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Judy Alter


Judy Alter has been writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers for twenty years. She has a Ph.D. in English with a special interest in the history and literature of the American West. Alter is the director of a small academic press, and writes in her spare time. She is the mother of four, and now lives with her dog, her cat, her garden, and her books.

Judy's Books

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Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

Discovering Australia's Land, People, and Wildlife

A MyReportLinks.com Book

Judy Alter
In this new edition of the Continents of the World series, author Judy Alter uncovers the land and climate, plant and animal life, scientific discoveries, and history and exploration of Australia. This book offers fun and interesting facts about the planet’s smallest continent...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-5207-9
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $26.60
Discount Price: $19.95

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Judy's Latest Blog Entries

Squirrels and Mud—and a Lesson from the Lord

One of those days I’m not sorry to see end. First thing this morning, as usual, I turned on my computer. It told me it was shutting down, and proceeded to do so for an inordinate amount of time. Finally got past that, and it wouldn’t accept my password, although I knew it was the one I’ve been using for months. It gave me a helpful message about changing the password at a web site—but I couldn’t access the site to change it! This went on for about an hour and a half. I tried the web site on my iPad, but was told it couldn’t be found. Jordan said, “No you can do it that way.” Finally used the cell phone, changed the password, and got in.

Meanwhile, the TV went in and out, couldn’t decide what it wanted to do. Finally did come on. A friend came for coffee, and we visited for about an hour.

Sophie was having the time of her life, frantically chasing squirrels. I’m not sure if the squirrels were taunting her more or what was different about today, but she ran all over the yard all morning, serenading us with that shrill, excited bark, and occasionally coming in for water. When I trapped her inside at lunch time, I suddenly saw that there was mud all over the floor, rug, and my bedroom carpet. I deliberately let it dry, thinking it needs a stiff brush to loosen it and then a vacuum. I did mop the wood floor and probably need to do it again, but I’m waiting until someone—Jordan—vacuums. Neither scrubbing the dirt loose nor vacuuming are on the list of things my hip will let me do.

Of course, there was a muddy dog to deal with. Since it never did rain here, I think she came in to drink, pawed at the water, and then went out—making her own mud. I cleaned her paws as best I could and pulled up the covers so she wouldn’t crawl into my bed. When she slept on the couch, I looked away. She has a regularly scheduled bath tomorrow morning, thank goodness.

Finally after lunch I turned to my editing project. I’m sure the Lord was teaching me a lesson—I don’t have to get it all done right away just because it’s there. So today I’m more relaxed about it. What choice did I have? It’s tedious work, mostly correcting commas or so it seems to me. I’m trying to create one manuscript with corrections and suggestions from the editor and the two beta readers so I’m merging corrections. I’ve finally developed a method for working with two versions on the screen at once that works pretty well. But it’s slow. I’ve finished six chapters, hope to get two more done tonight.

Tomorrow is just bound to be a better day. Reminding myself that too many people have problems that are much more severe than muddy carpets.

 Work for the night is coming

One of my aunts, one that I adored, used to make fun of that hymn because it embodies an attitude in Christianity that she despised. But then, she was a preacher’s daughter who grew up living in near poverty in every small town in southern Ontario. I remember my dad taking us on trips through that country, and in each town he’d point out the parsonage. The memory of a child is unreliable, so I’m not sure if the houses looked dismal to me or if that’s the way I heard the story.

Life for Methodist preachers in Ontario in those days was grim. I’m sure they weren’t paid much, and they moved every two years. My grandmother had five children, one of whom died young. I’m sure feeding and raising the rest wasn’t easy, and Nana, whom I loved fiercely, was a fairly neurotic and pessimistic woman. I recognized that only from the perspective of adulthood but I think her life must have accounted for her attitude.

I remember her house in Oakville fondly—it had its own smell that welcomed me. I loved the chesterfield (that’s a British way of saying sofa) covered in chintz, and a huge sideboard in the dining room. That sideboard is now in my dining room—well not in the cottage, but in the main house It doesn’t look as big to me these days but it is a treasure.

One of my aunts lived with Nana. Doey developed rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman, a nurse, and was reduced to being a stringer for the Toronto Star. I suspect my grandmother did a lot of her work, because Doey’s hands and feet were terribly contorted and painful. In those days, probably the 1950s, they didn’t have the treatments they do today for RA.

All in all my father’s family were not a cheerful bunch, and I marvel that he came away and moved to Chicago—with a robust enjoyment of life. He brought with him many traits that I suspect were inheritances from his upbringing—a strict sense of right and wrong, a firm commitment to responsibility, a democratic sense of fairness to all people. Much of what I am today I owe to his influence. When I was fourteen I went to work in his office and eventually became his secretary. I was a darn good executive assistant and could be today. One thing that Dad hated was to call someone—he always dialed his own calls, none of that “Get so-and-so on the phone for me” nonsense—only to have a secretary say, “Please hold.”

Sorry. I got sidetracked and carried away, but I thought of the hymn and then my family background because today was a real workday for me. My work ethic came to the forefront even though I am my own boss these days. I had edits on a manuscript to do but didn’t want to lose momentum on the work-in-progress. The result was that I had my nose to the computer all day, except about two o’clock, usually my nap time, my brain said, “I need a rest” and I took a nap.

Friends came for happy hour, people I hadn’t visited with for a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then I was back at my desk. Now it’s late, and I’m going to crawl into bed and read a good mystery.

Testing My Faith

Church this morning was a test of my faith. I attend an established, traditional church, a Disciples of Christ congregation. I like to think our theology is liberal, even if our congregation is fairly gray-haired, older, and conservative. This morning, we sat toward the front, in front of the pulpit. A young, Middle Eastern man slipped into the pew directly in front of us. He was cleanshaven but wildly curling black hair poked out from an unusual knitted wool cap that was a cross between a beret and a sac and totally inappropriate on a June day. Thin and a bit rumpled, he carried a backpack that he set on the floor and immediately rummaged in, pulling out what appeared to be a worn Bible. Was it my imagination or was he breathing hard? Was his cotton shirt sweat-soaked as it looked? My nose thought it answered the last question, but maybe he’d ridden a bike to church. When he turned a bit, I saw huge dark eyes, wide open.

I am not happy to confess that my radar went up. Throughout the service, he read his Bible, ignoring what was going on in worship. He didn’t pray; he didn’t take communion. Why was he amongst us?

A bigger question I asked myself was if I’d have had the same reaction were he blonde with pale skin. I think the answer is that I would still be concerned, but perhaps to a lesser degree. My thoughts raged from faith to instinctive caution. As a liberal progressive, I despise racial profiling and like to think I accept people individually based on who they are. But this young man set off something instinctive in me, a fear I could not deny. In our church, all are welcome at the table, and we believe God teaches us to love all his children, no matter skin color, clothing, whatever. And the other hand, as a woman, I’ve been carefully taught to pay attention to my instincts. If I sense something is wrong, I’m urged to take action to protect myself.

Nothing happened in church, of course. The young man may well have been lost, lonely, and afraid. When the hour of greeting arrived, I shook his hand and welcomed him, and he nodded appreciatively, those wild (honest, they were) eyes looking directly at me.

I’m left wondering what God thought of my dilemma, and, more importantly, what I think about it. Conscience or caution? I still don’t know the answer. I do know that for a moment there I was reminded of the first lines of a novel I just finished writing, “Susan Hogan thought she was going to meet her maker that March day. Her first thought was irreverent. ‘Really, God? In a grocery store in Oak Grove? Haven’t you got this wrong somehow?’” My thought was, “Really, God? In church on Sunday morning?” But I also felt strangely safe, as though I knew it would all be all right.. Perhaps our lives are going to be filled with that dichotomy in these fear-ridden, uncertain times. Fear certainly is a catching disease.

The day didn’t get immediately better. Washing dishes and my favorite cup, the one I drink tea from every morning, slipped out of my soapy hands; the handle broke off, so now it’s relegated to being a small vase. It was given to me by a close friend who has since died, so it has sentimental value, making the loss that much worse.

Dinner with friends tonight soothed my troubled soul. One of my wimpy friends and her gentleman friend ate on a patio, because it’s in the 80s with a nice breeze. Not sure I would have prevailed, but apparently, he gets cold easily too. Eggplant parmigiana that was delicious. And I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. Thanks to Kathie and Morris for a lovely evening.

I gave myself a holiday from writing today. Piddled at my desk with this, that and the other, even made notes for the novel, but didn’t actively work on it. Pleasant, but I didn’t get as much reading done as I expected. Tomorrow, back to work. And another week begins.

Storms and a Eureka Moment

I seem to be always celebrating one of my grandchildren, which just proves that they all take after their grandmother and are exceptional. This is my Tomball granddaughter Morgan Helene who just earned her black belt. She’s been studying karate long and hard for several years, and I’m proud of her accomplishment and her perseverance. Morgan will be 12 in August. Why are they all growing up so fast?

Rolling, rumbling thunder woke me about one o’clock this morning and went on off and on the rest of night, often but not always keeping me awake. In one of those awake spells I had a eureka moment about the new novel I’m working on. I have about 10,000 words written, but I have no idea who the murder victim is, nor the killer. Not sure about motivation. Last night I got bits and pieces that mean going back and planting some info, plus an overall idea about who did what why. I did something I never, ever do—got out of bed and made notes. Usually I rely on my memory, but this was really good stuff, and I was afraid to trust it to morning’s recollection. So first thing this morning I was transcribing those notes, hoping they made a modicum of sense. I’m still far away from putting much of that new information to use, but now I have a clearer picture of the road ahead. This rainy, dark day is a good one to spend at the computer.

My children used to have nanny/housekeeper who would say the weather was “fairing off.” That’s what it did, and as it brightened so once again did my disposition. Lovely to have it cool all day.

Dinner tonight at the lovely home of friends in Weatherford. They are collectors who actually own a small museum, but their house is also a museum. Being in it is a treat, as was the delicious dinner. But conversation was central to the evening. I like to think I have intellectual friends, but I don’t usually go to dinner parties where the conversation is this passionate, learned, and lively. Many opinion, some different. The topic was politics and current events and the mix of the two , and I found it fascinating. Another reason to feel fortunate.

Out past my bedtime. Night all.

Parties and birthdays and oh the fun!

Today is a happy birthday for the oldest of my boy grandchildren—Sawyer Hudgeons (if I could remember all four of his names, I’d use them). My Austin hard-rock kid is thirteen today. Sawyer definitely marches to his own drummer….er, guitar. He’s been going to the Austin School of Rock for at least two years now, and shows real talent both on the guitar and singing, performs easily and happily. Besides that, he’s a happy, sweet boy. I can hardly believe it’s thirteen years since we all rushed to Austin to celebrate his arrival.

And today was Jacob’s belated—adult—party. In truth, Jordan used his birthday as the occasion for her first big party in my house. The house has a happy party record and over the last twenty-five years has been the scene of cocktail parties, baby showers, humongous birthday celebrations, and most of all—tree trimming parties. In recent years, they’ve been strictly no-tree tree-trimming parties, but they were as full of laughter and love and food and wine as ever.

Jordan once again showed herself the mistress of party giving. Tonight was potluck, with some really good contributions. Jordan and Christian provided beer and wine—we’re stocked for months to come—along with meatballs. And a sheet cake. Everyone gathered round to sing happy birthday to Jacob, and I looked at the people—a happy mix of people of all ages. Two of Jordan’s friends who are special to me brought significant others I’d not met before and was glad to meet tonight, though they need to come back when it’s a little quieter and we can visit. One of those longtime friends, David, has been like family since he was fifteen. As he left the cottage tonight he said, “Tell the blog world hello for me.” So there you have his greetings.

Some people drifted out to the cottage, and I had a separate party there but went inside for the cake-cutting. Lots of fun. Now there’s a group on the patio outside my door, and I’ll join them in a few minutes.
A bit of trivia: I wrote Jacob a note and gave it to him this morning--long, funny story but my point here is that he handed me the note and said, "I can't read cursive, Juju." I had to read it to him. I am horrified--and a bit angry--that this child completed fifth grade without reading cursive. I vaguely remember they studied it, maybe third grade, and practiced but apparently not long enough nor hard enough. How will he function in the world? How will he sign a check. Someone pointed out to me that today they don't sign checks. Cursive is irrelevant, but I read somewhere learning cursive fine tunes the brain, just as music does. I'm on the prowl for workbooks with the Palmer method.

And an odd new imaginative exercise: designing niche literature courses. For some reason last night, in that twilight between sleep and full wakefulness, I was designing a lit course around the theme of old men. I decided to start with King Lear and include Tuesdays with Morrie. Didn’t get much further, but the idea has great possibilities. Is it an indication I want to teach again? No way. I love my retirement life and my writing life.
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