On a wintry day in January nine months ago we packed up and moved out of Galisteo, an extaordinary community located along the Galisteo River, 23 miles south of Santa Fe. For eight years, since the day I married Frank, I called Galisteohome and today I still miss it more than any other place I’ve lived.
When I first opened the heavy hand-carved door and walked into our Galisteo house with its high ceilings and bank of windows overlooking the Galisteo Basin and very few neighbors, it took my breath away. Although not mine in the usual sense – Frank and his first wife had built it 20 years earlier – I loved it as though it were. High above the house on the 12-acre parcel runs a rocky ridge with many Native American petroglyphs, some more than 700 years old -- serpents, suns, figures. My favorite, a pair of feet etched into the black volcanic rock.
From my office in the back of the house, I would see rabbits scampering across the rock-strewn hill covered with junipers and other dusty green scrub, hawks floating with the winds and an occasional prey-seeking coyote. More than once I spotted a raven on the rim of the birdbath, its sleek black body dwarfing the clay basin. Many winter evenings, we would hear the hooting of owls nesting in the rocky ridge, but the only owl I sawwas in a photograph taken early morning by an overnight guest. The wide-eyed owl was perched on the deck railing in front of the house. One day, a roadrunner settled on my office window sill and tapped insistently on the glass as if demanding notice or an invite to come in. It was in my office in this frontier house that I completed the rewrite of my memoir, Banged-up Heart.
It’s not just the house I miss but the community of Galisteo. Named for Galisteo Pueblo, one of several abandoned and ruined Tanoan villages in the basin, Galisteo has been a filming location for several movies, mostly westerns (e.g., Crazy Heart, Silverado, and Young Guns) and boasts a number of notable residents, including artists Woody Gwyn and Judy Tuwaletstiwa, art critic and curator Lucy Lippard and fashion designer Tom Ford. Our nearest neighbor, on the other side of an arroyo lined with cottonwood trees, was architectural photographer Nick Merrick and his wife, artist Shaun Gilmore who live in a house once occupied by Burl Ives. We particularly miss the commarderie and friendliness of the wonderful, varied people who live in Galisteo.
Our decision to leave Galisteo was not easy. I was beginning a second term as a member of the Galisteo Association where Frank had served earlier, twice, and we loved being part of community get-togethers over chile and margaritas, art and movie showings at La Sala, the volunteer fire department BBQs and parties, even clean-up days to clear litter from paths and roadways. At home I was happily ensconced in my back-of-the-house office arranging book readings in a variety of venues. But Frank had been elected president of the board of The Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus, which was undergoing dynamic change, and found himself driving to Santa Fe at least once a day and often, again, in the evenings. The frequent commute to Santa Fe, not only for symphony matters but also for groceries, book-related meetings, and golf (for Frank, not for me) along with the fact that we were on our own septic tank and well, that I’d slipped once or twice on stair steps separating one half of the house from the other and there were many systems to keep the house going that I feared I might never master, weighed heavily.
One day, more than a year ago, we plunked down a deposit on a house not yet built, 15 minutes closer to downtown Santa Fe on a lot atop a mesa with an unobstructed view (from the back of the house) of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The blueprint was compelling, a somewhat smaller house than the one in Galisteo, all on one level, high ceilinged and contemporary with nearby golf courses and a fitness center.
Before the move, we discovered that most of our Galisteo furniture would be too big and/or too rustic for the new house. For the first five months in our new digs, we camped out with a good bed, a picnic table in the kitchen, my baby grand piano and our office furniture. Now that we have furniture in place, shades on the windows, and artwork on the walls we love our new house with its great back-of-the-house views. We’re not as overnight-guest-friendly as we were in Galisteo, but sofa pull-outs work pretty well. No longer on a 12-acre lot, we have close-by neighbors but we think we’ll adjust. We like those we’ve met and no one yet has built on either side of us. We’re just five minutes away from golf (for Frank) and the fitness center where we both take Balance classes and where I try to squeeze in a yoga class once or twice a week. Unlike my office in Galisteo, my new office is in the front of the house. From my windows I no longer see wild rabbits or soaring hawks and ravens but an asphalt roadway lined with yellow-blooming Chamisa and lavender Russian Sage. Not too far away, beneath cloud-filled blue skies I see a number of flat-roofed beige geometric houses and in the far distance, the Ortiz Mountains. I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll hear the tap-tap-tapping of an insistent roadrunner and if I do, I just might invite him in.
Blog Tour Dates & Links
July 8 (today) @ The Muffin
Interview and giveaway.
July 9 @ Book Santa Fe Crystal Otto
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto shares her review after listening to the touching and inspiring memoir Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
July 10 @ Lisa Buske
Lisa Buske reviews the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss by Shirley Melis.
July 11 @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Wisconsin mother and business woman Tara Forst shares her thoughts after listening to the inspirational audible version of Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
July 12th @ BreakEven Books
Today's Author Spotlight at BreakEven Books is on Shirley Melis and her memoir Banged-Up Heart - now available on Audible!
July 13 @ Bring on Lemons with Angela Williams
Angela Williams reviews Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart.
July 14 @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Educator and Entrepreneur Cathy Hansen reads and reviews Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis. You'll want to stop by Bring On Lemons today for your chance to learn more about this touching and encouraging memoir (now available on Audible).
July 15 @ Lisa Haselton
Shirley Melis is being interviewed today by Lisa Haselton. Stop at Lisa's blog to learn more about Banged Up Heart, a non-fiction, memoir (now available on Audible), about finding the courage and strength to love again.
July 16 @ Bring on Lemons with Madeline Sharples
Fellow memoir writer Madeline Sharples interviews Shirley Melis about her book Banged Up Heart. (now available on Audible) Don't miss this heart felt interview about courage and love.
July 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Coach and Author Jerry Waxler shares his thoughts after reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
July 18 @ Deb Blanchard
Teacher Deb Blanchard gives insight into "Banged Up Heart" the touching memoir by Shirley Melis (now available on Audible).
July 19 @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Don't miss today's interview between memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro and Shirley Melis. Find out more about Melis and her memoir Banged Up Heart (now available on Audible).
July 20 @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business owner and avid reader Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart (now available on Audible).
July 22 @ Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler shares her thoughts with readers of Memoir Writer's Journey - find out what Pooler has to say about reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.
July 23 @ Bring on Lemons with Pang Papathopolus
Wisconsin professional caregiver and health care worker Pang gives her review of the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis.
July 24 @ The Constant Story with David W. Berner
Author and radio personality David W Berner reviews Shirley Melis's book Banged Up Heart and shares his thoughts with readers at The Constant Story.
July 25@ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles shares her review of Banged-Up Heart on Audible - hear what she has to say about this memoir in it's audio form!
July 26 @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte shares her review of the Audible version of Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart today at Bring on Lemons. Don't miss this exciting blog stop and book giveaway.
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.”
By Shirley Melis
“I came here expecting to buy produce, and here I am, buying books!” The tall man in khakis and a blue polo shirt cradled three books in one arm while his wife listened to another author at the table pitch her book.
Home-Grown Authors, sponsored by the New Mexico Book Association, is the brainchild of Maxine Davenport, a local author who writes compelling short stories and novels about strong women. Love Is a Legal Affair is her latest. As many as six local authors can be found indoors at Santa Fe’s Farmers Market every Tuesday morning until Thanksgiving. Their works of fiction and non-fiction run the gamut from westerns and murder mysteries to memoir and travel stories.
• Gone to the Dogs is author Tom Lohr’s story of his 103-day odyssey to find the best combination of baseball and hot dogs at major league baseball parks in North America.
• Belinda Perry, author of An Old Woman’s Lies, also writes westerns, using the name William Luckey. “When I started writing westerns, I figured no one would buy a western written by a woman,” Belinda confides.
• Taking the act of walking seriously is author Michael Metras’s mission. Germany to Rome in 64 Days: Our Pilgrimage is Michael’s book about a walk he took with his wife, whom he met on a walk across northern Spain. On the Germany-to-Rome trek, each went through nine pairs of shoes.
Farmer's Market Author's Table
NM Book Association sponsors the table, exhibitors must be members of NMBA. For further information about exhibiting, please contact Maxine Davenport: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors present on October 10, from left to right (and latest publication):
Maxine Neely Davenport ("Love is a Legal Affair")
Shirley Melis ("Banged-Up Heart")
Roberta Parry ("Killing Time")
Tom Lohr ("Command Decision")
Belinda Perry (pen name: William Luckey, "Time Alone")
When owner Dorothy Massey offered me a Reading/Signing at Collected Works, I was euphoric. Reading at Collected Works, Santa Fe’s #1 independent bookstore, would be a dream come true. But what parts of my 300-page memoir would I read?
“You need a program,” said editor Morgan Farley, who suggested I take a look at some author videos on YouTube. I clicked on a YouTube of one author who impressed me because she looked and sounded spontaneous. Much to my surprise, I found when clicking onto her other YouTube videos that she’d repeated the same “program” time after time. Heartened by the idea that I might put together a reading I could use more than once, I selected passages that followed my story line without revealing the ending.
For a practice reading in front of Morgan, I copied pages from a pdf of my book. Squinting to read without my glasses and rushing through the passages, I could see the disappointment in Morgan’s face. “You have time,” she said, “to make this good. I’ve heard you read before; I know you can do it. You can find a recording machine at Best Buy for $100. Get one and listen to yourself.”
Over the next few days, I made a few decisions:
For the next few mornings, I practiced my patter aloud during 30-minute treadmill sessions. I wanted to memorize it so that I could look up and out at the audience except when looking down to read the passages. In the afternoons, when nobody was around, I’d tape myself. Eventually, I was satisfied with my reading, my voice inflections and pauses. (Morgan, a poet who reads beautifully, was a great help with this.)
And then there was the question of using a microphone. At Collected Works, I would be on a small stage, a platform three giant steps above the main floor. One afternoon, about a week before my reading, Dorothy arranged for one of her staff to set up the microphone so I could test the sound and determine how close I needed to be to the mouthpiece. She offered a music stand onto which I’d drop my pages as I read.
The day of my reading, I awoke feeling a little nervous but as ready as I could be. That evening, before an audience of 115, I learned that my initial concerns, subsequent decisions and practice paid off.
Pressed to come up with a subtitle for Banged-Up Heart -- in time for a poster display at my college reunion -- I quickly settled on A Widow’s Story of Star-Crossed Love. It wasn’t until many months later, about the time I landed a publisher, that I began to lament my hastily concocted subtitle. A potential reader might think my book was about a widow who falls in love with someone who dumps her, and that was not the case. Why hadn’t I seen that earlier? If a subtitle tells the reader what the memoir is about, what was my memoir really about? “Love and loss,” I said to my editor, who’d asked the question. She nodded her agreement. But the words “love and loss” alone seemed incomplete. What was it about love and loss that would give the reader insight into the essence of Banged-Up Heart?
My thoughts turned to the Anne Lamott Plan B piece where I’d found my title, and that’s when it hit me. The subtitle should say something about dancing. I ran a couple of possibilities by Terra Nova Books editor, Marty Gerber: “How about A Widow Dances with Love and Loss?” “Yes,” he said, “you were widowed at the start; yes, you’re twice widowed at the end. But in between is the story of two diverse individuals – powered by love—trying valiantly to know each other and find a way together to battle an overwhelming enemy. I simply feel that the ‘human-ness’ of the tale you tell is so much more than the ‘widow-ness’ angle.” “How about A Dance with Love and Loss?” I asked. “It’s not a single dance,” he said. “You’re dancing with love and loss from beginning to end.” And that’s how the subtitle, Dancing with Love and Loss, came to be. Sometimes it takes time and distance to be able to re-focus effectively on the essence of what you’ve written. And having the reaction of someone else, such as editor Marty Gerber, can prove invaluable.
“Send your creative works for display at Reunion.” My college reunion was three months off but, regrettably, my memoir, my creative work, was not finished. I was still rewriting with no likelihood of completing it in time. But what an opportunity to promote it! I thought. I might even find the name of a literary agent from an author classmate. My editor agreed. With her encouragement, I met with Amiel Gervers, a tall brunette who’d left an advertising career in New York City to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Shirley, I can design a website for your book, and I can have it finished with posters and postcards in time for your college reunion.” Stirring sugar into her tea at the Teahouse on Canyon Road, Amiel told me what she’d need. “First, I want to read your book. I know you haven’t finished rewriting it, but that’s all right. I want to select quotes to go with some of these photos you’ve shown me. You’ll need to send these to me electronically. Also, I’ll need a bio from you and while you at it, something about your “Tahoe Traveler” writing experience. In my twenties, I’d traveled in Europe and the Middle East, writing a column for the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Within days, Amiel had everything she needed from me with one exception: a title for the book. I’d sent her a photo to use as a cover mock-up -- a burned out forest with nascent green grass denoting regrowth in the foreground. But I was still clueless about a title. Months earlier, I’d discarded a working title, Love + Loss x Two, because I’d narrowed my focus to my recent love and loss.
Hoping for an epiphany, I hunkered down with the last several chapters. I would be discussing one, possibly more, of these with my editor in a few days. In one chapter,
my attention riveted on a selection by writer Anne Lamott that the Rev. Kim Beach read at John’s memorial service. That’s it! I thought.
Eager to share my find with editor Morgan Farley, I could hardly contain myself as I sat down at the table for our editing session. “I have a title!” I blurted. “So do I,” she said. “Banged-Up Heart,” I said. “That’s what I came up with, too.” Morgan beamed with delight. And that’s the story of how I found a title for my memoir – in time to promote it at my college Reunion. Since then, the cover has changed but the title remains.
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.