A Busy Month
One of the challenges for me of being a freelance writer is the unpredictability of work. I like predictable. I like to plan my days, weeks, months and know how much money is coming in. But like many of my colleagues, I’ve experienced long stretches of very little work and times when several big projects come due at once. This October is an example of the latter.
Over the summer I signed up for two workshops taking place In October, in the hope of learning more about today’s publishing industry, making new connections, and getting advice on one revision and one new work in progress. I thought October would be another slow month like the three preceding it. My translation of the middle grade novel AMAL, for Brazilian publisher Editora Caixote, was done and the trilingual project is now in production. I had some work for the Portuguese university over the summer, but otherwise, I was able to make good progress on my new verse novel while spending way too much time on social media.
Then I received an email that I was selected to translate a screenplay from Spanish to English. I’d auditioned for the project in the spring and forgotten about it. Normally, I don’t audition for write-for-hire assignments because the odds are long — often a writer is competing against 10-12 other professional writers, samples can be quite long and may include detailed outlines, and whether or not the person is chosen, all samples and ideas become the intellectual property of the publisher or packager. Translations are a little safer for me because there’s less mind-reading of what the editor wants, and I’m not giving away my ideas. Someone already wrote the piece; I’m just creating a version in English.
Because of my own interest in international film, I’m especially excited to be working on this screenplay. I’ve written several reviews of feature films and documentaries produced abroad and recently attended the annual Czech Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York. I always say the great thing about foreign films with subtitles is that even if the film itself is disappointing, you can learn a new language. I’ve seen so many French films that I now understand French even though I read it slowly and don’t speak it at all. And for the most part, I like the character-driven films that come from other countries — the work, for instance, of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman), Polish director Agnieszka Holland (Spoor), and Chilean filmmakers Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero, No) and Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman). I would appreciate a job creating the subtitles for an imported film.
When Richard and I moved to Portugal for the first time, we appreciated how well people in general spoke English, as it made our adjustment to a new country that much easier. (Since then, it’s become a bit of an obstacle to my improving my conversational Portuguese.) Our friends explained that in Portugal, most movies from the U.S. were and still are subtitled, so anyone who grew up watching a lot of Hollywood movies developed great English conversational skills. In contrast, most U.S. movies shown in neighboring Spain are dubbed into Spanish, and people there generally don’t speak English nearly as well. Subtitles are often an obstacle for moviegoers in the U.S., and I wonder how much of that is due to insularity and how much to weak reading skills. We certainly need more openness to the world’s art and culture — not to mention languages — and we certainly need more critical reading and thinking as well.
While this is a busy month for me, I intend to blog on my regular schedule and will be inviting some guest writers to help me out. I look forward to reading their perspectives and hope you do too!