After years of producing Corporate Theatre for clients such as IBM and Coca-Cola, Marsha Roberts developed, produced and marketed Letters From The Front, the only professional theatrical production to tour military bases around the world. This heartfelt show touched hundreds of thousands of lives, toured stateside and abroad for fifteen years and was the first play ever to perform at the Pentagon. The daunting process of getting this never-been-done-before production off the ground and onto a worldwide stage gave her a keen awareness of what it takes to overcome life’s obstacles and find the miraculous in the commonplace. She shares many of her experiences in her inspirational memoir “Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant.” Kirkus Reviews wrote that her book is “An optimistic look at the magic of life.”
What inspires you to write?
I know this might sound corny, but what inspires me to write is the thought that my experiences might help other people find more joy and love in their lives, as I have. It came about like this. Several years ago I found myself about as lost as I had ever been. We had been hard hit by the economy, like so many other people, and I was feeling pretty beat up by life. I came across hand-written pages I had jotted down of an experience I had with a tomato plant (of all things!) tucked away in a drawer. When I read it, I cried, smiled at the silliness of life and felt more hopeful. Embedded in it was an old lesson learned that I had forgotten. It seemed to be a “parable” and I realized I had a story to tell that I knew others could relate to. There’s nothing that inspires me more than when readers tell me how much my writing has touched them.
Tell us about your writing process.
Each chapter of my books is a vignette, a piece of my life that has a specific point to it, often referred to as a “parable.” However, there is an overall story arc from beginning to end which was the trickiest part for me. I did not do an outline, but I did begin with a list of significant moments that I wanted to cover, which became chapters. Since these were based on actual events, I started by collecting any information I had, such as dates, notes on calendars and sometimes writing I had done in my diary years ago. Most of the time I would start a chapter by writing on a legal pad, jotting down initial thoughts. Often I would go to a place on a nearby mountain top – very inspiring spot to write! Then I would go back to my desk and transpose my notes onto my computer, filling in and editing my thoughts as I wrote. As my book came together, it was rather like gathering pieces of a puzzle and finding the right spot for each piece!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
What advice would you give other writers?
I can only speak to others who want to write their memoir because it is a unique genre and has very different challenges. First ask yourself two questions: who is my audience? And why would they want to read about my life?
I spent years as a theatrical producer and fifteen of those years I was entertaining America’s troops here in the states and overseas. It was a show that my husband/business partner, Bob Rector, and I developed from scratch, called “Letters From The Front.” During that time I became very adept at reading the audience. I could tell when we had them and when we lost them. Because of that experience I was keenly aware of my audience as I was writing. I never forgot about the people that would be reading my book.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to never forget your audience. Writing a memoir isn’t like writing in your diary, it’s a book, meant to be sold to readers. Give them a good reason to want to read it – write it for them, not just yourself.
One more thought. Decide early on how candid you want to be. Think it over carefully, discuss it with those who will be included in your book, then stick to it. The reader will sense if you’re not being honest with them.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had submitted my book to a significant number of agents and had received terrific responses, but no agent. Finally one agent took the time to write me a long email, explaining that she really wanted to represent me, but that the publishing industry had changed so much, she didn’t think she could find me a publisher. She told me that a publisher now expects a new author to have such a significant platform that they could sell 20,000 copies of the book themselves. I had “the beginning of a platform,” but not large enough to convince a publisher.
At this exact same time, a friend sent me a copy of an article in the Wall Street Journal about how accessible the whole e-pub world had become. The article literally walked the reader through the steps and explained how to do it. I decided that if I was going to be expected to sell 20,000 copies myself anyway, I might as well get the highest percentage possible for that effort, and that definitely is by publishing it yourself through the Kindle KDP program and other outlets, such as Smashwords, which makes your book available to Barnes & Noble, as a I-book, etc. My book is also in paperback by publishing through Create Space and is available through all major retailers through their easy-to-use system. My only regret is that I didn’t self-publish sooner!
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
It is clear that our world is moving away from the printed page and towards digital. It’s happening quickly and there’s no turning back. This has made indie-publishing extremely easy for authors, but has not answered the question of how do you reach the reader effectively. How will the big New York publishers stay relevant in the years to come? Why will an author need an agent? That is yet to be seen. However, those who figure out how to market on the internet will be of great value to the authors who long to write and not be bogged down in the incredibly time consuming process of marketing their books.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print