Learning to Value Celebration by Ruth Ayres

On the last stop of the blog tour for her latest book Celebrating Writers, author Ruth Ayres talks about how she came to realize that celebrations were an important part of the writing process. You can preview her book online (www.stenhouse.com/0950.asp) and be sure to leave a comment or ask a question to be entered for a chance to win a free Stenhouse book!


It is difficult

to get the news from poems,

yet men die miserably every day

for lack

of what is found there.

—William Carlos Williams


I consider William Carlos Williams’s words as I think deeply about celebration. I must admit, when I first began teaching I thought celebration was fluff. It was the cherry on top, the bonus day in writing workshop. It wasn’t the serious business of writing. Williams compares poetry to news and then twists the words, making us realize that even if poetry isn’t “serious business,” it is still essential to life.

If we had stood together in my first classroom and you’d told me that someday I’d write a book about the importance of celebration, I would have snorted an ugly laugh. In those days, writing was serious business in my classroom, and the needs of my students as writers were too great to take time for a party. After all, why should we celebrate when they didn’t even follow the rules of standard English?

Since then I have become a writer. Writing is much harder than I thought when I stood in my first classroom telling kids what to write and how to write it. It is much harder to write than it is to create assignments. It is much harder to write than it is to tell others what to write. Since I’ve become a writer myself, I’ve learned to show students how to craft leads and use capitalization and be savvy with structure.

And I’ve learned that celebration is crucial to survival.

Living the life of a writer—writing every day—is hard work. As humans, we look for ease and comfort. Writing doesn’t encompass either of these things. So if we’re going to stick with it, even on the hard days, there has to be a bigger reason than because the teacher says so or because I’m going to publish.

Now I don’t mean that we should throw a party in order to keep writing. I don’t need shiny hats and cupcakes and praise to put words on the page. Celebration is not synonymous with a party. Rather, we can focus on the almosts and the not-quites and the I’m-sure-you-can-figure-it-outs. We can celebrate the writers who are learning in our classrooms. They will never be perfect, and writing will never be easy. But it is through celebration that we can keep going and learn to become stronger and more effective writers little by little, day after day.

celebrating-writersRuth Ayres loves to find meaning in ordinary stories and inspire others to do the same. She is the co-author of two books, Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities Through Publication with Christi Overman (Stenhouse, September 2013) and Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice with Stacey Shubitz (Stenhouse, 2010).  She is an instructional writing coach for Wawasee School District and can be found online at Ruth Ayres Writes and Twitter @ruth_ayres.