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Hannah Jackson

Pitchapalooza Champ

Hannah Jackson, an instructional designer in the University of Dayton’s Center for Online Learning and mother of a 1-year-old daughter, is the winner of Pitchapalooza sponsored by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, aka “The Book Doctors,” said her one-minute pitch for a novel about “the battle between book writers and book burners, spies and swindlers” was so strong that its description “could be slapped right on the back of a book.”

Jackson, 25, was the last writer called up on the virtual stage at the 90-minute free event, described as “American Idol for books only kinder and gentler,” which attracted more than 200 registrants from across the country, Canada and England. As the competition’s winner, Jackson will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher.

“It’s very unusual that the last person wins, and you had top-drawer competition,” praised Eckstut, who loved “the story, the writer’s voice and the presentation.”

Jackson, who holds two bachelor degrees from Northern Arizona University in elementary education and modern languages with a concentration in Francophone studies, carves out time daily to write.

“Winning Pitchapalooza was my moment of realization that others would be interested in reading something I have dreamed up, planned out and spent hours working on late at night,” she said. “Because I work full time and am a mom, writing time is my late night ‘hobby.’ I write 600 words every night, no matter what.

“To win Pitchapalooza,” she said, “was certainly validating and the confidence boost I needed to actually call myself a writer.”

Here’s her winning pitch:

In Takoma Falls, someone is always listening. The Listeners are an underground group of self-proclaimed historians who use wiring and pipes to pick up sound waves in the neighborhood — arguments, whispers, music. They transcribe it all into neat manuscripts stored in their network of tunnels. Their goal is simple: maintain an unbiased history of humankind as a remedy to the malicious book burnings that have wiped out written histories of cultural minorities for centuries.

When seventeen-year-old Aida Lemham and her twin brothers discover an entrance to a Listener ward in the wall of their dining room, they quickly realize their family has deep ties to the organization and must confront the true reason for their father’s death.

Aida yearns for justice for her father; only taking down his murderer would put her in the firing range of a Listener’s adversary group called the United Front for Personal Privacy. For Aida, vengeance means launching herself into a battle between book writers and book burners, spies and swindlers and a moral quagmire thick enough to stop her dead in her tracks.

Pitchapalooza, available for viewing here, was the first of a series of special virtual events leading up to the April 4-6, 2024, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Registration is currently open for an Oct. 21 half-day humor-writing workshop featuring keynoter Marta Kauffman, the Emmy Award-winning creator of Friends. “Erma’s Got Talent: The Stand-Up Auditions,” is tentatively slated for February.

The popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is the only workshop in the country devoted to both humor and human interest writing. The program will be announced later this month, with registration opening on Nov. 15 with a one-day-only early bird fee of $499.

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