Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

I Salute A Few of My Favorite Santa Fe Businesses

Santa Fe is a town largely comprised of local, privately owned businesses whose owners work darn hard for their money. It is a tough town. On this last day of 2015, I want to thank just a few of the local business owners who enriched my life this year, first by their heartfelt presence in this community and second by the services and products they offer.

First up, The Video Library. The Vid was opened by owner/operator/counselor/cat activist/chocolate chip cookie lover  Lisa Harris and buyer Casey St. Charnez in 1981, the very first video store in the state of New Mexico. You can find mainstream releases as well as rare, out of print and hard to find movies. And you will find Lisa, who has one of the biggest hearts on the planet, and her great staff who are all walking encyclopedias of cinema, ready to offer suggestions that fit your mood. Go. Browse. Chat. Rent.

Downtown Subscription, located a block from Canyon, has great coffee, pastries, the best selection of magazines in Santa Fe, a front patio where you can bring your dog and a back patio with a fountain and lovely flowers. And they have the nicest team of baristas. On Sundays I often buy my New York Times, order a cappuccino and sit for an unseemly length of time reading the paper and inevitably chatting with someone I never met before. Before heading home, I head to Garcia Street Books which is located on the other side of the wall from DTS. A real bookstore where you can browse, ask folks what they are reading and discover the exact book you needed that day but had never heard of five minutes before you walked into the place. Amazon is not the be all and end all, folks.

Kristin Mader, muse/proprietor/artist/creative spirit/witty woman of Wild Hare salon,  patiently and beautifully tends my mass of hair with a smile on her face, no small feat. The salon is gorgeous with its crystal chandelier and art, the staff is talented and the products smell delightful. Kristin and Wild Hare are simply the best. Anywhere.

Ranger owns the New Old Trail Garage. He has been praying over and maintaining my 1998 Ford Explorer since I road into town in, well, 1998. Where else can you drive up as I did Tuesday, ask him to please check the antifreeze level (it just occurred to me after two weeks of freezing cold) and replace the wiper blade I accidently shredded when I ripped it too vigorously from the icy windshield, and the owner stops what he is doing and does it, plus checks the tires and adds more windshield wiper fluid. And he neither shames me nor charges more than a fair fee.

When I go to the Farmers’ Market, I buy from farmers who are now my friends. They picked the flowers or lettuce or spinach and boxed the eggs or made the bread the day before. No vegetables grown in South America wrapped in plastic. Farm to table, a community.

Rand and Cindy Cook, two of the nicest people I know, own The Candyman Strings & Things, which really has become a little community center. They were named (drum roll) Dealer of the Year at the National Association of Music Merchants Top 100 Dealer Awards. Number One in the entire US! And they are right here in Santa Fe! They have everything you could want from guitars and drums and amps and keyboards to ukuleles, one of which has my name on it, and classes to learn how to play your chosen instrument. The staff will help you select the instrument for you or yours. Check out their Summer Rock Camp, too, and all of their other services on their website. They can also work with you over the phone.

I thank Harry’s Roadhouse for the occasional hit of cheese enchiladas drenched in red and green chile, aka Christmas. I leave a happy woman.

And on a personal note, I thank all of my writing students for sitting around my table and sharing their unique stories. I think it is an act of bravery as well as creativity. I thank all the clients who have trusted me to edit their manuscripts and those who have asked me to write their stories for them. It is my honor, my privilege, my delight.

Story Telling 101 This Saturday!

Not too late to sign up for Story Telling 101 this Saturday. Details below.



It’s Time

A reader dropped me a note recently asking for more information about the work I do in general and, specifically,  my writing memoirs, personal histories and family histories for clients.  The reader said there was just something about fall that made him…once again…think about writing down some of his family stories as well as his own. I agree with the impulse.  More than spring, I associate autumn with beginnings. Maybe all those years of school left an imprint, a Pavlov’s dog reaction: The morning air turns crisp, and I am energized to begin anew.

After we spoke, I reviewed the About section and decided it was time to amp it up a bit. So I did. In case you, too, are giving some thought to taking pen in hand or placing fingers on the computer, or having me do that on your behalf or as a gift to another, I have reprinted part of the revised About section below. “The Universe is made of stories, not atoms,” wrote Muriel Rukeyser. Write your stories. Let me know how I may assist you. I would be honored.

We all have a story to tell. Whether you have lived your life quietly or on a more public stage, writing your memoir, life stories, family stories and family histories offers you the opportunity to observe the past with fresh eyes, reflect on your life’s purpose, clarify your future path and preserve your unique stories. Here is the bonus: When you are open to telling your individual stories in the most authentic, truth seeking way, you will touch the universal truths that have the power to transform both you and the reader.

I teach writing classes privately and for organizations such as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Santa Fe retirement community El Castillo, assisting them with shaping their stories and honing their craft. I edit completed manuscripts and assist with development editing when you are not quite sure how to proceed or whether you are on the right track.

I produce memoirs, life stories, family stories and family histories from recorded interviews which I transcribe, edit and develop into a story well told. My clients are from all walks of life, people who have built businesses, raised families, fought in wars, championed a cause, taught school, designed buildings, traveled the world or chose to stay close to the fabric of their communities. While their life stories are unique, they all value their heritage and share a desire to preserve their personal stories and family stories for generations to come. Since each project is unique, I offer a free one hour consultation to discuss the story you wish to tell, outline the process and determine a fee which will fit within your budget. Drop me a note and let’s get started. It’s time.

The Stories You Have To Tell

I am a full blown, get on my soapbox, wave my hands and shout proselytizer for committing to paper your family stories, personal stories and memoirs. For one, if you do not write down the stories you have to tell, they will be lost in a generation. Period. I, for one, know very little about three out of the four of my grandparents and not that much about the fourth. That is pretty sad.

Of equal importance is the benefit of the process of compiling your stories. I promise you that examining the past will change your personal narrative.

And there is a bonus. When you are open to telling your individual stories in the most authentic, truth seeking way, you will touch the universal truths that have the power to transform both you and the reader.

So what to do if you are ready to place fingers on computer keys or take pen in hand? Where to start?  I teach classes on writing your memoir or family stories. I teach classes on editing your stories. I coach clients individually on skype, in person or on the telephone. I even ghost write memoirs for clients. And I offer developmental and line by line editing of your manuscript.

Beginning to accomplished writers are welcome.  The only requirements are a desire to tell your stories and a healthy sense of humor.

Please contact me via Contact Susan or susan@susantungate.com  if you are ready to get started. We’ll make a plan.

Older, Not Old

I teach a writing group at  a retirement community in Santa Fe chock full of retired professors, scientists from Los Alamos Lab, architects, lawyers, artists, entrepreneurs, you name it. The members of the group are picking up a pen later in life, full of rich stories of World War II, life in Dallas before it was a big city, Santa Fe before the roads were paved and  riding across the country in a 1930s car long before the interstates were built.

They are teaching me more than I am teaching them. The biggest lesson I have learned is not to listen to our cultural narrative about aging. For one, these folks, who range in age from their late 70s to 94, are vibrant and curious, attending lectures, the Opera, plays around town, movies, volunteering as a business mentor. And they are out exercising right up to the limit of their abilities. The 94 year old came in with a bandage on his left hand one day. I assumed he had blood work done. “So what’s with the bandage?” I asked. “Ah, I was playing doubles squash and my partner, a retired doctor, hit me with his racket. He smashed my hand, then fixed it up.”

The group was all a buzz last week. A woman had approached one member and asked him about joining our group. After he welcomed her, she said she might be there that week or the next. By way of introducing her, he handed me a blurb from one of her books which reads:  ”Mozelle Richardson is a best selling novelist who received her BA in Journalism in 2004 at the ripe age of 90 from the University of Oklahoma. She raised four children in Oklahoma City with her late husband, W.T. Dub  Richardson. She now lives and writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”  You do the math.

We will get older, if we are lucky, but we need not get old voluntarily.



Ten Years, Two Pages, Three Word Sentences

Writer and teacher Abigail Thomas often gives her students the assignment to take any ten years of their life, reduce them to two pages, and each sentence should be only three words long.     Without room to circle the truth or fudge, the writer is forced to reduce each event to its core.  You end up with a haiku of sorts: He was horny. I was smitten. We got married.

In looking back over the now substantial number of years of my own life, I see there were ten year periods when life pretty much flowed in the same pattern with a few minor bumps or high points. No big forks in the road. Perhaps a move or a promotion or interesting assignment. Visited  Rose Garden. Met President Clinton. Tripped on grass. Went to Havana. Faded pink buildings. Gave housekeeper shampoo.  Opened news bureau.

Then again we can all bracket a ten year period when things fell apart or finally came together or both. Often events start with a show stopper. Time AOL merger. Now we downsize. What will happen? But sometimes in the living of an event you have no idea when the seeds were planted. One morning you wake up and there is a big damn tree in your face. In the looking back you may be able to gain clarity on when it all began. A friend might write: Mother lost keys. Found in refrigerator. We all laughed. Mother visits doctor. She has Alzheimer’s. She knows it. We know it. We make plans.

The three word sentence can become addictive. Beware the danger of narrating your life in real time: Drove to Whole Foods. Strawberries on sale. Bought two quarts! Froze one quart! On the other hand, if we live in the moment, there are times in our lives when we know, know for sure in that moment, that something is about to shift. I have a friend whose company is going through a reorganization. She will meet with the powers that be this week to learn her fate. What three word sentences will she write later on?

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Lost my job. Time to network!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Great new job. Moving to Portland!

Company is reorganizing. Met with Sam. Hate job offer. Take for now. Leap later on.

Regardless, the next sentence is  Onward and upward! It has to be.