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Testimonials for our presentations

From a librarian: 
“Ruth McNally Barshaw is an entertaining and humorous presenter. 
She is able to teach her audiences that their thoughts, words, and pictures have meaning and are important enough to document. 
While drawing, the author informs listeners on how to get ideas for writing by drawing first, then using call outs, and finally illustrating 
a story arc. Using a hands on approach, Mrs. Barshaw keeps students actively engaged by having them doodle along with her. 
Highly effective!”
                             -- Liz Voorheis, MLIS Head of Children & Teen Services, Willard Library, Battle Creek, MI 49017
                             (Liz accompanied me on a multi-day tour of Battle Creek schools)

From a teacher:
"Ruth McNally Barshaw truly understands how to inspire children and adults of all ages. 
Ruth's blend of actively sketching and showing her drawings while telling her "history" keeps the audience engaged at all times. Her real life examples of her hard work and perseverance toward following her dream of becoming a writer and illustrator helped the children see how dreams can come true. 
The students loved drawing along with her while she showed how to use basic shapes to start with and then add the details to have the picture transform into the animal that they wanted it to become. 
Ruth even taught the students the basic elements of story writing and used their input to jointly produce that story before their very eyes! This all happened in a highly energetic fun-filled hour. The children were still buzzing with their own story ideas when returning to the classroom and couldn't wait to get their story down on paper. 
Midway Elementary will certainly remember our friend, Ruth McNally Barshaw!"
                          -- Linda Carmer, 2nd Grade Teacher, Midway Elementary, Holt, Michigan. Nov., 2010

From a parent:
Dear Ruth:

I so appreciated your presentation to the University of Michigan Flint's 
Writing Camp. As a huge fan of children's books, I was really looking 
forward to seeing you. You were hugely entertaining. Your self-
deprecating humor made it hard to be jealous of your talent and success.
You were also inspirational! We can all draw a zebra. A couple of triangles 
here and there, a little fur and it's a zebra!
Thank you for sharing the process of getting a book published and 
inspiring us all to doodle.

With best regards,

Lisé Dickson
Benjamin's Momma

(Lisé attended the Writing Camp for teachers and kids, with her young son)

This 2010 news article gives a good summary of my library presentation and philosophy:


Serving Southeast Michigan

Author encourages children's creativity at Ann Arbor library event

Monday, April 12, 2010

By Art Aisner, Special Writer

Ann Arbor library photo

Ruth McNally Barshaw hates to limit children's creativity in any way. So in every appearance 
at schools and libraries across the state, the author of the popular "Ellie McDoodle" series 
abandons the rules.

Kids are encouraged to sit on the floor, bark out ideas, and even scribble down their thoughts 
while she's talking.

In fact, the only rule her audiences must abide by is to pick up a pencil and sheet of paper at
the door and keep it nearby during her hourlong presentation.

After a brief introduction, her first task at a special appearance in Pittsfield Township last week 
was to have participants create their own artificially bound sketch book out of a single sheet of paper.

"Always have a sketch pad with you and keep it nearby," she implored the captivated audience 
of roughly 40 children at the Ann Arbor District Library's Pittsfield Township Branch. "There are a lot 
of people that have great ideas and never write them down. Don't be one of those people."

It's a philosophy that has served her well over the years. Starting at age 6, McNally Barshaw 
started carrying a sketch pad and documented events in her life as they happened. Before long, 
the sketchpad became the key to channeling her imagination, and no page was wasted. She filled 
dozens over the years and takes a thick stack of them to her presentations to show children that 
inspiration can come anywhere at any time.

Though it started as a hobby, sketching quickly became somewhat an obsession and led to what 
she believes is her true calling in life, penning children's books. But that only came after toiling for 
years in the advertising field, illustrating for newspapers and participating in national essay-writing 
contests, six of which she won.

"Sometimes you grow up thinking you'll be something, and you'll end up being something else, and 
that's cool because it's all about the discovery and learning new things," McNally Barshaw said.

"I'm still trying very hard to learn something else."

One task she has mastered is getting her message out to kids with an affinity for writing drawing. 
Combining her easygoing demeanor and infectious enthusiasm, McNally Barshaw engages audiences 
ranging from toddler age to pre-teens and gets them to feel comfortable expressing themselves.

With a black marker and easel, McNally Barshaw showed her creative process by drawing some of 
her favorite characters. By having the children sketch along, she gave audience members a blueprint 
to follow in order to be creative with confidence.

It's part of how she promotes art literacy, a notion that drawing ideas first enhances a person's 
creativity and writing ability.

The process helped her create two books: "Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel" and "Ellie McDoodle: 
New Kid in School." The stories capture the adventures of Ellie McDoodle, a sketch-obsessed school 
girl and her family.

"I was reading books to my kids and thought that Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss had done all the 
books I'd wanted to do, and did them much better," said McNally Barshaw, who grew up in the 
Detroit area and now lives in Lansing.

"But I thought there could be room for me if I really worked hard enough."

McNally Barshaw had both hard and soft cover editions of her books on display and offered a 
preview of her next book in the series "Ellie McDoodle: Best Friend Fur-ever" which is due out in August.

The new book features the usual fun-filled characters, plus a few of their new animal friends.

She said she's also working on a novel.

"It's very exciting for us to have her here," said Ieva Bates, the youth services librarian at the 
Pittsfield Township branch. "She's an accomplished writer and we knew that the Ann Arbor Schools 
students would be on break and would get a chance to enjoy something like this."

The enthusiasm and inspiration that McNally Barshaw stirred was obvious, said Laura Stubbs, 
who brought her 8- and 6-year-old sons to see a professional illustrator and writer for the first time.

"They are all about this kind of thing and really loved it," she said.

For more information about the series or McNally Barshaw's other works and 
presentation schedule visit www.ruthexpress.com.

(Author note: Thank you, Heritage.com and Special Writer Art Aisner!!)


This 2010 news article gives a good summary of my classroom visit from back then.
Scroll further down for text of the article below the screen-captured photo and text page.


Text of the article:

Author offers summer writing tips to Martell students
The fifth graders at Martell Elementary in Troy recently got some great tips on keeping a 
summertime journal from a professional, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Michigan author and 
illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle series.

In a June 4th school presentation and workshop brimming with fun and academics, 
Ruth described her path to publication. Growing up in a Harper Woods family of nine 
children, Ruth got her big break when her high school art teacher gave her the first blank 
sketchbook. She filled it, and hundreds more, and it is this quick pen and ink style, with 
a funny, witty wordplay that eventually led to a career in children’s books.

The Ellie McDoodle books are similar in style to another successful series, Diary of a 
Wimpy Kid. Both journal-style novel series were published at virtually the same time, 
and both are credited with enticing reluctant readers to read and take a chance on 
more books.

At the school presentation Ruth stressed the importance of revisions for writers and the 
value of B.I.C. (Body In Chair) as a way to begin any difficult project. She reminded 
students that practice and persistence in any field, including music (she plays her 
harmonica at student events), art and sports, brings improvement. Rounding out the 
academic portion of the session, Ruth showed students how to create a story from 
start to finish.

And then they drew. Ruth showed students how to draw a zebra head starting with 
two triangles. She helped them create a cartoony squirrel beginning with a rounded 
triangle and a circle, saying that professional illustrators often tackle complex illustrations 
by starting with simple shapes. She invited students to come up with “Ellie McDoodle 
words” demonstrating that the “P” in “Parrot” can become the bird, or the “B” in “Butterfly” 
becomes fancy decorated wings for the insect.

Ruth appeared at Martell Elementary on request of Jan McIntyre, whose son Kevin is 
in the fifth grade. Ruth’s two books, Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel and 
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School are available in bookstores and through Scholastic Book 
Club. Her third book, Ellie McDoodle: Best Friends Fur-Ever debuts August 3. Another 
unrelated children’s novel is in the works, and Ruth has plans for future Ellie McDoodle books. 
Ruth will spend this summer “B.I.C.”, Body In Chair, writing

(Author note: Thank you, Jan McIntyre, Kevin McIntyre and Martell Elementary!!)

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