It’s not that I’m not thinking of you in this holiday season…

I’ve always been a bit out of step. With the calendar. Growing up in a Jewish family, January was never imprinted as the beginning of the annual cycle. Between the Jewish New Year in September (usually), school beginning in September, and my birthday in September, September is the time of new beginnings for me. (I still get a thrill out of pencil boxes and pocket folders.)

For me, December, January, and February are working months—finally a block of time to hunker down without the temptations of long days, nice weather, easy travel, and family visits. Everyone else seems to be occupied with holiday preparations and celebrations and their long Christmas-into-New Year’s vacation, and I can usually count on being left alone.

Which is a funny thing for a freelancer to say. Common sense would indicate that when everyone takes off, the freelancer is at loose ends. But that’s not the case. If deadlines are postponed because of the holidays, they are only postponed to December 26 or January 2—that means someone needs to be working on December 25 and January 1 (or working overtime on December 24 and December 31). That would be me.

And if I have no client deadlines over the holidays, there are self-initiated projects to work on and nascent ideas to explore and develop. Not to mention catching up on business and personal paperwork (or, if you will, administrative matters).

Right around this time of year I start to think about holiday cards. I know! Too late! That’s what I mean about being out of step.

One year I sent “welcome spring” cards. I suppose that if I were a more diligent, entreprenurial, freelancer, I’d be sending my existing and targeted clients some kind of greeting-style, remember-me-I’m-thinking-of-you communication every few months. In that case, sending Christmas-slash-holiday cards would just be part of the routine.

So this could be read as a round-about way of suggesting that freelancers who have trouble timing their holiday mailings get into a routine of quarterly (for instance) client communications.

Or it could be read as—yeah, you’re not the only freelancer who feels a little out of step. With the calendar.

Hanukah menorah in windowsill with five candles and Shamas lit.

Happy holidays! Happy work days!


A gusty post, in every sense of the word

March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb. Do any of us really remember at the end of March what the weather was like 30 days before? Same with April showers bring May flowers. Even the groundhog not seeing its shadow in February seems to be based more on wishful thinking — it might be dreary today, but because of today’s lack of sun, winter will end sooner — than on year-over-year observation.

Why do I bring this up? Nor’easter! In contrast to the last few days of February, which were calm and mild, with temperatures getting into the mid to high 50s (F, of course) — today it’s 35 degrees and snowing and the wind is gusting in every direction. I had to put the trashcan and recycling bin in the garage — I heard the crash of the can being blown over and came out to see the 30-gallon plastic recycling bin was on its way down the driveway. My pink plastic Adirondack chair blew across the yard and is now resting upside down among the Joe Pye weed stubs.


My backyard



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Watching the swirling snow, I thought of a day much like this one 15 years ago, when I sat down to write my column for that year’s spring issue of SlavFile, the newsletter of the Slavic Languages Division of the American Translators Association:

2013-spring_Jezik u toku 02

Excerpt of “Jezik u toku,” column in SlavFile vol. 13, no. 2 (Spring 2003), reproduced with permission.

At that time, I was still pretty new to translation and even newer to gardening — like, I’d never done it before. (I didn’t break ground for my first vegetable garden until spring of 2004.)

* * *

Oh, so many thoughts about what to say next! So many analogies, so little time!

* * *

Meanwhile, another big gust of wind, and the chair is now over by the compost bins.

* * *

Where will I find myself after the next big gust?

Note: This is the first time I’m posting the same thing on this blog and my garden blog.

Doing is better than stewing

This is the danger of getting enough sleep — so many thoughts, so little time!

What shall I do today? (Assuming I don’t shelve everything and watch baseball with my mom — Phillies currently losing to the Yankees in spring training.)

I listened to Radiolab while eating breakfast (I’ll admit it, breakfast at 1 pm, because the premise of this post is that I got a good night’s sleep). The first act of today’s episode, Life’s Limit, was about programmed cell death. The interview subject, Leonard Hayflick, in describing how freezing cells stops the multiplication process and unfreezing them resumes the process but does not prolong the life of the cell — that is, the multiplication “counter” does not reset but resumes from where it left off — said, “[That] tells you that cells remember, they have a memory.” Which immediately brought to mind a book by Harry Willson, Cells and Souls Remember (Amador Publishers). And then I had to look up the book and find the audio file of the interview to isolate and record the quote and read a bit more about Leonard Hayflick’s work and get all this down on paper. And that required learning how to do a few things in Total Recorder, a sound editing program.

Now what?

I could continue promoting recent publications on social media. I’ve been putting that off because of work. I need to change my mindset for self-promotion — I need to be relaxed and patient and ready for conversation. I need to allow my curiosity free rein, and this is not conducive to meeting work deadlines. So I have not even updated my LinkedIn profile with my latest publications:

I could continue translating the piece I hope to read at the American Literary Translators Association conference this fall. It’s the opening monolog of Kasandra. Klišeji. [Cassandra. Clichés.], a play by Ljubomir Đurković.

I could work on memorizing and translating the piece I hope to recite at Declamación, the open mic-type event at the ALTA conference (no reading allowed!). Sure, the conference is eight months away, but translating and memorizing (original and translation) is no small task when you’re starting from scratch.

I could open up any number of translations in progress, contact one or more of “my” authors to see what they’re up to and if they have anything new I should read…

Maybe pick up, open, start reading (imagine!) one of the many books I brought home from my trip abroad two summers ago… (or maybe I could actually write a blog post about that trip, as I promised in this short post written on my return).

What about catching up on posts in the ATA Business Practices forum or the Editorial Freelancers Association discussion list? Or starting a conversation about reviewing plays in one of the Facebook literary translators groups I follow? All these are interesting, enjoyable, educational, relationship-building, and time-consuming activities that are important to my professional development.

Volunteer obligations? I hesitate to list them for fear that my colleagues will be emboldened to remind me about what I said I would do and by when. (No links, move along, nothing to see here.)

Catch up on news? I just subscribed to the New York Times — but did I set aside time to read it? (And doesn’t this article from 2008 sound so quaint?)

And I dare not begin to list the business (admin, operation), household (from dishes to deck repair), and personal tasks waiting to be done on my to-do list (or piling up on my desk).

Well, if I can’t prioritize any of the above, I guess I could write something for my blog — that shouldn’t take much time (she says five hours later and yet to hit “publish”)…


Credit goes to Zelda Leah Gatuskin for coining the title phrase. You can see she’s not kidding by taking a gander at what-all she’s up to at Studio Z.

Looking back, thinking ahead

Happy New Year [plus or minus 18 days]! I’ve been thinking of you and meaning to write for [insert as appropriate: days, weeks, months, years]! I’m so sorry I haven’t responded to your [insert as appropriate: birthday card, Christmas card, New Years’ greetings, LinkedIn request] [insert if appropriate: from last year], but I’ve been tied up with [insert as appropriate and documentable: crazy work deadlines, family responsibilities, household renovations, a sick pet, other [explain]].

Yes, I anticipate writing something along these lines to too many of my friends and colleagues come Valentine’s Day. My New Years’ resolution is to be a better correspondent and keep the conversation going. Maybe even on this blog!

I really have been thinking of you and meaning to write. For example, here’s a list of some the posts I had in mind to write over the past year:














(I’m into parentheticals these days.)

But something I did do is get a short story into Asymptote! It’s in the January 2018 issue’s microfiction feature. Read it here:

And make sure to check out the rest of the journal at

Talk to you soon!

Hey! The ACA enrollment deadline is Friday!

That’s this Friday, December 15, 2017.

In case anyone is still thinking we have until the end of December to enroll — we don’t! The deadline for enrolling in health insurance starting January 1, 2018 is this Friday, December 15.

The website is, and a good place to begin is — click on the “individuals & families, including self-employed” tab. The FAQ under this tab is a good place to start.

To peruse plans in your state and county and to compare prices and hypotheticals at different income levels, start here: This page also has links for local assistance submitting your application.

Some states have longer enrollment periods, and the deadline was extended for residents of Texas, Florida and some some counties in Georgia because of the hurricanes this fall. This is an older post on the subject, but some of the links might still be good: Probably best to visit your own state’s department of health or consumer affairs website for the most accurate information.

Another helpful website to consult when thinking about your estimated income for 2018 is This explains cost sharing reductions (CSRs) for the Silver tier of health plans (the only tier for which they are available). CSRs kick in for individuals and families earning between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL).* The above-linked Kaiser Family Foundation article explains how these reductions work to increase the value of plans at lower income levels. Although you would have to pay back advance premium credits at the end of the year if you earn more than you estimate when applying, you do not have to pay the insurance company back for getting lower deductibles or copays. (Needless to say, you must attest to the accuracy of your application under penalty of perjury when you sign your application.)

*Note that the 2017 FPL is used for determining eligibility for 2018 plans (and Medicaid, for those states that have expanded Medicaid to the adult population under 65). The Medicaid eligibility range is 100%–138% of FPL or $12,060–$16,643. So if you estimate your income within that range, you probably will not be able to apply for a plan on no matter where you live. [[NOTE: I am not a health insurance navigator! Please consult a trained navigator if you need help applying.]] I’m providing these numbers because they can be hard to find. I have checked for consistency across a few different sites, so although you should not rely on uncited information found on blogs (and I disclaim all liability for decisions based on information provided here), I believe this information can be useful as a starting point for your own due diligence.

My own experience of updating my information at the last minute (last night) was not too bad. There was/is a glitch on the very first page of the application, where you have to check agreement to the privacy and data-sharing policies — I couldn’t get past it. If you get this glitch, don’t bother trying again and again, just call 1-800-318-2596 and speak to a representative. You’ll have to answer basic initial identifying questions, and then when you log in again (stay on the phone while you do it to make sure it “took”), you’ll be taken to the next step in the application process. My wait time last night was about 30 minutes.

My suggestion is not to wait until Friday to begin, because once you narrow down your plan selection, you might want to call the insurer(s) to clarify benefits or in-network providers, and that adds a day to the process.

So if today is Wednesday (or is it Thursday already?) and the deadline is Friday, what are you waiting for?

Feel free to share. Use hashtag #GetCovered.


P.S.: Some background here (but save it for AFTER you sign up).

Why I Will Vote Against ATA’s Bylaws Amendments

Briefly put, I believe that the changes will not achieve the intended results, and that they will actually work against the stated goals by eliminating existing pathways to voting membership. As well, I think that if the amendments are approved, they will change a fundamental feature of the association, namely, governance exclusively by members who are “professionally engaged in translating, interpreting, or clearly related work” (in other words, working translators, interpreters, T&I educators, terminologists, and lexicographers).

The “overall intent of the proposed amendments” stated within the document of proposed changes itself (in the first explanatory comment on page 1) is “to expand the franchise in the hopes of increasing participation in elections, and possibly, active participation in ATA overall by giving more members a sense of involvement.”

Unstated, but apparently as important, is a goal to decouple ATA Certification from ATA member voting rights. (Currently, passing ATA’s Certification exam advances Associate members to Active or Corresponding members, referred to collectively as Voting members — see ATA’s membership page for more information.) This decoupling would get us one step closer to carrying out the recommendations of the Hamm Report, which advised that the Certification credential would be stronger if eligibility to take the exam were not contingent upon ATA membership.[1] For many years now, ATA has been working toward the goal of opening up Certification to non-members.

For the record, I support the goals of increasing the number voting members, encouraging greater member participation, and opening Certification to non-members. But I don’t think that the proposed amendments are a good way to get there.

My opposition is both practical and on principle.

On a practical level, giving more members voting rights without an accompanying association-wide campaign to boost participation is not a complete plan of action. Current voting participation peaks at around 20%.[2] It seems to me that we should first try to increase the participation rate among current voting members. A first step would be to survey voting membership to try to find out why so many of them are not voting and ask what can be done to get their votes.

Regarding increasing the franchise, the current procedure for qualified Associate members to become voting members is quite simple: they just have to ask. (Criteria here: We have more than 5,800 Associate members, but only 378 used Active Membership Review to advance to voting member status in 2015 (the latest number I could find). Would someone who is not interested in ATA affairs enough to fill out a simple form to claim the right to vote be inclined to vote if that right were granted by default?

I wonder how effective we have been at communicating how simple it is to become a voting member, that it does not trigger a dues rate increase, and that the board and officers of the association actually care. We have not done enough to motivate our current voting and voting-eligible members, and it is premature to change the existing membership structure before we make more of an effort in that regard.

* * *

On the level of principle, the amendments appear to reduce the concept of “professionally engaged” — currently a prerequisite to becoming a voting member — to “dues-paying member of ATA for three consecutive years.” I reject that notion.

The current membership regime makes clear that ATA recognizes there is life before ATA; that many new members have been working professionally for many years, perhaps for an entire career. For example, some translators and interpreters have full-time jobs with job-related support services and don’t feel a need to join a professional association. But upon leaving full-time employment, they join ATA for the breadth of resources and networking opportunities offered.

Currently there are two paths to voting membership: Certification and Active Membership Review. Associate members can either demonstrate that they possess “professional translation skills” by passing the Certification Exam or they can assert that they are “professionally engaged in translating, interpreting, or closely related fields” through Active Membership Review. By inference, the explanation of the Active Membership Review process serves as a checklist for what ATA considers adequate and necessary for meeting the requirement of being “professionally engaged.” (The bylaws do not define the term.)

Both of these paths are available to any individual member of the association after four weeks of membership. So if I, as a translator with at least three years of professional translation experience, join ATA on January 1, 2018, I can take a Certification exam on February 1. If I pass the exam, then I am a voting member by the end of June (let’s say). Or if there is no exam sitting in February and I am impatient, or if I am an interpreter, I can fill out the Active Membership Review form on February 1, certify that I have the qualifying credentials or experience, without having to submit any documentation, and I am a voting member within a few days. After a little over a month as an ATA member.

The proposed bylaws amendments would change that. Under the proposed changes, if I join ATA on January 1, 2018, the soonest I can become a voting member is on January 1, 2021. With the elimination of Active Membership Review, there is no way for me to demonstrate my “professional engagement” aside from being a dues-paying member. With the elimination of Active Membership Review, the definition of “professionally engaged” itself will disappear from association literature. Certification will also no longer be a direct path to voting membership, but this path is anyway bound for eventual elimination (in another post I will outline my idea for decoupling Certification from voting membership while also acknowledging the credential as evidence of professional engagement).

The bylaws amendments hit Student members particularly hard. Currently, Student members may take the Certification exam without having to pay the full member rate (the four-week waiting period still applies). If they do not pass, they remain Student members at the reduced rate. If they pass, and if they agree to pay full dues, then they immediately become voting members. Under the proposed bylaws, the Student member category is still available, but it does not count toward the three-year membership period required to become a voting member. Student members would have to wait out the three-year period of full-price dues regardless of how long they had been Student members and regardless of Certification status.

My experience in the organization these past 15 years has been that new members are some of the most enthusiastic volunteers. I think we risk discouraging those most likely to get involved in and eventually serve the association by not allowing them to apply for voting rights in the first year or two of their membership.

* * *

In the September/October issue of The ATA Chronicle (issue 46, no. 5, p. 7), ATA’s executive director, Walter Bacak, says, “The Board approved presenting proposed bylaws changes to the membership for their approval. The changes are intended to expand voting rights to associate members who are professionally engaged in language services and have been members for three consecutive years.” These same two sentences appear in a sidebar on page 16. I think this is a mischaracterization of the changes, and that a more accurate characterization would be, The changes expand voting rights to associate members who have been members for three consecutive years.”

Following on this change from a voting body composed solely of working translators and interpreters, educators in the field of T&I, and terminologists and lexicographers to a voting body of anyone who has ever been a member of ATA for three consecutive years, we have to recognize that the sole criterion for serving on ATA’s board of directors or becoming an officer of the association is being an Active member of the association (that is, being a voting member and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident).

Current bylaws exclude agency owners, recruiters, sales reps, and software and app developers (among others) who are not themselves working as translators or interpreters or in a closely related field from becoming voting members of the association. The proposed amendments, however, would automatically convert these individual industry members to voting members. Therefore, unless I am misunderstanding something, under the proposed amendments, ATA will no longer be able to claim that its direction and mission are answerable solely to working translators and interpreters and other engaged practitioners.

I don’t know what the practical implications of this change would be, if any, but we already have a segment of members who think that ATA’s “mixed” membership of individual freelancers, industry representatives, and corporate members is detrimental to the ability of ATA to advocate unequivocally for the interests of freelance translators and interpreters when they come into conflict with the interests of corporate members. And even though I do not share their concerns, my reasoning is based on the current exclusion of industry representatives from ATA governance. At the very least, glossing over this particular consequence of the amendments shows a curious indifference to one of the most vocal — and active — segments of association membership.

* * *

I have other concerns about the amendments, such as a few technical inconsistencies caused by the edits, but the ones discussed here are the most substantive. The more closely I read the proposed amendments, the more unintended consequences I find.

So I will be voting against these proposed amendments.

On the other hand, I support the underlying goals of the changes, and I think these goals can be achieved without degrading the definition of “professionally engaged” and without working translators and interpreters having to relinquish governance of the association.

See you in D.C.!

[1] See, for instance, Stejskal, J., “International Certification Study: ATA’s Credential,” ATA Chronicle 32, no. 7 (July 2003), p. 14, available at

“Michael Hamm, former executive director of the National Organization for Competency Assurance and the principal of Michael Hamm & Associates, reviewed and evaluated ATA’s accreditation program and provided the association’s leadership and members at large with a number of valuable insights. The purpose of what came to be known as the “Hamm Report” was to point the way toward strengthening the program and improving the benefits of accreditation.

[. . . ]

“Michael Hamm observes that while most credentialing efforts are initially developed to meet the needs of the members, the most effective ones are not tied to any membership criteria for participation, since competence and quality have nothing to do with the payment of dues to an association. The credibility of the credentialing effort is enhanced if it is viewed as a service to the wider public rather than a service to members. The move from a membership-based to a freestanding credential is a significant one in the evolution of any voluntary certification program.”

See also Hamm, M.S., “An Executive Summary: Review of the ATA Certification Program,” available at

[2] In the ATA Board Meeting Summary, of November 7-8, 2015, one entry reads, “More than 500 votes were cast for candidates this year, which is one of the highest ever.” (Document at, ATA-member log-in required.) This was out of a voting membership of around 2,500 (I’m guessing based on various board meeting minutes — I cannot find a total for that precise period).

To Your Health: ACA Marketplace Info for 2018 Enrollment

Updated 25 October: Please see comments section for even more sign-up resources and tools to help spread the word.

This is a reminder that the enrollment period for getting health insurance for 2018 through the ACA healthcare exchange,, is shorter this year.

The enrollment period is November 1 through December 15, 2017.

As well, several planned periods of website downtime are scheduled during the enrollment period, so the actual time to sign up is shortened even further. First of all, enrollment opens at noon (Eastern) on November 1st. Then the site will be down overnight Wednesday Nov. 1. And it will be down on five Sunday mornings, 12am-12pm Eastern, Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Nov. 26, and Dec. 3. (Note that phone assistance will still be available during these times.)


But even though enrollment is limited to November 1–December 15, the website is fully functional right now and the phone reps are standing by 24/7, so people can create new accounts now (and call and ask questions if we need to), and in that way reduce the crush of traffic during the enrollment period.

A good place for first-time users to enter the site is the contact page. It has a link to a PDF checklist of the information and documents you will need to begin, a link to the “create an account” start page, and a link to an overview of the system: Click on the “individuals and families” tab.


Because the US Department of Health and Human Services has drastically reduced its outreach efforts, groups are forming to spread the word as widely as possible. If you’d like to get involved in these efforts, here are a few ways to do so:

(1) There is Facebook group for people concerned about this who are trying to make up for the reduced outreach (higher enrollment means not only a healthier population but also a healthier marketplace): “Indivisible ACA Signup Project,” This moderated, closed group is non-partisan and concerned with this one issue. You’ll be asked a few questions when you click to join (what state you’re in, if you’re willing to volunteer, that sort of thing). They have also set up a website at where you can find more information — about getting covered and about getting involved — without being on Facebook.

(2) Another way to help amplify the message is to sign up for the next “Thunderclap.” Thunderclap is an app that posts a one-time message to all your connections on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumbler (per your selection). The next scheduled event is on October 29: The first two events reached more than 7 million people — that’s the total number of followers of the 3,000 or so people who signed up for the two events (though there was likely some duplication between accounts). These Thunderclap events will continue approximately every two weeks until all state open enrollment periods have ended.

(3) You can download banner images and flyers from and spread the word to your network of friends and colleagues.

(4) Follow @2018ACASignUp on Twitter and retweet their reminders to your followers.

Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments, and… be well and do good!

#SpreadtheWord  #SpreadtheTraffic


May you live in interesting times!

Happy New Year, dear readers.

We face interesting challenges in the United States, and if there were ever a time when the arts were essential, now is that time. Literature, theater, visual art, music, dance, film and video, improvisation . . . As well, scientific inquiry, education, philosophy, journalism. All of these pursuits have in common the search for understanding — understanding of fact and also understanding of each other and ourselves.

But let’s not let our natural inquisitiveness lead us to question the validity of the principles upon which the United States was founded: Equality, liberty, and justice for all.



From the British Library collection of public domain images on Flickr:

First time grant applicants: Start now.

A few notes about the application process for the NEA literature in translation fellowship, especially for first-time applicants, as I was right up until last night at 10 pm.

Believe people when they tell you to get an early start! The variety of information required makes it hard to get everything together — plus polish your translation sample — in a short period of time. I gave myself almost three weeks, from just before Thanksgiving for a December 6th deadline; I was starting with a descriptive essay and a sample translation left over from a PEN/Heim application, and I still felt like I was cutting it close (well, I didn’t just feel like it, I was).

It doesn’t matter what part of the application you start working on, but you need to read the guidelines and get a sense of the scope of materials you need. You might even want to take a look now. Especially if you do not have an ongoing relationship with your author or if you are dealing with a rights-holder that/who is not as invested as you are, you’ll need extra time to get the rights statement and compile an author biography and resume. It can be like pulling teeth even with the best relationships. And if you have never written a grant or have never written a grant involving this author, you need extra time. You are basically writing a monograph or term paper about the author and the text you are proposing. Also read the project review criteria, it’s a good anchor for when you are wondering what to include and omit from your application.

Register at to see what the site is like, click around. And go back again within 60 days of the grant deadline to make sure you can still log on. They make you change your password every 60 days, and you don’t want to be fooling around with changing a password at 11 pm before a midnight cut-off. I logged on the day before I intended to submit just to make sure I still could.

Before you get started, view or download the list of recent awards in the grant program you are applying for. It’s a spreadsheet with year of grant, grantee name, city/state, start and end dates, amount, project description (one sentence) and additional description (longer). There are a few things you can do with this information:

  1. See if there’s anyone you know on the list and send a quick e-mail asking if it would be OK to contact them with questions as you put your application together. You might not need their assistance later, but it’s always easier to ask when you don’t need something urgently. Don’t forget to congratulate them on their award and ask them how the project is going if the grant was recent.
  2. You can’t sort the entries by language (unless you add a column and extract that information yourself), but you can use the ‘find’ function to see the awards given for translations from your language and country of origin. If you do this before you’ve got your heart set on a project, you will have time to shift gears if your project looks too much like a recent or past award (same author, same corpus of work, same historical period). You want to be sure when you say “this is the first X to be translated into English” that someone hasn’t beat you to it. Also, go back to the review criteria to see how the awarded projects addressed those criteria in their descriptions.
  3. Most important for me was reading the project descriptions. When I wrote my description, I was focusing only on the plot of the play — it did not occur to me to include information about awards, context, social relevance… But after reading past descriptions, I had a better sense of what I needed to include for a more compelling and complete short description. By the way, from trial and error I can tell you that the form has a 1,000 character limit. The way I write, that’s about 165 words.
  4. If you do find a grant related to what you are working on, now you have a potential source of information for writing your own grant. Perhaps the awarded translator has published about her project — those articles can provide a starting point for your own research, either background or references you can follow up on. You might have a completely different take on the work, and it would be good to be aware that you are contradicting the views of a past award-winner.

Once you start preparing your files, even if you don’t have any questions, read the FAQ for the application. I realized from a few that I was thinking about things the wrong way. For instance, I listed a bunch of publications on the eligibility page (Attachment 3), but I read in the FAQ, “please don’t” — include only as many publications as will establish eligibility, whether that is one book at 120 pages or 10 journal articles at 2 pages each.

Another mundane piece of advice — pay attention to file sizes. This year’s instructions limited any one attachment to 2MB. If you’re working from a scanned original document, like book pages, where you don’t have access to the original itself and can’t scan it again at lower resolution, you might have to figure out how to reduce the file size of what you do have. There is an option under the Document tab in Adobe Acrobat called “reduce file size” — you can run it repeatedly, but make sure you’re not creating an illegible original. And need I say you should make a copy to work with?

Some odds and ends I had questions about but didn’t see instructions for on the site. I called the day of the deadline and expected some finger-wagging, but the person who answered didn’t sound frazzled or lecture me at all.

  1. Each section of the narrative (Attachment 2) needs a header with the section number. I only found out when I called to ask if headers were a good idea. As I understand it, that means a header with the file name on the left (in my case GordonNarrative) and the section number and page number (e.g., Section1: Translator’s resume, p. 1 of 3) on the right. What that means to me is that if you don’t know how to work with section breaks in Word, you are better off keeping all your sections as separate documents, then you can create PDFs from each one and compile them into one PDF document at the end.
  2. For sections that do not pertain to you, it’s OK to either skip them or to include a blank page with, for instance, “2. Information about collaboration: N/A, this project is not a collaboration,” at the top of the page. I called to ask about this and the person who helped me suggested including a sentence of explanation, so this was my solution (instead of just “N/A”). I included the blank pages for sections 2 (collaboration) and 5 (retranslation), but not for 9 (flawed translation if your project is a retranslation), which comes at the very end.
  3. It’s fine, and even preferred, to insert your original text in landscape orientation if that’s how the scan was done. No one wants to have to read sideways on a computer monitor, and the cardinal rule of grant applications is “don’t annoy the reviewers.”
  4. Because the Library of Congress entry for the book I was using to establish eligibility does not list me as the translator (that’s another blog post!), I asked if I should attach the copyright page of the book itself. I was told that I didn’t have to but that I could. In other words, I wouldn’t get dinged for providing more information than strictly necessary (the guy read my mind!) I went ahead and attached it, with a short explanation.
  5. It is not necessary to change the name of the PDF application form itself. I added “_Gordon” at the end anyway. I did not have a problem with the submission process, so I guess it’s OK to do it.

I grumbled the whole way through the application process. Wouldn’t my time be better spent translating? But (and this is another piece of advice), after giving my draft description to someone else to read and critique (do this, possibly multiple people and multiple times, and definitely not at the last minute!), I realized how important it is to be able to talk about your work and get other people excited about it. Unless we are translating purely for our own enjoyment, without wishing to share our work or the author’s work with others, we are not done when the translation is done. In fact, it seems to me that translating is the easy part. Then we have to find a publisher or reviewer, or place the book in bookstores, or sell copies of the book; or for me, find someone to direct the play or produce the play or publish the play, not to mention attend a performance of the play! We can translate something in, say, six months to a year, but we will be promoting that thing for, potentially, the rest of our lives. We better have something to say about it.

So I say start early, and build in time to think, because only after starting do you realize (1) how much you care about the work, (2) how much you want to say about it because you care so much, and (3) how hard it is to edit your own writing to fit into the two-page limit. At least that was my experience.

For more advice, see this summary of a meeting of DC-Area Literary Translators:, in which Katherine Young, winner of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) translation fellowship, Lara Vergnaud, recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and a 2015 French Voices Grant, and Tanya Paperny, recipient of translation fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Ledig House, discussed their respective awards and gave advice on applying.



“Danica Mae” and other poems, by Jim Pascual Augustin

“Meat” by Ilija Đurović, translated by Paula Gordon

Five poems by Ewa Elżbieta Nowakowska, translated by Karen Kovacik


Lunch Ticket is a literary and art journal from the MFA community at Antioch University Los Angeles. They host The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multi-Lingual Texts. The Gabo Prize is funded by writers, translators, and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Alumni Allie Marini and Jennifer McCharen, who launched the prize to support the work of peer translators. [quoted from the website]

The works will appear in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of the journal and are not available on the website yet, but you can be sure I’ll post a link here when they are (update:! I’ll have more to say about the story and the author and the translation process then.

Congratulations to Jim Pascual Augustin and Karen Kovacik!