Q&A with Translator Sanda Watt

Picture book author Kate Hosford recently had the opportunity to talk with Sanda Watt, the Romanian translator of Kate’s first four books. Here are Sanda’s answers to some of Kate’s questions. 

Feeding the Flying Fanellis

Kate Hosford: Welcome to the Lerner blog, Sanda! Can you tell us how you became a translator?

Sanda Watt: My favorite story as a child was a Romanian version of Thumbelina where a tiny boy, small as a cornflower seed, would sneak into people’s ears and hear their thoughts. I was overly fascinated with this particular detail and my poor sister had to tell me this story over and over again elaborating on this particular part where Seed-Boy would eavesdrop on people’s ruminations.

Sanda Watt

I guess translation was the closest I could get to that: take people’s thoughts expressed into words and break them into bits of meaning and intention.

So here I am, some 20 years later, delighted with my work shared between conference interpreting and the more quiet and solitary translation of books.

Kate: I was delighted when I found out that my first four books had been translated into Romanian. Can you tell the story of how that happened?

Kate Hosford

Sanda: I’m friends with Bianca Sava, psychologist and founder of the Association Atelierul de Zâmbete (which translates as The Smiles Studio) organizing workshops for parents and running projects for children in foster care.

Every year in their Christmas fund-raising campaign, Association Atelierul de Zâmbete relied on the small publisher Lizuka Educativ for book donations. But last year they had a different idea and a new project to support the association on a longer term: the Association would edit books of their choice, Lizuka Educativ would publish them and they would share part of the sales. I was so happy they chose Kate Hosford’s splendid titles from Lerner Books and felt privileged to have had the opportunity to translate them.

Infinity and Me jacket

Kate: Two of my books that you translated are in rhyme and one is a book of poems. What were some of the particular challenges with those projects?

Sanda: Children love rhymes, and they have a very strong sense of rhythm and they’re the first to spot a half rhyme or a broken rhythm. I knew I was up for some unsparing criticism. Sometimes I would just read one draft page to my daughter. When she gave me the big eyed smile I was relieved to know that I managed to convey the original playful cadence and humorous tone.

Big Birthday

The most challenging part was not complicating things, keeping the verses simple and transferring the sense in quite plain and accessible vocabulary. Sometimes I’d fix the most flowing rhythm and rhyme and then sit and wonder whether “lunar” or “celestial” are appropriate in children books.

Regardless of my choice, children simply loved the books. In one preschool, pages came off Big Birthday and then a teacher arranged them in the wrong order when he tried to glue them back together. But children already knew the book by heart and kept correcting their teacher when reading it to them while enjoying the laugh at the new sequence of events: “Nooooo, they first ‘shot into space with gravity pulling on everyone’s face’ and then`boogied in a cloud of moondust’!”

Kate: My latest book is How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea. Which aspect of the book appealed to you most?

Sanda: I loved the repetitive style with the leitmotif dialogue. But what I love most is the little chat the queen has over the cup of tea with all her new friends. You see, in Romania, we’re very big into cozy coffee shops and tea houses and when you want to discuss something, catch up with an old friend, or simply get to know someone better, you invite them to have a cup of tea or coffee together. We even have an expression which would translate as “sitting over a cup of words.” I think it is so precious that in our fast-forward lives we can sit down, relax, and open ourselves to others while sipping a cup of something warm.

Kate: The Queen goes around the world learning how to make tea in a variety of cultures. Can you tell us a bit about the role of tea and tea-making in Romanian culture?

Sanda: As Romania is just across the Black Sea from Turkey, centuries ago we borrowed their coffee drinking habit, which you also mention in the Author’s Note at the end. So we’re big coffee drinkers, while tea is mostly functional. Apart from children who may be served tea at breakfast, most people drink herbal teas (chamomile, peppermint, linden) or fruit tea (rose hip, berries) and mostly when they have a cold or other discomfort. Black or green tea have been rising in popularity only recently, but I’m still into herbal teas, and I love it when I visit my granny and can simply pluck some leaves from the garden and brew them for a wonderful refreshing drink.

A bonus recipe spread from How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Teaclick here to download.
Thanks, Kate and Sanda!

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