I stumbled on the Anna March story over at Twitter, where people were tweeting about her and writers who might have been victimized by her. It caught my attention because I have agents on my mind now and one Twitter account was comparing her to agents. (It looks like she’s never quite presented herself as an actual literary agent.) I just finished writing something that features a grifter with many names as a main character. And here was one live and in person! Once I started reading, I realized that while my fictional character has done far less actual damage than Anna March has.
Here’s the LA Times article.
If I’m reading the article directly, Nancy Kruse, who most recently went by “Anna March,” has been providing inaccurate or false information to employers, partners and on documents signed under penalty of perjury since she was in her early 20s. (In June, according to her own statement, she turned 50.)
After legal problems back east, March, then using the name Delaney Anderson, came to California and went to San Diego. She became involved with a non-profit group called the Writing Center, which sounds wonderful. Originally a volunteer, Anderson became a paid employee and launched a large fund-raising effort. Her reports to the board were obviously false, as the board discovered when they got an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. They called an emergency meeting with Anderson, who left a piece of paper with the words I QUIT on the door and vanished. She left the Writing Center in such bad financial shape it had to declare bankruptcy.
So, basically, a program that helped emerging writers, gone.
The Times article linked to a Current article in 2005 which interviewed staff at the Writing Center. People there were willing to see Delaney Anderson as charming, charismatic and someone with “her heart in the right place” who just got in over her head. As Anderson/Kruse/March’s track record continues to unspool, that depiction becomes harder for me to believe.
After that, this woman hop-scotched across the country for a bit before initiating her next scheme, under the name Kruse, setting up an alleged fund-raiser for Public radio. Fifteen PBS radio stations signed on with her company and paid amounts of money ranging from $8700 to $68,000. The stations’ contracts assured them they would recoup that money plus an additional amount (it was, after all, fundraising). Ten stations each got a $10,000 payment, and nothing else. The remaining five got nothing. (They eventually banded to together and filed a successful suit against her, getting back a sliver of what they’d spent.)
Yes, let’s rip off public radio, because why not?
While this was going on, workers at her company were having their paychecks bounce or getting sent home with promissory notes.
After her stint with PBS, March moved to Los Angeles, presenting herself as a literary light, befriending high-profile women authors, calling herself an intersectional feminist. She created a group called Lulu designed to give out awards, but while awards were announced the money was slow in coming… like, a year or more. (Melissa Chadburn, co-writer of the Times article, is one of the people who waited a year to get her $1000 grant.) March set up an online feminist literary magazine called Roar (which has now been suspended), that said it paid its writers a flat rate of $25 per article.
Nine months after the Lulu group was set up, March closed it down and went on to offer writing workshops in luxurious locations, like at Julia Child’s house in Provence, France. Eventually, the workshops started getting cancelled, but again, participants who had paid found it very hard to get their money back. In one case, people planning to attend a workshop at an Italian hotel left for Italy a couple of days early, arriving in the Italian town to find out that not only had the workshop been cancelled, but March had never reserved rooms for the event at the hotel. It’s almost as if she had no intention of holding the workshop at all.
March refused to be interviewed by The Times, and refused to answer any of their emailed questions, but she did post an Open Letter on the Roar site.
I’m no expert on the art of the grift, but March’s technique looks to me like a really poor Ponzi scheme. It looks like March doesn’t write checks that bounce all that often; she just doesn’t pay. Then, suddenly, people will get a little bit of money from her, most likely because some other mark has paid her. Roar agreed to pay its contributors $25 per article, but she often didn’t even pay that.
In her open letter, March says that she was proud to pay a $25 symbolic honorarium because most literary markets pay nothing. There are only two things wrong with that statement; more and more markets do pay; and, well, Roar didn’t pay most of its contributors.
While March was doing these things she often represented herself as a writer and/or a published author. She did have some pieces appear in Salon.com and in The Rumpus. She frequently told people about her published or forthcoming books, which were nonexistent.
Currently, she is working as a “book midwife,” charging enthusiastic, eager writers anywhere between $1600 to $3000 to edit their work.
In her open letter, March paints herself as a victim on several levels.
First of all she is the victim of a smear article. She quotes one email Chadburn sent her over the $1000 she hadn’t paid, in which Chadburn sounds (understandably) angry. At the very least, this could make it look like Chadburn’s article was written out of anger. The Times article is so solidly researched that most people won’t be drawn in by that ploy, but most people who are going to start with the Roar letter are going to stop there. March is clever, never naming the reporter or the paper that is doing the story.
According to her, she is the victim of misunderstandings. When she can, she actively mischaracterizes things that have been said about her, like saying that a public receiver had said that she was innocent of any wrongdoing. (That’s kind of the opposite of what the receiver’s report to the court said.)
She’s a victim because she couldn’t help it. When she can, she evades responsibility by the use of passive voice, and hides behind a corporate veil. About the Lulu group she says, “The organization got through the awards event and then didn’t continue,” as if it vanished into a rift in the time-space continuum, but she was founder of the group. The co-founder, a woman named Ford, was surprised when March, March, shut down the group.
Here’s one section of a Twitter thread from a woman who had a workshop cancelled and as of today has not gotten her money back (I’ve left off her name):
#annamarch responded to my email once, saying first that she “had to cancel the castle” because “people want me to” (which people? wouldn’t the only people who matter be the ones who had booked the workshop specifically because of the location?)/8
Of Roar; “After a year, Roar went on hiatus. Roar has debt. Roar is owned by March Media – not me personally.” Of course it is. That’s why you create a company, so that it, and not you, takes the first hit when there are problems.
(And heaven knows I’m not an internet wizard, but while I could easily find Anna March on the internet, I could not find March Media anywhere.)
March is a victim because the world is complicated! She’s a good person who wants to make things better, but she can’t understand how things work. She has trouble paying bills on time, and sure, she lies, but can’t we all just get over that? And well, yeah, she hasn’t really had any books published, because she used to get confused between, “We’d love to publish you,” and, “We’re going to publish you.” Well, I’m not an expert on too many things, Ms. March, but I know the answer to this one. The way you can tell they’re going to publish you is when the message says, “Please review, sign and return the attached contract.”
March is a victim because the world is hard. “Did I start and run a business that failed –yes, as 90% of them do.” Actually, more like 67% of them do. And by now, March should realize, if she’s truly not a grifter, that she isn’t skilled at business things and she should stop doing them. I’m thinking a job as a dishwasher somewhere would be good for her.
March is willing to go whole hog and throw in every single tear-jerking trope you can imagine; sick relatives, dying relatives, dead ones, needed surgeries, her own illnesses and on and on. She admits she makes mistakes… but she hasn’t stopped doing what she’s doing. And she’s still luring people into giving them her money.
She’s fascinating in an under-the-rock kind of way, and the obvious lesson is: Don’t send Anna March, whatever name she is using this week, any of your money.