Inspired by a close friend whose vision is failing and a total stranger who asked When can I hearyour book? I started pondering the possibility of offering Banged-up Heartas an audiobook.
A few months ago, at a monthly meeting of the New Mexico Book Association, the program speaker, Laurie Bower, riveted my attention. Laurie, an audiobook narrator, talked about the process of producing an audiobook. I asked her for her business card and a couple of weeks later, I called her. Laurie suggested doing a fifteen-minute reading for my reaction By this time I’d started writing a second memoir and couldn’t envision taking the time to be coached on how to read an entire book -- there’s a lot to it. I emailed Laurie several pages of text that included dialogue by six characters.
Plugging my ear buds into my laptop, I listened to Laurie read. And then I asked my husband Frank to listen. “Marvelous,” he said. I agreed. Within days, I signed a contract with Laurie. “I’ll read a few chapters at a time and download them though ACX (an Audible affiliate) for you to listen to and edit,” she said. “I should have this completed by January 20thso we can meet your goal of having it out by Valentine’s Day.” I liked the idea of having the audiobook out by February 14th, the date my paperback had been published two years earlier. What I didn’t foresee was that I would be consumed with moving from our house in the village of
Galisteo into a brand new house closer to Santa Fe the month of January. By the time I completed my proof-listening, I was behind the eightball. Laurie told me that ACX would require time to put the audiobook through a process called “Quality Assurance.” In fact, it didn’t take long, but I missed my February 14thtarget by one week. On February 21st, ACX sent me a congratulatory email: “Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Lossis now on sale at Audible, and it will be available on iTunes and Amazon within the next few days.”
I’m eager to know what listeners think about the audiobook. You can post reviews on Amazon or comment on FaceBook and Twitter via my website: www.shirleymelis.com.
Feedback from one listener: “As familiar as I am with your story, I am more enthralled than ever to be hearing it read aloud. You certainly chose well in deciding on Laurie Bower. I continue to be impressed with the depth of her voice quality and with her ability to articulate clearly.”
“It’s too grim.” College classmate and author Leslie Garis stared at the poster displaying the cover of my not-yet-completed memoir, Banged-Up Heart. “What do you think?” she asked Marjorie, standing nearby. “I agree. Can you re-take the photo?” I swallowed hard and shook my head no.
To gauge classmates’ interest in my memoir, I’d asked a graphic artist to create a poster display for my college reunion. I gave her a photo of a burned out forest -- skeletal black trees, some standing and others strewn like matchsticks across a carpet of green grasses – to use as a book cover. To me the grasses symbolized re-growth. Perfect for my memoir, which is about courage and resilience in the face of heartbreak. And especially meaningful because my story focuses on my life with John who took the photo. But in the poster, the grasses looked more beige than green, almost invisible. My classmates were right: too grim. Even if the grasses were greener, the overwhelming feeling was one of desolation. Reluctantly, I gave up the idea of John’s forest photo as a cover.
Months later, after landing a publisher, I found myself facing the cover question with a deadline looming. “Take a look at memoirs in bookstores and see what kinds of covers grab you,” my publicist suggested. In the bookstore I found several with forest covers but these books were about actual treks through forests. The covers that grabbed me were brighter in color but I was no closer to knowing what I wanted. Audibly fretting, I heeded the advice of artist friend Lewis Hawkins: “Get a pencil and paper and start doodling. You’ll come up with something.”
At breakfast one morning, I showed my doodle -- banged-up looking letters for the title separated from the subtitle by a rose – to my husband Frank. “Here,” he said, pencil in hand. “Break the stem of the rose.” Eureka! By breaking the rose stem, he captured the essence of my subtitle, Dancing with Love and Loss. I shared our doodle with friends at dinner who applauded. Why the rose? I can’t tell you. It must have been subconscious. In fact, roses frequently appear in my memoir. But it was graphic artist Scott Gerber, publisher of Terra Nova Books, who turned my doodle into a winner. The cover of Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss won first place in the 2017 Southwest Book Design and Production Awards competition.
I'm Shirley Melis. You may know me as Shirley M. Nagelschmidt, Shirley M. Bessey and now, Shirley M. Hirsch. Each reflects a particular phase of my life. Banged-Up Heart is a slice of my life's journey and in telling my story, I'm giving voice to my long silent "M" by reclaiming my maiden name, Shirley Melis.