All too often, reviews of translated literature fail to mention the translator’s work, or rely only on stock adjectives like “beautiful” or “fluid” to describe their choices. But reviews of translated fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction that acknowledge the translator’s choices are essential for developing a broader readership for literature in translation—and what’s more, publishers (especially small press publishers) rely on them for reaching readers. Writing reviews is an important part of uplifting the hard work of translators and publishers, and it’s crucial to a “healthy reviewing ecology.” Writing and publishing reviews is also a great way to build your personal connections within the community of translators and translation publishers, and to add to your own publication record.
In this class, we’ll discuss what makes writing reviews of translations distinct from writing reviews of work originally written in English; the role of empathy, critique, and observation; how to write reviews when you don’t know the language of the source text; how to send a query; and more. We’ll discuss the right balance of quotes, what tone to take, and even how to use reviews as an opportunity to help teach readers who are newer to reading in translation how to better appreciate what it is that literary translators do. This class is open to writers in all genres and at all levels.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- We’ll develop a list of criteria as a class for what makes a good review of a work in translation
- We’ll discuss the anatomy of a translation review and how to select an approach
- You’ll come away with a solid plan for writing your first review
- You’ll learn about publications that are looking for reviews of work in translation
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will read three to four carefully chosen articles and example reviews in preparation for discussion during the two week class.
Day 1: introductions; establishing the genre; what makes a translation review distinct; selecting an approach and tone; class develops list of what makes a good review
Day 2: how to be part of the translation community’s “healthy reviewing ecology”; the market for translation reviews; the submission process
Kelsi Vanada’s translations include Sergio Espinosa’s Into Muteness (Veliz Books, 2020) and Berta García Faet’s The Eligible Age (Song Bridge Press, 2018), and she is the author of the poetry chapbook Rare Earth (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Kelsi holds an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa. She is the Program Manager of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in Tucson, Arizona. http://www.kelsi-vanada.com/
“Thank you so much again for taking the time to meet with me yesterday! Just having the chance to read my work with you and hear your thoughts [...] gave me such a boost of confidence. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the help and mentorship.”
"This course was beautifully balanced between reading and conversation—such a really exquisitely crafted workshop. […] And for your generosity and passion—it was just such a transformative experience, so thank you!"
"Kelsi Vanada has been a contributor to Reading in Translation for several years now, reviewing poetry in translation with passion and insight. Her reviews are superbly crafted––elegant and engaging, informed and informative. In reviewing translations, Kelsi draws on her extensive experience as a translator and on her profound knowledge and understanding of poetry."
"Kelsi is an exceedingly careful and nuanced editor. Her goal is to understand the piece as it would like to be understood – and to this end, she looks at everything the piece has to offer, applying a translator and poet's keen eye to the mechanisms of sentence structure, word choice and rhetorical moves in essays and reviews. She's one of the most generous readers I have ever met, and I always learn new things about my piece thanks to her careful and precise comments and questions. Kelsi's editorial input has helped me develop my piece the way it would like to be developed – she never imposes herself in the comments, but rather reads each piece carefully for its own arguments and aims."
"Kelsi Vanada is a star reviewer for the Kenyon Review microreviews of poetry in translation. Her reviews are exemplary of a groundbreaking approach that centers the role of translation. In addition to being a gifted writer and critic, she is a consummate professional. I can always count on her to bring her very best. It's for that reason I chose her to work with me as a Peter Taylor Fellow during the Kenyon Review's literary translation workshop."
"In Kelsi Vanada’s RARE EARTH she is “drawn into a scene,” that of her past, from her grandparents’ ranch in South Dakota to Denmark, “the old country.” Images and information “swell in [her] head,” “come into [her] mind,” and in order to make sense of who she is and where she comes from, she must “make a tongue turn thunder.” Poetry then, is necessary to “mend again” by finding the names that make up her lineage and, in turn, find her own name. Through RARE EARTH we accompany Vanada in this wonderful search as she observes photographs and engages with family stories. The “work is meticulous” and Vanada is aware that “[i]t’s a brittle prairie” and “there’s / a bit of loss in” writing this poetry."
"Kelsi Vanada’s poems shine like small, powerful talismans discovered in the weedy tangle of back-yard ground. From the bits and snags of memory, of a family’s immigration lore, of collected material evidence—photographs, property deeds, 8mm home movies—these poems build their enigmatic structures: a lean-to, a boundary line, a “done defected thing.” Wild, complicating syntax, fibers of vision and of hope fret through them."