Building a New Book, Adrift by Charlie Sheldon

Here’s a look at Charlie Sheldon’s new novel, Adrift:

screen shot -- Charlie Sheldon, Adrift -- manuscript

Doesn’t look like much now, but it will! This is always a thrilling part of the book building process. When the author is done writing, the editors are done editing and we can sit down with our designer to start the process of creating the visual and tactile experience of the book-to-be.

That was our morning. At a local Starbucks we talked about the story, how it connects with Strong Heart, the first book in Charlie’s series, and what’s new in this latest installment. If you’ve read Strong Heart, you’ll remember William, Tom, Sarah, Myra, Sergei…They’re back in Adrift, along with a whole handful of new characters and another remarkably imagined adventure!

So we told our designer, Sonja, the story then sent her off to work her magic on the page design, work in some maps to help readers get their bearings in the cold North Pacific setting of the story, and build the overall experience of the book. We can’t wait for you all to see it.

If you want to see Adrift before the rest of the world, sign up for our Adrift mailing list and we’ll send you an exclusive first look copy of Chapter 1 in January 2018.

Haven’t read Strong Heart yet? Well, you’d better get a copy so you’re up to speed when Adrift comes out. You can get your copy of Strong Heart at your local independent book store or in paperback, audiobook and Kindle from Amazon.

Watch this space for more updates as we build Adrift!

Here are the Socks the Book Bought (so far)

Buy a book, save a foot!
Buy a book, save a foot!

A few months ago, with the release of Color Stories: the Short Fiction Coloring Book, we started a program called “Buy a Book, Save a Foot“. For each copy of Color Stories sold, one dollar from that sale would be used to buy socks (and underwear) for Seattle’s homeless population. Here now, are the first socks we’ve been able to purchase thanks to the folks who bought copies of Color Stories. We wish it was more, but it is more than none, so that is good. We’re going to work with Seattle’s MORELove Project to add these socks to their supplies the next time they prepare packs of essentials for the homeless population. So these socks will go out in bags along with other donated supplies like food, hygiene products, gloves, hats, blankets, etc. Thanks to everyone who helped us do our small part to address a big problem. We’re not done. If you or someone you know would like to get a copy of Color Stories and have your purchase deliver some good: we’re going to keep the Buy a Book, Save a Foot program going. Tell everyone you know!

Buy a Book, Save a Foot, in Support of The MORELove Project for Seattle’s Homeless

Scroll to the end for details of “Buy a Book, Save a Foot”.

The Beginning

loveI met Chris under the freeway on Jackson Street. A year ago, he could have been me. Middle 40’s, successful business owner, had a house on an acre of property east of Seattle, wife, two kids, dog. But when I met him he was living under the I-5 freeway on Jackson Street. Why? He told me. He was an alcoholic and that had ruined his first marriage. But he got sober. He built a life that worked. He built a family. He built a construction business. Then one day he injured his back working on a construction project. He was prescribed opiates for the pain and it triggered his addiction. When the prescription drugs ran out, Chris turned to heroin and cocaine.

When I met Chris he was months into a downward spiral. I noticed he had two large, dark scabs peeling from his cheeks. I thought he might have fallen or been in a fight. I asked him what the scabs were from. The reality was far worse than I could have imagined: the cocaine Chris was still doing was laced with a veterinary drug — levamisole, a pig, cattle and sheep de-wormer. It’s a common and terrible additive in much of the cocaine circulating these days. Levamisole causes the skin of the face to begin rotting away and that’s what was happening to Chris. He knew it, he hated it, he wanted to stop doing the drug that was causing it. “But,” he said, “I know I won’t if I don’t get help.” He told us he had an appointment at a treatment facility in Renton the next day. He was worried he would sleep too long and miss his bus to Renton. He knew which bus to take, just not if he would be on it.ugm_2

I was with a group from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission rescue van program. A week after we met Chris, a couple of the others in my group called the Renton treatment facility to see if Chris had made it there. They had no record of his arrival. The group members went back to the spot under I-5 where we’d met Chris, but they never found him.

This is a difficult admission, but it’s true: in the past I have felt frustration and annoyance over the presence of so many homeless. But I realized it wasn’t because of anything they had done, I was annoyed because I didn’t know what I could do about the problem, though I felt compelled to do something. Since then I’ve decided the most important thing I can do about the problem is to stop judging it from the outside and, instead, get inside of it. My friend Larry Snyder (author, charity auctioneer, philanthropist extraordinaire) invited me to go with him on the Union Gospel Mission rescue van. I went. I’ve been multiple times since. What I’ve learned is that the problem is huge, but it looks bigger from the outside when I’m doing nothing. On the inside of the problem are people ugm_1who are suffering. People who need. They need supplies—dry socks, clean underwear, toothbrushes, gloves, hats, blankets. They need food. They need shelter. They need a system that better supports them. Many of them need drug treatment and they know it. They need a lot of things. But most importantly, they need three things: 1) They need compassion, just as we all do. 2) They need the experience of being treated like people—you don’t have to give them money, give them a moment of your time and a “hello, what is your name?” 3) They need us to not give up.

No one person can solve the problem and, even collectively, street-level action is not going to reverse the tide. But we individuals can ease suffering and though the individual action is small, it is important

 Buy a Book, Save a Foot

Here’s what I’m doing right now:

The first time I went out on the van I was amazed to see that, yes, the people were happy to get some food, and a warm drink and a blanket. Those things got them excited and it didn’t surprise me. Something else that got them excited and was a big surprise to me was socks and underwear. I thought about it afterwards and realized it shouldn’t surprise me. Of course! If you’re cold, wet and dirty from the skin out it just compounds your suffering.

PrintUndergarments are often overlooked when we’re thinking about what needs we can address. And I’ve heard it said since that first outing that, when you’re homeless, “if your feet go, you’re in really big trouble.”

I have this publishing company, Iron Twine Press. We’ve just released a new book: Color Stories: the Short Fiction Coloring Book. It’s a lot of fun, this new book. Thirty-two flash fiction stories paired with coloring pages inspired by the stories themselves. It’s the coloring book for lovers of story, the story collection for lovers of coloring books. You can find it on Amazon.

From today until the end of the year $1 from each copy of Color Stories purchased will be used to buy new socks and underwear which Iron Twine Press will then donate to The MORELove Project for Seattle’s Homeless. This great organization directly supports the UGM Rescue Van program and can get the supplies to the people who need them. I know, socks and underpants are funny…unless you don’t have them when you need them, then they’re kind of serious.

Please consider buying a copy of Color Stories. And even if you don’t buy one, please spread the word about this, lets see how big an impact we can make together. If you do get a copy, I know you’ll enjoy the book and you’ll have the added enjoyment of knowing that you’re helping ease a little of the suffering around us.

Thank you all!

Ethan Yarbrough

Founder and President, Iron Twine Press

PS: Come to Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, October 30th @ 3pm to hear the Color Stories authors read selections from the book and other works.

Read, Color. Color, Read. Repeat. Introducing Color Stories, the Short Fiction Coloring Book!

Color Stories is the coloring book for lovers of story. Color Stories is the fiction anthology for lovers of coloring books.

Color Stories is new from Iron Twine Press, available Now!

Color Stories presents literary quality short fiction paired with coloring pages!
Color Stories presents literary quality short fiction paired with coloring pages!

Wait a minute…what is Color Stories?

Color Stories is the literary fiction coloring book for grownups!

It’s “two great things that go great together” (to borrow a phrase from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups): vivid flash fiction paired with coloring pages presenting lively and evocative drawings, by Seattle artist Sonja Gerard, inspired by the stories themselves.

Iron Twine’s founder and editor-in-chief, Ethan, was inspired to create Color Stories while working on a children’s picture book. “I was working with the author to match illustrations with her text, trying to find drawings that would really deepen the kids’ engagement with the story. It was exciting to think about kids going back to the drawings and enjoying them long after they’d finished reading. It occurred to me, ‘why should kids have all the fun?’ I was editing an anthology of serious adult fiction at that same time. I thought ‘what if we turned this into a picture book?’ it would add even more depth to the experience of these stories. The picture book turned into a coloring book because I wanted people to scribble all over the book and make the stories totally their own. It’s fun and why should kids have all the fun? Did I already say that?”

The stories in Color Stories are the product of a group of innovative Seattle authors. The group meets regularly in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, in an apartment perched on the edge of Discovery Park, “to tell each other stories and inspire each other to craft work that shows something real about the human heart.” The group, comprised of prize-winning authors, including a veteran of the Best American Short Stories anthology series, calls itself the Edge of Discovery Writers, for literal and figurative reasons. They’re serious about their craft. Their new book is seriously fun.


Color Stories is the short fiction coloring book your kids will want to color. But it’s for grownups!

Color Stories is available Now.

And come to Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle on October 30th at 3 pm for our Color Stories book launch: Storytime for Grownups!


Miracles in Montanare, the Video

Miracles in Montanare: Ten Years in Tuscany is about friendship: the value and importance of opening your heart to others, of believing that it is possible to connect despite language or cultural differences and about the life-altering benefits of finding friends who will believe that with you. It is a small story. It is a huge story.

Iron Twine Author, Lyn Coffin, Wins Georgian National Literature Prize

The Knight in the Panther Skin, translated by Lyn Coffin, winner of the 2016 Saba Award for Translation
The Knight in the Panther Skin, translated by Lyn Coffin, winner of the 2016 Saba Award for Translation

On September 18th, 2016 it was announced that American author, playwright, poet, fiction writer, translator, and Seattle resident Lyn Coffin has been awarded Georgia’s top literary prize, the Saba, for her translation of Shota Rustaveli’s, The Knight in the Panther Skin (Poezia Press, 2015).

We published an interview with Lyn about this amazing work earlier this year. But, just to refresh your memory:

The Knight in the Panther Skin is a 12th-century epic poem from the country of Georgia. It is considered the national poem of Georgia. It has been largely unknown to English-speaking audiences because few translations have been produced. Those translations that have appeared over the years have opted for free verse or prose re-tellings rather than the much-more-difficult poetic translation in meter faithful to the original. Some scholars familiar with the poem have even gone so far as to say a translation that preserved the rhymes, the metaphors, the poetry and the scope of the original was impossible.  Lyn Coffin took on that “impossible” challenge, working for over two years to faithfully translate, line by line, the 1,661 quatrains of the nearly nine-hundred-year-old masterwork.

Lyn Coffin read from her translation of The Knight in the Panther Skin to an audience in Georgia on September 20th, 2016
Lyn Coffin read from her translation of The Knight in the Panther Skin to an audience in Georgia on September 20th, 2016

Saba is the most prestigious literary award in Georgia, founded by TBC Bank and Rustavi-2 TV. Its winners are revealed each year. The categories vary from fiction to non-fiction, poetry, as well as translation works.

Following her time in Georgia for the Saba Award ceremony, Lyn will travel to Stockholm, Sweden to present a reading from her latest collection of short fiction The First Honeymoon: New and Selected Stories (Iron Twine Press, 2015). She’ll read at The English Bookshop in Stockholm, October 8 at 10 a.m. and then will return to Seattle where she will be reading at Elliott Bay Book Company on October 28 at 2 p.m. in support of Color Stories (forthcoming from Iron Twine Press, 2016) a short-fiction anthology in which her work is featured.

Congratulations to Lyn and Poezia Press for this remarkable honor!

Seattle Poet Offers Epic 800 Years in the Making

KitPS_4aShota Rustaveli’s The Knight in the Panther Skin is a 12th-century epic poem from the country of Georgia. It has been largely unknown to English-speaking audiences because few translations have been produced. Those translations that have appeared over the years have opted for free verse or prose re-tellings rather than the much-more-difficult poetic translation in meter faithful to the original. Some scholars familiar with the poem have even gone so far as to say a translation that preserved the rhymes, the metaphors, the poetry and the scope of the orginal was impossible.

Now Seattle poet/author/playwright Lyn Coffin has achieved that impossible goal with her newly released translation from Poezia Press in Tbilisi. Coffin, who lives and works in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, is the author of twenty-one books of poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, and translation (many of which are available on Amazon); she has taught writing at the University of Michigan, the University of Washington and elsewhere; and her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories anthology which, annually, highlights the best writing in the country.

Nevertheless, Coffin may be the most accomplished writer most Americans have never heard of. That is not the case in the country of Georgia, however, where, due in part to her overt appreciation for The Knight in the Panther Skin and her faithful translations of more modern Georgian works, she is regarded as a bit of a literary celebrity. She has visited the country several times, and is celebrated when she arrives–she’s done poetry readings on Georgian television–including on her most recent visit where she was an honored guest of the Georgian government at a reception for the country’s president.

Iron Twine Press recently spoke with Lyn about her achievement with The Knight in the Panther Skin.

Iron Twine Press: How would you describe the importance of The Knight in the Panther Skin to Georgian literature and history? Is it accurate to compare its importance to Beowulf or the Iliad?

Lyn Coffin: Absolutely! This is the founding piece of literature for Georgia. This Is their national
epic, their rightful entry on the world stage. You can’t exaggerate the importance of
The Knight in Georgia.  School kids have to learn it- some every year. Most people
can quote sections of it. The proverbs in it are, well, proverbial. It is key. It is bigger
than Beowulf is for English speakers because Beowulf is almost never taught (at least
not in America, not until grad school, maybe a small section in high school). The language
of Beowulf makes it inaccessible to “normal” speakers. Georgian, being an autolect
(self-standing language), has remained remarkably the same for centuries—very little borrowing or change. As for The Iliad: it has to compete with The Odyssey. People argue about which is more important and why, and the author, “Homer” may well be a compilation. But  Shota KitPS_1Rustaveli wrote The Knight.

ITP: We see this in the Amazon description of your book: “this is the first-ever rendering of the 12th century Georgian epic ‘The Knight in the Panther Skin’ in the same poetic style as it was written.” Can you describe what that means, specifically, and help us understand why it is significant?

LC: I translated the epic in shairi, a Persian verse form. It was written in shairi, and I wanted to keep
the form. Shairi means 16 syllable lines rhymed AAAA, BBBB, etc. for 1661 quatrains. There is
high shairi and low shairi. High shairi means the same pattern on both sides of a central caesura.

High Shairi is four four (syllables) /caesura/ four four and Low Shairi is five three (syllables) /caesura/ five three after. Yes, it was difficult sometimes. English has more words than Georgian, but fewer rhymes. And there are amazing metaphors that needed translation.

KitPS_3ITP: Tell us about your process in producing this translation.
LC: The difficult language part was not so difficult for me because I worked with a team of Georgian
native speakers. I would read the original and try to sound it out. I would have a native recite the original wherever possible. I would read Dodona’s word for word translation and her notes. If I didn’t understand, I would refer to earlier English translations. And then afterward, Nato Alhazashvili, an excellent English speaker herself, would read and comment where she thought the lines went “off.” And she showed it to Nodar Natadze, made corrections and added whole quatrains. Levan Gigneinishvili (who wrote the afterword) had his say about some passages. The man I originally worked with, Gia Jokhadze, weighed in during the early stages. And so it went. I would revise, send to Dodona and Nato, and they would either say, okay, or now this is wrong…. It took a long time. I have some facility with rhyming, and I have a feel for English poetry. I was driven by a voice that sometimes seemed to be Rustaveli’s. Some quatrains took days to do the first time. I translated chapter by chapter, never allowing myself to read ahead of the chapter I was translating. So I was in suspense for most of the book, wondering what would happen next. The Knight is a heck of a great yarn, as well as great poetry. I loved it from the first time I heard/read it/puzzled it out, and I had a discoverer’s joy—Keat’s “On First Reading Homer.”

My translation is significant because the English reader for the first time, really, is able to hear the story in a rhythmic, metaphoric, Poetic translation. I translated as a poet, informed by scholars. Previous translators were not themselves poets, and did not have the advantage of the Georgian scholars I did.

ITP: P.D Rayfield, in his comments about the book, says “The Impossible Achieved. I read Georgian and have, for 40 years, thought a poetic translation of Rustaveli was impossible, given the original’s elaborate rhyme scheme, the metaphors and the difficult language: up until now the prose translations have been the only tolerable access for English-speaking readers. Lyn Coffin has achieved a miracle…”  Was it as difficult a challenge as he makes it out to be?  What did you find the greatest challenge to be?

LC: Yes, Rayfield is a great translator from Georgia himself, so his praise is wonderful. We met in London at the London Georgian Film Festival. I was afraid he would scoff at me for my lack of scholarship. And he liked it from the get go. I was very relieved.

The greatest challenge? To keep going through the really long chapters. To stay interested in some of the “catalog” sections, where the items at a wedding are described at length—He got this, She got that. Or the lines where the epithets come again and again. Homer had “rosy-fingered dawn.” Rustaveli has “an aloe tree”—tall and slender as an aloe tree. Or translating the features on a face— ivory and rose—He opened the twin petals of his rose lips, that kind of thing. On the other hand, there were some sections that were so suspenseful, I was literally on the edge of my seat.KitPS_2

Rustaveli himself speaks in the Prologue about needing poetic skill to carry on through a really long work. It was hard to keep going for two and a half years. I am not sure I would have been able to if Nato Alhazashvili and Dodona Kiziria hadn’t been there, encouraging me. Dodona and I worked together seemlessly. Her comments and support were invaluable.

ITP: What inspired you to take on “the impossible”?

LC: I took on the challenge because of my love for the Georgian people and my love of The Knight in the Panther Skin. From the beginning, I felt a calling—that this was something I was meant to do and could do.

Home Is…Short Fiction Contest, Proceeds Benefit Homeless


$100 1st place, $75 2nd place, $50 third place

Open February 19, 2016, our Home Is…short fiction contest will highlight great writing on the theme of Home and benefit charities serving the homeless.

12 winners will be published in an upcoming Iron Twine Press fiction anthology. Anthology sales will benefit homelessness charities for as long as the book remains in print.

Click the submit button enter your work.


Welcome! We are accepting submissions to the Iron Twine Press Home Is…Short Fiction Contest from February 19, 2016 – May 1, 2016.

$225 in Prizes!

There is a humanitarian crisis growing in our own backyard. We look around our cities and see need huddled on freeway off-ramps, tent communities of the displaced growing under overpasses; we see piles of blankets on city benches, in alleyways, in doorways covering men and women who, too often, we choose to look past because we don’t know how to help. In the face of an epidemic of need, it is hard to know what to do. We can only start with what we can do.

This writing contest is our start: together, let’s do something good with your great writing!

Robert Frost famously wrote: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” What is home to you? Submit your previously unpublished work of short fiction (up to 5,000 words) that addresses the theme of Home. What home is…what home isn’t…searching for home…losing home…living without a home…returning home…leaving home. It’s really up to you. If you think your story says something about the idea of Home, we want to read it.

Awards will be given for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the contest. $100 for 1st place, $75 for 2nd place, $50 for third place.

The three prize winners and 9 other entrants (12 writers total) will be published in an upcoming Iron Twine Press anthology. Winners may list this anthology as a professional publishing credit. Iron Twine Press will obtain listing for this anthology in leading distribution catalogs worldwide to maximize exposure for winning authors and will promote the book through traditional and social media and place the book for sale through major book retailers. Authors chosen for inclusion will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology and will be listed by name in press and marketing materials promoting the anthology.

Submission Guidelines

  • Contest open from February 19, 2016 to May 1, 2016
  • $10 reading fee
    • Fee supports our ability to produce and promote a quality anthology and to increase exposure for winning authors
    • A portion of reading fee proceeds will be donated to charities serving the homeless
    • Anthology sales will benefit homelessness charities for as long as the book remains in print
  • One submission per reading fee
    • No more than two submissions per author
  • $100 1st place, $75 second place, $50 third place
    • 12 contest entrants will be included in the anthology
  • All entries must be received via our Submittable page
    • Only entries via Submittable will be considered
  • Microsoft Word .doc or .docx file format only
  • DO NOT include name, address or any other personally identifiable information in the manuscript document itself
  • Submitted work must be original and previously unpublished
  • No simultaneous submissions
  • By submitting, you grant Iron Twine Press publication rights to your work if selected and you verify that you have the necessary authority to grant us that rightSubmission Guidelines:
  • Authors retain copyright for all work submitted whether selected or not

We look forward to helping the world discover your work.

Editing Is a Service Position

editorI’ve been at work on preliminary edits to a novel. The author had submitted his work to other publishers before bringing it to Iron Twine Press and one of the others had expressed a srong interest in publishing it. So we’re Publisher B. The book came to us because the author didn’t like the conditions put upon him by Publisher A.

His book is an adventure tale set primarily in a wilderness environment that is being threatened by human activities. That’s vague, I know. But we don’t have rights to the book yet and I want to respect the author’s ownership of his own work. What I’m telling you about the story doesn’t give anything away.

So, Publisher A liked the story a lot–it’s exciting and though-provoking, a really good read. But they wanted one change before they would agree to publish it: they wanted the author to make the characters in the book overtly supportive of the idea that human activity is the root cause of climate change.

Putting aside the fact that I believe that to be a fact supported by the preponderance of scientific evidence, I strongly disagree with Publisher A’s demand in this case. The book isn’t about the climate change debate. It mentions the existence of previous ice ages and warming periods, but not in the context of taking any position on what is happening to the climate today. Publisher A, in my opinion, brought an agenda into the experience of reading the book and was trying to change the book to support that agenda.

That raises a fundamental question for me about the proper role of an editor. Is it the editor’s role to view a book as raw material they can turn into something they imagine, or is it to imagine ways to turn the book into the best possible version of what it is already trying to be?

I believe it is the latter. As a writer myself, I’ve been through too many writing workshops of my work and others’ that devolve into imagination frenzies where everyone stops suggesting ways the author could make more clearly the points he or she is trying to make and just starts re-writing the story with their own ideas. “What if, instead of a bank robber in New York, you made this about a livestock rustler in Amish country? Then, in the getaway chase, instead of a car, you could have him riding a sheep. That would be funny.”

It’s a subtle distinction, maybe, but it’s an important one. Editors should suggest changes to details if the existing details are at odds with the truth and clarity of the story. Editors should resist the urge to change details if the only problem is that the existing details lead readers to a different truth than the truth the editor holds. If you want the story to deliver a different truth, write a new story. If you want to be a helpful editor, help the story clarify the communication of it’s own truths. Editing is a service position; the editor should exist in service to the story.

Neal, I Love You!

celestine_2In honor of the new year: Found this on the flyleaf of a used copy of The Celestine Prophecy at Half Price Books in Bellevue, WA. I haven’t read the book. I doubt it could be more interesting than the stories this inscription is inspiring…Happy New Year 2017, Neal and Jo!! And all the rest of you too!