Finnish Writers’ Union. Jyrki Vainola
Our union has approximately 750 members of Finnish fiction writers writing in Finnish.
The union was founded in 1897, so this year (2017) we’ll celebrate our 120th birthday and has been preparing the festive year throughout 2016.
In March we already had a series of literary nights in five cities in Finland (Tampere, Turku, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Oulu). In each night three different members of our union were discussing their writing and working methods in front of interested public audience. They were interviewed by another member of our union. The nights were a success, we had good and active audience in each city. Before the discussions I, as a president, gave some information of our union to the audience.
As connected to the celebrations, in May we will have a party for our members – every single one of them has been invited – in Helsinki. In May 1897, the first statutes of our union were accepted.
And in October the 10th, which is an official day for Finnish literature and a birthday of Aleksis Kivi, regarded as a founder of Finnish literature in Finnish, a history of our union will be published. It will be a first official history of the union of Finnish writers.
Otherwise, during the last year, our union has been active in defending copyright, and also writers’ right to a fee for performing, lecturing, reading etc.
The Finnish Association of Finnish Non-Fiction Writers. Jukka-Pekka Pietiäinen
The Association awarded a record total of EUR 2.3 million in grants. These grants are financed out of copying fees collected by the Kopiosto Copyright Society. This will remain as the record, because photocopying is declining fast and digital copying is not replacing it. Added to which, pictures and magazines are being copied more than non-fiction books in the digital world.
A course for writers of non-fiction was held for the fifth time. The topics of the six-day training were non-fiction culture in general, non-fiction writing skills, copyrights and publishing agreements, being a non-fiction writer, publishing skills, and digital publication. Training in other subjects was also arranged. The courses in non-fiction books and pictures, and in social media, for example, proved popular.
The Association published an article collection entitled “The textbook in the construction of Finland” describing the changes taking place in Finnish textbooks and providing a picture of the influence of textbooks on the teaching of various subjects. It is
a topical work now that digitalisation is changing the nature of teaching materials. Familiarity with one’s roots is a good springboard for the digital leap.
Now, for the first time, non-fiction books have entered the senior high-school curriculum for Finnish language and literature. The Association produced two book catalogues as an aid for teachers.
One of the catalogues gives recommended reading for the senior high-school. It was published in an edition of 10,000 and distributed to, among others, all teachers of Finnish language and literature. It was also published in digital format on the Association website. The other catalogue gave suggestions for the lower school and pre-school.
Together with the Tammi Publishing House we have launched a writing competition for children’s and teenage non-fiction. Not enough non-fiction is published for them in Finland. The winners will be announced at the Helsinki Book Fair in October 2017.
Commercial companies publish only one third of Finland’s non-fiction. Non-fiction books are also published by educational and research institutions, museums, libraries and archives, the public administration, associations, NGOs and foundations.
There are also many ‘stakeholder publishers’ for whom publishing is not their core business. They nevertheless publish literature that supports this business. An example is the City of Helsinki, which publishes 80 non-fiction books per year; this would be enough to place it in the top 12 list of commercial publishers.
The volume of self publishing is growing and the average quality is improving. Some non-fiction writers have no alternative but to publish their books themselves, because the commercial publishers have reduced their number of titles. Many coaches and consultants are able to sell their books themselves, so they prefer to publish them, too.
Printing costs have fallen dramatically in this age of digitalisation, so the financial potential for publishing at the writer’s expense has improved. Marketing is easy in social media if a book has a clearly-defined target readership.
Parliament almost doubled the sum set aside for fees payable on loans from libraries, to become effective in 2017. It now stands at over EUR 15 million, is on the level of the other Nordic countries and includes loans from teaching and research libraries, too.
Writers earn little. Royalties are small. Hence the need for library lending fees, copying fees and grants. Luckily, quite a few non-fiction writers have a second occupation, as teachers, university lecturers, researchers, journalists, coaches and consultants. The number of freelancers, i.e. self-employed persons, has risen rapidly due to, among other things, the sweeping changes taking place in the media.
Our Association has been involved in many joint book projects preparing for 2017, when Finland celebrates one hundred years as an independent Republic. One project, Kirja-
Suomi 2017 (Book Finland 2017), will continue throughout the year and is aimed primarily at non-fiction. The highlight of the year will be TIETOKIRJA.FI, a non-fiction festival to be held in Helsinki for the sixth time on August 30–31, 2017. Over these two days, the festival will feature more than 100 non-fiction writers and enthusiasts. The events will be open to the public and free.
Together with the book organisations we have been investigating the economic impact of the book sector. Though a small sector, it has a wide influence on the national economy, society and culture.
Thanks to its schools, its general standard of education and know-how, Finland has become a welfare state. Literature has played a major part in this process. But how long will this last? The biggest threat at the moment is the decline in literacy. One 15-year-old boy in eight cannot read sufficiently well to permit access to secondary education. Something is wrong with our education system.
Association of Polish Writers. Bogdan Baran
The Polish Writers’ Association’s tradition refers to the tradition of the Trade Union of Polish Writers established in 1920.
The organisation was suspended during the World War II by Nazis and reactivated in 1945 as the Union of Polish Writers which was suspended by the communist authorities during martial law in 1981 and disbanded in 1983. Majority of prominent writers including the Nobel prize winners Szymborska and Miłosz decided not to join the writers’ organisation of the same name reestablished soon after, not wanting to support the government in this way. They formed in 1984 the illegal organisation under the present name registered in 1989 after the fall of the communist regime.
Our association counts about 900 members and is divided into nine branches in the main towns of Poland.
In 2016 our work was similar as before and consisted in organizing meetings with authors for the broad audience as well as literary symposia. Especially active is the Warsaw Branch in the House of Literature right in the center opposite the Royal Castle.
Our leading project is the Bruno Schulz Literary Prize which we are about to organize in cooperation with Hebrew Writers Association from Israel.
We used to cooperate with the Ministry of Culture but there are some impediments now caused by the political orientation of the Polish right-wing authorities.
Union of Belarusian Writers. Aliaksandra Dvaretskaya
I’d like to start with good news, but I cannot. There is a new wave of political prosecution in Belarus. After the period of semblant liberalization and the beginning of the long-awaited dialogue with democratic countries, again has Belarusian power
started to use violence towards peaceful demonstrators, public activists, and cultural figures, as well as to resort to arrests and beatings of nonviolent resistance participants.
The current systemic economic crisis in Belarus and a number of unpopular legislative measures on the part of the state, the most controversial of which is Decree №3 “About the prevention of social parasitism”, aggravated tensions in society that resulted in mass peaceful protest actions all around the country in February and March.
“Decree №3 “About the prevention of social parasitism” came into force in the beginning of the year. According to the decree if Belarusian citizens don’t work officially they must pay special tax. Considering that the economy of Belarus is in deep crises now there are a lot of unemployed here and a lot of people get law salaries, so they couldn’t pay this tax.
“Decree №3” concerned the interest of the Union of Belarusian writers also. But at the beginning I’ll tell a little about common situation in cultural sphere in my country. I must notice that according to the old Soviet tradition, culture in Belarus is perceived by power only as a tool aimed at attending upon state ideology. If culture does not perform this function, the authorities ignore it or think it is hostile. Therefore, in Belarus, there are two cultures – the state-run one, which is popularized through the state-run mass media, and the independent one, and it polarizes society very much.
As a result there are two writers’ unions in Belarus. One of them – which is ours – was created during the Soviet period, but it strongly supports democratic values, and the other one, which was created by power, is headed by a general of militia and ministers to the authorities. In 2006, our union was deprived of its premises – its building was given to the pro-state union. Also, there were several attempts to liquidate our organization. However, the authorities’ strategy was not successful – the majority of talented and professional authors remained members of our union. Our cooperation with the Swedish Union of Writers has helped very much our exchange of experiences, the professional growth of the union, and the activization of its activity. But it’s not easy to be a member of the Union of Belarusian writers sometimes. We also still have political prisoners in Belarus and although none of them is a writer or our Union member, you know, separate authors and journalists are being prosecuted. There is censorship. We still have problems with book distribution with a governmental monopolist distributor in Belarus. Also the black lists of writers are still in use.
So now I’ll return to “Decree №3”. According the decree, the representatives of the creative unions must not pay this tax. You know, as the Union of Belarusian writers is one of the oldest Belarusian public organization, we were absolutely sure that Unions’ members must not pay anything. But on February there is another Decree №7 came up on the web-site of the Ministry of Culture. There was the list of creative unions in this decree, but there were no place for the Union of Belarusian writers. According this decree, the members of the Union, who work as freelance writers only were automatically included into the number of “parasites” and must pay this tax.
The Union of Belarusian writers reacted this decree immediately and sent protest to the Ministry of Culture. A lot of Belarusian writers also sent their protest to support the Union. Finally the Union of Belarusian writer was included in the list of Belarusian creative unions.
Unfortunately, It wasn’t the first time since the beginning of the year when the Union force to defend not only its rights but the rights of another writers.
Every February Michaś Stralcoŭ International Poetry Festival “Poems on Pavement” is organized there in Minsk by The Union of Belarusian Writers and Belarusian Pen-Center. Poets from different countries as Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Sweden, Finland etc usually take part in the festival events that traditionally include a poetry slam, literature readings and discussions, book presentations, musical concerts. This year among the foreign guests of the festival was famous Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan. He was in Minsk just to attend a poetry festival but at about two o’clock in the morning, a police patrol broke into his hotel room. Without explaining anything, the police officers took Sergei Zhadan to a jail where he spent the rest of the night in a cell. He was put a stamp in the passport, banning entry to Belarus for an indefinite period and ordered to leave on the basis of a 2015 Russian entry ban that accused him of “involvement in terrorism”. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have a common list of personae non grate. However, after the official protests from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, from Belarusian independent creative unions (among them was the Union of Belarusian writers also) the Belarusian authorities annulled the ban on entry to Belarus for Zhadan. The decision was taken within hours.
It was in the beginning of February. As I said before the current systemic economic crisis in Belarus and a number of unpopular legislative measures on the part of the state aggravated tensions in society that resulted in mass peaceful protest actions all around the country in the end of February and March.
The answer of the state to this reaction of society, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, was about a thousand of arrested persons, hundreds of people condemned according to administrative articles – basically activists of non-state public organizations and journalists. Some of them were sentenced to up to 15 days of arrest, others were fined. Several people were beaten. Mass and brutal arrests are connected to peaceful protests against the tax on unemployment. Dozens of people had been preventively arrested on the eve of celebration of Dzien Voli (Independence Day, anniversary of creation of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918, annual and main opposition event in the country). Authorities did not allow the event, but on March 25th thousands of brave people went out to streets in Minsk and some other towns. The regime used brutal force against them. Minsk was full of police and armed special forces. Participants, journalists, human rights activists, observers, and just accidental passersby
were detained. Police was very rude and harsh even with old people and women. Detainees were humiliated, their rights were widely violated.
Unprecedented as for their scale and cruelty repressions were continued by the fabrication of a criminal case according to the Article called “The organization of mass riots” (Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, Article 293, Part 3) against 26 citizens, among whom there are politicians, public activists, distributors of Belarusian-language books whom our Union work with, as well as ordinary citizens. All of them were arrested preventively and had nothing to do with the organization and carrying-out of either previous protest actions, or celebrating of the Freedom Day on March 25th.
The detentions within the framework of the “Case of 26” were implemented violently and reminded of kidnappings by unknown persons in mufti. For a few days, relatives and lawyers had no information on where the prisoners were kept, on their state of health and the reasons of the arrest.
The 26 arrested people are incriminated the preparation and training of persons in order to take part in mass riots, for which they can receive from three to fifteen years of imprisonment. Representatives of Belarusian democratic society considered that this criminal case against these people is of exclusively political character, it is unsubstantiated and its only purpose is to frighten society and to distract its attention from the socially-economic problems in the country.
As about “Decree №3” protests were not useless – the period of time during which a person had to pay the tax has been changed. If a person doesn’t work in 2017, than the tax will have to be paid in 2018. But the decree wasn’t abolished completely.
Estonian Writers’ Union. Tiit Aleksejev
Estonian Writers’ Union considers participation in Baltic Writers’ Council and supporting Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators important issues.
In Estonia the most important breakthrough in 2016 was the expansion of writers’ salaries issued by the state. In 2016 4 writers’ salaries were added to the previous 5. So altogether, the state is providing 8 scholarships for writers and Estonian Writers’ Union added one scholarship. The total number of the grant holders now (1 grant for 3 years, including social security) is 9. In 2017 there is hope that some more scholarships will be added by the state.
In 2016 a competition of novel manuscripts was held. It was a supported by private money, Estonian companies financed the prizes and the work of the jury.
The biggest literary festival in Estonia is HeadRead – it has grown to a significant tradition and takes place in the end of May.
Important actor in Estonian cultural field is the Estonian Cultural Endowment, which is supporting literature, visual arts, music, theatre etc. Cultural Endowment issues also the
most prestigious literary awards. In 2016 more promotion was organised and the nominees of the literary prizes were highlighted in public and media.
As a conclusion, it can be said that literature is doing fine in Estonia. Also Estonian Writers’ Union is doing good and is financially stable and independent.
The Society of Swedish Writers in Finland. Malin Kivelä
There is a Swedish speaking population in Finland of 5,5% and Swedish is the other national language of Finland. This is due to historical reasons: Finland was a part of Sweden for hundreds of years and the ruling language was Swedish.
The Society of Swedish Writers in Finland was founded in 1919, so there will be a 100-year-celebration in 2019, with a historic review being published.
From the start the Society was described as a purely professional union of fiction writers, critics and essayists. The main aim was, and still is, to safeguard the general and economic interests of the Swedish-language writers in Finland and to promote Swedish-language literature in Finland. Problems confronting us at that time, as well as at present, are mostly economical, in addition to questions concerning copyright.
The Society can be joined by a Swedish-language writer in Finland who has published at least two original works of fiction in Swedish. The Society has 190 members today.
There are some questions about whether it would be possible to start accepting writers with other mother tongues than Finnish and Swedish into the Writers’ Societies of our country. It seems difficult at the moment, but alternatives are being discussed.
The situation for authors in Finland is good compared to most other countries. There are state grants of 0.5–5 years to be applied for, as well as private foundations who issue grants. Every Finnish citizen has free basic health care. Still the grant sums are about half of a normal salary, so it is difficult to really live off them. The most important issues for us are contracts between authors and publishers, exercising proper influence on copyright legislation, defending the free lending of books in public libraries and the compensation therefore to the authors (the Public Lending Right-system, PLR), working for more government grants to authors and more and bigger artists’ state pensions, social security for authors and a lower VAT on e-books as well as paper books.
It is of great importance to the writers to have representatives in committees and boards dealing with the topics above – governmental and private ones. The Society is well represented, and also co-operates closely with other similar organisations, such as the Union of Finnish Writers, translators’ and dramatists’ unions and many more, also internationally.
Our long time secretary general and treasurer Merete Jensen is retiring this summer. A new secretary general and treasurer, Johanna Sandberg, has been appointed and she has started to work alongside Merete.
Swedish Writers’ Union. Viveka Sjögren
Copying our basic information from our website:
“About us: The Swedish Writers’ Union is the central professional organization for writers and literary translators in Sweden. The union safeguards the economic and moral interests of the members by defending freedom of expression and of the press, and keeping up to date with copyright stipulations and the laws regulating copyright. The Swedish Writers’ Union promotes the right of the members to a reasonable return on their work by safeguarding their moral rights, seeing to it that their works are not misrepresented or made public in ways not intended by them as authors, by entering into agreements which give the members financial gain and provide for their social security, and by protecting and aiding our members when, in the practice of their profession, they find themselves in conflict with employers, commissioning parties or the authorities.
The Writers’ Union office provides extensive membership services. A member may consult the office for individual help with interpretation and negotiation of contracts and agreements, tax counselling, and other issues specific to the professional activities of writers and translators.
The Writers’ Union provides its members with free negotiation services on agreements and copyright disputes. The Writers’ union may also absorb the litigation expenses incurred in lawsuits, for example relating to freedom of the press, if the executive board considers the dispute to be of interest as a matter of principle.
The Swedish Association of Authors was founded in 1893, and was initially open to all writers. The bylaws were amended, however, during the 1930s, to some extent excluding translators and writers of non-fiction. This led to the founding of Minerva in 1946, the Association for Swedish Writers of Scientific Works and Works of Popular Science; the founding of The Swedish Association of Writers of Juvenile Literature in 1948; and the Swedish Association of Literary Translators in 1954. In 1956, these four associations merged to form the Swedish Central Organization of Free Literary Professionals (FLYCO), and in 1970 this organization was restructured into the present Swedish Writers’ Union.
Today, the Union has approximately 3 000 members. The office has been located in Stockholm, in the “Writers’ House” on Drottninggatan in the city centre, since 1989. The building also houses an international guest apartment with rooms for visiting writers and translators.
The writers’ unions and organizations in other countries with which The Swedish Writers’ Union co-operates internationally include the Nordic Council of Writers and Translators and the European Writers’ Council.
The Swedish Writers’ Union also has a long history of exchanges with other writers’ and translators’ organizations, and with individual authors. It receives many visits each year from individual writers and delegations of writers from other nations wanting to learn about it’s activities and Swedish cultural policy, and to come into contact with Swedish literature and writers. The Writers’ Union also initiates study visits abroad for Swedish writers and translators.
In the early 1990s, The Swedish Writers’ Union and the other organizations for writers and translators in the countries around the Baltic Sea held a joint two-week seminar entitled “Waves of the Baltic Sea”, as a result of which the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Visby on the island of Gotland in the Baltic came into being. A similar seminar was held a couple of years later with authors and translators around the Black Sea and the Aegean, after which an equivalent centre was established on the island of Rhodes in the Aegean, Three Seas Writers’ and Translators’ Centre.
WALTIC (Writers’ and Literary Translators’ International Congress), an international congress to manifest “the value of words” was held in Stockholm, Sweden from 29 June to 2 July 2008. Authors, literary translators and scholars from all over the world met during the first WALTIC congress ever. WALTIC was organized by The Swedish Writers’ Union. A second WALTIC was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2010.”
And the information about the International Council, which I represent:
“The Swedish Writers ‘ Union’s international work from 2016 and onward
The international work within the Swedish Writers ‘ Union consists mainly of the following, the International Council (IR) being responsible for some:
• Contact and international cooperation with sister associations in other countries, and “umbrella” associations (other writer’s and translator’s associations as well as the BWTC, NFOR and EWC).
• Cooperation with ICORN and PEN, regarding actions for persecuted writers and translators and other issues such as safeguarding freedom of expression.
• Foreign delegations or single author visits.
• Member meetings and gatherings.
The International Council consists of one chairperson, two representatives from each section, taking turns in attendance and two from the Writer’s Union’s board. The work is assisted by the Secretary of the Writer’s Union.
IR holds meetings twice every semester.
IR receives and acts advisory regarding suggestions for collaborations and arrangements from other organizations, embassies, individual members or others.
IR administers and is responsible for contacts with ICORN, and the guest writers in sanctuary cities.
IR keeps contact with the Arts Council and the Swedish Institute in order to be updated on priorities and ongoing projects and to assist members planning to apply for funds to implement literary projects abroad or exchange projects with other countries.
(It is always ultimately the Swedish Writer’s Union Board that takes the final decision (based upon the preparatory work of the AU, sometimes together with IR) whether to support the individually initiated projects.)
IR holds an “autumn mingle” to which we invite organizations, associations, foundations, foreign embassies, etc. with a common interest in international and literary issues.
IR organizes member gatherings and seminars, both on its own and in collaboration with other sections.
IR collaborates with the Klas the Vylder’s Foundation for immigrant writers. Last year’s laureates were Shora Esmailian, Refik Licina och Anisur Rahman.
IR intends to participate with at least one seminar at the B&B-fair in Gothenburg. (This year our program will be held on another location than the bookfair)
IR along with the secretariat ensures that the Association’s list (located on the SFF home page) of international contacts, stipends and Guest houses both in and outside of Sweden, is kept up to date.”
The main issue at the moment is the presence of Nya Tider at the bookfair. Nya Tider is a right wing extreme populistic magazine with nazist and conspiracy opinions published once a week by AlternaMedia, by publisher Vávra Suk. Taking stand on either bojkotting the Bookfair for letting up place for Nya Tider, or going there to uphold democracy values has become a dividing topic within the community of writers and translators. The Writers’ Union itself has yet not decided in the matter, (So far the Writers’ Centre, some agencies and publishing houses, along with an increasing number writers and translators have decided not to attend.) An alternative bookfair is growing as a result of this, and will take place on other locations, such as Gothenburg University, Gothenburg Museum of World Culture and The Gothenburg Literary House.
And some good news, negotiations about the PLR remuneration have landed in a good increase for each library loan. The agreement : 2018 an increase of 8 öre to 1 krona and 68 öre and 2019 with additional 8 öre to 1 krona and 76 öre. This gives a total PLR 2018
around 163,8 million kronor. 2019: 171,6 million kronor, an increase of 7,8 million kronor compared to 2018.
Additional report of Swedish Writers’ Union’s activities in 2016 sent by Gunnar Ardelius, President of the Swedish Writers’ Union
In accordance with the statutes, the Union is there to protect the writers’ freedom of speech and to strengthen members’ working conditions as writers and translators.
2016 marked the 250th anniversary of the Riksdag introducing press freedom. In February, the Swedish Writers’ Union and the Swedish Publishers’ Association wrote a joint article in the Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet stating that Swedish press freedom must apply whether a text is published in a physical book or in an e-book.
Over the year, updated and modernised agreements have been signed with the publishers Norstedts, Bonniers and Atlas. The Swedish Writers’ Union also directed sharp criticism at the growing player Storytel for its poor agreements and problematic attitude towards copyright, which has attracted a great deal of media attention. The criticism led to an initial meeting with Storytel, and an agreement was made to review the conditions for signing an agreement.
Together with several other cultural organisations, the Swedish Writers’ Union published an article on SVT Opinion about private copying, demanding that companies such as Telia Sonera, Sony Communications and Samsung stop depriving culture creators of the payments to which they are entitled. The outcome of this pressure is that negotiations are now set to begin.
The Swedish Writers’ Union’s previous statement on Stockholm City Library’s unreasonable remuneration to authors led in 2016 to a new agreement from Stockholm City Library, which the Union was involved in drawing up.
The Union’s work over many years to highlight the issue of hate and threats resulted in a report from the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis showing that a large proportion of the membership has been affected. The report attracted wide coverage and the Government announced that in 2017 it would be presenting a national strategy aimed at resolving the problems. The Union has decided to publish a supportive guide that will reach members in late winter/early spring 2017.
Göteborg Book Fair in Gothenburg was turbulent in many ways. The presence of the far-right newspaper Nya Tider prompted extensive debate about freedom of speech within the Union. A demonstration was organised at the book fair in support of freedom of speech. A seminar at the book fair on the translation of controversial words met with criticism and the Swedish Writers’ Union issued a public apology. As a result of this work, the Union is arranging talks to promote an in-depth discussion of the issue.
In autumn 2016, the Union’s Sami working group unveiled a 10-point programme on a trip to Jokkmokk. The initiative was warmly received and a Sami literature centre in Jokkmokk is expected.
The Union raised several objections to the Government’s investment in the LÄSLOV school holiday reading initiative. In an article in DN-debatt, the Union stated that the investment in LÄSLOV is a recognition of a failure in schools. Following the article, Education Minister Gustav Fridolin called a meeting to discuss the criticism.
A demonstration was held outside the Turkish Embassy together with various sister organisations to demand the release of hundreds of Turkish writers and journalists.
The President of the Swedish Writers’ Union took part in a meeting at the Foreign Ministry with Minister Margot Wallström as part of a campaign for the release of Dawit Isaak. The Union’s participation in the support committee will continue in 2017.
A delegation comprising the working committee of the Union’s board visited Moscow in February, and new contacts were established. As a result of the trip, a Swedish-Russian writers’ conference will be held in Visby in 2017.
Latvian Writers’ Union. Mudite Treimane
Latvian Writers’ Union unites 250 poets, prose writers, playwrights, literary scholars, critics and translators. Writers’ Union popularizes and supports Latvian literature and its authors. It arranges different literary events at the premises of the Union. Writers’ Union supports its members’ participation in different literary festivals and programs, readings, conferences, creative workshops.
It has its office also in Liepāja (in Kurzeme region). A regional literary magazine VĀRDS (The Word) is published by Liepāja writers. It co-operates with International Writers’ and Translators’ House or Ventspils House.
Latvian Ministry of Culture supports the membership of Latvian Writers’ Union in 3 international organizations: BWC, EWC and Three Seas.
Latvian Writers’ Union is one of the founding members of ENLIT (European Network for Literary Translation).
A literary magazine DOMUZĪME (Dash) comes out 4 times a year (since 2015, but is not published by Latvian Writers’ Union).
“The Process” is series of readings and talks, which started at the end of 2016 at the premises of Writers’ Union. The aim of readings was to come together regularly for authors to read new texts, to discuss the process of creation and current themes.
Latvian Writers’ Union for the 1st time was the organizer of very popular literary event PROSE READNGS, which goes on for several days in different places in Riga. It is a yearly
festival, taking place at the beginning of December, which has become popular year by year. Latvian writers as well as guest writers of different generations read their latest, unpublished works or fragments of them.
The Annual Latvian Literature Award (LALIGABA) is the most important literary award in Latvia. Each year the award is given to Latvian authors for the best prose and poetry books, the best children’s books, the best translations of foreign literature into Latvian, and the best debut in literature. Each year there is also an award for lifetime achievements. It is organized by Latvian Writers’ Union and Ventspils House.
Latvian Writers’ Union in 2016 organized Poetry festival (the largest literary festival in Latvia) which was supported by State Cultural Endowment and Riga City Council. Presentation of the 6th Poetry disc “Corpus Poesis” (16 poets read their poems) took place on the 1st day of the festival. The festival programme included readings of young poets, poetry slam, classical poetry evenings, master-classes and readings of foreign guests. The programmes were traditional, new and experimental ones, and 30 different events, dedicated to poetry, took place. 16 foreign guests from 7 countries participated in the festival.
The programme Literary Academy (with the support of Latvian Ministry of Culture) continues to give the possibilities to authors – eager to go in for prose, poetry and playwriting – to attend courses, lectures, seminars and master-classes.
The programme of the Academy was carried out by the Writers’ Union and supported by Latvian Ministry of Culture. The activities were taking place at the premises of Writers’ Union. Approximately 300 people had participated in different activities of the Academy. 200 authors had sent in their written works to literary competitions, organized during last year. Approximately 200 authors had taken part in seminars and master-classes.
In 2016 the seminar MATRIS LINGUA took place for the third time for the authors, whose native language was not Latvian.
Activities of Literary Academy took place also in Kurzeme and in Latgale.
When Latvian Literature Centre ceased to exist, Writers’ Union took over part of the Centre’s functions. One of them is the three-year program “Support for Foreign Publishers Publishing Latvian Literature”. The aim of it is to ensure that the best of Latvian prose, poetry, drama, journalism and children’s literature is accessible and known beyond the borders of Latvia. This program is a part of a group of joint activities, which the Latvian Ministry of Culture and State Cultural Endowment finances in cooperation with Latvian Publishers’ Association, Ventspils House and Latvian Writers’ Union. The Program has been developed, organized and administered by Latvian Writers’ Union.
The aim of the Grant Program is to provide financial support to foreign publishers publishing Latvian literature, thereby developing the interest of foreign publishers in Latvian literature and its translations in different languages. More information available in www.latvianliterature.lv
Latvian Writers’ Union still runs a residency at Dubulti (the seaside resort in Jurmala): a cottage with 11 rooms – both single and double ones for the price of 35.00 EUR. During the summertime all the rooms are occupied. During other months everyone is welcome to Jurmala.
Residency Ventspils House www.ventspilshouse.lv is still popular – not only in Latvia but also abroad.
It continues to cooperate with permanent partners: Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), literary organisation Free Word Centre (London), translators house Looren (Switzerland), BCWT (Visby), Norden. The House has become a member of RECIT (a network of European literary translation centres) and Res Artis (Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies). Ventspils House cooperates with different festivals.
Contacts have been established also with writers’ residence in Finland Villa Sarkia and with a residence Michael King Writers’ Centre in Auckland in New Zealand.
In 2016 different activities had taken place: not only in the House, but also in Ventspils town organized by the House. 18 literary events (concerning literature and translation) were: poetry and prose readings, seminars and concerts with participation of the residents and local writers and artists.
The House has regular cooperation with cultural organizations of Ventspils town and region, Ventspils cultural centre, cultural societies, Ventspils University College and libraries.
Ventspils House continues to promote translation of Latvian literature in other languages and attends Book Fairs in Frankfurt, London, Gothenburg, Bologna.
In addition Ventspils House has organized an award ceremony for two literary events: The Annual Latvian Literature Award and the International Jānis Baltvilks Baltic Sea Region Award, which is the most important literary award for achievements in children’s literature in Latvia.
The Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators. Kazimiera Astratoviene
The Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators started its this year‘s activities with the traditional election of the best translated book of the year. The main criterion for assessing the translated books is the artistic value of the book, and, of course, it’s accurate professional translation. The competition is aimed at helping the readers, libraries and bookshops select the most significant works of world literature, promote
reading. At the same time it is sought to present and popularize the profession of a literary translator.
Pursuing the traditional educational activities and seeking to help literary translators improve their translation skills, seminar on translating movie texts and a movie texts’ translation competition was conducted.
The year 2016 was declared the Year of the literature of Asian Countries. The aim of it is to improve the dissemination of the literature of Asian Countries in Lithuania, to demonstrate the value of this literature to readers, publishers and libraries. In this occasion the competition Noriu versti (or I want to be a translator) has been organized. It was dedicated to the literature of Asian Countries and the participants were offered to translate texts from Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit and Turkish languages.
As every year, St Jerome Awards were given to a literary translator for his/her translations into the Lithuanian language as well as to a translator from the Lithuanian language. Also, traditionally awards to the editor of fiction and humanitarian literature for his/her lifetime achievements, as well as to a novice translator for the best translation début were presented, as well as the Bičiulių or Friends Award which is given to an individual or an organization for contributing substantially to artistic translation or the profession of a translator during the recent year.
In 2014 Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators celebrated ten years‘ anniversary, on this occasion it started a new project – there was created a collection of literary translators’ portraits in order to call to public attention the creative work of translators and to raise the prestige of the translator’s profession. In years 2015–2016 this collection was exhibited in different libraries of Lithuania. While opening the exhibition in a new place, readings and discussions about good translated literature were organized.
One more bit of news is that The Association started to publish the online magazine called Hieronymus: its aim is to publish most valuable texts of prose and poetry translated from different languages, focus on the most important literary news, also publish interviews with the translators and translation reviews.
It‘s also important to point out, that seeking to help literary translators to improve their negotiation skills and to deepen their knowledge about the copyright law and the authors‘ rights seminars together with lawyers were organized.