Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WELCOME TO NATIONAL HARBOR:  This morning, two hundred eighty-one of the brightest English-speaking kids in the world will begin the fulfillment of months and years of preparation for the National Spelling Bee, not in front of a microphone but in front of a computer. There, for the first time in Bee history they will be tested in both vocabulary and spelling -- twenty-five words in each section -- with the results having a heavy weight on who will advance after tomorrow's two live rounds. (added: Picture!)

This is now the eleventh year I've been live-blogging the Bee, and as in years past, we're here to celebrate these great kids, to be amazed by what they can do, and to occasionally mock the Bee when the kid from Ghana has to spell the name of the Passover ritual meal, or seven Canadians go down in a row, or when there's a run of words derived from Afrikaans that we just can't believe.

What we won't do is mock the kids, or presume we can learn anything meaningful about them or their parents based on the brief slices we see on tv. As my favorite line from Frost/Nixon goes, "The first and greatest sin or deception of television is that it simplifies, it diminishes. Great, complex ideas, tranches of time. Whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot." We will try to be modest about what we believe we're seeing; the only thing we can know for sure is whether the word is spelled correctly, and what we learn from former spellers thereafter.

Indeed, we've been blessed to have so many great former competitors join us during Bee Week to share their experiences over the years. (Y'all are welcome back.) Shonda will be returning again, as well.

I feel terribly old-school in still doing this on the blog -- there's an argument that the world has shifted, and we ought to just go to Twitter full-time for the Bee. But I appreciate the Bee-loving community that we create here for one week every May, and if that remains sustainable I'm going to do it.

Good luck to all the competitors, and let's hope for a fun week.


  1. Sara Miller10:27 AM

    No Twitter! One of the great things about the blog is the lengthy posts we get from former competitors, you, Shonda, and all the others here about the Bee. We don't want to be limited to 140 characters!

  2. Heather Powell11:10 AM

    I agree with the anti-Twitter sentiment. This is one of my favorite weeks of my entire year, and on the 30th anniversary of my participation in the Bee (wow, I'm old, incidentally!) I want to be able to expound at length.

  3. Marsha11:22 AM

    Agreed - I'm not antiTwitter, but this old-school format is much richer for this event than Twitter ever could be.

    Alas, I'll be away from my computer during the rounds tomorrow, so I'll catch up with you on Thursday....

    Go spellers! And welcome back to ALOTT5MA to the spelling bee community (the ones who don't stay here year round, that is....)

  4. I'm overtly anti-Twitter, although I had to cave in and get one for work-related purposes. Nonetheless, yay for richer media formats (and for the Bee).

  5. Happy bee-ing, everyone! I have to travel for work on Thursday during primetime, but can't wait to read all of your comments and thoughts.

  6. Charles12:09 PM

    As a former contestant, I think that being here on Bee Week is the next best thing to being in D.C. for Bee Week. The updates, commentary, questions, and memories would never transfer to Twitter. This year I'm going to have to miss most of the competition, so I'll be relying on ALOTT5MA for the story of the 2013 Bee.

    Happy Bee anniversary, Heather! It's been 27 years for me, and I can't believe it's been that long--and how much the Bee has changed since then.

  7. bristlesage1:33 PM

    Those are some intense and adorable little faces.

    I've always loved the Bee, and now I love it extra because it's the Bee that first brought me here. I've really grown to appreciate the site and its commenters--long may Bee coverage reign!

  8. Genevieve1:33 PM

    Adding to the clamor for keeping the Bee posts here rather than on Twitter. I am very happy to read extremely lengthy posts and comments here during Bee week (any time, but especially Bee week, which is one of my favorite times on this blog). Especially since we've had former competitors come and post, I've been loving it even more.

    Thursday night I will be out at rehearsal, so I'll have to catch up on my DVR and with the evening posts later. Will be so glad to have all the detail and funny commentary here. And I especially love the policy that we can snark on the Bee occasionally but never at the kids. I'm so impressed by all the spellers and their dedication.

  9. Heather Powell1:56 PM

    I can't believe it, either. I love this blog so much because it always brings back the happy memories of that week, and because you are all my fellow Bee nerds.

  10. Uncle Spike2:23 PM

    I'll add my voice to those not keen on Twitter.
    Incidentally, I'm at Bee Week right now. Just saw many of the spellers walking out of the rooms after their written tests, and I have nothing bad to report. Most of them felt the written test was easier than they expected. Everything seems to be running quite smoothly today, and nothing feels out of the ordinary.
    Aside from that, it's great to catch up with people from last year...staff members and returning spellers and their families. It's also great to make new friends, which is gratifyingly easy given the intensity and general good spirits here
    Geez, that sounds so media-ready. Well, in that spirit, Uncle Spike signing off.

  11. Adam B.2:57 PM

    Did you coach any of this year's finalists? (And welcome back.)

  12. Uncle Spike4:11 PM

    Thanks! I'm very glad to be back. I coached only intermittently this past year. I have been working with Jessie Ditton (from Virginia) for the past few months. I also had a single phone "consult" with a finalist's dad from West Virginia. And that's been the extent of working with NSB participants this year.
    The representative from the Denver Post had been working with a coach for quite a while before she won this year, so she elected to stick with him...a choice that I think was wise. (No sense in switching horses mid-race.)

  13. Marsha4:44 PM

    Welcome back! Always nice to have you here.

  14. julen9:59 PM

    I'm pro-blog, too. In addition to the length arguments, I feel like it'll be easier to block out extraneous chatter in the blog format that could otherwise seep in from twitter.