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As a student at Gettysburg College, Amy Hinton Tingle ’91 was an active force on campus—she was an R.A., a campus DJ, a tour guide, president of Gettysburg’s chapter of Chi Omega, and won the Linnaean Award during her senior year. So it may come of little surprise to those who knew her then that she is now amidst a massive adventure to provide more than 27 libraries to Midwestern communities from Colorado to Michigan. It may even come as even less of a surprise that she’s doing so on two wheels.
Tingle is joined by fellow writing enthusiast, Maya Stein, on a 30-day, 1,400-mile journey that will take them from Boulder, Colorado, to Beloit, Wisconsin, via tandem bike. The project, dubbed Type Rider II: The Tandem Poetry Tour, builds upon a 2012 project in which Stein traveled from Massachusetts to Wisconsin to share poetry and inspire others to write.
In each Midwestern town through which they pass, Tingle and Stein will be stopping at community centers, markets, front yards, and other sites where they will join local townspeople in establishing Little Free Libraries. Since many of these communities don’t have public libraries of their own, the Little Free Libraries are helping to expand access to quality reading materials. And since the Little Free Libraries are stocked with books shared and borrowed by community members, they help build collaboration around a common interest. “Little Free Library is the perfect partner for us,” Tingle said. “Improving literacy? Inspiring creativity? Creating community? Yes, please. I’ll take more of all of that any day.”
Along their journey, Tingle and Stein are also taking some time to do a little writing of their own. Using two vintage typewriters they’ve hauled behind them, the pair asks participants to give them a single word that they each use as the basis of a short poem. This idea of tandem poetry writing, says Stein, “gives people a chance to see poetry at work—how people write, what happens, [and] the creative process.”
While this is their first tandem bike tour, the pair is well-practiced in engaging others through writing and creative projects. Back in their hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, Stein and Tingle own and operate Food for the Soul Train, which uses their vintage caravan, Maude, to take art and writing classes, educational programs, celebrations, corporate events, and even photo shoots on the road. Tingle is also the founder and owner of BraveGirlsArt, which offers art and self-empowerment classes, workshops, and summer camps for girls and women.
This career in creative writing and expression, says Tingle, is driven by a personal passion to instill imagination and empowerment among young people in a time when these opportunities are becoming less available in public schools. “I had a deep desire to let young girls know that it was okay to be who they are and to keep art in their lives long past the time school says it’s okay to let it go,” she recalls. “And when I met Maya, we began to integrate our shared love of writing into the classes and it’s been amazing. We find that the writing is a way in to the art processes. It’s a catalyst.”
She also credits Gettysburg for helping her maintain this curiosity during her time as a student. As an interdisciplinary studies major, Tingle slowly transitioned away from her coursework in the arts as she pursued a self-designed major. Looking back on her academic experience, she still laughs at her decision to merge the study of Ireland’s history and politics, women’s studies, and a senior thesis on Poland. “I am naturally curious, but my curiosity was fed again and again at college,” she recalls. “I gained invaluable experience by having so many doors opened for me at Gettysburg. I could try and do anything I wanted for the most part. No one said ‘no,’ they just said ‘let's figure it out.’”
Another formative part of Tingle’s Gettysburg experience was her time abroad, which she spent in Ireland working for its then-Teachta Dala, Ruairi Quinn. Working part-time and attending school part-time—all while living with a host family of six—allowed her to fully immerse herself in the local culture. “I think traveling on your own as a young person prepares you very well to be a leader, to trust your instincts, to make smart decisions, and to learn from your mistakes when you don't,” she said, alluding to a sense of discovery and spontaneity that has fed into her philosophy of living.
When she and Stein are asked about their professional ventures and their cross-country journey, this philosophy is clearly central. "It's not about money, it's about passion,” said Tingle. “We absolutely love what we do and believe wholeheartedly in our mission. We believe in taking risks, making leaps, and inspiring others to do the same. This trip is a huge risk, but the rewards are already far greater than we could have imagined and we haven't even pedaled the first mile yet. When you live your life this way, everything else follows. Trust us. It's true."
Posted: Mon, 21 Jul 2014