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Ingrid Ricks shares the story behind the stories in WE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY

A highlight of National Short Story Month: This week, Ingrid Ricks launches an extraordinary project, We Are Absolutely Not Okay: Fourteen Stories by Teenagers Who Are Picking Up the Pieces, a collection of true stories written by teens who've experienced life at its darkest. Through these stories, they embrace their past, seize the future and reach out to let other teens know that they have the power within themselves to survive and even thrive.

The Story Behind the Stories
a note from Ingrid Ricks
Even before publishing my coming-of-age memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, I knew I wanted to share my story with at-risk women and teens. I envisioned using it as a tool to help them face down their challenges by finding their voice and claiming their inner power.

I wasn’t sure what form it would take. I just knew that this was the overall message of Hippie Boy, and a message that I was passionate about getting out into the universe. Then, in early December, high school English teacher Marjie Bowker contacted me. She told me that a mutual friend had given her my book to read. Her next words were an early Christmas gift.

Hippie Boy is the book I’ve always wanted for my students,” she said. “Do you want to form an author partnership with my school?”

Neither of us was sure what an author partnership even meant. But we both knew we wanted to figure it out. So on a whim, we started brainstorming and Marjie was soon crafting a curriculum that used Hippie Boy as both a reading and writing guide to help her students claim their power by sharing their own stories in a narrative scene format.

Our month-long curriculum kicked off January 4th. And magic has been happening ever since. Marjie’s students have dealt with the kind of heartache and tragedy that most of us can’t even fathom. They’ve experienced gang life and drug overdoses, and have lost loved ones to prison, murder and suicide. Some have been shuffled from house to house without ever having a safe place to call home. Some have been battered and abused and neglected by those who were supposed to protect them.

Using Hippie Boy and a variety of interactive class discussions and writing exercises as their guide, the students spent the month of January working to bring their own stories to life. On February 1st, we hosted an in-class celebration and all- day reading so the students could share their life scenes. They were so charged up by the power they had found within themselves that nine of them stayed after school for nearly three hours to share their stories with a producer from a local public radio station.

Marjie and I realized that we had hit on something powerful and had to keep going. So we decided to offer an intensive four-day mini-course in April, with the intention of helping those students who were interested and committed to turn their draft life scenes into finished stories and publish them in a group story collection that would carry their powerful words out into the universe.

We Are Absolutely Not Okay is the end result of that intensive mini-course. But we’re convinced it is just the beginning of an incredible life journey for the amazing students involved. Having experienced the enormous validation and healing power of personal storytelling, Marjie and I plan to continue our author/school partnership with the message that through writing and sharing their stories, teens can find their voice and claim their power.

Download a free sample or buy the book on Kindle for just $2.99.

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