WEP: in Translation

a566d-thumbnail_badge_girlcastle5Yolanda and Denise of the WEP website encouraged me to write to this challenge, but it wasn’t easy. For a long time, I couldn’t come up with anything on the theme of Utopian Dreams. And then, a crazy idea came to me. It’s not exactly a true story yet but it could be. It’s not exactly fiction either. But it could be. It all depends…

On Friday, Genie shut the email program with an angry click of her mouse. “I hate rejections. Why don’t they want my stories?”

Chuck didn’t reply, just nuzzled her thigh in a show of support, or maybe in a demand for a treat. It was hard to tell.

“Oh, Chuck.” Genie picked him up, burying her face in his deep fur. “I want to get one of my stories published in Can Cocoa. It’s my one big dream. I even blogged about it, and everyone encouraged me to keep trying, but the editor keeps rejecting my stories. Only small cheap e-zines accept them. Stupid Can Cocoa!”

Chuck grinned, his tongue lolling.

“You think I’m obsessed with Can Cocoa, don’t you?”

Chuck licked her nose.

“You’re my partisan.” Genie laughed.

On Monday after work, she logged in the Can Cocoa website again. Checking their masthead had become a routine by now. One day, they might change their fiction editor, and the new one might like her stories better. She would be ready. A girl could dream, couldn’t she? Without her impossible dreams, she would be too pathetic: a middle-aged aspiring writer working a mind-numbing office job.

The magazine didn’t change their fiction editor that day but they announced a new section: short stories in translation. The text in the original language and the original writer’s permission should be included in the submissions, together with the English translation.

Genie closed the window with a derisive huff. “Translation, my ass,” she muttered. “Well, I’m bilingual. I could translate anything from Russian. I have, in fact, and put my translated stories on wattpad. People love them. I have thousands of readers.”

Sitting beside her desk, Chuck thumped his tail in encouragement.

“You think I should?” Genie asked doubtfully. “I have a magic realism story, set in Russia during the war. I’ve never submitted it to them before. I could pretend it’s a translation. The editor of their translation section is a different lady. Maybe she’ll accept my story.”

The idea stayed with her. On Thursday, she decided to try. She wrote an email to the translation editor. “I don’t have the original manuscript,” she explained in a burst of rabid imagination. “It never existed. The author is my maternal great aunt. She was a wonderful storyteller but she never wrote down her stories. She narrated them. They were all about magic and fantastic creatures in the everyday Russia. Although she died more than 30 years ago, I still remember some of her stories. Recently, I wrote down one of them in English.” She ended the message by asking if they would be interested in such a story and clicked Send.

“What do you think, Chuck? Is it a good frame for my story? I did have a great aunt by that name, although she never told any stories. She was a cantankerous old hen, lived alone and died alone, no kids, no family. Nobody can check anything.”

Enthusiastic as always, Chuck flopped on his back, so she could rub his tummy.

The reply came promptly the next day: yes, they wanted her translation from Russian.

“What do you know?” Genie muttered. “Maybe they don’t have enough submissions to fill the section?” She sent her story.

Several months later, on Wednesday, the reply came. The magazine would publish her story in December and pay her the usual translation rate – five times more than she had ever been paid by any of the small circulation magazines that habitually published her stories. Of course, the writer’s part of the payment would be withheld, as the writer was dead, but if she had more stories from the same source, they would be glad to consider them.

“Yahoo! My dream came true after all!” She would be published in Can Cocoa, if only as a translator… of her own story, but it was a start. Her story was finally good enough for those literary eggheads. She turned on her favorite Andre Rieu concert and waltzed around her tiny apartment, singing out of tune. Chuck was so concerned about the cacophony, he started barking.

On Saturday, another email arrived from Can Cocoa – a congratulation. Her story, or rather her imaginary aunt’s story, was awarded the prestigious Dennis Yoland Prize as the best translated story of the year. She was invited to accept the prize on behalf of the dead author. The ceremony would take place just before Christmas, in New York, during the annual translators’ summit. Her air fare and hotel for two nights would be paid by the organizers.

Genie’s heart thumped wildly. Her story was good enough to win the award, the best story of the year, but only as someone else’s story. Those New York publishing snobs were ready to pay for her to fly there, but her dream-come-true suddenly felt like a mockery.

“What do you think, Chuck? Should I tell them the truth in my acceptance speech? What would they do: denounce me? Take away the prize? But translated or not, it is the same story. Or should I cowardly ignore the invitation, say I can’t come? Or should I make up my aunt’s tragic life story and tell it to those idiots who can’t separate truth from fiction? Would it be fraud?”

Chuck pushed his nose into her trembling hands, but this time, his unquestioning loyalty didn’t bring relief, nor clarity. She had lied and got punished… by a free flight and hotel in New York. And a monetary prize. She didn’t know what to do.
Word count: 930

This entry was posted in Olga Godim, WEP, Writing Challenge and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to WEP: in Translation

  1. Denise Covey says:

    Hi Olga! I’m so glad you came up with something for Utopian Dreams. What a great story, and I can see how it might have lots of realistic elements in it. I enjoyed the way you told it. Having the furry friend to talk to was a clever way to make the dialogue realistic. So, it pays to continue knocking on doors despite rejection. Now I can see she might approach these editors and tell them the truth and maybe they could embrace the idea of the writer also being the translator.

    I see from your previous post that you’ve embraced fan fiction. I love writing it. I have a Macbeth story published on the fan fiction site somewhere, but like wattpad, I don’t have the time to keep up with everything. Maybe one day over Christmas I’ll have some downtime and go into wattpad and read your stories and brush up my profile.

    Merry Christmas, Olga and may 2017 bring you all the blessings you long for. May you reach publishing nirvana, er, utopia!

    Thanks as always for taking over the badge making for WEP. Looking forward to the winners’ badges before close of business in 2016.

    Denise 🙂

  2. Hi, Olga, what a conundrum. I can imagine such a thing happening. Would the truth ruin the success, or enhance it. We’d all like to think the truth would be the solution, but in this day and age. Who knows? So many things in life feel backwards right now. 🙂

    I’m so glad you found your voice for this challenge. Once you give yourself the task, you made it happen. Well done!

    Ditto, Denise’s thanks for designing the WEP badges. They are lovely and portray the prompt beautifully!

    I hope your holiday is lovely and your New Year full of success!

  3. I love this.
    The Utopian challenge caused both of my brain cells to freeze, and I am enjoying and awed by other people’s take on it.
    Such a conundrum she has set herself (and I love the name of the prize.
    And your badge is, as always a joy.
    Thank you – and all the best of the season to you.

  4. desk49 says:

    Sometimes a lie won’t hurt
    Or the truth set you free
    You’ll get a small token
    But not the big fee
    I say just take the money and
    there’s no more stories to be found

    Another Utopian Dream
    Came crashing down

  5. Hi Olga
    That was a fun story. And, what a delima. I’d get a stomach ache if I were her. Well written.

  6. Ooh, quite a moral dilemma! Fun and well-written. Loved the way the Dennis Yoland award incorporates the hosts’ names 🙂 In spite of the ethics issue this is a feel good tale, I liked that it combined some ‘Christmassyness’ with the prompt, some real story telling skill required to achieve that weave. Brilliant!

  7. Pat Hatt says:

    Bah, people write under pen names all the time. I say she should go for it and reap the rewards, playing nice never worked, so what’s a little white lie haha

  8. Ah, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. I wrote that a long time ago and it seems to fit this situation. 🙂 Just kidding.

  9. patgarcia says:

    Wow, Olga, this reminds me of a movie in which Whoopie Goldberg posed as a man, a Mr. Cutty, to get her investment company off the ground. A very engaging story with lots of truth hidden within it. I would love to know what she decided to do. In the film with Goldberg, she revealed who she was at the banquet where she received the Business Man of the Year award.
    You have written an excellent story and I enjoyed reading it.
    Have a Merry Christmas and a beautiful walk over into the new year.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

  10. kentuckygal50 says:

    A great change of direction at the end. I certainly did not expect it and that added to my enjoyment of your story. I’m sure there were many nodding heads in front of computers while people have read your story…it’s a tale we can recognize.

  11. DG Hudson says:

    People will believe an outlandish lie rather than the truth, depending on the subject matter. But then. a gift from the gods is a gift. Wny not enjoy it? Liked your story.

  12. A sad end to high aspirations. I enjoyed your story, but if played true to my beliefs that it’s far to easy to get caught in a lie, even if only you know that you have been trapped.

  13. emaginette says:

    Can’t help but love a happy ending. Have a great season. 😉

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  14. Oh, wow — Olga, what a brilliant take on the Utopia prompt! Loved this. Reads easy, holds attention, keeps one guessing… Really nice job.

    Happy holidays!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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