Hi, I’m Marjetta Geerling
I’m a young adult author and English professor living in Hollywood, Florida with my husband, Michael Crumpton, a mixed media artist, inventor, web monkey, and native speaker of all things Apple. We dote on our happy, poodle-mix, Houdini Beauregarde, and our newest rescue, a chihuahua-mix named Sheba Reba Rita Peanut.
I grew up in a small town about sixty miles east of Los Angeles, called Norco, across the street from my elementary school, St. Mel’s.
My mom was a dog breeder, and we always had animals––horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, cows, sheep, chickens, and even miniature horses. For my third birthday, my parents gave me a Shetland pony. After the disappointment faded that she wasn’t green–I’d seen the horse-of-many-colors in The Wizard of Oz so didn’t think a green pony was too much to ask for—I named her Happy Birthday, and we spent many years together. Her favorite game was to go fast enough that I fell off so she could stop and chomp on some grass.
The movie Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!), which I watched repeatedly from first through fourth grades, inspired in me a great curiosity about the world and the people who live in it. In fifth grade, I decorated my bedroom with pictures of castles in Europe (and a lot of pink!). I signed up for French classes, so I’d be ready for my own Bon Voyage story. In high school, my childhood dream came true and at the age of fifteen, I flew to New Zealand where I was an exchange student for a semester. I am still in touch with my host
family, and it is my fondest hope to one day return to NZ for an extended visit.
It was also in fifth grade that I wrote my first book. It was called Lorna on Rurak and was a fantasy loosely ripped off from the Prydain Chronicles of Lloyd Alexander and the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. Although I was only ten at the time, my main character, Lorna, was sixteen. I didn’t know there was a genre called YA (young adult) back then, but I was already writing in it.
When I finally did get to high school, a process that seemed to take a thousand years, I attended Notre Dame in Riverside, CA. They weren’t easy years (are they for anyone?), and it took me a long time to figure out how to navigate in a complicated social world. In my attempts to find where I belonged, I was on the swim and basketball teams, participated in the French Club and Honors Society, sang in a choir, and wrote for the newspaper. During my semester in New Zealand, I learned to play squash, water ski, and they even let me be on the volleyball team even though I was really terrible. I returned from New Zealand with a new understanding of what it means to be a global citizen, some pretty harsh opinions about American foreign policy, and a new-found confidence. Senior year, I finally found my place and my people as a cheerleader and editor of the student newspaper.
Also, my hair grew out and senior year provided many excuses to buy some beautiful dresses. Here’s a picture from my favorite dance, Winter Ball.
In 1995, I graduated from the Johnston Center for Individualized Learning at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California. (It’s now called the Johnston Center for Integrated Studies.) During my junior year, I spent a semester abroad at the University of Lancaster in England. On my breaks (and when I couldn’t take the cold anymore), I hitchhiked or hopped on a train to Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands (where I got to meet up with some cousins I hadn’t seen since childhood). My dream of visiting old castles led me to a new love: visiting old cemeteries. I loved to walk through rows of decaying head stones, imagining the lives and loves of each person buried beneath my feet.
While in college, I found it nearly impossible to choose a field of study. I loved psychology classes, literature, women’s studies, biology, history, and by the end of my time at Johnston, was fascinated with the educational system and learning theories. Luckily, Johnston encourages interdisciplinary studies, and I had the privilege of designing my own B.A.: Women’s Culture and Creative Expression.
In my first semester at Johnston and a week after my eighteenth birthday, I became a vegetarian. At first, it was an issue of self-discipline and health, but the longer I was meat-free and the more I read about vegetarianism, the more I realized my whole life had been leading up to this decision. My sisters are more than a decade older than me and moved out of the house when I was very young. I grew up surrounded by animals, all kinds of animals, and they were my family. I tried to train cats, talked to Happy Birthday, and spent long hours in the backyard with our dogs. I remember one night there was a big earthquake, and my parents were worried because when they went to my room to check on me, I wasn’t there. They found me out in the yard, asleep with my head on our Australian Shepherd’s side. I’d slept through the night, safe and sound with my protector, Blue. Animals have loved, protected, and supported me through every phase of my life. How could I possibly eat them?
No matter what I studied, I always came back to creative writing. In the first writing class of my life, I had a fellow writing student say to me, “When are you going to grow up? Everything you write sounds like a teenager!” I was so insulted, even though I was nineTEEN at the time, that I immediately started writing dark and pretentious “adult” fiction. I wasn’t very good at it. I stopped writing for a long time. I kept coming back to writing and learned that there was this thing called YA where the writers actually try to sound like teenagers. I got busy writing more of this YA stuff and in February 2007 sold Fancy White Trash to Viking. So, it turned out to be not so bad that I sound like a teenager when I write. Now, I even get paid to do it, which is pretty much the best job I can imagine.
After college, I lived in New York, working as a temp and eventually as an office manager for New York Film & Animation. Michael and I met on my first day in New York, but in spite of our relationship and the many other people I loved in NY, I returned to California because I just couldn’t handle the cold. Snow is something you visit and enjoy, not something you should have to walk through to get to work.
Back in California, I taught third grade for four years at Palms Elementary in Perris. In 2000, Michael and I moved to Miami Beach where I continued teaching at St. Patrick Catholic School until I decided to be brave and go to graduate school. Finally, I committed to a single field of study: Writing. I graduated from Spalding University with an M.F.A. in Writing in 2011.
Now, I split my time between writing, professing at Broward College, time in my pool, and the constant guilt of not-writing-enough.
Formal Bio | Marjetta Geerling
Marjetta Geerling is the author of Fancy White Trash (Viking Children’s Books, 2008).Fancy White Trash was selected as an American Library Association’s 2009 Best Books for Young Adults and for the 2009 Rainbow List.
Marjetta grew up in Southern California and attended the Johnston Center for Integrated Studies at the University of Redlands. She has been an elementary school teacher and holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Spalding University.
Marjetta lives in Hollywood, FL and is an Assistant Professor of English at Broward College.