Winter News: Author Visits, Book Reviews, Competition and More

We’ve had a busy semester, with visits from Lin Man-chiu, Sheng Keyi and Jeremy Tiang, the launch of our new Book Review Network, a residential weekend, and a new translation competition, as well as news of some exciting new funding! So we’re looking forward to some time off over Christmas, but first want to take a look back over the past few months.

Our author of the month in October was Taiwanese children’s writer Lin Man-Chiu 林满秋, who visited Leeds to talk about her work and her novel The Ventriloquist’s Daughter (Balestier Press), along with the translator (and long time supporter of our project) Helen Wang. We’re honoured that Man-Chiu has agreed to be our Author Ambassador for the schools strand of our project, and we’ve chosen The Ventriloquist’s Daughter to be one of the first titles for our school bookclubs. You can read a review of the novel here, written by Katherine Carruthers, director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute for Schools, and one of our partners on the project.

In her review, Katherine discusses why she believes the novel is a good choice to read in translation in school book clubs, and for students studying Chinese. One of our key aims for this part of the project (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) is to provide support for teachers and students who are wanting to focus on literature, due to the increased emphasis on literary texts in the UK school curricula for Modern Languages. We’re already starting to work with schools to set up book clubs for Chinese fiction in translation, and are developing a network of teaching ambassadors, as well as tailored teaching materials. We’ll be updating our Schools page with more material in the new year.

Our second visiting writer, and featured author of the month in November,  was Sheng Keyi 盛可以, who gave a talk to students and staff at the university in collaboration with the student-run East Asian Research Society (EARS), and was one of the speakers at our Reading Chinese Book Review Network Residential Weekend. The weekend was a chance for our book reviewers to meet each other, discuss selected books (including Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls (Penguin), translated by Shelly Bryant), and also meet translators and publishers. A great time was had by all, and you can read more about the weekend in our previous blog post! We’ve been delighted by the reviews provided so far by our book review network, who have really engaged with the novels, helping to provide through our Book Reviews page what we hope is a great resource for readers, authors and publishers.

For our final author visit, we were lucky enough to welcome author, playwright and translator Jeremy Tiang to Leeds, to talk about his debut novel State of Emergency (Epigram Books), as well as the literary scene in Singapore. Jeremy is our December author of the month, and you can read his story ‘Corridor’, first published in Ricepaper Magazine.

Despite all the excitement of our author visits, however, we haven’t forgotten our annual Bai Meigui (White Rose) Translation Competition! This year we’re doing some a bit different, to run alongside the development of the schools strand of our project. Our fourth competition is open exclusively to students in secondary education, and is focused on translating children’s fiction. The text we have chosen is a gorgeous picture book, written and illustrated by Beijing-based author Meng Yanan 孟亚楠. You can find the text, and a recording of the author reading the story, on our Competition page, along with details of how to enter. We have a wonderful judging panel of award-winning translators and experts on children’s fiction – Minjie Chen, an expert on children’s literature, and librarian working with the Chinese collection of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University; Helen Wang, who has translated Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, among many other things, and won the 2017 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation, and Adam Lanphier, a translator and Chinese teacher based in New York, who has published translations of several Chinese picture books. And we’re excited that this year’s prize is the opportunity for the winner to be mentored by award-winning translator Helen Wang, and to see their translation published in a bilingual edition of the text by Balestier Press!

And in a final piece of news, we’re extremely happy to announce that we have been awarded funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) flagship Open World Research Initiative (OWRI), as part of the project ‘Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies‘ (MEITS). Our project will look at non-Han Chinese writers and film-makers, in order to examine ‘how they are negotiating with standardized Mandarin and their own minoritized languages in their work, in order to find their own linguistic and artistic space.’ This new strand of research will expand our regular schedule of public engagement events with authors, translators and publishers, and allow us to explore a broader interpretation of what it means to ‘write Chinese’. We’ll be announcing more details soon!

So we’d like to thank all of our partners, as well as the many authors, translators, publishers and academics who have supported our project so far, and of course our fantastic Book Review Network members. We’re looking forward to more events to come, so see you in the new year!