Just Get Started! Be Unstoppable! Dream Big! How to Become an Accidental Activist profiles almost 100 activists from around the world, including change-makers like Greta Thunberg, Pete Seeger and Lilly Singh. This book shows us how ordinary people have persevered throughout history to do extraordinary things to help themselves and others.
These activists come from many different backgrounds and a drives to take action. They work for human rights, to help the environment, to preserve historic buildings and more. This book will inspire young readers by giving them tips on getting started, continuing when the going gets tough and encouraging others to get involved. They will learn how to use determination, channel their passions and dream big to change the world.
In this guest post for the Orca blog, Frieda Wishinsky explains how she was inspired to profile four of the activists featured in the book.
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By Frieda Wishinsky
All my books have started from or been shaped by a memory, an encounter, a movie, a book, a conversation or a trip. So when my co-author Elizabeth MacLeod and I decided to write How to Become an Accidental Activist, I looked for compelling stories of activists for the profiles I would write. I knew there were activists everywhere and they all strive to make the world a better place for everyone. They have grit, perseverance and courage.
There were some activists who came to mind immediately, like Greta Thunberg and Jane Goodall. But I also wanted to write about activists who were not widely known, but whose stories were just as amazing.
Here’s how I accidentally found four activists whose stories I profiled.
Minerva Hamilton Hoyt
Joshua Tree National Park is a magical place in southern California. It’s dotted with prickly, twisty trees and plants. I explored that otherworldly landscape in 2019. Here’s a photo I took of a Joshua Tree.
A few weeks after my visit, I stumbled on an LA Times article about a remarkable woman, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, who fell in love with the land in the late 1890s. She rode her horse near the cactuses and camped under the stars beside the trees. She wanted to preserve the rugged beauty of this unique landscape and became the driving force to make it a national Park.
How did she do it?
Hoyt organized garden shows to convince the public that cactuses are just as beautiful as roses and daisies. She hired a photographer to take photos and sent the album to US President Franklin Roosevelt. Her approach and dogged efforts paid off! Joshua Tree is now a National Park that welcomes visitors from around the world.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
I’d dreamed of visiting New Zealand for a long time, and we did in 2017.
Here is a photo I took on the way to Tasmin National Park in the rugged South Island of the country. I snapped picture after picture as the sun rose. Soon a boat would take us deep into the park.
As we waited, I learned how a New Zealand woman, Perrine Moncrieff, helped turn this magnificent landscape into a National Park. But she wasn’t the first New Zealand woman to fight for the environment, for rights or for justice.
There was Kate Sheppard, who helped make New Zealand the first country to give women the vote in 1893.
And there is current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who pledged that everyone would be treated fairly, supported the Maori community and addressed climate change forcefully.
In 2019, she stood with the Muslim community after a terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch. She has also acted decisively as COVID-19 swept the world.
So, when writing, I remembered my trip all over beautiful New Zealand and included Prime Minister Ardern and Kate Sheppard. Their activism made good change happen.
I love Pete Seeger. I grew up listening to his music.
As an adult living in Toronto, I was excited to book tickets to hear him sing at Massey Hall. The hall was packed, and although Seeger had a raspy voice and apologized for it, none of us minded. His songs brought back memories. I also admired his activism for peace and the environment. In addition, he helped clean the Hudson River, a river I grew up near in New York City.
I had to include Seeger in our book and called my profile “Music Lifts Us Up.” It’s so true, especially of Seeger.
On our way to New Zealand in 2017, we stopped in bustling, crowded, fascinating Hong Kong. We roamed all over and joined a cultural festival, like the one in this photo, where the adorable kids danced and mingled with people from around the world. We enjoyed the food and the markets selling everything, including goldfish.
The city we visited has changed in just a few turbulent years with China’s crackdown. I’m awed by the courage of the Hong Kong people who peacefully protested and were harassed and even arrested. Despite it all, they fought for their city and for freedom. I wanted to acknowledge that courage, so I profiled Joshua Wong, a brave young man who risked everything for his beloved city.
As you can probably tell, I love writing, finding ideas and being open to discovering something new, often accidentally. I hope you enjoy reading about these people as much as I enjoyed learning about the amazing activists who make our world a better place.
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Frieda Wishinsky is the international award–winning author of over 70 books. She writes picture books, chapter books, novels and nonfiction. Her books have been translated into many languages. She thinks that Elizabeth MacLeod is the best writing “partner” any author could have. Frieda lives in Toronto.