Monday, December 22, 2008


It's been a roller coaster fall beginning with a camper trip out of state that was quite relaxing despite returning home to snow on the ground and winter temperatures. Then, the week after we got back, my mother had a stroke. She died and was buried just days before Thanksgiving. Then there was emptying her house . . . amazing what a person collects after 84 years of life. Sadly it makes for a subdued Christmas spirit.

Yet, there was a bright spot--I received notice that my short story had passed the second round of reading at Andromeda Spaceways and was now in the queue, meaning I have 1 chance in 3 of them publishing it within the next three months.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Writing and You: Goals

Have you got a plan to become the writer you want to be? Do you need a plan of actions that will net you your writing goals?

I think every writer should have writing goals--goals for the day, the week, the month, the year and even five and 10 years down the road. Reasonable goals--obtainable goals. But most importantly goals that accommodate life's intrusions (job, family, kids, pets, emergencies, Mother Nature, and wild critters to name a few). You see, once you have a goal in mind, you can formulate a plan of actions to achieve that goal. Sure, you may fail to obtain the goal, but then you re-evaluate what you did and plan a new course of actions. Now if you think that sounds like what a protagonist does in a story, you're absolutely right.

Become goal oriented and become the hero or heroine of your own writing life. You can do it one word, one paragraph, one page, one scene, one story at a time.

--Remember: Craft enhances talent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The remnants of Hurricane Ike came through my end of Western Pennsylvania and we lost power Sunday night, Sept. 14. Fifteen minutes later, a wind sheer took down a one hundred foot branch of an ancient maple tree. That branch broke the power lines behind my house. Since there are only four residence from that pole to the end of the line--you guessed it--we were among the last to get our power restored. That happened 6 days later (or 144 hours as my husband pointed out) on Saturday night. Luckily we have a camper and so "roughing it" wasn't really that bad for us, but taking a shower in the camper's tiny unit was the pits. After the power came back on, it took me three days to get household chores caught up, the camper cleaned out, and back online. But this ordeal was a reminder: we don't fully appreciate all the things electricity does to make our life easier and entertaining until we have to make do without it.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fair Wrap-up

Not a bad fair season, 22 entries at two different fairs netting 20 ribbons. Ten firsts, seven seconds, three thirds, and two that did not take a prize. What kind of items did I enter? Mostly sewing and flowers. I have to admit, I was a bit shocked when my "silk arrangement" of fall flowers and leaves in a ceramic gourd didn't place. However, in looking at the winning entries, mine was simply outclassed--first by an elegant, and artful, urn of lovely silk roses and then with a round container of oversized pink dogwood. At least my "miniature flower arrangement" of a 2" tall basket of real flowers took first. The most surprising win was the $10 premium that came with the first place ribbon for the "Red Hat Garment" category--my stunning royal purple culottes with brilliant red piping and buttons on the pockets. Of course, the fairs are over, but I've already started a list of what I want to sew for next year's entries.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August and Fairs

It's August and the first of three community fairs, which I annually exhibit at, has begun--and thus I don't much think about Blogger's Block (which I still have) nor do I care because little writing is going to get done this month.

In looking back over the years, I realized I've been a fair exhibitor in the Home Show buildings of eight different fairs since I was ten years old. I also recall that I exhibited my first sewing project as a 4-Her. In 2010 I'll have shown 25 consecutive years at my local fair. Why do I keep making projects and exhibiting them? Because, obviously, making clothing and home decorations saves money. Okay, mostly because winning is wonderful and I like doing things that get value for the buck. It also means I must seek creative ways to showcase my sewing projects and keep abreast of the new trends in arts and crafts--and home decor. After all, how many different ways can you sew a cobbler's apron so it look fresh and new every year? Or how can you decorate a wreath to make it stand out among the rest without looking gaudy?

Having blue ribbons (and even a grand championship rosette in the baking division) are a nice touch, too, since I'm the 4-H leader of an all baking/cooking 4-H club. I also combine my love of flowers and gardening and have exhibited produce and flower arrangements. Yesterday, my golden Cosmos won a blue ribbon. Dispite so many years of fair-exhibiting, this was the first year I've ever exhibited them. And they were exceptionaly profuse bloomers this year, which enabled me to submit six nearly identical blooms for judging (uniformity is a criteria for judging). Speaking of those Cosmos, I've included a photo I took of ones that are growing outside my kitchen and from which the winning blooms came.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lyon - photo

I remembered I had a photo of Lyon perched on the porch railing so I'm posting it. See my previous blog entry for details about Lyon.


I took my "blogger's block" problem to my local Pennwriters group and it was suggested that I blog about my cat. His name is Lyon. Yes, it's spelled correctly because: he lies on my lap, lies on my computer station, lies on my office window sill, lies at the foot of my bed (in the corner--he has excellent bed manners, never disturbs my sleep). Lyon is a 20 lb. big boy and neutered. The best way to describe his color is to say: take a jar of marmalade and add Half & Half to it. Stir until it's a creamy-pale orange. I also have to admit that I am not a cat person. (I'm a horse and dog person.) However, within 12 hours of coming home with my daughter as a kitten, Lyon made it emphatically clear that I was the only human he wanted. My daughter picked him out of the litter along with his sister, Lady, to be her 4-H pet project cat. Well, Lyon had other ideas and 4-H wasn't one of them. Lastly, Lyon does not mew. He maaa's, like a goat with laryngitis.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is there such a thing as blogger-block?

I've heard of writer's block and so far (knock on wood), I have not run into it. However, I have to admit, I'm currently suffering "blogger-block." You see, I have no clue what to write about for my June blog entry. I'm told I need to blog at least monthly, which I have been doing. Okay, so May was kinda a no-blog month. Not because of blogger-block but because of preparations for attending the annual Pennwriters Conference and fulfilling the last of my duties as Area 1 Representative. I also had to organize notes for a workshop (on the Developed Short Story) that I was giving at the conference. Any suggestions you can give to break this blogger-block (or if you have a question I can answer about writing on my blog) would be appreciated. Contact me at . Catherine

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Home Truths About Writing Fiction

There is no right way or wrong way to put a story together--there is only your way. However, to become a producing writer, one that can turn out a novel a year or a short story monthly, requires discovering and understanding how your mind works to create a story. It also helps to develop your own personal "project bible" to ensure you have a story to tell or to keep a story from dead-ending. What is a project bible? It's the "paper work" (either hard copy or computerized files) that organizes the storytelling components to be sure what's necessary is included in a story. Project bibles can be done before or after a story is completed. When done before, it eliminates going off on tangents or getting sidetracked and keeps a writer focused. When done after the writing, it reveals holes in the story (or the plot) or it reveals the need to foreshadow crucial items that didn't seem important until the end of the story. It can also help catch errors--like a blue eyed heroine in chapter 1 ends up with brown eyes in chapter 10 and green eyes in chapter 20.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Nominated for Pennwritrs' Meritorious Service Award

Yesterday, I stared blank-minded at the bold print of my name on the 2008 Pennwriters' Meritorious Service Award Candidates list that arrived in the mail. The Meritorious Service Award Committe, which consists of the four most recent Meritorious Service winners, selects the nominees for this, the highest accolade Pennwriters gives. Members then vote for one of the four nominees. I have been a Pennwriter since 1995, having volunteered in many capacities (as contest chair, running the silent auction, being a Penn Pal, being "the pitch guru," and an agent/editor timekeeper). In May, I will have completed my fourth consecutive year as Area 1 Representative. I may not receive the majority vote, but, hey--I can truly say--what an honor it is just to be nominated!

If you're curious about Pennwriters, check out their Web site:

Catherine McLean

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Advice on Writing

If there is one piece of advice I would shout out to novice writers, it would be this: take time off from your writing to MASTER Point of View (POV) and Viewpoint. Why? Because everything in a story is affected by Point of View and Viewpoint.

The second bit of advice I would whisper to a novice writer is this: POV and Viewpoint are two separate things despite the "experts" using the terms synomymously.

Master POV and Viewpoint means fixing 90% of the problems in manuscripts that critiquers commonly point out such as show-don't-tell; omniscient narration; flat, or two-dimentional characterization; tension; suspense; ad infinitum.

Catherine McLean

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not my fault

I typed in the correct words and the preview showed everything in order, so I told the machine to save it to the Web site. However, when I checked the text on my Web site there were underscores and spaces I never typed in. And I can't get rid of them.

I think there must be some computer smerf responsible for it. You know, like the sock smerf--the one that snatches one sock out of the washer or dryer so you have socks without mates.


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Launching My Website for Writer'sCheat Sheets

Jamie, a friend and computer whiz, assured me last June that we'd have my site up and running in just a few weeks. Somehow little glitches sabataged our efforts, particulary this blooger space, but as of today, everything seems to be working fine on my website, so I'm taking a leap of faith -- and one helluva deep breath -- to officially announce to one and all that my site is up and running. Come visit !


Monday, January 28, 2008


The adage that if anything can go wrong it will, certainly applied to my accessing my blog. By comparison, setting up my Web site,, was easy. Needless to say after a month of trial and errors--and a gazillion error messages--along with some hair-pulling frustrations, the culprit turned out to be "cookies." I didn't know my computer had so many different places to hide cookies. But, thankfully, (fingers crossed on both hands), I can finally get in to this blog and post to it!