Very few experiences are worse than one in which your morals and beliefs are discredited because someone else finds them ignorant or unintelligent. I say this because the year is 2016, November is approaching, and political lines are not only firmly drawn, but there are also walls built with armor protecting their respective armies.
For some reason, people choose to make elections a partisan issue, and they think someone voting for the opposing party hates them simply for their partisan stances. Any time my political beliefs have been discredited, I stop and think: Has this person even thought about how my ideologies originated?
I am tired of trying to defend a candidate.
I am tired of trying to explain why hateful characters are, indeed, hateful.
I am tired of hateful rhetoric and outrageous ideas filled with discrimination.
I am tired of trying to explain the importance of voting for love and acceptance rather than hate and exile.
I do not support liberal candidates simply because I hate conservative politicians and those who vote for these conservative politicians. I support liberal candidates because of their firm beliefs and how they coincidentally align with mine.
Side note: Liberal is not a dirty word. I do not take offense to it. Anyone who does identify as a liberal person will never be offended.
My political ideologies did not precede my beliefs. Instead, I knew my beliefs, I held firmly to them, and then, one day, I discovered the world of politics. From the year I was able to vote and up until now, I have never once changed my morals because of a political surge. I should not have to sacrifice this part of myself. Instead, I simply choose to vote for those who share my morals and my beliefs system.
Why I Vote Blue:
I do not vote blue because I hate people with money. I vote blue because I grew up in Smalltown America in which lower income families multiply and their homes crumble.
I do not vote blue because I hate religion. I vote blue because I believe in religious freedom for ALL—not only for a select few.
I vote blue because I not only believe in equality, but I believe in justice for all—despite any physical or mental differential characteristic.
I do not vote blue because I hate babies. I vote blue because I believe in a woman’s right to choose how to handle her own body. I do not discriminate people who sign DNRs or choose to handle their bodies in other manners, and I expect for women who make this extremely difficult decision to receive the same respect.
I do not vote blue because I hate tradition. I vote blue because I believe in innovation and refurbishing the wonderful country in which we live. We possess a plethora of opportunities, and I think we should fully take advantage of them.
I do not vote blue because I hate America. I vote blue because we each stem from people who fled their own countries and chose to become immigrants in search of a better place. We now live in this better place, and we should be able to accept people who acknowledge this freedom.
I do not vote blue because I am ignorant to crime and addiction. I vote blue because I have seen firsthand how addiction can completely obliterate a family. It should be treated as an ailment rather than something to live with for the rest of their lives. Once these individuals fulfill their punishments, they should be able to receive treatment and aid in order to live healthy and successful lives. We all make mistakes, and we all should receive the opportunity to learn from our mistakes rather than live with stained records.
I hold on to my political ideologies because they intertwine with my beliefs and my morals. I’ve seen the pain caused by those who remain oblivious to the suffering, the poor, the ill, and the forgotten. If we could all extend a hand in order to help these individuals, maybe we would forget the hate and instead remember how to let in the grace of love.
As I sit in my bed with my morning tea, Karma Brown’s novel Come Away with Me, and the constant mind chatter telling me I need to pack for my upcoming weekend move, I cannot help but feel a bit of sadness for the end of the recent Midwest Writers Workshop. I realize I will soon enter classrooms and fulfill nightly homework or other obligations, but I will be without these people and this magic for at least a year. MWW encouraged me to meet as many people as I could within one short weekend, it brought me closer to my classmates and MWW staff, and it helped me realize what I truly would love to pursue once I graduate: becoming a literary agent.
Before the conference, I had no idea I would laugh as much as I did, and I had no idea I would end up sitting on trashcans with my fellow agent assistants because we deemed ourselves “garbage” for being menial interns surrounded by a ballroom full of greatness. Needless to say, we frequently found ourselves with red faces and little breath left from relentless laughter. Not only did I laugh more than I thought I would, but I also learned more than I ever would have by simply taking a classroom on editing, publishing, or agent-ing.
As agent assistants, we were right in the middle of the process. Nervous writers shook my hand as I led them into the pitch room, and most of them shuffled out before I could even wish them a wonderful day.
What was the best part of the process, though?
Seeing the look on these writers’ faces when I found them later and congratulated them because they were asked to send their full manuscripts, and not many other writers were even asked to do so. As their faces completely radiated, I immediately knew I wanted to continue helping writers fulfill their dreams.
This realization never would have taken place without the people with helped make this seemingly magical experience happen. Because of this, I honestly want to thank each of you.
Thank you for being a beam of light every day in the classroom and in the conference. You constantly encouraged and reassured us when we felt even a little unconfident about our work or abilities. Without you, none of this would have happened—quite literally.
Thank you for being such a wonderful person and for bouncing around the workshop to help with merchandise, planning, setting up, and for simply keeping smiles on our faces. Your endless love for everyone kept us going, and the workshop would not be the same without you.
Thank you for being our Queen and helping us not completely mess anything up. I feel like I cannot thank you enough for it.
To the entire MWW Staff:
Thank you for the incessant hours you’ve put into the workshop and for guiding the interns when we needed assistance. This all was able to happen because of you, and each person was an integral part in making this year successful. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Thank you for constantly being an upbeat force not only during the workshop, but when you visited our class as well. I think I can speak for most of us when I say you inspired us to become the best literary citizens possible. My Goodreads profile will never be quite as noteworthy, but it’s a good goal. You do it all, and seeing you in action makes me want to persevere so I can one day be as successful as you in a multitude of different areas of my life.
Thank you for being the best agent I could have asked for during the workshop. I had never seen an agent in action, and watching how in-depth you went during your mere three-minute pitches was astounding. You have the ability to go with your instinct on whether or not a book will become successful, and I left the conference feeling inspired. Also, thank you for not running away when I was an awkward mess at the airport. Can I be you?
To Jim, Lauren, Molly, Rachel, and Uwe:
Thank you for coming to this conference and dedicating an immense amount of time not only to all of the aspiring writers, but to your assistants as well. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we each left the conference wanting to be you, and it was the greatest feeling.
To J.R. and Kelsey:
Thank you for putting everything into The Facing Project. It motivated me to help bring this project to Ball State because I feel as though many of the students are unaware of the harsh realities many other students face every day simply by trying to go to class. Your dedication and commitment is inspiring, I hope I can make the same impact one day.
To Amy Reichert, Jen Malone, and Karma Brown:
Thank you for not being completely freaked out by my admiration. You all bring wonderful stories to the world, and without your work, this conference and others around the country would not continue. Seeing how long it takes for your precious words to finally come to fruition is an inspiration, and it was an honor meeting all of you. I cannot wait to see the other great novels you write on bookshelves from coast-to-coast.
And with that, I am mentally waving goodbye to each of you and the workshop until #MWW17.
Jen Malone writes sweet and funny books about tweens and teens for readers of all ages. Her middle grade titles include At Your Service, the You're Invited series (co-written with Gail Nall), and The Sleepover, all with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. Her Young Adult titles (with HarperCollins/HarperTeen) include Map to the Stars and Wanderlost. Jen's a former Hollywood movie executive who once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. You can learn more about her and her titles at www.jenmalonewrites.com.
Attention: If you haven’t read the book yet, there are plot spoilers throughout the discussion.
Have you ever experienced with other genres or have you always been interested in teen writing?
My first books are for 8-13 year olds. I didn’t start to seriously write fiction until my daughter who is now ten went to kindergarten a few years ago. She was starting to learn to read, and I decided one afternoon to write her a short story, and she can read it to me at bedtime. It would just be a fun thing we can share. I never intended to write anything longer or intended for it to be a career. It was literally supposed to be this two-hour story I was going to work on, and that obviously snowballed. Most of what I started writing initially was for her and her age group. Then as I started reading more and reading more about kid lit., that redirected me to YA Fiction, which I LOVE to read.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you decided on the title Wanderlost?
It was definitely a play on the word “wanderlust.” I definitely have it. I have this friend who makes jewelry, and he made me this ring that has “wanderlust” carved into it. But this character is the complete opposite of me. She doesn’t have any desire to leave home or do any type of traveling. The original title was This is So Not in the Brochure. My editor felt as though that was a little too young so when we were brainstorming other titles, we sat down and we made a list of travel words. [Wanderlust] kept coming up, and it just evolved from there.
So you said Aubree is the complete opposite of you. Did any of your experiences as a teenager influence Aubree’s character?
No, but really she is my sister. It’s really weird because my sister is almost four years younger than me, and she is finally reading it now. I was literally Elizabeth in the book. It very much evolved out of that, but as I started writing, she became her own person, and she wasn’t my sister anymore. Now, I’m really curious to see what my sister’s take on it is. As I was getting started, though, I definitely used her as a reference point. Maybe she’ll forgive me.
How much did your solo trip around the world influence your writing in this novel?
Completely. As opposed to her, I definitely had the desire to go, and I had the sense of adventure. When it came to it, and I was standing there in the airport, I definitely had that moment where I was like, “I’m not doing this. This is crazy.” Then when I landed, my first flight was from Baltimore where I grew up to San Diego, and my uncle was there so he met me. Then I had to get on another flight from there with him, and I kept saying, “I’m just going to get a flight home. I don’t think I can do this.” From there I flew to New Zealand. I remember landing in New Zealand and thinking, “What did I do?” The weird thing was on the flight to New Zealand, we had a four-hour layover in Hawaii, and there happened to be four other people who were college kids and my age. None of them knew each other, but we were all hanging out at the airport and we all were going to the same place so we started talking. By the time the flight landed, we had all planned to spend the next two weeks touring New Zealand together, which we did. One of them did a work-study there before so he knew people. We stayed at their houses the whole time, and they had dune buggies and took us spelunking. Out of loneliness, you reach out to people, and that experience shaped Aubree. It makes you really vulnerable, but also really approachable. I tried to focus on that aspect of travel that can be really magical.
How did you decided to incorporate The Sound of Music into the plot?
When I knew I wanted to write about this bus trip, I went to AAA, and I got brochures of senior citizen bus tours. I didn’t know how quickly they would move through Europe so I modeled the tour on an existing tour. When I saw Saalburg, I knew I wanted to do it because I did that same Sound of Music tour, and I loved it so much. It was just something that really stood out when I traveled there.
What was your favorite part of the writing process?
I cast my grandmother and great-grandmother as Mary and Emma, which are also their names. My favorite part was making them do things that, if they were still alive, they never would do. Taking them skinny-dipping was literally my favorite scene to write. I was like, “Sorry, guys. You’re stripping down now.”
What was your least favorite?
At the time, it was probably my least favorite, but now, it’s probably one of my favorites. My editor really pushed me to make the Elizabeth-Aubree storyline more—stronger, more present in the story. Initially I had Aubree sort of checking in with her, but there wasn’t a ton of confrontation between them. I found it really hard to delve into writing those scenes just because it was so much of my sister and I’s dynamic at that age—not anymore though because we are really close—but it was weird to write. Now I am glad she pushed me to write that because I feel that it’s a really important part of the story.
If you could sit down with Aubree and give her one piece of advice, what would it be?
JM: One piece at the start of the story or now?
JM: Well, I guess I would say, “You have to hang on to Sam! Those guys just don’t come around in real life.” Other than that, I would have to think about it.
Were there any directional changes in your novel during the writing process? What were they?
Bringing the sisters’ relationship more to the forefront of the story. I had to also go back and edit out a lot of the details about the places. I found the facts really interesting, but I didn’t want that to overwhelm the story. That was a big thing I did in revisions. I wanted to make sure it was enough to give a flavor of the place, but not so much that you felt as though you were reading a travel guide.
What are your thoughts on a sequel about Aubree’s solo trip?
I try not to read too many of the reviews, but every so often people will tag me in a tweet, and then I have to click on it. It is funny to me how many people are saying in their reviews, “I wanted to see the wrap-up of her trip” or “I wanted to see her and Sam back in Ohio.” I would definitely do something like that, but I don’t know that it would be an entire book. I would maybe write a bonus scene. I think that would be kind of fun. She definitely has more growing to do, but I feel as though her growth ended in such a different place than where she started. I think it would be hard to have her have a similar amount of growth in another story.
Join author Jen Malone on her first international journey filled with enticing experiences and an unexpected longing for a lustful romance in her newest novel, Wanderlost.
Place yourself in the beginning of the novel with quirky and angsty Aubree at a graduation celebration with her class accompanied by a slew of forbidden alcoholic refreshments. A cop soon approaches the house with the intention of addressing a noise complaint, Elizabeth, Aubree’s older sister, answers to the door to cover her sister and her friend, but then the cop leaves with Elizabeth in handcuffs. For the sake of saving her sister’s political career, Aubree is sent on a European tour with Elizabeth’s application, Elizabeth’s passport, and a bus of senior citizens.
While, at times, readers may wonder why Aubree seems unwilling to venture out of her comfort zone, her meal choices and honest unawareness of the world outside her realm of Midwestern living reminds the reader to take a trip back to life as a teenager. Even though teenagers may think they will remain protected by their parents, their realities are extremely different from the realities of adulthood.
While avoiding revealing numerous accounts of fraud, Aubree pretends to be Elizabeth during the trip, and the plan seems to unfold flawlessly until she meets the trip owner’s handsome son, Sam. While this plot seems a tad bizarre, it aids in creating a humorous experience for Aubree. After being overcome with guilt, she begins to slowly tell Sam the truth while also attempting to conceal her identity. Playing dress-up for Elizabeth becomes difficult though when she realizes she enjoys being independent and adventurous, which were definitely not qualities she possessed before this well-planned but also unintended trip. Her thoughts on her summer in Europe changed from “I like things predictable and familiar and safe and easy” to “This place is magical. All of it.”
Aubree’s growth brings a fresh insight to the reader about how harrowing circumstances might be the best way to realize your own strength and independence. The pacing of Aubree’s thought process encapsulates the thought process of a teenager nearing adulthood who wants to impress her family, but who also does not want to grow up quite yet. These conflicting thoughts keep the reader entertained as we gain insight on why she makes the decisions she does throughout the novel. It is through these scenarios in which we see Aubree’s remarkable growth.
Before she left for her trip, Aubree had never even had a job or been out of her hometown. Now, she is in Europe, handling deranged sets of chaos, and even finding a seemingly perfect guy. Will she be able to balance handling her independence, perfecting her duties worthy enough for a good review from her boss for Elizabeth, and falling for Sam? Readers will become entranced when reading Aubree’s international tale.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.