the essential guide tour Pitchapalooza #19: afternoon tea, a precious pair of sneakers and an Ethiopian history lesson

A family of four who traveled around the world together. A woman who overcame extreme pain by turning herself into an extreme athlete and did the Australian crawl from Alcatraz to San Francisco after learning to swim on the internet. A man with gray hair cascading down his back who dreamed up a young adult novel starring prairie dogs. What do these people have in common? They were among the 125 people who braved the Arctic cold snap, ice-slick roads, and chose to forego the most fascinating college football game this century to come to Tattered Cover in downtown Denver to pitch their books to us. And pitch they did. Wild West grief-triangle epics, elf-free fantasies, futuristic no-tech thrillers and high-tech romances. It was a very impressive collection of tales. And we were blessed with a great panelist, Tom Carney, who brought his decades of experience as a bookseller and publisher’s sales rep to bear on the proceedings. Tom told the crowd that as a rep, he would have to go into a bookstore and pitch 300 books in an hour. 300 books. 1 hour. You do the math.

It was a warm, generous crowd, happy to get shelter from the storm in the warm bosom of one of the great bookstores in America. When we remarked on how enthusiastic and friendly they were, someone shouted out, “It’s the thin air!” This to us exemplified the enthusiastic yet self-deprecating good humor found throughout Mile High City. Our winner spun a beautiful pitch that was equal parts Nancy Drew, The Help and A River Runs through It. Take a second and try to and imagine how all those things could possibly fit together. Not only did she do it, she did it with style, comedy, and presence so powerful she had us all wanting to run to the bookstore to buy her book.

Afterwards, we chatted and signed books. A man approached us carrying a pair of sneakers. The man explained that they were the shoes his son was wearing when he was killed at Columbine High School. A crushing, breathtaking sadness ran through us, heightened by the recent shooting in Tucson. This man is writing a book about how he helped change the gun laws in his state in the wake of his son’s death. An inspiring example of the incredible stories we hear at Pitchapaloozas, where Citizen Authors are trying to use books to help the world, and of the power of the word to heal.
Surprising side note: There is a large Ethiopian community in Denver. We had two lovely cab drivers from this now-prospering African country (we got a history lesson in the taxi and this is what we learned) who also told us about all the amazing Ethiopian restaurants there. It just so happens that Olive’s favorite food is “E-thee-o-pinin”, as she calls it. She explained why she loved it so much: because the bread has no crust. Olive is 3. So we are very much looking to returning with her and feasting on some of this delectable cuisine.
We did have a fantastic meal at Rioja, a restaurant close to the Tattered Cover.

Despite some sub-par front-of-house service, we ate some explosively flavorful food. David had a crazy tasty crab and celery root salad and a super succulent duck risotto. Arielle dined on a juicy beet and raspberry salad and seared tuna with smoked mushrooms in a red curry. We also had the good fortune to return to the Brown Palace hotel, which has an old-school high tea (one of David’s favorite things in life) complete with harp player who does a kick-ass version of Stairway to Heaven.

Here's the lady who greeted us at the Denver Airport!