Arriving at the British Library, I wasn't sure where to go at first but I soon bumped into an old acquaintance from Royal Holloway and we found our way to the Conference Centre. Being relatively new to the industry, I was a bit shy but soon had my name badge round my neck and, armed with a cup of tea, began the task of 'networking'. This can be rather an off-putting word until you remember that everyone in the room is there for that purpose and that really you are all just helping each other out. No need to be nervous, if you have a business card you're good to go.
The first session was full of facts and figures. An overview of the past year in literary translation, there were numbers flying all over the place and I can't say I understood what they all meant. But I couldn't help but be caught up in the excitement of it all. Despite all the governmental cuts the world of translation is holding its own thanks to grants, perseverance and hard work, and the books will keep coming. This was excellent news; all I had to do now was find out how to get involved myself.
A series of lectures and seminars interspersed with more cups of tea and business-card-swapping were enough to make me believe it was possible. Authors, publishers, translators who had all started out as wide-eyed young graduates and had made it exactly where they wanted to be all talked about their experiences, giving tips and hints about how best to sell ourselves to publishing companies, how to keep up to date with the industry and what events and summer schools are open to young hopefuls like us. In short, the day made a dream seem more like a graspable reality.
Although the question and answer sessions were incredibly interesting, the final session was the real inspiration. Helen Chadwick, a singer who has already produced several albums, gave a wonderful talk punctuated with her music, the lyrics of which had been taken from interviews she had conducted with war correspondents, journalists and refugees around the world. Along with three other singers, she gave a very moving performance whilst talking about her interview experiences and the translated poems which she uses for other songs. Some of her songs contained lyrics in both English and the interviewee's original language, which showed how beautiful translation is. And the fact that she was so grateful to us, the translators, for enabling her to use material which she would not otherwise have understood, showed what an important job translation is. I think that's what it comes down to; the desire to make words accessible to anyone and everyone. If I read a book in German that makes my heart beat faster while I turn each page as quickly as possible to find out what happens next, I want to be able to share that feeling and those words with those around me. And after I've gained a bit more experience, increased my confidence and hopefully visited a few more events as inspiring as this one, sharing the words of others is what I intend to do.