What’s on Your Bucket List?

One of the first things people want to know about a writer, besides where we get our story ideas, is how we got started.

In the summer of 2001, I sat methodically underlining the word “change” with a red Sharpie. I doodled through a list of things I had on my bucket list. You know, the endeavors you want to do before you kick the bucket. I realized if I wanted to achieve my dreams, I had to get off high center. Make a change; something I have difficulty with.

I took inventory: Conquer the guitar, skydiving lessons, rappelling, surfing, and writing a cookbook. I tossed the guitar idea, when I remembered how the thin strings burned my fingertips. I vigorously scratched off the extreme sports…leaving the cookbook as my best option. Now, this seemed a reasonable goal. Isn’t our first learned skill after holding a bottle, writing? All babies begin with food before graduating to crayons on the wall.

Luck beamed down. The catalogue for the local college arrived that very day. Obviously, God had sent a signal. I evaluated the offerings. The first thing I discovered, no “cookbook” writing classes! Hum? I pondered the listing. How about “Creative Writing”, taught by a New York Times best-selling author? Doable and challenging. That’s it…I’ll write the Great American Novel, but where should I begin? Registration! I hurried and completed the paperwork and rushed to get it in the mail.

Three weeks to wait. What now? I’d need supplies, right? With my credit card in tow, I scurried off to Office Depot. Two hours later, I returned with an array of pens and pencils, a newly revised Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus, two spiral notebooks, and two reams of paper. Satisfied with myself, I plopped the bag of goodies on my desk. Maybe I should have purchased more paper, but if I couldn’t get a “four hundred page” novel written using a thousand sheets of paper, I’d better forget about becoming an author. As if they were the Holy Sacraments, I placed the dictionary and thesaurus on my worktable. I sharpened the pencils and took out the notepads—one for my first book and the other for the sequel.

While I waited for the class to begin, I wondered what kind of assignment we would get? No doubt, it would be exciting and exotic. I’d better think of a plot. A couple of dim-witted ideas surfaced. “How about my cousin who married his third wife’s sister by her father?” Too complicated, unless I wanted to write a soap opera.

“The Day” finally arrived. Off I trotted, toting my books and thoughts. What did a writer look like? Being a New York Times best-selling author sounded impressive, so I figured our teacher would be dressed like Barbara Cartland—wearing the Hope Diamond and a hat. Yes, one with purple feather plumes. She’d carry a Louis Vuitton bag full of her books just in case someone wanted her to autograph one. I arrived on campus early, and chose a seat up front, so I could get a good look at a real author—truly a phenomenon.

Entered our teacher, Ms. Jodi! A pert blonde, wearing a chic pantsuit with a bright scarf, floated through the door, bringing with her an unmistakable aura. Surely she was the greatest writer I had seen. But then, she was the only author I’d ever laid eyes on. For the next hour, I perched on the edge of my seat spellbound. I’d been to the Tri-State Fair and the circus, but I had never seen anything like her.

“A book begins with an idea, plus many hours of labor and perspiration,” she said. I knew I could handle the perspiration, but I’d have to think about the hours of labor thing. I remembered labor only too well. It hurt like crazy, I couldn’t sit down for a week, and my husband disgusted me for three months.

Then there was the “every bad character has a good trait—every good guy has flaws” theory. Add “a villain has reasons, and a hero has weaknesses,” and you have my schizoid cousin on one of her off days. “Let your mind wander!” Now, I certainly could do that. An idea is ”what if?” Isn’t that like: Where would my cousin be today, if her mother hadn’t slept with the milkman? The sponge from within absorbed every morsel of knowledge.

“Now, for next week’s assignment,” said Ms. Jodi. My anxiety level kicked into full throttle. She was about to give us the mysterious spine-tingling subject for our first writing assignment. Excitement built. A shoe on the side of the road! What in the hay? That wasn’t exotic or thrilling. It was boring. The only other word I could think of, without the thesaurus, was, well, boring!

Quite intimidated, I walked away from my first class, recapping as I drove home. To become a writer, I had to perspire, let my mind wander, appreciate my schizoid cousin, remember my labor pains, and write a short story about a shoe.

At home, I wrangled with the topic. Dang it, this writing thing might get complicated. To begin with, I had to find something unique about a shoe on the side of the road! How in the world could I tell my wonderful, supportive husband that my first story was about a shoe? When asked, I didn’t exactly lie. I professed it was about a nurse and policeman. They wear shoes, don’t they?

Still dwelling on how I beat the truth around a stump, I crawled in bed. Sleep melded with story ideas and darted around me like a screensaver going awry. Suddenly, my eyes popped open. That’s it! That’s my story. I shot straight up and scurried off to my office. Correction, my little self-proclaimed cubicle in the sunroom. I didn’t know pajamas would become my creative wardrobe. Forget pencils and paper; boot that computer! I flipped on the lamp, hoping not to disturb my husband. Didn’t want him to think I’d become obsessive-compulsive. Later when Ms. Jodi told me, “You need an almost demonic compulsiveness to write,” it all made perfect sense.

By candlelight—it was really a nightlight disguised as a mini table lamp, but candlelight sounds more like what a writer should say—I wrote my first short story…”Footprints on the Heart”. Yep, about a policeman and a nurse, and a shoe found on the side of the road.

Now, nearly two decades later, this lackluster assignment brought me to write six anthologies with my teacher, Fellow Filly, Linda Broday; and the late DeWanna Pace, plus other works including two anthologies and two single title short stories with our own Cheryl Pierson’s house, Prairie Rose Publications, along my Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series based on some of the characters in two of our anthologies. My excitement is just as real today as it was the night I attended my first writing class. No, I haven’t written the cookbook, but it’s still on my bucket list.

And, no doubt by now you recognize my first teacher and mentor as one of our favorite P&P guest bloggers, Jodi Thomas.

So, what’s on your bucket list?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give you an eBook of Out of a Texas Night, my newest Kasota Springs release.

To a second reader, I’ll send you a gift card from Bath and Body Works.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

36 thoughts on “What’s on Your Bucket List?”

  1. Hi Phyliss, I enjoyed your great post. I for one am so happy you became a writer. :). At my age now my bucket list has changed. Now I make sure I find the joy in everyday, to make good use of those hours and enjoy the peace and solitude that eluded me for years raising seven children :). Keep writing because I read every day and enjoy every story.

    • Loved this blog and I just love your sense of humor. I’ve already read Out Of The Texas Night and just loved it, I have an autographed copy actually! I’ll hold out for the gift card to get my favorite lotion that I never get anymore on my disabilty budget, Sweet Pea. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into my bucket list in a long time and I guess I kind of gave up on it when I had to go on disabilty when I was diagnosed with MS. Your blog has inspired me to get a new bucket list started. Now I just have to think of bucket list items that take little or no money. This may be hard! How exciting that Jodi Thomas was your teacher! So cool!

      • Hi our sweet Stephanie. I’m so happy you left a message and pleased your enjoyed my story. I think you’ll love Sylvie’s story that I’m writing a whole lot too. I’m thrilled that I inspired you to do a new bucket list. You know it doesn’t have to be physical things, you could do some things you want to accomplished using your computer. Get with it girlfriend. I didn’t think many knew that Jodi was my teacher and wanted to share the story. She and Linda B have both been so inspirational. Take care of yourself, and I hope your name is drawn from that ol’ Stetson I put everyone’s name in, so you can get you some good smelly stuff. Love you dear friend. Phyliss

    • Hi Carol. I’m so pleased you are happy I became a writer! Thank you. You made my day. I absolutely love your bucket list. As I grow older, I’m more aware that everyday joy is so much better for me than a list of long-range goals. Seven children! WoW, and I thought raising two girls was a job, but then Mama had four girls and my MIL raised five boys. At one time she had the five boys, her ailing father and my DH’s daddy living in the house. She said she used to go into the bathroom and read to get some privacy! LOL Thanks again for your encouragement. That’s why we write … for our readers! Have a wonderful Tuesday. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Carol. For whatever reason my computer has decided to have a mind of it’s own today. I left you a message before I went out to run errands, but it isn’t here. My computer is like a testy 13 year old girl right now! Sorry. Thank you for the kind comment. I’m happy you are pleased I became a writer. Wasn’t on my bucket list, but ended up there…story after story. I love the idea of a bucket list having the joys of everyday living, peace and solitude. I remember writing originally how astonishing it is to think of you raising 7 kids. I was the oldest of 4 girls and my husband has four siblings. At one time his mama had the five boys, her ailing father, and a wonderful husband to take care of. I don’t know how she did it, but she said she spent a lot of time in their only bathroom reading just for the peace ad quiet. Congrats on raising seven kids, we only had two girls and it was all I could do. You’re no doubt a fantastic mother. Take care and again thanks for the compliment. Readers are what keep us writers going…without you guys, we’d not have a job Big hugs, Phyliss

  2. Phyliss- What an amazing blog. I am so glad you decide to write, you truly are an amazing author. Jodi, Linda, DeWanna, And Cheryl are great and amazing authors, you all are in great company with each other.
    My bucket list is still to visit Montana, I’ll make it hopefully next summer.
    Love and hugs from KS!!!

  3. Fantastic post! I really enjoyed learning how you got started writing. The only thing I have on my bucket list would be traveling. There are so many places I would like to see. I better add winning the lottery to my bucket list because that would be the only way I could do any traveling.

  4. I’m so happy you fulfilled your dream of being a writer. We all have a bucket list , unfortunately many of us never do it. My bucket list was after I was diagnosed with cancer I promised myself if god let me survive I would go to as many country music concerts as I could. My mom song country, I grew up listening to great artist but that was all I did.. listen. So now I’ve gone to over 25 concerts, I have 3 more coming up in October. My bucket list is to go to Nashville to Grand Ole Opry! !!

    • I loved your post, Miss P. So glad you became a writer! Keep it up as you bring joy to many!

      • Hi sweet Melanie. That’s such a great comment. Thank you. All writers are happy to hear they’ve brought joy into a reader’s life. I truly appreciate it and am thrilled you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write and brought back so many memories. Have a great evening, dear lady. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi, Rose Ann. What a great bucket list. Needless to say, being born and raised in Texas, I love C&W music…the older the better. Did your mother sing professionally? I’m so jealous because although I played the bass guitar in a C&W band (long story), I can’t sing a lick. As a matter of fact, my girls asked me once in church to please NOT sing. Hurty for sure. LOL I’m amazed at 25 concerts with 3 in October. Man, I’m with you on the Grand Ole Opry. I’d love to do that, too. Major congrats for you getting up and going after being diagnosed with cancer. What a great promise to keep. My oldest daughter is a National Director with the American Cancer Society, and it’s a disease very close to my heart. May you be healthy and strong, forever and ever. Big hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi, Rose Ann. What a great bucket list. Needless to say, being born and raised in Texas, I love C&W music…the older the better. Did your mother sing professionally? I’m so jealous because although I played the bass guitar in a C&W band (long story), I can’t sing a lick. As a matter of fact, my girls asked me once in church to please NOT sing. Hurty for sure. LOL I’m amazed at 25 concerts with 3 in October. Man, I’m with you on the Grand Ole Opry. I’d love to do that, too. Major congrats for you getting up and going after being diagnosed with cancer. What a great promise to keep. My oldest daughter is a National Director with the American Cancer Society, and it’s a disease very close to my heart. May you be healthy and strong, forever and ever. Big hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Estalla. So good to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Hey, it’s okay not to have a bucket list because it’s all in your heart; and I have little doubt yours is a big heart. Take care of yourself and do what you’re doing now and enjoy every minute of it. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Loved the blog. My Bucket list is Wyoming and Colorado and Scotland and Ireland santorini Greece.

    • Hi Charlene, glad you left a message and thanks for your kind comment. Wow, you’ve got a great bucket list. My BIL and SIL lived in Wyoming when my DH and I first married, so I got to spend a little time there. Also, lots of time in Colorado, since we’re so close. Now Scotland, Ireland and Greece would definitely be on my bucket list, since I haven’t traveled Internationally except for cruises. Hope you get to every place and send us pictures. A big Texas hug, Phyliss

  6. Aren’t you glad you went to that class? Just look what it started for you!!! I’m sure glad you didn’t cross that off your list before you went, and you know that cookbook might still get written! Lol! Love you, Phyliss. You’re one of a kind and a dear friend, and I loved this post. I could just see you trotting off to buy your paper and pens. I identify because bi write everything longhand first. Lol! But I’ve never gotten the hang or creativity urge to write directly to the computer. Excellent post— I really enjoyed this.

    • Hi Cheryl, my precious friend and a great editor. You’re too kind. I think a cookbook would be great to write, particularly since I come from a “cooking family”. I had one grandmother who owned a café in Ohio, while my other one was the pastry chef in one of our long ago cafeterias, when they just began. My aunt was a salad chef and I took tons of home-ec classes, so I didn’t have to take PE. I used to be a great cook, but since there’s just my DH and me, I can’t cook worth anything! That’s one reason I have a recipe in each of my books with the original, family recipe printed in the back. Just wait on the “retired teachers cooking club” coming up in my next book. I think it’ll be fun, since I’m using real teachers I know personally and they are providing me with their recipes to use. It’s fun! I can’t imagine writing everything on paper first, but I did a lot of it during my beginning years. Now that I think of it, I have some notebooks that holds short stories. Thanks so much, dear friend. I love you dearly, Phyliss

  7. Loved the blog, and how you got started!! Ms. Jodi sounds like a great person!! I have on my bucket list to visit all of the contiguous 48 states and Alaska.

    • Hi Trudy. Good to hear from you. Yes, Miss Jodi is a wonderful teacher and mentor, as well as a friend. Little did I know what the future had instore for me that day I rushed to the PO to get my registration in the mail. I love your bucket list. I’m very fortunate I’ve been able to see most states during my lifetime; although Hawaii and Alaska are still on my bucket list. There are a few states I’ve only passed through, but I’m fortunate enough to have spent a little time in about every one. I hope and pray you see each and every state, including Alaska! WOW, what an exciting bucket list. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Thanks, Teresa, for stopping by. Keep Amarillo on your bucket list. We’d show you a good time and lots of great food. Also, put Palo Duro Canyon on your list. It’s about a 20 minute plus drive and is called the Mimi Grand Canyon. It’s absolutely beautiful, plus we have a museum in Canyon about everything “Texas Panhandle”. It’s to die for, so please come see us. Big Hugs Phyliss

  8. Oh Mrs Phyliss I love love this blog today as much as I love you which is a lot. Some main things on my Bucket list is to meet my best friend ever Tonya Lucas face to face. Come to Texas and meet you and Mrs Jodi and see Mrs Linda again and Meet Mrs Shanna Hatfield and to go see the Yellowstone and into Montana and to go to NYC with my daughters

    • Hi Glenda, thanks for reading my blog and I truly appreciate your kind words. I hope and pray you and Tonya get together soon. She’s a precious lady for sure. Love coming to Texas to meet all of us, as well as other P&P Fillies, is on your list. I’ve traveled a lot, but have to admit that Montana and Yellowstone, unfortunately, are two places I’ve only passed through. WOW, on NYC! Of course, with my publishing house being in Manhattan, I’ve been there many times and love it. One of my favorite times was with my oldest daughter who is a National Director for the American Cancer Association. We had a blast! Saw great broadway shows, so keep NYC on your bucket list, my dear friend. Come to Texas! We’d love to have you. Much love, P

  9. I need to finish my WIP by the end of August. That’s a goal. I don’t have a “bucket list.”

    • Hi Denise. Good to hear from you. All of us understand those dern deadlines. I have one coming up. I think finishing a WIP can qualify as a bucket list item, because it’s something that you want to get done, but with a WIP it isn’t necessarily on your time frame, but it is fun…particularly when you write “the end” and a bit later hit the “send” button to ship it off to your editor. Good luck and keep writing!

  10. Wow this was quite the journey. I love when I look back at what I wanted to accomplish and how I went about it and am amazed at what came of it and the friends that came with it. God is truly wonderful when I let Him work through me. Thanks for sharing today and inspiring.

    • Hi Lori. So glad you left a comment. It was definitely a journey I didn’t expect. I loved English and writing and this may sound crazy to you, but during my “working years” I was in the legal field, and discovered that writing a charge to a jury and a story isn’t all that different. Bottom line, you’re trying to convince someone to see “it” your way. God is wonderful, and I’m so glad He led me into the role of an author. Like you, so many, many fiends came through the journey with me … both other authors, teachers and especially readers. Big hugs, Phyliss

  11. Phyliss, love the blog. It’s so funny. And what fun we had when we wrote those six anthologies together. Who knew where it would lead. It took us to some amazing places. Hmmm, my bucket list….I would love to spend a week on Bolivar Island. So peaceful.

    • Gosh, my friend, you brought back some wonderful memories. First, of course, is our anthologies. They were so much fun and just think our mother-daughter team families in Give Me a Cowboy still live today in Kasota Springs, Texas, through my contemporary romances. We sure traveled some interesting paths in our research. Of course, the second memory is with my family when we went to Bolivar Island years ago when my grandkids were young. What fond memories; and I still have a story in my head about the old lighthouse on the island. Thanks, Miss Linda, for all of our great memories and being an important part of my life, personal, writing and as a P&P Filly. Love you.

    • Hi Caryl, good to see you here. I’ve never been to any of your bucket list places, but they’d be great. I hope and pray you’ll get to make trips to all three places. How much fun would that be. Thanks for leaving a comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to revisit my journey. Hugs, Phyliss

  12. I enjoyed reading this post. I guess for my bucket list , I would like to travel on a train to different places in the states on one trip.

  13. Hi Alicia. Good to hear from you. I’ve only ridden on a train twice, as an adult. Once down into the Grand Canyon and the other through the Redwoods in California, both with my DH and some of our grandchildren. I loved it, but they were short trip, so can’t imagine how much fun it’d be to travel to special places throughout the U.S. That would great. I hope you get to cross this off your bucket list one of these days. Have a great rest of the day. Hugs, Phyliss

  14. My bucket list is topped by travel. Wanting to be a writer was at the top at one point in high school, but that was beaten out of me by ridicule from my family. A bit late 55 years later to start now. Geriatric romance doesn’t have much of a market. I will have to enjoy the efforts and fruit of other talented people’s labors.
    I have read the anthologies you participated in and they are firmly on my keeper shelf. I have your other Kasota Springs books and look forward to reading them.books

  15. I love your story about how you started. You did better than me. I “had this idea” and wrote about 3-4 pages 30 years ago. Then … no more ideas. Every so often I get it out & reread it and “yep, still no more ideas” so I grab whatever book I am reading and get lost in that story instead.

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