Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #7

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from

Okay, this will be pretty quick.

Life Stuff

Last week I interviewed for a new job, and chose to go in for a paid test shift. That shift was yesterday. I’m almost 100% sure that I’m going to change jobs, but have nonetheless been occupied by the few remaining connections I still feel with my current work and how best to put together and submit my two weeks’ notice.

On Wednesday my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family passed away. We weren’t terribly close, and, honestly, I’ve struggled over the last few days to come up with memories of explicit encouragement or warm moments that we shared. I know that she felt warmly towards all us grandkids, but I just don’t think she was great at expressing it in the ways that TV grandparents had convinced me were, well, standard.

Unfortunately there isn’t a third concrete thing that’s pulled me away from working on the Beowulf book, but the combination of needing to start apartment hunting, needing to research and start editing for the latest episode of Fanthropological, spending time with my wife, making time for friends, and taking a few moments for myself here and there are a great stand-in for such a thing.

However, with all that said all I need to do with the poem is double check that I’ve used the right quotation marks, I’ve actually capitalized every word that comes after a period, and that after every colon comes a capital as well. So it should be released before the next update post on April 25th.

Partial Cover Reveal

Also, having the cover ready definitely helps make that timeline feasible.

And here’s a partial preview of that cover (art and design by Yoann Lossel, original image copyright Easton Press):

The top part of the cover for NSC Zacharewicz's translation of Beowulf. Image copyright Easton Press, created by Yoann Lossel.

I just commissioned this piece. Art and design by Yoann Lossel, original image copyright Easton Press.

As always: Thanks for sticking with me through this project!

Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #6

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I feel like I’ve taken two steps forward, and one step back with this project.

In the last update post I’d stated my hope that I’d be onto the formatting part of the process by the time I was writing this update. Unfortunately, I’m not there yet.


I do have a lot more information about the work that I have left now.

Commentary Clarity

So, for the sake of keeping them clearly organized, I pulled all of my commentaries from this blog into a spreadsheet. Once I’d gathered all of them, they filled 273 rows.

Because of this volume, I decided that it would probably be easier to edit the commentaries in a word document rather than in the awkward view that a spreadsheet offered. So I copied all the commentaries and then pasted them into a new document.

And that document swelled to 466 pages containing 221,322 words.

That’s more words than Moby Dick, it’s longer than Crime and Punishment. Needless to say, those numbers gave me a little pause when I remembered my revised ETA of April 4th.

Then, when I timed how long it took me to edit one commentary, I clocked in at around 10 minutes.

With 273 commentaries, if each takes me 10 minutes, then editing them all will take me about 2,730 minutes or 45 hours and 30 minutes.

Considering that this is just one of the projects I’m working on in my free time, still have a day job and try to maintain a balance with something of a personal life and pure down time, another week will definitely not be enough for me to finish the commentaries.

Finding Myself Halfway Through a Re-Read Through

My read through has turned into a re-read through because as I was wrapping up I realized that I needed to pay way more attention to the rhythm of my lines.

What exactly does that mean?

I’m trying to balance my poem to have lines that are fairly short (maybe seven words on average) that still have the tiny pause called a caesura found in the original Old English. As a result I’m carefully re-reading through the poem with an ear to where that caesura falls and rejiggering lines and adding words as necessary.

The good news? I’m up to book 25 of 42 as of this writing.

When Will It End?

And, to try to set any concern that I’m never going to stop touching up this poem, once I’m finished with this read through I’m going to release the poem by itself. I’ll commission a cover, get the poem formatted into an e-book, and then make it available for sale.

So, if I give myself another week to wrap up that re-read through and then another to get the e-book together, I should be able to release the poem in the middle of April. The release should fall in the same week I’ll be making another one of these posts, actually.

And here’s my swing at the ETA for the complete project.

Keeping the above ETA for the poem alone in mind, I should be able to seriously start in on editing the commentaries in the third week of April. Rounding the estimated time it will take to edit the commentaries up to 46 hours, if I dedicated about 10 hours a week to editing them, I should be able to get them edited after five weeks.

So I should be able to wrap up the commentaries and have them and the complete version of the book released come the fourth week of May (adding an extra week for formatting and buffer).

A Humble Conclusion

I’m really hoping that this is the last time I need to push the release of this project back. It feels like every time I do I’m disappointing the fans of this blog, my readers.

But, luckily, having the numbers I do now and knowing what I know about how much I can realistically do in a week, I think that this will be the last time I push Beowulf further into 2019.

To those fans and readers, all that’s left to say for now is: Thanks for sticking with me through this project!

Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #5

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from

Well, I kinda messed up in the last update.

Though I did have a few solid days off the week after that update went out, I completely forgot that I was on deck for editing that week’s episode of the podcast I’m a part of. If you’re curious, you can listen to that episode (and all the other’s we’ve done here).

Luckily, I was still able to make a good bit of progress all the same. I’m not through with the poem proper just yet (still have another 29 chapters (books?) to go through), but I have gathered all of the commentaries. Now I just need to make sure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted with them and then that part of the book will be finished.

Linking those commentaries up to the poem is a bit of a different story, though.

I’ve been shuffling some lines around in an effort to improve the rhythm and flow of my translation, as well as its readability on screens that are smaller than a trade paperback’s page. If an original organizing principle of the poem was the line, such a principle for my translation would be the paragraph. (Or perhaps a stanza-graph since this is still a poem?)

In any case, the next week is set to have a similar number of free days as that past golden week was going to. The difference this time, is that I don’t have a podcast to edit.

So, it’s my plan as of this writing to come to the next book update with a story or two about transforming my translation and all of my blogging about this poem into something e-book reading apps will recognize.

But I need to finish the read through and finalize my commentaries first. And I shall.

As always, thanks for sticking with me through this project!

Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #4

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from

Wow. I know I’ve been posting here for more than 5 years, but I am floored by how many commentary entries there are to gather.

So far I’ve grabbed 180, and yet I’m only up to line 1268. So I’m about 1150 lines-worth of commentaries away from getting all of them. Which, at least mathematically (if each post is for roughly 10 lines), there should be about another 115 commentaries to grab.

Then I just need to edit those commentaries, and set up the links to them in the main poem.


I’m a little behind on the read through, though. I still need to go through another 33 chapters of the poem. Thankfully, next week I’ll have a little more time off during the week and so I’ll be throwing myself at the read-through then.

And where does all of that leave the release date?

If I’ve learned anything about myself, my process, and how my self-publishing can likely fit into the rest of my life, it’s that my release date estimates need to be conservative. So I’m going to go ahead and say April 4.

Though I can never keep my ambition far away from my plans.

I’m going to try to have all three versions of the book ready for then. No need to worry about further delays for the combo poem and commentaries book, though, since that will get all of my focus until it’s ready for pre-ordering.

So watch this space for another update in two weeks, and look for the e-book at last in April.

Thanks for sticking with me through this project!

Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #3

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from


This is going to be pretty quick.

Since the last update I’ve managed to complete the 3rd draft of the poem and am now finalizing it as I go through the second out-loud read through.

Since I need to be either alone at home or home during the day for that read through, I’ve also been gathering the commentaries. So far I’ve pulled out 63, covering the entries that ran from lines 2401-3182 of the poem, which is about 1/5 of all of the entries.

Needless to say, there’s still a bit of work to cover before I get to actually turn this thing into the e-book I’ve imagined. And I’m getting more hours at my day job, so I need to re-think the release timeline once again. Which makes me feel kind of shitty.

But, I have to admit, I should have seen this sort of thing coming.

I’ve never been great at judging how long a chunk of work is going to take me and tend to underestimate the time needed far more often than overestimate it. And that has become increasingly easy for me to do as I forget about one or more of the following when trying to figure out when I’ll have this book finished:

  • the day job, which it seems is going to run up the edge of being part-time work on a more regular basis;
  • the podcast I’m a part of (Fanthropological);
  • wrapping up the drafts of my current fiction series Magic in the Air (if you’re curious, you can read the first book on Wattpad here);
  • spending time with my partner;
  • and giving myself time to recharge.

Estimating how much time I need to finish things is definitely a skill I need to work on. It’s just one of the things I hope to learn to do better as I work on this project.

Anyway, I hope that these bi-weekly updates are enough to make it clear that I am committed to finishing this project. If you’ve got any questions or concerns or tips for me, feel free to share them in the comments.

And, again, thanks for sticking with me through this project!

Blogger’s Beowulf Book Update #2

A scribe at a medieval writing desk perhaps copying out Beowulf the poem itself.

A scribe hard at work (…or could marginalia making mean that they’re hardly working?). Image from

All righty! This update will be much quicker than the last. Unfortunately that’s because not much progress has been made.

I still need to go through the poem double checking that the rest of the overused “then”s are necessary and changing those that aren’t, clear away the issues my editing has turned up, and then re-reading the whole poem aloud to clean up any outstanding issues.

But that’s just for the poem.

I also need to pull out all of my commentaries and make sure that they’re all error-free and easy to read.

That might seem like a lot. But, honestly, I expect this part of the editing to take much less time than the poem itself, since when I was making my original posts I think the commentaries generally saw much more attention than the scraps of the poem I was posting.

As for the timeline? Two weeks ago I had written that I was thinking this book would be finished and ready by the end of February. That’s starting to feel ambitious, but I’m sticking with it. Though, being completely real, the end of February might just be when the pre-orders start.

All that said, back to the editing! Thanks for sticking with me through this final stretch of what’s turned out to be a very long, quite educational, and warmly rewarding project.

Susan Signe Morrison’s Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife

St John writing a book

Along with a number of movie adaptations, Beowulf has been novelized here and there. John Gardner’s Grendel stands out, but Susan Signe Morrison’s Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, takes adaptation a step further.

Instead of just retelling the story of Beowulf from Grendel’s mother’s perspective as the title suggests, Morrison goes all in with her titular character. In fact, the novel begins with a fisherman’s wife discovering the child that grows up to be the fearsome woman of the moors. So, much like Gardner’s Grendel, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, is much more about its central character than retelling the Beowulf story from a viewpoint other than the titular hero’s.

Along with her focus on the life of Grendel’s mother (which Morrison extends beyond the fight with Beowulf), Morrison has written her novel in a way that’s highly reminiscent of Beowulf‘s style. Morrison includes a great deal of alliteration, parataxis, and a few of the characteristic digressions that fill out the original poem. These last two elements are put to good use, I think, but the alliteration sometimes comes across as more comical and sing-song than Morrison may have intended. Nonetheless, her prose offers a great example of how modern novel prose can be crossed over with Old English usage and style. The care with which Morrison blends these two styles is just what I’d expect from a professor of English.

If you’re curious to find out more about Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, check out the book’s website, or its page on Amazon.

What do you think of people creating whole lives for side characters in old stories? Leave your thoughts in the comments!