Q: Why did you write this book?
“It started when Joanna had a conversation with a friend whose seventh-grader was feeling depressed about the election and Trump presidency. When she and I started talking about that, we started kicking around ideas to help him. Then we realized that there really isn’t anything out there like this on the market, and we knew that we wanted to write and help to empower people who were looking for the ‘on ramp’ to being more active politically.” —Kerri
“The idea for this book was born out of the attempt to comfort young people, but it quickly turned into our desire to empower them instead. We see so much potential in what young people have to offer—their creativity, their enthusiasm, their energy. It was exciting to think about tapping into that and allowing ourselves to see the world from their fresh perspective. I wanted to help them see how to reject civic cynicism” —Joanna
Q: The book has a lot of advice that would be valuable for any activist. Why did you write it for teens?
“Teens are important. Society likes to write off them as adults who just aren’t capable yet, but we forget that many inherently ‘teen’ qualities are much needed. Teens have an idealism and an enthusiasm that this country desperately needs. Plus if we can get teens involved now, they get to be the early advocates, the early changemakers. There’s no reason to wait until they’ve had years of hard knocks. Let’s get them active while they’re passionate and enthusiastic. The aware teens of today will be tomorrow’s aware adults and aware parents and responsible, compassionate lawmakers.” —Joanna
Q: What do you hope teens will get out of this book?
“We cannot afford to lose a generation to cynicism. We need kids to understand that what’s going on in this country today isn’t normal, that this isn’t business as usual in government and that teens can reject the cynicism that’s everywhere and that they have a positive role to play in progress. I think this is a hugely compassionate generation that has a lot of different tools that we don’t have. They can communicate in ways that older generations just have no imagination for. If my book helps them to understand how to use these tools to spread kindness and compassion and social justice, I will be very happy.” —Joanna
Q: Do you have teenagers yourself?
“We both have kids that fall firmly in the tween category and are quickly approaching teenhood. But even though we don’t have teens ourselves, for me it was an easy choice to go for an audience of teens. As a former high school English teacher, I was always absolutely ga-ga for my students and how much energy they had and how much ambition and enthusiasm they showed for life and for change. Imagine how amazing this country would be if we all shared that zest for doing good and improving the world!” —Kerri
Q: Would this be an appropriate book for adult activists as well?
“This would be absolutely a great book for any new or even seasoned activist. Part of the beauty of writing it for a teen audience is that it forced us to think about making everything easy to follow and practical. We didn’t want to be one of those frustrating ‘guides’ for young people that is full of such elevated, impractical nonsense that no normal person would ever be able to do them. Any person who wants to be more involved in changing this country for the better will find a lot of great advice in this book.” —Kerri
Q: How did you come up with the ideas for the actions?
“I think it would be easier to tell you how we didn’t come up with ideas for actions than how we did come up with them. Sometimes we reflected back to activities we’d done in our own youth; more often, we discussed what we wish we’d known to do in our youth. We brainstormed ideas for different personality types (such as what quieter people can add to the movement) and for different skill sets (such as those who are great at social media). We also made charts about what issues matter most to progressives and then brainstormed on them and searched Google for what people were doing about them. We both also attend regular political advocacy meetings and would keep a notepad handy to write down advice from the speakers. Researching and brainstorming for the book taught us both so much. We’re really excited to help our readers learn that much, too.” —Kerri
Q: Have you done all of the actions for yourself?
“I only wish I could say that I’ve done all of them! As we were reviewing the first draft of the book together, we kept looking at each other and saying, ‘I can’t wait to do these actions for myself. These are really powerful’ It was kind of an awe-inspiring feeling to say that to each other. So while we’ve done many of them ourselves—which I think is how we were able to make them so practical and so useful—we haven’t done all of them. Because I am an old nerd who loves learning new things, I most can’t wait to try Action #37: Make a meme that’s not about me-me-me. I can’t wait to make my first meme!” —Kerri
Q: What action in the book would you most like to try for yourself?
“I can’t wait to do the carbon footprint challenge, which is part of Action #79: Fight for the planet. I’d like to really shrink my carbon footprint, and I love that it’s one of those actions where you really get to test your integrity: are you willing to sacrifice for the environment when no one is watching? Plus even if you can bring your numbers down a little, you’ll be starting your commitment and can grow from there. It’s probably the most important change we recommend in the book: none of our other actions will matter if we’ve already done irreparable damage to the planet.” —Joanna
Q: What’s your favorite bit of activism you’ve ever done?
“I worked for a rape crisis center in college. My favorite part was working with the families of sexual assault victims. They would come in with this intense desire to access services and find help for their children. By talking with them, I could really get a good sense of what kind of support they were going to provide for their daughters, and I could help them update their thinking on what it meant to be a rape victim and how their daughters would be affected by being assaulted. I got to help them reframe their thinking and see this terrible moment from a less panicked place. Plus I got to see a lot of families doing the best that they could for these women that they loved.” —Joanna
Q: How do you two know each other?
“Joanna and I worked together at a publishing company almost 20 years ago. We spotted a kindred spirit in each other and started doing all kinds of crazy stuff together. We learned how to salsa dance and did a 540-mile fundraising bike ride from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Chicago. Then came marriage and kids and quietness … until the election of 2016, when we both decided to put our energies back out there again. We chartered a bus to the Women’s March in Washington DC and hosted a screening of Embrace, a documentary on body positivity and then decided to put our writing and editing talents to use by writing this book.” —Kerri