Critique Panel Biographies

SouthWest Writers’ panel of professional writers and editors will critique your manuscript for a reasonable rate far below the usual market rate. This page contains the biographies of our critiquers only. If you wish to obtain a critique, please go to our upload form here once you have selected up to three from our list below.

Note that we cannot guarantee your first choice as that critiquer may be too busy. However, if we cannot match you with any of your top three in a timely manner, we will contact you directly and either match you with another critiquer or refund your money.


Penny Raife Durant


Biography: Penny Raife Durant is the author of nine books for children (see list below) including the award-winning young adult book When Heroes Die and eight books on science for kids from preschool to middle school.  She has also published a book for adults Child of El Salvador.  A former elementary teacher, preschool director and teacher, and teacher of writing for adults, she is often a speaker, critiquer, judge, and workshop presenter.  She has BS and MA degrees from UNM and lives in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband Omar Durant.

Children’s Books:

  • Cinnamon Smoke – Science Activities for Young Children
  • Make a Splash! –  Science Activities with Liquids
  • Try This – Exploring the World of Plants
  • Try This:  Exploring the World of Animals
  • Prizewinning Science Fair Projects
  • More Prizewinning Science Fair Projects
  • Bubblemania
  • When Heroes Die
  • Sniffles, Sneeses, Hiccups and Coughs

Adults:  Child of El Salvador

Categories:  Children’s books, any genre; adult fiction


 Larry Greenly


Biography:  Armed with degrees in physics/math, architecture, civil engineering and chiropractic, Larry Greenly has led a multi-faceted life as a teacher, engineer and doctor of chiropractic. His career as an award-winning freelance writer/editor of myriad non-fiction articles on various topics began over 25 years ago with a long-running medical column in professional journals. Greenly is also a long-time writing instructor, lecturer, and book judge. His new book, Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot is now in its second printing and winning praise from library associations.

Categories:  Nonfiction


Melody Groves


Biography:  New Mexico native Melody Groves has a deep love for anything cowboy and Old West. Winner of six first-place writing awards, Melody is a member of Western Writers of America, SouthWest Writers and New Mexico Press Women. She writes for Wild West, American Cowboy, True West, New Mexico Magazine and other regional publications.

She is author of the Colton Family Saga series: Border Ambush, Sonoran Rage, Arizona War and Kansas Bleeds. Also, her essay about living in New Mexico was published in Voices of New Mexico. Melody is a contributing editor for Round Up magazine for Western Writers of America. She is also a contributing writer for “American Westward Expansion,” a collegiate history encyclopedia.

Her non-fiction books include: the 2011 New Mexico Book Award winner, Hoist a Cold One! Historic Bars of the Southwest, looks at the history and beauty of 26 front and back bars. Ropes, Reins, and Rawhide: All About Rodeo is a guide to understanding the sport. Released in May 2014, Butterfield’s Byways: The First Stagecoach Line and Overland Mail Route Across America.

When not writing, she’s busy playing rhythm guitar with the Jammy Time Band.

Categories:  Historical fiction and nonfiction


Betsy James

Biography:  Betsy James is the author and illustrator of sixteen books for adults and children. Among other honors, her books have been named: New York Public Library Best Book for Teens; Voices of Youth Advocates Best Book; Junior Library Guild Selection; Canadian Children’s Book Center Best Book; International Reading Association Children’s Choice; and Tiptree Award Honor Book. She leads workshops nationally, in Zuni Pueblo and in New Mexico public schools. She lives in the North Valley.

Website for older readers

Website for younger readers

Categories:  Adult fiction, including short stories; Science fiction and fantasy, any age; Children’s books, any genre. Will critique paper manuscripts if preferred.


 Robert Spiegel


Biography:  Robert Spiegel is a journalist of 35 years. He is currently a senior editor for Design News, an international trade publication. His poetry and fiction has been published widely over thee decades. For ten years he owned a publishing company that published Chile Pepper magazine as well as books. He served as president of Southwest Writers for two two-year stints. He also writes drama, a blog, and reviews plays. He is the author of six books published by national publishers such as St. Martin’s Press and Dearborn. Spiegel has worked with top agents both as an author and a book publisher. He has taught writing in workshops, classes, in presentations at writers’ conferences nationally, and he has taught journalism at the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College.

Categories:  Poetry; Fiction, all genres; and Nonfiction


Sandra Toro

Sandra 2 11 2013

Biography:  Sandra Toro is the published author of five historical novels and numerous non-fiction magazine articles. She teaches creative writing at UNMCE:  historical fiction, beginning and advanced fiction, memoir, and narrative non-fiction. She also coordinates the annual UNM Writer’s Conference.

Categories:  Fiction, nonfiction, memoir; no speculative fiction

2 comments on “Critique Panel Biographies
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