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.”
“You should start a blog, Shirley,” my friend Art said.
“Why?” I asked. “Haven’t I said everything I wanted to say in my memoir?”
“Yes, by writing Banged-Up Heart, you shared an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early – and the strength it takes to love again. Now that you’ve done that, some people will want to know how you did it -- how were you able to write a book like this and how did you become an author?” “That’s a whole other story,” I said.
“Yes, and it’s one you should tell.”
“But who would care?” I asked.
“Aspiring authors,” Art answered.
He convinced me – sort of, halfway, a little.
But on the off-chance that he’s right, that my experience writing Banged-Up Heart and then pulling off that other huge job of taking it to publication might help an aspirant or two, I’ve decided to plunge in.
I wrote my story not to sell it but purely because of compulsion. I had been widowed twice in four years. The second time, I was totally blindsided, needing desperately to figure out what had happened. So I followed a path that had led to answers before. All through my career, writing had helped me see more clearly. Hoping to do that again, I began what became Banged-Up Heart.
At first, I just wanted to relive the wonderful relationship John and I had had. But once I got started, I became wiser, I think – more curious, more demanding. I was determined to face the questions I had never asked him. In the end, celebrating the relationship was not nearly so important as getting as close to the truth as I could.
Only when a close friend said after an early draft, “Others will want to read your story” did I first think about publication. The trek those words led me to was a long way from straight, filled instead with unexpected twists and turns.
Hoping for more than pointers, I attended a writers’ workshop in New York City. The allure was not tips on the craft of writing (which I thought I knew) but the possibility of a publishing house editor asking for a chapter or two, maybe more, of my still-in-progress memoir. Emboldened by this chance to be taken seriously by industry professionals, I prepared my pitch. Editors from Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, and other major publishers listened. While other aspiring authors at the workshop seemed mesmerized, not one editor asked to see more.
Undaunted, I kept writing. A couple of years later, I engaged an editor whose knowledge steered me to essential recasting and rewriting, which brings me to my first posting, On Working with an Editor. Future postings will cover choosing a title, finding an agent and a publisher. I’ll be talking about things like this as part of my Trek to Publication, and also will be blogging about Travel as well as Life in the High Desert of New Mexico.
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.