Thursday, August 16, 2012

Practice writing: Sing an art song

In a recent piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in The New York Times called, Where Do Sentences Come From?, the author suggests that to find to origin of the sentence (in other words, to learn to write) one should memorize poetry or prose. "A rhythmic kind of writing works best, something that sounds almost spoken," says Klinkenborg (a name which also has a nice ring and rhythm).

Wait a minute. What about something sung? Writer Abroad spent her childhood at choir rehearsals and voice lessons. She sang hundreds of art songs (literature set to music). Then she majored in vocal performance in college, sang in a few operas, and became…a writer?

Maybe it wasn’t such a jump after all. Maybe all the choir rehearsals, all the voice lessons, the art songs, the operas, maybe they didn’t go to waste. Maybe instead of going to writing conferences and grammar courses, writers should be learning to sing. Maybe all of this also explains Writer Abroad’s strange writing habits: sometimes in the middle of a writing session, she’ll sing a song or two before going back to the page. Or maybe she's just insane.

But words that are sung are powerful. The poetry set to music that Writer Abroad learned (even the poetry in French, German, and Italian), is always there in the back of her mind. And even though Writer Abroad can forget a sentence the minute after she reads it, she never forgets the thousands of sentences she has sung.

Interested in a little non-conventional writing practice of your own? Sing! This art song book was Writer Abroad’s first. It’s filled with hundreds of sentences set to music and even comes with a CD to accompany your sentence singing. She highly recommends it. In fact, she’s going to get out her dog-eared version and sing her very first solo: Long, Long Ago.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Translation: The Perfect Career for Writers Abroad

Guest Post by B.J. Epstein

Translation, just like writing, is a creative, challenging craft that requires excellent writing, analyzing, and editing abilities, and a love and feel for language. The major difference between translating and writing, of course, is that translators work with transferring words an author has written in one language to another language, whereas writers need only work with one language and their own thoughts and texts.

Writers are the ideal people to work as translators because they generally already have excellent writing and language skills and an enthusiasm for words, and yet not many attempt it. Writers abroad are especially well equipped to serve as translators because they usually know at least one other language. So why not put your writing, editing, and language skills to good use and add translation to your portfolio of careers?

Translation can be a lucrative option for writers abroad
The easiest way to start is to sign up with translation agencies and to join any of the many e-lists that focus on translation. Though they usually pay less, many translators like working for agencies because then they don’t have to try to market to, contact, and sell their services to direct customers and also because agencies edit all the translations before they send them to the end clients. E-lists are useful since they often have job announcements and you can also meet other translators through them; more experienced translators might have advice for new ones, and they also might be willing to subcontract assignments. Having a mentor like this can be invaluable.

For people who are more serious about translation, joining a professional organization, such as the American Translators Association, is a good credential. These associations have databases of translators where potential customers can find you, as well as newsletters with information, and conferences to attend. It’s not cheap to join them, but the investment is worthwhile.

Finally, make sure you tell your family, friends, neighbors, writing clients, and everyone else that you work as a translator. You might be surprised by how many people know someone who needs a translator and how many jobs friends or colleagues can pass on to you.

Translation is a creative and stimulating art and craft, and it can be lucrative. It isn’t that difficult to get into the field either. Many writers abroad are uniquely suited to being translators as well, so expand your writerly horizons and start translating!

Originally from Chicago, B.J. Epstein has been a writer, editor, and Swedish-to-English translator abroad for over eleven years. She lives in Norwich, England, where she also is a lecturer in literature and translation at the University of East Anglia. Visit her website at or her translation blog at for more information on her or on translation.


Related Posts with Thumbnails