Local writer Ingrid Ricks is one inspirational and successful Ballardite. The local Mom of two has hit number 20 on the New York Times bestseller list with her self published coming-of-age memoir, Hippie Boy. The My Ballard team had the pleasure of sitting down with Ricks to chat about her writing career and the path that led her to where she is today.
Ricks is one tough cookie with an inspirational story and message to boot. In 2004, she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that, over time, is slowly stealing her eyesight. “When I was diagnosed I was devastated,” says Ricks. “I was terrified of being a burden to my husband and my family”. It was then that the former journalist was sent to Africa to cover an AIDS story for the African Children’s Choir, which put everything into perspective and gave her the determination to live her life to the full. After the trip, instead of wallowing in self pity Ricks got up, dusted herself off and and, she puts it, gave herself permission to go after her dreams.
In terms of those dreams, she had always wanted to write a memoir about her childhood. So, in 2009 she started memoir writing classes and building her knowledge of writing narrative non-fiction. However, Ricks was still on the edge of embarking on the project that she had longed to start for many years until her daughters gave her the final push. “We were walking down the street and my daughters bent over pretending to walk with a cane and said “My book, my book I have to finish my book,” remembers Ricks. While at that exact moment she felt upset and bit her lip to stop from crying, she knew that this push was exactly what she needed to give herself permission to embark on fulfilling one of her dreams.
The realization of that dream was complete when, in October 2011, Ricks launched her self-published memoir Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story. The memoir tells the story of her life growing up with a devoutly Mormon mother and step-father and her experiences of finding her own voice and life along the way. Since self-publishing Hippie Boy, and having the story shared on NPR’s Snap Judgement, Ricks has continued to realize her dreams publishing two more memoirs, Focus and A Little Book of Mormon (or not so Mormon) Stories.
On top of writing and self-publishing her memoirs, Ricks has also been busy inspiring youth to find their voice and power through writing. In 2012, Ricks co-founded a teen mentoring/publishing program at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds with teacher Marjie Bowker. Ricks and Bowker collaborated on the project and used Hippie Boy as a guide for a month long course to empower students through writing. At the end of the course emotions ran high at a reading where the students shared the stories that they had written about their own lives. From there the program expanded, allowing the teens to write and publish their own stories, culminating in a published story collection We Are Absolutely Not Ok. Ricks and Bowker then launched a website to facilitate teens helping teens through storytelling. The program is still in full swing, with funding on the way, and has been featured in Reader’s Digest, in The Seattle Times and on King 5’s New Day Northwest. “We want to have a spotlight on the serious issues that teens face,” says Ricks. “It’s been life changing for some of the teens involved.”
If you thought that between writing, self-publishing and co-founding a teen mentor program that Ricks would not have time for more, you thought wrong. Throughout this whole experience Ricks has been trying to build awareness about Retinitis Pigmentosa Diagnosis and share her personal story through her blog Determined to See.com. On the blog Ricks shares her experiences, treatments that she has tried and generally promotes the message to embrace all that life has to offer. “Life is short, embrace the moment,” says Ricks.
In terms of advice to others who are facing Retinitis Pigmentosa Diagnosis, Ricks points to one important thing. “I never thought it would come down to something as simple as diet. Focus on diet and lifestyle,” says Ricks. She points to following the alkaline based diet coined by Kris Carr in her book Crazy, Sexy, Diet.
Ricks is an inspirational and passionate person who we are sure to hear more from in the future. She inspires others through her writing, speaking and general outlook on life. So, to sum it all up, in the words of Ricks, “when you really go after your dreams and give them everything you’ve got, the Universe has a way of making them happen.”
Photo courtesy of ingridricks.com.