The usual blog post of this kind is ten things readers don’t know, but my life is an open book, and I blog regularly, so I think many readers know a lot. But here are ten things that may or may not be new and may offer new details.

Judy Alter

Judy Alter

Despite strong ties to Texas, I am not a native. I grew up in Chicago, in the Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood, moved to Missouri for graduate school, and ended in Texas only because my then-husband accepted a surgical residency here. He moved on, and has since died, but I’ve lived in Texas over fifty years. Love it, hate the politics, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I wrote my first short story at ten—and have now lost the copies. But it was about a 19th-century spinster lady and her blonde cocker spaniel (I wanted a blonde cocker spaniel so badly) who got her into all kinds of trouble.

My main mission in life is to be a mom, even though my chickens are now in their forties. When I was young and newly married, I never thought about having children. If it happened, so be it. It didn’t happen, and my then-husband desperately wanted children. We adopted four children, and I always wanted more. He moved on, and they were the focus of my life, still are today. I adore them, relish any time I can spend with them, think they are the coolest people in the universe.

I used to raise show dogs. We had litters from champion Cairn terriers and Irish wolfhounds—the big and little of it. I was a bust in the show ring. As someone said to me once, “The judge is interested in the dog’s legs, not yours.” But I cannot imagine life without a dog—I’ve had collies, Aussies, mixed breeds, labs, and now my bordoodle. Dreamt the other night I got a labradoodle. Hmmmm.

I hold a Ph.D. in English, with a special interest in the literature of the American West. I have a B.A. from the University of Chicago, where they told me I could never go on to graduate school; I earned an M.Ed. from Truman State University (Kirksville MO) and the Ph.D. from TCU in Fort Worth. Never wanted to teach, but the Ph.D. stood me in good stead as director of TCU Press.

I won lovely awards from Western Writers of America and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum for my books about women of the American West and for my short stories. I am proud of those awards and particularly of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Writers of America.

I am agoraphobic, which translates to a fear of fear, and I’m afraid of a lot of things—height, water, driving on the highway (though I’m a willing passenger). I’ve spent a lot of my life overcoming those fears. In recent years, they morphed into a fear of losing my balance (probably fueled by neuropathy and a disintegrating hip joint). Learning to walk unaided again after surgery is difficult, but I will do it.

In another life, I would be a chef. By the time I came to that conclusion, I was nearing sixty and neither my feet nor back would hold up to the long hours on a hard floor required of both a chef-in-training and a chef at work. I always thought the combination of being a writer and a chef would be golden. I have done a bit of food writing and have published three food books—Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, Texas is Chili Country, and Extraordinary Texas Chefs.

I am inordinately proud of my Scottish heritage (registereed member of the MacBean Clan) and a trip driving across Scotland, stopping in villages, with two of my children, was one of the major highlights of my life. I long to go back, and my youngest daughter would like to chaperone me. I’d also like to write about Scotland.

I am Pollyanna, one of the happiest, most fortunate women you’ll ever know. I enjoy almost every day of my life, love my family (seven grandchildren), my writing career, my friends, my dog, my cottage—you name it.