Scene @ the CLMP Spelling Bee

By Neal Comment


I actually felt pretty good about my chances going into “To Bee or Not to Bee,” the annual spelling bee fundraiser for the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. I had a great cheering section: My former Notre Dame classmate, novelist Tasha Alexander, had already convinced her fellow writer Elizabeth Letts to join us, and then during happy hour we’d persuaded Sarah Durand, Tasha’s editor at Morrow for the novelization of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, to tag along, and when we all got there, we ran into Kate Travers of the Literary Ventures Fund. So the four of them were rooting for me somewhere in the middle of the room, and then a few people came up before hand to offer their encouragement; even Emily from Gawker said she thought I could win, which was nice (although I’m still waiting to see what they say about me later on the site). So when they had me take my seat between Lev Grossman and Alex Kuczynski, I was in it to win it.

And I actually got pretty far, thanks to “gibbet” and “supersede” and “ghee,” until, after three or four contestants had already choked on “lignin,” I found myself in the final three with Gretchen Rubin and Jonathan Burnham. But then none of us got it, either, so the pack thickened back up, and I finally stumbled on “florilegium,” mistakenly spelling it with two e’s instead of two i’s. A few other people got the word wrong, too, and I thought I might get a third shot at the title, but then I think it was Meg Wolitzer who finally hit upon the right spelling, and ultimately she went on to take the title on “chukker.” Congratulations, Meg—but watch out next year!

See more photos from the evening at my Flickr set.