In early March,after checking into our hotel, we made a beeline for the General Aviation Airport, known for “the best food in Sedona, Arizona,” we’d been told. The dining room was packed and booked for at least another hour. “But we can serve you at the bar,” the bright-faced greeter said. Minutes later, a woman joined us at the bar, taking the empty seat next to me, and we started chatting. I told her about the Tucson Festival of Books I’d just attended on the UA campus where the New Mexico Book Association sponsored a booth to sell NMBA member books. Hearing I was an author, Lydia asked me about my memoir, Banged-Up Heart. “I want to read your book,” she said, adding, “I have a book club. If I can persuade the members to read your book, would you come back to Sedona to discuss it with us?” “I’d make every effort,” I said.
The upshot? In May, the Sedona book club (six women) came to Santa Fe to talk with me. Although they rented a house through VRBO and suggested meeting there, I countered with an invitation to our house. While the one husband and Frank played bocce ball, the club and I sat on the portal discussing my book. (They had written questions!) They wanted to see John’s photographs mentioned in my memoir and the wild hares (wooden) that I purchased, a pivotal turning point for me in my story. They brought a passel of gifts, including a bottle of La Crema Chardonnay and a generous gift certificate to El Farol where they’d eaten the night before. Both the wine and El Farol figure in my memoir. I was deeply touched by the Sedona book club. When I relate this story to friends, I’m often met with stunned silence.
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.