The Italian Book Tour: Releasing the Book One Person at a Time

Author Larry Snyder presents a copy of Miracles in Montanare to dear friends Primo and Francesca. The couple were among the first to welcome Larry and Jill to Montanare in 2004 and appear in many of the touching vignettes throughout the book.
Author Larry Snyder presents a copy of Miracles in Montanare to dear friends Primo and Francesca. The couple were among the first to welcome Larry and Jill to Montanare in 2004 and appear in many of the touching vignettes throughout the book.

One of the great joys of publishing a book is watching readers receive it. Being in Italy seeing the people Larry wrote his book about receive their copies took that special experience to a new level for me.

Each of the 12 days I was in Italy, Larry and I would drive out in the morning heading for a meeting with one person or another who appears in the book. One day was Pier (The Pavarotti of Montepulciano), the day before was Daniela Borghesi, Administrator of the Seattle-Perugia Sister City program and Daniela Snyder’s namesake, before that it was Primo, and Piero, and down the list.

Larry does a short formal presentation with each of them. He tells them how much they mean to him, he shares with them how they have changed his life. Inevitably, they cry, happily, to realize the impact they’ve had and as it dawns on them that this book is about them.

Then Larry hands them the wrapped book and the magic really happens. They humbly unwrap it and Sonja Gerard’s beautiful cover design comes into view. It features a photograph of the arch at San Galgano, the locals all recognize it. They stop and their eyes go wide, they lose their breath. A moment passes when I can see in their face that the book is exceeding every expectation they had of it. They knew Larry had been writing a book, they didn’t realize he was producing a work of art. They run their hands over the cover, page through the book, marveling at the design, the photos, the Cortonese symbol, the family tree. The look of the book, the feel of the book, its quality and exacting artistry helps them understand the magnitude of Larry’s work before they’ve even read it.

When you produce a book you release it into the world and it is not yours anymore. Most often who receives it and how it impacts them happens out of the publisher’s view. To be present on this book tour to see the book enter the hearts of the people receiving it made my heart bigger and filled me with gratitude.


Miracles in Montanare Entered Into Cortona Village Archives

Larry Snyder presents his book Miracles in Montanare to Dr. Albano Ricci (of the Cortona City Council) at special ceremony in Cortona, Italy on July 3rd.
Larry Snyder presents his book Miracles in Montanare to Dr. Albano Ricci (of the Cortona City Council) at a special ceremony in Cortona, Italy on July 3rd.

Buonasera, Cortona. Buonasera, Toscana.

So began my remarks on July 3rd at the Etruscan Museum in the village of Cortona, Italy. Author Larry Snyder and I were there to launch his new book, Miracles in Montanare: Ten Years in Tuscany in Italy by presenting it to Cortona for inclusion in their official town archives (which dates back to the year 525). I had arrived one day before, had never been to Italy before, and speak no Italian. It was my role to introduce Larry to the assembled audience. Maybe it was the jet lag clouding my judgment–I prefer to think it was a heartfelt desire to connect, even marginally, with the locals who had turned out to support Larry’s book–but I was moved to say a few sentences in Italian.

Buonasera, Cortona. Buonasera, Toscana. Questo libro e su di te. This book is about you.

In this book you will find mention of Cortona, Montanare, Camucia, Montepulciano and many other places in Tuscany. But the book is not about those places. It is about the people Larry has met in those places. The people who have opened their hearts and their lives to him and his family, allowed him to become part of this place and this place to become a part of him.

This book is a love story. Questo libro e una storia d’amore. It is about the love he feels for this place and the people in it. Tonight he wants to give you this book as a gift. Questo libro e su di te. Questo libro e per te.

That evening at the Etruscan Museum is one I will never forget. The Italians in the audience forgave me my bumbling Italiano. But more importantly and more memorably, they warmly and enthusiastically embraced Larry’s book. Larry wrote the book to honor the ways in which the people of Tuscany have enriched his life; what they have contributed to his life is a gift, he will be the first to tell you. He traveled there to present the book as a humble offering of appreciation to the people who inspired it.

Book Launch: Miracles in Montanare

This is a big week for us. Tuesday night we’ll launch our newest book, Miracles in Montanare: Ten Years in Tuscany, by Larry Snyder. 

This book has been a wonderful collaboration from the beginning. Looking back through project notes last week I found the first page in my notebook with any mention of Miracles in Montanare is dated 5/1/2015. More than a year, during which the true and heart-full stories in Larry’s book have affected me as much or more than I have them through editorial work. I fell under the spell of these intimate, vulnerable, personal stories of love and friendship. I am inspired by Larry’s approach to life–he simply says Yes to opportunities and follows the path to magic and discovery. He approaches life with an open heart, a joy in learning from and about others, and a complete lack of cynicism. The effect on me of reading these small stories is to feel my life opening up and getting bigger and more full than ever before. 

Next in the project docket is a second edition of The First Honeymoon, the charming and powerful collection of stories by Lyn Coffin; an adventure novel set in the rugged Olympic National Park and a couple of anthologies showcasing new short fiction by authors you really should know about.

Thanks to all the interesting writers I have the good fortune to have met, there is no shortage of fun and exciting projects to pursue. Stay tuned!

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!

Bookstores Are Not Dead, or Are They?

Two conflicting reports this week about the state of book sales. Today, we have author Ann Patchett introducing us to the neighborhood bookstore she has opened in Nashville, TN and that she says is doing quite well.

That’s welcome news. But it runs counter to a more dire report that came earlier in the week from National Public Radio stating that book sales, even for books that are considered successful, are so low it’s almost impossible for authors to make a living off their writing now.

It’s true most small publishers don’t have huge budgets to pay authors for their work. I hope it’s also true that people are remembering — or rediscovering — the value of neighborhood bookstores. I also think that even if bookstores are struggling at the moment, that doesn’t mean people aren’t reading; it may be that they’re reading material delivered in different ways than in the past.

And about reading here’s something from Ann Patchett that I know is absolutely true:

Books give us empathy; they allow us to go into someone else’s life and step inside their skin and see the world through their eyes. And that’s what makes us more compassionate people….Reading for me has always been the greatest comfort in my life and as long as I had a book–any book–I’m not alone. — Bestselling Author, Ann Patchett



The First Honeymoon — Free Copies to LibraryThing Early Reviewers

LibraryThingDo you know LibraryThing? It’s a community of 1,900,000 booklovers. This month, we’re giving away 15 free copies of Lyn Coffin’s The First Honeymoon: New and Selected Stories through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Just like in last month’s Goodreads giveaway, you can request a copy and at the end of the month, LibraryThing will draw winners and if one of them is you, we’ll send you a copy of the book. You can see the full list of this month’s books, including The First Honeymoon, right here. Sign up for the Early Reviewers program and put in a bid for the ones that look interesting to you!

25% Discount at

Did you try for a free copy of The First Honeymoon through Goodreads but not win in the drawing? Do you want a copy, but not feel like entering the LibraryThing contest? Well, then, you’re in luck. Buy a copy from, enter code FTFA78GT at checkout, and you’ll receive 25% off the price!

Thanks for your interest. Keep reading!


For Individual Success, You’ll Need a Team

Have a look at this picture from the acknowledgements page of a book my mother was reading (click the image to get a clearer view):


I think the picture tells you everything you need to know about what it really takes to publish a book. The image of the tortured, solitary writer slaving his or her way toward success is common and romantic, but inaccurate. While the writing process can be a solitary pursuit, to publish your book you need to step out into the world, and enlist the help of many good-natured souls. To publish your book, you need a team. And it’s never too early to start building that team. Look around you: are you surrounded by the people you need to get your book across the finish line? If not, start reaching out now, start telling people about it, start asking for readers, get feedback, talk to experts. Successfully publishing a book requires the same effort at relationship building that is required for success in any other professional pursuit — networking, team building, collaboration!