Writer helps Scriber students shed light on painful pasts through writing

  • Tue Jan 31st, 2012 8:06pm

<b>SCHOOLS | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

EDMONDS — A Seattle author’s memoir and constructive criticism are showing Scriber Lake High School students they can take a painful memory and use it to help someone who can relate.

Ingrid Ricks is partnering with English teacher Marjie Bowker to create a curriculum revolving around Ricks’ self-published memoir, “Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story.” Ricks writes about how she escaped her stepfather’s extreme religious abuse as a teenager by accompanying her father on the road selling tools. Their adventures come to an end when Ricks’ father is arrested and it’s up to Ricks to save him.

Bowker felt an instant connection to the book and trusted her students would too. She wrote to Ricks that her student needed to hear and believe her message.

“I was so happy to find a strong female voice like hers, and one that had a positive message, too – a voice determined to reach inside and find a positive future despite a hard childhood,” Bowker said.

Bowker’s students were assigned to write about a memory, positive or negative, and use Ricks’ writing techniques to influence the structure of their piece.

Ricks challenged Lia Andrews, 18, to turn a poem she wrote about her absent father into a narrative essay. Andrews wrote the poem as a letter to her father of what she’d say to him if they ever met.

“I don’t remember my dad,” she said. “I never shared a word with him.”

She read the poem in front of her peers and was met with tears and hugs.

At a time when it feels like people can’t empathize or understand how they feel, Ricks has broken through that emotional barrier and connected with Bowker’s students. “They have every right to be pissed off at the world and hardened, but most of them are the most compassionate people,” Ricks said. Students said they like Ricks’ book and are drawn to her energetic personality.

Ricks told the students they can choose to have a chip on their shoulder or they can take charge of their life and, in doing so, find their voice.

“They have so much raw talent, and I’ll help them find a wide audience and be heard,” she said.

Miranda Esau, 16, finished the first chapter of the memoir and could relate to having a strained relationship with a stepfather. Esau is writing about hers and was thrilled when Ricks said Esau is a good writer and pointed out things to help to write better.

“Ingrid showed me when you talk it’s not dwelling necessarily. It’s getting past it and that sets you free and helps people,” Esau said.

Ricks only dabbled in writing the book for years until she was diagnosed with degenerative eye disease. The diagnosis pushed her to finish the memoir, which she hopes encourages women to find their voice, as Ricks did.

“The more my vision closes in, it made me realize the time to go for my passion is now,” she said.

How to help

Author Ingrid Ricks is accompanying Scriber Lake High School teacher Marjie Bowker and seven students to Costa Rica to help turtles while earning school credits. To raise money for the trip, they’re selling signed copies of Ricks’ book, “Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story.” To help, send a check for $16 to Scriber Lake High School, attn: Marjie Bowker, 23200 100th Ave. W, Edmonds, WA 98020.