Spelling bees and I go way back. Even in kindergarten, I represented my grade in the school spelling bee (Though we do not speak of this, because even though I memorized the entire list, I was so excited to have gotten an easy word, that I rushed and proudly said, "Jazz, J-A-Z, jazz... Wait!"). Luckily, I had another 365 days to think about it, and plenty of 5-year-old rage to fuel my next spelling endeavor. And thus began my spelling bee career. Fast-forward to middle school, I was the last fifth grader standing, placed third the next year, and won the bee in seventh grade, getting the chance to compete in the central Texas regional bee!
I'd never been to the regional competition before, and I was over the moon at the possibility to advance to the next level of speller-ly glory and other"word"ly wisdom. And I did go strong for a large chunk of it. But after a solid 3 hours of spelling, my brain was fried. I was out for saying "G" when I meant "J" in Meiji. Frustratingly, I had the correct spelling in my head. There were only four other spellers left at that point. After that, I was determined to get another shot at regionals after getting so close.
This year was my last Scripps spelling bee. Even though I spent the majority of the night before playing Jimi Hendrix on my electric guitar, I was serious about doing well. I'd studied the list all through break (and reviewed a few of the words I already knew, so as not to repeat kindergarten history). I felt the standard jitters spelling in front of the whole school, and had a few close-calls with words I'd been mispronouncing in my studies, but the first leg of the spelling bee went pretty smoothly.
When it was down to myself and two others, the announcer went off the word list. After a few rounds, the sixth-grader was eliminated, and I got nailed with an unfamiliar word (tamara, only I thought the announcer was saying "tomorrow" in a Brooklyn accent). My classmate won, and I placed second. My initial frustration for adding another "r" was pretty much squeezed out of me by a series of bear hugs from my parents who'd come to support me, and from a throng of my buddies who were waiting to congratulate me as soon as I left the stage. Honestly, I was happy to come home to a celebratory tres leches cake. Thank you, Scripps spelling bee, for fun times-- and for giving me the opportunity to learn more words than I could possibly use in my novel.
*Title is a nod to the amazing CEO of Me and The Bees Lemonade, Mikaila U, my boss/bestie.
I am 15 years old, and started my first novel when I was 9, in response to a lack of smart female protagonists, interesting plots, and high-quality writing in the middle-grade genre. I have published an article in Writer’s Digest, “From YA to YEAH: 4 Ways to Keep Teen & Young Adult Readers Hooked,” and am featured in both The New Yorker and LitHub in cartoons by Bob Eckstein. I'm now working to get my debut fantasy, The Shadow in Her Pocket, published. When I’m not writing, I’m a sophomore in high school and a rock musician.