SCBWI: Making Translation Part of the Publishing Conversation

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has joined the effort to make translation part of the conversation in publishing. Avery Fischer Udagawa, Translator Coordinator, tells us more…

by Avery Fischer Udagawa

Happy #WorldKidLitMonth! If you have found this blog, you have discovered a rich world that is often invisible in English-language children’s book publishing. Books in translation comprise a sliver of children’s books published in places like my native US—but change is possible.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a worldwide guild of twenty-seven thousand children’s book creators, which has joined the effort to make translation part of the conversation in English-language children’s book publishing.

Besides Writer and Illustrator, SCBWI added a Translator category in 2014. Translator members can network and learn the “kidlit” trade on a dedicated listserv; at regional events, including online events (translation days, first page critiques); and at large SCBWI-wide conferences (2021 winter conference, 2021 summer conference).

Importantly, editors and publishers of children’s books in English know SCBWI and accept invitations to speak at its events and conferences, as part of their own networking efforts. The fact that SCBWI includes translators is helping to put a diverse range of #WorldKidLit on their radar.

Beverly Horowitz, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Delacorte Press, center top, and Arthur A. Levine, Founder of Levine Querido, center second row, attend SCBWI Japan Translation Days, November 2020

SCBWI can also be a valuable source of community for translators, and a place to consider translator rights and sustainable working conditions. The web page Translation in SCBWI brings together resources for translators about copyright, credit and compensation (what I call the 3 Cs); it also introduces SCBWI to translators pondering whether to join.

Like the publishing world in the US, where it was founded fifty years ago, SCBWI has traditionally focused on writing in English and on illustration. But change is afoot. I have observed that the organization benefits people laser-focused on translating children’s books into English. It is a place to learn “what works” in the industry and become part of it.

Translator social at SCBWI summer conference, 2021

Every event is a chance to raise a hand and say, “Now. What about translations?”


Avery Fischer Udagawa serves as Translator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (see Translation in SCBWI) and its Japan branch (see Ihatov). Avery’s translations from Japanese to English include the middle grade novels J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani and Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba. Her short story translations have appeared in Kyoto Journal, Words Without Borders, Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, The Best Asian Short Stories 2018, and A Tapestry of Colours 1: Stories from Asia. She lives near Bangkok.