Photo by Heather B. Allison Photography
Ricks said that through writing her memoir she found her voice and healing by sharing it with others.

Ballard author has hope that heals

Ingrid Ricks finds healing through writing her memoir Hippie Boy'

By Christy Wolyniak

Ballard author, Ingrid Ricks, has been an unstoppable force since the release of her memoir, Hippie Boy - a coming-of-age story of a girl grappling with abuse, crippling poverty, love, and religious misuse.

Hippie Boy sets the stage for a young Ricks up until the age of sixteen, who travels as a tool-selling vagabond with her father in a desperate attempt to escape a dysfunctional home environment with a controlling stepfather and devout Mormon mother.

Ricks’ story was a long time in coming to fruition. Afraid to hurt her family by exposing painful memories, Ricks endured the rubble from her past.

Upon being diagnosed with a rare degenerative eye disease in 2004 known as Retinitis Pigmentosa, her doctor recognized that Ricks was suppressing serious issues from her childhood and said to her, “If you don’t think that carrying this inside of you is impacting your physical health, you’re crazy.”

Ricks hastened to write as her vision was now threatened. Her daughters, Hannah, 11 and Sydney, 15, were also part of her inspiration in documenting this book.

She describes a memory of walking with her daughters who were 8 and 11 at the time, when they began to hobble around with an imaginary cane saying, “My book, my book! I have to finish my book!” The idea that she was not pursuing her dreams, which was clearly imparted upon her young daughters, horrified Ricks.

Ricks self-published her memoir in 2011 and then relied upon her public relations and marketing skills to promote her book for the next two years.

Hippie Boy rapidly caught the attention of memoir-lovers and even young adult fans who could relate to a rough adolescence. After reaching the NY Times E-book Bestseller List in June of 2013, Ricks accepted a publishing contract with Berkley Books, a division of Penguin Random House Publishing.

Ricks said that through writing her memoir she found her voice and healing by sharing it with others.

The book is written in scenes, and it piqued the interest of English Teacher Marjie Bowker, who contacted Ricks with a proposal to use Hippie Boy at Scriber Lake High School as a mentoring tool to help students write their own stories.

“I actually wrote down on paper that I wanted to use this book to help others, and then Marjie contacted me. I saw a partner for life,” said Ricks of the partnership with Bowker.

Students responded so well to the memoir, that Ricks and Bowker held a weeklong course to help students publish their stories in a collaboration titled, We Are Absolutely Not Okay, which resulted in an ongoing writing and publishing program at Scriber Lake.

Following the pilot of using Ricks’ memoir in a class setting, a growing demand from educators and students at other high schools spurred Marjie Bowker and Ricks to self published the Hippie Boy Teaching Guide on January 5, 2014. The guide is available at

Ricks’ previous work in social issues journalism is evident is her ‘root-for-the-underdog’ mentality which colors every aspect of her life.

“I see my work with the students and my Determined to See blog as a natural extension of this. My goal is to give a voice to those who aren't being heard. By helping teens to tell their personal stories, I'm helping them to be heard. By refusing to accept what all retinal specialists tell me, ‘That there is nothing I can do to save my eyesight,’ and blogging about my eyesight healing quest, I'm taking back my power and am empowering others who are dealing with a life-changing degenerative disease and want to take charge of their health,” said Ricks.

Berkley re-released Hippie Boy as a national paperback on January 7, 2014, keeping Ricks busy with events and new projects.

Her diminishing eyesight has only fueled her enthusiasm to help others. Ricks’ blog is also the subject of her upcoming book, Determined to See. She has also written two other memoirs, Focus and A Little Book of Mormon (or not so Mormon) Stories.

Herself a Ballardite, Ricks can be spotted on many an occasion enjoying a fresh cup of joe at Ballard Coffee Works.

“Everyone here is so community-focused and supportive, and accepts people for who they are. It's such a free-thinking community. It’s got everything I need. I can work, play and just be. Plus I think Ballard has the best coffee in the city,” said Ricks.

Join Ricks and some of the students she mentors -- big supporters of her work with Hippie Boy -- will be at Secret Garden Books this Friday at 7 p.m. She will also be speaking at University Books on January 13 at 7 p.m.

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