Shenandoah County Chamber Writing Group Meets to Discuss Books | Every day

The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce has a new group of writers in its ranks.

The Shenandoah County WRITES group has five members: Mark Muse, Cara Achterberg, Elizabeth Cottrell, James Davison and Coe Sherrard.

“It was my idea, I guess,” Sherrard said.

When he published a book in January 2021 and was told by House Speaker Sharon Baroncelli that he could post it at the House office, he pointed out that other authors were also part of the room.

Some of them were already meeting through another writing group at the Valley Educational Center for the Creative Arts, including Cottrell, a chamber member who knew Sherrard and had agreed to be part of Shenandoah County WRITES.

“The thing we had in common was that we had all published a book or were preparing to publish a book,” recalls Cottrell.

After launching their writing group, Sherrard said he chose the name Shenandoah County WRITES “to positively associate” with another chamber effort: Shenandoah County WORKS.

Through the group, they meet informally about once a month to share resources, said Sherrard, 72, from Edinburgh.

“It’s more about sharing and seeing where we all are at,” he said.

“We all use different software for editing,” he said. The group helps them to “support each other”.

It can be difficult for writers to get useful feedback on their work.

“Your friends want to be nice,” Sherrard said. “The most damning criticism…is the silence.”

That’s one of the reasons the chamber writing group of “like-minded writers” is so helpful, he said.

“We’re all pretty honest with each other.”

The group is also great for sharing information about publishing and marketing their books, said Cottrell, also 72, of Maurertown.

Some of them self-published, some went the traditional publishing route, and some did a mix of the two, she said.

“[The club is] a tribute to the leadership of the chamber and their sincere efforts to support their members,” Cottrell said. “I actually expect him to grow.”

Sherrard has published several books, his most recent, “The Other Side of Good,” about a police officer and his best friend, a major drug dealer, who form a task force of people unlikely to oppose a ring. of human trafficking that has settled in their city.

“I try not to be judgmental, but we all sort of live in the gray area,” Sherrard said.

Muse, who writes under the pen name Dana Hayward, writes science fiction, although Sharrard said it “sounds more like scientific predictions.”

His book, “Entropy,” about the international race to colonize Mars in the near future, was released this month.

Achterberg has published several novels and non-fiction books for animal lovers, with “One Hundred Dogs and Counting” telling the story of a dog foster parent on a road trip to discover the difficulties facing shelters. for rural animals and his latest, “Blind Turn,” about the aftermath of a tragic and fatal accident.

Davison published his second book last fall, a historical Christian fiction, “I Am Lazarus,” about the immortality of three biblical characters after they were raised from the dead. He plans to release “Bottom Feeder,” about an alien presence in the Louisiana bayou, on May 31.

Cottrell is planning a July release of his little gift book, “Heartspoken: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire,” about the lost art of letter writing.

“She’s kind of bringing that back,” Sherrard said.

“The rest of us are all pretty much fiction writers,” he said. “I don’t have a genre, but it’s still fiction.”

Their books are available at,, and, with Muse’s book, “Entropy”, under the pen name Dana Hayward, available at -ebook/dp/B09V6J9G83. Area residents can also find their books at the chamber office, 103 S. Main St., Woodstock.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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