Author and Artist Debuts New Novel

Concord resident juggles a new family and a book tour all at once.

It's a safe bet that Ilie Ruby has packed more into her days over the last few years than you have. Bank on it.

The Concord resident has written a novel that is due to be released on Tuesday, and she is settling her three adopted children into their home in the Willard School district.

Ruby and her husband, Steve Lifshatz, traveled to Ethiopia in 2008 and 2009 for the children, then ages 2, 4 and 8. They fought their way through the daunting red tape to complete the adoptions.

But that's getting ahead of the story.

Ruby grew up in Rochester, New York, and was always attracted to the arts. She said she was always working on a story of one sort or another, writing or painting.  She was featured in the Concord Art Association's Paint the Town fundraiser for two years and used to exhibit at The Artful Image.

Ruby said she discovered a love of writing as a six-year-old when she asked the tooth fairy for a plastic typewriter in exchange for giving up one of her big front baby teeth. She got one. She said one story she began as a second-grader and finished it during her senior year in high school.

She graduated from the University of Maryland, and attended graduate school at the University of Southern California. She studied fiction and poetry, and won the top prize given to a USC student in her graduate writing program.

"I have both painted and written through the years," said Ruby, 44. "Now there's a shift to writing almost exclusively but I used both writing and art to complete the novel. When I was blocked, I painted my way out of it. And when I grew tired of painting, I picked up my computer and wrote."

Her peripatetic life led her to the Boston area before the move to Concord some three years ago. She loves the open space and the fact that it is a literary town.

"It's a wonderful place and great for children," said Ruby.

She started writing her novel, "The Language of Trees," while she lived in Cambridge. It took up all her time, and although she wanted to have a family, she felt her book was as all-consuming as a baby would be, so she immersed herself in the novel.

She thought she had it figured out: School, book, marriage, family. That's how it goes, doesn't it, she wondered?

But Ruby is nothing if not deeply in tune with the natural world and what she calls "synchronicities," those life-changing events that seem to happen, if we only take the time to recognize them.

She finished the manuscript to focus on her family.

"I had put it away," she said. "I was done with it."

But one of the next phone call she got was from her agent saying Avon Harper-Collins wanted to publish the book.

She did not know what a success the debut novel would be in the super-competitive world of publishing. Besides, she was off to Africa with Steve where she met her older daughter. It was love at first sight. She and Steve adopted two other children, a boy and girl over the next few months, record time for an international adoption, she said.

"My agent sent the book out around the time all this was happening," said Ruby. "But I waited a long time to become a mother. I had my life on hold for so long. I had let the book go to concentrate on my family."

Or had she?

"It's not something you just write and turn over," she said. "There are book tours, readings, signings and TV appearances."

Ruby is beginning the crushing schedule of tours and speaking engagements, working with a publicist. Her work is compared to the writer Alice Hoffman. On the cover, Concord writer Gregory Maguire writes, "The Language of Trees, like Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass' though in a magic realist vernacular, refreshing asserts that deeply American conviction: The gravest natural instinct is to heal and be healed."

Ruby is speaking at the Concord Bookshop on Sept. 12 at 3 p.m. For more information, go to www.ilieruby.com/bio.html.



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