When Marsha Ward’s doctor told her it was time to put her affairs in order, her first concern was for the barely grown children she would leave behind. Her second was that they would throw away her novel manuscripts.

“I was devastated at the prospect of dying at what I considered the young age of 56, and thrusting my children into the role of the elders of the family while in their twenties,” Ward says. “Equally horrible was the thought that a novel I had carried around for over 30 years should end up in the garbage bin. I knew they did not value it as I did. I had to find a way to preserve it and the companion novel I had completed a couple of years previously.”

Ward, a presenter at the Kanab Writers Conference, October 25 and 26, will give two classes: “Writing Western Novels: Creating a Sense of Time and Place,” and “The Indie Author: Study, Embrace, Become.” She says she is well suited for offering advice on both subjects, having ventured into self-publication to save her work – two Western novels.

Abandoning the quest for traditional publication that had brought good comments from editors, but no purchase offers, “I became an independently publishing author before ‘indie’ was cool,” says Ward. “With the threat of death hanging over me, I studied my options and settled on printing through what was rated at the time the best of the publishing technology solution companies for authors.”

The provider she chose offered a host of packages ranging from basic to ones that included editing and review services, with distribution being the common denominator. Ward says, “Because I was a journalist and had developed many contacts among various writing communities, I bought the least expensive package, and sent in not only a clean manuscript that had been edited by colleagues, but cover art I had purchased separately.”

The result was a handsome book, The Man from Shenandoah, that to Ward’s surprise, was well received by readers and critics, alike. “I was blown away when a reader wrote me that she and her husband read the novel to each other on a road trip, and while at their destination, worried about what my characters were doing until they could get on the road and read again.”

The success of her first novel persuaded Ward that her work had a market, and her second novel, Ride to Raton, was published later the same year. By this time, she had been informed that she had a non-fatal condition, banishing her health worries.

However, her readers begged for more tales about her fictional family from Virginia, so she started another book. She thought the third novel, Trail of Storms, which was a Finalist in the Best Books Award competition, would finish off the trilogy, but another character’s story had to be told. Last year, Whitney Award Finalist Spinster’s Folly joined what has become “The Owen Family Saga.”

“When self-publishing of electronic books through Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing became available, I learned the processes and jumped on the digital bandwagon,” says Ward. “I also switched from my previous printing provider and used CreateSpace to print and distribute Spinster’s Folly under my own imprint.” Ward is writing a fifth novel for the saga of the Owen family, Gone For a Soldier.

In addition to writing Western novels, Ward is a free-lance writer, poet, speaker, writer’s mentor and the founder of American Night Writers Association. She was the editor of several small newspapers in the southwest, as well as the publisher of a small magazine for writers.

“I’m looking forward to spending time in Kanab again,” says Ward. “It’s one of my favorite places in the southwest, and if circumstances had been right, our family would have moved here in the 80s. That didn’t happen, so I’m delighted to have the chance to mingle with writers and readers and make new friends at the Kanab Writers Conference in October.”

The conference will be held October 25 and 26 at Kanab Middle School. A Friday evening event, starting at 7 a.m., features folklorist and musician Hal Cannon. The public is welcome to the free event to enjoy the entertainment, meet authors and browse the bookstore.