Young-adult author, literary agent form lasting connection
ALUMNI | Maureen Johnson, AS95, New York Times best-selling author of teen and young adult novels, was voted a "Top Tweeter" by Time Magazine and "The Most Interesting Twitter User to Follow" by Mashable.com in 2009.
But long before the days of Twitter and Mashable, Johnson connected within a more tangible social network that existed at UD, where she met her longtime friend and current literary agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, also AS95.
"Everything we do now goes back to UD," says Testerman, who lives in Denver. "For us, the Scrounge was Twitter. Any time of the day, we could walk into the Scrounge and someone we knew would be sitting at our tables. We never would have gotten to this position in our lives without that connection."
Johnson, an English major from Philadelphia, and Testerman, a double major in English and British history from New York, were both heavily involved in the E-52 and Harrington Theatre Arts Company student theatre groups at UD. After meeting and chatting in the Scrounge one day, the two decided to travel to London together after graduation. Later, as roommates in New York City, Testerman landed a job with a prominent publishing firm and began to help Johnson pitch her books.
"Kate was my adviser," Johnson says. "I feel like we have an unbreakable bond."
Johnson has since catapulted to success, publishing nine novels in the U.S., Holland, Thailand and France and racking up more than 49,000 followers on Twitter, on which she posts scores of tweets per day.
"I was always a compulsive writer," she says. "Practice is key to good writing."
She cites her undergraduate English rhetoric class as strongly influencing her writing style and ability to tweet effectively. "Whatever you could do in 1,000 words, the professor would ask you to do it in 100," she says. "You don't get a lot of time in this world to get people's attention, so you have to choose your words very carefully."
The University's early Internet courses and connectivity—something not widely seen at other schools in the mid-'90s—also played a role in her later success, she says. "UD at the time was super forward-thinking in terms of the Internet," Johnson says. "They taught us stuff no one had heard of. We had to learn how to search the Internet and design web pages."
Testerman also credits the UD English program with preparing her for her career. "The English degree is almost the perfect degree to have to become an agent," she says. "It teaches you how to think critically…and how to communicate intellectually on books."
Her advice to current English majors: "English classes are great, but don't let that be the only thing that fills your schedule. Take accounting and business classes. Learn how to build your own website and business."
The two alumnae say the only thing stronger between them than the success they share is their friendship.
"It's a long way from Cheerios in a London flat to where we are today," Testerman says. "Maureen was a bridesmaid at my wedding. That bond from UD will always be there."
Article by Melissa Cox, AS05