By C. Powers
Marsha L. Bullock, author and teacher for the LBUSD, exemplifies the type of people this city breeds, creatives and go-getters.
Born in Kentucky and raised in Long Beach, CA, Marsha grew up like most black children, with a mother that wanted the best for her. Having a mother as an educator, Bullock’s journey in teaching started in the home. “My mother was a teacher”, she says, “and of course where I come from my mother was like, ‘you have to go to college, you have to do something’ and things like that”.
While volunteering with her mother at a preschool and having her son at the age of 19, Bullock was able to complete college with a degree in childhood development/early childhood education. “I had a natural knack for it”, Marsha tells me. “I was young, it was fun, I was working with the kids, I’d give them a lesson, they’d get it and I would be excited”.
Marsha continued to work as an educator working her way up from an assistant to head teacher working for LBUSD as a supervisor.
“I’ve been a home visiting teacher, you know I go inside the homes, talk to the parents, I teach them how to work with their children, show them how to develop appropriate things, and it was just a passion of mine”.
Bullock doesn’t have a class room anymore. She now supervises other teachers at a head start center and is proud of the work she does working for the community, one of the most important parts in fact, the children. “I’m basically following in my mother’s footsteps”, she told me before we moved on to how she started her other career as a writer.
Growing up Bullock always dreamed of being an author. Marsha’s mother also instilled in her the importance of maintaining a well paying job, which led her to following her footsteps in education. Life went on for Bullock. She met her life partner, had children, and maintained a stable career.
“I always said ‘I’m going to write a book, I’m going to write a book’, and you know, you end up working, having a family, doing life”, she says. After he daughter went away for college however, Marsha had more free time and had trouble finding things to do. One day a family service worker at her job, who was also a writer, told Bullock about an online magazine that she was writing for. After hearing how easy it sounded Marsha considered writing for the publication herself, but something else happened. An idea.
“And I was like ‘Imma write me a story'”, she says. “I think they were paying $100 a story and you only had to have 5000 words. You know, that’s nothing. So I started writing the story but the catch to it was you couldn’t go back and build on it, it was theirs. And so as I was writing the story, I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to keep this’… and it evolved into a book”.
Self Publication is a task within itself, Bullock had to figure out the protocol of getting her work onto a finished product. “I had to teach myself how to self publish”, she says. I had a friend [Lilah] that wrote a book with inspirational quotes and poems. She introduced me to a man named Tony who had like a printing company”. And so, in 2013 Marsha Bullock published “The Secrets They Kept”, a novel about a NYU Professor that finds themselves in a complicated relationship with twists and turns that evoke danger. From there, Bullock had to learn the business side of her craft through challenges that seem more like a minor learning experience instead of a major hurdle as she describes it all.
In the beginning, Marsha had to order over 500 copies through her original supplier increasing her overhead. In time she encountered someone who directed her to community resources where she could produce one book at a time. On another occasion when she wanted to get the book copyrighted Bullock had another run in with Capitalism. “I knew nothing about copyrights, so I contacted a paralegal I came across”, Marsha says, “But let me tell you something, she was going to charge me $500 to help me copyright this book when it actually only costs $35..so you know I learned a lot of stuff like that”.
Trial after trial Marsha never gave up on her passion and it landed her where she is today, a well known community leader and public figure.
Now in 2021 Marsha has published a plethora of books featuring adult topics and even a line of children’s books headed by a child protagonist named “Pinky”. Pinky and her adventures are used to teach children about history and physical/mental health with topics ranging from depression and bullying to the Coronavirus pandemic. Personifying the virus as a glitter fairy that accidentally makes people sick or using inspiration from her childhood experiences on a variety of issues, Bullock finds the most creative ways to engage the minds of children to better understand the world they live in.
As we close the session, I asked Marsha where she wants to take her career as a writer, or where she thinks it’s taking her. “I want to write screenplays”, Bullock told me. “I’m somewhere in between a play or a movie”. Marsha doesn’t like the way movies leave a lot of unanswered questions open, she wants to write a screenplay that ties up loose ends.
Marsha is also working on going from a vendor at events to getting her books and merchandise into larger retail stores. Even in another year of a global calamity, Marsha Bullock is still in a sturdy position to succeed through it all. The main attribute to the fact isn’t the changes that are happening around us daily, but Marsha’s drive to come out on top.