Ira Wood is an author, a teacher, a former publisher, and the host of a weekly interview program called The Lowdown on WOMR-FM, a Pacifica Radio Network affiliate station with studios in Provincetown, Massachusetts and broadcasting the length of Cape Cod.
You’re Married to HER? a collection of linked, autobiographical essays was released in 2012. His three novels are The Kitchen Man, Going Public, and Storm Tide, co-authored by Marge Piercy, with whom he has also written So You Want to Write, an award-winning book about the craft of writing fiction and memoirs which is based on their popular course. His short pieces have been published in ‘Ploughshares,’ ‘Tikkun,’ ‘Fifth Wednesday,’ ‘The St. Petersburg Review,’ and the ‘Utne Reader’ among many small magazines. In 1996 he and Marge Piercy established the Leapfrog Press, an internationally distributed ‘boutique’ publishing company, which the Boston Globe called “the pulse of what’s hot in the publishing world.” Although they sold it in 2007 it has continued their mission of publishing cutting edge literature and has more than tripled in size.
Ira is known for his work with writing students to overcome the inner censor. His darkly funny and wildly confessional lectures include everything from the peculiarities of the publishing industry to obsessional gardening to attempting to use the Tao Te Ching as a guide to governing a small New England town. (And yes, he tried.) For over a decade he has taught regularly at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
While an editor at Leapfrog he specialized in the resurrection of near misses: books that had come close to being published by mainstream New York publishers but lacked certain elements, sometimes just big numbers for the author’s previous books, but that notwithstanding, a compelling beginning, a tighter plot, a selling title, or simply a great marketing campaign—as well as the patience to keep a book in print until it found its audience. With a hand in the marketing of every one of Leapfrog’s books, his small press titles received national media attention, some becoming regional best sellers, BookSense and best-of-the-year picks.
Originally from the New York City area, he has lived for over thirty years in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, a small fishing village celebrated for its oysters, its art galleries, and the colony of well known writers, architects, painters and intellectuals who have embraced life in a rugged outpost near the tip of Cape Cod. Indulging in a passion for public affairs, he has spent much of that time in town government, serving four terms as a selectman—one of a board of five women and men elected the principal administrative officers of the town.
Zazen meditation is an important practice for him as is organic gardening, in which he indulges with far too much passion resulting in way too many tomatoes, and disposes of in ‘grants’ to friends. (He and Piercy are known locally as The MacArthur Foundation of Vegetables.) In 2010 he began hosting a series of bi-monthly political debates on public radio which morphed into a weekly radio show. Interviewing authors, politicians, activists, and newsmakers, enables him to indulge a lifelong compulsion to pester people with questions. His guests have included the famous, the infamous, and the vapid. His motto: There are no boring guests or subjects, just bad interviewers. His 5-minute essays, which he calls ‘Rooneys’ in homage to the American radio and television writer Andy Rooney, air most Fridays at the end of the station’s weekly news magazine.
Ira’s writing tends to reflect his life experience. His first novel, The Kitchen Man, details the secret life of a gourmet waiter. His second, Going Public, is set in the early years of the burgeoning dot com industry, while Storm Tide considers politics in a New England town. You’re Married to HER? is a collection of essays about sex, drugs, teaching, politics, publishing, and everything he did instead of writing.
Since 1982 he has been married to the poet/novelist Marge Piercy. They live on four hilly acres of land surrounded by pine and oak forest, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay. They share their space with five cats (again, way too many).