Writing in English

Saturday 15.00, Room 2

“Writing in Swedish and English are two very different experiences. Your native language resonates in your bones. Each spoken word reaffirms or changes the world as you see it, intellectually and emotionally. Because Swedish is my mother tongue, I can take enormous liberties with it because I know exactly and instinctively how it works. English doesn’t quite allow itself to be grabbed by the scruff of its neck in the same way. As a result, I’m more careful with the prose, perhaps less adventurous, because without that gut reaction it’s hard to know exactly how something will resonate with an English-speaking reader. On the other, I may find paths into English that a native speaker might not, because there are aspects of your native tongue that you just don’t see since you are standing in the middle of it.”

- Karin Tidbeck, in her afterword to her award-winning collection Jagannath: Stories.

How do you sell your stories to the international market, when your first language isn’t English? What’s the best advice to the writers who want to write in English? What’s the best approach: to write your story in your native language and then translate it, or to write it directly in English?

Swedish author Karin Tidbeck and her Danish colleagues Michael Kamp and Henrik Harksen have all sold stories to international magazines and anthologies. They talk about writing in different languages and why it’s a good idea to master your own language before trying another.