Thursday, January 9, 2014

Author Interview Ingrid Ricks-Hippie Boy

I'm so pleased to welcome to the blog Ingrid Ricks who is talking today about her newly released memoir Hippie Boy.

And I'd like to dedicate this post to a young heroine who I had the immense pleasure of knowing and seeing mature into one incredible young woman. (you know who you are)

  • ISBN-13: 9780425274002
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 304


Discover the unforgettable New York Times bestselling memoir about growing up in a dysfunctional Mormon family--and finding escape, adventure, and hard-earned wisdom on the road...
What would you do if your stepfather pinned you down and tried to cast Satan out of you? For thirteen-year-old Ingrid, the answer is simple: RUN.

Ingrid Welcome to The Reading Frenzy

Tell my readers about your memoir, Hippie Boy.
Hippie Boy is my coming-of-age story about a girl who escapes her oppressive stepfather and the suffocating religion and poverty at home by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond—until trouble hits and she realizes that the only person who can save her is herself.

This is not your first foray into non-fiction; you have another memoir out; Focus about your eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, and your collection of short stories; A Little Book of Mormon and Not So Mormon Stories.
Do you ever see yourself publishing fiction, or are you pretty much a facts only girl?
I started my career as a journalist and personal storytelling is definitely my passion. Fiction isn’t in my foreseeable future, but I’ve learned to never say “never.” My grandmother spent five years in Ravensbruck, a notorious concentration camp for women, where she was forced to work as a sex slave to survive. I’d like to tell her story at some point and because so many pieces are missing, some of that story will have to be fictionalized. 

Speaking of your other memoir; Focus.
Have you had any success battling your eye disease?
I’ve spent the past year seeking out alternative therapies and have recently found some success with specialized acupuncture and laser light therapy through Dr. Andy Rosenfarb (  There is no magic pill, but between his treatments and my focus on whole-body health, I feel like I’ve found a way to manage this disease and maintain my remaining eyesight—which is HUGE for me.

You’re passionate about helping teens according to your website by “using the world of digital publishing to give teens a voice”. Did your passion for helping teens start because of Hippie Boy, after, before?
And how do you give teens their “voice”?
It’s directly connected to Hippie Boy. Sort of a long story, but here goes.  
Hippie Boy is the story about how I—as a teenager—found my voice and the inner strength to save myself from the circumstances I was desperate to escape. But it wasn’t until I gave myself permission to write my story and share it with others that I was able to let go of the pain from my childhood and fully reclaim my power around it.
 Though I’d wanted to tell my story for years, I struggled because I didn’t want to hurt my parents or offend anyone. Beyond that, the pain and emotional trauma was so great that I cried every time I opened my computer to write. Then, in late January 2004, I was diagnosed with my blinding eye disease. In my quest to save my vision, I sought treatment from a doctor who focuses on whole-body health. He started off the appointment by asking me to tell him about my childhood. Within minutes, I was sobbing.
 The doctor told me it was clear I was carrying around a huge negative energy charge over something that happened so many years ago. He said, “If you don’t think that carrying this inside of you is impacting your physical health, you’re crazy.”

The idea that holding onto the anguish from all those years ago could actually be causing me to go blind was a huge wake up call for me. I finally gave myself permission to write my book. I also started openly sharing my story through essays and podcasts, and discovered the immense healing power and validation that can come from personal storytelling.  Because of that experience, I knew I wanted to use my story to help teens that were struggling with similar issues. Shortly after initially self-publishing Hippie Boy, I was contacted by an English teacher at an alternative high school who told me Hippie Boy was the book she had been searching for for her students. It was like being handed a huge gift. Our partnership was intended to be a month-long unit that used Hippie Boy as a guide to help her students write a narrative scene from their lives. But the experience was so powerful for the students involved that we decided to keep gong and help those interested publish their stories in a collection they titled We Are Absolutely Not Okay.  That, in turn, has evolved into an ongoing writing and publishing program at the school and the development of a curriculum that we just launched to help educators everywhere empower students by helping them to write their personal stories.

Do you think that teens are more misunderstood today than ever before?
Teens today face so many pressures—but there are common threads that are same from generation to generation: poverty, broken homes, abuse of power, abandonment.  It’s easy to judge someone by his or her outward appearances or actions. The students I work with have been called “loser”, “druggie”, “dropout”, “whore” and a number of other damaging labels by adults. But once people know the story behind their actions, everything changes: adults suddenly understand just how incredible and resilient these teens are.  That’s the power of ensuring teen voices are heard: it fosters communication, awareness and understanding.

What is age of the audience you’re trying to attract with your book Hippie Boy?
Hippie Boy is a crossover bookmuch like The Glass Castle or Angeles Ashes. It resonates with memoir lovers and anyone who likes coming-of-age stories. But it also connects with young adults.

I have a personal story about helping a teen literally escape an abusive home life by only the means of social media and on-line chat rooms. I’m happy to say that she is now living a successful life is nurtured and loved by the people she ran to and I am in awe of her perseverance.  Is this an isolated incident or do you think that because of the web/social media etc… teens are able to reach out anonymously to ask for help or just to talk?
I think social media serves as a powerful communications outlet; but mostly I think teens just want to be heardin whatever form that takes. is a website we started for the program at Scriber Lake High Schoolwith the goal of using it as a vehicle to reach other students and educators to spread the word about the life-changing power of personal storytelling.  As mentioned, we’ve just launched a curriculum for educators, and plan to expand the program to ensure teen everywhere have the opportunity to be heard.

Ingrid thank you so much for sharing some of your story with us.
Will there be any signings/author events where fans could meet you in person?
 Yes!  I have readings/signings in Seattle and Salt Lake City.  They all start at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan 9 – Third Place Books Lake Forest Park (Seattle)
Friday, Jan 10  - Secret Garden Bookstore (Seattle)
Monday, Jan 13 – University Bookstore (Seattle)
Wednesday, Jan 15 – Weller Book World (Salt Lake City)

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my backstory with your readers.

Ingrid Ricks is also the author of Focus, a memoir about retinitis pigmentosa, and A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories. She co-launched, a nationally recognized mentoring/publishing program for at-risk teens. Her essays and stories have been published in SalonLadies Home Journal, and The Advocate, among others. 

Connect with Ingrid  WebsiteFacebookBlog - Twitter


  1. I'm so impressed with this story Debbie, that today I'm recommending this book to my public library, if they don't already have it in their collection. To Ingrid Ricks, there are not enough words to praise and thank you for the help you give to teens with your books and program. I truly wish you all the best and I'm sending healing thoughts your way! You, too, Deb for helping that person you know. ;) Proud to know ya :D

    1. I'm tearing up Lorelei, thank you for asking your library to carry this and for the praise.

    2. now you made me tear up! read below...

    3. Lorelel - I'm sorry I'm so late with this note (had tried once with a different browser and my comment didn't take). Thank you so much for your kind words - and for recommending Hippie Boy to your local library. Really really cool of you. It's been so rewarding working with the students..and now we have several schools coming on board to use Hippie Boy as a guide to help theirs students write their stories. It's so incredible. And Debbie - Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to share my "Whole" story. I really appreciate it. Best - Ingrid

  2. Done! I recommended Hippie Boy and Focus. ;) Will share if they order. :)

    1. Debbie! The library will be buying Hippie boy! They'll be checking out and sending me the first copy once it's processed. When it gets here, I'll take a pic and share. What a great addition to their collection and for the community!

  3. Debbie and Ingrid what a book. Finding courage is always hard, acting on it, even harder.
    Karen L

  4. Wow, I don't usually read memoirs but I must admit after reading this powerful interview I am very intrigued.

    1. Thanks Kim, thank God for people like Ingrid.

    2. Thank you Kim and Debbie. The coolest part of sharing my story is really learning that EVERYBODY has stories to tell..and that there is so much power in personal storytelling.

  5. What a great website yall started up. Good luck with it this year!!