A review of METM17: part I

A year has passed since I wrote my personal account of the 12th Mediterranean Editors & Translators Meeting (METM16) in Tarragona, Spain. To change the focus this year, I’ve invited two METM17 attendees—a newbie and a veteran—to write a double post on the latest MET meeting, held 26-28 October in Brescia, Italy. Many thanks to both authors for their time and thoughts. First up is Fiona Peterson, an Italian to English translator and fellow nurse:

Allured by a keynote
Ok, I admit it. When I locked eyes with Michael Farrell’s post about METM17 on ProZ.com, it was love at first sight. As an avid reader and creative writer, as well as having translated various poems, short stories and a novel, I was thrilled to see that Tim Parks was to be a keynote speaker. And as a rookie and an introvert, the fact the Meeting was taking place in Brescia, just a short train ride away, was a marginally less terrifying prospect than having to get on a plane and fly to a country where I didn’t speak the language.

Brain says yes, body says no
MET meetings are packed to the brim! There were many sessions I would have loved to attend (all of them??!!) but didn’t manage, simply because it was so physically and mentally overwhelming compared to my usual somewhat reclusive day as a freelancer. I soon realized the importance of pacing myself, setting priorities and not beating myself up over the ones I didn’t make.

The writing process

Rowena Murray giving her keynote talk

The theme of the conference was the writing process. Although translators have to shape their writing on existing source language content, the presentations touched on several issues that influence and guide the process we use to create that target text. And although some sessions were more geared to editors or writers, I think  they had inspiring lessons for translators too.

Rowena Murray gave the first keynote talk. Her Lessons gleaned from writing retreats covered issues such as discipline, shutting out distractions, and the power of social writing. Karen Shashok’s experiences in responding to negative peer review comments struck a chord with many in the audience. And Anne Murray’s experiment in client mapping and profiling provided insights for tracking our business and reaching our goals.

Creative networking sessions
One great aspect of METM17 were the many creative networking sessions, opportunities I’ve often found to be lacking at other conferences. As I arrived (alone) at the first networking event at the Belle Epoque bar, I was drawn into the group by a sort of centripetal force. Everyone was eager to talk and get to know others, a far cry from my first conference networking reception, where I ended up making scintillating conversation with the pot plant in the corner. I think many freelancers still view networking as some mysterious, exotic beast that can only be tamed by cornering it and thrusting our business card at it.

Networking can be easy and fun!

METM17 brought the process to a grass roots level (ever heard of socialising while diving down a manhole for an underground city tour?), confirming that networking can actually be easy and fun, even for a chronic introvert like me.

Bare your soul
It takes a special kind of courage and generosity to offer one’s work up to the scrutiny of fifty colleagues and the exacting eye of a translator and writer of the calibre of Tim Parks. This was the scene at Thursday night’s translation slam. Colleagues Laura Bennett and Oliver Lawrence shared their translations of a text and discussed their decisions, while Tim Parks moderated and offered a “literal” translation (to help colleagues who did not work with Italian), finally revealing the “official” published version by Isabel Quigley. Many fascinating issues emerged from the discussion: Should we read the whole novel before we start to translate, or should we put ourselves in the reader’s shoes, translating as we see the story unfold? What elements contribute to creating the character’s “voice”? And of the various translation voices that emerged from the exercise, which was most appropriate, and why?

Along similar lines was Michael Farrell’s presentation The Conspicuous Translator, where Michael engagingly described errors he had found in an author’s text, challenging us to question our role as translators. Should we say nothing, perhaps saving some bruised egos in the short term but leaving the author open to ridicule? Or should we speak up, risking accusations of overstepping the mark? Food for thought indeed!

Audience enjoying Michael Farrell’s entertaining talk

Business over lunch
As freelancers, it is crucial to identify our USP – unique selling point. But how? Not easy in my translator’s cave, where all the statements that come to mind seem to do the opposite! Back to the benefits of networking: My supportive colleagues in the “What Makes You Unique?” lunch group, led by Oliver Shaw, pointed out the importance of not only identifying what we perceive as our strong points, but also of conveying to clients how these strengths can help bring added value to what they do.

METM17 in a nutshell
Energy, passion and creativity. Impeccable organization, inspiring colleagues, and a wealth of learning opportunities. METM18 in Girona is already in my diary. I won’t be a rookie but I’ll still be an introvert. See you there?

Fiona Peterson is a freelance translator working from Italian to English. She graduated in German and Italian from the University of Westminster in 1995, but has always been passionate about medical translation, and in 2014 she gained her nursing degree from the University of Bologna.  She translates all types of medical and pharmaceutical documentation, with a focus on patient notes and imaging studies, and a curious love for deciphering doctors’ handwriting! She currently lives near Bologna.

Photo credits
All photos except the last one (supplied by the guest author) were taken by Maria Luisa Barbano for MET.

Stay tuned…
… to discover who is the author of METM17 Part II—a review by someone who has attended every single METM! (or click here to read it straight away…)

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8 Responses to A review of METM17: part I

  1. Paul Osborn says:

    A compelling read by a compelling writer! Fascinating insight into the emotions of a person, real person, participating in a process. Most people feel such feelings, but tend to override them (‘bland’ them out) when reporting on the event. Exemplary, reassuring. Thank you.

    • Fiona says:

      Thank you Paul! I know that many people are overwhelmed at the thought of attending a conference, and a huge thanks must go to the METM organisers and all the attendees for helping to make the event such a positive experience.

      • Paul Osborn says:

        Aye, I have long said the craick is best at MET. Must be the energy lines underneath Tarragona or whereever the centre of gravity of the association is.

  2. Hey, Emma and Fiona! Great, great post! I was a newbie at METM15 and I know exactly how you feel! I’m still amazed at the high quality content and friendliness of the people, compared to other conferences. I’ve tried to explain this to others, but I couldn’t have done it near as well as you have! See you in Girona! 🙂

    • Fiona says:

      Thanks for your comment Karin! METM really does seem to be blessed with its own special “MET Magic” – so much to take away and muse over.See you next year!

  3. Linda Turner says:

    Great review, Fiona. You brought all the memories of a wonderful METM back to life again very vividly. It was lovely to meet you at that lunch and see you again next year!

    • Fiona says:

      Thank you Linda! It was fantastic to exchange ideas with such supportive colleagues, in what was definitely one of the highlights of the event for me. Hope to see you again next year!

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