Local News

Pitchapalooza nets author a valuable introduction

David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, the Book Doctors, explain the rules for Pitchapalooza Thursday at Ketchikan’s Main Street Gallery.

Danelle Landis was one of about 20 authors at the recent Ketchikan Pitchapalooza, and she hit the mark with her one-minute spiel. Her victory means Landis will have another chance to pitch her book, this time to an agent or publisher.

Landis wrote Saltbay, Alaska, a long time ago, but with no nibbles from the agents she sent it to, she put it away.

Nearly 10 years later, when Landis heard that the national Pitchapalooza was coming to Ketchikan, she dug out her mystery novel, blew off the dust and came up with a pitch she hoped would be compelling enough to catch the interest of the “Book Doctors,” Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who are on their first tour of Alaska.

“We come from Montclair NJ. You couldn’t be much further away and still be in America from where we were to here,” Sterry said at Thursday’s event. “But let me explain the rules first. One minute. You will be cut off mid-syllable. Many people ask us, ‘Why do I only get a minute?’ Well in this day and age, you had better be able to explain your idea in a minute.”

The Book Doctors probably know what they’re talking about. They’re both published authors, and co-wrote “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.” They host Pitchapalooza events all over the U.S. For their Alaska tour, they went first to Craig, and then came to Ketchikan. They also plan to visit Hollis, Juneau, Haines and the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

Danelle Landis, left, won Thursday’s Pitchapalooza competition and her prize is a chance to pitch her book to an agent or publisher.

At the events, authors each have a minute to pitch their book idea. The Book Doctors then offer positive feedback.

“Once you’re finished with your pitch, we will critique your pitch in a kind and gentle way,” Sterry said. “No one is going to ask you who dressed you this morning, or whether you got your hair cut in a Cuisinart.

About 20 authors pitched their book ideas at the Main Street Gallery. The first few pitches included a book about life in Metlakatla, a novel based on true events at the California-Mexico border, a dramatic book about a woman finding her way home, and a children’s picture book about a real Alaska cat.

Then it was Landis’s turn. Into her single minute, she managed to fit a rainy, remote Southeast setting, a murdered body and a main character who trains search dogs.

Landis is a reporter for the Ketchikan Daily News. However, like her main character, she used to work at a remote fishing resort. Landis also trains dogs for rescue work with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad.

“The protagonist is a search and rescue dog handler, and I’ve been a search and rescue dog handler for 16 years,” Landis said in a separate interview. “I thought that would be a way to have a main character who is quirky and fun, because there are not very many SAR dog handlers out there. It’s a way to get the character and the reader out into the wilderness of Southeast Alaska, which is kind of cool. And a SAR dog handler is likely to come upon bodies and odd people and distress, and get into the mystery part of it.”

The Book Doctors responded well to Landis’s idea. Both praised her pitch, and her choices for characters.

“To have your main character, I think you said a stay-at-home-mom refugee? That’s a great idea for a character, because there are so many women who are reading who, you know, want to have the fantasy of living through this. So I thought that was great,” Eckstut said.

Landis was “astounded” when she heard her name announced as the winner. She said she wasn’t even sure at first that she’d heard it right. Her prize is a valuable introduction to an agent or publisher.

Now Landis is prepping for the next phase of possibly getting her mystery off the closet shelf and onto bookstore shelves.

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