Spotlight On...

Marsha R. West

by Gina Lee Nelson

She’s the first to admit, she’s worn many hats during her lifetime. Her bio includes activist PTA mom, volunteer, school board member, high school theatre teacher, and school administrator; but ever since retiring she’s concentrated on her writing career. This month it’s my pleasure to focus our Spotlight on our 2011 NT President, Marsha R. West. Her first novel, Vermont Escape, will be released this month by MuseItUp Publishing.

Either as enthusiastic volunteer or dedicated educator, your schedule was full to overflowing for many years. Now that you’re retired and pursuing your dream of being a writer, what does your writing schedule look like?

Other than blogs and rewrites, I haven’t written anything new since last December/January. That’s when I finished my sixth book after a big push at our November writing retreat. I’ve found I really write more words per minute when I’m away from everything and everyone else. Ideally, I’d go away several times a year where I could crank out 15 to 20K words over a three-day weekend, each time for approximately 55-60K. Fleshing it out adds another 25-30K in real world time. I actually can write any time of the day and night, but I like to have big chunks of time, rather than twenty minutes here and there.

More and more, our NT members are selling their manuscripts. I find each sale story unique and inspiring. What led to your first sale?

Blood, sweat, tears (lots of those - LOL), study, support from others, and keeping on, keeping on. I seriously was so close to quitting when I won a half-price fee for one of Margie Lawson’s mountain top retreats at our last big writing conference. I thought, “Okay, I’ll give one last push. If I do what she says and still can’t sell, then I’m moving on.” So all summer long, I toiled over VE using Margie’s packets, using all those colored markers. Got the book as ready as I could. Didn’t want to get up there and be embarrassed. I didn’t know the five other gals from Adam. Some were working on a first book that they’d been working on for a long time. One was published. A couple had several books under their belts and contest wins. Margie is amazing. When you think you’ve written some good lines, she looks at it and smiles and says, “Have you thought about this?” Then she knocks the passage into that NYTBS world we all hope for. We smile back and think, “Oh, there’s more to learn.”

So I came home and toiled some more. October 10 sent out ten queries to e-pubs and got a couple of no thanks. Then in January, I went back to make sure I’d heard back from everyone. Found a couple I hadn’t received a confirmation from and, for the first time ever, I rewrote them. I’d always been too afraid to check back before, just assumed the work wasn’t good enough. Well, I was pretty proud of that Margie-ized version, and I followed up. I resent to two who said they hadn’t received it. Then in late January I got the request from MuseItUp Publishing, who was really running late with responses. Right after I signed with them, I got a second request from another publisher. It was fun to write them and say, thanks but I’ve already signed. Getting two offers was really the icing on the cake.

This is the heyday of digital publishing with too many digital first publishers to count. How did you find MuseItUp Publishing?

I watched who people on my various writing loops sold to. I think that’s how I got all of those ten publishers I sent to in October. That or some good friend recommended them.

Are you enjoying working with an editor -– the rewrites, edits, and galleys?

Oh, my stars and garters. Galleys are the pits. As I write this, I’m planning on reading over the form one last time before I send it to my editor today. (Another time I’ll have to tell you of changes that happened to VE through the editing process.) I like all the parts of the process: the research and planning (I’m a plotter who occasionally is a pantser.), the actual writing, and editing is cool--when you take something good and make it lots better. One of the things I picked up from Margie Lawson when she came to the NT writing conference about four years ago was the James Michener quote: I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. Well, excellent might be a tad overblown for my writing, but I claim the concept anyway. I’m eager to start a from-scratch book. That’s probably six months to a year off as I need to submit book five and complete edits on book six.

What challenges did you have to overcome to write? Do challenges still exist?

Well, I’m better than I was in the years when Jerrie and Jeannie kept asking, Where’s the emotion?” I mean, I thought it was there. Why couldn’t they see it? Thanks to Margie, I know how to go back and layer that stuff in. It will probably never come naturally to me. Renee helped me tame my super critical self so I can let the creativity through. I use my little stuffed dog, Scruffy, for that.

In the midst of all the layering, revising, and editing, how much time do you spend on marketing and social media?

More time than I should. Some of that is because I’m so technologically challenged. Even when I can do stuff (like posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads) it takes me longer. After telling Jeannie I’d never do FB, I find I really enjoy it. (I still don’t know how to post a picture.) But my favorite SM is blogging. I like my own personal blog where I write about random subjects. I like hosting my guest authors. I love to comment on other people’s blogs. I’ve made some good friends through that. I may never meet them face to face, but I have a good relationship with them. I went to RomCon in June, and that was a super great marketing experience. I’ll more than likely go next year, too. It’s important for us to remember not to just market to other writers, but to reach out to those readers out there.

Speaking of readers, what is your favorite book?

Probably my all-time favorite is LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott.

Who influenced you to become a writer?

I guess my mother because she really got me started reading. She read Emilie Loring romances and Agatha Christie mysteries. Thus started my love affair with romantic suspense, which Daphne Du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney solidified. I don’t know how you can be a writer without first being a reader.

Thanks, Marsha, for sharing your journey with us. Let’s support our former NT president by finding her online and buying her book.

Links -

New release:
Vermont Escape


Back to the Spotlight list