I’ve always been a jump first, learn later risk taker. I know the situations I want to see myself in and when the opportunity presents itself, I’m willing to go in ignorant and learn my way out. As long as I have me with me, I know I can do it. All the best things I have done, gained, experienced, learned in my life have come to me this way.
Now, in the immortal words of Shania Twain, I have again “doggone gone and done it”. And that’s the point of this post today: In October of last year, I started a small, independent publishing company, Iron Twine Press (if you’re a follower of this blog, I invite you to click over and follow the Iron Twine Press blog too and follow @irontwinepress on twitter). At the end of March, we published our first book The First Honeymoon: New and Selected Stories, by Lyn Coffin.
I’m very proud of the book. A lot of effort went into it—obviously, and most importantly, Lyn’s writing, but also custom design by a great photographer, Mariana Jasso. And for me it was a fascinating experience to receive more than two dozen short stories from Lyn in Word document format, then to read through all of them, curate the best of them into a collection, then reformat, edit, arrange according to themes and tone (much like putting together a musical album I’ve decided), then to send the collection out to readers to get feedback, reviews, back cover blurbs, then to publish and now to pursue the daily task of marketing the book, building awareness, arranging readings, placing the book with bookstores…all while also starting work on three new books that I hope to bring out in the next year (one of which will be a collection of my own writing). Even as a lover of books—both as collections of art, and as objects of art themselves—I’m more appreciative than ever of the painstaking work that goes into making a book of quality. I invite you all to go check out the book (it’s available online at Amazon and Barnes&Noble; or if you’re in the Kirkland, WA area you can buy the book at Kirkland Parkplace Books, and if you watch the Iron Twine Web site or sign up for the Iron Twine newsletter, I’ll keep you posted as it becomes available in other locations).
Now some words about Lyn Coffin, because knowing her and working with her has been an inspiration to me. I started out by telling you that I am willing to jump into situations guided only by intuition. That’s true. But doing that requires courage and, being human, as I am, my courage sometimes falters. Then I look at Lyn Coffin: award-winning writer, 16 volumes of poetry, drama, fiction and translation, her writing selected for publication in The Best American Short Stories by Joyce Carol Oates, honored by the country of Georgia for her work translating their beloved native poems and children’s stories, her work appearing in journals and anthologies, Time Magazine, an honorary PhD from the World Academy of Arts and Culture for “poetic excellence and her efforts on behalf of world peace”, teaching literary fiction at the University of Washington. She’s one of the most accomplished people I have ever met. And she’s done it, as far as I can tell, by only pursuing what is interesting to her. Sometimes that leads her onto the well-lit red carpet of recognition and opportunity, but more frequently she has moved through pathless frontiers of obscurity. But she has just kept working, just kept accomplishing and just kept true to an idea I’ve heard her repeat many times: In life, don’t wait to be invited down the path, don’t wait to be shown the way. “Make the way by going”.
It’s a philosophy I admire and one I feel deeply akin to. There is nothing that can kill you except death, and, it’s going to get you when it’s going to get you. Until then, keep yourself interested, keep yourself inspired, enjoy the way you burn off your finite resource of time. That’s why I started Iron Twine Press.
I don’t know what comes next. But I do know this is the first step down the next way I want to be going.
And so I go.