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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Friends, I am getting very bored of saying, “I told you so.” First ABBA, now this.

Today, four newspapers reported that many people were stung by jellyfish during the New York City Triathlon. Specifically, Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which can be up to eight feet in the body, and have been known to have tentacles 120 feet long.

Hold on. Let me look at my list of “last things I want to hear” and see where that is . . .

6. The Cloverfield monster is here to see you. And he’s brought flowers! Oh wait, those aren’t flowers. That’s a fistful of screaming, half-dead people. Nevermind.

5. I bought you a Vespa, but then I got hungry and I ate it.

4. Sir Ian McKellen has been cast as the lead in High School Musical 4 as Troy’s long-lost twin brother, Felix.*

Oh, here we go.

3. New York, your small island home, is surrounded by eight-foot-wide jellyfish.

I guess it’s not that much of a problem now because it’s not like I swim the East River very often, and by often, I mean ever in my life. But the jellyfish are getting closer. I think it is only a matter of time before they get Metrocards and start showing up on the subway, cleverly hidden behind copies of The New York Post or Twilight.

So, rather than dwell on that . . . let’s talk about going to school for writing. This came into my mind because I just looked higher up on this list and noticed this:

37. I am majoring in creative writing as my undergraduate degree!

I get a lot of notes asking me what I think of this, and I am happy to tell you.

I think it’s a bad idea.

Meg Cabot has been saying this for years, and just today, Justine Larbalestier wrote a great blog about this very subject, which says almost everything I am thinking. She talks about the importance of having a broad background with skills in several subjects, about the fact that most writers have some other job aside from writing, about the fact that many great writers never studied writing as a major. Let me EXPAND on this a bit, because I have A LOT of thoughts on this matter and it will keep me from thinking about THE COMING JELLYFISH INVASION.

“But Maureen!” some of you will say (clearly the people who have read my bio). “Weren’t you a writing major?”

I was, so I feel I can talk about this subject as someone who knows. I did not one, but TWO degrees in writing, one undergraduate, and one graduate. Neither was in “Creative Writing.”

My undergraduate degree is in technical writing and rhetoric. Rhetoric is a tough, sensible, ancient approach to making words work for you and figuring out WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. There were also additional classes in research technique, editing, layout . . .

“Creative writing,” as a term, makes me quake inside. I don’t know what it means. It’s like getting a handful of jello. I guess it’s workshops in writing fiction . . . but who knows? It could mean ANYTHING. Maybe it trains you to play Wordwang:

I think my big objection is the word “creative” in the name. I feel like I have the same problem with this as I do with muses . . . that there’s this idea that writing is all about traipsing around and being weird and “inspired” all the time, and that somehow the best training involves making word clouds and collages and listing fifty adjectives that describe the inner you.

That’s fun and fine and I am ALL FOR BEING WEIRD, just not as a class. Or, maybe one class. But not as a major. No one can teach you how to be creative.

Maybe this is just me. I am the byproduct of a Marine/engineer and a nursing professor, and there is something in me that demands A SYSTEM! RESULTS! LOGIC!

I guess one of my big fears is that you will end up in a department run by writers. I mean, that’s great if your teacher is, say, Nabokov, and less great if your teacher is, say, me. I don’t want to be a part of any department that would have me as a professor . . . unless it’s the Department of Swedish Disco or Fear Studies or something.

Another problem . . . when I have to write all the time, the last thing I want to do is write. This is true of almost every writer I know. We all love writing, but when someone makes you do it, it kind of sucks. However, I did loads of writing in trigonometry! If I had been a math major, I would have written about twelve books by the time I graduated. In retrospect, I see this is a GENIUS IDEA and encourage you all to think about it!

The question of a graduate degree in writing is a bit different, but not a lot. I speak as someone with an MFA in writing. I went to an Ivy League school, had amazing professors and classmates, got great feedback, and generally have nothing but good things to say about the experience, and I’m STILL not sure if it’s something I’d recommend.

Let’s face it . . . at least in the United States, an MFA is a costly thing, and it takes two or three years to complete. Know what you’re getting into. Don’t do it with the expectation that the degree itself is worth it, that those three letters will open any doors. They won’t. The MFA is entirely non-functional for any practical purpose.

If you’re getting an MFA in writing, do it to pump the most out of the experience as you possibly can. Go to a place you feel strongly about—a place with writers in the faculty you want to know and learn from. Do it only with the expectation that you hope to get a bit better, that you’re going to focus, that you mean business. Speaking of business . . . go to every single workshop the program offers about the business of writing. (Writing programs in New York will often bring in editors, agents, and other publishing professionals to talk about real-life experience. Go to these events and take notes!)

If you’re uncertain, if you don’t really care that much, if you’re in any way just doing it to go to grad school . . . take your $50,000, or $80,000, or $100,000, get a lot of books, and go to the beach and write for a year. That’s presuming you have $50,000, or $80,000, or $100,000. Most people don’t, and end up borrowing it from one of the Loan Giants who own too many of us already.

Many people wonder, does the MFA improve your chance of getting a book deal? It improves your chances if it makes your writing stronger. Otherwise, it makes zero difference. Editors don’t read your resume, they read your writing. They normally don’t know or care about your education, unless your education has some bearing on what you’re doing. For example, if you submit a book called How To Do Plastic Surgery At Home Using Simple Household Items Such As Corkscrews And Staplers . . . an editor might care to know that you are a board-certified plastic surgeon with a medical degree. They might also want to know if you are certifiably insane.

I have yet to meet an editor who cared ONE IOTA if I had an MFA or not. In fact, I think it would have been of much more interest if I had a degree in almost ANYTHING ELSE, since my bio reads like this: “Maureen studied writing, and then she studied more writing, and now she is writing. She spends most of her time sitting down.”

It would be so much better if my bio said something like: “Maureen is a former professional trampolinist who released three techno albums in Belgium before doing advanced work in science, specifically with little squishy cells that do totally awesome stuff, like wobble in time to music. She is currently at work searching for a new kind of triangle. She lives on a penguin farm.”**

Now, THAT’S an interesting author! No MFA in sight!

We idiots with the writing degrees have to dredge our backgrounds to pad out these stupid bios we have to write. We have to write bios because teachers make you write book reports. (Also, they won’t let me put my recipe for taco soup on the back flap of my books, under my photo.) It’s a good thing I worked in theater for so long, because I have a few stories about working with tigers and smoke machines and putting out fires to fill a paragraph or two. My Ivy League MFA is a footnote.

In any case, I’m not sure you should be taking academic advice from me. I wouldn’t. But those are my thoughts, if you wanted them. I guess the bottom line is that I think we just need more environmental scientists because this jellyfish thing is clearly getting out of hand. So please major in something like that because it is SERIOUSLY FREAKING ME OUT. (It doesn’t help that I am actually going away for a few days to a beach.)

Today’s random commenter Suite Scarlett winner is Haley!

In reading your comments, I saw many excellent questions and points, and I still have to talk to you about MAMMA MIA, which I have now seen. And yes, it was BEAUTIFUL. But clearly I needed to talk about this today . . . so if you could just let me know what I should discuss in my next post, that would be great. And, of course, there is another book to give away!

* actually, I think this is a misprint from my list of “things I totally want to hear”

**which I obviously am and have and did and am but let’s not get off the subject

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This, aside from being completely hilarious, was extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. :)

If there is a school with a Department of Swedish Disco, PLEASE let me know, because I must apply there right now.

I think caffeinated!Hank still wants to know what an iota is and why there can never be more than one. It's just a thought.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish so hard that somebody had told me not to get an undergraduate degree in creative writing eight years ago when i was applying to college. it would have saved me a lot of trouble. but i did it, and i regret doing it, but now that i've been out of school for four years, lived life a little, had some experiences... i REALLY WANT an MFA. really really.

i think there's room for balance. definitely major in something other than writing for undergrad, something at least a little bit practical. definitely learn as much as you can about as many subjects as possible, because that will make you a better writer in the end. but for me, the MFA is all about discipline and focus. because i'm struggling to achieve both, and i know that being in school makes me better. it just does.

you can have an amazing, well-rounded, full-of-fascinating-stuff resume no matter what kind of education you get. you just have to do as much amazing, well-rounded, fascinating stuff as possible. i guess i'm trying to argue that education comes from life, and it's possible to pursue a creative degree AND live life at the same time. so if a person (like, say, me) wants to get a graduate degree in writing, cool for me. as long as i keep learning all sorts of stuff that will add to my writing while i'm at it. and accept the fact that i will probably be working in another field to support myself for a while to come.

does that make sense? sorry to leave such a long, piggybacking comment for my first time. hi maureen johnson, you're great, i really like you a lot.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wordwang. wow. I would love to see the disclaimers when you sign up for THAT show ;)

8:30 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

The Jellyfish Invasion is slightly freaking me out, too, even though I live in California miles from the beach.

I'm thinking about what you said, about having a writing major, and you've made an extremely good argument against it. It's great advice coming from an awesome writer (that's YOU!!!).

I should go watch Mamma Mia.

Hope you don't run into an jellyfish at the beach...or elsewhere.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a huge red jellyfish today at the beach. First, I completely freaked out and ran away. Second, I thought of you. :P

8:51 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

Jellyfish. Another reason I do not like the beach or ocean.

one. I have a fear of seaweed.
two. sand get all over. And in everything.
three. The Jellyfish. They are almost as bad as the seaweed.

Okay so a fear of seaweed is pretty pathetic but seriously that stuff is pure evil.

And I think in your next blog you tell some stuff about what Free Monkey has been up to. And talk about Mamma Mia but without giving away to much about the movie for those who have not experience it yet. Also you should explain why J.K takes your jam.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to major in something that would help the jellyfish problem. Unfortunately, I am already enrolled to study photography. Perhaps I could photograph the jellyfish in hopes to bring more attention to the matter? I think some sort of warning video should be produced. The world needs to know.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm planning to major in Music so....yeah. I learn great stuff about singing, but once I get those slip(s) of paper....I'm kinda royally screwed.

Seriously, who would entrust their children to a hyper caffienated, Final Fantasy Loving, random song singing choral music geek?

The list of almost completly useless music majors being considered are: Music Ed, Music Business, and Music Ed for Children with special needs. Minors will probably be business (again)/Music theory.

Yeah. Liberal arts kids will take half the amount of classes I am and will actually be in contact with the real world. I'll sing Bach cantatas in my sleep and live on the couches at Crane, because let's face it, when I'm not in classes I'll either be there or torturing myself in a Steinway rehersal room. **End Rant**

I have no idea what you'll make of that but I hoped you got something out of it. A giggle mayhaps? Or just a quizzical brow quirk? I may never know.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Zara said...

I'm glad to know that you don't have to--and maybe shouldn't--get an MFA in writing if you want to write eventually. I'm encouraged by that because I want to get a degree in drama and theatre arts, but I also love to write and would like to maybe publish or at least submit a book someday. So now I don't have to worry about that. Thanks!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Maureen! I'm going to New York in a couple of weeks and since I've been there a few times before and am pretty familiar with the regular touristy locals I was wondering if you could dish on some of the funky/generally cool digs in your next post. Thanks, and keep up the awesome blogging!

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wordwang. Hast thou ever heard a sound more sweet? Seriously, now you've done it MJ. I think I'm in love. My life has been missing so much until this moment. I am complete. YOU MUST TELL ME WHERE I CAN GET MORE WORDWANGY WONDERFULLNESSSSSS!!!!

Aside from that, this post was extremely interesting to me. I don't know what I want to do with my life. More often than not, I tell people I want to write. They don't usually ask what I want to write though. I mean, for all they know I could be drawing a really, really, REALLY long letter "S". That's writing, isn't it?

Anyway, you just clarified something for me. I love and adore my math, science, and history classes, but I can never ever pay attention. Instead, I doodle and write poems and stories. Then I cram the night before a test to get a perfect grade. Then I'll find out some snazzy factoid, and be all, "Why didn't they teach us that? That's AWESOME!" And then I'll realize they did. Only I was too busy not paying attention. So you've just made me realize what I want to do with my life.

First, I will go to school to become a conservation ecologist which will bore me to death therefore forcing me to write, meanwhile I'll learn loads AND stop the jellyfish from attacking when-WHAM! I will recieve a bolt of jellyfished electricity that will render me a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type personality disorder that will allow me to finish my book. AND THEN I WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD! MWA HAHAH HAHA! In the meantime, I must find Wordwang. Now.

Honestly though, great post.

Wordwang, twitch, twitch.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Shannen said...

Yay for useless majors! I myself am a film major and art history minor... talk about a bright future in the unemployment office!

Perhaps I'll make a film about the coming jellyfish invasion. Now there's a blockbuster... I'll call it "The Happening... in New York". And maybe I'll dye my hair brown and curl it and put myself into every film I make. And change my name to N. Might Chimulan... I'll truly be one of a kind.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Jill Murray said...

In Canada we don't even have MFAs in Creative Writing, as a rule. (The one at UBC is the only one I know of.) The cost of our tuition is generally a fraction of what it is in the US. Therefore, when I thought I wanted an MFA, I took all my money and used it to cut my work hours in half and use the rest of my time for writing. It worked. I am published, and when I read over the calendars for MFA programmes now, it all reads like stuff I already know. My "useless" undgergrad was in Theatre Production.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about a double major in writing arts/creative writing and something else?

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always wondered if there was a way to make High School Musical more awesome. You have answered that question and the answer is YES! Gandalf always adds to the awesome.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was actually worried for a moment there. I thought you said
'many people were stung during the new york marathon'
That would be terrifying.

I often wondered about the actual value of a degree in anything 'creative'...
And I'm doing on in photography. But there we are.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeez, Jellyfish are scary. As someone who lives in a beach comunity. I have often experienced the dangerous of jellyfish. A couple summers ago I had one wrap itself completely around my leg. I havn't been swimming in a long time, and I really don't plan to. honestly the water here is brown. They say it's mud because of all the marshes or something, but whatever, you can't see anything in the water!
I don't really know where I'm going with this, but jellyfish are definatley on my list of not fun summer activities.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen did you love Mamma Mia as much as I did???? I saw it twice and I still want to see it again because it is the BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!! AABA rocks my world!!!!!!

7:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Whoops, sorry that was me, deleting things above...

Jellyfish are not nice. Jellyfish are best avoided. This reads like a story I read somewhere on some news channel about all the crabs in Australia migrating to the land. Eek.

As for that MA in Creative Writing. I'm so glad someone has said it. I've been having a real problem with it and decided if I was going to go back and do a post graduate degree I'd just as well carry on with English Literature, though now that you mention it Swedish Disco has distinct possibilities. Or better yet, French Disco...

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

an invasion of 8-foot twilight-reading jellyfish?!?! GASP! THAT'S HORRIBLE! they'll take away all the twilight books in the world!

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually never thought about majoring in Creative Writing, for some reason it didn't appeal to me. I am however considering majoring in illustration because it demands from me the things I love to do most - write and draw.

So thank you for this post! I have no idea what you should talk about in the next one. Maybe you can talk about other things that freak you out, although I suspect you've already done that before....

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice Maureen! I'm glad you don't need a major in some fancy writing course to be an author. Besides....what is creative writing supposed to teach you that basic English hasn't already?

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I just commented on this on Justine's blog --- GAH you are so right! I graduated with my own CW degree last year and currently work PT retail and spend the rest of the time writing, in hope of being published before I run out of money. I'd love to go back to school, but I think instead of an MFA I'd want to get a second BA of usefulness... although history is most appealing and equally as useless. Doh. If only they didn't COST so much. :\

Though I will say, I think my degree is the only thing stopping everyone I know IRL from "intervening" and forcing me to get a FT "real" job. I just whine that I am using my degree that I am in debt over so please leave me alone until I'm published, mmkay? It's worked so far.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, Maureen. How i live for your blog posts.
Anyway, I know I'll read this about a million times in the future, so thanks.
And you've convinced me to see Mamma Mia. YAY!

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went to the beach just last week to camp and there were signs all over the palce for watch out for jellyfish and sting rays and i though there can't be that many here in californa. boy was i wrong scince one huge one washed up on shore. i have a feeling jelly fish are slowly surrounding the country and as the water rises thanks to the polar ice cap melting they will take over north america! just a thought though. please talk about mama mia.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remeber being a young girl in Toronto and walking down the street by the theatre Mamma Mia! was playing at. My dad asked if we would like to go see it (we being my mother and I). I specifically remeber saying "Ewwww ABBA is gross. I would not go see that play if someone paid me"

I saw Mamma Mia! the movie on Monday.
It was one of the best things ive seen in a while. It made me laugh, smile, and almost pee myself at the end I was hysterically laughing so hard.

I now own the movie soundtrack, the broadway soundtrack, and a CD of ABBA songs. I am making my Dad buy tickets to the play as I am typing this

The younger version of myself totally deprived me of the joy of Swedish Disco music. I LOVE ABBA and am proud of it.

This just goes to show you how truly ignorant children can be. If only I had someone telling me about the joys of swedish disco and playing it nonstop....thank you Maureen for Turning me onto musical happiness


11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

book please? :)

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your issues with the word "creative" as part of the major title, because most people who study creative writing, that I know, they complain that they are constantly told what to write about and most subjects are imposed on them. Writing should not be imposed on you, and you should not impose it on your self.
On the other hand, that thing with the jellyfishes is weird, at least where Im from (caribbean) they are not supposed to be in season now, but who knows. Lets blame it on global warming.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've already commented over by Justine's blog, but I do think that the point you made- that such programs are good only if you do seriously improve your writing- is an excellent one.

And today I got a brief chance to read a bit of Suite Scarlett, which only left me wanting more! Hence I comment! You are one of those rare authors whose voice on blog is recognisable in book. I would recognize your style of humor from twenty feet away even if it was wearing Dobby's tea cozy. And your intro is hysterical, I have to say. One of the best I remember reading. If this is Suite Scarlett, I want one, please!

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the awesome and funny advice. I will be sure to log that into the teeny tiney microchip in my brain labeled "PLANS FOR FUTURE". that's a promise. Sooo...I'm a California girl, so I have had many many many experiences with evil jellyfish. They hurt. Really, really bad. A good cure is vinegar and water!!! Also, I TOTALLY loved MAMMA MIA! It was amazing. That's all for now folks. Adios!

12:29 AM  
Blogger Plucky the Dragon said...

You should talk about how come teachers give you more homework in the summer than in the entire school year. It's like they enjoy making us miserable. The only thing that I've accomplished is that I should major in a degree of procrastination, since I'm so amazing at it.

1:00 AM  
Blogger My Honest Truth said...

I am majoring in biology, maybe i can figure out how to get cells to wobble in time to music.....

1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

uhm, those jellyfish are kinda freakin' me out. i see your dislike in them. they scare me like the way you think i should become a trig book-author. yeah. thats not gonna happen. sorry. i'll stick to reading books. oh! and i would love to hear your albums you released in Belgium :) *wink*

less than 9 days until Breaking Dawn! (sorry. i'll contain myself.) have you read the series?


ps- i have a question. i realize that all YA authors live in the YA mansion, but do you read each others books? like, most of them? i know you have read the Gemma Doyle triology, at the least. but what else have you read from other YA authors? you hsould blog about that! ... or a little section. which ever.

2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw "Mamma Mia!" Monday and it was the craziest, funnest movie I've ever seen! ('Crazy' in the good way.) Then, my sister saw it Tuesday and I bought the soundtrack today, Wed.! Not that I didn't already have ABBA on my iPod...

2:07 AM  
Blogger Summer said...

4. Sir Ian McKellen has been cast as the lead in High School Musical 4 as Troy’s long-lost twin brother, Felix.*

WOW. I know there was so much more to this post... but omg that would be epic.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I want to go see Mamma Mia!! Will you fly down to Tennessee and come with me to see it?

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woah, there have been 37 comments before this one and 37 was the number that the MFA question was on your list . . . AND 37 is my lucky number! How awesome :D

I think that you're points are particularly interesting about not getting a degree in writing. I've always wanted to major in English, minor in Sociology, and get an MFA in writing, but your logic makes more sense. I know that I want to be an English or a Math teacher as I write (though I'm not so sure if Math is the best companion to writing fiction). I'm at writing camp now though, and I must say that it's motivating me to write a lot more than if I just sat around at home doing nothing, though I do think that I would be writing very different things in those situations. Your input in this blog was really interesting--thanks so much for sharing!

And yes, I would be interested in a copy of Suite Scarlett, should I be chosen to receive one.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Statues In Stilettos said...

THANK YOU SO, SO, SO MUCH!!! I WILL NEVER GO SWIMMING IN THE EAST RIVER. EVER! Also, the anti-majoring-in-creative-writing rant was nice, too. But not nearly as helpful as avoiding these vicious, eight-foot-wide jellyfish! I will be forever grateful. What is this "Word Wang"? Do you know how to play? If so, teach me! It is intriguing. I'm so stoked for Mamma Mia, seeing as I love Meryl Streep and ABBA. Perhaps you will come to West Virginia and see it at our fantastically retro Star Theatre? If you do come, we can have dinner at Lot 12 and say hello to my favorite tree, William.
I know this is fairly late, but does Holly Black live in the YA Author Mansion? If she does, where?

6:20 AM  
Blogger Sana said...

Did you like the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, Maureen?
Because today I was listening to the new HP song Hank Green wrote in honor of the anniversary of the release of DH and one of the lines was about how we all hate the epilogue.

I like everything Harry Potter related, and since the epilogue had been written for a long time, I liked it a lot, but it would've been nice to have something added to it.

Anyways... yes... don't forget to brush your teeth!

9:26 AM  
Blogger penryn said...

Aaah, I loved Mamma Mia, too! Who wouldn't, of course, so I don't know why I'm saying 'too', like it's some great coincidence...

12:28 PM  
Blogger Miss Hannah said...

Some friends of mine are at the beach this week. BOTH of them got stung by jellyfish on Monday. "The ocean is a dangerous and terrifying place," I said. "You do not want to go in there," I said. But did they listen? No. And now they are both sporting jellyfish burns. People think ocean-haters like you and me are crazy, but they will learn ... oh, they will learn.

On a side note, I have an English degree (not writing-specific, but lit-focused with a couple of writing courses thrown in). When I first declared my major, everyone would ask me if I was going to be a teacher, and I would say no, to which they would reply, "Then what are you going to DO with it???" That made me somewhat nervous that I was pursuing something completely useless. However, my BA in English has enabled me to get two different editing jobs since I graduated in 2006, so I guess it turned out to be pretty useful after all. All that to say, if you are considering a degree in creative writing, you might want to switch to a degree in literature instead. At least then you will gain a lot of knowledge about the world (reading historical fiction and biographies and such), and, as we all have learned from Maureen and John Green, reading is one of the best ways to improve your craft.

Boycott an ocean near you today.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once got stung by a jellyfish. Yes, I was one of the early victims of the invasion, when as a tiny little girl I screamed my head off and got the hell out of the water, which caused everyone on the beach to get the hell out as well. I tried to warn the world, but nobody believed me. "Silly girl," they said, "looking for attention. Now go read one of your "books" *winkwink*".

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really have an engaging writing style! Regarding writing a professional bio, I think many people find it excruciating to write about themselves. For anyone who's looking for fill-in-the-blank professional bio templates written specifically for various types of jobs, check out www.HowToWriteBio.com

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I still want to be an English major, though. If I am going to get a job on the side to write - which I would have to - wouldn't it be better to get into the habit of writing as opposed to, say, finance? If I want to write, why not do something involving writing?

And...you know, we'd all love a copy of that book.

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that post deserves a happy dance

12:50 AM  
Blogger Amee said...

I agree about not wanting to write if you have to for a class. I'm an English major and while I love 80% of the books and works I have to read, I still don't want to read them when the professors say I have to. This is why I finish many a novel started in a class over my breaks. :P

12:51 AM  
Blogger Lauren! said...

The jellyfish invasion(!) is very scary. Not only are the triathalon people going to glow in the dark for the next 30 years for swimming in the east river, but they have to be stung by cleverly disguised jellyfish. That read newspapers. And have mustaches.

3:13 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Taco soup? Yum! Clearly, you should post some favorite recipes. What should I make for brunch this weekend?

3:45 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

I just re read this and relized that I once asked my mom if I could have a penguin farm, and be a penguin farmer. I was dead serious about this too when I was little. My mom shot me down on the idea.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Kyli said...

I'm very glad you wrote about this. When I was about to graduate from high school, a lot of people would ask me if I was going to study creative writing in college. I said no, my points being A) Creative Writing was my hobby, if I had to have creative writing as homework, I would start to hate it after a while. And, B) I agree with you 100% - no one can teach you how to be a creative, and no amount of classes can help you be a better writer. That's something that you have to figure out all on your own.

Plus, all the creative writing classes I had taken in high school were reading a lot of published writers and then the teacher would ask "What did the author mean when he wrote that story? What in society was he responding to with this piece?" I always wanted to scream "NOTHING! The writer just had an idea and the Forces That Be made him write it down!" The teachers were obviously not writers, because, being a writer (though I'm not published, mind you), I know that ideas just hit, and when they do there is no power in the 'verse that can keep writers from writing. Writers (or at least the ones that I read and enjoy) don't write stories with hidden political/religious/etc agendas.

Sorry, rant over. I could go on and on about that one. :)

Also, I have been terrified of jellyfish since age 4. Anything that does not have a spine and can undulate like it does is not to be trusted. And I am quite convinced that the way they undulate is a secret weapon to hypnotize people. Once you are under their hypnotic spell, then ZAP!

Oh god. Jellyfish will take over the world if we don't DO SOMETHING!!!

As a side note, I wouldn't mind winning a copy of Suite Scarlett. My husband and I are teachers, so we've had no work over the summer. No work = no money to buy books, so I haven't been able to pick up a copy yet. :)

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw "Mamma Mia" today and it was extremely good! However, while watching I was convinced that somehow an older version of Libba Bray was somehow being projected onto the screen as Rosie (even though it was really Julie Walters). This is the way I imagine she would act, am I too far from the truth?

Thanks for reading my crazy question! :)

7:53 AM  
Blogger Elena said...

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the other day and there were two jellyfish exhibits there. I of course thought of you.
I really, really don't know what I'm going to major in.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love you!

9:34 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

If I get back to school, I plan on dual majoring. I'd take a linguistic/international degree, which was requires study abroad (plus an excuse to learn all the languages I want to), and then do the creative writing bit for fun. If it gets too hard, then hey, I can always work as an interpreter.

Maureen, what major would you recommend for someone looking to agent/edit/publish? English, business, or is the experience more important than the degree?

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am (possibly) seeing Mamma Mia today...or maybe not. It all depends.
On another note, I bought Girl At Sea yesterday!

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot wait for your thoughts on Mamma Mia. Yess.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! It was really funny, but interesting too, I'd think that you'd say to major in writing...hm. But I think you are right, and most authors need another job as well. Plus it makes an interesting paragraph thingy on the back of the book! :P
I STILL would love a book!!!!
And, I STILL need to see Mamma Mia! Instead, we saw the Dark Knigth today.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Sarah Woodard said...

Great post. I want to see Momma Mia.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's some good advice there. Thank you (:

And haha, I've been telling people for years that I'll have a penguin farm one day. I'll just have like a huge refrigerator room and all my little penguins will run around and I'll poke them. :D

Oh also, I got 13 Little Blue Envelopes from the library the other day. I'm really enjoying it :) I really admire your writing style.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I am majoring in creative writing as my undergrad degree.
But its all good, because I already plan on doing my masters in library sciences. I've got a plan.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Chick Lit Teens said...

Eeek! Giant 8 foot jelly fish! That is extremly creepy.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hey Maureen Johnson,
could you do me a favour plz?
Go onto jackheath.com.au
And vote for the story called Kynt and Vixsin. Thanks.
And tell all your friends about it.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Shausto-la said...

Hm, well I wasn't planning on majoring in creative writing, but it was insightful nonetheless because now I know how to make my bio sound really interesting should I ever become a published author. Which I also don't plan on doing, but I certainly wouldn't be upset if it happened randomly in the future.

You want to know what you should write about next? Hmmm, I'll throw some ideas out there.
You can write about Twilight and the release of Breaking Dawn and you theories. Or about your most recent encounter with JKRowling. Or about how you just can't put down that pen that flashes different colors when you write...oh wait, that's me..

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Those members of my 300+ strong family who aren't constantly insisting that I should become a lawyer or a homeopath or something medical or whatever ask me, "well if you're so keen on writing, why don't you take creative writing at university?"

To which I say, "um, no thank you, English Literature and possibly Philosophy & Spanish at the universities where I pick three options for me, thanks". Then they look very confused and it all ends up with me vs. the family. Oh wondrousness.

Someone told me The Thames had piranhas once. It was very uncool. Far less preferable to the poor whales that find themselves swimming past Tower Bridge.

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why I capitalised the "The" in Thames, I do not know. The grammar elf in my head is kicking up a storm.

3:31 AM  
Blogger ROSIE!!!!!!!!! said...

Maureen, how i thank you! my mom is constantly nagging me about college! she's all "u can major in creative writing." and im all "but every author says that majoring in creative writing is signing up for a creativity sucker." my mom still ain't to keen on my plan of being a barista in new york while writing and living in a crappy apartment. but only for a year.
even jellyfish are reading twilight?? wow my friends who find my obsession with that book odd and slightly creepy are right, it is like the plauge. i bet jelly fish don't read harry potter!

3:35 AM  
Blogger Kaitlyn said...

I am truly glad that you posted this, maybe it can help someone out. Meg Cabot's relentless writing on the same topic has made me be able to say, "Hi. I'm Kaitlyn. I'm going to get my teaching certificate. So that I can maybe be a writer."

7:28 AM  
Blogger Deven said...

Haha, oh dear. First blog post of yours I've ever read, and I find myself wishing I'd found this blog sooner. I love writing, and feel I have a couple of decent plots in me... so I'm taking an animation degree so that maybe I can learn a thing or two about character and storytelling. And so I can draw perdy piktures! 8D

Also, at least jellyfish are only in the water (for the moment, anyway.) It's TICKS here in Southern Ontario this summer. They jump out at you from tall grass and short grass and rocks and trees and out of thin air too, I think. Argh, I hate ticks!

Maybe your jellyfish and my ticks could go on holiday to the Bermuda Triangle or Mars or something.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Deven said...

Hooray! A double post! I was reading back in the comments, and so this is in response to celesi asking about becoming editors/publishers/agents. Someone had asked Neil Gaiman about how one becomes an editor. Mr. Gaiman didn't know, and passed the question onto an editor, who responded a few paragraphs in down here:


In case that helps you at all!

11:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Lol. A math major is not that boring. (coming from a math major, hehehe) If I was an writing major I would become a famous doodlest. :) I would have billions of of pictures to my name.

3:02 AM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

Ah Maureen you're scaring me! I go to University and I just got accepted into the creative writing major. The only thing I hope to get out of it is learning to write better. When I graduate with my BA it will say it's an English degree even though I studied the Creative Writing pathway. It's interesting about the "making you write makes writing not fun" and I agree but I hope that taking these classes will help me develope skills in character development and plot flow, things like that. I hope I'm making the right choice. Sometimes I feel like I should of majored in Buisness and then just wrote books on the side. Le sigh.

5:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's really good advice - which parents are *always* telling their kids (in my experience, anyway).

So, now I wish I'd gone to see mamma mia when I had the chance before. I love musicals!

Anyway, I would love a Suite Scarlett book (because even though i think it's meant to be out, i can't find. Stupid, badly stocked bookstores). Fingers crossed that I am random enough to be picked randomly!

12:02 PM  
Blogger Faith said...

Hey, I gave you an award on my blog!

12:29 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

I have to agree with you about school. I took a creative writing class in college and was surprised by how little I learned. I did learn what my weaknesses are but not much more.

9:06 PM  

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