Shenandoah County chamber writing group meets to discuss books | Nvdaily

The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce has a new group of writers among 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 of 2021 and Chamber President Sharon Baroncelli told him he could display it at the chamber office, he pointed out that other authors were part of the chamber too.

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 agreed to be part of Shenandoah County WRITES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s one reason why 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 on publishing and marketing their books, said Cottrell, also 72, of Maurertown.

Some of them have self-published, some have gone the traditional route of publishing and some have done a mix of both, she said.

“[The club is] a tribute to the leadership of the chamber and their genuine effort to support their members,” Cottrell said. “I’m actually expecting it to grow.”

Sherrard has several books published, his most recent, “The Other Side of Good,” about a police officer and his best friend, a major drug dealer, who formed a task force of unlikely people to stand against a human trafficking ring that’s moved into their city.

“I try not to make a judgment, but we all kind of live in the gray area,” Sherrard said.

Muse, who writes under the pen name Dana Hayward, writes science fiction, though Sharrard said it’s “more like science forecasting.”

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

Achterberg has published several novels and nonfiction books for pet lovers, with “One Hundred Dogs and Counting” telling the story of a dog foster parent on a road trip to discover the struggles that rural animal shelters are facing and her latest, “Blind Turn, ” about the aftermath of a tragic and fatal accident.

Davison published his second book, a historic Christian fiction, “I Am Lazarus,” last fall, about the immortality of three biblical figures 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 plans a July release of her small 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 always fiction.”

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


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