The best journeys are the ones that pull into stations you weren’t expecting, and on my journey into literary translation the route plan has offered up a few surprises. Intent on studying, attending translation events, reading publishing news, polishing my profile and generally getting a feel for the industry, I was all set to go to International Translation Day 2013 to join in the celebration of the translated word. You know, meet up with a few fellow translators, hear what was happening in the translation community, get a few tips on what’s hot and what’s not in contemporary literature in translation, catch up over coffee and maybe even get a proper plate of porridge for breakfast (the first thing any true Scot seeks on returning to the UK, however briefly!). But “the hands of a clock will always find their way home” and my time had come to either grab the moment, or let it pass. A station had appeared that I really should pull into. And it was called “Pitch Perfect”: Translation Day’s very own “dragon’s den” style pitching session, the chance to pitch foreign language books to a panel of publishers.” From the instant I read the words “dragon’s den” I started to tremble. And I trembled for the next few weeks. I trembled as I booked my flight. I trembled as I found a sofa bed to sleep on. I trembled as I made my notes, and I trembled as I went over them in my head, getting on the plane, walking down the road from the tube station, and trying – unsuccessfully – to get to sleep the night before. But while the butterflies were fluttering oh so fastly in my stomach, my mind was running ahead, beckoning me to follow (another great quote from my favourite book of the moment: The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom http://bit.ly/19navyj )
This was an opportunity not to be missed. I just had to do it. Butterflies or not.
For anyone who read my last post, you might remember how “uplifted” I had been by an amazing wee children’s story written in Italian by Andrea Bouchard, and how I would love to be able to share it. Well, here was my chance. To let the world (or even just a little part of it) know about Acqua Dolce. Pitch Perfect.
And pitch it I did. I pulled my train, knees knocking and all, into the British Library on Monday 30th September. “Wouldn’t it be awful” I thought during the opening presentation, “if we had to go up and speak on the stage like all these eminent, talented and engaging people.” One hour later, Seminar D commenced, and where did I find myself, but none other than second on the list to get up and speak on the stage. Yikes! The not-so-eminent but hopefully engaging Denise Muir, literary translator in the making. Now translation is the most fascinating job… but spending your days in front of a computer screen, usually in the comfort of your own home, doesn’t really prepare you for real people. And for someone who doesn’t watch much television, I had still heard enough about Dragons’ Den to know that it could be a make or break two minutes. So I’d prepared as best I could, a neat little bubble chart filled with clever words, significant insights and a story synopsis that would send everyone rushing out to the nearest bookshop.
Three days after the event, I don’t really remember how many of the little bubbles I managed to communicate. When fear turns your mind blank, as it did mine, when you are left with nothing but a big, huge stage fright of a hole in your carefully laid plans , you just start telling your story from the heart. And sentimental as it may sound, this story has a place in my heart. Apart from being a truly lovely tale, it also marked a life-changing decision for me, that eureka moment that started me on my current path. It was a special tale and I wanted to share it.
So ready or not, I started my Pitch Perfect. And when the bell rang, I stopped. What happened in the middle I’m not really sure. I’d seized the day but I’d forgotten to say what the story was actually about. So if anyone’s interested, I thought I might tack it on here….
ACQUA DOLCE … a heart-warming and magically realistic tale about a girl – Acqua Dolce – born in the magical waters of an enchanted island in an exotic, faraway land when her father and pregnant mother jump out of a plane into the bewitching waters below. True to the tradition of tragicomic opening scenes, the mum’s parachute doesn’t open leaving her hurtling – tummy and all – towards the sea, and magically, on landing she finds that the sea is not salty, it is fresh water. Ergo Acqua Dolce, the beautiful, blue-eyed baby girl born – as if by miracle – in the fresh water.
Her unusual birth gives her the unusual ability to speak with animals, but unfortunately not with anyone else. She is blissfully happy living in the warm and wonderful waters of the island, absolutely at ease with her animal friends – monkeys, dolphins, seagulls – but unable to speak. Her family manages to escape the island before a terrible spell takes hold and keeps them prisoner there forever, but Acqua Dolce remains mute and struggles to adapt to life away from the island, away from her animal friends, and out of the water. A chance encounter with an old fisherman brings Acqua Dolce to a turning point in her life. Listening to the old man’s stories, she realizes that the key to her future may lie in a mysterious half-moon necklace brought back from the island. But Acqua Dolce must be brave enough to unlock the mystery and go where it may want to take her.
And if you want to know what actually happens to Acqua Dolce, the people she meets along the way, and the friends that go with her, then we’ll just have to hope my not-so-perfect pitch will not be the last stop on its journey into English, but simply an important one along the way.