MADE Magazine recently sat down with author, Veronica Appleton to discuss her journey to publishing her first novel, Journey to Appleville. Read the full story on Appleton’s road to Appleville exclusively below.
MADE: Where did the idea behind the story of Journey to Appleville come from?
Appleton: Back in 2008, I had a very interesting inkling that came out of nowhere. I like to think of those things as kind of a message from God or the heavens because it was just a thought (that popped into my head) that I should write for children. I had already been writing prior to 2008 on campus at Purdue University. I was writing for the newspaper. I was writing for sports magazines. I was working at one of the radio stations there. So I’ve had quite a bit of background in writing and content but I wasn’t for sure if I was ready to write for children. And then, all of a sudden I started writing and scribbling. I said to myself, “You know, I think my last name is kinda catchy. I think ‘Appleton’ is pretty cool. Maybe I can have something that’s called Appleville, being a place of opportunity.” And that was how the Journey to Appleville was born. It’s a message that’s not only being sent to children and their families, but also to just people in general – adults, young adults, people just like you and I who want things out of life and has those dreams. What better way to think about things when it comes to who you are is to think about opportunities. That’s how the story was born.
So from that point on (from 2008 to now), I’ve written over 16 children’s books. Journey to Appleville is the first to not only be published by MascotBooks, but also to be the first of many books to come from my collection of stories which highlights the lives of multicultural families. I think it’s important to not just see one book of one race, but to see a book of all races, welcoming all readers and families. I think that we live in a world where we see color and the exterior of people, but there’s a deeper level of diversity which is within you. It’s what makes you want to go out and play with people. It makes you do things so unique. I think that’s the true definition of diversity. I think it’s very important that we acknowledge color, gender and sexuality – but I think it’s even greater when we can acknowledge the uniqueness of people and see who they truly are – which is why I believe Journey to Appleville is so significant.
MADE: So why children’s books? What inspired you to write to this audience in particular?
Appleton: I can definitely remember receiving books from my family, my aunts and uncles giving me books like The Little Mermaid and Snow White. I literally had the entire connection. I love Disney. I was inspired by the Walt Disney story. I’m inspired by not necessarily his struggle, but his trials in becoming the person that everyone knows today. I’m inspired by his story, but I’m even more inspired by the stories and the gifts that my family gave me – which is being able to read stories that are inspiring. In addition to that, I would say that after I’d written Journey to Appleville I wanted to immediately get it out there to the world. I wanted to have this book in the hands of many families everywhere. It was very difficult because publishers and agents are more prone to accept your work when you are well known, have relationships or represented by an agent. I had none of that. I was literally just going by the passion for it. I would say that my struggle – the journey of publishing this book over the last eight years – has been trial and error. It’s been me trying to get to Appleville. It’s symbolic to my journey in life. I think that’s even a deeper story because it relates specifically to children and young adults who dream of being an astronaut, attorney or doctor, anything. But there’s certain things in life specifically within African-American and Hispanic communities, where we have trials that come to our front door at all times. It could be gun violence, it could be health issues, it could be having to put my goals on the back burner so I can take care of my family. It’s dyslexia, it’s disability, it’s a lot of different things that we as a people have to experience.
Seeing my mom as a single parent raising me, creating those opportunities for me, I think is even more symbolic of why I needed to write The Journey to Appleville – why I was to connect with children, why I wanted kids to see that opportunities are out there (and if they put their mind to it, they know what they’re doing, they can succeed at anything). The earlier you expose kids to literature, that will give them the equipment that they need to be successful – they can get to Appleville. They can get to that place of opportunity to do the things that they want to do.
MADE: How do you kickstart ideas? Where do you get inspiration from?
Appleton: I get inspiration from everything. Back in the late 2000s, I would get inspiration from my family, inspiration from being on campus, just being on the train. I remember one time I was on the Red Line train [in Chicago]. It was a point in my life where I was having a hard time finding a job. I’m 28 years old now, have a great job now, but it was difficult at one point. I was on the train and was hearing about all of the stories on the gun violence in Chicago. Right now I live in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. Gun violence is no stranger to that neighborhood and community where I live. Nothing’s off limits. I get inspiration from being at work, seeing the work of different movie writers, different scripts. I read books on a daily basis. I get inspiration from a ton of different places, which makes it exciting. It always like a new story, a new development. It’s a continuous process. I even explore writing for young adults and using it as a challenge. So I challenge myself to write for young adults. Haven’t shared anything, but I continually write and hopefully they do turn into stories. But when you do dip into different forms of writing, you get better at it. I think over the years I’ve gotten significantly better. Along the journey of getting the book published, every time I would get rejected. This minimizes you personally. You’re constantly challenging yourself. I remember I starting to change my story, starting to rewrite Appleville. I was making it something into what I thought publishers and agents would like and accept.Once I thought about it, in a sense it’s like I’m changing my personal story. I am trying to change the story of Veronica Appleton. I’m trying to change to the story for children all over the world.
MADE: What things do you want drive home through your story?
Appleton: I want people to see truth. I want people to see that opportunity does exist. For years we’ve lived in a life where African-Americans were minimized, where they were limited of their growth. Now, we live in a world where we can do anything. Once we realize that no one can limit our abilities to do anything, that’s when you can be successful. When you’re limiting yourself, you’re limiting your potential and whole life in itself. When people realize that opportunity is out there, they can the best versions of themselves. Finally, I would say that I want people to take that the story of diversity is important. Diversity is not just your skin color, gender, sexuality, creed, or religion. It’s not that. It’s who you are when you open your mouth. It’s what makes you stand out. It’s what makes you unique. I think once we realize and get over the exterior, we can have a better world. Once we look at people for who they truly are through a conversation, that’s how we can become a better country.
MADE: So what’s next? What do you have in mind for post – Journey to Appleville?
Appleton: I have so many stories to share with the world. I want my books everywhere – every bookstore, household, and library. I want my books to resonate with people. I want people to feel like they can connect with me as an author, storyteller and educator. Hopefully, I can convert those stories into televised stories, movies and a franchise of Appleville because Appleville is opportunity. When you start connecting with children, you are leading the future.
REVIEWS ON JOURNEY TO APPLEVILLE
“My mom died with a passion for diversity and there’s a quote she left, along with her legacy, ‘Diversity is an opportunity to be had, not a problem to be solved.’ This is a great book for my niece!” ~ Ashley Piper, Medtronic.
“Definitely an opportunity to fill a gap in children’s literature.” ~ Kathy Knapp, President of K2 Leadership Group, LLC
JOURNEY TO APPLEVILLE: UPCOMING EVENTS
Tuesday, December 6 – Book Signing at Barnes & Noble Bookstore (Chicago, IL)
Saturday, December 17 – Soulful Kwanza Book Fair (Chicago, IL)
Friday, December 23 – Ronald McDonald House – Lurie Children’s Hospital Campus: Hospital Reading (Chicago, IL)
Journey to Appleville is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Mascot Books, Hudson News (Available for purchase on December 6), Powell’s Bookstore (Available for purchase in December).