Member Monday: Critiquers by Dale Angel

Welcome back to Member Monday.  Today it’s my pleasure to share a piece on critique groups by Dale Angel, who just happens to be my absolute favorite chicken.


by Dale Angel

In my writers critique group, I’m a presumptuous chicken among eagles.  I’ve had my feathers pricked, ripped, yanked, pulled, plucked and my wings clipped by my peers…not without good reason.

My pen was careless.

It didn’t stop or have any respect for periods, much less acknowledge apostrophes.  It goes past commas, too.  I had to recognize that life is not made up of run on sentences.  I’ve had to dump clichés, too.

Then there are the dangling participles; I found out we had been meeting too often.  I’ve been told I had to quit keeping company with them.

There’s more.

The colon and its cousin the semi colon, I was reluctant to become involved in their family things.

Tenses, present tense and past tense-they confuse me.  I get lost moving from yesterday to tomorrow.  Sometimes I don’t know where I am.

I love question marks.

I like frivolously sprinkling them along the words and allow others to come to their own conclusions.  I felt it wasn’t respectable to burden others with my personal ideas or interpretation of a situation.  I admit, I have answered the questions before I’ve asked them and asked questions I never answered.

Even with several dictionaries I still stumble over misspelled words.

This sentence war has weakened me-what with nouns, adjectives and verbs.  I’m still in combat…although on my knees.

My absolute favorite are exclamation marks!  I live on them.  Most of life is made up of either crisis or joy.  That demands emotion-I need them!  But, I have been informed, I can only use a couple per thousand words.  It’s chilled my passion and made me frigid in my love affair of words.  I was so in love with them.  It seems a pity to waste an exclamation point.

It’s apparent I’ve been disrespectful to these tools.  The run-on, comma, splice, the incomplete fragment and subject-verb agreement, the pronoun antecedent.

I ran over them with no concern.

They don’t register in my pen as words fall out on the paper as I write along.  I perceive them not.  I’ve been treating them as common, with a lack of courtesy.

I lived that way.

Now I’m in rehab, a critique group.

I’m exposed.

I must acknowledge my weaknesses, admit openly my failures, reform myself and do better.

I get up every day with resolves to pay attention to the signs.  I’m going to take note and use the tools judiciously.

I just keep falling off my intentions.

See?  There it is again.  My pen takes charge and puts down these silly sentences.  I know I need discipline.

The brave volunteers in this war, I honor.


Doesn’t that word just send adrenaline to your fingertips?  It makes my pen quiver.  It makes me want to toss it around, bend it, impale it, step on it, squeeze out its juices or kick softly until it yields itself to a sensible sentence.

My group of Critiquers are strong.

They have to endure the slaughter of words and tremble as they accept a paper they know is lacerated, mangled and hemorrhaging with stuff like my story about me cooking candy over the campfire while everyone else was gathering up their camping equipment during a downpour.

Sometimes truth is painful.

They suffer quietly with sighs and an occasional moan.

They hiss.

No one cusses…out loud.

They are weary, yet they persevere in their duties of damage control.

I haven’t shared this with my group yet.  When I do, it will be axed, no, reduced to simple, concise, succinct lines that say everything, like a good steak you won’t even have to chew.

I’m a presumptuous chicken, but I fly with eagles.

 A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Understand the Inspirational Market by Marisa Shadrick

Understand the Inspirational Market

by Marisa Shadrick, Writers Forum Member

When writing provokes new thought, motivates change, or awakens an apathetic heart it’s often called inspirational. Aspiring writers need a clear understanding of this competitive market for publication.

On April 13th, Redding Writers Forum welcomed two accomplished authors, Cindy (Martinusen) Coloma and Cathy Elliott, who offered their expertise in Writing for the Inspirational Market. Cindy is a best-selling author with 13 novels and 4 nonfiction books. Cathy has authored 2 cozy mysteries with a quilting mystery to be released in 2014.


Members and guests listened attentively while Cindy and Cathy echoed a consistent theme throughout their presentation—opportunity. They encouraged writers to view inspirational writing as an expanded market for fiction and nonfiction work rather than a single genre. Retailers continue to fill their shelves with inspirational books at supermarkets, drugstores, airports, bookstores and mega outlets like Wal-Mart and Costco.


Nonfiction genres include memoir, caregiving, self-help, creative nonfiction, curriculum, children’s nonfiction, ghostwriting, greeting cards, articles and more. A familiar title would be Chicken Soup for the Soul an international series with short stories and essays.

IMG_7486Romance holds its popularity in fiction but other genres include fantasy, suspense/thriller, cozy mysteries, historical fiction, Amish stories, and more. At first glance, these genres may seem to fit the general market but inspirational writing has its differences.

Cindy and Cathy explained that “inspirational” is a broad term that includes various faiths. For Christian consideration, for example, the writing must align with the publisher’s guidelines and specific denomination. In addition, Christian writing is distinctive for its discretion with sexual content, minimal profanity, and degree of violence. Values are woven throughout each story but with imperfect characters, villains, and realistic scenes. The material is convincing but less graphic and contains a redemptive message of hope.

Writers may choose to research the inspirational market because of its diverse opportunities. To facilitate the process, Cindy and Cathy offered tips:

  • Consider why you want to write for this market.
  • Find your passion and write from the heart.
  • Do the legwork and research the publisher, guidelines, and denomination.
  • Go to a Christian Writers Conference and meet agents, publishers, and other authors. (Be prepared to pitch your book idea.)
  • Take advantage of conference CDs and learn from the experts.
  • Seize writing opportunities—it may lead to other projects.
  • Follow blogs for writing tips and market trends from leading agents and editors.
  • Know where your work fits. Search for similar works online or visit a local bookstore and check the bookbinding for placement information.
  • Write with excellence and offer innovative ideas.

IMG_7488These suggestions were the authors’ stepping-stones to publication. Perhaps your work can find opportunities in this market to inspire others and further your writing career.

Writing for the Inspirational Market Handout contains a list of industry blogs, top publishers, organizations, and annual conferences. To download the PDF file click here.

Note: Cindy (Martinusen) Coloma co-founded Quills of Faith Writers Group in 1997. She co-leads a monthly meetings every 2nd Monday from 7-9 p.m. at Anderson/Cottonwood Neighborhood Church. Visitors are welcome.

Member Monday: Bears and Bad Guys: An Excerpt from Badges, Bears, and Eagles by Steve Callan

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s a pleasure to showcase another installment from member Steve Callan’s book Badges, Bears, and Eagles.  You can read previous excerpts here and here.  Then mark your calendars because Steve will be signing copies of Badges, Bears, and Eagles at the Redding Costco on Saturday April 26th from 10am to 4pm.  Today Steve shares a chapter about a three-year undercover investigation that turned out to be one of the most successful wildlife-related criminal investigations in California history. 

Bears and Bad Guys: An Excerpt from Badges, Bears, and Eagles

by Steve Callan



“So what’s been going on?” Westerby asked. “I tried calling you a dozen times.”

Hoang convinced Westerby that he had been out of the country.

“I figured you was,” said Westerby.

“These aren’t too bad,” said Hoang.

Westerby began to act impatient: “What’ll ya give me for ’em?”

“These aren’t too fresh,” Hoang said. “When did you take them?”

Westerby blinked a few times and looked around some more, as if stalling while he decided how to answer. “One was killed two days ago, one was four days ago and the other was five days ago. I’ll be gettin’ more, too.” he added.

“Yeah?” said Hoang.

“I killed two cougars yesterday,” said Westerby

“Wow!” said Hoang.

“Ya know, I just got home about two nights before you called,” said Westerby.

“I’ll give you four hundred,” said Hoang.

Westerby puffed himself up and pursed his lips, unhappy with the offer.  The diminutive undercover agent realized that the much larger man-a classic bully-was going to try to intimidate him, so he played along, milking his role as the timid, soft-spoken Asian.  Agent Hoan had become quite proficient at his temporary job.  The more he negotiated over price, the more convincing he appeared.


“I can get two apiece for ’em right up the road here,” Westerby growled, gesturing wildly.

Having recently listened to a recorded conversation near Jason Lee’s mountain rental house, Hoang immediately realized who Westerby was referring to.

“The guy right up the road gives me two for the small ones and three or three and a half for the bigger ones,” Westerby boasted.

“Who are you dealing with?” asked Hoang.

The easily excitable Westerby launched into a tirade. “Every hound hunter in the world.  Ya know what I mean? Hell, there’s only a hundred hound hunters around here who have connections, ya know. And Jason does better than that.”

Westerby’s recorded statement validated what Szody and I had suspected for some time: many of the area houndsmen were selling bear gall bladders and most of them were selling to Jason Lee, either directly or indirectly.

The cat was out of the bag.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!