Pitch Week


Pitch Week: Our Juried Competition for Authors of Promise.

Apply to Compete for the Gold Winner package: 

Traditional Book Publishing Deal and National Book-Launch PR Campaign!

2024 Pitch Weeks: Rolling Admissions

Call Athen Desautels, General Manager and Technical Administrator, today to claim your spot in the try-outs at (443) 963-6440.


Dear Aspiring Author,Steve- Headshot 2

Publishing any book takes both action and skill. But, how often does the “action” part
overwhelm you? Calling agents, sending query letters, contacting publishers, and learning the social media and marketing aspect of publishing: we make it easy and seamless when you try out for Pitch Week.


Win, lose or draw, the experience of collaboration will make you a better author and your book a better read. Our book coaches will guide you every step of the way. Yes, a book coach!  Exactly what you need to solve the confusing maze of the publishing world.

All finalists emerge with stronger manuscripts, compelling bios, snappy cover copy, better book-cover designs, strategies for marketing the book, and confidence to pitch before audiences.

By the time you’re done, you’ll have the credibility and presence you have hoped for vying for the dominant position, and strategizing on a first name basis with a literary agent, traditional publisher and national publicist.

Pitch Week is a national contest (USA, Canada and beyond)  for talented but yet to be fully recognized authors. While you can be a published author, at the point of your submission, your own book sales to date have not exceeded 5,000 hard covers sold per book. However we encourage authors who have published short stories or the like in magazines whatever the circulation or have been in a support role as one of several writers  in anthologies or the like whatever the sales level…  in this case… you must assure  us that you were not the main draw.

It’s time to take action and throw your hat in the ring. Join the When Words Count Trials at When Words Count Retreat.

Call Athen Desautels, General Manager and Technical Director, today to claim your spot in the try-outs at (443) 963-6440.

Don’t Take My Word For It…Please Listen to What the Winners Have to Say.

Vivian R. Probst, Winner – Pitch Week I

Vivian R Probst- Pitch Week 1- cropVivian’s first published novel, Death by Roses, began after her older sister died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2008. She worked through her grief for five years as she wrote her novel.  She then submitted her manuscript to WWCR’s icon Pitch Week Competition and won!. Her hilarious novel, Death by Roses is now available in fine bookstores everywhere and at online retailers.

“During feedback, it wasn’t always easy to hear where the issues were in my story but it was important for me to hear.  At times, it felt like I was sort of swimming towards a shore and they were right there with me so I didn’t drown in the process.  If you’re serious and you really want to be nurtured and challenged to really complete your work and get into the marketplace, there is no better place that I can think of to accomplish this other than When Words Count Retreat.”

Meet our other Pitch Week I author finalists here.


Marie White Small, Winner – Pitch Week II 

Marie White Small- Crop

Light and air, the roar of the river, kids chasing paper airplanes on city blocks, and crows watching from the treetops — these are the backdrops of Marie White Small’s lyrical novel, Stony Kill.

“Many talented writers are never seen or heard…Pitch Week is a rare opportunity to solve both problems.”

Meet our other Pitch Week II author finalists here.



Lisa Smith, Winner – Pitch Week III

Lisa Smith- Pitch Week II- cropLisa Smith’s memoir, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, is a darkly comic and wrenchingly honest look at high-functioning addiction in the world of corporate law.

As a successful New York City lawyer, I had the means and the skills to hide my cocaine and alcohol addiction from close friends, family and co-workers.  One morning, something snapped – and I decided to stage my own intervention,” Smith explained.  “In telling my story, my hope is to inspire others like me, and to give them the courage to get help.” 

“It is so difficult for any new writer to get the attention of a literary agent, let alone a publisher. To have access to an A-team of publisher, literary agent and publicist, all working on my behalf, is extraordinary. And the support I have received from When Words Count Retreat has been tremendous. They gave me great feedback and encouragement throughout the process, and they are truly invested in helping to develop and promote undiscovered writers.”

Meet our other Pitch Week III finalists here.


Gary Vikan, Winner – Pitch Week IV

Gary Vikan Picture- Sq CropAuthor of Stolen and Sacred – The true-life adventures of museum director Gary Vikan as he deals with looted antiquities, crooked dealers, deluded collectors, and murky financial transactions are chronicled in an adventurous and insider’s look at a rarified world.

“Well that was really amazing. Thank you. I am very fond of the publishing team, and eager. There is magic in that green granite of Vermont where When Words Count makes it happen.”

Read more about Gary’s win in The Baltimore Sun.

Meet our other Pitch Week IV finalists here.


Charita Cole Brown, Winner – Pitch Week V

Charita Headshot- 10.27.15Author Brown takes us on her personal journey through her harrowing memoir, Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life. Charita Cole Brown was not expected to finish college, marry, and have children or a career. Yet Ms. Brown defied all the predictions. Walk these miles with this fiercely determined woman.

“Pitch Week V was an extremely harmonious group of contenders. We encouraged each other to present our ‘ A’ games. I personally benefited from the WWC expert coaching and editing services. I embraced the theater actor’s commitment to leave it all on the stage. And in a tight race won by two points.”

Meet our other Pitch Week V finalists here.


Camille Robinson, Winner – Pitch Week VI

Camille Robinson Photo- cropCamille Robinson takes our hearts on a soul-stirring journey through the trials and tribulations of a Louisiana mixed-race slave owner who falls for a free woman in his employ in her African American Historical Romance novel Unloved. 

“My experience was one that words cannot describe. I learned to hone my craft at WWC, while building dynamic relationships with talented authors. The journey was worth its weight in gold. The feedback and exposure to the judges were priceless. I’m more than grateful for having the opportunity to participate in such a life-altering competition.”

Meet our other Pitch Week VI finalists here.


Sally Newhart, Winner – Pitch Week VII

Sally Newhart photo- cropMule Tales from the French Quarter presents a concise history of the mule in the city of New Orleans, throughout the state of Louisiana and the United States.  It is interspersed with stories told to Sally by the carriage drivers of New Orleans who spend their days, and nights, driving locals and tourists to the Cemeteries, the Garden District and around the French Quarter. It is an adult, sometimes inebriated, version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

“There were six talented writers in Pitch Week VII. Each of us had professional help over a period of months to edit, perfect an elevator pitch, design a cover, write cover copy, put together a marketing plan and develop a basic book presentation. I was fortunate enough to win the publishing deal, but we all were in a position to self-publish at the conclusion of the competition. Each of us left the process at the When Words Count Retreat with five new friends and a home in Vermont where we plan to return forever. I know I will.”

Meet our other Pitch Week VII finalists here.


James Hornor, Winner – Pitch Week VIII

In its exploration of American male stereotypes and in its suggestion of vulnerability as a key to masculine authenticity, James’s Victoria Falls dares to embrace those humane qualities of love, kindness, and creativity that have of late been extolled as the provenance of soul-searching women but have been largely ignored in American fiction about men.

“When Words Count Retreat is a place where the dreams of aspiring authors come true.  It is a place of expectation and encouragement, a place where writers hone their skill while working in a writing community, a place where the beauty of the natural surroundings inspires personal excellence.

I began with just an idea, but through successive visits to WWCR and the mentoring and coaching of resident experts, that idea became a novel, and that novel became the nexus for my personal transformation and new hope for the future.

All of us who participated in Pitch Week VIII are grateful for the friends we made and the life lessons that we shared together.”

Meet our other Pitch Week VIII finalists here.


Sarah Ward, Winner – Pitch Week IX

Sarah Ward’s inspiration for her current novel Aesop Lake was a local news story about a young man who was bullied for being gay. When her youngest child came out at the age of fourteen and faced issues of gay rights and bullying in rural Vermont, Sarah knew that she had to tell this story. Sarah is also the author of the self-published novel, Stone Sisters. In 2007, she won the New England Anthology of Poetry’s Editor’s Choice Award for her poem “Warmer Waters.”

“Pitch Week is a unique opportunity to develop yourself as an author and an entrepreneur. Learning the craft of pitching, how to become the brand and to market one’s art is truly valuable in an industry that can seem overwhelming to new authors. 

The coaching aspect of this competition makes all the difference. To be able to meet with the judges prior to the pitch week and learn from their feedback, with the support of two writing coaches makes this opportunity incomparable. I feel confident that my co-competitors will find great success in the publishing world and hope that we will remain friends for many years to come.

I am grateful for the opportunity that Pitch Week IX provided to bring Aesop Lake to life on the page.”

Meet our other Pitch Week IX finalists here.


Jen Epstein, Winner – Pitch Week X

Jen Epstein’s Don’t Get Too Excited: It’s Just About A Pair of Shoes and Other Laments From My Life is a collection of personal essays, harrowing and hilarious, in the David Sedaris vein about Jen’s struggles with OCD. The project came to fruition through her participation in a writers group founded by a coworker and close friend in the fall of 2012.  Through this writers group, Jen found a community of like-minded people and a strong support network that gave her the stamina and vision to keep writing.

Not unlike her experience in this writers group, When Words Count also introduced her to a wonderful, fun-loving, and nurturing group of writers, many of whom she expects will remain close friends for the rest of her life.

She is grateful for the opportunity to have heard their voices and be able to share her own with them.

Jen, while not excited, is greatly looking forward to the next steps in her journey towards publication and bringing her passion project to reality.

Meet our other Pitch Week X finalists here.


Linda Balliro, Winner – Pitch Week XI

Vocal instructor and coach and author of The Art and Craft of Being a Singer, Linda Balliro is an Associate Professor of Voice at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She has been training singers across the globe for over 15 years. Her students regularly appear in opera, musical theater, rock, pop, R&B, and jazz in the US, Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia.

After graduating with a degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory in Boston, Ms. Balliro moved to Europe to study at the Kodaly Institute of Music in Kecskemet, Hungary. Later, she moved to Vienna, Austria, performing in concert, church, and opera, including touring with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra. She taught at the Vienna Conservatory in the musical theater department from 2003 to 2006. Upon returning to the US in 2007, Ms. Balliro began teaching privately in Boston, MA and has maintained an active private studio alongside her teaching at Berklee College of Music. Her private clients include nationally touring artists, local performers in rock and musical theater, teens, and young opera singers.

“What an honor to share this space with other talented and creative writers-artists!  Beautifully nestled in the hollows of Vermont’s Green Mountains, the views, the sky, the hills, and the neighborhood farm animals nurtured my writing spirit, while the feedback, discussions, and group support allowed me to hone my craft so I could compete at my best. Many thanks to the staff, hosts, judges, and writers who supported me and traveled alongside me on this journey.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XI finalists here.


Judith Krummeck, Winner – Pitch Week XII

As the Napoleonic Wars are coming to an end, Sarah Barker sails from Portsmouth, England with her new husband on a voyage that brings violent storms and an attack by an American privateer. They are bound for South Africa, where they will serve as missionaries to the indigenous Khoi.

Two centuries later, Judith Krummeck, Sarah’s great-great-granddaughter and a new immigrant to America, sets out to search for Sarah. Through diaries, letters, archives, and visits to the mission stations in South Africa, Sarah’s story takes shape, and issues like colonialism, evangelism, and apartheid come into focus through the lens of hindsight. What unfolds in Old New Worlds is a love story of sorts, as Judith is drawn to her protagonist by a deepening emotional bond.

Judith is a writer and broadcaster living in Baltimore. She programs and hosts a live, five-hour air shift weekdays for Maryland’s classical music station, WBJC 91.5 FM. She also produces a monthly segment called Booknotes, and she conducts interviews with artists who have ranged from Placido Domingo to Joshua Bell. Judith’s work has been published by Baltimore Style; literary journals such as Welter and Passager; and online publications including Atticus Review and Baltimore Fishbowl.

Meet our other Pitch Week XII finalists here.


Sarina Prabasi, Winner – Pitch Week XIII

You might call The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times an immigrant story, a coffee shop story, a mother’s story, or a political story.  This is Sarina’s story, and she wears each identity with fierce pride.  Following in the tradition of coffee houses throughout history, our coffee shops have become a hub for local organizing. Join Sarina as she moves from despair to action-fueled hope in a story that is ultimately about nurturing community, claiming one’s home, and fighting for our dreams.

Sarina has lived the life of a global nomad. She was born in the Netherlands, raised in India, China, and Nepal, and spent formative years in the United States and in Ethiopia. Sarina is a seasoned leader in international development — working on global health, education, water, and sanitation for over 25 years. In 2011, she moved with her husband, Elias, from Addis Ababa to New York City, where they started Buunni Coffee together. Today, Buunni is a thriving business and a hub for community conversations and organizing. Sarina is the proud mama of two daughters, who keep her learning and laughing every day.

What a joy it has been to spend this time in the Green Mountains of Vermont, at the When Words Count Retreat. I wrote the first pages of my book here and found it a perfect setting to be both creative and productive. The walks, the gorgeous views in any season, the company of other talented writers, readings and feedback, attentive coaches, Steve and Charita, and the delicious meals prepared by the incomparable Chef Amber, all helped me in making my book come to life.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XIII finalists here.


Beth Russell, Winner – Pitch Week XIV

Nine years ago, seven-year-old Lilah’s parents and twin brother died in a car crash. Now, in young adult novel Kindreds, following the death of her last living relative, Grandma Pea, 16-year-old Lilah must live in foster care where she is reunited with her deceased twin-brother’s friend, Joey. The problem is, Joey harbors a secret. He keeps going each night into Nolianna, a mysterious, disappearing carnival, with Sebastian, a boy who Lilah does not trust. Nolianna is looking for ten new members to go with it on Halloween night. Lilah must decide if she will follow Joey and her heart into Nolianna, or the clues that Nolianna may not be quite what it seems.

Beth Russell is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the College at Brockport and has worked in academia for the past 14 years. A licensed clinical social worker in New York State, she works 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. 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. Kindreds is her first young adult novel.

 “Coming to When Words Count Retreat and being in this contest has changed my life. The comradery and feedback amongst the authors, coaches, and judges is one for which I am deeply appreciative. I look forward to reading the many books that are published as a result of these contests, as well as maintaining the wonderful friendships formed during my time in Rochester, Vermont.”

 Meet our other Pitch Week XIV finalists here.


Elizabeth B. Splaine, Winner – Pitch Week XV

Devil’s Grace is the fictional story of one woman’s path from devastation to redemption as she struggles to understand how profit could be placed above humanity. Angela’s choices of hope over despair and kindness over cruelty tell a timeless, yet timely tale that examines the role of women and the freedom that accompanies true forgiveness.

Elizabeth B. Splaine has written the Dr. Julian Stryker series of “Blind” thrillers, as well as two children’s books. When not writing, Elizabeth teaches classical voice in Rhode Island where she lives with her husband, sons, and two large dogs.

“When Words Count is my fairy godmother.

I was Cinderella, slaving away at my computer, just another writer who was searching for wider recognition and acceptance in the traditional publishing world. And then When Words Count waved a magic wand.

My journey started with an initial conversation with Steve Eisner, WWC’s CEO, in November 2018. After two separate one-hour conversations, and a review of the first ten pages of my book, Devil’s Grace, Steve asked me to enter the competition. I was elated.

Over the ensuing months I visited WWC in breathtaking Rochester, Vermont three times. The first to understand what the competition was about, the second to meet the judges and lay the groundwork for the five competition categories, and the final time for Pitch Week, the actual contest.

Throughout the process, my two coaches, Steve and a fantastic writer named Sally Newhart, as well as my wonderful editor Peg Moran, gave constructive feedback in an effort to enhance and strengthen my writing and marketing, and amazing Asha Hossain designed the book cover.

My competitors were great writers who constantly urged me to reach higher, because as much I liked them, they wanted to win as much as I did.

I am humbled and so very grateful that When Words Count entered my life. If it hadn’t, Cinderella would be sitting at this same computer, but the future might not look as bright.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XV finalists here.


Barbara Newman, Winner – Pitch Week XVI



The Dreamcatcher Codes is a young adult fantasy about love, believing in the heart print of trees and rock, rivers and wind, sun, stars and sky; and how the archetype of the cowgirl inspires girls to live more courageously in the world.

Powered by cowgirl courage, the elements earth, air, fire, and water, and secret messages from their magical dreamcatchers, four girls from diverse cultures join forces on a quest to recover the missing piece of the coveted Crystal Horseshoe. Stolen by a giant raven during a raging storm, this ancient artifact holds the sacred Codes of Nature and the very key to its survival.

Sophia Rose herself, protector of Mother Earth, has called on Maia, from the North, to lead these cowgirl warriors on this daring adventure into the unknown.

But time is running out. The bees are dying, the oceans are filled with plastic, humanity has lost its way.

Will this fierce sisterhood be able to overcome the destructive forces and heal Mother Earth?

Braided in unbreakable friendship, each becomes her own force of nature, relying on cowgirl spirit to protect the planet they all love.

Barbara Newman always wanted to be a cowgirl. She grew up in New York, but not having roots on a ranch didn’t stop her. She took that “can-do” spirit and became an award-winning Creative Director in the New York advertising world, where she built iconic global brands. Her life changed after listening to a story on NPR about the American cowgirl. Shortly after, she found herself in Montana, filming a documentary about their lives, which led her to this book.

Passionate about the natural world and a fierce advocate for empowering girls, Barbara has led leadership workshops around the principles of cowgirl spirit. She is proud of being part of the think tank that inspired The Fred Rogers Institute for Children’s Media and Education. As much she loves Mr. Rogers, she’s not a fan of cardigan sweaters.

“I have enormous gratitude for When Words Count Retreatand am thrilled to be collaborating with Dede Cummings and Green Writers Press. Steve Eisner has created a brilliant one-of-a-kind program that brings out the best in writers. He has magically amassed a stellar team of judges and coaches, each with formidable reputations in their respective specialties. They are tough nurturing, and spot on. You will learn that writing a book and being able to sell it go hand in hand. This is the very DNA of When Words Count.”

 Meet our other Pitch Week XVI finalists here.


Amanda Headlee, Winner – Pitch Week XVII

Till We Become Monsters is a story about consequences for those who believe the lies that they tell themselves, resulting in their humanity becoming their greatest burden to bear. The book follows the Perrin brothers, their father, and two friends as they become victims of a freak accident while traveling to a cabin deep in the forests of Minnesota. With the threat of a blizzard hanging in the air, the group must endure the elements and survive a sinister force that hunts them after the true face of one brother is revealed.

Born with a love of scary stories and folklore, Amanda Headlee has spent her entire life crafting works of dark fiction. She has a fascination with the emotion of fear and believes it is the first emotion humans feel at the moment they are born. Most of her work focuses on horror associated with folklore as well as writing that would fall into the category of “cosmic horror” — the fear of humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe.

By day Amanda is an Information Services Program Manager; by night she is a wandering wonderer. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found logging insane miles on her bike or running the backcountry of Pennsylvania. She’s one of those crazy people who competes in long-distance endurance races. She is inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Atwood, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joyce Carol Oates — all who write terrifying tales of their own.

“When Words Count Pitch Week is not just a contest, but also an opportunity to grow as an author. Pitch Week’s focus is not only on the manuscript, but looks at who you are as the author of the book and how you are going to market your brand. These are aspects that I have thought about for my writing career, but the preparation for Pitch Week helped me hone in on a better direction for work. Over the two-month course of the contest, we contestants received guidance from well-established industry professionals, which helped us to better craft the pitch for our brand. The feedback is truly invaluable.

This experience toward publication isn’t traditional, but I found that for myself, taking this route taught me a lot about who I am as an author. I’ve grown from this event. I am grateful for all the support that I’ve received on the journey to get this book published. To the Pitch Week judges and staff, thank you for your feedback, advice, and this opportunity.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XVII finalists here.


Maria Price, Winner – Pitch Week XVIII
Dedicated to Julia Rachel Price. October 11, 2016, 7lbs, 15 oz, 20 inches

How does a mother say goodbye to her baby before she can even say a proper hello?

In the memoir Love You Still, after years of infertility, when Maria Price learned she was carrying her second child, Julia, a healthy baby girl, she felt like she was living a dream life . . . until one day, without warning, at the end of a textbook pregnancy, Maria and her husband, Joe, sat staring at an ultrasound screen that was now, heartbreakingly, still.

After birthing and then burying their daughter, Maria and Joe needed to navigate their separate grief journeys without losing each other. Despite Joe’s seemingly unconditional love and endless patience, Maria still had to find a way to live in a world without her daughter through the depression, crisis of faith, and unplanned pregnancy that followed Julia’s death.

Had God failed Maria? Had she failed Him? Had she failed as a mother? Could she still parent her son, while grieving her daughter? Was there enough room in her heart for another baby? Could she survive another loss? Could she learn to live with the constant pain of Julia’s absence? Was she willing to try?

This is a path of inexplicable heartbreak, unexpected healing, and, through it all, unfailing love.

2.6 million babies are born still around the world each year, making stillbirth the 5th leading cause of death worldwide. It is too painful, too unspeakable a tragedy to mention, creating lack of awareness and medical research, and leaving bereaved families to suffer alone in silence and stigmatization. Love You Still is an effort to tell our story and to offer solidarity and hope to grieving families that they are not alone, it is not their fault, and that love can, and does, exist still.

Maria Price makes her home in Iowa, right on the Mighty Mississippi, where the river runs east to west.  While she makes a living as a teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing, Maria makes a life as a wife, and a mom to three beautiful children: Joey and Benjamin on Earth, and Julia in Heaven.  Maria is passionately involved in supporting bereaved parents on social media, in support groups, and in quiet local coffee shops.

“When I made the trip to Vermont, I had no intention of writing a book. I planned to hide away in the breathtaking mountains and historical WWC Retreat to write for my own healing after the loss of my daughter. CEO Steve Eisner patiently listened to my story and encouraged me to write, so that our story might also help inspire healing for others. I knew nothing of writing books or publishing, but the WWC team was phenomenal! I expected their professionalism, but was impressed by their remarkable talent, and overwhelmed by their compassion and patience with this novice writer! From editing to cover art to marketing to reminders to breathe, I could not be more grateful for the WWC team—Peg, Asha, Amber, Sally, Athen, and Steve will forever be a part of our story! Without WWC, I never would have imagined having the incredible honor to collaborate with the amazing panel of A-list judges: Woodhall Press publishers David LeGere and Colin Hosten, literary manager Marilyn Atlas, and publicist Steve Rohr on this project and to compete with an incredibly talented cohort of fellow authors. I thank God for leading me to Steve and a team who is passionate about telling people’s stories. Thank you for helping me to tell my story—it must be told.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XVIII finalists here.


Gregory L. Norris, Winner – Pitch Week XIX
Dedicated to Gregory Norris’s beloved Spouse: Bruce S. Atkinson 5/26/58 – 1/14/20

Norris’s M/M Dark Paranormal Romance, Ex Marks the Spot, is about time travel and the chance to reunite with lost love—something he understands well following the death of his husband, Bruce, in early 2020.

“Writing the novel was an opportunity for a kind of reunion. Having it recognized throughout the course of Pitch Week XIX at every turn by judges, mentors, and my ridiculously talented fellow authors became something of a tribute to Bruce. As emotional and difficult as it was to revisit my loss, the novel’s win and publication further attest to the enduring power of love and love stories. The Pitch Week experience was also great fun from start to conclusion and a reminder for writers, new or seasoned, to believe in their dreams and trust in the power of their words.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XIX finalists here.


Robert Tomaino, Winner – Pitch Week XX

The novel New Madrid takes place in the early 1800s, in a United States where the Salem witch trials did not end. Jack Ellard is the de facto, reluctant Marshal for the small town of New Madrid (in present-day Missouri). After his expulsion from the army for his role in a brutal Native American massacre, Jack has carved out a solitary life. When young Abigail Duncan goes missing, Jack is forced into the town’s life and to confront his feelings for the girl’s mother, Sarah.

A mysterious preacher, named Elijah Prescott, and a city-raised Native American, named Chata, arrive to help find the girl. Jack realizes neither Prescott nor Chata is what they claim to be, and even Sarah is keeping secrets. Jack is forced to come to terms with his past in order to find Abbie and challenge Prescott’s beliefs that men cannot be trusted to make their own decisions and that women must take a secondary role in life.

Robert Tomaino is a writer, editor, and consultant. For over 20 years, he has provided editorial support, guidance, and strategic consultation to medical nonprofits and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Robert has extensive experience writing about rare disorders for both patients and physicians. His fiction writing covers a much broader range, from the fantastical to the urbane. He is a member of the Fairfield Scribes writing group in Connecticut.

“What makes this contest stand out was the support from the judges, other contestants, and staff of When Words Count Retreat. My goal was to finish a novel, and I never expected to win, especially considering how tremendous all of the writers were. It is an honor and I am greatly appreciative of the time and effort of many different people to support all of the writers throughout the entire process.” 

Meet our other Pitch Week XX finalists here.


Eileen Joyce Donovan, Winner – Pitch Week XXI

In the historical novel, A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma, Alex Lawson, visiting Sunset Valley, recalls her arrival there twenty-nine years earlier. Now a world-renowned journalist, her first reporting days were full of self-doubt. When Adam, a young rancher, offers help, she finds him both attractive and infuriating. But after a day at his ranch, the attraction grows.

Sometime later, she breaks a main story that gets national coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle offers her a job. Now she must decide whether Adam, and marriage, or her career is more important.

Although born in New York City, where she has spent most of her life, Eileen Joyce Donovan has lived in six states and visited most of the others. In one way or another, she’s been writing her entire life, whether it was imaginative stories for friends, or advertising copy for industrial clients.

Eileen’s award-winning debut historical novel, Promises, was released in 2019 from Waldorf Publishing. She is also a contributing essayist to various themed anthologies.

She lives in Manhattan, New York and is a member of the Authors Guild, the Women’s National Book Association, and the Historical Novel Society.

“It was great meeting and bonding with the other four women who were finalists in the When Words Count writing competition. We’ve become close friends and are actively supporting each other on our various roads to publication. Our first step is producing a podcast that will not only talk about our journeys, but all the successes and slips we make along the way. Hopefully, we’ll be interviewing other writers about their books as well. And, of course, there will be lots of laughs and fun sprinkled in everywhere. Maybe even a deluge of laughs.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXI finalists here.

Kimberly Sayers Bartosch, Winner – Pitch Week XXII

Ask the Girl is a young adult paranormal mystery set in the small town of Parkville, Missouri. The ghost of Kate Watkins possesses Rose, the sister of sixteen-year-old Lila Sadler. Nobody believes Lila. That’s what happens when you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Or is it because of the lying? Rose’s health worsens each day. The only way to save Rose is to uncover the awful truth of Kate’s death so many years ago. Time is limited and Lila must confront her own demons and betrayals. But it’s hard, almost impossible. Will Lila be able to forgive the unforgivable?

Kim Bartosch is a novice ghost hunter. Kim and her youngest sister have visited more than a hundred haunted hotels, homes, towns, and cemeteries. Their most haunting experience was the ghost they saw at Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Crescent Hotel was a cancer hospital in the 1930s claiming the spring water would cure cancer. Kim and her sister saw a silhouette of a man in a hospital gown in the wing where they hid the dying cancer patients. They even have the picture to prove it!

As an advocate for Autism and Bipolar Disorder, Kim offers her support to many charities and programs, such as Joshua Center and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Kim feels there aren’t enough programs for mental disabilities. Her goal is to give as much help to set up these organizations for success so individuals, such as her autistic son and bipolar sister, will have the support they need.

Kim is also the mother of two boys and is happily married to her loving husband, Jason. She enjoys spending time with her family on nature hikes and traveling. Kim teaches English as a second language online to children in China and Europe, which she claims is the best job she has ever had aside from writing! She is also an active member of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org) and WriteOnCon.

“I had a lovely experience with Pitch Week. It’s a Renaissance! Meeting, discussing, and perfecting our craft. I made great friends as well as met some unique and interesting people. Writing is a lonely craft, and the publishing world is so vast and cruel at times. It’s wonderful to have When Words Count and Pitch Week, which enable new authors to accomplish their goals making long-time dreams come true. Thank you!”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXII finalists here.


Nancy Ferraro, Winner – Pitch Week XXIII

Are there some things Mommy just can’t fix? When the Bough Breaks, a memoir, is a mother’s story of heartbreak, courage, and redemption.

When Nancy Ferraro adopted a little boy from Romania, she was full of dreams for the life she would give a disadvantaged child and how he would complete her little family. She thought she was giving her son a little brother.

George arrived in the suburbs of New Jersey a mentally handicapped, feral child; a wild animal in the body of a boy. The violence he rained down on his new family nearly destroyed the author and everything she believed motherhood was supposed to be.

The author does not claim to be an angel, a victim, or a hero … just a mom who, whether by happenstance or mistake, was plunged into a nightmare and lived to tell the tale. Nancy Ferraro tells her story with raw honesty, courage, and the light moments that make the horrific bearable. She sheds light into that dark place where there seems to be no end to our children’s troubles. When the Bough Breaks welcomes you to her journey.

Nancy Ferraro lives in Florida with her attack Chihuahua, where she runs her Estate Planning law practice. She is a member of the Authors Guild, and has been published in Charleston City Paper, Virginian Pilot, and others. She received her first rejection letter for her writing at the age of nine. Her next book, Lust in an Elevator, is a humorous geriatric love story.

“Spending a week in the company of talented wordsmiths, my colleagues and competitors, was a heady experience. We encouraged each other to put a fine point on our efforts, to focus our thinking, not on just the writing, but the entire world of authorship. We formed lifelong friendships. Combine that with the rare experience of being surrounded by rockstars of the publishing industry, who were there to teach, encourage and challenge us to be better authors. This intensive gave all of us the confidence to go forward and trust the gift of our storytelling natures, and to recognize the need to continue to tell stories.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXIII finalists here.


Alison McBain, Winner – Pitch Week XXIV

In The New Empire, set in an alternate history of 18th-century California, Jiangxi is the youngest son of the last Chinese Emperor. When his brother stages a bloody coup against the Dragon Throne, Jiangxi is sold into slavery across the China Seas. As he grows from boy to man, he clashes with a powerful confederacy of Native American tribes as he attempts to abolish the institution of slavery that holds thousands of men and women like him captive. This novel tells an epic story of love, loss, and identity that will resonate with readers in our global and conflicted times.

Alison McBain lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her three young daughters. Her debut novel The Rose Queen is an indie Young Adult book that’s a gender-flipped retelling of Beauty and the Beast. When not writing, she is associate editor for the literary magazine Scribes*MICRO*Fiction.

“Pitch Week has been an amazing experience. Not only have I met four other wonderfully talented writers who will be good friends for many years to come, but the level of feedback and workshopping involved in honing our manuscripts was exceptional. To have at our disposal top industry professionals who really guided and applauded our efforts was an experience like no other. On top of that, this isn’t a contest where the judges seated themselves on a pedestal and dispensed advice from afar. No, the judges and coaches made themselves readily available to chat, were generous in their feedback, encouraged our efforts, and freely answered all our questions about the publishing industry, resources for marketing, and how best to get our messages across to the reader. It was invaluable.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXIV finalists here.


David Burns, Winner – Pitch Week XXV

Can a monster choose to be good?

That’s the question facing Kyra Anastas, the reluctant heroine of the urban fantasy novel, Heart of Stone. And she is a monster: with snakes for hair and a gaze that turns the living to stone, Kyra is a modern-day Medusa hiding in the shadows of Chicago, making her living as a hitwoman for hire. Filled with self-loathing and feared even by other monsters, Kyra lives a lonely, bitter existence. So when a dying billionaire asks Kyra to protect her daughter from a supernatural threat until the girl’s fifteenth birthday, two midnights hence, Kyra jumps at the chance to be something more than just a dealer of death. Now Kyra finds herself on the run from both the police and mythological assassins whose powers far outstrip her own and who will stop at nothing to destroy the girl. With nightmares like a manticore stalking them during a basketball game, a basilisk turning dinner at a five-star restaurant into a death trap and even a Siren popping out of her damn bath tub, Kyra finds no place is now safe. Worse, as the peril mounts, Kyra realizes that the road to redemption will force her to face all her demons… not just the monsters chasing them across the Windy City, but also the horrors of her own evil past.

David Burns lives in southern New Jersey, which he generously describes as “that one-hour stretch of road you have to travel to get from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.” He has spent his whole life as a story teller, as both a writer and trial attorney, and most enjoys the time he gets to spend with his wonderful wife and three amazing children.

“I have to admit that I initially went into the whole Pitch Week experience somewhat skeptical about the process. But the support and feedback that I got – from the coaches, the judges, and my fellow writers – was really amazing. I learned a great deal about why it matters to think of yourself as not just a writer, but also an author and a brand, as you try to stand out in a bustling writing marketplace. The opportunity to meet with the judges before giving your final presentation, to hear their insights about what works and what doesn’t in the publishing world, and then to use that information to pitch your book to them, really upped my game immeasurably. To anyone weary of the endless queues at writers conferences where you get so little chance to really connect to an agent or editor, and may be making the same mistakes over and over without knowing it, the When Words Count retreat would be an invaluable learning experience.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXV finalists here.


Teresa Shafer, Winner – Pitch Week XXVI

As an Army sniper, Steven has seen his share of death. He chose to be a sniper because at least then, he knew that his target had done something worthy of his bullet. Still, he had to shut off some of his humanity to be that man, and that made being what others perceive as ‘normal’ difficult. It did not help that his conscience constantly nagged him. He stuck close to what he knew, that was the Army and his friends. That is its own kind of isolation, living in a microcosm community. But Steven has done 25-years and is now lining up his final shot before retiring himself and his beloved rifle. At home, in the states, he has the wife and children that he always wanted and who are waiting for him. But he wonders, if after all that he has done in this life that he has chosen, is he still the husband and father that they need or want. Can he be that man? There is a lot to consider, while he waits.

Teresa M. Shafer lives as far as one can get from Reno, Nevada and still be in the city limits. She has travelled much and lived in several states but has always come home to her home in the foothills of Peavine Mountain. She has always been creative, writing, drawing, painting or just creating something new out of something used. This quintessential cat lady loves to include her fuzzy children in all of her projects, but they are usually only interested in what’s for dinner.

“Being a child of Nevada, certain trains of thought will always influence my thinking. I saw the Pitch Week process as a gamble, an expensive one. The expense being mostly in what I wanted to wager of myself, the financial part is just a given in any gamble. But putting yourself into the pot, now that is a risky business. The risk was well worth it. I had won, even before I won. The insight, knowledge, friendships, and growth, that I personally experienced is priceless. Now, I just need to pay it forward.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXVI finalists here.


F. N. Knight, Winner – Pitch Week XXVII

Usually, a coming-of-age ceremony would entail feasts, music, and merriment, but in The First Cycle, a gripping science fiction epic, the journey from child to youth is paved with dread and shame, should Anibel Azure fail The Test. A heavy burden, and one the future Head of the Vaine Body must bear. Though Anibel is not the first, as old and new conflicts arise and ancient secrets bubble up, she may be the last. But she trades one test for another. In a time of warmongers subjugating and hurling humanity into the unknown, Anibel is the only one who can stop it.

F.N. Knight may live in Oakland, but her heart is in the deep south of San Antonio, Texas. A place she would describe as her chosen hometown and the root of her family’s beloved saying, “I’m trying to tell a story!” six little words that changed her life forever. The ones she’ll never live down. As the youngest of seven, learning and observing are crucial to survival. F.N is a self-described historian, artist, philosopher, and old soul, channeling visions from the distant past and ominous predictions of the future (peppered with aspirations), one word at a time.

“The When Words Count Pitch Week is more than a competition; it’s a trial by fire, but in the best way. Of course, there is a risk, but the best things often require ten percent of madness to balance the ninety percent of uncertainty and self-doubt we all experience. I learned that when I moved from Texas to the Bay and then again from my fellow authors, coaches, and judges. I had my doubts, but the excellent staff and continuous support from them throughout the process won me over. Trust is not easy for me, but being honest is, and I had to ask myself, ‘What’s the worse that could happen?’ You’ll never know if you never try.”

Meet our other Pitch Week XXVII finalists here.


Mary Keating, Winner – Pitch Week XXVIII

Mary Keating became a paraplegic at age 15 in a car accident. Fifty years later, she’s married to her soulmate, is an advanced scuba diver, a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a Yale Law School graduate, a disability advocate and the founder of her own law practice. Mary won Pitch Week XXVIII for Recalibrating Gravity, a memoir in verse that explores our messy, but precious and fragile, existence with humor and love. She is the first poet to win gold.

With a pocketbook full of poetry, Mary shaped her poems into her life’s story. With the help of When Words Count’s coaches, judges, editor and cover designer, Mary is now ready to bring her words of hope, faith and love to all of us to help us live our best lives no matter our circumstances.

Pitch Week pushes its contestants to excel while developing lifetime bonds and gaining access to a wealth of knowledge from people in the publishing arena. During the contest, not only did Mary get her manuscript ready for publication, she learned how to best package it with a striking cover and alluring cover copy. She developed a marketing plan, learned how to secure book blurbs, and how to present herself as an author.

“Pitch Week is an intensive seminar with the benefit of working with other fledgling authors, all collaborating to help each other secure a traditional publishing contract. The contest is a bit like  a marathon, but it is well worth the results.”

See our other Pitch Week XXVIII finalists here.


Debra K. Every, Winner – Pitch Week XXIX

From its first page, Deena Undone, a supernatural horror novel, pushes the reader into a world where a woman questions not only her senses but her sanity. Familial anger, forgiveness, guilt, and redemption open the door for a malevolent entity that leaves fear and terror in its wake.

Deena Bartlett is navigating the rocky shoals of caring for her eighty-year-old Aunt Agatha during the last days of her life. At one time her aunt was her mentor, but that relationship is long gone, leaving Deena to wonder why.

But Agatha is now dying and her relentless verbal lashings will soon end… until Deena’s five senses come under attack; a sound so piercing her nose bleeds; a smell so vile her breathing suffocates. After each assault, her aunt’s health improves. A connection seems absurd.

And then Deena learns that her aunt has made a monstrous bargain with the Sensu, a malevolent entity attracted to Agatha’s greed and anger. With the Sensu in control, Agatha’s long-held secrets twist her into a woman capable of killing her only niece.

Debra Every lives amongst the rolling hills and pastures of Upstate New York with her husband and quirky cattle dog, Bad Dog Bob. She is the author of many short stories and two novels. Before focusing her efforts on writing, Debra spent years as an opera singer with debuts at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and Carnegie Recital Hall. Upon retiring from the stage, she opened a café that received an international SOFI award, the Oscars of the Specialty Food Business.

“The When Words Count Book Deal Competition was an extraordinary opportunity. In it, I not only met a group of generous competitors, fine writers all, but was bolstered by a remarkable team of coaches who took us in hand, together and individually without favor. Layered onto this support system was the opportunity to meet and counsel with three judges before Pitch Week even began. I’ve never experienced this type of access in a competition. It sets WWC apart as a life-altering opportunity where the best interests of the contestants are front and center. Bravo to you all.”

See our other Pitch Week XXIX finalists here.


Julie Colacchio, Winner – Pitch Week XXX

In the young adult fantasy novel, The Poisoned Fruit, America Needs Magic.

Like all Mages, Topaz Tenkiller is imprisoned on a squalid croft. When she finally gets her work permit to escape, the Cold War is escalating, Prince is singing “When Doves Cry,” and addiction is destroying Topaz’s brother.

The gifted Mage works in a fake town erected to convince international inspectors that America treats her Mages humanely. Topaz finds a secret lab with mutilated Mage corpses and discovers that scientists are harvesting magic. Will Topaz stay silent and save her brother or expose America’s brutality to save her people?

This novel imagines Alina Starkov (from Shadow and Bone) dropped into a “Stranger Things” world. 

Julie Colacchio grew up in Roosevelt, Utah, a town located on the Ute Indian Reservation. She witnessed, and was angered by, injustice at a young age. All grown up, Colacchio has an MFA and has taught Creative Writing, English, and Public Speaking at the secondary and college level for over 20 years. She writes characters to teach her students that smart girls kick ass.

She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her three children and rescued dogs, cats, chickens, and one evil turtle. When not writing, reading, parenting, or teaching, she can be found drinking bitter coffee or bitter beer.

“Words come easily to me, but putting those words out there for others to read is difficult. The “When Words Count Competition” forced me to take risks. Presenting my work to the judges, all experts in their fields, was the hardest thing I have ever done. It turns out, the judges are human, and the most supportive people I have ever met. The competition is a masterclass in design, marketing, public speaking, and collaboration. Steve Eisner and everybody at WWC  pushed me out of my comfort zone and I am incredibly grateful.”

See our other Pitch Week XXX finalists here.


Here’s Exactly What You’ll Learn from Pitch Week!

  • How to write stronger manuscripts

  • The knowledge and skill to pitch your book to industry professionals

  • Better book-cover designs

  • How to structure compelling bios and cover copy

  • How to make your pitch using the right technology

  • Greater poise and self-confidence in pitching your work and leading public book readings

  • Broader and more effective strategies for marketing your book


Equally important, you’ll have the opportunity to build personal relationships with the judges and to network with them. In other words, everyone wins.  And the better each contestant performs, the greater the likelihood that he or she might walk away with an offer of their own.

We look forward to meeting you and reading your novel!

If you decide to step up and enter Pitch Week, we will hold your feet to the fire as you achieve the greatness you’ve always had inside you.


Steven C. Eisner, CEO


Call Athen today to claim your spot in the try-outs at (443) 963-6440.