Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Sister of Suspense author Marsha West sharing her multi-act life and her latest release, Act of Trust.
Apparently quite a few. Since I write about Second Chances, I especially appreciate being here at Joanne’s blog about Second Acts. Inspiring stories are told here!
If college was Act 1 where I studied theatre, speech, and English preparing to be an English teacher, then Act 2 was the three years I taught before getting married.
Following marriage, Mommyhood began Act 3. When you’re a mom, whether you work outside the home or not, life is structured by where your kids are in school and their activities. These were the years of serving on PTA boards, attending gymnastics meets, dance recitals, football games, traveling to cheerleading competitions, and musical performances. They continued into the girls’ college years.
Act 3, Scene 1 is when I ran and got defeated, ran again and was elected for two 4-year terms to the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education. That was 12 years of my life from when I was 40 to 52. Including the four years before I first ran when I’d observed school board meetings as a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I attended school board meetings twice a month for 16 years.
Ultimately, that Act closed. I reluctantly did not to run for reelection after the second term for financial reasons. Our kids were approaching college age and instead of spending my hours volunteering, (School Board members in Texas aren’t paid) I needed to go back to teaching. (I have people tell me they wish I still sat on the board—nice for my ego—but then I’d have missed so many other experiences.)
Act 4. I was fortunate to get a job teaching theatre in a neighboring school district, setting up a drama program where there had only been a music program. For the next 4 years I immersed myself in that life, teaching & producing one-act plays, musicals, and the UIL One-Act competition. It was wonderful to see the growth of my students from their freshman year through their senior year. Several went on to work in theatre and teaching.
My Acts get a bit blurry now. I was still on the school board and teaching theatre when I began to work on a mid-management degree leading toward becoming a school administrator. I’d seen a poster in the lounge about the program and thought, “hmmm.”
Act 5 began when I got a job with the FWISD as an elementary assistant principal. I spent three wonderful years working with an awesome principal. We were in a good school of about 500 students (mixed ethnically and economically) with an active PTA—even an active Dad’s Club. I learned a ton. I made mistakes, but that’s how we learn.
Act 6 began when I was “promoted” and became principal of Riverside Applied Learning Center, a great little special interest elementary school. I won’t take time to explain what an awesome opportunity it is for kids to be in this kind of school. Here’s a link to school’s website for a brief explanation of what Applied Learning is. http://www.fwisd.org/pages/FWISD/Departments_Programs/Departments__A-K_/Choices/Elementary_School_Programs___S/Riverside_Applied_Learning_Cen
Act 6 Scene 2 After five years at Riverside, I was assigned to a much larger school, almost 800 students. A school that ran through principals about every 2 years. It was a school in transition from being an almost all white middle class to being predominantly African American with a smattering of Hispanics with a high percentage of low-income kids and families. What had been working wasn’t working any longer. It was stressful for everyone. The pressure to perform well on all the tests was enormous.
I worked longer and longer hours, and it became clear to me that my health was suffering. No one should work 14-hour days plus 8 and 6 hour days every Saturday and Sunday, and that’s what I was doing my last year in that school. After two years there, I retired the end of June in 2007.
Act 7 I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d already begun this act—The Writer.
My mother had some health problems and to deal with the stress I went back to reading romance novels. Something I hadn’t done in over twenty years. My goodness those books had changed! Sex was no longer behind the closed door. The suspense was off the charts, too.
I had an idea for a book, which at 145 K words, was a tad long. LOL Besides which I knew nothing about the craft of writing genre fiction. I just told the story. When contest judges said I had a good story, but needed to take classes on POV and GMC, I didn’t know what they meant. :) But I took their suggestions to heart and took classes, attended conferences, wrote, submitted, got rejected, wrote, sent to contests, got dreadful scores, took more classes, wrote, submitted, finalled in some contests, but got rejected. Continued to write. By the time I’d written my fourth book I was looking for small e-presses, and had decided if none of them wanted it, I’d self-publish.
Well, I got two offers and went with a small Canadian e-press. They published my first two books VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. I learned about the publication business from them and now have self-published two books part of The Second Chances Series: SECOND ACT and ACT OF TRUST with plans for two more in the series.
(Not a separate act, but an extension of Act 3 is grandparenthood, a lovely time for sure.)
Act 7, Scene 1 My husband and I are in the process of downsizing from our large house to a smaller one, but this cottage is on a lake 15 minutes from our daughters and grandkids. The views are inspiring and blood pressure lowering. We never anticipated this, but are incredibly grateful. (Lake Picture)
I’m not sure I planned a second or third act, much less a third or fourth. I just followed my husband’s advice: “Go through the open door.” When an opportunity presents itself, take it. When I decided to run for school board that first time, it was because the incumbent had decided not to run. I’d been talking about it for a couple of years, and it was put up or shut up time. I saw the sign on the teacher’s lounge bulletin board about the mid-management program and that propelled me in a new direction and through another door. I didn’t set out to have a career as an author. I just wrote that first book.
My personal motto is: “Keep on Keeping on.” If you want something, don’t give up, no matter how hard it is. There were so many times I nearly gave up on my writing, but I hung in there, and now I’m the proud author of 4 published books. I’m grateful to all the authors who helped me on this journey.
I discovered this next quote at the time I was leaving the school board. “In life, what sometimes appears to be an ending is really a new beginning.” After all these year, I still keep a copy of this one on my desk. The way I see it as long as you’re alive, you have new Acts ahead of you. Be a life-long learner and go through that open door.
Blurb for ACT OF TRUST, Book 2 The Second Chances Series
A widow since 9/11 and a mother of grown daughter, Kate Thompson wants to keep her and her daughter safe, but the inheritance of land in Maine pushes her out of her comfort zone in Texas and into the arms of a Maine lawyer.
Maine lawyer and environmentalist, Jim Donovan wants to protect Aunt Liddy’s land and keep it from falling into the hands of the developers, but first he has to convince Kate Thompson she should hold on to the family land when she doesn’t even want to go look at it. However, he’s unprepared for the attraction each feels for the other, but denies exists.
Will they be able to settle the land deal before anyone else is killed or they break each other’s hearts?
Where to find Marsha…
Marsha, I’m in awe of your accomplishments and wish you well with all your literary endeavors.