Meet The Pitch Week XXV Finalists

Meet The Pitch Week XXV Finalists

Zorina Alliata, The Most Halloween Candy Ever

Zorina Alliata’s children’s book series, Robot Friends, is a STEM-oriented set of picture books designed for ages 6-10. The heroes of the book series are a trio of robots who live in a university lab. In the first book, The Most Halloween Candy Ever, they wake up unexpectedly on Halloween and decide to join the kids outside in what they see as a race for candy. But is the most candy the right reward they should chase? Our heroes will learn a new lesson, while the readers learn a real-life AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept called reinforcement learning.

Zorina Alliata works with robots in real life, as an AI strategist at Amazon. She volunteers a lot to encourage young children and especially girls to have an interest in science and specifically AI. As part of her speaking engagements at schools, she has noticed the great enthusiasm of the youngest children for science and robots in particular, and she has had a great time discussing these complex subjects with them in a fun, accessible way.

She is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University SCS, where she created and is teaching the “AI for Leaders” course.

Zorina has been writing since she was 10 years old, and she published her first poem in a national magazine at the age of 16, in her native country, Romania. Since moving to the United States two decades ago, Zorina has been writing novels and poetry, and opened a publishing house for other European authors.

Helen J. Batchelder, Up on End & Spinning

In Helen J. Batchelder’s novel Up on End & Spinning, Sarah Hartford, the last known living person in her matrilineal line, lives in a blue-collar town with her son, Ben, ten, and is second in command at a five-star restaurant, Slivers.

Sarah has steered clear of her familys excessive and thankless social conscience, thank God. It made her grandmother mean, made her mother famous, and caused her sister’s disappearance. She’s sure of it. And after thirteen years, her sister is still missing.

Helen J. Batchelder was born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised just down the street in the little town of Harvard. She raised her own son in Harvard, and spoiled numerous cats and dogs. She studied history, anthropology, poetry, and voice, not necessarily in that order, and today performs jazz and classical music to select audiences.

Formerly managing and contributing editor of The Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine, Helen has written extensively for the alternative medicine industry. She has served her local school as writing coach, teacher, aide, and tutor. She is an historian at Fruitlands Museum, lecturing on topics spanning from 19th century American Art, to the Russo-Japanese War, to Rachel Carson. Both there and through her newest project, It’s Better Outside LLC, she is happy to bring anyone out to the wonderful, natural world.

Her joys include writing poetry, playing piano, running, nature, and animals.


David W. Burns, Heart of Stone

In David W. Burns’ urban fantasy novel, Heart of Stone, Kyra Anastas is a young and bitter gorgon, eking out a living in Chicago as a killer for hire. With snakes for hair and a gaze that can turn men to stone, Kyra is an outcast even among her fellow Mythic, and feels trapped by her nature to act like a monster. When she swears to protect 14-year-old Stephanie, Kyra finds herself on the run from both the law and mythological assassins who seek to destroy the girl. With nightmares like a manticore stalking them during a Bulls game, a basilisk turning dinner at a five-star restaurant into a death trap, and even a Siren popping out of her damn bathtub, Kyra finds no place is now safe. 

David W. Burns began writing fiction when he was six years old, penning the tragic exploits of The Foolish Frog complete with pictures to amuse his mother. Since then, he has written several fantasy short stories, including one that won the 14th Annual Writers Digest Popular Fiction Awards grand prize, as well as a six-book series about humanity’s last refuge against an apocalyptic vampire plague. By day (and some evenings) a trial attorney, David has spent years honing his story-telling skills before juries, learning through trial (and error) what themes and ideas people connect with. He lives in Southern New Jersey with his kind and very patient wife and three children and would likely enjoy many fascinating hobbies if he had any free time for them.

Katie Mongelli, Finding His Way

In Katie Mongellis’s novel, Finding His Way, Zachary Hartmann is facing felony charges from his latest deal. Zach knows heading back home to the sleepy town of Pine Lake is his only option to avoid the media scrutiny and harassment from angry victims.

Zach has no plans to fall in love, but when he meets Missy Wagner, he feels a spark that he can’t ignore. And Missy seems to feel the same, but she doesn’t have room for another project in her life. She is already trying to balance saving the family inn from ruin while juggling being a single mom to Emma and caregiver to her aging grandma.

Will the magic of Pine Lake open hearts to new possibilities and fresh starts?

Over fifteen years ago, on a fall foliage trip, Katie Mongelli noticed a cozy cottage perched up on the hillside overlooking a lake and pictured a woman curled up on a blanket staring out over the lake crying. She imagined the pain and loss this woman was feeling and how the magic of the lake could heal her pain and help her find love and happiness again. Katie eventually transformed that daydream into her first book of the Lakeside Hideaway series, A New Beginning.

Katie has been a practicing CPA for over twenty years and runs her own CPA firm where she finds joy in supporting her clients with their accounting and tax needs, but her childhood dream of being an author never faded.

Heidi Fraser Hageman, Living the Dream, Fast Asleep

Heidi Fraser Hageman’s novel, Fast Asleep, Living the Dream, paints a gritty portrait of what one young woman faces as she loses her innocence and still manages to find her way into [dys]functional adulthood. Lila, born in 1983 on the cusp of a generational transition, has the cynicism of Gen X’er and the Millenialsdeep longing to serve humanity and the planet. At 17, her so-called boyfriend steals her virginity while she slips in and out of unconsciousness. This tragedy sends her down a path of trouble. Her soul recovery comes through relinquishing the American Dream and the strong influence of what others think, and following her own inner wisdom.

Heidi Fraser Hageman was born and raised in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After experiencing a soul loss as a teen, she followed the path of self-destruction almost to the bitter end. A failed attempt to take her own life gave rise to a moment of utter surrender. Her life was clearly not in her own hands, so now her purpose became to know the Driver and how can she cooperate. Today Heidi is a university teacher and writing center director moonlighting as a novelist. She is captivated by the power of storytelling and sees it as a vehicle for teaching. She resides with her loving husband, their oneyearold puppy, and her Mom. Lucy Lou, the English Lab, is queen of the house, and she keeps Heidi and her husband going on all sorts of adventures in the White Mountains and coastal New England.