Readers Ask
Every now and then I present questions that readers of Intralingo have asked regarding different aspects of literary translation, along with my answers.

Hi, Lisa,

I’ve agreed to translate a play by an author (he liked a previous translation I did of an earlier play of his). He’s admitted to a lack of funds, so I suggested we apply for grants and he readily agreed.

My main question is what does a literary translator’s CV look like?

According to a grant application, the limit is three pages. I thought I would provide a narrative bio with relevant “how I got to where I am” information (e.g., my background in theater and time spent in the source culture), plus current ATA activities, not more than a page, followed by two pages of published projects in list form. Does that sound reasonable?

I will mention my college degree and ATA certification in the narrative bio, so I wasn’t planning on a section for birth date and place, degrees, awards (none), etc. Will that be annoying?

My project list includes the previous play I translated by this author (published in 2003), film scenarios and subtitles, some very short stories, as well as art criticism. I separated the projects into “translation,” “translation editing,” and “monolingual editing,” and then a final category of “other works of note” where I’ll list more complex but not necessarily literary projects like the bilingual medical dictionary I edited and a radio show I produced about independent media during the war in the author’s country. I am putting items in the order of relevance and not in reverse chronological order (so the play will be first, then the film subtitles, then short stories, etc.).

I don’t have any fiction writing to my credit, and the articles I’ve published for ATA publications are rather simplistic (as are my blog posts), so I was planning on leaving them out. But do you think it’s worth mentioning published articles I’ve written even if they are concerned with translation practice and medical resources? Also an obituary of a colleague (which is the longest and most narrative piece of the bunch)?

Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to read this. Any suggestions you have will be most gratefully received.

Many regards,



Hi Paula,

When I was first designing my literary CV and then preparing material for my First Steps in Literary Translation class, I looked around at a lot of writer’s CVs. In essence, as I understand it, it should primarily be a list of your publications.

However, I think it can be a very good idea to start with a narrative bio. This will give a sense of your writing, and so it can be a very strong part of the CV. I would suggest it be short and to the point, though (around 100 words). If it’s too long, the grant application reviewer will likely only skim it.

After that, yes, a full list of publications. I divide mine into Book Translations and Short Story Translations. In another longer version I include Book Reviews and Writing.

Like you, my short literary CV doesn’t include education, personal details (except contact info, of course!), any of that stuff. While it can be related/relevant, it’s not what anyone reading a literary CV is going to focus on.

I absolutely agree that ordering the CV according to relevance is best. Whoever is reading it will not be concerned with the chronology, but the outcome of your experience.

In terms of your own writing, I would only put it in if it’s of significance. If you wanted, you could sum up your writing experience in one or two lines: “Various articles on translation published in industry periodicals.” That will count for something (it shows you can write and be published), but I really don’t think they’ll want to know the specifics.

Though you’re allowed three pages, remember that the people who are reading these applications will have stacks and stacks of them. The shorter and punchier yours is (in my experience), the more memorable it will be. Get straight to the point, include only what’s truly relevant, and showcase your translation/writing.

It’s fantastic that you’re applying for a grant! I really hope it works out for you. Let me know?

And if you want to follow up on anything above, don’t hesitate!


Readers, what do you include in your literary CV and how do you structure it? Do share in a comment!