Meet The Pitch Week XIV Finalists
Ellen Mulligan, Blaze
As Blaze tries to emulate his father’s adept skill at thievery, his life gets turned upside down as he consistently encounters monsters, curses, and magic. Blaze strives to overcome the challenges he faces with a small band of friends, who he may or may not be able to trust.
Growing up in a large town in Connecticut with, besides their parents, a great-grandmother gave Ellen Mulligan and her big sister, Lianne, an appreciation for story-telling and history. They played elaborate concocted stories under an old maple tree in the backyard. They could be found riding “horses” at Hammonasset State Park or “fighting ogres” in the woods at Salem Farms Campground.
In order to continue their imaginative play, the two girls wrote stories for each other when they were at school or apart. Ever since Ellen was 12 years old, the sisters seemed to have found one storyline that they continued to play. They called it “Mirias.” Ellen drew character portraits and Lianne drew maps.
With marriage and three children, Ellen continues to “discuss” story ideas with Lianne and they are both excited to introduce the world to Blaze, which is just one story arc in the world of “Mirias.”
Jane VanVooren Rogers, My Love Affair with a Dead Man
A vibrant daredevil. A quirky intellectual. A sponsored skateboarder. A survivor of a hit-and-run accident. A motherless child. A nomadic traveler. A silent survivor of sexual abuse and assault. A musician and artist. A celebrated chef. An aspiring writer. A sensitive, spiritual soul. A brilliant, confused, tortured man.
Micah Joseph Neff was all of these. When he died at age 31 from cirrhosis — trying to self-medicate his physical and emotional pain — nothing was written about him, no obituary, nothing that would allude to the fascinating person he was.
Micah’s high school classmate, Jane VanVooren Rogers, set out to correct that, and search for who Micah was and what happened to him. In doing so, she posthumously discovered an inexplicable closeness and deep understanding of someone who was an all-too-brief acquaintance in life.
Jane is an award-winning author, speaker, and editor who believes everyone has a story to share. A professional storyteller for 20 years, Jane has written hundreds of articles, stories, speeches, and more. She has a poetry chapbook, “How to Avoid Being and Other Paths to Triumph.” A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, miscarriage, postpartum psychosis, and emotional/verbal abuse, Jane sees her mission as sharing the difficult life experiences she’s overcome to offer help, hope, and healing to others. A lifelong Quad Citian, she is blessed to live in rural Illinois with her wonderful family.
Sue Roulusonis, Issues: Beliefs of a Button Pusher
We all have issues. Sometimes, we share similar issues and hearing about others’ can help us get a good perspective; then again, you may not relate to any of Sue Roulusonis’s, but you may get a good laugh out of them — and isn’t that the best medicine?
Sue has been told she has an innate quality of testing people’s patience (it’s a gift) and could be using this medium to test that ability on a larger scope in her deliberateness of discussing subjects that are considered taboo in a bar or in polite company. (Of course, her own special colloquialism has leanings towards the former.)
Either way, she’s still talking.
Sue is a single mother of two who has managed to accomplish reaching the age of 50 with no formal education, training, or trust fund. Edgy to those who like her and a pain in the ass to those who don’t, she throws her words out regularly and deliberately with the understanding that even shock value has a time and a place, however inappropriate. She lives in Massachusetts with one daughter not yet old enough to escape and two cats who stay because she feeds them.
Beth Russell, Kindreds
Nine years ago, seven-year-old Lilah’s parents and twin brother died unexpectedly in a car crash. Now, in Young Adult novel Kindreds, her last living relative, Grandma Pea, has died and 16-year-old Lilah must live in foster care. It quickly becomes better when she is reunited with her deceased twin-brothers’ friend, Joey. The problem is, Joey harbors a secret and keeps disappearing with Sebastian, a boy who Lilah does not trust.
Beth Russell is currently an Assistant Professor at the College at Brockport and the Greater Rochester Collaborative Master of Social Work Program. A licensed clinical social work in New York State, she has worked with youth and adults in a variety of mental health settings, and has experience as both a clinician and supervisor. She is an avid writer and has contributed to several books, authored peer-reviewed articles, and has presented at both national and international conferences in the social work and counseling fields. She holds a Master of Social Work degree, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education and Counseling. In addition to her academic position, Beth also maintains a private therapy practice. Beth loves to learn and can always be found reading to her three children and golden retriever, Paisley. To advance her knowledge of children’s literature, she recently completed several writing courses with the Children’s Book Academy. Kindreds is her first young adult novel.
Elise Von Holten, Broken No More: The Mythology of Me
The laying down of the seeds of self doubt in our minds at the beginning of our lives, gives us our patterns of thinking. My thoughts were simple constructs as most are. “It’s not safe to be here”, “I am not wanted”, “The world/gods are trying to kill me”, “I can’t do it right”.
Revisited and reinforced by incidents, and the stories I made up about the incidents, a layered protection covering and turning those thought seeds into pearls–a string of pearls that like prayer beads, my mind raced around while trying to figure out how to interact with others.
Some abuses were buried so deep it took the strand breaking to get me to see things differently. As I grew up and then married, I escaped into a wonderland of my own making, all the things I had dreamed of house, children, community and love overflowing from my heart.
After 13 years of marriage, disaster and illness brought wonderland down. My salvation came in the form of nightmares, prophetic dreams, and ultimately hearing the singular voice of God. It led me to teach “A Course In Miracles.” As my own fear became exposed and kept me centered, I had amazing interior journeys to heal my mind of the cruel thoughts that were crippling me. After a prophetic dream, my course was set. The replacement of thoughts of fear and death, to see the love, occupied my life completely.
As the deceptions and darkness was brought into the light (a process called “enlightenment”) my complete world came crashing down as the underlying patterns came to fulfillment and my husband/God made plans to be rid of me. I fled in childhood from an invoked death experience, only to run into a death trap for I had no experience of what love looked like. I only knew my fears and brokenness.
It took all of my courage to become “Broken No More”
Nancie Laird Young, Tea with Dad: Finding Myself in My Father’s Life
Nancie Laird Young’s memoir, Tea and Toast, is a cocktail of pain and humor, garnished with assumptions and laced with things once unsaid but finally spoken. It chronicles a daughter and her father as they navigate and redefine their late-life relationship.
After a decennium horribilis — her husband disclosed he was gay, she reentered the workforce in her forties, she reared three daughters, and she lost her mother to cancer — Nancie moves out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to live near her father, but circumstances force her to move in with him far sooner than planned.
In Tea and Toast Nancie and her father must work through issues related to boundaries, privacy, and independence. Nancie realizes that if she wants to be with and care for her father until the end, she cannot continue avoiding the unresolved areas of their relationship. During afternoon tea and weekend drives she asks about his childhood, her parents’ marriage, his career, and her mother. As she grows to know him better, she rediscovers herself.
Proud mother of three strong, beautiful, intelligent and self-sufficient daughters, she is also NanNan to five grandchildren. As a military brat she traveled in Europe and the Far East with her family and moved on average every 18 months. Nancie is hard at work on a novel entitled In the Way of Grace.