Eater of Words Podcast: Episode 1 – Dave Carpenter

I’m back, baaaaay-baaaaaay!

Phew. The last two months have been hectic and exhausting and all around madness. I moved across the country, started a new job, furnished my new apartment, got entangled in the nightmare of non-Saskatchewan Canadian bureaucracy (still ongoing), went to Germany, had a cousin stay with me for a week right after I came back from Germany, and have overall been extremely busy.

But now, I’m back. And what better way to pick up again than with the inaugural episode of my podcast? The audio is still a bit low in some parts, but I’m learning.

Without any further ado – here’s the audio. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Eater of Words, Episode 1: Dave Carpenter

Cormac McCarthy – No Country For Old Men

Telegrams were a bit before my time but most of us are still familiar with their staccato style which was solely intended to transmit information (for modern comparison: think of text messages and their, sometimes odd, abbreviations). In this respect, Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel No Country For Old Men reminded me of telegrams (or text messages, if you will).

The book opens up with Llewelyn Moss hunting antelope in the Texas desert one morning when he comes across the scene of a drug deal gone awry. Everybody’s dead, except for one badly injured Mexican. He also finds a satchel with 2.4 million dollars. He takes the money and goes home, but returns to attend the injured Mexican. However, another truck arrives. From there, the chase is on.

The novel was originally drafted as a screenplay which may explain its style of mostly short, functional sentences. It indeed had the effect of reading the treatment of a screenplay: I felt like I was holding a camera, following the characters, and transcribing their actions and words. No time for poetic prose or introspection. Functionality over everything.

This narrative distance however also means that we don’t get any introduction to the characters. We are just thrown into the action and have to figure out what is actually happening and why. Who is Llewelyn Moss? Who is Anton Chigurh? What are their likes, their dislikes? What is their background? Their motivation? We really don’t know for the most part. All we learn about them is what they tell us or what sheriff Bell finds out. That is it.

However, McCarthy employs another interesting stylistic choice which actually helped me along the way: he doesn’t use quotation marks. He doesn’t even separate a character’s actions from his speech. They occur together in the same paragraph and it is up to us, the reader, to figure it out. The only help we get is that McCarthy uses vernacular spelling and idiomacy expression for direct speech (e.g. “sit” becomes “set”).

The resulting effect of this choice on me was that, as a reader, I constantly had to be on my toes. I had to read closely and couldn’t skim over a sentence or space out. Yet, still, I’m not sure I picked up every clue and hidden nod towards what was actually going on. Anton Chigurh, for example, remains a mystery to me.

Having said this, the story is actually quite engaging although there is no reason why we should care for any of the characters since we don’t know enough about any of them and none of them are really portrayed as likeable – with the only exception perhaps being sheriff Bell, who is also the only character we get to know a bit about in the form of brief, journal-like excerpts that open up every chapter.

If you enjoy (modern) Westerns or thrillers involving mysterious characters and nebulous motivations, or if you’re more interested in plot than poetic prose, No Country For Old Men is for you. It’s gritty, rough around the edges and unpretentious. In that, its style reflects the content.

New Year, New Cymaen

Hello again, my favorite people. Yes, you. All of you. It’s a new year and, as far as I’m concerned, everybody starts with a clean slate. Which means you, who are reading this, already got on my good side. Congratulations! Happy New Year!

A new year also means that SiNoWriMo is over and done with. I ended up just short of 23,000 words which is fine but only about half of what I was aiming for. I would be disappointed but I decided to be less hard on myself this year and so I just shrugged it off. It is what it is. Writing is not a matter of how fast you get words on the page. It is about getting those damn words on this blank, snow-white sheet of bleached, dead wood at all. So: good job, Simon. Give yourself a pat on the back. (Although there’s still a little devil on my shoulder who whispers in my ear: ‘get yer lazy arse back to work, ya filthy fecker.’ Don’t know why he’s Irish though.)  

So. With all that 2018 baggage out of the way, let’s turn towards 2019. And you know what that brings? Yes! The debut of the Eater of Words Literary Podcast! But hold on, why do I write about it, when I can TELL YOU?

Too bad that I have the face for radio, but not the voice. Anyway, this is what you get. Hope you tune in.

As you can also see: the wordpress part in the URL is gone. Which means I purchased this domain. Well, actually I’m renting it, I guess, since it costs me 120 CAD a year, or 10 bucks a month. Maybe I’ll need to upgrade it eventually. But for now it’s got all the tools I need.

With the new (less complicated) domain come a few changes. Change number 1: less personal rambling. Also, there’s a schedule I’ve set for myself. A weekly rotation for every month and it goes like this:

Week 1: An outlook on what I’m doing this month (basically a little personal rambling)

Week 2: A brief review of a book I’ve read the last month

Week 3: Something on the craft of writing

Week 4: Podcast Episode

Now, the tricky thing is: there are some months with five Sundays. I haven’t quite gotten around to finalize the plans on those. There’s an idea – but that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

So, I think we covered everything, right? Right. I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men. I have no idea where I’m going with this, but we’ll see what I come up with – next week.

Until then: stay literate.

SiNoWriMo Week 2+3: Want to know how this thing is going? Two words: not good.

This is terrible. Awful. Why would you do this to yourself? Stop already. This is literally the drizzling shits. And offense to anybody who’s ever written anything.

Just a glimpse into the thoughts I go through every day while writing.

Okay, not every day. Some days I skip my writing. I know I shouldn’t. But I try to have 1 day per week to do everything else: grocery shopping. Searching for jobs. Doing laundry. Literally everything else, so I can focus on writing for the rest of the week. Maybe that’s a bad habit, but it’s an established one now. And bad habits are hard to get rid of, or whatever that saying is.

Having said all that: I’m 15,907 words in. I should be at about 35,000 words. At this point, I might as well swing for the fences. What’s the worst that can happen?

Right. So, I guess that’s all you need to know at this point. Let me get back to my writing. Because to a certain extent, I still believe I can reach my goal of 50,000 words. As nuts as that will sound to anybody who’s ever written fiction. Or anything else. I can do this. All you need is the right environment, lots of tea and a bit of an obsession with your characters and the journey they’re engaged in.

Let me plunge back in. And maybe we can get a chant going?

I can still do this.

I can do this.

I can do this.

Now you…

See you next week – with something very special. Until then: Merry Christmas from the catsitter and Balto 🙂

Balto, here seen at her least scared.

SiNoWriMo, Week 1: A Slow Start

Words are hard. Especially when they are supposed to form coherent sentences that merge into a coherent paragraph which, hopefully, blooms into a coherent text. Even worse: the longer you haven’t written on a consistent basis, the harder it becomes. It’s like working out: do it once and you’ll feel fine. It feels like you can go on forever. The second time it’s a little harder. Muscles start aching. The third time around, you start to question why you’re doing this at all. This is the point where many tap out and quit. But you’ve got to persevere.

My first week of SiNoWriMo has been like this. I’m at 6,263 words – not nearly where I should be but I’m still kind of proud of it. And it’s getting easier every day,although there are slower days when even the simplest sentence is hard work. But I keep on fighting through the pain.

On the upside, Christmas time is around the corner and I should be able to catch up. Why? Let’s be honest: there’s no sense in applying for jobs during Christmas week. Nobody will look at those applications. People are home spending time with their families and stuffing their faces with inordinate amounts of food…not that there’s anything wrong with that! I’m just pointing it out. Anyway, my point is that I will gain a week of focussing entirely on this new project and I should be able to make a good final sprint.

There’s other things I could talk about right now, but I’ll save those for next year. And I don’t want to waste too much time. I need to go back to writing.  Hope you all have a wonderful week.

PS: Yes, I know this was two days later than announced. You know what though: that’s okay. Sometimes life just works out like that. I need to stop being so hard on myself anyway. Let’s be honest: would anybody have noticed the delay? Does anybody care?

I thought so.

What’s Down The Pipe? (December 2018)

Welcome to December, the season of torturous Mariah Carey and Wham songs. It is intended to be a time of contemplation and slowing down. The reality though, as we all know, looks very different. The three weeks leading up to Christmas are some of the most hectic of the year and Christmas itself – well, it depends on your family, I guess.

To cover up my growing frustration about the job hunt (what’s a German got to do to get a job around here?) and because I’m special, I decided to create SiNoWriMo – Simon Novel Writing Month. Screw NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November! Yet, the goal is the same: 50,000 words in a month. Let’s see how it’ll go. Two-and-a-half days in, I’m at 3,512 words. So I’m off to a good start.

There are also news on the podcast front: I’ve got four people lined up to appear on it, but we’ll only be able to record our first sessions in January. Which is fine with me. My goal was to go on air at the end of January and make this a monthly thing. So that suits me perfectly (no, I won’t tell you who my guests will be.)

I’ve also finally got around to create an editorial calendar for this blog. The consequence? I’ll try to post on a weekly base from now on. I’ve got a few literature-related ideas but they require a bit of time. This means that, in December, I’ll just be chronicling my progress in SiNoWriMo. Beginning in January though, this blog will be completely dedicated to book reviews, writing tips and podcasting. There’s even a certain method to the madness, so there’s lots to look forward to. Hallelujah!

In the meantime, I’ll still try to get a job. To be honest: I’m frustrated. 50 applications in and nothing to show for. Sitting on my butt for hours on end with nothing to do drives me nuts. To paraphrase a line from The Shining: all play and no work makes Simon a grumpy jerk.

Enough of the whining and complaining. Let’s stay positive. I’ll see you next week with an update on my SiNoWriMo. Until then: stay literate.

Thoughts of an Impatient Mind

Believe it or not, but I am a very impatient person. Not with others. I am very patient with people because my cynic self tells me I shouldn’t rely on anybody else anyway (before any of you get offended: there are a few exceptions – very few). But when it comes to things I need to do, I need to achieve, I am very impatient. I cannot catch a break with myself. I’m my own worst critic. I can’t do anything to my fullest satisfaction.

That’s a tough mindset. But it also encourages you to get better all the time.

Having said that, it goes without saying that sitting at “home”, doing nothing but writing job applications is hard for me. I do what I can but there’s no progress because, well, I depend on others in this case.

You might be thinking now: but you keep talking about all those other projects of yours. What happened? Well, that’s the problem. Nothing’s happening. Because I’m waiting for people there, too.

– I am waiting to hear back about a potential part-time job opportunity as an independent contractor for a start-up. They will get back to me once their legal assistance confirms that my visa allows me to work as an independent contractor.

– I am waiting to hear back from potential podcast guests. I’ve sent out emails last week, but nobody’s answered so far.

– My bank cancelled my credit card and I have no clue why. There was no suspicious activity, I’ve only tried to purchase convocation pictures through the university – which wouldn’t accept a credit card issued in Germany, so it got declined. Once. Is that enough to cancel a credit card? Apparently. So they’ll send a new one to my dad’s house and he is in South Africa on vacation. So I won’t get that card until mid-December.

– Last, but not least: the job hunt (see above).

So there you go. I am waiting. All I can do is do the same things over and over again: write applications, write emails. Then sit on my ass and wait. Impatient, depressed and wondering what the fuck I’m doing. I’m so tired of this, of everything.

But what can you do?

Now excuse me. I need to write more emails. And job applications.

What’s Down The Pipe (October…okay, November)

Yes, yes, boil me in hot oil and sell my fat for soap. It’s been forever since the last blog post. I know.

But, for the love of humanity, time flies by when you’re adulting, doesn’t it? Also, I’m a bit under the weather. Which is no surprise, considering that temperatures in Saskatchewan dropped from +10 last week to -15 today. Even a good immune system will go into “Fuck this” mode.

In the spirit of things, here’s a fun fact about me: winter is my least favourite half of the year in Saskatchewan.

Well then. Moving on.

Or actually, let’s stay with the weather because that was nicer last week – which was great because it was Convocation Day. That means I got to wear a silly robe and walk across a stage to receive an expensive piece of paper. Thank you to the Deeers, Cassi, Danielle, Lindsay, Shannon, and Julianna for being there. Your honorary Deeer-for-a-day is very grateful.

If you want to see me in a robe, focusing very hard to not stumble and fall (or if you want to see Julianna dance across the stage like a legend right behind me), click here.

Now, let’s talk business.

The job search is still under way and I feel there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I really hope to have good news next time around. Meanwhile, I’ve dipped my right toe into copyediting for Untethered (thank you for letting me on board, Nicole) and have plans to work with antilang (thanks Allie and Jordan) on an issue early next year. Either way: I’m keeping busy.

Not to mention that Shannon McConnell and I recorded a test episode of my still-unnamed podcast (any and all suggestions for names still welcome) and it went as expected: slightly awkward. I’ve finished editing the conversation, which was fun, but also a major pain in the south end of my piehole (let that sink in for a moment….good? Okay.).

Editing(For all the geeks who want to see what I’m working with)

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to insert audio from another Audacity project into this project, so I can add an intro. I hope to have the entire test episode done by the end of the week. As soon as it is in the can (as they say) I will send it out to a select few test listeners. If you want to be one of them, just let me know. Applications are still open. From then we’ll move on to the real deal.

Also, it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I haven’t even started yet. But I will today. Or tomorrow (have I mentioned that I’m a bit under the weather?).

That’s enough for today’s post, I guess. I need to get to that NaNoWriMo stuff. And job stuff. And editing stuff.

See you next time. I won’t let you wait this long again. Pinky promise.

When Life Feels Like An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (sort of)

It’s okay to admit it: we’ve all been to an all-you-can-eat buffet before. Whether it was Chinese-Thai-Vietnamese, Mongolian, sushi, pasta, burger or whatever else is out there, you’ve been to one. There’s no shame in that. Sometimes, we like to stuff our faces with food and praise the gods of affluent society for it. And you know what? That’s not just okay. That’s freaking good!

Now. I don’t know about you but my problem with AYCE buffets is that I feel the unmitigated urge to try everything. Maybe it’s my OCD, but I need to get a hearty scoop of everything in order to figure out what I like best. The problem with that is: I’m usually full after that because there’s so much variety. You might argue now that this was all well and good because I could always come back another day and only eat the stuff I liked best. Well, here’s the problem: once I come back, I have to start over again! Because, you know, things could have changed.

And this is pretty much how my life feels right now. There’s the job hunt, which is priority number one (and, with a little luck, may end tomorrow; fingers crossed!). Then there’s the volunteering as a reader for untethered magazine; the editing for antilang looming in the cold January distance as well. Then there’s the final stretch of podcast preparation which causes me headaches because I’m struggling to understand all tricks and tools of the audio software. And finally, somehow, I also try to keep writing. Which isn’t going so great at all because it’s near the bottom of the list of priorities right now, somewhere behind groceries, dieting, and the Leafs, but ahead of laundry (I did that last night) and baking a cake (long story).

My point is: there’s a lot on my plate, including a good chunk of things I don’t know or can’t foresee. But I don’t care because it feels good to have plans again. It means things are happening and I’m finally moving forward. I’m trying to do all these different things (I even have Netflix now!) and it will be tricky figuring out how much I can fit into my schedule (read: my plate), especially once my full-time job is no longer looking-for-a-full-time-job. But it’ll work out. Somehow.

I guess what I’m saying is: sometimes, we need to try everything in order to find what we like best. At least this is not a buffet. I won’t have to try everything over again and again.

What’s Down The Pipe? (September 2018)

Helloooooo all you wonderful people who read this blog. I love you for doing that. Both of you. Really.

So, there’s a few updates. The most important obviously being that the Canadian government decided I was worthy of staying here for at least three more years. Which I appreciate. It shows you that if you work for something, believe in yourself, and, most importantly, don’t fuck up royally, then…you’re allowed to stay in a country? Where was I going with this?

Anyway, the staying-in-Canada thing is sorted out (kind of at least; I still need to get the physical letter in the mail) and I’m already in the process of looking for an apartment, which is hard when you don’t know how long you’ll be around. But once that’s done, I can also look for a part-time job that gives me an income until I get a real, grownup full-time job. Somewhere. Anywhere. Except Winnipeg. I still have some standards.

Along with a place to stay permanently goes the opportunity to finally start the podcast I’ve been crowing about for weeks. I’m scratching and clawing in anticipation to get this off the ground, much like Steve scratches on my door every morning because he wants his Good Morning Belly Rub (Steve is one of two cats at my friends’ house, in case you’re wondering). If you’re a writer and you read this: watch out. I’m coming for you. For real this time. But don’t worry. I’ll bring cookies. The dark side always has cookies.

Writing is still really hard but now that I’m mentally in a much better state, I should be able to pound out those words at rapid speed again. I’ve already started a project that smells vaguely like novel (read: hard work and headaches) and I write down ideas for stories like parking enforcement writes down license plates around U of S campus (hey, a Saskatoon reference!). So let’s try to start sending stuff out by January. And maybe get published. Somewhere. (#PublishSimonPublish2019? I feel like this should be a hashtag).

Finally, Oktoberfest started yesterday. The real One. The One in Munich. If I hadn’t gotten my new visa approved I’d be back home, enjoying the best rotisserie chicken in the world with a large Bavarian pretzel and a few Mass (read: litres) of Oktoberfest beer, drowning my sorrows. But I’m not. Oh, the sacrifices!

I feel like this was enough rambling. I’ll try to get back into my biweekly rhythm now that I have at least some sort of clarity back in my life. Hey, maybe I’ll write the next entry from a new apartment? Maybe I’ll even have to plan ahead because I have a job? Only time will tell.

To close, just let me state that I don’t appreciate snow before my birthday. That shouldn’t be a thing.

See you in two weeks. Pinky promise.