On the morning of January 21st, I woke up to a dusting of snow and held my breath. With an overcast sky and outside temperatures in the low 30’s, the New Mexico Book Association’s afternoon Winter Fiesta might be a Winter Disasta!
By late afternoon, the weather was holding as we welcomed close to fifty celebrants to the NMBA’s Winter Fiesta and 30th anniversary at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe.
A Brief History
Thirty years ago, a small group of publishers banded together to form the NMBA for the purpose of discussing publishing issues. Their mission: “To preserve and perpetuate the BOOK as a repository of the wisdom of the past, the essence of the present, and a guide to the future.” Reflecting the mission was the logo: a symbol of the sun with its horizontal rays opening like the pages of a book. Thirty years later, the mission and logo remain intact but membership has undergone a dramatic change. After its founding, the NMBA became a pioneer among statewide publishing groups by opening is membership to all individuals, businesses, and institutions professionally involved with books: writers, editors, proofreaders, book coaches, illustrators, literary agents, designers, narrators, publicists, marketer, journalists, reviewers, librarians, and, of course, publishers.
Today, the NMBA is the only statewide nonprofit that serves all book professionals, and we are one of the country’s most active book associations. Since January a year ago, our membership has grown by a whopping 74 new members! Together with those who have been with us for many years, NMBA members hail from 31 cities and towns in New Mexico and ten other states.
What We Do
Throughout the year, the NMBA offers workshops by experts on topics that members want to know more about. The most popular last year addressed the impact of artificial intelligence on the creative writer. Book sales and events showcase member author books at a variety of sites, including the Tucson Festival of Books in March, which attracts one hundred thousand visitors over a single weekend. Honoring books is the NMBA’s one-of-kind competition, the Southwest Book Design and Production Awards. Open to authors from eight states, SWBDA celebrates winners at the NMBA Summer Gala.
Certificate of Appreciation
In the midst of Winter Fiesta, the NMBA Board surprised Treasurer Paula Lozar with a Certificate of Appreciation, acknowledging her many years of service to the organization. Paula joined the Board as a member-at-large in 2008 and never left, serving in every office of the Board. Each Whereas in the Resolution of Appreciation celebrated a facet of Paula’s exemplary service, including this one: Whereas, whenever the Board is unsure of any important fact or proposed initiative, they simply as Paula Lozar and she graciously tells the Board what to do.
Richard Harris Award
The Richard Harris Award was founded in 2012 to honor the memory of the late NMBA president, Richard Harris, who died in 2011 at the age of sixty-four, having written more than 250 books. He was widely considered the preeminent author of guides to the American Southwest and Mexico. People who were privileged to know Richard Harris say he was an immensely talented writer who loved books and everything about them. Equally at home designing books and discussing copyright questions, he lectured widely at writing and publishing conferences
The NMBA presents the Richard Harris Award annually to the author of a book whose excellence in writing, editing, design, production and lasting influence in New Mexico exemplifies the ideals of publishing to which Richard Harris devoted his writing career.
On Sunday, it gave me great pleasure to announce the 2023 Richard Harris Award, a beautiful book of poetry and stories entitled Sánii Dahataał The Women Are Singing by Luci Tapahonso, inaugural Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. In her book, Luci shares memories of her home in Shiprock, New Mexico, and of the places and people there. Through these celebrations of birth, partings and reunions, she displays her love of the Navajo world and her resonant use of language while inviting the reader into her culture of familial warmth and support through stories that keep the past alive.
It was only after Luci won the 2023 Richard Harris Award that we asked her to be our keynote speaker and when she agreed, we were thrilled. Luci’s journey is remarkable. Born on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico, she learned English as a second language after her native Navajo. After graduating from Shiprock High School, she began her studies at the University of New Mexico where she intended to study journalism and become an investigative report. Today Luci is University of New Mexico professor emerita of English Literature. She has published three children’s books and six award-winning books of poetry and taught at the universities of Kansas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
After I presented Professor Tapahonso with the Richard Harris Award, Luci read from her many books, moving the audience to tears.
It was a Winter Fiesta I will long remember.
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.