Hotel, which was right next to the beautiful University of Arizona campus. ALTA is affiliated with the College of Humanities at The University of Arizona and has a collaborative relationship with the University of Arizona Poetry Center. ALTA is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to literary translation.

First on my conference agenda was the board meeting, where I was seated as secretary for a three-year term, followed by the opening reception where I met ALTA members and translators for the first time and caught up with those I haven’t seen or talked with in a while. Most notably I met two first-time attendees as part of ALTA’s Wayfinders program, which pairs up translators joining ALTA programming for the first time with those who know it best. The highlight of the conference’s opening night was once again Translation Trivia, sponsored by Words without Borders and hosted by Bill Johnston. This trivia event offered teams a series of fun and challenging questions about translation, literature, and language alongside pizza and drinks.

The next morning started off with guided morning meditation and a stop at the book fair to pick up a few books by fellow ALTA members before heading off to the first of many panels over the next few days. GLD member Andrea Nemeth-Newhauser and ATA member Arwen Dewey organized the roundtable “Translators in the Spotlight: How to Give a successful Reading” during which they shared tips for how to prepare for reading work in public and what to do to calm any nerves or fear of public speaking. I organized a panel “Shared Places: The Writing Translator and Translating Writer” during which panelists who are both writers and translators shared their perspectives on how each role enhances and benefits the experience, work, and craft of the other.

Topics at other panels I attended included gender-conscious translation, exploring geographic space and setting in/through translation, the role of literary journals in supporting translators and the translation community, writing about translation, finding and securing funding, publication rights, working with literary agents, negotiating contracts with publishers, and the translator’s archive. These were only the panels I attended, and of course many additional panels explored a variety of other topics related to literary translation and publication.

Many bilingual readings were held throughout the conference, including readings by ALTA Travel Fellows, and various ALTA awards were granted for published books. Sawako Nakayasu offered the keynote address on Friday afternoon after her reading at the Poetry Center the day before.

The full conference program is available on the ALTA website. Even with this very full program, GLD member Ruth Gentes Krawczyk and I managed to get together for lunch to talk about translation and get to know each other.

Next year’s conference dates and location are to be announced soon at this link. I look forward to meeting you there.

Are you a literary translator? Have you thought about translating literature but are not sure yet how to get started? Feel free to contact me – we can explore ways to organize literary translation events and activities within the GLD. I’d love to chat!