When freelance writer Vonetta Young got serious about publishing her memoir on surviving childhood emotional abuse, she began looking for a professional manuscript consultant. Young came across an ad by Anna March in a Facebook group for women writers.
“I would have preferred to hire a [woman of color] because I did not think she could relate to growing up as a little black girl, but I could not find one,” Young says.
After reading multiple comments vouching for her services, she was sold. “I trusted others were telling the truth about their positive experiences with her — no one raised any issues,” says Young. “I am kind of annoyed about that now.”
Satisfied by her website and writing samples, Young agreed to pay March $375 for her services. But after being pressured to pay a month in advance, she spent months trying to track March down. “I would either receive an [automated email] saying she was offline due to a personal health issue, or I would not get a response.”
Young turned to Facebook for help collecting more information about March just days before a story about March broke in the Los Angeles Times. When she read it, she was shocked.
In an exposé that took a year to birth, reporters Melissa Chadburn and Carolyn Kellogg introduced the world to a seasoned con artist that was once prominent in the Los Angeles literary scene. Their work shows that March worked her way into literary communities in various cities using different aliases. The L.A. Times report found four names she went by: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.
In Los Angeles, she was known for throwing extravagant parties and picking up costly restaurant tabs. Her generosity won her friends in the lit world and she ambitiously began organizing events with prominent authors. It did not matter that the book deals she claimed never materialized, she was accepted as a writing authority.
“I have a few Anna March stories,” bestselling author Roxane Gay tweeted, before admitting to being scammed out of money herself. “I watched her splash money around and do events and always wondered... who is she? She rarely published anything.”
Critics accuse March of using her connections to prominent writers from marginalized communities to gain credibility as an “intersectional feminist” and exploit other writers.
In her most recent incarnation, Anna March used her clout as an essayist that was once published in the New York Times’s popular Modern Love column to score coaching clients. She collected payment for writing retreats that were later cancelled and consultation services that were not provided, without willingly offering refunds. She was also no stranger to crowdfunding.
Bestselling author Tayari Jones tweeted, “This Anna March story has me triggered and ragey because I constantly am put in positions where my right to be there is questioned.”
The literary community can be elitist. It is hard to miss the irony of a black author endorsed by Oprah being asked to prove her credentials while a lesser known white writer is granted access and trust without question.
March is also responsible for launching an online feminist magazine in 2016, Roar.
Venezuelan author Lisbeth Coiman believes March used a fake profile to infiltrate a Facebook group for women writing stories of trauma. “I responded to a call for submissions to Roar magazine that was posted in our group, then Anna March introduced herself by email.”
March claimed to have loved her story on abortion enough to offer her a position as the editor of the Roar abortion column. “I was so excited about my first writing job in America. I made plans with the money I was going to earn,” says Coiman. “I found an editor for my memoir, expecting to use the money I made working at Roar.”
Coiman was tasked with publishing one original story a day for her column, but when submissions dried up she says March pressured her to turn to her personal network and plagiarize other online publications.
“I was not going to steal, so I always credited the source. When I submitted my invoice, she told me I would only get paid $5 per article because they were not original stories,” says Coiman.
Three months passed before Coiman resorted to contacting March daily. “Instead of making payment, she would offer to connect me with one of her contacts at Salon, saying she could get me published there,” says Coiman. “But, I was going through a divorce and I needed my money.”
Eventually, Coiman received all but $1,000 owed after threatening legal action.
“It does seem intentional,” says writer Mekita Rivas. “She did not just target WOC, she targeted new writers that were WOC.” (Rivas is a contributor to The Lily)
Rivas says she applied to write for Roar after learning March was recruiting a fresh Latina political writer. She signed on to be a columnist.
“I had only been freelancing for a few months and thought it was a great opportunity,” says Rivas. “I only received one payment, which was very late, and I am still owed $500. ... I thought my experience was an anomaly.”
Rivas has given up hope of ever receiving payment. “I feel sorry for writers that lost a large amount of money, I just feel my writing could have found a better home,” says Rivas. “It is unfortunate considering we were covering important causes that matter to WOC.”
March did not respond to a request for comment for this article, but in a public response to the L.A. Times article on Roar’s website she said, “I regret my shortcomings and failures and apologize for my mistakes. I have never run from them or hidden them. In fact, I’ve tried to be open about them.”
Her latest victims believed she could help them achieve their dream of literary success. Each expressed regret for trusting March and gratitude for the work that was done by Chadburn and Kellogg to expose her crimes.
Young is now weary about seeking similar services. “I feel like I can’t trust anyone.”