Siân Mackie


Siân is a translator from the Norwegian. She is currently co-translating The Missing Children (publishing May 2015) with her mentor, Don Bartlett. Here's what she had to say about herself:

I was born and raised in Edinburgh. As a child I liked reading, swimming and charging around outside with my friends, where we would spend hours making up all sorts of weird and wonderful games and stories involving a wide range of colourful characters (an activity in which my sister and I still occasionally indulge, having recently and quite by accident co-created a story about a secret society of herb masters headed by wise old Father Thyme).

My favourite books when I was varying degrees of little included Aileen Paterson’s books about Maisie the kitten, Grimms’ folk tales, anything by Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and other beloved stories such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Our headmaster at primary school also read us a number of Shakespeare’s plays, something for which I am incredibly grateful and which undoubtedly contributed to my life-long interest in theatre and drama.

In my teenage years I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi novels by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Phillip Pullman, H. G. Wells and Douglas Adams as well as developing an interest in historical fiction. This combination ultimately led to me reading the Icelandic sagas, and the resultant budding interest in Nordic literature was one of the contributing factors to my decision to study Scandinavian languages at university. While at university, I also rediscovered my love of children’s literature through the medium of Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, whose antics brightened up many an hour spent in the library (although I’m not sure it did much for the other students who had to endure my incessant giggling).

I now work for a translation company near Southampton, where I translate everything from user manuals and medical texts to tourist guides and press releases. This along with reading as many books as I can get my hands on has been invaluable for maintaining my language skills as I attempt to break into the wonderful, rich and varied world of literary translation. Last year I was also lucky enough to be awarded a place on the British Centre of Literary Translation’s mentorship programme, an experience that acquainted me with the lovely Don Bartlett as well as Phoenix Yard Books and proved a wonderful start to my literary career!

Nowadays in my spare time I still enjoy reading in addition to learning other languages, travelling, going to the theatre and listening to music. I also enjoy ice cream and singing when I think no one’s listening (which they invariably are). Authors whose work I have enjoyed recently include Siri Pettersen, Pedro Carmona-Alvarez, Meera Syal and Mary Shelley.

I love children’s literature because it is boundless: anything is possible. As a child I could lose myself in a book for hours. I explored the universe from inside my bedroom; and now I hope to contribute to expanding this universe for today’s young readers.