Can a hobby become a career? For me, there’s only one way to find out.
I’m very pleased to announce I’ve been accepted as a doctoral candidate in the PhD Program in Hispanic Studies at the University of Washington’s Division of Spanish and Portuguese.
This is thrilling on many levels.
I’ve always wanted to pursue a doctorate in literature, but my journalism and digital media career pulled me in a different direction. Literary translation has been a hobby for me, until now. I’m betting this PhD, focusing on translation and book publishing in the 21st Century, can help me explore this exciting new path.
How did this happen?
The University of Washington had demonstrated, yet again, its great capacity for developing innovative degree programs that attract a new breed of doctoral students for a changing world.
Specifically, the PhD Program in Hispanic Studies has two elements that caught my eye.
First is a commitment to something called public scholarship which is the notion that higher education should have robust ties to the community and not remain an activity carried out only behind privileged walls of campuses. A certificate in Public Scholarship from the UW’s Simpson Center for the Humanities is built into the PhD Program in Hispanic Studies. From the perspective of my background in digital media this has a lovely open source ring to it.
Second is recognition that technology has transformed not just industry, society and the arts but also the educational experience. The PhD Program in Hispanic Studies offers the option to write a traditional thesis or develop an alternative project like a film or a digital project.
That’s where my interest lies. I’ve loved the last two decades I’ve spent working in a journalism industry spinning with digitally-driven change. More recently those same digital forces have been wracking the book publishing world in a similar whirlwind of opportunity and loss.
For me the opportunity lies in a growing industry of literary translation. The way we tell stories and consume stories has changed in a globalized world with instant digital communication and socially driven communities of interest. Combine that with the ability to order almost any book any time right away on an Amazon Kindle or one of its competitors and the opportunity is instantly clear.
In London, my home until about a year ago, the literary translation activity is dizzying. There is the British Centre for Literary Translation, the London Book Fair Translation Centre, the Translators Association of the Society of Authors and the Emerging Translators Network. I’m a member of these last two. They are great organizations as are their American counterparts the American Literary Translators Association and the Emerging Literary Translators of North America.
“Demand in literary translation reaches an all-time high” is a fascinating piece that starts to capture part of what’s happening. http://www.todaytranslations.com/blog/demand-literary-translations-reaches-time-high/ Much of it is caught up in the economics of book publishing and the proliferation of new small non-traditional publishing houses, as well as self-publishers. I am a self-published literary translator as well as having my work published in the old fashioned way by professionals online and in print.
To be honest, I’m not sure where this doctorate is going to lead. Perhaps I’ll teach, or win more translation contracts or work with one of these interesting new small book or online magazine publishers who focus on world literature. But in the meantime, I am enjoying campus, my peers, my professors and my students. I’m hoping to revive this blog as a place where people of similar interest in literary translation and 21st Century book publishing can share ideas.