DELT AGM and event Pitching Danish Literature Abroad

On Thursday 14 November 2019, DELT gathered for its second Annual General Meeting (AGM) and associated mingling at the delightful home of the Dansk Forfatterforening in central Copenhagen.

This year has been relatively quiet for translator-related events for those working from Danish as the Danish Arts Foundation put on hold its summer school and BogForum visitors programme for 2019. The DELT committee therefore resolved that the AGM should offer a focal point for Danish-English translators attending BogForum (Copenhagen Book Fair). By applying for funding for the event from the Danish Arts Foundation, the budget included a small number of bursaries to enable DELT members who had never previously attended the book fair to come to Copenhagen, and we were thrilled to meet new members at the AGM.

The exciting programme was scheduled to begin mid-afternoon with a publisher pitching and networking session. Due to an unfortunate combination of guest speaker illness and other unforeseeable circumstances, this element had to be postponed. Instead, we were pleased that Dr Ian Giles, Chair of SELTA (and member of DELT), was able to step in and give a talk on ‘Selling Scandinavian Literature to British Readers 1917-2017’. Ian focused on how the use of hybridity, genre and setting has long given Scandinavian literature an edge in the English-speaking markets, with a particular focus on Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. Ian’s presentation was followed by enthusiastic input from the assembled translators about the subject. This was immediately followed by a masterclass and discussion led by Paul Russell Garrett on the day’s theme of translator pitching. There was discussion of an ideal pitching model (as proposed by Ros Schwartz via the UK Translators’ Association) that also drew on input from assembled translators. Attendees were encouraged to work in groups to prepare a pitch for an existing title drawing on the framework as well as the findings provided in the earlier talk about publishing Scandinavian literature in English.

After a convivial chatty coffee break with Sinéad’s delicious homemade lemon tart, the AGM proper was convened. John Mason chaired the meeting. Dr Ellen Kythor (Chair) delivered a report on DELT’s activities since the first AGM in October 2018. Paul Russell Garrett (Treasurer) provided an update on the association’s financial situation and Lin Falk van Rooyen outlined DELT’s standalone event that took place in Edinburgh in June (see report here). A number of other items for discussion were covered including Danish mentorship and summer school opportunities in upcoming years and engaging members in giving feedback on funding for translation. There was considerable interest from attendees in the progress that DELT is making and how it can best serve all members. As per the Constitution of DELT, at this second AGM there was an election for Chair. Ellen announced she was stepping down and Paul was elected as Chair unopposed. The time flew by – the sign of a good meeting! (Minutes of the AGM, ably written up by Secretary Sinéad Quirke Køngerskov, can be read in the Members Area.)

The final activity on the programme was a peer-to-peer session on pitching tips and stories. Led by Ellen, based on interviews undertaken for her PhD research into publishing Danish literature in the translation, several DELT members gave step-by-step accounts of successful pitches of literary translation projects from Denmark to a British or American publisher. For instance, Lin emphasised that she would endeavour to place projects with publishers based on her enthusiasm for working alongside a particular authors she identified. Paul, meanwhile, described a successful pitching project that involved children’s books, commissioned by an anglophone publisher, but he noted that a pitching approach like this had been an exception in his career trajectory. He also discussed the Starling Bureau, a collective of translators from multiple languages who share resources to pitch a list of titles. Barbara Haveland described an example of pitching that kicked off her own career, and a handful of other attendees added their own anecdotes and comments about successful and unsuccessful attempts to persuade publishers to buy titles.

Everyone had worked up an appetite and the fresh vegetarian boxed meals of open sandwiches and salads were served up to a great reception alongside wine. Many translators used the opportunity to mingle, make new friendships, and rekindle old ones. It was gratifying that almost half of DELT’s members were able to attend, even despite the lack of concurrent Danish Arts Foundation BogForum visitors programme for translators this year. 

21 DELT members attended. View our full list of members of the Translators page. Photo credits: Ian Giles and Ellen Kythor.

We are grateful to the Danish Arts Foundation for its support in hosting this event.