METM22: The personal touch

Hello to all my blog readers. I’m back in Prague after METM22. “The personal touch” was a fitting theme for this year’s Mediterranean Editors and Translators’ Meeting held in the lovely coastal city of Donastia/San Sebastián in the Basque Country. After two years of online conferences, we were all excited to finally be getting together in person. It was quite a long trek from Prague but everything went smoothly and, although I set off on my own, by the time I got the bus from Bilbao airport to San Sebastián, there were four of us travelling together. I always love this last leg of the journey to METM filled with anticipation of the days ahead.

After a late lunch near the bus station in San Sebastián, I got settled into my room situated near the far end of La Concha beach which was handy for social events such as the welcome drinks I headed to on that first evening. It was a bit further to get to the conference itself but the walk along the beach to the venue was a pleasure, either along the promenade, across the sand or with a paddle in the sea. And there were also plenty of buses when I didn’t have the urge to walk.

I attended the pre-conference workshop “Readability: 10 strategies for improving flow in translated or non-English speakers’ texts” by John Bates. We learnt tips such as varying our sentences, using modifiers with care and breaking up stacked structures. The workshop was both enjoyable and informative and well worth the wait as I had been keen to get a place on this particular one for several years.

Before the conference proper, I also participated in the Word Tech Clinic with Jenny Zonneveld. She figured out how to suppress page numbers on third-level headings when adding the various authors’ names to the table of contents of a book. Jenny went the extra mile to help me solve my problem, which was greatly appreciated.

There were two excellent keynotes this year. First, cognitive scientist Jon Andoni Duñabeitia gave an engaging talk entitled “A look inside the multilingual mind: how words and contexts interact as we understand and produce language”. In the second keynote, Helen Oclee-Brown interviewed the “Book Doctor” Sally Orson-Jones. Sally has helped many authors craft their works into good shape for publication and gave us a fascinating insight into her work.

Photo from Sally Orson-Jones’s website

I was honoured to be invited to be a panelist at this year’s METM. I really enjoyed reading Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self by Julie Sedivy and preparing our panel discussion on “Language inherited and inhabited: multilingualism, selves and worlds” with my inspiring colleagues Aleksandra Chlon, Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, Theresa Truax-Gischler and Wendy Baldwin. In the light of our own diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, we discussed topics such as our experiences with migration and belonging, which seemed to resonate with many members of the audience. Wendy did a fabulous job of bringing it all together as our moderator, as did Jason Shilcock as our session chair.

Photo by Maria Sherwood-Smith

I also ran a short session “Spit and polish: interactive editing”.  It was fun to see what my colleagues came up with when working on texts ranging from the translator’s note for a Czech sci-fi book translated into English to the introduction of an academic article by a German sociologist. Everyone invariably found something different and I think we would have all liked more time to go into more depth. A big thank you to Kymm Coveney for assisting me as the session chair!

As a big fan of the MET Conversations which have been held on Zoom regularly over the past two years, I loved the talk by Kit Cree on “Building an online community – thinking inside the box”. Many thanks to her for her tireless work in providing us with these wonderful ways to stay connected and keep learning together when we were unable to meet in person.

As well at the workshops and conference sessions, we were also able to enjoy a wide range of Off-METM activities and other extra-curricular events. The first was a city tour with a lively Go Local guide called Alain who gave us a short lesson about the Basque Country and taught us a few useful Basque phrases in addition to showing us round. Later in the day, after the afternoon’s workshops, we unwound with a fun and relaxing yoga session with Courtney Greenlaw focusing on problems caused by too many hours in front of the computer.

Photo by Karin Rockstad

For an Off-METM dinner, I choose the Craft beer corner at Mala Gissona run by Karin Rockstad and was not disappointed with the selection of beer and great company.  Another highlight of the social calendar was the welcome reception at the Palacio Miramar overlooking the beach at sunset. We were all mesmerized by the Ugarte Anaiak/the Ugarte Brothers playing the Basque instrument the txalaparta here. Then some of us headed off for a superb Humanities and Social Sciences dinner afterwards where the wine and conversation flowed.

Photo by Kelly Dickeson

After the closing dinner at the Hotel de Londres on the Saturday night, many of us danced away into the early hours to the tunes of the fabulous DJ Jorge Grande from Txingudideejays. I’m glad I still made it to the walk along the Camino de Santiago on Sunday though. We took the funicular up the hill and then had a lovely wander along the Camino before catching the bus back into town in time for a late lunch of pintxos. I also managed to fit in a few swims during the week although the sometimes wild Atlantic bowled me over a few times until I learnt to ride the waves.

Once all the main conference events were over, I enjoyed  a mouthwatering main course of zucchini with green Thai curry sauce and a delicious dessert of puff pastry with cream at Jatetxea with the Foodies Translators group. I spent my final day in San San Sebastián relaxing and then had dinner with a new friend from the conference before heading off to Bilbao the following lunchtime.

My flights home via Düsseldorf were cancelled twice due to a three-day strike by Eurowings pilots. After leaving an Airbnb room with a dodgy drunken host, I booked into a fancy hotel instead and am claiming compensation from the airline. I made the most of the hotel spa and had nice dinners with two of my colleagues from the conference. Although I didn’t make it to the inside of the Guggenheim, I had a wonderful walk along the river after dinner to see it by night.

Although my flights home two days later than originally planned were fine in the end, I think I will take the train to the next METM in Mantua (Mantova in English), Italy on 12–14 October 2023. Like many of my colleagues, I also brought back an unwanted souvenir of Covid but the conference was such an amazing experience overall, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. A massive thank you to the brilliant organizers!

Blog post edited by Robin Finesilver.