Emerging Translator Mentorship Program

Emerging Translator Mentorship Program

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to establish and facilitate a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately one year. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in a year’s time, and they will only be advised on that particular project. ALTA's Emerging Translator Mentorship Program was founded by former ALTA board member Allison M. Charette. 

Program Structure

The mentor and mentee meet at the beginning of their mentorship at the annual ALTA conference, and continue their work during the rest of the mentorship year, either in person, over Skype, or by phone. A minimum of six meetings is expected for the course of the year. The mentorship will conclude with a presentation of the mentee’s work in a reading during National Translation Month (September) of the following year. A number of magazine editors have agreed to review submissions directly from mentees at the end of their mentorship year, and to work with them on potential future projects. The award covers travel to the ALTA conference at the beginning of the mentorship.

Former Mentees

Click here to read about ALTA's current and former mentees.

Mentorship Program Accomplishments

Click here to read about the many accomplishments of ALTA's current and former mentees. 

2020 Mentorships

As we celebrate four successful years of ALTA's Mentorship Program, and after consultation with past mentors, funders, and mentees, we are implementing some changes to make the program even stronger. For the 2020 Mentorships, the program timeline will shift. Applications will be accepted from September-December, 2019, and the program will run from February-November, 2020, culminating at the ALTA conference in Tucson, AZ. Please check back for more information, and to apply, as the year progresses. There will be an informational session at ALTA42 in Rochester, NY, so please plan to attend!

2018-2019 Mentorships

Applications were accepted through May 13, 2018. The following 2018-2019 Mentorships were available:

  • Polish prose, with mentor Bill Johnston
  • Russian prose, with mentor Marian Schwartz
  • Non-language-specific poetry, with mentor Kareem James Abu-Zeid
  • Non-language-specific prose, with mentor Madhu Kaza

Additional information about the Non-Language-Specific Mentorship:

  • This mentorship will be preferentially awarded to a translator working from an underrepresented or underfunded language.
  • Preference will not be given to projects from the mentor's language.
  • Projects may not be proposed from languages already offered in language-specific mentorships (i.e. Russian or Polish prose)
  • AmazonCrossing will be granted right of first refusal on the completed manuscript resulting from this mentorship.

Applications must be submitted online through our submission platform, and must include:

  • CV
  • A project proposal of no more than 1000 words. Projects must be reasonably expected to be completed within the scope of the one-year mentorship. Proposals should include information about the original author and importance of the source text, as well as how the emerging translator would benefit from mentorship. One round of judging will be blind, so the translator’s name should NOT appear anywhere on this document.
  • A sample translation of 8-10 pages double spaced (prose or poetry), along with the corresponding source text. One round of judging will be blind, so the translator’s name should NOT appear anywhere on this document.

The 2018-2019 mentorships are being offered by ALTA in partnership with AmazonCrossing, the Polish Cultural Institute New York, and the Russian Federation Institute of Literary Translation.


The program is open to emerging translators at no cost to them. An emerging translator is someone who has published no more than one full-length work of translation. MFA and MA students in translation can apply, but priority may be given to those who do not have access to the kind of guidance already present in a translation degree program. Though English is the target language, the emerging translator need not live in the United States. The selected mentee’s proposed project will be worked on based on availability (applicants are not expected to secure rights for their proposal).

This program is distinct from the ALTA Travel Fellowships. Applicants may apply to both programs in the same year, but only may only receive one award. Previous years' Fellows are welcome to apply for the Mentorship Program.

2018-2019 Mentors

Kareem James Abu-Zeid is a translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. His work has earned him an NEA translation grant (2018), PEN Center USA’s Translation Award (2017), and Poetry Magazine's translation prize (2014), among other honors.

Bill Johnston is Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University. He has published over thirty book-length translations from the Polish, including poetry, prose, and drama. His most recent translations are Julia Fiedorczuk’s Oxygen (Zephyr Press, 2017) and Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz (Archipelago Books, forthcoming).

Born in Andhra Pradesh, India, Madhu H. Kaza is a writer, translator, artist and educator based in New York City. She is the the editor of Kitchen Table Translation, a volume that explores the connection between translation and migration. She directs the Bard Microcollege at Brooklyn Public Library.

Marian Schwartz is a freelance translator of Russian classic and contemporary fiction, a past president of the American Literary Translators Association, and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowships and the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature.

Past Mentorships

Previous years have included mentorships working from the following languages: 

  • Catalan, with mentors Mara Faye Lethem (2017-2018) and Ronald Puppo (2015-2016)
  • French, with mentors Emmanuelle Ertel (2016-2017) and Alyson Waters (2015-2016)
  • Korean, with mentors Sora Kim-Russell (prose, 2017-2018) and Don Mee Choi (poetry, 2017-2018)
  • Polish, with mentor Bill Johnston (2016-2017, 2015-2016)
  • Russian, with mentor Marian Schwartz (2016-2018)
  • A Singaporean national language (Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil), with mentor Jeremy Tiang (2016-2017) and applications judged by Alvin Pang
  • Non-language-specific mentorships, with mentors Bill Johnston (2017-2018) and Steven Bradbury (2017-2018) 

These mentorships were offered by ALTA in partnership with the Institut Ramon LlullThe French Embassy Books Office, the Literary Translation Institute of Korea, the Polish Cultural Institute New York, the Russian Federation Institute of Literary Translation, the National Arts Council of Singapore, AmazonCrossing and the Amazon Literary Partnership.