By Ingrid Ricks
Marjie Bowker and I had no idea we were launching a teen publishing program when we first decided to partner in January of 2012. Our only goal was to teach a month-long narrative nonfiction-writing course using my coming-of-age memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girls’ Story.
Marjie, who is always looking for innovative ways to make her English classes relevant and empowering for her students, felt Hippie Boy was a perfect fit for her students because it deals with a teen overcoming obstacles and carries a message of hope and empowerment that she wanted them to hear. We started brainstorming and soon Marjie was crafting a curriculum that used Hippie Boy as a guide to help her students claim their power by writing their personal stories in a narrative format.
Our month-long partnership was supposed to end with an in-class reading of the students’ work. But by the time the reading rolled around, the students were so charged up by the power they had found within themselves that Marjie and I realized we had to keep going. With the full support of Scriber Lake Principal Kathy Clift, we decided to offer an intensive weeklong mini-course to help interested students turn their draft life scenes into finished stories and publish them in a group story collection. On May 20th, only a month after our mini-course ended, We Are Absolutely Not Okay: Fourteen Stories by Teenagers Who Are Picking Up the Pieces debuted as an eBook on Amazon. Two weeks later, the paperback was available for purchase.
By writing and publishing their stories in We Are Absolutely Not Okay, the student authors involved have overcome painful situations from their pasts and are taking charge of their lives. They are also connecting with other struggling teens—letting them know that life does get better. Having experienced the enormous validation and empowerment that comes from personal storytelling, we are continuing the Scriber Lake mentoring/publishing program. We are also committed to leveraging digital publishing and online media to help teens everywhere claim their power by writing and sharing their stories.