Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Interview with Educator/Momma/Writer Ruth Ayres Celebrating #EnticingWriters + Giveaway!



I love sharing book titles with close friends, so I'm happy you are here! I want to share a book that you must add to your to-be-read list.

Ruth Ayres has a brand new book titled Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers published by Stenhouse Publishers. It's another must read from Ruth. There are many professional development books available to learn about mastering our craft of teaching.  

However, there are only a few that make a true impact -- and this is one book that weaves raw truth, research, practical ideas, and story all in one {cute} little package. 



In Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers, Ruth allows her worlds to collide during the creation: 
"In this book, I entwine my three story lines as educator, momma, and writer." (p. 6)
And she does this in an amazing way through sharing stories of her family, adoption, children living in hard places -- and doing their best  -- and healing. She shares how we can use research to understand how to reach our writers, especially those that live in dark places. Ruth provides her guidance to help us set the stage so writing can occur. She also offers numerous moves we can implement to entice our writers to write and allow them to see that stories -- their stories -- provide light in this world. 




Personally, Ruth enticed me over six years ago to start a blog.  She encouraged me to start writing and share my stories publicly ... as a teacher, a momma, and as a writer.  I was challenged to do this writing thing, try it out, struggle with it, play with words, learn from other writers, and in the end, just write. I found that I have a quiet voice that whispers stories that matter to me. 

Every teacher and student needs to hear that their words matter ... and this belief can happen through the words and stories in Ruth's book.

I am {beyond} excited to join in the celebration of the publication of Ruth's book Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers. We recently sat down to discuss her new book and she answered a couple burning questions many of you have wondered. 

(I wish I could say that we met at the local coffee shop to chat and cry and laugh and pray together in real life ... but that's just not true. Maybe one day.)
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Oh, hi there, Ruth! I am so excited you decided to stop by my little corner of the world to share your new book with the whole world! Last week on Twitter, I asked teachers: If you could ask Ruth one question about her new book, what would you ask?

Here's the thoughtful questions they asked ... and Ruth's responses.

Lisa Corbett ponders …
How do you interpret “choice” in Writing Workshop?

I was just talking with a principal friend, Lee Snider (@principalsnider) about how anytime I meet a writer who is refusing to write, I offer choice. It’s my go-to strategy. The thing about choice is I’m savvy about the offerings. It doesn’t help to offer unlimited choice. It doesn’t help to offer choices that are out of the reach of the writer. For example, if a student has an idea, but is having a tough time getting started, I might ask: would you like to draw a sketch of a couple important scenes or would you like to tell the scenes to a friend? I know sketching and talking are accessible to most writers. I’m not going to offer a graphic organizer or a piece of lined draft paper...not yet, anyway. I’m going to offer choices that are within the reach of the writer.

I also think about choice in broad terms. For writing projects, writers have a choice of audience, genre, topic and purpose. I think it’s important that kids have these choices too. They don’t need to always make all four choices, but they should make some of the choices for each writing project and an opportunity to make each of the choices throughout the year.

Writers also make choices about where to work and what tools to use. They can choose the kind of writing partner they need. Sometimes I take my writing to Andy because I know he’s going to tell me, “That’s good.” Other times I check in with Ruth because she’s going to ask questions and boss me a little bit so I become a stronger writer.

Writers get to choose what project they are working on. Truth be told, Enticing HTR Writers took years to write because sometimes I just couldn’t face it. The stories were too raw. Compassion fatigue was too much. And I needed space from the page.


Chris Rayner asks …
What is the best way to help students decide that their writing is important?

Chris, this question is the heartbeat of writing workshop. Sometimes the best answers are simple. I think if we want to help students decide their writing is important, then we believe their writing is important. I’ve helped a lot of teachers start blogs -- because I believe their stories are important, they decide their writing is worthwhile. The same is true for kids. They need someone to believe their writing is important. Lucky us, we’re the ones who get to do that.

Jessica Carlson asks for your thoughts …
What are the primary reasons students don’t like to express themselves through writing, especially 6-8th learners that don’t want to write?

I don’t have a scholarly answer to this one, but I believe the reason kids don’t like to express themselves is the same reason adults don’t like to express themselves through writing --

  1. We think we have to get it right.
  2. We think no one cares about our stories, interests or beliefs.


When we show people their voices matter through authentic writing experiences AND we show ways to work the words, things shift and people become willing to write.

Try it...Think of a time when you were the age of the kids you work with. Close your eyes and let the memory replay in your mind. Now write a few lines of the scene, making the people in your narrative talk, move, and think. (Wanna know more about this technique? Check out this mini-lesson.)

Carrie Lentz wonders …
How do you reach teachers who are themselves reluctant writers?

When teachers write, their workshops are transformed. They don’t have to write like I write -- waking up while the stars are shining strong and stacking words under the nighttime moon -- but we do need to write some. It keeps us honest about the writing process. Because I know the best way to transform our writing instruction is for teachers to write, I weave in adult writing time into a lot of the PD I lead. It’s not enough for us to write, we need time to share with one another. Here are two prompts that have been good to me when convincing teachers to write:

  1. Record some of your writing memories when you were in school.
  2. Read Eve Merriam’s poem “There Go the Grown Ups” and write off a line.

Rachel Spencer shares ...
I love seeing that this book stemmed from your personal experience. How long has writing this book been in the works and is your mind already spinning with a follow up?

Oh, the question I’m almost embarrassed to answer! Celebrating Writers came out in 2012 and my proposal for Enticing Writers was accepted in Feb. 2013.  May I take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Bill, my editor, and the Stenhouse team? They are so good to me.

I was pushing the traditional PD book genre and it threatened to suffocate me. I was also fighting whether these stories mattered. I resisted letting my storylines of momma, teacher and writer entwine.

Not to mention that Andy and I were facing big trials as parents. It was important to me that I didn’t just write my own truth, but I found universal truth. I wanted to make sure the stories I shared were backed by research and practical applications.

Also, and maybe most importantly, I needed to navigate what stories were mine to tell. I believe stories are a compass for our lives. For kids from hard places, the stories we tell about them make a difference. I wanted to make sure the stories I shared about my kids would serve to point them to true north.

At some point, Andy and I decided if the stories were in the book, then they needed approval by each kid. Therefore, rest assured that all stories are Ayres Kid Approved. Stephanie, she’s the one who opened Enticing HTR Writers with the fake fingernails and handcuffs story, said…

You know, it’s a little embarrassing to think about sharing some of these things with the whole wide world. I thought about it, though, and decided if my story can change things for other kids from hard places, then I should be brave and share my story.

She’s in the middle of writing a memoir called “After Handcuffs.” It has this repeating line -- “kindness matters to kids in hard places” -- that twists my heart every time I read it. Steph will be sharing this memoir with the Enticing Writers Book Club (my new online course). I’ll share some of the craft lessons we can teach from Steph’s memoir.

As far as the second part of your question -- is your mind already spinning with a follow up -- I must admit my mind is always spinning with a book idea. There *might* be a wager on how many books I will write in this decade of life. (I hit a milestone birthday last June.) I kind of expected to write a book on faith or a book on friendship or a book as an encouragement for parents walking the hard road or a book about school supplies (the history and the nostalgia that paste et al evokes), but probably not another book for teachers.

Whenever I say never, I should just give in right there. Just last week, when I was out for a long walk along cornfields and streams, my next book hit me with the chill of the autumn breeze. I was both surprised and humbled that it will be another book for teachers. Although not angled for teachers of writers, I think it is very much a follow up for Enticing Writers. I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

But that’s all I’m going to say about that, because I’ve promised myself mum’s the word until I finish the first draft. I’m still battered from the drafting process of Enticing HTR Writers. I need to prove to myself that I can draft swiftly. I need to know that drafting doesn’t have to be cathartic and part of surviving the tough stuff of life. Usually I don’t write professionally during advent. I’m determining if that will be the case this season. Once I begin drafting the next book, I’ve promised myself: Nulla dies sine linea -- never a day without a line until the first draft is pounded out.

I’ll be putting Anne Lamott’s advice from Bird by Bird to action: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something -- anything -- down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a [crappy] first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”
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Thank you, Ruth, for this beautiful new book and for your powerful words. Thank you also to your beautiful forever family ... without each of their unique stories, this book would just not be what it is. Your children know the power of stories! Thank you ALL for blessing your momma with your stories to share. Ruth, you make writing enticing for all of us ... because you believe we all matter in this world! May your light continue to SHINE!
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Thank you for stopping by today! The #EnticingWriters blog tour continues -- follow along to learn more about Ruth's book and for your chance to win a copy! Read an amazing book review from Clare and Tammy at their Assessment in Perspective blog. Then, on Friday, head over to Leigh Anne's blog, A Day in the Life, to hear her story about how she wanted and needed to read this book. 

The blog tour continues on ... Check out all the stops below!

blog tour 11 2017.png

YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS! 
Will you be at NCTE? Ruth will be signing books on Friday, November 17th from 1-1:30pm (CST) at the Stenhouse Booth.

If you are not at NCTE ... Be sure to tune into the FB Live event from NCTE, where Ruth will be chatting with Shawna Coppola from the Stenhouse booth on Saturday, November 18th at 1:30 pm (CST). 
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HERE'S THE GIVEAWAY INFO!
I am excited that I am giving away TWO copies of Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers for TWO readers.  Thank you to Ruth and Stenhouse!  

For you, the readers: Please leave a comment about this post by November 22, 2017 at 11:59pm CST to win one copy of Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers. I will use a random number generator to select a winner and contact you by November 27, 2017.  

If you shared a question with me via Twitter last week and your question was selected for this interview, you are eligible to win one copy of Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers. You may leave a comment for second opportunity to win. I will use a random number generator to select a winner and contact you by November 27, 2017.

ANOTHER BONUS
Check out a full preview of Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers on the Stenhouse website.

YET ANOTHER BONUS
Ruth is offering FREE registration for her new online Enticing Writers Book Club if you purchase a copy of her book now. All you have to do is forward your receipt to enticingwriters@gmail.com before November 30, 2017. The online book club begins January 2018. What a gift! I hope you will join me!

Thank you for stopping by today!
Please leave a comment -- your words matter to me!



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

{out of practice} #sol17

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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a day goes by ... my notebook awaits with empty blank pages

a week goes by ...  i write nothing more than a grocery list

a month goes by ... i'm out of practice and it's just hard to write


time goes by quickly ... i must try to slow down time


a day goes by ... i notice moments to cherish in my notebook

a week goes by ... i collect memories and practice the craft of writing

a month goes by ... i write with ease with continued practice


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

{for my mom} #sol17

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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Today is my Mom's birthday.

And I can't wish her a happy day.

There's a reason ... and it's not what you are thinking.

My Mom is one of the most giving people I know. Right now she is volunteering on a mission trip in Guatemala for the week, and communication is limited. I sent her an email and a text this morning not knowing when or if she will receive them ... so today I'm honoring my Mom!

My Mom is a truly amazing person. She really is! My Mom has always been so giving and thoughtful of others, but since her "official" retirement, she gives and gives and gives even more.

I hope one day to be like her and be giving in so many ways.

My Mom gives of her time.
She volunteers time with her church, hospice care, her care receivers, and tutoring students from local schools.
She spent many, many hours at the Center for Hope.
She gives time just to be with friends, drink a glass a wine, tell stories, and laugh.
She invites friends to a card making class where she creates beautiful cards that she gives to family and friends.

My Mom gives of her words.
Every morning she leaves me (and now Karen too!) a Voxer message, including a TFTD - Thought For The Day to encourage and support us.*
She gives freely of her advice. She takes a step back and looks at the problem from a different lens.
She writes on her blog about her life and participates in SOL, even though she's never been a teacher. She freely gives positive comments too!

My Mom gives of her energy.
She will help when help is needed. Just ask her.
She pushes herself to do what she can to help others, whether it's packing a house, preparing for a garage sale, cleaning out a loved one's personal belongings, time with friends making cards ...
The list goes on and on. I think her giving gives her the energy she needs.

My Mom gives of her creativity.
She crochets prayer shawls to those in need of feeling God's arms around them.
She designs beautiful handcrafted cards that she mails to us on special occasions.
She creates family scrapbook albums capturing memories of our lives and vacations.
She completes needle point projects from detailed art to Christmas stockings hanging on the mantle.

My Mom gives of her patience.
She waits and waits to hear a response from me ...
Wanting to know about the girls and life
but with our busy schedule, it's hard to always reach out.
But yet she is patient.

Even though it's her birthday, she is continuously giving to others.

I pray she is safe and enjoying her time on her mission trip.

I bet she is still celebrating with old and new friends tonight!

Happy, happy birthday, Mom!


*Even though she is away, she created email TFTD that my Dad sends every morning in her absence. Thank you, Dad! Each message helps us get through the day! You both are the best!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

{It's just not the same} #sol17



Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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Last night as I sat watching my girls tumble at gymnastics, I picked up my pen and notebook. I started with these words: What to write? And this is what spilled on the page ... straight from my heart.


What to write ...

I wonder, think, ponder.

My words are hard to find today.

There are many celebrations and joys to share, but the darkness of frustration and loneliness hide them temporarily.

What to write?

I question, grumble, sigh.

My words are bubbling to the surface.

My closest colleague, thinking partner, and dearest friend and I were separated this school year. Two new positions in two different schools.

What to write!

My words boil with disappointment.

I feel the longing to turn and talk, the divide between us, the sadness fills my heart.

This teammate was the one who consistently pushed me in my learning and helped me outgrow my brain. Every. Single. Day.

What to write?

My words begin to simmer ...

I slowly release, relax my shoulders, close my eyes.

These moments don't last long. A text, a phone call, or an email from my friend reminds me.

What to write ...

My words fill the pages of my notebook.

I exhale, smile, pick up the phone.

Even though we are not making a difference side-by-side anymore, we are still finding ways to work and learn and grow together.

It's just not the same.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

{fall getaway} #sol17

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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A long weekend getaway
is needed every now and again.

Quiet days slowed enough to
hear only my breathing.

Time to just be together
as a family and make memories.

No email. No internet. Disconnected.
Just time. And books. And outdoors.

And us.

The crisp fall air enticing
the colors to begin to glow.

Outdoor events filled our time
from hiking to ATVing to boating

Nightly star gazing, stories by the campfire
in the stillness of the country.

Squeezing in longer moments
to read and close my eyes

And nap.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

{book bonds} #sol17

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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Books have created an amazing bond between us.

It's that special time we get to sit, side-by-side, snuggled in close with a book shared between the three of us.

The story, the characters, the laughs, maybe even a few tears.

The information, the interesting facts, the surprises, the I-didn't-know-that!

Favorite authors, amazing illustrators, continued reading in a series, brand new titles.

We read and reread. Some titles again and again and again.

My daughter P.'s goal is to checkout a book from her library at school that I haven't read yet that she thinks I will love as much as her. Her book choices are always exciting. And stretches me from my reading zone.

My daughter M. can't wait to find that next book that will either make me laugh silly or sob cry tears. She's more about the extreme emotions. Always checking my response to the books.

Book time together with my seven year old daughters is precious time that I hope continues on and on for years and years and years to come.

Books have created an amazing bond between us.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

{change is...} #sol17

Slice of Life is hosted at the Two Writing Teachers
Join in and share a slice of your life. 
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Change is ...

How would you finish that thought?

There are so many different ways to think about change. Change can be necessary. It can be healthy.  Change can be positive or it can be negative. Change can be lonely. It can be a personal choice or a decision that has been made for you. Change impacts our thoughts, our emotions, our present and our future.

It's only been a little over a month. Five and a half weeks. Forty-two days to be exact.

All that time in a new school in a new role. Learning quickly that a new school means new rules. I'm learning all about the school's culture, new administration, new expectations, new colleagues' and teachers' names, new personalities, and new students. All new students.

Time spent building trust, rapport, and relationships. Differentiating for teachers and teams. Being responsive to the needs, questions, concerns. Jumping in to help. Being available for a meeting, discussing assessments, modeling, planning a lesson, sharing a book.

Setting high expectations for myself. I'm not trying to fill anyone's shoes, but rather "own" my new shoes in this new role in a new school.

Smiling. Some moments that's all I feel I can offer.

Only one month in ... Some days I feel like I'm making a home for myself and some days I still feel like a visitor.

Change takes time. It isn't (always) supposed to be easy. This change is stretching me and expecting me to grow.

Change is ... go on. Finish that thought.