Donovan wins When words count Pitch Week 21


Five writers, a professional literary agent, publicist and publisher gathered at the Handsome Red Barn at West Hill House Bed and Breakfast last week with dozens of community members to determine who would be the winner of When Week 21 Words Count’s Pitch.


When Words Count (WWC) is a writers retreat, formerly based in Rochester. WWC holds regular writing workshops throughout the year and from among its attendees selects a dozen or more superstars to participate in one of the four Pitch Week events.

For Pitch Week, the selected authors spend a week working with company founder Steve Eisner and in-house literature professionals before meeting to introduce themselves and their books to those who gathered for lunch on the Saturday. Last weekend’s event took place on June 26.

The first author to present was Ani Tuzman who presented her memoir “Angels on the Clotheslines”. She said her book “carries the flame which the Holocaust did not extinguish”, and in her reading she recounted how, as a young child, she encountered Hebrew words on a newspaper in her parents’ kitchen. in the United States and how she was puzzled what all of those symbols might mean. The letters she said were like little soldiers piling up and eventually coming together to mean words.

It was followed by Dr. Bernadette Anderson whose book “Fulfilled: 52 Prescriptions for Healing, Health and Happiness” includes prescriptions for self-care. Before starting his presentation, Anderson set the mood by adding some soft music before discussing one of his prescriptions – the ability to forgive. A doctor with a 25-year medical career, Anderson has spoken of forgiving others, but more importantly, of cultivating the ability to forgive oneself.

Stacey Wilder then took the podium to present her detective novel “Charleston Conundrum”. She set the stage for her reading with a flashing police light. Her novel opens with the fact that she is awakened at night by the flashing light, after being unable to reach her best friend and next door neighbor that day. She leaves to see what the heckle is about to learn only that her best friend has been murdered.

“Puddin ‘”, written by Ce O’Flaherty was launched next. O’Flaherty read an excerpt from his book with precise diction and lively delivery. The story she told, of a young girl exposed to two different homes in winter and summer with very different levels of security (think abuse) was fascinating, but the details of her character’s mother having a glass eye and the ripping protagonist running with him to church was hilarious. She recounted trying to put the glass eye back to her mother’s bedside without waking her up and hoping the pieces of toilet paper (which she had used to catch the eye) would stick to it – which did laughter the crowd.

The latest author and winner of Pitch Week 21, Eileen Donovan presented her novel, “A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma”, a story that takes place in 1926 when its protagonist, Alex, begins a journalistic career as a small reporter for a small Montana newspaper. Alex’s editor is upset to learn that Alex is a woman and worries that her main interest is finding a husband. What Alex finds instead is a shootout at the courthouse next door and she sets out to investigate what happens as the shooting continues.

Those in attendance were invited to select the two books they would like to read first and vote for the People’s Choice component of the contest. This vote was factored into the decision of the judges who included literary agent Ken Sherman, publicist Lori Hettler and publisher Dave Legere. Elizabeth Splaine, winner of Pitch Week 2019, has joined Eisner as co-host of the event. After the elevator pitches, the judges gathered to award Donovan first place and the chance to publish his book.

When Words Count offers writers’ retreats year round, and every year between Thanksgiving and New Years, they hold a national contest in every state and Canada offering a five-day retreat. They receive some 2,500 entries from writers eager to publish traditionally, Eisner said.

They pick 300 at random and these writers come to WWC during the year for five days of work on their books. Eisner and his team invite around 10-15% of the 300 people who come to one of the Pitch Week events of the season.

In the world of traditional publishing, Eisner explained, the publication path for new authors is very narrow with 99.5% of authors receiving rejections when submitting their manuscripts and only 0.5% having their manuscripts read. books by an agent.

For three Pitch Weeks each summer, the All-Stars are in attendance and one is awarded a publishing deal. While there is one winner per Pitch Week, Eisner and his team deepen the All-Star bench and offer the second-place winner a chance to post by covering 50% of actual costs and a split in royalties.

Eisner said the percentage of his Pitch Week attendees who end up with a publishing deal is 56% – compared to the 99.5% of people who go the traditional route.


Lucas E. Kelly

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