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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.)

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.”

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!

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

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). 

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.

Congratulations to Lisa Corbett and Loralee! You were both randomly selected using I will contact you to determine where to mail your copy of Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers. Yeah!

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

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 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!


  1. I had to look up the Eve Merriam poem. I will be adding it to my resources. If I win a free copy of the book I promise to share it with my colleagues!

  2. I am really challenged by the "giving choice" question. I want to help writers who are stuck but struggle on how to give them choice. I really appreciate the reminder why some of my students are not wanting to write. Everyone's story is important and should be told.

    1. I think it's good to be challenged by giving choice. I know I am every time I with young writers.

  3. Great advice from Ruth in your post. I agree that it's extremely important for teachers to be writers. It's a belief that developed for me after being a part of a National Writing Project summer institute. I am looking forward to reading this book. It sounds very unique and informative.

  4. Thanks for the answer. I’m really trying to figure out what choice means to me, and therefore I will offer it to kids. It’s been an interesting walk down a long road! I think it’s lovely that all the Ayers kids have approved the publishing of their stories. Can’t wait to read them!

    1. Hi Lisa! You speak wise truth -- until we wrestle through choice for ourselves it is difficult yet to give it to others.

  5. What a great collection of questions and inside thinking from Ruth! I really enjoyed it. I've heard bits and pieces about this book from Ruth but I don't own it yet - I think my soul needs it and I need to take her advice and start writing more myself.

    1. It's been great to see you at NCTE, Mandy. Thanks for encouraging me!

  6. I love that you consider "telling" a writer's story as an important piece of the writing process. It is really helpful for many writers to first tell their story and then tackle putting their words on paper. I also loved the quote from Stephanie. It shows how much of an impact you have made on her and for that I am looking forward to reading your entire book.

    1. Thanks Jaime! I'm glad you're following the tour.

  7. Wow ... before reading this blog I saw this book in my weekly (monthly) Stenhouse resource email ... As I was reading through the information on that site, I thought "maybe later ... it's for K-8 (I teach HS)" ... NOW, I wish I had added it to my cart. Soon and very soon ...

    1. Trust me, as a (retired) high school writing teacher Ruth's stories and ideas will transfer to your high school classroom. Story always matters :)

    2. Hi Sylvia,
      It was labeled k-8 grade span because of the examples in the book. They are mostly from the k-8 range. However, I share some stories of my daughter in high school. Deb is right, this transcends grade levels.

  8. It is great to hear the answers from Ruth, Michelle. Thank you. I know this book will make a difference in so many kids' and teachers' lives. I have the book, so don't put me in the drawing!

  9. Love the format of this post. It's time for me to get started reading my book. I feel that I've followed this book in its journey to publication. And now I'm curious about that next book . . .

    1. I agree, it is a lovely format for a post! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book!

  10. I learn so much from Ruth in every venue that she shares. The answer that resonated with me today is reasons why kids say they don't want to write. So important to think about.

  11. Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview. I love everything Ruth writes. It is always helpful and always touches my heart.

    I just checked to see if it is available on Amazon in Canada. It's $48.86 here. Yikes!

    1. Woah! Loralee, thank you for your constant support. If you don't receive a free copy, consider going through the Pembroke site. They are a sister publisher in Canada.

  12. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing this interview with Ruth. And to Ruth, your book sounds awesome. I love that "all stories are Ayres Kid Approved." But the part that touched me most are your words: "when I was out for a long walk along cornfields and streams, my next book hit me with the chill of the autumn breeze." Sounds like a divine encounter.

  13. Ruth, I'll be sharing parts of this interview with my students (9th grade) and the book is now in my Amazon cart. Thank you for sharing your thinking, your jour journey, and your passion!


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