BookTube “Voices under the Sun” Episode 6: “Work Update” with ENG SUB

 

(Author’s Note: I have been too busy to properly select a theme and discuss relevant books in both Chinese and English Worlds. So, in this episode, I provide a quick update on my work progress as a translator and publisher of Chinese-language digital and print books. I begin with two recently published titles, followed by three that are currently in the publishing process. The episode concludes with four books currently undergoing translation, as well as two books that I try very hard to find time to read. As it is a work update, an English transcript of this episode is available below, i.e. No zine. Please watch this episode HERE.)

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BookTube “Voices under the Sun” Episode 6: “Work Update” with ENG SUB

“Independence in Publishing, Freedom in Writing, Translation across borders, with Reading to free the spirit”

Hello, welcome to my channel “Voices under the Sun”. This is Christine Sun, from Melbourne, Australia. Lately, I have been too busy to select a theme and to read relevant Chinese and Western books in order to produce a proper BookTube episode. So, today, I’ll be lazy and give you a quick update on my work progress. Let’s listen to today’s theme song: “Busy and Dizzy“…

“Busy and Dizzy”, lyrics by Qiungqiung Yuan and Sylvia Chang, composition by Jonathan Lee, arrangement by Zhiyuan Chen, with performance by Sylvia Chang.

“Many phones are ringing, many tasks to be memo’ed.
Many doors and drawers are opened, closed and opened again.
I dash here and there, always rushing.
I’m in such a hurry, from one direction to another.
Busy, busy, always busy.
Is it to fulfil my dreams, or to avoid disappointing other people?
Dizzy, dizzy, I often feel dizzy.
So dizzy that I’ve lost my focus, unsure what to do.
I’m both busy and dizzy.
Too busy to feel joy or sorrow. Too busy to have a cry.”

In the Chinese World, Sylvia Chang is a famous actress, singer, playwright, film director and producer. She is extremely talented. “Busy and Dizzy” is the title song of Chang’s 1985 album, her very first song collection.

In this album, Chang writes: “I documented bits and pieces of my thoughts and feelings. I tidied them up, put them together as an album. Some of the feelings are hard to explain. Many of the thoughts are immature. Still, they belong to me. These thoughts and feelings are mine.”

I really like Chang’s words. In our busy world today, perhaps you, too, have had similar experiences. Sometimes, for no reason, we just want to let out some thoughts and feelings. Whether others care or not — it does not matter.

Among the lyrics of “Busy and Dizzy”, two sentences touched me deeply. One is, “I’m in such a hurry, from one direction to another.” The other is, “Is it to fulfil my dreams, or to avoid disappointing other people?” To me, these are perfect descriptions of my work. As a translator, I am always going back and forth between the Chinese and English languages, like doing a stir-fry. Meanwhile, publishing fulfils my dreams [as a believer in the Power of Words]. I work hard for all those authors who have entrusted me with their books.

Let me begin with two titles I have published recently. The first is IVF Success: An Evidence-Based Guide to Getting Pregnant and Clues to Why You Are Not Pregnant Now, written by Dr Raphael Kuhn, an IVF expert in Australia, and translated by Yvonne Yiwen Xu, who has a master’s degree in clinical embryology. The title is now a digital book in Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. The Simplified Chinese print book is undergoing the publishing process. Let’s look at the detailed Chinese cover:

IVF as a medical procedure requires a considerable amount of time and effort. The emotional and financial costs of undergoing IVF are huge. Some people are likely to take advantage of those desperate for a child. For profit, they might offer all sorts of services that are unnecessary and/or unhelpful. With this book, the author aims to provide information based on medical facts, so that readers can understand all the major issues surrounding IVF success and failure, and optimise their chances of achieving their goal.

While editing this book, I gained much medical knowledge. The author’s and the translator’s professional attitudes and pursuits of excellence are truly admirable. As a publisher, I enjoy working with serious authors. Authors who are serious about their work are highly self-disciplined and willing to take responsibility. I respect these authors and offer them as much assistance as I can possibly manage. They are cooperative and very reasonable. i.e. They don’t pay you peanuts while treating you like their personal slave.

As for the other title that was recently published, I served as the translator. How Two Love: Making your relationship work and last is authored by Dr Jan Resnick, a renowned psychotherapist based in Western Australia. It is now a digital book in Traditional Chinese. The Simplified Chinese ebook and the print book in both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese are being done. Let’s look at the detailed Chinese cover:

The author is an internationally respected psychotherapist and couples counsellor. His work spanned four decades and three continents. He has helped hundreds of people connect and/or reconnect with each other. This is a professional with tons of patience. He tolerated me, a very slow translator. I received much encouragement and guidance throughout the translation process. Afterwards, the author hired a proofreader to ensure the quality of my translation. So it took a while to publish the Chinese ebook.

It was a precious experience to have my translation examined word by word and its quality enhanced. While different translators have different styles, we all endeavour to make sure our translation is faithful, fluent and true to the author’s literary voice. Not many people appreciate such hard work. It is indeed unusual that two professional translators got to work side by side, without any negativity. Instead of competing, we complimented each other’s strengths while compensating all our weaknesses.

These days, most publishers in the Chinese World only have monolingual editors. The workload of publishing translated literature is huge. It is often the case that editors can check that the translation reads fine, but lack the capacity to determine whether it is accurate or true to the author’s literary voice. Meanwhile, translation as a profession is yet to be properly recognised in the Chinese World. Translators work hard but are paid very little. There are neither professional development opportunities nor channels for collaboration. Worse, they face fierce competition. Some less-qualified translators even resort to smearing others’ reputation and/or slashing fees to grab business.

In contrast, independently published authors have more opportunities to work with professional translators. They can take control of the translation and publishing process. Take How to Love, a book that tackles relationship issues between couples. It is written in an easy, humorous style, with many real-life examples. But the translation is HARD. It plays on the English words and contains many concepts and theories in psychotherapy, which can be pretty hard to translate into fluent and comprehensive Chinese. In this regard, the proofreader, Peter Wong Yih Jiun, taught me much about being precise and concise.

So, these two titles were recently published. Meanwhile, three other titles have been translated and/or edited and are now undergoing the publishing process. The first is The Girl Who Blamed the World, a children’s book by U.S. author Cindy Mackey. The illustrator is Taiwan-based Shirley Chiang. Let’s look at the detailed Chinese cover:

Although this is a children’s book, I am sure that adult readers will enjoy it as well. It offers the lesson that positive attitude always beats being fussy, grumpy and pessimistic. I had tons of fun translating this book, and learned much about writing children’s books. While the English writing reads easy and friendly, it took time to figure out the best Chinese translation. Also, I have worked with Shirley before. Her illustrations are so good that I have to work hard to deserve them.

The second title soon to be published is Taiwanese author Chen Xinyou’s Zombie Employment Bank. While the Chinese ebook is done, it awaits a cover from the author. This is a highly entertaining fantasy novel. I laughed a lot throughout the editing process. Some of the author’s ideas are truly adorable. Several bits are… let’s say, less sophisticated. But they demonstrate the author’s aim to break down common cliches about zombies. In the author’s words: “Zombies are not scary at all. They can be our friends, world-saving heroes, and even our career partners.”

The third title to be published is Chinese author Zsiying Lam’s autobiographical novel Cowboy. The Chinese ebook is done, but the author is currently on a business trip. Without it being approved by the author, the cover cannot be shown here. The book tells the story of an overseas Chinese businessman. Having fled China, he settled in Hong Kong. He then migrated to Canada but returned to Southeast Asia to pursue business ventures. The hard story reads friendly, as it includes many classic Chinese poems and paintings as well as details of business dealings.

Finally, I want to mention the four titles that I am currently translating. The first is A Maverick Traveller, written by New Zealand author Mary Jane Walker. It is the first of a series of travel books. Let’s look at the English cover:

The book tells the author’s numerous adventures around the world. The existing Chinese translation is of rather low quality, so to edit it is very much like translating it all over again, which is time-consuming. Interestingly, the author is currently in the process of publishing a book on Australia, and will visit Melbourne in August. So, I get to be a host! That is one of the great things about being a translator: Through their writing, you get to know the author REALLY WELL. As a result, meeting them often feels like getting together with an old friend.

The second title I am currently translating is Dust: Before and After, a YA novel by U.S. author S.E. Smith. Let’s look at the English cover:

This is yet another book much delayed, due to my being a slow translator. I am very grateful for the author’s patience and periodic reminders. The novel tells the story of a seemingly ordinary teenager trying to survive in a much changed reality. He and a group of friends have to work together to prevent the evil from destroying the world. It is an excellent sci-fi novel. In the translation process I often want to sneak-peak the ending, but have to control myself.

The third title I am translating is a biographical novel. The author is based on a Caribbean island occupying an area of only 34 kilometres. The southern half of the island belongs to the Netherlands, while the northern half is under French rule. The author wanted the publishing contract delivered by post. It ended up going from Australia to the Netherlands and then to Sint Maarten. It took two whole months. Still, the author wants the book translated and published as soon as (in)humanly possible. Hence I am under constant, HUGE pressure. Let’s look at the English cover:

The novel, The Colour of Skin, is based on the author’s family history. It tells the story of a Chinese man trying to survive in the West in the early 20th century. The book details numerous struggles and unexpected obstacles faced by Chinese migrants overseas. In particular, it explores how cultural differences can lead to misunderstanding and conflict between people, as well as how difficult it is to communicate across Chinese/ancient and Western/new cultures.

With these three titles, I am translating from English to Chinese. As for the fourth and final title, it is to translate someone’s biography from Chinese to English. Having signed a non-disclosure agreement, I apologise for not being able to discuss the project here.

I will conclude this episode with two books. I have been so busy that I can only read a couple of pages before going to sleep each night. The first is Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worse Day of Your Life by Australian journalist Leigh Sales (2018). It explores how “ordinary” people survive with courage and optimism after life turned upside down. The book is highly philosophical and thought-provoking. So, on those occasions that I really need to relax, I turn to the other book, U.S. author Shirley Jackson’s classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959).

As for those other books that I have purchased but am yet to find time to read, or have reserved at the library but am yet to pick up — I will skip them here, in order not to waste your precious time. I will end the episode now. Thank you for watching my channel “Voices under the Sun”. See you next time.

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