A couple years back I wrote a blog post about my first ALTA experience for Words Without Borders entitled “Why I Love ALTA.” It was right after the Montreal American Literary Translators Association Conference where I met Niloufar Talebi, Dwayne Hayes, Pam Carmell, Rachel Galvin, Susan Harris, and hosts of other translators.
This has vanished from the internet, but basically it was about how I was blown away by just how much fun all the translators had together. And the fact that almost everyone was shorter than me. Which, I admit, is something that I find very important.
Anyway, this was my second ALTA Conference, and although Dallas is no Montreal, it was just as fun and interesting. So in addition to the panels described in the upcoming posts, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing some more general observations.
First off, aside from Idra Novy, who has no business being so tall for a Jewish girl (Rebecca McKay’s quote, not mine, I swear), once again, most everyone was around my height. And as a group, translators are incredibly witty, funny, and enjoyable to hang out with. (Who else would call Casket Store to find out if it’s open 24 hours? BTW, the answer is no. They are, however, on call for “casket emergencies” . . . )
Translators are also resilient. They’re underpaid, underappreciated, run into hundreds of problems with their editors—those lucky enough to have them—yet at the ALTA conference, there’s a general buzz about projects, books, and authors that is really refreshing. Part of the reason is thanks to programs like the ALTA fellowships, through which a number of younger translators are able to attend the conference.
It’s important that people like Megan McDowell and Edward Gauvin have a chance to meet figures like Peter Bush, Olivia Sears, Marilyn Booth, and Esther Allen. It’s a great way of encouraging people to continue on in the profession, an invaluable learning experience, and one of the reasons this organization is so vital and its conference so much fun.
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