Shout It to the Universe

I spent years worrying about what people would think if I finished and published my memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girls Story.

I didnt want to hurt anyone, particularly my mom, a devout Mormon who credits the LDS Church with saving her life. And yet it was her obsession and absolute devotion to Church doctrine that nearly destroyed mine.

It wasnt until last May, when I was invited to share my story of oppression and abuse of power within the Church on Mormon Expression, that I understood the power of sharing my story. I heard from dozens of people, mostly women, who talked about similar experiences and told me how much my story had resonated with them.

Thats when I realized that by sharing my story which is ultimately about learning that I had the power within me to overcome my challenges and claim the life I wanted for myself I could help others find their voice. By the time I published Hippie Boy in October, I knew I wanted to work with at-risk women and teens. I envisioned using Hippie Boy as a tool to encourage them to face their challenges by finding their voice and claiming their inner power. I wasnt sure what form it would take. I just knew it was a message I wanted to get out into the universe.

Then, in early December, I was contacted by Marjie Bowker, an English teacher at an alternative high school in a suburb outside of Seattle. She told me our mutual friend had given her my book to read. Her next words were an early Christmas gift to me.

Hippie Boy is the book Ive always wanted for my students, she said. Do you want to form an author partnership?

Neither of us understood 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 focuses on using Hippie Boy as a guide to help her students share their own stories in a narrative format.

Our month-long curriculum kicked off January 4th. And magic has been happening ever since. These juniors and seniors, more than forty in all, have experienced the kind of heartache and tragedy that most of us cant even fathom. Theyve experienced gang life and drug overdoses, and have lost loved ones to prison, suicide and cancer. 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. A few have resorted to stealing food because they didnt have enough to eat.

These students have every right to be angry and hardened. Instead, they are some of the most compassionate people Ive ever met. And they are STRONG. I felt a connection with them the first day I met them. They are me when I was their age and thanks to the power of story, we share a common understanding. Using Hippie Boy and the writing exercises Marjie crafted for them as their guide, they spent the month working to bring their own stories to life and, in the process, they have found their voice and are taking back their power. On February 1st, we hosted a celebration and all-day reading so the students could share their life scenes. Their stories were mind-blowing. And 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 our local public radio station.

Weve hit on something powerful and have made such a connection that Im working with these students again later this springwhen we plan to publish their lifestories in an eBook that will carry their powerful words out into the universe. The experience has been a huge gift and has taught me an incredible life-changing lesson: No matter what challenges you face, you can overcome them if you claim your power, find your voice, and shout it to the universe.

If you want to learn more about the writing program with these teens, click on this story by the Herald Weekly.And if you are interested reading Hippie Boy, its free TODAY ONLY as an eBook on Amazon.

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7 Comments

  1. 1
    chanson says:

    Wow, what an amazing, inspiring experience!! Thanks for sharing — with us and with those kids!!

       1 likes

  2. 2
    belaja says:

    That’s fantastic! And I loved your book.

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  3. 3
    Alan says:

    I didnt want to hurt anyone, particularly my mom, a devout Mormon who credits the LDS Church with saving her life.

    I know this feeling. When I self-published my novel, which is based on true events, I really struggled with whether I’d made characters anonymous enough, particularly Brendan who is shown in a very vulnerable way.

    Part of this ended up being a legal question, since at the time I was working at a detox center (and I have a number of scenes that take place in a detox). I had one of the nurses read the story (to make sure I got all the nursing right), and before I knew it, my boss brought me into her office and said: “So, it’s come to my attention that you’re depicting people here. You cannot do that. Give me the manuscript.” I tried to explain to her that everyone was within acceptable boundaries of anonymity…that the fictional clients and nurses were hodgepodges, but she said that didn’t matter…I simply couldn’t write about it.

    The thing is, detoxes are strange places, legally-speaking. Many people there have engaged in illegal activity by using illicit drugs (with the exception of alcohol), but society needs a place of safety (from the law) and healing due to the harmful effects of drug withdrawal. Hence, we employees were “not allowed” to tell the police if a given person is or was at the detox, even if that person was a murderer or rapist (unless of course someone was being murdered or raped at the detox). So, my boss thought she was doing her job by insisting I couldn’t write about the place, threatening me with potential legal action.

    I didn’t give the manuscript to her, and was frantic that day, getting advice about intellectual property rights from local lawyers. (I was 22-years-old, so this all had a slight feeling of recklessness to it.)

    Thankfully, the situation blew over. But I’d been concerned ever since about how I depicted Brendan. Happily, recently, the real-life Brendan has contacted me after 6 years of no-contact, saying that he’s ready to be my friend and thanking me for the “honest portrayal” in the book. I nearly wept. The way I think of it now is that, in most cases, the heart and soul and time put into writing a book ends up offsetting people’s hurt feelings. It’s like, “Omigosh, I really matter to you, don’t I? You put so much work into this.” Writing is a shared journey (even when you do it alone) that people respect, especially if they see themselves in the writing.

    Of course, if I had named Brendan by his real name, or had actually used real detox clients, that’d be a different matter. =p

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  4. 4
    Ingrid says:

    thank you, chanson! i really appreciate your words. And belaja — thanks! And thanks for reading HB. I’m so glad you liked it.

    Alan – Wow. What a story…and what a nightmare to have a boss demand your manuscript and insist you can’t write your fictional story. I gave my draft manuscript to my mom three years ago. At that time, she was really upset about it. But this last time, she actually read it and even said she was sorry for past…which meant so much to me. She still won’t read the final book. But I really appreciate that at least she has come to a place where she understands why i wanted and needed to write the story. And more than anything, I’m thrilled that because of my story, it’s helping others to find their voice and claim their power.

    What is the title of the your book? I want to look it up!

    Best,
    Ingrid

       0 likes

  5. 5
    Alan says:

    It’s called “Ockham’s Razor.” You can get to it by clicking my name above this comment. =)

       0 likes

  6. 6
    Stephanie says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ingrid! What an amazing path you are on. Look at what can happen when just one person finds her voice. Who knows the lasting affect your gift will have on the lives of so many. I hope you write more about the experiences you are having as you teach these kids, and what they are teaching you.
    Love to you!
    Steph.

       0 likes

  7. 7
    Ingrid says:

    Thanks, Alan. I’ll check it out!

    Steph…thanks so much. You inspire me!!! xoxoxo

       0 likes

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