A 91-year-old Ashland author’s journey inspires a local book publisher to publish her own novel
Ruth Wire, right, and Hilary Jacobson, with Dulcinea the parrot, talk about books at Jacobson’s home in Medford on Thursday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
A Southern Oregon author whose first novel came out after her 90th birthday refuses to let a late publication stop her from finishing her story.
Ruth Wire’s second novel, “Saddle Shoes and Stardust,” is nearly ready for publication just a year after she published her first novel, a coming-of-age story, “The Night Birds Still Sing,” last year at the age of 90.
The novel is the second in a series Wire calls “Phoebe Rising,” novels inspired in part by the author’s experiences growing up and living in Southern California. “Saddle Shoes and Stardust” chronicles the challenges of growing up as a Jewish high school girl in post-World War II Los Angeles, her coming of age and awakening, and her journey to nursing school in the 1950s.
At 91 – she’ll be 92 in May, Wire is quick to point out – one might assume that two novels loosely inspired by her life and experiences would suffice; however, the Wire says what’s in print is only half of it.
“I’m writing number five,” said Wire, of Ashland. “I hope I live long enough.”
Hilary Jacobson of Medford, who owns Rosalind Press, published the first two Wire novels and plans to publish the third and fourth installments of Wire – and possibly a fifth. Since 2013, Jacobson has attended Wire’s writing group, the HayWire Writers Workshop.
“I listened to Ruth’s novels and I just loved them,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson — already a successful alternative health nonfiction author — released her first novel this year, “Red Madder Root,” with help and inspiration from Wire.
Wire and Jacobson plan to discuss their passion projects together at a book signing and author talk on Saturday, January 7 at 2 pm in the Gresham Room of Ashland Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.
Wire already has completed scripts for the third and fourth installments, which explore the character’s life in Mar Vista and Venice Beach, California — tentatively titled “Adult Love” and “A Space of Two” — as the character navigates social change and inspiration in counterculture movements in In the 1960s and beyond, the trials of single motherhood — not to mention the many twists, turns, loves and losses.
Wire has been developing the ideas behind these stories for years at the writing workshop he has been running since 1995.
Jacobson called Wire “an institution in the Ashland Writers Workshop scene,” but Wire said she found inspiration to start her own writers’ group after a series of rejections.
“I got kicked out of two writers’ groups,” Wire said.
Her realist writing projects would focus on women’s experiences, including menstruation.
“That was too much for a sewing circle that called itself a writers’ group,” Wire recalled.
In the past two decades, Jacobson has self-published three alternative health books focusing on nutrition and natural remedies for breastfeeding mothers, “Mother Food” in 2004, “Healing Breastfeeding Grief” in 2017, and “A Mother’s Garden of Galactagogues” in 2021. But collaborations with Wire and a group of writers helped inspire Jacobson to release her own ambitious writing project this year.
Jacobson’s historical fiction novel explores the roots of long-established fairy tales through different eras and weaves in Jacobson’s expansive knowledge of women’s health and herbal remedies.
“Instead of evil witches, you have mothers and daughters,” Jacobson said. “It’s kind of multi-layered, but very gentle. It is a lesson to our forgotten eras.”
The title of the book, “Red Madder Root,” alludes to the plant that would dye Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak.
“Red madder root was abortifacient,” Jacobson said, adding that this fact was common knowledge at the time.
Jacobson has nurtured the idea behind the book since the 2000s, when she was living in Switzerland. However, when she took the idea to publishers, she was encouraged to pursue the historical suppression of women’s medicine as another non-fiction book.
She shelved the manuscript until the summer of 2021, when thick smoke from wildfires in southern Oregon halted outdoor events and COVID-19 lockdowns canceled indoor events.
“I felt desperate,” Jacobson recalled.
She found refuge and respite from the smoke in nature, and inspiration with a fresh look at the project she started so many years ago.
“I heard my voice years before,” Jacobson recalled. “I just started crying.”
For more information about Jacobson, see hilaryjacobson.com.
For more information about Wire, see ruthwire.com, and for more about books published by Rosalind Press, see rosalindpress.com.
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